Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Ethical Adoptions

Lately, there have been a lot of blog posts, and emails on listservs referencing coercion and ethics in adoption. One woman commented that she didn’t understand what first moms meant when they said they “lost” their children to adoption. She had miscarried, and that’s what loss meant to her. And other adoptive parents said they thought open adoptions were a reaction against this, essentially, a more ethical alternative. Process described an open adoption that was closed. Yondalla talked about reading some first mom blogs. So it’s just been bouncing all over the place.

I think about ethics in adoption a lot. I’ve posted before about my objection to the “market value” placed on babies of different races – to me this is explicit racism, we state (in writing) that costs to adopt are based on the baby’s (and the mom’s and dad’s) race. And explicit racism is unethical.

But there are less glaringly obvious ethical issues, too – or at least they are less glaringly obvious to many adoptive parents. I believe there is a lot of coercion in the adoptive industry. In the most horrific cases coercion occurs when a first mom’s rights are terminated while she is still under the influence of pain medication, or moms are told they can’t legally change their mind, when in reality they can. But more subtly, many first moms are (I think) convinced that placing is admirable, or noble, or the better choice, simply because adoptive parents have more money or time or resources for their children. Persuading a mom that adoption is better than parenting is also unethical IMHO, if it’s done largely to serve the interests of the adoptive family. And then, I'm not sure about legal coercion when parents "lose" their children in the public system. My thoughts on that are very mixed.

And sometimes, I think, a lot of the people involved in the process haven’t really even considered the ethical implications. Maybe it just doesn’t occur to them. Maybe it is easier not to. I’m not sure.

For instance, just last night I was on the phone with a facilitator. I hadn’t really even considered facilitators before because it seems like they are the most clearly for profit options around. However, this one came highly recommended, and I just received word from PACT that they aren’t taking white couples right now, so I thought I would give it a try. I told her the area of first mom expenses was really touchy for us, because we wanted to be sure that mom didn't place because she felt she had to.

Her response? "Well, I've had a lot of good luck lately by telling birthmoms that if they get the money in advance, it has to go through a lawyer who will pay their rent, utilities, etc, directly. But, if they wait until after termination, they can get cash to do with as they please."

So, when I raised the question of ethical adoption, she actually shared a totally unethical practice with me... I don't think she knew the difference. Scary. Either that or she assumes what I think most people assume, that the real reason we don’t want to pay huge amounts to first moms is because we don’t want to spend the money or we are afraid she won’t place and the money will be wasted.

I’m not sure I’ve expressed this well at all. Right now, I’m still puzzling over what an ethical adoption really looks like… Maybe once I know that, I will be able to find agencies or lawyers who offer them. But really, I wonder if it’s even possible as long as money is in the equation.


Yondalla said...

I want to be able to write a post on ethical adoptions. I want to be able to think clearly about what we should do...but I can't.

The contextual problems -- the problems of the society around the issue -- are so big I am afraid they make solving the embedded problem nearly impossible.

Dawn said...

BTW, I added you to my feedreader. It's nice to "meet" you!

FosterMommy said...

I'm with you on this one. It's very muddy, indeed.

We found an agency that seems to be doing it well. We're in the situation where we can't pay very much in birthmom expenses, so we told them to only contact us with situations where those kinds of expensese are minimal/none. And they're fine with that. And still expect us to have our baby within 9 months.

We passed up agencies that required a $5K bmom expense budget upfront, and would just call you if they needed more. That's just ridiculous. Not all bmoms are placing their kids because of money. I would guess that, if money would make the difference between being able to raise their child and not, most women would find a way to keep their child.

Making a choice for adoption is very difficult and I think a lot of adoption professionals like to sugar coat it and pretend that these women really are in it for the money. It's much easier than knowing that you're working day in and day out with women who are making one of the hardest, painful, strongest decisions of their lives.

One of the main things I love about open adoptions is the chance to keep the bparents in the child's life so that they can, in their own words, explain to the child why they made the choices they made. Instead of the child getting a general "well, this is why people usually choose adoption", they will know their own story.

Renee, said...

I wish I had something smart to say...