Category Archives: Ethics in adoption

20 Questions: a guide to choosing an adoption agency

When we decided to go the domestic infant adoption route, we were fortunate that through no real calculated effort, we happened to fall into an excellent adoption agency. And by “excellent,” I mean two specific things:

  • An excellent agency counsels hopeful adoptive parent on two fronts: (1) processing grief to heal the wounds of infertility, and (2) living in open adoption.
  • An excellent agency is squeaky-clean in its dealings with both hopeful adoptive parents and expectant parents. Ethics toward expectant parents may not be high on your agency checklist at the front end of an adoption, but make no mistake. It is in your long term interest, and that of your future child, to make sure that your child’s firstparents are also treated ethically.

So plan on doing some research once you hone in on an agency or two. Ask to talk to past customers of adoption services (adoptive parents) and consumers of pregnancy counseling services (firstparents).

20 Questions: A Girlfriend’s Guide to Choosing an Adoption Agency
Needless to say, choosing an adoption agency is one of the biggest decisions you face, because you need to go where your child will be. My advice is to follow both your head and your heart.

How? First, your head. Research the agency by interviewing its counselors and asking to speak with both adoptive parents and firstparents they have served.

Ask the agency

  • What’s the shortest wait you’ve had? What made it so short?
  • What’s the longest wait? Why do you think this couple had such a long wait? What did you do to help them?
  • What is a typical wait?
  • How many couples do you have actively waiting at one time?
  • How many placements did you have last year?
  • How do expectant parents find you?
  • What is your counseling approach for expectant parents? (Information on parenting should be easily available to people coming in for pregnancy counseling. The agency should never push, but rather provide information and support.)
  • How often do expectant parents decide to parent after being matched with adoptive parents?
  • At what stage of the pregnancy do you suggest expectant parents choose adoptive parents? (Many professionals suggest not entering a match until at least 7 months into the pregnancy. Expectant parents go through a lot of ups and downs, and you don’t want to be riding that roller coaster for more than 2 months.)
  • Please explain your fee schedule. (A large portion — up to 1/3 of the total — should be due only after placement.)

Ask adoptive parents

  • How long was your wait?
  • What kind of grief counseling did the agency offer? (Expect some support in healing from infertility so you are ready to parent whole-heartedly).
  • How active was your agency?
  • What kind of after-adoption support is available? (Look for an agency that provides post-adoption counseling or parenting classes as part of the supervision process).
  • What kind of relationship do you have now with your child’s first family?

Ask firstparents

  • How did you come by your decision to make an adoption plan? (A good agency will let the expectant parents take the lead and not push them into ANY option. This is crucial to reducing the risk of expectant parents changing their minds. The decision has to be freely made, and I would run fast from an agency that puts pressure on expectant parents to “give up” a baby.)
  • To what degree did you feel supported by the agency?
  • If you had a friend who was pregnant and needed help deciding what to do, would you recommend this agency?
  • How did you hear about the agency?
  • What kind of relationship do you have now with your child’s family?

Look for healthy situations where both parties feel well-served and well-represented by an agency. A good agency will make the adoption process collaborative (with the child as the focus), rather than adversarial (where one side’s loss is the other’s gain).

After you gather the facts, let your heart weigh in on the decision. Sit quietly and find out what your intuition tells you. If you have a “feeling” about an agency, go with that feeling. Adoption — like parenting — is a very intuitive process. Adopting with your head and heart will prepare you to parent with your head and heart.

Image: Master isolated images /

Breathing and birth certificates

When was the last time you really thought about air? Not air in the abstract, like the part of the Earth’s atmosphere that humans may be warming and polluting.

But the concrete. The air that you’re breathing right now. The air that’s in your bedroom, bathroom, kitchen. The air in your Jeep, Honda, Chevy. The air on the bus, at your office, in the gym. The air in the grocery store, at Costco, surrounding the baseball field (oh, that’s right. Only Colorado and 2 other teams are still playing baseball. Ha Ha!).

You haven’t thought about the air you breathe in the last day, week, month? That’s because YOU HAVE IT.

If all the air were to be sucked out of your home, your Honda, your Costco, then would you think about it? You bet your sweet bippy. You wouldn’t be able to think of anything else. Thoughts of air would consume you.

Now. When was the last time you thought about your birth certificate? That tired and rumpled old document that says the date, time and location where you were born. That shows your height and weight. That shows your parents, and thereby infers your very identity by virtue of the underlying ethnic background and health history.

What? You haven’t thought about your birth certificate since the last time you applied for a passport or driver’s license? And even then you didn’t really study it?

Then, you must not be an adopted person.

Adopted people in many parts of the United States are prevented from having access to their original birth certificates. I can have mine. You can have yours (unless you were adopted). But a class of citizens — through circumstance of birth — are denied the right to see and have the document that shows their identity on the day they were born.

Check out this video compiled to a Dashboard Confessional song and visit the site. Our country, founded on equal rights for all, should not tolerate the treatment of second-tier citizens. Support Open Records in your state.

Best Practices in Ethical Adoptions, part 2

In a recent post, I mused about what makes for an ethical adoption. I promised then to follow up with a post from a cross-triad discussion board.

When I posted this draft on this discussion board, I asked for help from other members to flesh it out. After all, I am just a tiny piece in the adoption mosaic. There were a few people who posted some suggestions, but I was surprised at the otherwise roaring silence from this historically clamorous group. Could it be that the loudest complainers would rather wail than work on issues? Ahhh, that’s for another post.

So, throwing it out once again, here is a working draft…feel free to chime in with your thoughts.

Ethics in Infant Adoption
Who we are: An online community representing

  • Adoptive parents
  • Birth/first parents
  • Adult adoptees

Our guiding principle: Since there are competing interests among members of the triad, we seek balance among these competing interest so that all parts of the triad are respected in fundamental ways.

Our goals:

  • Compassion and empathy among members of the triad.
  • Elimination of adoption coercion. Just as coercing a partner into marriage is void of integrity and not conducive to long-lasting relationship health, so is coercion in adoption. We recognize that coercive language and practices are harmful to all parties involved in adoption (first parents, adoptees and adoptive parents).
  • Prosecution of adoption scammers.
  • Education of the general public about the true faces of first parents, adoptive parents, and adoptees.
  • Adherence to Best Practices in adoption by agencies and other adoption professionals.
  • Integrity — integrating truth and informed choice in language, intentions and actions.
  • A uniform and reasonable period between birth and Termination of Parental Rights (TPR)
  • Access for adult adoptees to their original birth certificates. Such information on one’s own DNA is a fundamental right which affects one’s physical, emotional and mental health.

Best practices:
First parents

  • People in crisis pregnancies are considered “expectant parents” or simply “parents” until TPR is signed. Only after this occurs do they become birth or first parents.
  • Expectant parents considering adoption are presented with resources for parenting (WIC, etc).
  • Appropriate counseling helps people in crisis pregnancies to accurately envision both avenues open to them: parenting (and all available resources) and adoption.
  • An expectant mother considering adoption is given the opportunity to be paired with a first mother mentor, someone who has been through the process herself. This mentor serves as a volunteer. This community maintains a list of qualified (i.e. not having an adoption agenda) first parent volunteers.
  • Agency/professional provides ongoing grief counseling for up to two years after placement.

It is acknowledged that adoption is a loss for the child, a tribal severance from one’s clan. Adoption must be freely chosen by expectant parents, only when they deem it is a better option than parenting, taking into account issues of safety, security, finances, familial relationships, desire to parent, and other pertinent factors.

Pre-adoptive parents

  • No less than 1/3 of the total cost is due after placement.
  • Agency/professional supplies accurate statistics on number of placements, number of waiting couples, average wait times, and reclamations during a recent time period.
  • Agency/professional discourages matches prior to six weeks before due date.
  • Agency/professional provides grief counseling to pre-adoptive parents who have experienced infertility.


So now what? If you see there is a problem, want to be part of a solution?