This post has been 15 years in the making. Next month marks the 15th anniversary of Joe and I completing our first home study to adopt. Along the way, we have learned a thing or two about adoption ethics. Yes, adoption has its own set of ethics that are sometimes ignored by would-be parents whose end goal is simply to bring a child home.
Actions have consequences though. Setting out to plow down the entire system to get that child home often means breaching ethics that will have untold consequences for you, and your child, later on. We learned that along the way. These are our lessons learned in adoption ethics.
In 2001, prior to having any children at all, Joe and I began the adoption process from Guatemala. We were wide-eyed 22 and 23-year-olds who wanted a child who needed us as much as we needed them. We weren’t looking to steal a child from anyone. Like most hopeful adoptive parents, we naively thought we would be referred a child who needed to be adopted. Sadly, that wasn’t the case for the little girl we were referred. She had a birth mom across the border in El Salvador who loved her daughter but who had been told that giving her away would earn her an income and provide a better life for her daughter. We let the little girl we had come to think of as “ours” go. She was never ours.
Adoption ethics means knowing that poverty is not a reason to be forced to place your child for adoption.
We went on to adopt four children domestically. Our children were placed for adoption for various reasons that aren’t mine to share. We met as many of their biological family members as cared to meet us. These relationships stretched me as a person, and as a mom. Open adoption wasn’t something I ever thought I wanted. It has become an absolutely beautiful thing in some of our children’s lives. And, this isn’t about me. This is about them, and their feeling connected to the people who share their genetics. I am here to give my children roots and wings.
Adoption ethics means you put yourself AFTER your child. You think about their needs first. You, as the adoptive parent, are the least important member of the triad.
We attempted to adopt from Ethiopia. Again, in investigating the circumstances of the little boy we were referred, we felt uncomfortable. He had a biological uncle who wanted desperately to raise him. Again, we watched a little boy we thought was ours slip away. He wasn’t ours to begin with. This time, we had children in our home though, children who thought this child might be their brother. It burned to watch them try to understand the loss. This was a moment that needed to be discussed with them. One that would teach them that this wasn’t about taking someone out of their homeland to make them our brother. It was about adopting ethically, a child who was truly in need of a safe space to call forever.
Adoption ethics means saying NEVER to entitlement. These children aren’t destined to be yours simply because they live in poverty, or an institution. Your home isn’t always ‘better’ than an alternative.
We adopted from Ghana, three times, and as we did it, we peeled back the veil of corruption. In bringing our children home we came face to face with true evil and real fraud. We watched an entire international adoption program implode because of it. We watched children who legitimately needed to get out of their orphanages and find families lose their chance at ever being able to do that because of the aforementioned entitlement of a few Americans. We were lied to about one of children’s past. We will carry that with us into forever, always wondering if five trips there were enough, if there was something else that could have been done or asked that would have led to the truth of her beginnings, or if there was some way she could have stayed in her homeland. Our child will carry this forever too. It is a mark we gave to her.
We came home. We made it out of Ghana, it would have been so easy to let it go. We vowed not to let it die though. We made reports. We hired lawyers. We fought for, and continue to fight for, the children and family members who were left behind. We bleed for the ones who won’t have a family now, not ever, because of the corruption of a few. Those adults who had wronged our children told us that this was “God’s will.” Satan was blamed for evil choices of men and women who profited and gained personally. It would have been easy to accept that, to shrug and move on, to swallow the lies. After all, the lies benefitted me too. It benefitted me to believe what I was being told about others. It benefitted me to be told that I was only fulfilling what “God was asking of me.” Wasn’t I? Isn’t adoption God’s greatest plan?
Adoption ethics means knowing that your choices, the choices that benefit you personally, aren’t ever simply God’s will. God never asks you to lie for personal gain or profit. He never asks you to “save a child” at the expense of thousands of others who will them never make it home when your choices for that one, cause more pain for so very many more.
Joe and I went on to adopt four more children in four years from China. We chose China because their program was regimented and full of children with special needs, children who clearly needed families. Sadly, the more I delved into the program, as a parent and a Waiting Child Advocate, the more I saw the same breach of ethics on the part of adoptive parents, the more I have seen people justify their choices as “God’s will” or “God’s plan.” That no longer holds water with me. I am here for the children, and the children alone. God’s will has nothing to do with so many of the things I have seen.
I have seen families lie on their home studies.
I have seen families bring children to the United States with the intent of hosting them to “try them out” before they decide whether or not they want to adopt them.
I have seen older couples with grown children attempt to adopt a child for those children because they are legally ineligible to adopt, and by doing that, blatantly ignoring U.S. and China law.
I have seen families attempt to hold onto the adoption files of children for months, sometimes years, because right now simply isn’t “a convenient time to adopt” or because for one reason or another they’re not currently eligible to adopt per the laws of either the native country or our own country.
The end NEVER justifies the means when we’re talking about children. This isn’t “paying a ransom.” You’re not saving one for yourself while risking thousands. That is never “God’s plan.”
Adoption ethics means reporting it, every single time.
–FullPlateMom, who won’t ever let you risk thousands of children’s futures to bring home YOUR one.