By Lisa @ Pack of Three for Adopt-a-tude
In my last post, I responded to an invitation from Editor Martha Nichols and offered one adoptive parent’s response to the reality show "Find My Family." My post sparked a spirited exchange. Now, after reading, listening, and processing, I’m back.
To be honest, I had no idea (like many people, I'd guess) about the extent of trauma experienced and the strength of feeling within the community of birth mothers.
My situation was different. I adopted from China. My daughter was left at the orphanage gates when she was 7 days old. I adopted her at almost 18 months of age.
I'm guessing there are many adoptive parents like me who were, or still are, under the impression that birth mothers here in this country make a "choice," albeit painful and difficult. Few of us are familiar with the difficulties or complexities that surround that choice—or the fallout that can occur afterward. What I am familiar with are the many adoptive families and parents who are part of our everyday life who love their children without qualification, who are wholly committed to doing whatever it takes to help them blossom into happy, healthy human beings. Some live comfortably while others—single moms, teachers, social workers—stretch to cover basic family expenses.
In any case, I've now read many of the blogs of birth mothers and understand better some of the trauma and lifelong pain adoption can entail.
I extend myself here, once again, with the hope readers will be gentle and understand I do so in the spirit of wanting to learn more. Here’s why:
In the middle of all the strong reactions to my post on Adopt-a-tude, I was invited to serve on the board of an adoption agency. The agency has a clean, longstanding record of good work in the field of both domestic and international adoption. I've met and interviewed with the agency's director and board members and can tell you they are good, giving, unselfish people whose hearts truly are in the right place.
The agency operates with the belief that the best place for a child is with his or her birth parents. If that’s not possible, then the next best place for a child is with their extended birth family. Barring that possibility, the next best option is an adoptive parent or parents from the child’s birth country. If that’s not possible, then the next best thing is to be adopted internationally. The last, least ideal option is for the child to grow up in an orphanage. In keeping with this philosophy, close to 70% of the agency’s placements are for older, waiting children—that is, children who have already been relinquished and are either in foster care or orphanage settings. The agency's work is not profitable. I've seen the numbers. Adoption fees barely cover 50% of their work. The rest is supported through donations.
So, here are my questions:
(1) If you were me, or if you were a potential adoptive parent, what specific questions would you ask an adoption agency to ensure you were comfortable with their priorities and practices?
(2) Regarding an adoption agency’s domestic adoption work, what specific practices would you look for to understand how an agency ensures birth mothers understand their rights, options, and emotional risks?
(3) Regarding any proposed services an adoption agency or other organization offers—or that you recommend be offered—to prospective mothers considering placing a child for adoption, who do you believe would be the right agency, organization, or person/s to provide those services? Additionally, who do you believe should support (fund) the delivery of these services? (I’m aware this is a delicate question. I ask it with complete sincerity.)
(4) Regarding an adoption agency’s efforts to facilitate international adoptions, what specific practices, policies, or guidelines should one look for to ensure the agency’s work, in fact and in spirit, serves the purpose of connecting waiting children with waiting, loving families and doesn’t—consciously or otherwise—encourage child trafficking?
These are obviously touchy subjects. It’s my hope that those who choose to respond will be thoughtful, informative, even creative.
I appreciate everyone’s time and interest.