I am a social worker. I’ve also been an adoptive parent for almost 14 years and a foster parent for almost 13. Over the past several years, however, with the creation of Facebook groups in particular, I have seen a shift in the way adoption and foster care is both discussed and viewed. Adoption ethics have come to the forefront of many discussions in both positive and negative ways.
Now first let me start by stating that I realize not everyone will agree with my opinion, but that I also recognize everyone has had a different experience; some positive, some negative. Over the past few years, however, adoption has been fashioned into this ugly, nasty, beast of a thing. Comments ranging from adoption is wrong, to keeping children with their first families is what we should be fighting for, to the ethics of everything in between. A lot of these conversations are important, but some of them are down right mean. I am the member of multiple Facebook groups on adoption and foster care and the tone has changed to that of “This is the only right way. If you don’t agree with this way you are unethical, a child trafficker/kidnapper, and don’t deserve your children.” I kid you not…I have seen people tell other women that they don’t deserve their own children. It’s crazy.
I think there is a HUGE reason some of the arguments are occurring, and that is the misunderstanding that adoption and foster care are divided into TWO parts, not one.
The FIRST part of the child welfare picture is children being reunified with their biological family. Whether this be locally with kids in foster care, or internationally with kids in orphanages, it is always the first goal. I’m sure everyone can at least agree that is the preferred first choice. In today’s world, however, nothing is perfect. Life happens. Crap happens. And sometimes…more often than many care to admit, this option is just not possible. The safety of a child is always a main consideration and sometimes a child cannot SAFELY return to their first family. The arguments against this consist of “if the biological parents had been given money” or “if someone would just support the birth mother” and “if more programs existed, or the stigma was gone, they could keep their child.” Yes, that can be true for some. Of course. There is a need for more supportive programs and funding out there to support families in need. THIS HOWEVER IS IT’S OWN SEPARATE CONSIDERATION. Adoption is not of a child who can still return to their parents. Just so that is clear. Adoption, is of a child who’s parental rights have been terminated. So, LONG, LONG before adoption is a consideration….before adoptive parents enter the picture, there is room for support services and financial assistance to try and maintain these family units. People who are passionate about this cause can support it, separate from the adoption world.
The hard and painful reality of it, however, is that money and support alone cannot solve this grand problem of children needing families. It has been a problem for humans entire history. Some parents legitimately do not want to parent, both locally and over seas. This can be for various reasons, but many many of them, are not reasons associated with poverty. Some parents are so entrenched in addiction, that money and support cannot solve their problems. I won’t go into any debates about addiction, but ultimately until an individual is ready to make a decision to leave that life, no one can do anything to change that. Some parents are also abusive. Whether it be emotionally, sexually, verbally, or through neglect, some parents just do not have the capacity to parent and never will. So yes, there is definitely a need for more programs and support services. Will they solve the problem of children needing families? No. But it would certainly help maintain some family units.
Next comes the SECOND aspect of adoption. The adoption part of it all. As I mentioned above, many children cannot ever return home despite all the money or supports in the world. There will ALWAYS be children who need somewhere to live, be loved, and to belong. This is where adoption comes in. On this end of the argument, we are discussing children whose parents have already had their rights terminated, or whom are already living their lives in an orphanage. I am NOT referencing kids who are being trafficked, or children who are illegally sold, or any other terrible, illegal and heartbreaking aspect of children who do not live with their biological families. I am referencing children who currently are being raised in foster care and/or orphanages. THESE CHILDREN, the ones available for adoption, are the ones that are usually being referenced in the adoption community by those of us passionate about adoption. Now…on this end of the debate there is still a lot of history to consider, of course. Children available for adoption have often experienced trauma, loss, and possibly a number of other horrific things. They have lost their biological family, sometimes their culture, possibly siblings, and maybe more. NO ONE wants to erase that history or minimize it’s importance. BUT for children who are stuck in foster homes or orphanages, ADOPTION IS A GOOD THING!!! Let me be very VERY clear here though. When people say adoption is a good thing, they do not mean it to minimize all of the hard, yucky stuff raveled up inside of adoption. They mean it is good compared to a child growing up without a family. Does everyone see that difference?
Now this is where many people are ready to sound the alarms and attack me. Many former youth in care, or adoptees, or foster or adoptive parents will bring up the many tragic and horrific experiences they had in an adoptive home. Some of them had their adoptions disrupted, only to see them back in foster care. Some of them were abused. Some of them never felt love. And some of them experienced an isolation and pain from their journey. It is my strong belief, however, that these experiences are MORE related to the imperfection of humans, than to the aspect of adoption. Biological parents abuse their children all the time. Biological parents do crappy things and raise their kids poorly all the time. These terrible things that are very real and horrible, do not make adoption itself horrible. Just because some children experienced disruption, or some children experienced abuse, does not mean that is what adoption is about, or what WILL occur. I don’t want to minimize ANY of those experiences in any way. But I also don’t want to see that be the “image” if you will, that represents adoption in general. What I have seen happen, however, is the negative experiences of SOME, have taken over and are making their statements as if this is the truth for ALL. But it just isn’t. Many adoptees have had wonderful lives. Many haven’t. Neither opinion is right or wrong, it is a unique experience to each individual person, but does some negative experiences warrant the belief that ALL ADOPTION IS BAD? I don’t believe it does. Do we want to hear these terrible experiences? Of course. It provides opportunity to grow, and learn, and prevent them from happening in the future. But we don’t want these experiences to halt adoption. We have to be mindful in how to receive these stories.
What is the alternative? For all the people out there who believe adoption is wrong, what would you rather see? Do people truthfully believe a child aging out of foster care is the better alternative? Remember, I am talking about children whose parental rights have already been terminated. This is not, IT IS NOT, a question of whether children should stay with bio families or be adopted. This is what should we do with children who no longer CAN stay with their biological families and are now being raised in foster care or an orphanage. Do people really, truly believe orphanages are better? The statistics for kids aging out of foster care and orphanages is staggering. So many of them end up homeless, in addiction, in prostitution, trafficked, suicidal, or continuing on the same cycle of having their own children removed. I am not saying that is all children, but it is a very high proportion of them. Why would we want that for these children? Science has proven again and again that a child needs attachment. They need a loving, permanent family that will not only be there during their childhood years, but during their adult years as well! Of course many foster parents are amazing, and many of them continue to love their foster children into their adulthood….but not all of them do. And that is not how the foster system is set up. Of course their biological parents love their kids, and adoption is not saving any of them. But it IS meeting a need. A need for a child who can no longer live with their parents to find a new home where they can become part of the family and be raised in a loving and permanent way. That is an honest to goodness need that still needs to be met, regardless of the painful experiences of some.
Do you hate me now? I hope not. This is a hot topic for many, but I simply can’t stand by anymore and see prospective adoptive parents join these groups and be scared away, believing adoption is wrong. I can’t watch children age out of the foster care system, or die in orphanages overseas, because of this negative, dark belief that has crept into adoption and foster groups and is growing like a weed. Please. Consider all angles. Talk to children who have aged out, and realize that adoption is complicated, trauma lined and challenging, but that it IS still needed.
Finally, if I can say one last plea…even if you don’t agree with a single comment or view point I have, can we PLEASE stop being so mean to one another? We all want the same thing, and that is what is best for the child. Even if we don’t agree on what that is. But please, let’s not call each other mean names, say others are ignorant, unethical, or undeserving of their kids. Let us try and have grace and see from each others perspectives instead, and hopefully move forward in a loving and positive way, rather than tearing down everyone in our fostering and adoption community.
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