Starting the adoption process can be very intimidating. Not knowing where to turn first... what to search on the internet, who to trust, what professionals are ethical and which ones aren't. You see angry adoptees, frustrated birth parents, "savior" mentality filled adoptive parents and it can all make your head spin. Now, not all adoptees, birth parents or adoptive parents fit this mold. BUT, there are louder voices in certain groups that may impress a certain impression onto your heart as you navigate this new space, so just know there is not a "one size fits all" in the adoption community!
One place to start is with finding an ethical professional! Our goal here today is to walk you through three major questions to ask an adoption professional when you are interviewing them.... and yes, I said YOU interviewing them. Remember, you write the check. It's ok to ask the hard, uncomfortable questions as you find a good match with a professional for your needs and ethical standards.
So, let's get started!
1. Does the adoption professional you are working with move expectant parents from their home state to a different state close to birth?
What do I mean by this? There are several agencies that will move an expectant parent from her home state for a variety of reasons to the agency's home state or one that they are licensed in to make the adoption "easier" for the agency. Now, if you are working with a consultant or attorney this still applies to you because they will be working with agencies and you need to know who the consultant and attorney will be working with.
Why is this unethical?
She is being moved from her support system. Her doctors. Everything familiar to her.
It's easier to coerce a parent who has just given birth in a place/state they are not familiar with to place her baby if she is away from her home.
She is being placed in the hands of doctors who don't know her and are not familiar with her history like her regular doctor/practice is, therefore putting her health at risk.
Agencies will use the time after birth to "persuade" her if she is having second thoughts by saying they will only pay for her plane ticket to return back home and that she will have to pay for the baby's. Most women don't have the money to do this so they will feel forced to place. Agencies will also say the woman needs to pay them back the "birth parent" expenses which include her plane ticket out to them, which is illegal and immoral, so again, she feels forced into placing.
Agencies will move expectant parents to states where it's much easier to terminate birth father rights (Texas is a big state known for this) after birth so they don't have to go through the "trouble" of the hoops surrounding his role in the adoption placement or him changing his mind or even having a say to begin with.
2. How are their employees and contract employees paid? Do they get percentages or bonuses based on the “success” of different stages of the adoption journey, such as match, placement, finalization, etc.
What do we mean by this? Well, we recently learned that it is a very common practice, even with professionals that are more ethical than others. They will have a pay scale for their employees and based on the stages of the adoption pre and post placement and how things are unfolding, these employees will be paid to varying degrees. I am sorry but I HATE THIS! Babies aren't cars or homes to be sold. Therefore, commission based pay scales should be banned in the adoption space. Period.
Why is this unethical?
Adoption professionals have to feed their families right? So, think about it like this.... if they know they are going to get paid $5000 (numbers vary per agency) if a woman signs termination papers, that agency worker is going to do everything they can to get the papers signed. Even using coercive behavior. It's hard to not be biased when your own salary/paycheck, therefore family, are on the line.
It encourages workers to cut corners. Have an implicit bias towards the adoptive parents and the success of the adoption.
It leaves little room for honest pre placement counseling to ensure a woman has all the information she needs to make a decision she feels is best for her and her baby.
PLUS SO MANY OTHER THINGS!
3. In what ways do they support an expectant mom when she is trying to decide if adoption is right for her?
Do they provide housing for her through their own apartment buildings or maternity homes? Do they give her money pre placement? Do they provide her counseling that is non-biased and covers parenting and adoption at length?
What things are unethical?
If an agency is providing an expectant mom housing, it is very hard to not have a bias towards the hope of her placing a child. They want to make sure they get their "money's worth" and if they provide housing to her for 9 months and then she chooses to parent, we have heard of some agencies threatening to make her pay them back for those housing expenses (which is unethical and illegal).
What type of counseling do they provide to her? How do they provide it? Ask the agency how many sessions of pre placement counseling the expectant parent is getting and what is covered in these sessions. Who will be providing these sessions to her? Is it the same caseworker that is working with the hopeful adoptive parents she is matched with? Is it someone outside of the agency's staff who can have a more neutral balance?
I know these questions are hard. They are uncomfortable to think about, much less ask! But remember, in order for adoption to be done well, it starts with us asking the hard questions from the beginning and forcing adoption professionals who aren't practicing ethics to step up to the plate and make the crucial changes that are needed!
Article written by : Mallory Fogas, Owner of Arrow + Root
Follow on social media at @arrowandroot
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