Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Adoption Ethics: What It Means, and Why It Matters

Many who are new to adoption or who are choosing to embark on another adoption journey have asked me, what does "adoption ethics" mean?  How can someone have an ethical adoption?  Why is an ethical adoption so important?

I cover this topic extensively in my latest book, and in fact, ethics is the central theme and foundation on which everything I write is built upon.  

Today, I break down for you what each letter of ETHICS stands for in adoption.  

E : empathy

Empathy is absolutely crucial!  Can you put yourself in the shoes of another, feeling their pain and joy, validating their feelings, and supporting their choices?

Empathy can be complicated when you're trying to empathize with your child's birth parents or expectant parents with whom you are matched with.  It's easy to judge their choices and circumstances from your lens of privilege.  I know you might have just winced at that.  But listen, if you're in a place to adopt a child, you are privileged.  Period.  You, as the hopeful adoptive parent, also hold a lot of power.  These this combination of power and privilege, puts you in a place where you are more vulnerable to be tempted to render judgement.  

You'll not only need to be empathetic to your child's birth parents, but to your child. You CANNOT parent an adoptee in a healthy manner without empathy.

How do you develop empathy?  That's a GREAT question.  The following parts of this post should help you.

T:  timing

You've probably heard "timing is everything," and I would agree that timing is VERY important. 

The thing is, not every adoption opportunity is for you.  Not every path is going to lead you to a placement of a child.  And you MUST be OK with this.  You have to decide that ethics is most important:  not a quick or easy placement of a child.  

Timing means slowing down and considering, is this ethical or not?  Timing means praying.  Timing means that even if something takes a long time, that's OK. Timing means sometimes things happen very quickly, and you have to be as prepared a possible.

H:  healthy boundaries

When I went to counseling after my breast cancer surgery, the therapist taught me something important:  boundaries are gifts. 

We tend to look at boundaries as barriers, as rudeness, or as avoidance.  But the truth is, healthy boundaries make for great relationships! 

You have to know where you stand and then stand that ground, even when your "feelings" are telling you otherwise.  The thing is, ethics isn't about feelings.  It's about a standard, an understanding, a foundation.  You need to lead with ETHICS, not fleeting feelings regarding circumstances and situations.  

There's no one-size-fits-all for healthy boundaries between members of the adoption triad (birth parents, adoptees, and adoptive parents).  There's a lot to consider.  But a relationship without boundaries is very likely to fail.  

Healthy boundaries make expectations very clear.  A lack of boundaries means there will inevitably be confusion, resentment, and miscommunication.

I:  information

You cannot make ethical decisions without being informed. It's really important to get educated on the specific aspects of adoption.  Great resources include articles, blogs, research studies, conferences, documentaries.  But mostly, I've found face to face conversations with adoption triad members to be the most beneficial (a "village").  Being part of an adoption support group is one way to be able to have safe face to face conversations.   

C: commitment

Adoption isn't just a one time event when the judge declares the finalization.  Adoption is a life-long journey that requires commitment from you as the parent.  It means you're always willing to learn more and new information and apply that to your parenting.  It means being committed to parenting an adoptee (and how to go about doing that).  It means following through on your promises to your child's birth family.   And it also means committing to taking care of yourself so you can be the best parent possible to your child.  

S:  sacredness

Sacredness refers to your recognition and respect for your child's adoption story.  Yes, the story involves you.  But the story isn't about you.   Your child's story is THEIR story.  This means you don't tell it to every random who asks about it.  This means you don't post all your child's business on social media to be "consumed" by those casually scrolling.  This means you speak wisely and intentionally about adoption without compromising your child's privacy.  This means you also respect your child's birth family by not airing their "dirty laundry" (meaning, you aren't handing out information and you sure aren't doing so with an air of judgement about their situation).   

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