Ethics and Adoption

Our International Adoption Coordinator Megan Montgomerymeganmontgomery weighs in on some of the tough ethical issues posed by such noted authors Kathryn Joyce and Jen Hatmaker.

The evangelical Christian movement to adopt has been getting significant press lately with the recent release of the book by Kathryn Joyce, The Child Catchers: Rescue, Trafficking, and the New Gospel of Adoption.

News article after news article discussing this book, might have you thinking that many people involved in international adoption are doing so with little thought of birth families and what is in a child’s best interest.

However, not all adoptions are laced with corruption, facilitated by agencies who have lost focus, and families who are not aware that adoption is not always a "Happily Ever After" kind of story.

In fact many of us in the adoption community, agencies, organizations and adoptive families alike, are continually working towards improvements in adoption procedures and greater safeguards protecting the best interest of all involved.

Recently a popular blogger in the adoption community – Jen the Hatmaker posted a three part series on Ethics in Adoption.

Jen is an author, speaker, wife, mother and Christian. She writes eloquently, it seems like she takes time to research and talk with others in the adoption community. Her posts do not seem thoughtless, rather full of consideration of everyone involved in the adoption journey.

Honestly though, her recent posts made me uncomfortable, thinking about supply and demand, corruption and trafficking in adoption. No thanks, who wants to even believe that any of that could be part of this wonderful journey of creating families.

However, after a few cringe-worthy moments, I realized that this kind of conversation should make us uncomfortable – not in a "don’t talk about it" kind of way, but rather in a lets "talk about it more" kind of way.

I have always seen adoption as a wonderful way to create or expand a family, but there is a lot more to it then the simplicity that initially implies.

Jen begins in Part I with a reminder that letting emotions drive our work or our adoption journey could be recipe for disaster.

Birth families are not prioritized; adopters are. The system is geared to make us happy, to keep us coming. There is this silent belief that kids are better off with us, period.Jen Hatmaker

I hate to say this might be true. I know before I even got my feet wet in adoption I was interested in it for the children and the families that "could be built" – sadly, I thought little about the families that were taken apart through adoption.

It is imperative that we focus on making adoptions happen ethically, with preparation on all sides of the journey. In order to do that we need to keep our eyes open and while our heart might lead us to the door our brain has to walk in first.

In Part II Jen extols the necessity of finding families for children rather than children for families.

Adoption is an answer to a tragedy that has already happened, but may it never be the impetus for one that hasn’t.Jen Hatmaker

Children are true orphans when they have no parents, having been abandoned or relinquished. The mission is to find families for children, not children for families. Adoption should not be driven by the fact that families want to adopt, but rather by the fact that there are children in need of families.

There will always be children who genuinely need a family and because of this we all need to educate ourselves and educate others too, it is the only way we can increase the focus on the best interests of the child.

Throughout the post she provides suggestions for prospective adoptive parents on how they can make sure that they do their research and choose an ethical adoption agency.

Part III, focuses on orphan care and lists a variety of ways outside of adoption that can provide first families the tools they need to parent and thrive.

Children are true orphans when they have no parents; having been abandoned or relinquished. There are many other children living out of family care, with parents who are unable to care for them at the moment, or with just a single parent.

Each country has different reasons why children are living outside of family care. Additionally, each country has their own unique structure of their child welfare system – some work better than others. And some of these countries are more open than others to getting help.

Jen’s point is well made: Initiatives set up with the focus of orphan care should work towards keeping families who want to stay intact together as well as prevent children from living as orphans. Community development, humanitarian aid, as well as adoption can be the answer to this crisis.

The discomfort we might feel as a result of these recent conversations being had about adoption should be a reminder the adoption community that we need to continue our work to keep children in families, establish ethical adoption policy and educate others on why we do it.

We are not anti-adoption when we expend energy trying to uncover and prevent unethical adoptions. In fact, aren’t we more adoption focused than ever when we are diligent in our efforts to protect the well-being of the children and their families.

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