AdoptMatch explores the purpose of adoption.
In the October 19, 2021 issue of The Atlantic, Olga Khazan poses an excellent question: is adoption meant to provide babies for families, or families for babies?
When I resigned from my adoption law practice in 2007 to focus on raising my three children, I didn’t expect to return to adoption, other than personally (in 2010 my husband and I adopted a 14-year-old and 4-year-old from Ethiopia, a decision which has enriched all of our lives and which I do not second-guess). I believed the adoption field was answering that question incorrectly, and I had concluded that most women who place their babies for adoption domestically could, with better support resources, parent. I wanted that to be encouraged, not adoption for adoption’s sake.
The Article's Common Misconceptions about Adoption
Ms. Khazan’s basic point, that adoption should be about the children, and there are unscrupulous practitioners out there, particularly adoption middlemen like some facilitators, advertisers, and consultants, who take advantage of moms in crisis, is true. But that doesn’t mean that there’s not still a very important place for ethical domestic infant adoption.
The Atlantic piece grossly oversimplifies the personal and societal impacts on and by adoption.
First, the article correctly laments that there are over 100,000 children in U.S. foster care on any given day. Could it be that some of those children would have been better served by a placement at birth by a mom who recognized her own instability, rather than living for years in unsuitable living conditions before falling into the system?
Women need to be advised of their right to a voluntary, open adoptive placement before their child is swept into a foster system that often results in years of instability and multiple placements for its wards. Through voluntary placement, a mom can avoid an involuntary termination of her parental rights and may maintain a relationship with her child through an open adoption.
There are Many Valid Benefits of Adoption
And what of the women who choose to place their child for adoption even though they could parent if they wanted to?
Are women only permitted to choose abortion, not adoption, when they simply aren’t ready to parent?
And while Ms. Khazan seems unbothered by the fact that 40% of U.S. children are now born to unwed mothers, could it be that some women in that circumstance believe there’s value in a two-parent home and want to make that choice for their child? Similarly, must we simply assert that relative placements are always in a child’s best interests?
In a domestic adoption a mom may certainly choose to place her child with a relative, but if she doesn’t, shouldn’t we respect that decision? Perhaps she is trying to help her child break out of unhealthy family patterns that she recognizes in her own life, or to help the child escape being parented by an abusive birth father or family member.
Obviously, no woman should feel pressured into adoption. It’s commendable that the agencies cited in the article now voice that, though it’s very concerning to read that not pressuring moms translates into what sounds a lot like discouraging adoption.
The focus should instead be on empowering expectant moms to make the choice that is right for them and for their baby through education, counseling, and legal restraint of unscrupulous adoption brokers.
In 2016, I reentered the adoption field as an attorney specializing in legal representation for expectant mothers making an adoption plan and co-founded AdoptMatch. AdoptMatch exists to connect adoption-minded moms with ethical agencies and attorneys who will make sure that they receive separate legal representation, therapeutic counseling both before and after the adoption, and, if they ultimately choose adoption, will be matched with families committed to transparency in adoption.
There is still a place for domestic adoption, for the good of both children and the families that are ready to love them. At AdoptMatch, we want every expectant mom considering adoption to be fully and honestly informed of her options, well-supported throughout her decision-making process, and ultimately confident that she has made the best choice for both her and her baby.