Ethics and Why We Like Foster Care Adoption
After I adopted my children a few years ago, I joined several adoption groups in hopes of connecting with other adoptive parents and adoptees. One of the most common questions that prospective adoptive parents seemed to ask the group was for ethical adoption agency recommendations. Ethical adoption agencies? We had adopted through foster care, and I hadn’t even considered the fact that this was something prospective adoptive parents had to think about. I asked a friend what in the world they were talking about. “You know, the adoption machine. Where unethical agencies and governments coerce birth mothers and then give their babies to greedy white people for large sums of money.” Call me naive (because I was), but I had never heard of such a thing. It sounded like exaggeration. And paranoia. And a great way to turn people away from adoption, and make those who had already adopted feel guilty. No person wants to steal another woman (or man’s) baby. How could an unethical agency even remain operational?
Simple. Unethical agencies remain operational because people don’t realize they are unethical. It’s true that no person wants to steal another person’s baby. No one wants a mother to be coerced, or a biological father’s opinion intentionally ignored, or a poor woman overseas paid a nominal amount to sign some papers she can’t even read with the promise that her baby will be back soon. No one wants that. Adoptive parents who later find out that some aspect of their child’s adoption was unethical, feel heartbroken. “Stealing babies” is not the reason people set out to adopt. I think we all know that. But any time money and desire get together, a breeding ground for corruption can easily be created. Some people will do anything for money. It’s not surprising that a few of those people have weaseled their way into the world of adoption. Now I don’t think all agencies are unethical. In fact I think there are many, many good ones both domestically and abroad. But unbeknownst to me a few years ago, selecting an ethical agency is one of the most important parts of adopting. Probably the number 1 most important thing. No wonder so many prospective adoptive parents are talking about it.
There is no completely perfect path that you can choose to guarantee an ethical adoption. But research and knowledge is certainly key. Foster care adoption is an excellent avenue to take if you want to adopt but are weary of unethical agencies. What makes it a safer bet when it comes to ethics? Several things really. For starters, the children who are available for adoption through foster care have usually come to that position after at least a year in foster care. Before the case even heads to adoption the birth parents are given many chances to work their case plan and get their children back. After that year (or two, or three) a team of people have come to the decision together that the child should be adopted rather than reunified. That team includes, but is not limited to, a judge, a caseworker, several lawyers, an adoption worker, and sometimes even a birth parent or two.
Everyone involved in a foster care adoption is paid the same regardless of if a child is reunified with their birth family or placed for adoption. Caseworkers make pennies a year regardless of where their cases end up. Lawyers for the birth parents and adoptive parents are often provided by the state, so again there is no extra financial gain for them, they are paid the same regardless of the outcome of a case. Unlike international adoption or domestic infant adoption, no one enters in, sees dollar signs, and then attempts to change the direction of a case for their own personal gain. The weasels who occasionally hang around domestic infant adoption and international adoption looking for a buck, can’t find that kind of cash through foster care adoption.
Does that mean adopting through foster care is perfect? No. Sometimes lawyers are negligent. Sometimes caseworkers have a biased toward the birth parent, or toward the foster/adopt parent. Sometimes someone doesn’t try hard enough to track down a birth father, or they forget to rule out a birth relative. Mistakes can be made. Call me crazy, but I like to think that as a foster parent you do have a modicum of control. If you see anything unethical, such as a caseworker not doing their job, there is usually someone you can report them to. The kids available for adoption through foster care really need homes. Sometimes they are older, sometimes they have special needs, or are part of a sibling group. But these are children who you can be sure genuinely need a family.
If you think your child is in Ethiopia, or China, or Haiti, or not yet born in the US, then absolutely, go out and find your child (through an ethical agency of course). But if you want to adopt, and aren’t sure where your child is. And you are weighing your options. And thinking about ethics. I think foster care adoption might just be a good choice for you.
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