Legal vs. Ethical

Our team at Arrow and Root aims to be more than simply profile books, but to be a platform of education and village for the entire adoption triad. So, a few weeks ago I asked what topics our followers wanted to hear more about. One person asked us to address Legal vs. Ethical. Such a good one! I know this has been addressed before on other platforms, which is so needed and I love that it is becoming more of conversation in the adoption community, but I wanted to share a few things on this topic as well.


Ethics (ethical): the discipline dealing with what is good and bad and with moral duty and obligation


Legal: conforming to or permitted by law or established rules



Recently, Allison Sweatman did some Instagram stories on adoption related topics and she said something that jumped out to me. She said, “There is a flaw in the law. The law is not trauma informed. Policy is not trauma informed and oftentimes it’s not researched informed.”


There is a flaw in the law.


This is SO TRUE! Across the nation you will find varying laws from state to state on adoption. They have different laws on birth father rights, adoptee rights, when a mom can relinquish her rights and the timeframe she has to change her mind. I could go on and on. Many of these laws are antiqued and don’t take into account what many people practice in modern adoption today. What the law also doesn’t account for is the gray area in adoption. There is A LOT of gray area. Every situation is different and every person is different. Another thing the law doesn’t account for is morality. There are right and wrongs (which many need to be changed) under the law, but that’s it. It’s simply the law.


The difference though is what is legal and what is ethical comes down to morality. I believe it’s taking things a step higher than the law. It’s like the saying, “What you do when no one is looking will determine your true character.” This is what I think of when it comes to ethics. A simple example of this is:


Legally: You commit to an open adoption, but in most states this cannot be upheld by the law.


Ethically: You commit to an open adoption, and your character and morality uphold this promise even in the hard times.


That’s why you hear in the adoption community ETHICS, ETHICS, ETHICS. Many times this word is thrown around flippantly because it’s a buzz word right now, but it’s also a word that is raising the bar. The conversation of ethics is challenging professionals, hopeful and adoptive parents (heck, the whole triad!) to take our moral compass up a notch and bring better practices to the community.


This is simply a small breakdown of what we believe legal vs ethical means. There is so much more that we could unpack. So, I will leave you with this… when it comes to adoption, your foundation should be legality and your building blocks should be ethics.



By: Mallory Fogas, Owner of Arrow + Root

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