Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Student Guest Post: Why Adopting From a Large Private Agency is a Great Idea

by Anonymous

For the past several years, I have been convinced that becoming an adoptive parent someday is a calling for my life. Last summer I spent time volunteering at a large private adoption agency to get a better idea about what adopting through an agency is all about. I was hoping that I could learn about the process, and continue my dreams of someday becoming an adoptive parent. It was an incredibly positive experience.

The agency I worked with is one of the oldest and largest adoption agencies in the country, and it was created by people who loved children and saw a need for older children who were living on the streets to be placed with families so that they wouldn’t have to take care of themselves anymore. Originally these children came down to Texas on trains from big cities on the east coast. They stayed with the adoption organizers until they were placed with Texas families. Over the last hundred years the agency has grown and changed to specialize more in infant adoption.

My time at the agency was spent mostly tying up any loose ends that the employees needed done to make their workdays a little easier. I spent a lot of time in the insurance department helping file insurance applications and agreements for expectant mothers who were either living at the agency or living at home and keeping contact with the agency during their pregnancies.

The woman in charge of the insurance department was a lovely woman with a heart of gold. She was constantly on the phone trying to get Medicare, Medicaid, or any other possible financial help for the expectant mothers’ quickly growing medical bills. She worked her fingers to the bone, and she was almost completely buried in paperwork. She had a love for every expectant mother who walked through the doors because she knew how much work it would take to get all those bills paid, being a mother of four herself. She took care of the insurance needs of expectant mothers who had just recently contacted the agency all the way back to women who had given birth years ago. It did not matter if the mothers had given their children for adoption or decided to raise their own children, she made sure that all of their paperwork was filed on time and taken care of so that they would not have to worry about their medical bills.

I also helped make the calendars in the event planning department. This agency has the wonderful resources to plan events for birthmothers, adoptive families, and adoptees so that they may keep in touch. The agency helps introduce adoptees to one anther so that the kids can make friends who share similar stories and experiences. Event planning was a lot of work. The woman in charge had to plan for different regions throughout not only Texas, but also in other states. She had to take into account holidays and other scheduling conflicts to make a best time for most invitees to attend. The agency didn’t just plan one event per region per year. She had multiple events per region every month. She worked hard to make sure that everyone involved with the agency could participate as often as possible even if they had relinquished parental rights or adopted children years before.

My last day at the agency happened to be the beginning of one of the agency’s Adoption Orientation weekends for prospective adoptive parents, and I had the privilege of attending and observing. The agency provides an orientation weekend for adoptive parents not only to inform them about the adoption process, but also to make sure that they are serious about adopting. The agency provides workshops at the orientation where prospective adoptive parents can look at profile booklets, learn about their options with tax information, religion, the legal aspect of adoption, and many other aspects of the process.

The agency also had two expectant mothers come in to talk about their experiences with the agency. One had chosen a family to adopt her child when he was born, and the other was still deciding if she wanted to raise her child or place him for adoption. The prospective adoptive parents were able to ask them questions about their care and treatment at the agency and their goals for the future with adoption. Also, an adoptive family came in to talk about their experience with the agency, the birthmother who relinquished her parental rights to them, and their two year-old bundle of joy. Prospective adoptive parents asked them questions about their experiences with the agency and any advice they had for those who were serious about completing the process. Some of the couples seemed eager to get the process started, while others had more questions they needed answered before continuing the journey. The agency made sure everyone walked away from the first day satisfied that knew what they were getting into and all of their options.

I feel like adopting from a large agency like this one would be a good idea simply for the fact that it is well staffed and well equipped to deal with all sorts of situations and needs. The people I met who worked there were wonderful. They obviously love their jobs. They feel like they make a difference in people’s lives, and they enjoy themselves. The expectant mothers I met seemed extremely satisfied with the care they received and the help they were given in choosing the right option for them, or the right adoptive family for them. The adoptive parents I talked to seemed overjoyed with their child and with the journey they undertook to bring that child into their home. Overall, everyone was happy and excited with the outcome. The process was productive, everyone’s rights and wishes were respected, the birthmother placed her child with a family she felt would raise her child with the values she held, and the adoptive family received a new addition that they were excited to raise and love.

Large private agencies may not be the best option for everyone when considering adoption, but from what I can tell, the agency I worked with seems to have the kinks figured out in the adoption process so that it can go as smoothly and happily as possible. Because this agency is so big, it has more resources at its fingertips, a larger staff to handle any issues that may arise, more one-on-one care for both expectant mothers and adoptive families, and it sincerely strives to make the experience joyful for everyone involved. A smaller agency or direct placement arena, while just as caring, may not be able to provide all of the amenities that a large one can. This is not to say that direct placement is a bad idea. Each person looking to get involved in adoption needs to find what is right for that person. Perhaps a large agency is not best for everyone, but since I was involved in it firsthand, I can see the advantages of going through the larger arena simply because of all it can offer. I look forward to the day that I get to become an adoptive parent, and I hope that I can have the wonderful experience that those previously involved with this large agency felt.


SustainableFamilies said...

My mother got debabied by them. They don't do stories on the birthmoms who are sobbing so hard they can't speak in front of people.

My friend stayed there about 7 years ago. They told her all these slogans about "the right thing" and "facing the moment of truth" which meant realizing you HAVE to place your child for adoption to give them a good life.

After the adoptive parents participated in the sweet cerempny taking her baby and she sobbed and sobbed and said, "It's the best thing." They cut her off and closed the adoption.

She's in pain. And they left her story up on the website, the story she wrote just after placement? The one where she wrote how wonderful everything was and everyone loved her and she loved everyone? She had to fight them to get them to take it down.

Because she sure doesn't feel that way now. They refuse to tell the stories of moms who are broken by adoption. And that is a crime.

Anonymous said...

I have to say that I read follow this blog frequently and normally really enjoy its content. I have enjoyed hearing from the students and their informed points of view on adoption. However, I don't think this person got as much out of the class as possible. It's important to look at all these happy stories of for-profit adoptions with a critical eye. I would've liked an analysis of large agencies, informed by personal experience, something learned in the class and a discussion of negative opinions and experiences. This was a little too one sided for what I have come to expect of this blog.

Anonymous said...

Good luck with your journey to adoptive parenthood. You need to spend the next few years learning much more about that journey, and that includes learning about the journeys of birth mothers and adult adoptees. Open your mind and your heart to their perspectives so that you can do right by your adopted child(ren).

Linda said...

"She worked her fingers to the bone, and she was almost completely buried in paperwork. She had a love for every expectant mother who walked through the doors because she knew how much work it would take to get all those bills paid, being a mother of four herself."

Ummm...you left out the part where she works her fingers to the bone because she knows what a boatload of cash that womb wet infant will bring.

Seriously surprised your blog would have this sort of garbage....guest post or not.

Anonymous said...

Sadly I was lost at the first revision of history by omitting the horrors of the story and making it sound so wonderful - the story of the Orphan Train Riders...



SustainableFamilies said...

My great great grandfather was an orphan train rider. Or maybe it was great. He was also a horse bandit. And he's in my blood! Yeeeeehaaaw!!!

dawn said...

What kind of class is this? At first, I thought it was adoption law and thought it was interesting to read a range of posts. But I really don't get what the point of posting this post was. I can't imagine this could receive a passing grade unless only sentence structure or length was graded. It's not only incredibly uncritical of Gladney/adoption, but the supposed benefits/positives aren't even properly argued or supported. Volunteering to do remedial office work for a couple of months doesn't provide much, if any, insight into an organization's practices and history or into the experiences non-spokespersons have with that organization.

DannieA said...

If the author of this guest post comes back to read the comments...I would encourage you to take note of them and then go and do more research on all sides and history of adoption.

I see a bit of myself in your post by thinking that everything in life is wonderful and people are good and decent all the time when I was 18, 19 years old. I don't think it's a bad way to view the world, we could all use some unabashed optimism in life, however sometimes not everything in adoption including large agencies are as rosy as it seems.
Take this opportunity to not just look at agencies but at loss and grief in adoption as well.

malinda said...

Dawn, a little background about the class and this assignment. First of all, in the class my objective is that students will learn how to complete an adoption under Texas law from start to finish, which is what we tradiitonally think of as "Adoption Law."

But in addition, I do what many law classes don't do -- I want them to learn a variety of perspectives so that they can be good counselors and advisors to all members of the adoption triad at all stages of adoption, including post-adoption. We have talked about all you, and others, mention -- the Orphan Train movement, coercion of expectant mothers, lifelong issues of all members of the triad, the differences between direct placement, agency placement and state placement, etc.

As to this assignment, it is not graded. It was an extra assignment to make up for missed class days because of snow. And as you may have noticed in some of the other guest posts, too, the students have their own opinions on these topics and do not necessarily see things my way. So be it. My job is to expose them to a variety of materials, not to convince them to think of those materials the way I do, as if there's only one way to think of them.

Not all of the students' posts have been analytical; one student shared her personal experience as a birth mother, one student shared her personal experience as an adoptee reaching out to birth family, another shared her personal experience in adopting through foster care. Some of these posts received positive comments from people who agreed with them, without mention of the lack of analysis. I did not reject those posts, so why would I reject this one?

Yes, I think the sujbect is deserving of more analysis, and not surprising to me, that analysis is happening in the comments, which I think will make for a great learning experience for my students and other readers of the blog.

And what do we learn from the student's inside view in a lower-level position? Some FACTS that are subject to interpretations different from the student's.

It was, frankly, fascinating to me to learn this snippet that agencies had "insurance" offices. What I know that the student probably hadn't thought about is that it's a good business decision for the agency to try to pass on the cost to Medicaid (I'm assuming they don't really have expectant mothers eligible for Medicare!). Adoptive families ordinarily pay a flat fee, including fees for medical care, so anything the agency saves on that increases their profit margin. An interesting illustration of large agencies as business entities rather than "helping" agencies, no? That related anecdote will probably do more to make people realize that adoption is a business than my screaming it loudly on my blog.

I've really appreciated the studetns' willingness to put themselves on the line by stating their opinions publicly, regardless of whether I agreed with what they wrote.

And I've really appreciated all the comments that will help my students see other perspectives, which will enable them to be better lawyers.

Linda said...

Did you see this when you volunteered? Because this is how they get women to surrender their babies.

why private adoption agencies should be shut down

Or, how about this? Highly doubtful, because these 2 links are the dirty secrets of baby brokers.

open adoption is a lie

I had to come back and post these links, and to say how offensive it is to hear someone say they think it is "their calling" to adopt. It should never be a "calling" to rip a baby from his or her Mother's arms.

There are thousands upon thousands of children in the US foster care system who need homes. Listen to their voices, instead of the voices of the greedy flesh peddlers from Gladney.

SustainableFamilies said...

To anyone working with pregnant moms needing support:

Client centered counseling should involve asking a client what they want and helping them recieve services to achieve those goals. If a client says, “Well I would sort of like to leave this abusive guy but I’m scared and I don’t know if I can do it. I’m afraid I’m not good enough to do this on my own.”

A responsible counselor would work through self esteem issues, and work through emotional issues that are making the person feel blocked from being able to accomplish what they truly desire.
Counseling that says, “Even though the outcome you’re going toward is horrific and you don’t know think you can handle it you should go ahead and give up because you aren’t good enough” is disempowering and unethical.

As a firstmom who recently placed described it, she felt blocked from feeling the emotions she thought she should feel as a mother and she felt inadequate due to the overwhelming emotional issues she faced with her mental health. She needed help sorting through that with someone who believed in her and could tell her that these feelings happen to many mothers— in fact even mothers who plan pregnancies. There are ways to work through such difficult emotions and a responsable counselor should be well researched in working through such feelings that are very common to women in unplanned pregnancies or women who are becoming mothers having faced emotional issues of the past which often can come up duringa pregnancies when emotions can run wild.

Women who go in for adoption counseling are told they are recieving professional support that is “about them” but it is not client centered at all, and the counselors are merely following agency guidelines without thinking creatively about how to truly help the client become a mother. They have already assume that “if there is a struggle adoption is best” and even if they don’t say that explicitely they present research and confimation of such beliefs when the client expresses those feelings themselves.

“I’m afraid I just can’t do this, I don’t know that I’ll do a good job.”
“Well adoption can be a beautiful solution even though it’s hard. Your child could really have the beautiful life they deserve through adoption but it’s your decision if you want to go through with it.”

Counselors often don’t realize that they are being directive with their counseling at all. Many believe they truly have “no interest” in the outcome. But a counselor who has “no interest” in the outcome is in fact not really working in the best interests of the client are they? There should be an interest in empowering the client to achieve their goals and have the support they need.
A responsable counselor would have said, “What I’m hearing you say is that you really want to parent but you’re really scared right now and you’re worried about the well being of your child, is that right?….. I’m here to help you work through this and I want you to know that I believe in you. What you’re going through is very normal in unplanned pregnancy and there are a lot different ways we can get you the support you need to make sure your child has a beautiful life while respecting the desires of your heart to be the one to parent. If we aren’t able to work through all the issues you’re concerned about, adoption will still be there waiting for you, and we’ll support you throughout and after that process. But let’s see what we can do to find out what you dream of for your child and see if there’s a way we can make that happen while protecting your motherhood as well.”

If professionals actually behaved with this level of integrity there would be much fewer women placing and then drowing in a decision they felt powerless to prevent.

SustainableFamilies said...

I'm so tired of professionals failing to see how their counseling is unethical and is disempowering to women.

Von said...

It seems your anonymous student missed talking to the one group that counts, the agency products, the adoptees.What a grave ommission to not speak with adult adoptees who came through that system, so idealised in this post.Adoption has many sides this post presented a tiny facet of a very large story.

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry, I have to say I am quite a bit offended by this post and am surprised to see it on this blog.

If the author is truly referring to the largest adoption agency in the U.S. they should know this agency's ethics have been called into question numerous times. I was adopted through the largest agency in the U.S. My APs, nor my first mom, nor I would say that they are "wonderful."

The largest adoption agency in the U.S. gives great support to the NCFA, a special-interest lobby group that opposes the rights of Adult Adoptees to be treated equally under the law.

That's not "wonderful."

Anonymous said...


With a 65 million dollar budget(no, I am not making that up), I am sure they have lots figured out. *rolls eyes*

Anonymous said...

Gladney is the oldest agency in the U.S.
Bethany is the largest in the U.S.

susurrus said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
susurrus said...

This is Dawn; blogger won't let me post under my name.

Malinda, thank you for your explanation. I wasn't sure if these posts were meant to put forward a specific point of view or to create discussion. So, yes, knowing that the posts were meant to be the unfiltered opinions of your students on some aspect of adoption does change my criticism (or make it less valid).

I had noticed the part about insurance billing, but had read it more from the point of view of the agency working with - or less charitably, taking advantage of - disadvantaged expectant mothers. (And not just in financial terms - I think people who receive SSI/disability qualify for Medicare?) So thanks for pointing of the profit-making/increasing aspect.

Birthmom said...

Just wanted to offer a word of encouragement to my fellow student after reading some of these rather harsh comments. I enjoyed reading your post and was glad to hear about all of the services the agency offered. As we discussed in class, I truly believe pre- and post-adoption counseling are very important to making sure adoption is truly in the best interest of everyone involved. Although I am sure there are horrific stories from birthmothers, children, and/or adoptive parents from every agency in existence, it seems as though you have a confidence in this agency. Being able to trust your agency and its staff is very comforting in the adoption process (at least from my perspective), so if you have that confidence in this agency then use them. I wish you the very best in your future adoption.