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18 Wm. & Mary J. Women & L. 201 (2011-2012)
Nature and Nurture: Revisiting the Infant Adoption Process

handle is hein.journals/wmjwl18 and id is 205 raw text is: NATURE AND NURTURE: REVISITING
THE INFANT ADOPTION PROCESS
BARBARA L. ATWELL*
ABSTRACT
Adopted children constitute approximately two percent of the
United States' childhood population, but are disproportionately rep-
resented in mental health settings, where they make up an estimated
four to fifteen percent of the population. Science suggests that for
those adopted at birth, this discrepancy may be due in part to their
abrupt removal from the biological parents. We are now beginning
to understand the importance of the bonding that takes place in
utero and the infant's awareness at birth. This article suggests three
changes to the infant adoption process to align it with scientific
knowledge. First, all adults involved in the adoption need to be edu-
cated on the unique mental health needs that adopted children may
have as a result of their transition from one family to another.
Second, the infant adoption placement process should be changed
from an event to a process to make the shift from one family to
another more gradual. Finally, we need a sea change in the cultural
beliefs surrounding adoption to make access to information and con-
tact with biological parents the norm rather than the exception.
INTRODUCTION
I.  FETAL DEVELOPMENT AND NEWBORN AWARENESS
A. Fetal Development
B. Newborn Awareness
II. MENTAL HEALTH CHALLENGES OF ADOPTEES
III. ADOPTION LAWS AND PROCEDURES
IV. IMPROVING THE ADOPTION PROCESS
A. Educating Adoptive Parents and Adoption Professionals
B. Shifting from an Event to a Process
C. Eliminating or Minimizing Secrecy
CONCLUSION
Mara is seven years old and has lived in foster care with the
same family all her life. Another family has now agreed to adopt
Mara. When the adopting family arrives to pick up Mara, she gets
* Associate Professor of Law and Director of Diversity Initiatives, Pace Law School.
I would like to thank my daughter, Melanie, whose insights as an adoptee formed the gen-
esis of this article, and my son, Andrew, whose perspectives have also informed this piece.

201

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