Heidi Wallace from WACAP posted this, and I am quoting her directly:
Looking at Children’s Responses
The Million Dollar Question: “Do you want to be adopted?”
In some countries including China, children who are older must give permission to be adopted. Either during the adoption process or before it begins, children are asked, “Do you want to be adopted?” Families often feel reassured to learn that the child has answered “yes.” And the vast majority of children do.
The question, “Do you want to be adopted?” seems simple, but in reality is very complicated. Over WACAP’s years working in adoption, both internationally and domestically, we have learned what makes this simple question more complex. Let’s look at what this “yes” can mean:
1. I don’t know what adoption is, but all the adults around me think it is a good thing, so okay.
2. I will get in trouble or I will upset the adults around me if I say “no.”
3. It will be really embarrassing if I say “no.”
4. I always do what the caregivers at the orphanage say, and this is the orphanage director asking me, so I should say okay.
5. I am just a kid and nobody ever asks me anything. Everyone around me is nodding, so I should say yes.
6. I have seen other children in the orphanage be adopted and other kids all say they want to be adopted, so maybe it’s a good thing to be like other kids.
7. My foster parents say I have to go back to the orphanage soon since I am costing them a lot. Maybe this adoption idea is better.
8. My foster parents said I can leave and make a lot of money in America and then come back and help them out.
9. This one kid came back to the orphanage with his new family and he was wearing nice clothes and gave everyone candy, so that looks good to me.
10. Adoption is like moving to a new orphanage, right?
11. Everyone knows that in America, everyone is rich and kids get all the video games they want, so going to America sounds good to me.
12. I can come back if I don’t like it.
With all that informs a child’s response, the news that a child has said “yes” to adoption needs to be understood as having little meaning. The affirmative answer is not in any way a reliable predictor of a child’s ability to adapt to a new family.
Adoption is a huge concept for a child. Maybe the million dollar question should be phrased as, “Do you want to leave everyone you know to go live with strangers, who won’t understand a word you say, who eat different food, who live in a new place where you will have to start over in school, knowing you’ll never come back here again but where, of course, in the long run you will be a lot better off?” How would you answer that question?
Kids simply can’t grasp the magnitude of the changes they will experience. They can’t suddenly acquire knowledge of what life in a family is like when they have never experienced family life. Neither can they suddenly acquire the skill to actually assess their own ability to make cultural adjustments and learn a language.It is important that families understand what can shape a child’s answer to the question “Do you want to be adopted?” and what “yes” may really convey.