Dozens of phone calls and e-mails.
Hundreds of books, blogs, and articles.
And here's what I've gathered.
A great adoption agency, one that is ethical, one that is truly a ministry (first and foremost), one that is supportive of all parties before, during, and after a placement (or parenting, too)...well, it's pretty hard to find If not nearly impossible.
Agencies are run by humans. Humans make mistakes. Humans are subject to directors and boards and lawyers. Humans are incurably flawed.
But to me, there are some glaringly obvious changes that need to take place in the adoption agency realm.
- Agencies need to require families to carefully consider and justify why they are choosing transracial adoption. Agencies need to implement training sessions for families adopting children of color. These trainings need to not only create awareness, but prompt families to action (action that NEVER stops). There are too many White couples adopting kids of color who think love is enough, the world is colorblind, and it'll all be just fine. And the agency never questions their motives and asks how they plan to embrace and create their child's racial identity. The same goes for special needs adoptions.
- Agencies need to push families adopting newborns (and, of course, older kids too) to learn more about attachment and ask them how they plan to implement those practices into their parenting. There needs to be more education and support around adoptive nursing, co-sleeping, baby-wearing, crying-it-out vs. "spoiling" the baby with immediate responds to crying, etc. Newborns aren't blank slates. Newborns have needs. Newborns come to the adoptive family with trauma from being separated from the birth mother.
- Agencies need to stop giving adoptive families so many choices. Bi-racial OR "full" African American? Um, color is color. A bi-racial baby can look African-American or White. A bi-racial baby is still part-color. This colorism business is disgusting. What sex do you want? Boy or girl? (I remember when our profile was shown to one birth mother we know, and several families said they didn't want their profile shown because at the time the mom didn't know the sex of her baby.) Listen up, yo. A BABY ISN'T A SUBWAY SANDWICH WHERE ADOPTIVE PARENTS SHOULD GET TO PICK AND CHOOSE WHAT'S INCLUDED. Agencies need to put this firm belief in place, so that adoptive families get it out of their heads that they get to pick because, after all, they are paying the big bucks---and instead focus on heart-issues, not financial.
- Agencies need to stop charging fees based on a family's income (adoptions don't cost the agency more because the family makes more money---hello!) and/or the child's race (charging less for a child of color's adoption lures less-wealthy families to parent children they may not prepared to parent or accept children who are "second best" to White kids). Agencies need to charge reasonable fees for their services. $20,000+ for a domestic infant adoption is baby-selling.
- Agencies need separate representation for an expectant or birth parent and the adoptive family, both within the agency and legally. It's too messy otherwise.
- Agencies need to hire quality workers who know about adoption and have an education and have experience in counseling. Agencies need to pay these workers a reasonable salary for the work they do.
- Agencies need to support moms whether they place or parent. And train adoptive families to do the same.
- Agencies need to clearly convey to adoptive parents that a match isn't a promise of a placement. Expectant and birth parents have rights. And so does the unborn child.
- Agencies shouldn't minimize the birth father's rights and role.
- Agencies need to have open adoption agreements, even when it's not legally enforceable, so that adoptive families and birth parents take agreements (promises) seriously. But, of course, first there needs to be more open adoption education.
- Agencies, even where it's legally allowed, should stop asking adoptive families to pour more and more money into "birth parent expenses" which ultimately just puts pressure on the expectant parents to place and/or encourages the occasional manipulative expectant parent to prey upon willing and desperate adoptive families, draining those families financially. Paying birth parent expenses simply shouldn't be allowed. Ever. It's too tit-for-tat. Messy. Agencies should work to get expectant parents on public aid and in programs that are set up to help those in need of them.
I want to hear from you. What would make the adoption agencies better? What needs to happen?