Awareness Means Acknowledging Corruption
By Jessica DelBalzo
12 November, 2007
The government may have taken
to calling November “Adoption Awareness Month,” but with
the adoption industry and adopting couples dominating the month’s
articles and events, we might as well rename it Adoption Promotion Month.
After all, awareness implies an eyes-wide-open approach to the subject,
not a shameless marketing ploy. Rather than celebrating how good adopters
and adoption workers feel about adoption, we ought to be learning about
the very real impact it has on children and their natural family members.
Being truly aware of adoption means understanding that adoption is a
big business. In the United States alone, billions of dollars change
hands through the adoption industry, passing from individuals hoping
to adopt to agencies, lawyers, and counselors who procure infants and
children from parents at home and abroad. Adoption is heavily marketed
as a service dedicated to providing homes for children in need. In truth,
the demand for children far exceeds the supply, leading to corrupt and
Most Americans view adoption positively. This is in no small part thanks
to the adoption industry and its powerful lobbying arm, the National
Council for Adoption. Few people are aware of the profound negative
consequences of adoption for separated parents, children, siblings,
and extended family members, and so they have no reason to question
the practice of adoption. As a researcher and activist, I have had the
unique opportunity to form a more accurate, fact-based impression of
adoption, and knowing what I do, I cannot support this destructive industry.
Coerced adoption is probably the most important issue from a social
justice perspective. However, it is near impossible to pinpoint an adoption
that has not involved some undue pressure. Domestic infant adoptions
are rife with problems, including unenforceable open adoption agreements,
biased counseling from adoption agencies, government-funded training
programs that teach others how to promote adoption to pregnant women,
and social stigmas against poor, single, and teenage parents. Contrary
to popular belief, women who surrender their infants to adoption cite
poverty, age, and lack of support as their primary reasons. These mothers
usually want their children very much but believe themselves to be inferior
to wealthier, usually married, adopting couples. The adoption industry
is especially good at preying upon the vulnerability of a nervous mom-to-be.
International adoption is equally rife with unethical practices. Once
again, issues of poverty and lack of support are to blame when parents
in countries like China, Ethiopia, Guatemala, and Korea surrender their
children. And as with the United States, inadequate regulations allows
practice to flourish which are both criminally negligent and immoral.
Even adoptions from foster care are subject to corruption. Poor families
are unfairly targeted as suspected abusers, in no small part because
they lack the funds to mount a proper legal campaign for the return
of their children. Federal adoption bonuses motivate case workers to
ignore long-standing mandates that promote family preservation and kinship
care over placement of a child with strangers. Though adopting from
foster care is touted as a charitable act, one can never be certain
that the child involved was taken from abusive parents.
Aside from obvious issues of coercion and corrupt practices, adoption
has also been linked to increased psychological difficulties for surrendering
parents and adopted children. Adoptees are overrepresented in psychological
treatment and juvenile detention centers as compared to their non-adopted
peers. A large, national study of adolescents found that those who were
adopted were also more likely to abuse drugs and alcohol. For decades
now, researchers have found consistent evidence of psychological trauma
in mothers whose children have been taken for adoption; this trauma
is lifelong and tends to worsen over time. How is it conscionable to
promote adoption as a cure for unexpected pregnancies and abused children
when the side effects are so profoundly painful?
Some adoption critics are quick to say that despite its flaws, adoption
is necessary. I disagree. Many of the activists who, twenty years ago,
believed adoption reform to be the answer to problems within the industry
have come to accept that it is beyond repair. Rather, they believe that
adoption can be eradicated using stronger family preservation initiatives
and permanent legal guardianship as an alternate form of custody for
children who cannot be raised by their parents. While these recommendations
can be difficult for adopters and others who profit from adoption to
accept, embracing them will ensure better outcomes for children and
families in the United States and abroad.
This November, be aware of adoption -- and beware of adoption.
The author is the founder of Adoption: Legalized Lies and the author
of Unlearning Adoption: A Guide to Family Preservation and Protection.
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