Ensuring Ethical Adoption {Three Questions to Ask an Agency}


I am a social worker who has worked in the field of adoption in various roles for a few years. It was not until I began a contract position with a private adoption agency that I came face to face with the horrors of adoption practices that hold a heavy history in our country (and world).


If you or someone you know is seeking private adoption for their family, here are a few questions worth considering.

1. How does the adoption agency treat and care for the birth mothers?

It can be very common for the story of adoption to exclude the birth mother or parents. We give the adoptive family an elevated savior complex and the baby is seen as the lucky one, who escaped a horrid situation. There is a failure to hold the mother, despite any and all circumstances, as a dignified human. I once read that adoption is the building of a family on the grave of another. Though adoption has wonderful positives, it begins with devastation. This narrative is hugely important. Another question to ask is how is the expectant/birth mom provided services both pre- and postnatal? This will speak volumes about their ethics.

2. Have both parents (mother and father) been given the opportunity to parent?

Some agencies do not try or try hard enough to provide expectant parents viable ways to parent their child. The most optimal situation for a child is to be with their parent, and both mother and father should have ample opportunity to be a parent. Coercion, unfortunately, can be used to dissuade parents from trying to parent with support. Instead, they should be empowered.

3. Does the agency encourage open adoptions within safe boundaries?

Closed adoption is rarely optimal. This does not mean that the birth parents have unlimited contact, but that the child has a true picture of their family and story. Children benefit greatly when told about and having access to their biological family, whether it is through mail, e-mail, or occasional phone calls. Even more, biological parents have been shown to benefit from having open contact with their children. This does not negate boundaries, which is also something that an agency can mediate.

These are a few great questions to begin your search for the right adoption agency. Not getting straightforward answers, or if an agency is not obviously supportive of expectant mothers, could indicate a red flag or more issues down the road. There are countless adoption and adoptee accounts on social media that explain some horrible mishandlings in the adoption world. Books have been written about the dark history of adoption in the United States. These malpractices still occur today, under the guise of being altruistic and helpful.

If adoption is something you wish to consider, I encourage a lot of research beforehand and don’t assume an agency holds its own high standard of ethics.


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