Tuesday, November 17, 2015

The Adoption Industry


By julie j
Today's #flipthescript Prompt:  Talk about your thoughts on the adoption industry. Do you think adoption agencies operate in a way that promotes the best possible outcome for adoptees? What changes, if any, would you like to see adoption agencies make in how they operate? Do you think a decrease in the number of adoptions is or would be a bad thing? Do you think the cost to adopt is appropriate?

Let’s start with that last question first, “Do you think the cost to adopt is appropriate?”  What is the cost to adopt a child?  That will vary based upon the reason an adult is adopting.  For those who do it for the right reason – to give a home to a child who has nobody else – the cost is virtually free, and comes with additional benefits depending on the needs of the child.  It might include monthly stipends until the child reaches adulthood, free physical and mental health care, respite care for the adults, even state college tuition covered, in addition to the standard $13,400 per child every American adoptive parent receives in the form of a tax credit.  Although there are also some shady things that go on in the foster care system, the fact remains that the children who are really in need of permanent, new homes will be found there.  There are currently about a half a million children in the American foster care system, of whom about 120,000 are legally available for adoption right now.  There is little to no wait after a home study is approved.  There is little to no cost.  Nobody will contest the adoption because the children either have no family members, or their parents’ rights have already been terminated in court.  These are the very children for whom the adoption tax credit was created.  We hear so many complaints about “all the red tape... and it takes too long... and then their family comes back into the picture…”  Those complaints come from people who are trying to adopt the children who are not legally available for adoption.  Most children do eventually reunite with their own families, and we should all encourage that outcome and celebrate it when it happens, as temporary care is the real goal of foster care.  Foster parents who are really prospective adoptive parents should specifically inquire only about the children who are already legally available for adoption, not the children who still have legal families.  This will help avoid situations where the adults will end up complaining later about the system that did not give them what they want, or one where a child may end up being unnecessarily adopted instead of being reunited with their natural family.  For the record, states receive bonus money from the federal government of thousands of dollars for every child they move from foster to adoption.  There is no incentive for them for family preservation.  Nobody should be petitioning to adopt any children who still have capable and willing family members.  There are children truly in need in every state.  Anyone who really wants to be a parent and can qualify should have no excuse not to help these children.

Then there are those who adopt for the wrong reasons – to meet their own perceived “need” for a baby or child they feel will be more desirable – yes, it’s going to cost them a lot for a healthy, white newborn – $30,000 - $40,000 and higher per baby.  They are priced according to what the market will bear.  A child’s age, race, sex, and health can all be factors, with healthy, white newborns topping the price charts.  Buyers are typically, not always, the adults who are looking to replace something lacking in themselves.  They are either infertile & are looking to replicate the birth experience as closely as possible for themselves, or else they think the children available in foster care are not good enough for them, or both.  Obviously, there are very few babies fitting the description they desire, who are in true need of an adoptive home.  You will find these desperate people making videos showing off their homes complete with nurseries with empty cribs, posting on Facebook begging for babies, leaving notices in Ob-gyn offices, with high school counselors, on church bulletin boards, in college newspapers, in the pockets of clothes at thrift stores, on tables in social service centers or restaurants, or the standard one - writing “Dear Birth Mother” letters to describe all the ways they think they are so much better and deserving than the baby’s actual mother.  They do this to compete with all of the others just like themselves who are doing the same thing.  For every newborn who does end up being adopted, there were about 90 other adults competing for him/her.  Please do not see this as a shortage of babies for adoption.  It's not.  There is no such thing as a baby shortage any more than there is a patient shortage when hospital beds are empty.  They are simply overstaffed, and somebody not needed should go home until they are needed, or go someplace where there is a legitimate need for them.  (It’s actually a GOOD thing when children do not have to lose their own families!)  Every child born should be lucky enough to be safely loved & raised by their own family.  No, the domestic, newborn adoption situation is definitely a surplus of adults offering to be adoptive parents where their services are not needed.  Children are not commodities to be stocked up in abundant supply in case some strangers with money and unrealistic dreams want to buy them.  What those people really need is counseling to fix what’s wrong with them, not someone else’s baby, and certainly not the encouragement & exploitation of the adoption industry nor the reward from the government.  They all need to understand that adoption is meant to be a service for children in need, not for adults.  Babies are wants, not needs.  Nobody ever died from not raising a baby.

When they do manage to find a vulnerable, expectant mother, they will use every trick they can to present themselves as her friend and manipulate her into relinquishing her baby to them, knowing they can do whatever they want after an adoption finalizes, all the while making her think it was HER idea.  (Most promised “open adoptions” close within the first couple of years by the AP’s).  Adoption agencies and adoption attorneys encourage their clients to build close relationships with the expectant mother, to tell her everything she wants to hear, tag along with her to her doctor appointments and even in her labor & delivery room!  Their primary goal of course is to increase the odds of an adoption going through, not to preserve the mother/baby relationship, nor to provide assistance for whatever it is that would help them thrive together.  This is not in a child's interests, but in their own selfish interests.  This is exactly the time the mother should be focusing exclusively on what her baby needs, not on what total strangers want.  Does this sound like the industry is advocating for the child?  There is no money to be made in family preservation.  Speaking of money, these adoptive parents, as well as the international adopters we'll get to next, also get that $13,400 tax credit from Uncle Sam.  American taxpayers should not be subsidizing these 2 forms of adoption at all because they do nothing to help the American children move out of temporary foster care.  If that's not bad enough, you may also see these adopters setting up Go-fund me accounts and holding bake sales and garage sales to get others to pay for the unnecessary adoption for them.  Does that seem like it’s in the child’s best interest?  So much for the financially stable, "better home" too, huh?  Why not raise the money to save a child's family, not destroy one?  Would you like to be the kid who grows up to hear from a neighbor that they bought a lamp at the rummage sale to help their “parents” pay for them or they have the video of their "parents" advertising for them online?  Even if the baby’s natural family needed a little bit of temporary help in the beginning too, most of them would be fine if raised in their own families.  These are not children really in need of adoptive homes.  The adoption agency provides the “counseling” that helps mothers “make up their own mind.”  All of the hardships of parenting are over-emphasized, while none of the joys are.  No mention is made of how raising a baby can also be stressful for adoptive parents, or how many of them go on to “re-home” adopted children.  Their formulas typically include having the expectant mother make a list of material things she can give her child right now vs. the material things she thinks the adopters can, as if that was all that should be considered for the child’s long-term best interests.  What about the intangible benefits of a child raised within their own family?  What about the statistics that show adoptive families also lose jobs, divorce, die, experience abuse and addiction issues just like other families do?  What about providing the expectant mother & baby (and possibly father) with all of the resources they need to stay together?  What about sharing the statistics on how adoptees & their relinquishing mothers fare years down the road?  Nope, that won't be discussed.  None of that is good for their business.

Now let’s move on to another version of adoption that exists to meet a demand in Western consumers – international adoption.  This can be the most costly of all, with most adoptions going for around $40,000, and some topping $50,000 per child, once multiple travel expenses are included.  It’s appealing to the adoption consumer because these children are typically permanently severed from their natural families, so the adults have no “baby-mama drama” to deal with that would likely occur with domestic adoptions.  That is not in the best interests of children to be shipped halfway around the world in order to have their basic needs met.  There are far too many losses for them – their name, family, community, citizenship, language, foods, smells, sounds, literally everything that is familiar to them, all for a chance at something else, not for a guarantee of anything better.  People who help others for the right reasons will not feel the need to personally benefit from the deal, other than that good feeling they get for doing the right thing.  Children and their families can & should be helped right where they already are.  Multiply those price tags by the thousands of international adoptions that happen annually, and then think about how far that money could go to make a real humanitarian difference in the lives of the children in other countries.  That money could be used to provide entire villages and communities with food, safe water, education, medical care, trade schools to learn skills, etc.  Remember the saying about teaching a man to fish?  It appears the real goal of international adoption is not to help other people and communities to become stronger & self-sufficient where they are.  That would be good for the children there & bad for the adoption business.  Taking their most precious resources away – their children – does nothing to help the people in need in other countries, nor to reduce the problems there.  It only ensures there will be future commodities available for all of their future adoptive clients.  The adoption industry is very self-serving while at the same time trying to appear as though they are pro-child.  They are not.  They are pro-adoption, which is the opposite.  To make real changes, the political and social issues that contribute to the conditions that made that child & his/her family vulnerable to start with must be addressed.

Orphanages do not exist in other countries because there are orphans.  “Orphans” exist because there are orphanages there which feed the adoption industry.  Other, more vulnerable countries should not ever be considered baby shopping malls for the Western world, yet that’s how it plays out.  Americans do the adoption paperwork & pay for a child from a specific country, then they wait, and they are almost always guaranteed of bringing home a child for themselves eventually.  They understand they will also have to pay other players there large sums of money under the table as bribes before they can take a child back to the U.S.  I was personally told by an adoptive mother I know, that she & her husband were instructed at the last minute by their international adoption agency, to tape thousands of dollars in large bills to their body to pay off people along the way in China before they could bring home a Chinese baby girl.  It was explained that it was expected and customary to do so, or they would lose their chance to adopt the child.  They were already so emotionally & financially invested in getting a child at that point, so they did it.  That practice has nothing to do with being in the best interest of a child, and everything to do with corruption that exists in adoption.  Most adoptive parents do not know or do not care how that child came to be available for adoption.  They will believe whatever they are told without verifying it independently because they want to believe they "saved" someone.

All kinds of unethical dealings go on which cause adoption agencies to have to shut down in parts of the world and then pop up again in others, only to repeat the cycle when they get caught again and again.  When there are multi-billions to be made, and people are not held accountable for their actions, it will attract unethical problems.  Examples include children being adopted who were only left in temporary care, or children being outright stolen for adoption, definitions of “orphans” being redefined for the purpose of funneling children into international adoption, or misleading the children’s parents into thinking adoption is something other than what it is, or finder’s fees being paid to supply the adoption industry, among many, many other disturbing examples.  At the peak of Guatemalan adoptions in the mid 2000’s decade, for example, one in every 100 children born there was exported to the U.S. to be adopted by Americans.  At the same time that business was required to shut down, babies somehow suddenly stopped being “found abandoned on the streets” there anymore.  Coincidence?  I think not.

Let’s also consider the ways adoptees are treated by the industry when returning to research their origins as adults.  Agencies are far from helpful, even if they appear to be on the surface.  They insist upon:
* Maintaining secrecy, mostly of their own self-made files and rules that could easily be changed if they wanted to change them and do the right thing.
* Managing the relationships (or lack of relationships) between adoptees & their natural families.
* They have been known to fabricate stories, forge letters, lie, not pass on the gifts, letters, and photos intended for the adoptee and/or their family.
* They charge huge fees for allegedly “looking,” whether something is found or not, and shared or not.  This is in their own best interests and often the adoptive parents’ interests, but not the adoptees’ or their natural families’ best interests.
* Many in the adoption industry have spoken out against equal rights for adult adoptees.  They have even joined forces to create lobby groups that legally fight against adoptee rights legislation.  They are pro-adoption-as-it’s-currently-practiced.  They are not pro-adoptee.  They are not pro-child.

When the numbers of adoptions are decreased, that is a GOOD thing!  That represents more children not being in need of alternate care arrangements.  Australia, for example, has found better ways, in recent decades, of addressing single parenthood than separating mothers & babies at birth.  Their rates used to be comparable to the U.S.  Newborn adoption is extremely rare there now, and that’s positive because many children are saved from unnecessarily becoming adoptees.  Are childless adults happy about that?  No, but it’s not about them, is it?  It’s about the children.  What societies really should be striving for, is a ZERO adoption rate everywhere.  That would represent success and that better solutions were found for all families than considering some of them expendable and exploitable.

“What changes would you like to see made?”  Here are a few that would benefit children and their families:

1)  Make all adoptions for profit illegal.  Return it to what it should be – a service for children operated through the government.  This would eliminate all of the unnecessary money-making businesses that thrive on selling babies and children.  The children of all ages, races, & health conditions, who really need new homes, would still be entitled to the best available ones.  Nobody would profit from it.  Taking away the potential for big money takes away much, but of course not all, of the inherent corruption in the adoption industry.  Different prices for different children are offensive and not at all necessary.  Processing the legal paperwork for every child should cost exactly the same amount regardless of the child’s age, race, or health.  All differences in prices are currently 100% accounted for by the economic concept of supply & demand.  That needs to stop!

2)  Nobody should be allowed to advertise for babies, children, or attempt to recruit expectant mothers for the purpose of adoption.  Most of the world does not allow that now.  They are rightly appalled at the adoption industry in America.

3)  Ban all adoption representatives from maternity rooms.  Give mothers & babies a chance to bond together along with the needed resources to get off to the right start.  Extend the minimum amount of time to at least 6 weeks before babies can be relinquished.  That’s certainly a good chance to see that they can indeed do it.  In rare cases when family preservation is absolutely impossible, children should always have the opportunity to be raised with extended family members from either maternal or paternal side of their family first, before being offered to complete strangers.  (A permanent, legal guardianship arrangement would be preferable to an adoption, but that’s a post for another day).

4)  Complete transparency!  Names, dates, places, charges, family information, birth certificates, legal records.  Nothing should be a secret from the adoptee.

5)  Free, competent, adoptee-friendly counseling and search services for the adoptee, as requested, for life.  Prove who the real beneficiary of adoption is.
  
We’ve established that adoption agencies are businesses first and foremost, not altruistic children’s charities.  They exist to make money.  (Yes, even “non-profit” adoption agencies are businesses designed to make money!  It’s just structured differently for tax purposes).  They exist to provide children to adults who want them.  There is huge money to be made in the adoption business.  The true clients of adoption agencies are not the children.  They are the adults who want babies & children, have the funds to make that happen, and are able to pass a home study.  Of course babies are the product that’s most desired, so predatory practices are utilized to procure more of what they sell.  When adoption agencies cannot provide what their clients want, they cannot stay in business long.  They are highly motivated to continue the status quo.  Over the years, they have refined their skills to a fine art.  They want the best possible outcome for themselves, not for the child.  Nobody ever comes back to check on an adopted child.  The industry does not even care if the adopters tell the child they are adopted or not.  Once the adoption is finalized in court and the check clears the bank, the adoption agency is pretty much done with that case (until they blow them off again if they come back as adults).  For the adoptee though, the journey is just beginning.  The agency will not be there to advocate for them.  To answer the remaining question, "Do you think adoption agencies operate in a way that promotes the best possible outcome for adoptees?" I have to answer loudly & clearly - NO.

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julie j is an adult adoptee who was stolen from her family as a young child. She was in American foster care in the early 1960’s and then later illegally adopted. She has happily been in reunion since ’93, thanks to ISRR. She recently acquired her OBC through a court order :)  julie j is a wife, mother, business owner, family preservationist, activist for adoptee rights, child advocate, and adoption search angel. Her other interests include reading, theater, genealogy, music, games, & working out. One of her future goals is to become a CASA volunteer.

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