Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Adoption Ethics

Back when we first got started in our adoption process, we discovered that out there in the world of adoption there are a bazillion agencies.

Each agency has their own set of fees, procedures, country programs, and application procedures.

Each agency has their own requirements of potential adoptive parents.

And each agency has varying levels of ethical practices.

We were blissfully unaware of the differences in the ethics of different agencies until after we were in process and  discovered different agencies handling situations VERY differently than ours.

Many things that were NOT okay with our agency were perfectly fine with others.

While we were in process, I felt that this may have been unfair and some of the "rules" seemed silly... but looking back from this end of things, I can tell you without a doubt in my mind that we used one of the most ethical agencies in this country for our adoption.

Now that we are done, I can tell you that there were times I was SUPER upset with the way they handled things. They have this reputation as being VERY CONSERVATIVE in all aspects. Well, this is all well and good until you are trying to discern if a rumor you are hearing online and in chat rooms about Ethiopian adoptions is TRUE or not... and you are told to wait while they sort it all out.

However, since we have been home I have seen many other adoption stories online via blogs and stories from friends. I have heard stories that make my skin crawl. I have heard stories that sound an awful lot like child trafficking. I have heard stories that sound like birth-parent-coercion.

If you found this post because you are researching agencies...
do yourself a favor.
If you read a negative review somewhere...
consider the subject matter of the review.

If someone is upset because they didn't get their photos when they thought they should (ahem... ME!), or they are upset because they didn't pass committee the first two times and feel like they are getting the runaround (also ME...)... those are issues with the way the agency is trying to make sure they are doing the right thing.

On the flip side of that... if the reviews have to do with not getting communication from the adoption agency, or unexpected changes once the parent arrives in country, or unanswered questions about the birth family, or ANYTHING that sounds even SLIGHTLY unethical...RUN.
RUN far away from that agency.
Do not look back. Do not be mesmerized by their promises, their shorter timelines, or their lower fees. Do not be in such a hurry to get started that you jump into a contract with an agency that you will then have to defend for the rest of your life. Don't do it. Unethical agencies need to be put out of business and the only way that will happen is if adoptive parents STOP SUPPORTING THEM.

As for our agency...

Did they do everything perfectly all the time? No. 
There are several families who feel like the ball was dropped with respect to their June/July embassy date mix ups, but they don't doubt the ethicacy (is that a word?) of their adoptions. They may have put the adoptive parents in the loony bin a time or two, but they never went out and picked out children to fill up their orphanages. They never coerced a birth parent into relinquishing a child. They have programs in place to help families stay together. They have a clinic to see sick children and parents and pregnant women to help them become and remain healthy so that they can parent their children. They are multi-faceted in their approach in-country. 

What could they do better? They could support parents better after they are at home.
They had many concerns regarding our adopting three kiddos when we already had 4 at home, but I have not had a checking-in phone call since we were home 2 weeks (which was more about our trip and our immediate transitions). Many would argue that's a job for your social worker and the post-placement visits... which I can see as well... but ultimately the success or failure of a placement reflects back on the agency, not the home study workers... so I think it would be in everyone's best interest if they checked in with families regularly for the first year home.
Could our agency have given us photos more regularly?? I believe so. There has to be a way to get waiting parents photos and/or video more regularly. Every 3 months is a HUGE length of time when you are waiting (especially for those adopting an infant or young baby). Some kind of secure website where waiting families could see the progression of their paperwork or see their number on the referral list or something similar would be wonderful.

I loved the in-country staff. They are some of the most amazing, called-by-the-Lord, passionate, children-loving people you will ever have the pleasure of meeting. I can say without a doubt that those women genuinely LOVE the children in their care.

Don't be fooled into thinking "all those negative reviews are written by the same angry person". Maybe there's a reason why someone is so angry. There is no room for snarkiness and petty agency-bashing in adoption.
We are talking about CHILDREN'S LIVES here.
It's hard enough without adding to the drama with some allegations of unethical practices hanging over your case.
Just be VERY cautious.

If you want to know... here's our agency's website.


  1. *here here*- thanks for your post- I hope it makes/made people think. This is coming from a family who hasnt had an update since July :(

  2. This issue can NOT be discussed enough. Thank you.

  3. As a pioneer family for your agency's Ethiopia program I can tell you sure there were things that could have been smoother and even now I know there are still issues but I don't ever for one minute doubt their ethics- I can't say that for many of the others.

  4. I completely agree with all of this, although we did know about adoption ethics before we chose an agency, and that's why we chose Holt. To know that their first choice is to keep a birth family together, and their second is to place a child in their birth country (according to their annual report, they placed more children with families in their birth countries last year than internationally), and then as a last resort, they put the child up for international adoption, meant a lot to us.

    As to the pictures and updates... you're telling me. It was quite awkward when we finally met our son because we hadn't seen a picture of him for 4 months (he's 2), and we'd never seen him with hair, so we weren't sure it was him. He looked VERY different than the last picture we'd received. Everyone was staring at us, and we asked if it was him, and the ET staff just smiled at everyone. It was so awkward. We didn't even get an info update till a week before we left to get him. Our previous info had been his intake forms. I asked Holt for at least 3 months for updated info and pictures. I offered to buy the staff there a digital camera and faster internet.


Drama-free comment zone: