Thursday, July 18, 2013

Adoption Ethics

I've seen more and more blog posts and discussions on adoption ethics lately, which makes me smile and sigh in relief.

Finally.  Finally.  We are talking about it more.  Finally, we might begin to force change.

So, here it goes.  In a nutshell.

There used to be this girl who believed whatever the "Christian" adoption agency told her.   Adoption was better for "birth mothers" who needed a "stable, loving couple" to raise her child.   Write checks, fill out the paperwork, write more checks, be interviewed, create a profile book, write more checks, maybe create a You Tube video about how great we are, wait, write more checks.  

But this girl began to meet birth moms, and they weren't who the media, who the agencies, who the public believed them to be.  They weren't strung out, young, sexually promiscuous, immoral, unintelligent.   The women this girl met were in their twenties, women who had made a few bad choices along the way (choices that were made by many, many women, it's just that these few had gotten pregnant), and found themselves in tough situations.  They were hairdressers and call-center workers, they were college students, they were daughters, they were sometimes financially strapped (like many people), and scared:  scared to place, scared to parent, scared to meet the baby they would soon have. 

This girl met such women in various places:  at a Mexican restaurant, at church, in an airport.   And she also met adoptees:  young and old (and in between).   She also met adoptive parents who were advocating for the rights of birth parents and adoptees and weren't screaming, "It's all about me getting the exact baby I ordered up from my adoption agency!"  These parents were talking about rights and discernment and selflessness, words that the agencies, that the media, that the public didn't allow in it's vocabulary.    Instead, such places promoted "saving" children who "needed good homes" (no doubt by handing over $10,000, $15,000, $20,000, $30,000 + dollars---but no, it wasn't baby buying...).

This girl then met a young woman who was considering placing her baby for adoption...with the girl and her husband.  She was in college, an adoptee herself, pregnant for the first time.    This young woman became friends with the girl.   The girl was with the young woman when she was pregnant, right after her baby was born, and at the moment when she placed the baby into the arms of a loving couple.  She was with this young woman when the agency was pressuring her to sign papers, to make a forever-choice.  She was shocked to find herself rooting for the birth parent, the young woman, instead of the ones like her:  the adoptive family.

Then she read some books, like The Girls Who Went Away.  

Oh yes, and she and her husband were considered many, many times as the adoptive parents to unborn babies.   And though she was desperate to be a mother, as the months went by, she found herself praying the words, "God be with this expectant mother as she makes her decisions" instead of "God let her pick us."  The focus changed.

This girl became a mother, three times, through domestic, infant, transracial, open adoption.   And each time she watched the biological mother walk into the court room to testify before a judge her understanding of placing and her reasoning for doing so, thereby agreeing to terminating her parental rights, this girl felt more pain than joy, more heartache than satisfaction, more grief than celebration.

You see, she had learned that it wasn't about her.  It wasn't about her heartache and what led her to choosing adoption.  It wasn't about the months of waiting, of looking at an empty crib and answering, for the hundredth time, "Heard any news yet?"   It wasn't about baby names or baby showers.  It wasn't about what she wanted in a baby, what she had planned for her life, or her timeline for making the word "family" happen.

It was first about the mother, the one who would choose.

And then about the child, who would be greatly affected, forever and ever, if the mother chose adoption.

She was in last place, the exact place the media, the agency, the public told her she shouldn't be.  

And it was ok.  It was well with her soul to be in last place.  Because she was exactly, exactly, where she should be.


The following stems solely from my experiences and the experiences of those closest to me who are also adoptive parents.    My views on domestic infant adoption aren't popular, but I believe they are ethical.  

When entering into domestic infant adoption, here are the things I wish I could have told my pre-child, pre-adoption self:

---When choosing an agency, don't ask how quickly I'll be placed, how many couples are waiting, how pretty to make my profile book, etc.  Instead, find out how biological parents are treated (before, during, after placing), how they are supported should they choose parenting, what support is offered after placement or choosing parenting, what sort of advocates they have, how much counseling they receive, how adoptees are supported, etc.

---Don't choose an agency based on the fact that they claim the title "Christian."  

---Ask as many questions as I want, and don't worry about annoying the social worker.  

---Do not support an agency that charges adoptive families based on their income or the race of the child to be adopted.

---Pray for each mom looking at our profile book, that she will make the best choice for her child, not that she will choose us to parent her baby.

---Birth father's have rights too. 

---If an agency promotes birth parent stereotypes, offers birth parents goods/money/experiences in exchange for placing, and/or attempts to coerce the biological parents in any way,

---Don't push to be at the hospital, in the delivery room, at every pre-delivery appointment, etc.   It's not your baby if/until TPR is signed.  Period.   But out.  Give the mom space.

---Say it and mean it:  I support the biological parent in whatever she decides.  

---Truly, selflessly, pray for the biological parent (before, during, after placement, if placement happens).

---Never stop learning about adoption.    Never stop fighting for what is right, even when it doesn't serve me in any way.   Never stop praying that God will guide those who are in crisis pregnancies, those who adopt, those who are adoption professionals, those who create policies that affect moms and babies, those who are adopted. 


  1. You say do not support an agency that charges based on income - what do you suggest doing if the most trusted agency nearest to you does that? The agency in our area charges 25% of your income with a minimum that would have to be met and a maximum that would not have to be exceeded.

  2. Thank you for writing this post - although your views may not be popular among waiting adoptive parents...they are the truth. Whether a potential birth parent parents or places is a decision that only they and God can make together. It should never be influenced by the pressure of an agency, waiting adoptive family, etc. I am going to share this on our agency's Facebook page (Family Life Services, Lynchburg, VA) - it's important for all of us to hear.

  3. This is amazing. Thank you for this.
    -Emily, adoptee

  4. Excellent article. In a perfect world, no mother would be unwilling, unable, or unfit to raise her child in her own home. It's not a perfect world, and there's nothing wrong with praying to match with a birthmother for whom an adoption plan is the best or only option. But we can certainly support birthmothers by selecting agencies whose priorities are correct, i.e. counseling the birthmother and exploring all possible options for keeping the baby with the birthmother or someone in the birthmother's family. We chose such an agency, and while it took longer than other agencies advertising fast matches, we know that our son's birthmother received support and was treated with dignity.

    Don't necessarily agree with a blanket statement of not selecting an agency with fees based on income. The agency we used had a sliding scale with a cap. The max fee was far more affordable than the other agencies we considered, literally as much as half in some cases. We would suggest being more wary of agencies charging very high fixed fees and promising fast matches.

  5. Just wondering your opinion on the following I found on the Adoption Institute's website. I knew it was true I just needed to find a reference.
    "These children [African American children] account for 15 percent of the U.S. child population but, in FY2006, they represented 32 percent of the 510,000 children in foster care. Black children, as well as Native American children, also have lower rates of adoption than those of other races and ethnicities (U.S. DHHS, 2008a; U.S. GAO, 2007). "
    I feel like this is inarguably true, but I am curious as to why are you against creating special programs to encourage people to consider transracial adoption? I am just wondering your opinion. I get that it is immoral to consider transracial adoption solely based on cost, but I never would have known that the adoption of African American babies (especially boys) was such an issue if I wouldn't have seen the special programs. Love to hear your opinion!

  6. I prefer agencies that charge fees on a sliding scale based on income to agencies that charge fees based on the race of the child. I believe sliding scales make adoption more affordable for those who need it to be so.

    Otherwise, I think this is a great list. More PAPs need to read it. There are a couple of grammatical errors though. It's "Butt out" with 2 t's, and "Birth fathers" no apostrophe.

  7. Loved this - especially the "What I would have told myself" at the end.

    The Lord has been gracious to teach us these same lessons. I'd add one more: Choose an agency who sincerely encourages open adoption.

    It's not the answer for everyone, but I've seen a definite difference in mindset in the waiting families with our agency when they've worked with the social workers who most encourage empathy, understanding, respect and openness with the birth family (when appropriate).

    That love an understanding lived out by an adoptive couple, whether the adoption ends up being an open one or not (or anywhere on the spectrum) will only make us better, more Christ-like people and help our children in the long run.

  8. It is always a blessing to visit your blog, Rachel. Thank you and God bless. I thank God for you always.

  9. Thank you for writing this! Right now I am here, waiting for a birth-couple that reached us to contact us again. And I am trying really hard to remind myself that this is not about us but about them, and the future of this baby. The important thing is that they will follow their heart, make the right decision for them, and find around them all the support they need, no matter what their path will be... Reading your post helped me a lot! :)

  10. Did I write this...I don't remember writing this....but I totally could have. Your views are spot on what we believe as well. We are a transracial adoptive family (domestic infant) as well. I just want to share this article with everyone! Thanks for sharing your heart!

  11. I was researching this morning for finding help and support for an adoption mother facing some tough issues with her daughter. I found this post and I have to stop now and tell you how very appreciative I am.
    Thank you from the bottom of my heart for this. I am a birthmtoher who has been wailing against the system that created this loss in my life for 12 years now. And I have always believed that this message needs to come from YOU; the adoptive parents to demand that the agencies and professionals move towards ethical adoptions. Thank you for leading the way and thanks to ALL who have comment here and agreed.
    This made my day and now, I shall tell others how wonderful this post it so you may receive even more thanks and appreciation as well deserved!

  12. Let me just put it out there that I am a first mom. I lost my first child to adoption 21 years ago. we have been in reunion for 3 years, she even lived with me for a year after she turned 18, but now we have no relationship. After reading this I just want t o thank you. Thank you for writing about ethics and morals in adoption. I think it is so important to give expectant mothers the tools to parent. Adoptive couples need to make sure that after a woman gives birth that she is making the decision for herself and her child not because she was matched with a couple. Not because their happiness depends on her eternal sacrifice. I'm so happy to read this blog by an adoptive parent.

  13. I'm crying. Thank you.

    -Jenna, birth mother.

  14. much can I possibly love you and this piece. I am an adoptee and and mother of a 12-year old daughter (adopted from China) and to three other children (biological)...I am like MommyChemist (did I write this?)...thank you from this traumatized adoptee for getting it...thank you from this mother of a traumatized adoptive daughter for getting it...we have to speak more often and as eloquently as you have....

  15. Anne and Steve...with all due respect, it is wrong to pray that someone else will lose their baby so that you can have it...I am that baby, and I hid my feelings from my adoptive parents my whole life..they were kind, good hearted people also....before you choose a domestic infant adoption I would encourage you to talk with some adult adoptees and read more...a good place to start might be adopted children turned adults suffer real losses, even the babies. You might also go to Adoption Voices Magazine and read Karl Stenske's piece, "What Does a Tiny Baby Know"....

  16. Thank you for putting it out there, the philosophies we share as well. We came to work with an adoption facilitator, Ellen Roseman of Cooperative Adoption Consulting, who also felt this way and educated her clients along these lines as well. We too are parents through adoption, domestic infant adoption. This needs to be shared shared and shared!

  17. Thank you for writing the truth. Thank you for 'getting it'. YOU are a blessing!

    An adoptee, a birthmom and a mom.
    Reunited with son and birth siblings.

  18. Claudia has a post that shares how adopting parents (and others) can get ore information about many nonprofit agencies. How much is spent on marketing to and salaries? How much is spent on counseling?

    Very good list of what you'd tell your previous self if you could.

  19. As a fellow adoptive mama, I am SO with you on this!! We waited two years for our son to come home, and heard so many times that a birth mother who'd been considering us had, in fact, chosen to parent. While we were always disappointed that our wait would continue, we rejoiced in the biological family staying intact. It's a very complicated thing to explain, and it often comes out wrong, but I love how you've written about it here. Well said!!

  20. So well written! My husband and I have been trying to adopt for almost 2 years now. The interest of the birth family is our first priority and it is not easy finding an agency with the same philosophy. We are a little discouraged because following this philosophy has most certainly delayed our chances of adoption.

  21. I really appreciate this. My husband and I are parents due to an open, interracial, domestic adoption, and the family we ended up working with decided on adoption before they even started looking at agencies. I have serious issues with many of the ethical and moral questions surrounding adoptions, but we did the best we could. I completely agree that the biological family should be considered first, then the child, then, only then, the potential adoptive parents. So few people say this, but I completely agree.

  22. What a great article! Thank you for sharing.

  23. A tough read on the day we were supposed to bring a baby home, and found out last night it won't be happening. We agree with everything you've said in your article 100%, but what's missing is the pain felt by hopeful adoptive parents when things fall through. We've prayed for each of the moms we've been matched with, that they will feel loved and supported no matter what the outcome is.
    It still hurts so much over here on this side of the equation though. We're empty and broken, again.

  24. Great article. I am a birth mother and I work at a Christian adoption agency. I talk to birth mothers every day. Some birth mothers are just scared and need someone to talk to. I never coerce them. There is help out there so a birth mother can parent her baby. For those who for whatever reason can't or do not want to parent, an adoption plan may be the answer for them.


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