Ethical Adoption Work: One Agency's Opinion
Risks and problems are greatly minimized when an agency is committed to doing the best work possible for all parties involved in an adoption.
The decision to adopt a child is a highly emotional one. Prospective adoptive parents are often confused by the process and the choices ahead. Most expectant, or "birth" parents who are considering an adoption plan for their baby are in great pain over this prospect. Those who are already parents but are unable to care for their child feel grief stricken and guilty about making this choice. And though they are usually not legal participants in the adoption process, extended birth or adoptive family members often have strong feelings about this life-altering process. It is not surprising that such a highly emotional issue often sparks controversy, endless speculation, legal debate, ongoing research and unfortunately, misconceptions conveyed by the media.
Both expectant and pre-adoptive parents are often anxious and emotionally fragile. Those who do adoption work have a responsibility to do everything possible to make the adoption process not only legal, but in addition - honest, ethical and child focused. Risks and problems are greatly minimized when an agency is committed to doing the best work possible for all parties involved in an adoption. This high level of dedication makes the work of adoption complicated and requires expertise in many different areas.
A full service agency needs to have staff trained to work with adoptees, expectant and birth parents, pre-adoptive and adoptive parents. In addition, they need to have the expertise to work with government officials, colleagues around the U.S. and in other countries. Other specialists are also required - finance and technology personnel, translators, interpreters, program teams and administrative specialists. The expanse and depth of skills required are why adoption work today is extremely complex. On the surface it may not appear to be a complicated process but in actuality, it involves a myriad of decisions, regulations, systems and emotions.
For ethical adoption agencies, the best interest of a child is the focal point of all policies, procedures and practices. Sometimes this means that the needs or desires of good people who want to adopt a child will not be satisfied. This is a particularly difficult issue for those who work closely with prospective parents. Putting a child's interest above all others can sometimes result in disappointment for prospective parents. Nevertheless, choices about an adoption need to be based solely on the best decision for that child.
Another key ethical issue in adoption is transparency and the importance of truthful information for all members of the adoption triad. It is essential that anyone considering an adoption plan for a child be fully informed about the permanence of adoption. Whether in the U.S. or abroad, if there are resources available that will allow parents to raise their child rather than relinquish those rights, this information should be made accessible to those considering an adoption plan. This is now standard practice in the U.S. but needs much greater attention from other governments and support from those involved with the work of international adoption.
Truth of information is equally important for adoptees and their families. Pre-adoptive parents need to be fully informed about all possible adoptive options and any legal, medical and emotional risks involved. The fact that a child is adopted is best introduced to a child at an early age and explained in greater detail as a youngster develops. Adoptive parents need to be truthful with their child at age appropriate steps. Finally, adoptees need access to any available background information and post-adoption counseling, whenever needed, at age five, twenty-five or fifty.
Often, decisions regarding adoption are not black and white, but shades of grey. It is not always crystal clear if it is best for a child to be relinquished and placed with a new family. It is not easy to know if a particular family is the right one for a particular child. In addition, it can be difficult to know if prospective parents should wait longer to adopt the child of their dreams or if the child of their dreams will come to them regardless of their initial desires. Like medical care, the process of adoption is not an exact science.
Over time the professional adoption community has become a good deal more sophisticated in determining factors, concerns and issues that will help a child have the best chance at a promising future. Ultimately, this is what an ethical agency strives for in the placement of each and every child.
Vicki Peterson, Executive Director of External Affairs, Wide Horizons For Children, www.whfc.org
View other articles by Vicki Peterson on Voices of Adoption
Wide Horizons For Children is dedicated to the well-being and security of vulnerable and orphaned children worldwide. To accomplish our mission, we: - Strengthen families to improve their ability to care for their children - Improve outcomes for children living outside of parental care - Place children with loving, adoptive families - Support birth parents, adoptive parents and children throughout their lives