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Adoption is a Murky Industry… What Can We Do?

By now, many of you have read the article published online by Time Magazine “The Baby Brokers: Inside America’s Murky Private-Adoption Industry”. If you haven’t read it, you should. Be prepared for a hard, but necessary read.

We, as an adoption industry, HAVE to do better. This weighs heavy on my heart. None of it was particularly surprising but written together like this Time article did, it is shocking to read. I know that these unethical practices happen- even if I haven’t participated in them directly. I have certainly heard stories and witnessed others’ experiences. And it would be much easier to look away. It would be so much easier to focus on the adoptions that have gone well and brought joy to families. We even have stories that include both happy and respected adoptive parents and biological parents. However, we have to do the hard work of examining the practices highlighted in this article.

We have to do better. Adoptive parents and adoption professionals have to recognize our privilege in adoption situations. We have to recognize that, especially in this country, financial resources means power. And, it is up to us to use that power in a way that dignifies all individuals involved in an adoption, especially the expectant mother and the adoptee.

As we have said before, adoption begins with loss. There is no way around it. You cannot have the joys and blessings that come from adoption without loss. To successfully be part of an adoption (any adoption!), you have to be comfortable with the hard mixed in with the good. Adoption is not just one thing. It is a lot of complicated things. This is true for expectant moms, for adoptive parents and for the adoptee (at all ages). There is love and there is loss. There is gratefulness and there is longing. There is belonging and deep loneliness. For all involved.

What can we do? Adoption Support Alliance, as a community, here are some things that I would like to encourage us to do:

  • Educate ourselves. We need to enter into the adoption process informed about how it works. We need to recognize potential pitfalls and work to avoid them. To do this, we should engage with the stories of expectant mothers and the history of the adoption industry.

American Baby by Gabrielle Glaser and The Child Catchers by Kathryn Joyce came highly recommended to me and have been extremely eye opening. They are painful and powerful reads.

  • Ask questions. When choosing an agency or an adoption professional with whom we will work, we have to take the initiative and become informed. We must ask how financial decisions are made, how expectant mothers are cared for and counseled and how policies of the agencies impact all members of the adoption triad. We cannot assume that others will make us informed; we need to be responsible for knowledge.

Creating a Family offers wonderful insight and guidance when choosing an agency including questions to consider and insight from those in the field.

  • Speak up when it doesn’t feel right. We have to be brave and speak up. As Dr. Maya Angelou so mindfully suggested, “When we know better, we do better”. We have to fight for the dignity of others and avoid using finances to control other’s decisions. We need to put the interests of others before our own interests. We recognize this can be very difficult to do.

If you need support in this, feel free to contact us, join our Facebook group or a support group. We know none of this is simple and we are here to support you in doing the work.

  • Listen to others. We need to elevate the voices of biological parents and adoptees. We do not always have to agree, but we do need to show respect for one another. This includes recognizing that in this very complex process, multiple perspectives are valid. We all become better when we listen with the intention of understanding.

Follow us on social media and check out who we follow. We do our best to follow adoptees, birth mothers and advocates who are active in this space. We will work to continue to diversify the voices we listen to as well!

Nonprofit organizations like AdoptMatch (mentioned in the article) seek to raise the ethical standards in adoption. The National Center on Adoption and Permanency run by Adam Pertman (quoted in the article) has a list of Organizations Make a Difference. Use these resources as you continue to educate yourself and seek out ways to be a changemaker. We will meet you there.

This is a challenge to us as an organization as well. We want to lead this community well in becoming more informed, in encouraging one another to ask hard questions and in listening to others with differing perspectives. We invite you to join us in these efforts!


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