Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Ethical Adoption -- Poll Results

Very interesting results in the poll on ethical adoption -- thanks to everyone who voted, and a special thanks to all who commented! We had more comments to the ethical adoption post than on any previous blog entry. We also had a grand total of 59 people vote in the three polls.

I deliberately made the poll personal, in the hope of spurring some personal reflection on what would make an adoption ethical. In retrospect, that may have been a miscalculation -- many of the comments tended toward defensiveness, and the voting may have, too. Asking about adoptions-in-general might have allowed for cooler reflection. By making it personal, we may have shed more heat than light on the issues! Still, in the adoption world as in so many other aspects of life, the personal is political. Changes in policy and practice is likely to come about only because of the efforts of those intimately involved in adoption.

Of course, the poll results are not scientifically reliable since the respondents were all self-selecting. And I'd like to think that those who come to this blog might be a bit more savvy on some of these issues than the garden-variety triad member (there's egotism for you!). Still, I think the effort was worth-while and the results illuminating.

First, some combined results.

Approximately 51% of adoptive parents, birth family members and adopted persons combined agreed or strongly agreed that the adoption they were involved in was ethical. About 18% of the three groups combined disagreed or strongly disagreed with the statement that the adoption they were involved in was ethical. That left about 31% who were not sure.

When broken down by group, the results were a little different.

Adoptive parents: 58% agreed or strongly agreed that their adoption was ethical.
Adopted persons: 33% agreed or strongly agreed that their adoption was ethical.
Birth families: 27% agreed or strongly agreed that their adoption was ethical.

Anyone surprised by that breakdown? I pretty much expected that adoptive parents would be more inclined to believe that their adoption was ethical. It may be because adoptive parents are more in control of the adoption process than other members of the triad; that control lets them take steps to ensure the adoption is ethical, and it is likely to make them defensive and avoidant when questions of the ethics of adoption are raised. That control also means that adoptive parents tend to have more information than other members of the triad (click here to read about Suz's and Margie's presentation at the AAC conference about the difference in information and paperwork between a prospective birth mother and a prospective adoptive mother). And because they are the big winners in adoption, adoptive parents would be more likely to have a positive impression of the process, which would naturally extend to the belief that their adoption was ethical.

If anything surprised me in the results, it was the large "Not Sure" number. In aggregate, 30.5% were not sure whether their adoption was ethical. Adopted persons (33%) and birth family members (36%) were a bit more unsure than the adoptive parents (28%).

Wouldn't we all want to be sure that our adoptions were ethical? So why aren't we? Some of the commenters suggest one reason -- in international adoption in particular, it is hard to access the FACTS that would answer the question. Another reason expressed was that we're unsure about the RULES that should govern adoptions to make them ethical. As to facts, we have to rely on agencies. But for the rules, we can formulate on our own the elements that would make an adoption ethical.

If you want to read more about ethical adoption, I'd recommend two sites: PEAR (Parents for Ethical Adoption Reform) and Ethica. You can also find the summary of proceedings from the 1999 Ethics in Adoption Conference sponsored by the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute (the proceedings of the 2007 conference don't appear to be available) by clicking here.


Anonymous said...

Perhaps I feel safest in the Not Sure camp because of the amount of information I don't have. The information I didn't have back in 1998 was actually a kind of certainty. Even the possibility of searching represented its own certainty (one could not). All that's changed in the interim. The certainty has been replaced by awareness of things I didn't know or hadn't thought of. I guess that's where I am with it. It's not a bad place at all to be. I have no idea why Anon asked me if I felt guilty. I don't see this as a guilt thing at all, more like a growth thing.

Anonymous said...

I don't understand how so many birth parents can be unsure that the adoption of their child was ethical. Are they suggesting that their child was stolen from them and sold on the black market? You'd think they would know whether that happened or not.

malinda said...


Ethical issues in adoption include more than just trafficking. I'd think that the reason birth parents are answering "Not Sure" has to do less with facts than it does standards, or perhaps application of standards to facts.

I listed a number of issues that involve birth parents in the original post, and out-and-out kidnapping wasn't one of them!

I think it's more likely that a birth mom might wonder whether the things that happened to her amounted to a level of coercion that would be unethical, wonder whether certain expenses paid for her medical care and/or other things was inappropriate, whether unenforceable promises like openness in adoption was unethical. I could go on and on . . . .

Suz said...

To Anonymous, I would offer that yes, babies are taken from mothers under lies, coercion and deceit by baby brokers. I would offer that mothers are locked in maternity homes with their only source of information and support coming from the agency workers that stands to profit form their sale of their child, dont know.

Domestic infant adoption is big business in the US. Brokers will do and say anything they can to young woman to get their children for sale - that includes promises of open adoption, picking families, pictures for life, paying fees, biased legal counseling and more.

When young girls have the surrender of their child arranged by their parents who did NO research on the agency, yes, she can indeed claim she was not aware they were unethical.

There are many good books and research to support this fact. Feel free to start with this site to learn about the agency that took my daughter from me under promises of semi-open, no foster care, and more.

Kurtz Network of Agencies