Adoption: Interview with Dr. David Kirschner

Susie McGee
David Kirschner

David Kirschner, PH.D, is a psychologist and psychoanalyst with a private practice in Merrick and Woodbury, Long Island, N.Y.

He founded and directed The Nassau Center for Psychotherapy for 25 years. He is nationally and internationally recognized for his clinical and forensic work on adoption issues, and for his concept of an Adopted Child Syndrome. He has lectured widely, appeared on many radio and television shows, and has often been an expert witness in high profile adoption-related cases.

Recently, Dr. Kirschner was kind enough to share some of his knowledge and views on adoption with LoveToKnow Baby.

Is Adoption Regulated By State or Federal Agencies?

Adoption is, for the most part, regulated and controlled by state law. The adoptive family must satisfy the laws of the state where the baby was born before they can transport the child to a different state.

Who Is Eligible to Adopt?

Anyone is eligible to adopt, but parents who are younger than 25 or older than 45, may have a longer wait to be selected. All prospective adoptive parents undergo a home study, to determine their eligibility/suitability to adopt.

How Expensive Is Adoption?

Estimates vary, but most domestic adoptions cost $15,000 to $20,000 (before tax credits). International adoption costs range between $15,000 to $35,000.

What Is Open Adoption, and What Are the Pros and Cons of This Type of Adoption?

Unfortunately, there is very little research data available that can answer whether open adoption - where contact with, and sometimes a continuing relationship with the birth mother and biological family - is better or worse for the child. Open adoption is still relatively rare, a source of great controversy among adoption professionals; and the jury is still out, regarding positive vs negative outcomes.

On the pro side, open adoption may help eliminate the secrets and lies, and unrealistic fantasies that have been so damaging for many adopted children and teens. On the con side, birth-mothers who see their children may suffer more than those who do not; and frequent contact with the birth mother may increase a child's confusion and insecurity.

The child may wonder, "If she gave me away, what is she doing here? Can she take me back?" The child may feel torn. He/she may also become a skilled manipulator-- playing one set of parents off the other.

What Is Closed Adoption, and What Are the Pros and Cons of This Type of Adoption?

The vast majority of adoptions continue under a closed, sealed records system - where access to original birth certificates and full information (regarding family of origin, genetic history, etc.) - is unconditionally "open" in only five of the 50 states.

There is a raging controversy in the adoption world, between those who believe that the need to know one's roots, is a human and civil right (and often a medical and psychological imperative); and those who oppose open adoption records, believing that the privacy and confidentiality of birth and adoptive parents should be preserved.

Most adoption experts feel that the opening of sealed records is in the best interest of the child. They think it would be a key to improved mental health and solid sense of identity in adoptees.

How Difficult Is An International Adoption?

Paperwork to satisfy domestic and sending countries can be very cumbersome, and most governments require adopting parents to travel to the foreign country. Adopting internationally may also mean that the adoptive family will become a cross-cultural family, with special responsibility and challenges.

The children may suffer malnourishment, developmental delays, or emotional problems - so it's important to consult a doctor with international adoption expertise, to review the child's records, before finalizing the adoption.

What Are Some Bonding Problems and Solutions of Adoption?

Parents should not have qualms about adopting, as most adopted children bond well and develop loving relationships and attachments. Modern psychological theory however, considers bonding and relationship development to commence in the womb - prior to birth, and acknowledging and accepting the primal relationship between a newborn infant and his or her mother is fundamental to understanding the consequences of adoption upon the child, especially in terms of issues such as bonding, attachment, trust, etc.

Parents who deal with adoption issues openly and honestly, and validate the child's sense of loss and need to know, tend to forge the closest bonds with their children.

What Is a Home Study, and Why Is It Necessary?

This is a document that contains the story of your life, your family and marital history, your health, your financial situation, a description of your home and neighborhood, as well as personal references. It also describes your extended family relationships and your feelings about adoption, parenting, and infertility.

None of us enjoys opening up our lives to a stranger, but the goal is to ensure that children are placed in appropriate families. Also, it's rare for a home study to end with a negative recommendation.

What Are Some Issues Surrounding Birth Parents Wanting to Reclaim Their Child, and How Can These Issues Be Handled?

This is an adoptive parent's worst nightmare--that they will have to relinquish a child they have loved and nurtured. But, not to worry. This is an extremely unlikely scenario, almost as improbable as being struck by lightning.

While there have been some high-profile cases, including a few involving birth-fathers who discovered belatedly that they had fathered a child who was given up for adoption without their knowledge or consent, these are rare. They are played up inordinately in the media.

Should An Adoptive Couple Hire An Attorney Even If They Are Using An Adoption Agency?

Great idea. There are some agencies that have been less than truthful in reporting birth-parent histories and other vital medical/psychological/DNA information, to adopting parents.

How Long Is the Adoption Process?

For domestic adoption the typical wait could be one to two years. It's typically less for international adoptions.

More Information

For more information regarding Dr. David Kirschner, please visit his Website at Adoption Uncharted Waters and check out his book, ADOPTION: UNCHARTED WATERS, an important contribution to adoption literature, which shows what we must learn from adoptions gone wrong, and how not to raise an adopted child. This book is essential reading for adoptees and their adoptive and birth families, mental health professionals, criminal justice personnel, and any other reader who wants or needs to know about this part of the human experience.

Adoption: Interview with Dr. David Kirschner