In the new Vince Vaughn movie, Delivery Man, hitting theaters November 22, Vaughn's character finds that he has fathered 533 children through the sperm donation process. It's funny, ha-ha; imagine you found out that many little versions of you were running around the country? The film attacks this outlandish premise with heart. Vaughn goes on a bit of a mission to find the children, all of whom are in their twenties at this point. He finds that he wants to be something of a father figure to these adult children, who just happen to be his real children. It got me thinking -- not about the sad direction of Vince Vaughn's career -- but about being an adult and finding a new parental figure. It's not unheard of, and, in fact, you can legally do it.
Adult adoption is not something new, but it appears to be on the rise. According to the president and CEO of the National Council for Adoption, the number of adult adoptions has seen a boost. "While the precise number is not tracked, dozens occur annually."
Currently, most states have no issue with adult adoption, although Alabama allows adult adoption only for those over 18 who are mentally or permanently disabled, while Michigan, Nebraska and Ohio have the same stipulations but allow adult adoption in the case of foster or stepparents wanting legal familial relations. Delaware and Arizona have their own regulations, but other than that, adults are free to go and adopt as many other adults as they want.
But why would you want to adopt another adult? The reasons for adult adoption are many.
According to a profile done last week on The Today Show featuring several adults who have gone through the process, some adult adoptees never felt that they had a sense of family in their developing years. Many went without stable parents due to drugs or other personal problems, while others focus on legal matters such as inheritance or power of attorney.
What many of the adoptees find, according to the article, is a sense of belonging that they had been searching for. I am fortunate enough to have two parents alive and kicking, but everyone is not in this situation. In a report released this past spring by the National Resource Center for Permanency and Family Connections (NRCPFC) titled, "Facilitating an Adult Adoption as a Pathway to Permanence for Older Youth", the center interviewed both adopted adults and their new parents, and having a life-long and permanent connection to a family was among the top reasons stated for the adoption.
One parent is quoted as saying, "People don't know that adult adoption is an option. They think it's not necessary. If adults present it like that, then there's no conversation. People need families for life, not just until they turn 18 or 21."
While I had trouble finding a Houstonian who has gone through an adult adoption, I was interested to speak with an adult who was adopted and what that person thought about this new-ish trend.
Melissa Ragsdale Darragh, a social media strategist who has lived in Houston as far back as she can remember, was adopted under circumstances similar to those mentioned by some of the adult adoptees. Due to her birth mother's addiction issues, Darragh was taken in by her uncle and his wife - whom she has been happy to call mom and dad - as a young child and has had a fruitful life because of it. Because of her own situation, Darragh is an adoption advocate and would love to adopt her own child one day. When asked about the concept of adult adoption, she says she considers it a great idea.
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"Everyone needs support," says Darragh, "whether it's financially, emotionally, someone to learn from or just someone to be there for you in bad times."
Darragh and her husband have something of their own "adopted adult," although it is nothing legal, in a good friend a few years younger than them who has struggled with his own demons. Given her own background, Darragh and her spouse have opened their door and their hearts to him and consider him family.
When I threw the question out to social media, I received numerous messages about "second sets" of parents, good friends whose parents have become almost as important as their own. In addition to this concept, I heard numerous stories about stepparents who are no longer married to their own parents, but have remained a huge part of people's lives.
While adult adoption may never take off in huge ways, it seems that, legal or not, having important adults in your life to give guidance and support will always be in fashion.