Adoption: What do you consider “Best Practices”?

Jan Baker’s post on Adoption Reform got me thinking about what ethical adoptions look like. There are probably as many opinions as there are people who care.

We call it an adoption triad because of the three groups: the child adopted, the firstparents, and the adoptive parents. But there is a fourth element: the agency/facilitator. Choosing the adoption professional is a HUGE decision for both hopeful adoptive parents (click here for my article) and expectant mothers considering adoption. But after the matching and legalities are done, the agency fades away leaving the triad to deal with the lifelong outcomes (good and/or bad).

I’ve often thought that the adoption community should come up with a benchmark document, “Best Practices in Ethical Adoption.” This list would need to meld both the “wish lists” from all parts of the triad and their sometimes competing wishes, as well as practical realities that come with running a business (either for- or not-for-profit). These include (1) reasonable salaries and expenses for legitimate services; and (2) the need for marketing so that people who might use the agency’s services know about the agency.

This wiki-ish document could then become the “Good Housekeeping” seal for adoption professionals — benchmarks against which to measure ethics.

What would you consider the 3 most important points in ethical adoption? You, the person reading who cares about adoption. Let me know in a comment.

To help, here are some resources:


The Evan B Donaldson Institute

We may not find agreement on small points, but let’s see if we can reach consensus on the big points.

(Next I’ll post my recent attempt on a cross-forum board to clarify my own thoughts on this issue.)

World’s Shortest (and Most Often Performed) Play

Did you ever do this mini-skit as a child? All you need is one prop, a napkin.

Unfold the napkin and pinch it in the middle. It is now alternatively a mustache, a hair bow, and a bow tie. Now imagine a grainy sepia toned silent film with a railroad track as a backdrop.

Villain (napkin as mustache, fiendish voice): “You MUST pay the rent, you MUST pay the rent, you MUST pay the rent to-day!”

Victim (napkin as hair bow, high-pitched voice and wide, batting eyes): “I CAN’T pay the rent, I CAN’T pay the rent, I CAN’T pay the rent to-day.”

Villain: “You MUST pay the rent, you MUST pay the rent, you MUST pay the rent to-day!”

Victim: “I CAN’T pay the rent, I CAN’T pay the rent, I CAN’T pay the rent to-day.”

Hero (napkin as bow tie, Dudley-Do-Right voice): “I’ll pay the rent!”

Victim: “My hero!”

Villain: “Curses, foiled again!!”

you must pay the rent napkin play

Periodically, Adoption World erupts in full-out drama. One part of the adoption triad feels victimized, and people chime in to either identify, rescue or further persecute. Like an elastic band, the community is stretched to its limit. Some participants storm out of the discussion, some offer warm fuzzies, eventually the rift is healed and and feel-good games enjoy a fresh round of play.

Why do I always think of the Pay-the-Rent Drama Wheel during these eruptions?

The drama wheel consists of the villain, the victim, and the hero. None can exist without the others. It is the interplay among the three that keeps the wheel turning.

The adoption drama wheel is kept spinning by the drama among adoptive parents, first parents, and people who were adopted.

We post and defend and attack and rant according to past hurts and traumas that stem from our position in the adoption triad that we are currently experiencing. But what if  this drama simply perpetuates more drama? As each of us can heal, as each of us can truly put ourselves in the place of the others we oppose, as each of us moves toward stillness at the center of the drama wheel –- this is how to stop the drama and the trauma.

Perhaps we, in a cosmic sense, get to experience ALL parts of the triad. Perhaps to gain soul-level understanding of the Golden Rule (do unto others), we are actually in orbit with ourselves as we play out our stories. For example, if I am an adoptive mom experiencing problems with a first mother not respecting boundaries, is it possible that in another dimension I am also this birth mother experiencing a rigid and fearful adoptive mother of my child? If I am an adoptee with torn loyalties between my two moms, could I also be (in other dimensions) the adoptive mom who hasn’t yet come to terms with not being The Only Mom?? And the birth mom who was coerced into relinquishment and has never quite healed from the betrayal?

What if you occupied all three positions in your own adoption situation? How would it look from each? Seriously, spend some time here, if you can get yourself untrenched from your “known” position.

All the unhealed wounds perpetuate more wounds that we inflict on each other — ourselves. I propose, instead, that we each really try to walk in the shoes of our counterparts. Pretend that whatever we’re experiencing now is tied in with what we left unhealed from another play in another time or dimension.

We are our own victim. And villain. And hero. And each of us is in control of the speed and the very existence of the drama wheel.

The only part of the wheel that has no movement, no drama, is the center. If you want to get off the wheel, the only way I know of is to develop empathy and compassion for those in the other positions. To find the place of Unity, where there is no Other.

Post announcement post: The Seven New Wonders of the World

Results are in. With one vote cast for every 67 people on the planet, here are the winners, in no particular order:

  • Macchu Picchu (Peru)
  • Great Wall of China
  • Colosseum (Rome)
  • Taj Mahal (India)
  • Petra (Jordan)
  • Chichen Itza pyramid (Mexico)
  • Christ the Redeemer statue (Brazil)
  • Great Pyramids of Giza (Egypt)

When is seven eight? When the Great Pyramids are grandpharaoh-ed in. Egyptian officials indignantly asserted that as the sole remaining Wonder of the Ancient World, they shouldn’t have to apply.

So I’ve seen half. Now I know what to do with the rest of my life.

adoption, parenting, mindfulness, open adoption