I initially drafted a couple of social media posts with my thoughts on this recent article from Time magazine about the private adoption industry, but considering how significant it is in the fight for adoption reform, I wanted to give my thoughts a more permanent place on the Internet, so here we are (although you probably got here from social media, haha).
There’s a video to go along with the article, as well.
I’m still processing, and I don’t usually share my processing in real time, but it seemed important to say something now and invite my social circle into the conversation rather than retreating into introspection and missing the moment to speak up.
This news is a lot. It’s heartbreaking and sickening. It’s hard to hear or read about something usually regarded as “positive” get boiled down to financial or marketing terms. It may be surprising or shocking to you, but I can tell you that after only a few years in the world of adoption… I am completely unsurprised. There is a pattern of unethical, illegal and predatory practices in this industry.
This is important. We, as a society, have stood by and let this happen. I promise, it’s more than a few bad actors. There are so many more stories like these, and I pray that they come to light soon. The corruption goes deeper and spreads wider than we’d like to think. Expectant/birth parents and potential/adoptive parents are being taken advantage of, but the ones who truly lose the most are the most vulnerable— the children.
Before going any further: I’m not anti-adoption. I don’t think every case is unethical. I am grateful for how our story unfolded. But I can see where the murkiness lurks throughout this industry as someone who has walked through it, seen the potential, and possibly been very close to it, so naturally I have a LOT of questions, feelings and ideas. Just because these stories are not like mine, doesn’t mean I get to look away, or that I get a free pass. It’s hard to speak up about this because I’m protective of my family’s story— it’s not only about me and my husband building our family anymore, so I walk the line of trying to protect privacy and keep the sacred details within our family circle while also advocating for change for the future.
I’m angry and fired up, but I’m also hopeful when I see things like this coming to light. I hope it leads to more reporting, more awareness, and more change. I’m encouraged because the article was written by an adoptee who specifically sought out birth mother voices. We have not had the opportunity to hear these voices in this way and from such a widely read and trusted source, so that’s something to applaud.
Whether you’re directly connected to adoption or not, I don’t believe any of us gets to read this article (or generally know about these issues) and continue to think and speak about adoption as always only good, beautiful, right, or the best choice. It is so much more complicated than that, and there are problems in other areas of our society that continue to lead to the corrupt and predatory practices outlined in this piece.
Adoption does not exist in a vacuum, friends; we can all participate in the change.
Some great ways to start…
-Listen to birth parents and adoptees. If you don’t know any, I’ll include some links where you can find folks who are bravely sharing their experiences.
-Be gently curious when someone involved in adoption shares their story with you. Remember that some things need to be kept private, and try asking questions about adoption in general rather than their particular story. It is considered insensitive by many to ask about the cost of adoption for adoptive parents, or to ask about birth parents’ reasons for placing their baby, and every person has their own pet peeve questions, so a good starting point might be to ask, “What do you want people to know about adoption?”
-Reflect on your own perception and understanding of adoption. Is it something you may have joked about, like teasing a sibling about being adopted because they have a unique physical/personality trait, or saying that on a hard day you would consider “giving your kids up”? Now is the perfect time to stop that. 🙂 But you can reflect more deeply: is adoption always good? Always necessary? How do you think it would feel for a mother to be separated from her child, even if she felt it was a good and loving choice? How would it feel for the child, even if they love their adoptive family and have access to their birth family? What are the issues contributing to mothers/couples deciding not to parent? How can we help families stay together? How can our churches and other religious communities help those affected by adoption? How have religious ideas about adoption caused harm? I could go on and on, but I won’t. 😉
-Find ways to support family preservation, adoption reform, and other issues that affect adoption. The way I see it, these can actually be unifying between the pro-life and pro-choice camps; I understand that not everyone sees it that way, so I won’t get into politics now, but hear me when I say: both sides of the aisle have solutions to offer for these problems. No matter how you vote, you are likely aware of organizations that serve families. Get involved there. Ask how the people they serve are affected by adoption. You may know directors or board members of such organizations– ask them about issues of accountability, regulation, oversight, and what opposition they face. Think critically about the answers, and continue asking questions. Some causes I recommend looking into would be adoptee rights (specifically making it easier for adoptees to access their birth and adoption records), post-placement mental health support for birth parents and adoptees, maternal health care, crisis pregnancy support, and anti-trafficking. There is also a national bipartisan healthcare initiative in the works that would provide resources for women considering adoption, and you can read about it here and ask your representatives to support it.
-Finally, if you are an adoptive parent or someone pursuing adoption… do your work. You don’t know what you don’t know, but there is so much we CAN and DO know now. The cat’s been out of the bag on corruption and unethical practices for a while, so there are really no more excuses. As a starting point here are a couple of great resources for preparing to adopt: some free and one for purchase that gets excellent reviews. As adoptive parents, we are often the first voice people choose to listen to about adoption (and I could do a whole rant on that someday), so we have a responsibility to use our voices to advocate for our children and their birth families. We are also the consumers in this “industry” (yes I know that’s icky), and can hold the professionals accountable. It may feel intimidating because of the tactics the article sheds light on, but we DO have every right to ask questions in every part of the process, contest a contract, leave a negative review, walk away, etc.
If you read this article and find yourself uncomfortable, or with questions, or feeling defensive or dismissive, or with any kind of feeling, let’s have a conversation. I would honestly be SO happy to hear from you even if you come to different conclusions than I do. I don’t have all the answers, and we may not agree, but I’d love to listen and share some ideas and resources. If you have resources you’d like to share with me, I’m all ears for that too. You can comment here or find me on Instagram @deep_delightful_life.
Now for the LINKS:
Kindred + Co. Blog: so many beautiful stories here from all sides of the adoption triad (triad = adoptee, birth family & adoptive family). I love the way Kindred shares adoption stories! Most of the blogs include links to the authors’ blogs and social media. Great starting point.
Ashley Mitchell: A powerful (sometimes salty!) birth mother voice for adoption reform and post-placement support for birth mothers.
Torie Dimartile: A transracial adoptee who is doing wonderful work on- and offline to educate about adoption. She’s featured on the Kindred blog but I wanted to link to her website as well.
Sherrie Eldridge: Adoptee author with books for children and adults. Her blog is a great resource, too. She has a heart for adoptive moms that was born from her relationship with her own mom. She also did a Bible study series on her blog about Moses that I found fascinating.
Becky Banks: Another adoptee voice. Thoughtful and valuable perspective in the adoption space. She’s not super “active” online but her writing is out there on her blog and Instagram and I think she is just the best. She has a very tender way of explaining things.
I’ve specifically tried to share voices with experience with private domestic infant adoption. There are may other great voices speaking about adoption in general (including foster care and international adoption), and you can find those on my Instagram by going to my profile and flipping through my story highlights from this past National Adoption Awareness Month. The highlight is titled “NAAM 2020.” Enjoy that rabbit-hole!