Adoption is a legal process through which the rights and duties of parenting are transferred from a child's biological and/or legal parents to new legal parents. This procedure gives the adopted child all the rights of a biological child. In most adoptions. a new birth certificate is issued. and the child has no future contact with the biological parents; however. some states have "right-to-know" laws under which adoptive parents must grant the biological parents visitation rights. Matching children who are available (or adoption with prospective adoptive parents can be difficult. The available children have specific needs. and the prospective parents often set specificatlons on the type of child they want to adopt. Some adoptions are by relatives of the child; others are by infertile couples who cannot produce a child of their own (although many fertile couples also adopt). Although thousands of children are available for adoption each year in the United States. many prospective parents seek out children in developing nations such as Romania. South Korea. and India. The primary reason is that the available children in the United States are thought to be "unsuitable." They may have disabilities. or they may be sick. nonwhite (most of the prospective parents are white). or too old (Zellzer, 1985).In addition. fewer infants are available for adoption today than in the past because better means of contraception exist. abortion is more readily available. and more unmarried teenage parents decide to keep their babies. Ironically. although man)' couples who would like to have a child are unable to do so. other couples conceive a child without conscious intent. Consider the fact that for the approximately 6.4 million women.
who become pregnant each year in the United States, about 2.8 million (44 percent) pregnancies are in tended whereas about 3.6 million (56 percent) are un intended (Gold and Richards. 1994). As with women and motherhood. some men feel that their fatherhood was planned; others feel that it was thrust upon them (Gerson. J993). Unplanned pregnancies usually result from failure to use contraceptives or from using contraceptives that do not work. Even with "planned preg nancics it is difficult to plan exactly when conception
will occur and a child will be born.