Friday, November 4, 2016

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

This article was previously published here.

* I posted this a couple years ago, right after I watched Beasts of the Southern Wild. The film made me think a lot about the ethics of imposed help (read my review of the film, if you like), which also made me think about adoption. I thought I'd re-publish this post from last year, in case you missed it. *

Watching Beasts of the Southern Wild started me thinking about ethics in adoption.  If you're on this site, you probably want to have an ethical, kid-centered, health-building adoption. 
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. / 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 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'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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