Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Twelve Things You Can Do to Make Sure Your Adoption is Ethical

Watching Beasts of the Southern Wild started me thinking about ethics in adoption. I know I wrote some hard things yesterday. If you're on this site, you probably want to have an ethical, kid-centered, health-building adoption. I want to be a part of making that happen.

Here are some of my gleanings from the online adoption community, and from my own practice as an adoption social worker - twelve things that you can do to make sure your adoption is an ethical one.

Here are twelve ways to make sure your adoption is an ethical one:
flickr.com / Tsahi Levent-Levi
Ask Questions   

1. Ask your adoption agency how they find children who need to be adopted.
2. Ask what sort of counseling that they provide to the child’s first family. Is their counseling a balanced representation of all options geared at helping the person make the choice that’s best for them, or is it a one-sided “sales pitch”?
3. Ask whether they still extend full services to women who, after contact the agency, choose to parent their child – or, do they only provide services if the woman says she’ll relinquish, but only provide referrals if she decides to parent?
4. Ask how actively they pursue the involvement of the birth father. Do they seek his input and participation, or do they just do the legal minimum standard of notification and assure you that he “probably won’t show up.”?
5. Ask how thoroughly they train and assess adoptive parents.
6. Ask how they feel about openness. Do they speak of it as a wonderful commitment, or as something that adoptive parents can agree to, but then quickly change their minds on, once an adoption is finalized? 

Do Your Research
7. Research the adoption practices in the country you’re considering adopting from.
8. Research your agency – if they’re “for profit” their motivation might more easily be on the side of pleasing the adopting parent (and although that sounds good, it increases the risk of unethical treatment of the birth parents.)
9. Speaking of that term, "birth parent" – does the agency use the post-adoption term “birth parents” for women who are still pregnant? That might communicate an expectation which makes it difficult for pregnant women and expectant fathers to feel like they have the freedom to make whichever choice they see as best.
10. If your agency is non-profit, check out their profile on Guidestar.org and see where they get their funds from and what they do with them. If they’re for-profit, try to figure out how they avoid being driven by profits rather than by people’s real needs. Friends of mine who were considering adoption once told me of a for-profit agency that would have charged them around $25,000 up front, and which expressed a commitment to encouraging pregnant women to choose adoption once they’d expressed an interest in it. My friends ended up adopting through a different agency. They expressed that it “felt like the agency was more on the birth mother’s side than ours,” but that they were comfortable with that balance. It seemed healthier that way.
11. Visit your agency’s website, and read the pages for adopting parents and for expectant parents. See if the message is consistent, or if they seem to say different things to different people.
12. Check out the Internet adoption community. There's lots of insight from all sides of the adoption community. Some excellent articles have been Shannon LC Cate's  “Ten Red Flags That Your Adoption Agency Might Be Coercive," Creating a Family's "Red Flags for Unethical Adoption Agencies" and adoptionbirthmothers.com's post, "Is Your Adoption Agency Ethical?"

These are some hard questions - but if you work through them now, you'll be able to proudly share your adoption story with your child.    Adoptive parents, birth parents, social workers, adoptees --- I'd love your input. Which questions belong on this list? Which don't really matter? Which should be added?

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  1. My favorites are #4, #8, and #9. Gee. I wonder why. :)

    1. Thanks, Monika!I've taken to heart a lot of what I've learned on blogs like yours. Statistically Impossible's "I Am" really influenced #4. I'm so glad for the online adoption community.

  2. What a great list. I included something like this in my book, but I wish I'd referred here, too. (Referring to GuideStar is a great idea!)

    1. Thanks, Lori. That means a lot! If you wanted to share it on your blog, I'd be honored :)

  3. This is such a great list. One thing I wish I had asked our agency (which we may have caught if we had researched #10) is whether or not our agency had a parent agency. Once things became unclear for us during the process and I became concerned about certain aspects of the adoption, I realized that I was paying someone to talk to the people who had the power and knowledge in our case which meant that many times they came back to me with no answer and had I asked for myself, I would have used follow up questions and maybe gotten a clearer picture (and maybe not), but if you like to have direct communication with those who are caring for your child or those who at least have direct contact with those staff, you probably do not want a parent agency involved. If they have a parent agency, that parent agency considers your agency their client, not you. So they may not be willing to talk to you which happened to us. And it led to us taking one way flights to Ethiopia without any idea of when we would return because things went awry and no one that we were directly paying had any answers and the people with answers did not know us or have any regard for us and our baby was waiting in an orphanage and had already waited far too long while we were waiting to find out what was happening.

    1. Hi smward! Thanks for commenting here. Your comments are always so valuable and thought-out and thought-provoking. I imagine you felt powerless -- and maybe even especially frustrating given your experience as a social worker who knows how the process is supposed to go...

      One way flights sound very scary.

      If you'd ever be open to sharing more of your experience, I'd love to know it.

  4. Aw! Thanks Addison! This topic is so close to my heart that I never know if I am always making sense so it is a relief to know that my comments are valuable. I would love to share more of our story with you sometime. Thanks for your interest!

    1. I look forward to it! And, if you'd ever want to share it on the site, you'd be welcome to do that, too, Sara :)


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