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.