I was recently lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time and get to fill in as the token birth mom* on a panel at The Civil Liberties and Public Policies 2013 Conference. Amanda has talked a bit about the panel on her blog, but I want to expand on one of the questions I/we were asked.
A conference participant from the back of the room shared her desire to someday adopt and asked if her reasons for adopting were the “right” reasons. (I do not remember her exact words but that was the gist). An adoptive parent on the panel, Marisa, was eloquent enough to inform her and the rest of the crowd that adoption is hard–both the process itself and the parenting that comes after–so at least one of your reasons should be the “selfish” desire of wanting to be a parent.
My response went beyond that: the reasons don’t matter. That it’s not about WHY you adopt and much more about HOW you adopt. I don’t mean which adoption path you choose, but the ethical way in which you proceed down any adoption path. I usually get to talk to those who have already adopted and this opportunity to talk to those considering adoption or just beginning the process is very welcome.
Recognize your power and privilege as a person preparing to adopt.
I’m not referring to completing the process with a child, but the power to support ethical agencies by paying for their services and to discourage unethical agencies by refusing to participate in their unethical practices. The privilege to take your time, educate yourself, ask questions, and find the right agency.
Ask the hard questions. If you don’t like the answers you hear figure out why and do not just leave it at that. Is the agency doing something you believe to be immoral or unethical (e.g. promising babies in impossibly short time frames, guaranteeing that expectant mothers won’t change their minds about placing, relocating expectant mothers to “adoption friendly” states, charging different fees based on a baby’s race)? Let them know what it is and that it is why you will not be working with them.
What I didn’t get to say, but also matters is how you continue after you’ve adopted.
Prepare yourself for openness.
While you’re educating yourself about adoption, also look into the research on why openness is so important. Bear in mind also that the world is filled with technology that now makes closed adoptions all but impossible. Even if you go into an adoption planning on it being closed, it is unlikely to stay that way. Additionally, as one New Worlds of Adoption conference speaker pointed out, the second you bring home an adopted child you’re also bringing home that child’s birth parents, because they are inside of the child.
* I’m kidding; it was so not about being a token and panel organizer Gretchen and everyone else did such a good job of not making it out like I was second string.