Tuesday, May 21, 2013

the ongoing adoption ethics discussion

I recognize this conversation is a big yawn for some. Not everyone is involved in adoption and not everyone has a horse in the race. Not an adoptive parent? Not ever going to be one? Not close with someone that is? You are politely excused from this conversation. Sorry we're going on and on an oooonnnnn about this lately. Apparently, this has hit a nerve with Troy and I.  

Last week I posted a link to an adoption ethics post written by Jen Hatmaker. Part I is here, if you missed it.

"Adoption is an answer to a tragedy that has already happened, but may it never be the impetus for one that hasn’t." -Jen Hatmaker

Today I am sharing part II  - you can find it HERE. 

I like this second post as well, because it gives brand new adoptive parents some good questions to ask. I think we all recognize that these issues get a whole lot more difficult after you've turned over money and adoption dossiers and your heart. Not to say it is too late to care about ethics, but it might be too late to vote your ethics with your dollars and choice of agency.  

Blind trust of any agency that claims to be faith-based is a risky approach. The most egregious abuses of the system that I have seen in our eleven years of exposure to the adoption world have been perpetrated by people that speak 'christianese' and 'religion' with skill and ease. Great websites and moving taglines and multiple Bible verses with glossy photos do not an ethical agency make.  The American adoption agency is one portion of the equation, said agency needs to be hooked up with solid people and programs on the ground in the other country as well. That means double research in order to perform due diligence. I encourage you to read both parts of Jen's posts.

Adoption is a great answer for kids that need adopting. We believe that. Adoption can be redemptive and wonderful, but it won't solve the issues of "orphans" or vulnerable and institutionalized children. That is a fact. One reason to support first families remaining together (and make sure relinquishments are ethical every.time.) comes along with recognizing that adoption doesn't scratch the surface of the overall problem. It leaves too many behind. 

I am concerned about something. I am finding that some first world parents feel like they are generally going to be a better answer for a child born to a poor mother.  And there, we part ways. Au revoir. It is almost like they believe materially poor people cannot love their children adequately.  (To clarify, we are not talking about abusive parents or mentally ill parents here.) 

For whatever reason, there is an undercurrent that involves privilege. American privilege, consumer privilege, born into money and things privilege, white privilege, Christian wanting to convert others privilege, whatever it is... probably some combination of all, that says, "I am better for this kid than you, poor person."   

I'll submit sometimes that is true; sometimes a materially poor or mentally ill or terribly abusive parent cannot care for a child - but not always and not even usually. It doesn't take all that much to love a first family and give them a hand up, it doesn't take much to encourage and cheer on a first mother. We just have to be willing to do it.

In my estimation, if we ascribe to the thinking that we are better suited to be parents because of our American passports and wads of cash, we are on our way to more trafficking, not less.

As a tangible example, a long time friend of ours was faced with a huge dilemma. She had begun the process of adopting a boy and a girl. After turning her dossier in and paying the first set of fees the biological father of the boy came forward to say that he did not want his son raised outside of Haiti. The mother had relinquished rights but he had not. He asked to put a stop to the adoption.  He also had zero desire or intention of taking his child out of the orphanage to raise him. He essentially said, "I don't want my child being placed for adoption and I don't want to raise my own child."  How terribly difficult, right? My friend was in great pain, as you can imagine.  I know a lot of people would fight the birth father, bribe him, threaten him, but my friend believed that his right to decide where is son would live and grow up was to be honored even though she did not want or respect his choice. She determined that a birth parent's voice matters  - no matter how poor - no matter how little sense his decision made to her. She decided her position of privilege and ability to push through to get her way in the situation was an incorrect response. At great personal cost, she walked away from pursuing the adoption of that little boy. 

I have been reading with interest some of the commentary happening after these posts as they are shared in various locations. 

I recognize most people don't comment at all. They read, consider, agree, disagree, or fall in the middle but don't leave a comment. Of those that are engaging in the discussion, there seem to be two strong general reactions to this conversation:

1. This is important stuff and we should talk and think about it and try to improve and educate others and ourselves and care more about ethical adoption and do our best to prevent complicity with corruption. We should look at keeping families together whenever possible. We should work at it. This is good conversation.


2. This is all a load of crap and you are going to ruin adoption by saying that people are coerced or saying that any of these unethical practices take place. You are going to hurt children by talking about this bad stuff. Less people will adopt because you talked about this. When that happens, you are to blame. 

I had hoped for a lot less of number two. For whatever reason asking for everyone to try hard to research more and work toward a more ethical and transparent process causes defensiveness. I don't understand how people can be against doing better research and knowing more about the issues when they enter into an adoption.  I don't understand the defensive reactions. How can a more informed and ethical approach to adoption be a problem? How many of us - ten years down the line - will raise our hand when the question is asked, "Who went in ignorant and naive and wishes they would have known more?"  (raising hand)

I have noticed that a lot of people are throwing around the word sovereignty. There were many comments along the lines of - "God is sovereign and He chose this child to be mine even if sketchy and unethical stuff happened." Additionally, many of the same folks said, "All this negativity and talking about unethical adoptions is going to scare people away from adopting and then kids will grow up in orphanages and that will be the fault of those stirring this stuff up."  

Simmer in that sauce for a minute.

That is not intellectually honest. You cannot cling to His sovereignty one moment and ignore it the next. How is God's sovereignty made void by a healthy, honest, and critical look at the harm we can cause? 

If one claims God's sovereignty placed a child in a second adoptive family then one must also claim that sovereignty is directing the current conversations striving for more ethical adoption practices. 

This comment was one of a handful that seemed to have read an entirely different post than what was written:

I hope that good people that want to adopt are not swayed by negativity that I hear about. I called a friend of mine that is a director of a clinic and I told him of only one mother out of 300 giving up her child.* He sounded a bit irritated and unimpressed. He pointed out that there are thousands of mothers who can not take care of their children. Mothers that are abused by men, that sell themselves as a means of survival. Do not be influenced by these people. If these people are concerned about child trafficking let them go rescue the children that are being carried across the DR border as we speak. Simply because someone is right does not make everyone else wrong. Too many good Christian people on here to want to hear what I would really have to say to people that are putting guilt trips on someone for giving a child a family.  

*A statistic I provided to Jen in her first post, a reflection of what has happened since 2009 within the Prenatal program with deliveries and mothers that Heartline worked with during their pregnancies and for six months after.  

That sort of defensive behavior and response is what most discourages me in this conversation. Rather than listen to a testimonial that says, "A small amount of love and encouragement and investment can often go a long way in keeping a family united, even when materially poor or young",  some still choose to ignore the experiences of others, and spend their energy defending misinformed positions. There is no guilt trip. 

If "thousands" of young moms in Haiti or any other country truly "cannot take care of their children", we have infinitely more work to do because, for a plethora of reasons, adoption is never going to cover even a fraction of that. That basically proves the point about needing to do many things differently, including but not limited to, working more diligently to uphold first families. 

Nobody said that adoption should be removed as one viable option to allow children to be raised in a family. Why are some changing the argument into something that has not been suggested?  Why discredit the person asking that we be more informed, more caring, more aware, more ethical, more well-rounded in our approach to caring for the widow and orphan? As followers of a Just King, we need to be about love; we need to be about justice.

Justice delayed, is justice denied. 
-William Gladstone

Recent Posts on this topic:
First, Do No Harm
Love is What You Do 
Of reunions, clarification, and closure