Fork in the moral high road

That adoption paralysis I talked about a couple of posts ago? Here's what it's all about.

I have this vision of ethical adoption in my head. It includes simple, logical practices that respect a mother's human and civil rights, ensure that her decision is truly unpressured, and ensure that the adoptee has access to his or her identity and information. Profit is absolutely out of the picture.

My vision actually begins with pregnancy and parenting counseling provided by an agency whose sole mission is to do just that. This includes counseling to help mothers recognize their responsibilities to their children, as much as their own desires and capabilities. If the mother is underage, I see her parents as participants - to learn how to support their daughter and to avoid pressuring her into adoption if she really doesn't want it.

Only if, after the best efforts of such an agency a woman still decides that she cannot or will not parent, will adoption come into the picture. Human and civil rights are the benchmarks in my adoption vision, as opposed to faith-based criteria, which may or may not respect those rights.

Openness would be encouraged, and when agreed upon would be legally binding. Prospective adoptive parents would receive counseling to understand the importance of respect and honesty in their relationship with their child's mother. First parents and prospective adoptive parents both would also be counseled on the importance of genetic identity to their child. Adoptees would grow up knowing who they are from the very beginning of their lives.

My vision is global. With respect for human rights as the benchmark, any country with adoption programs would adhere to the standards. And there would be plenty of money available for post-adoption support if needed.

It seems so simple, so logical. But over and over again, as I find new blogs, I see disturbing arrogance on the part of adoptive parents. Arrogance born of self-described morality. Entitlement. Dismissal and disrespect for first mothers and adoptees (two of whom, Kim and Joy, have shared their thoughts about this recently, in response to a post that demonstrates what I'm talking about). When I or others speak about it on some of these blogs, the reaction is typically to misinterpret (willfully or otherwise), to dismiss, or to outright demean. The result for me is a "why bother" attitude. Yet I know not to underestimate the power of the internet in changing adoption practices would be unwise. Hence, adoption paralysis.

I believe in my adoption vision, and I know I'm not alone. Even if others' visions may look a little different, I know there are many, many people out there - entire organizations even - who believe that honesty and respect for human rights should guide adoption practices, not the principles of one religion or another, and certainly not profit. So if so many people think the same way, why is it so hard to reach the arrogant? Why does their voice remain so loud? And how will the vision ever come to be if they can't be reached?

I see myself at a fork on the moral high road on which many adoptive parents are traveling. And I'm asking myself if it makes any sense to continue the journey with those who just won't see, or to take the fork back to the safety of the like-minded.

I fear if no one is willing to stay the course, things will never change. But honestly, it's like p*ssing in the wind, as Third Dad would say. And I certainly don't like wet socks.


Yondalla said…
Maybe you won't find this inspiring, but when I feel this way I think about Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B Anthony. They were not without their faults, but they didn't give up. They fought their whole lives for women's suffrage, and it didn't happen until after they were dead.

Social change takes time, and it takes people who keep fighting the fight.

Shannon's blog was the first to make me really think about adoption ethics, then Dawn, then you. Then I started reading first mom blogs.

And now I include a section on adoption ethics in my classes on ethics. You are making a difference.
Margie said…
Yondalla, bless your heart you've made my day!!

A deep bow to you for including adoption ethics in your ethics class. You give me hope. Thank you!!!
Anonymous said…
As a family who has chosen adoption I have often struggled with whether this is a selfish decision. Due to certain limitations in local adoption in our area (Canada) we have chosen to pursue international adoption, which has even more ethical and difficult decisions.

The problem I think with the arrogant is that they have never had these second guesses, guilty thoughts or concerns that drive other adoptive parents to learn about their children, their children's parents and cultures. I don't know how we get through to people who don't want to listen but hopefully as the "standards" of adoption change they will too.

It is always hard to admit a choice you have made, something that you want so badly is causing pain and suffering to others. We are able to push away those thoughts when it comes to cheap clothing or electronics but as more people speak out hopefully injustice will be harder to ignore.

Thank you for keeping the communication open and honest

- Alex
Margie said…
Anon, you've nailed it. Thank you for understanding!!
Michelle said…
Margie,I think one (unethical) aspect of adoption that is not talked about enough is the revocation period for mothers.

How on earth can a mother decide in 24 hours or two weeks about keeping her child or surrendering the child for adoption? Many do go through with the adoption because they don't have the time to even process giving birth let alone decide whether adoption is what she really wants. (And we know that that is a coercion tactic used by adoption agencies to get the mother's baby).

Certainly, there are enough stories written and told by mothers of adoption loss who felt they were taken advantage of - that being the short revocation period and pressure to sign away her baby for life.
Anna said…
If only money were not an issue. If only you could completely remove it from the decision of motherhood/parenting alltogether- than what would an individual decide? Thank you for writing about what so many of us are thinking...
The arrogance you are referring to I believe stems from "their" sense of entitlment.
Thanksgivingmom said…
I'm so inspired by visions of the future of adoption in which ethics are put in the forefront rather in the periphery.

I have to agree with Michelle on the issue of revoke period. I would like to see women not signing the termination of thier parental rights while still IN THE HOSPITAL. I would like to see standardized revoke periods across the country so that paparents didn't just cross state lines to get away from pesky revoke periods. There are so many things in my vision of ethical adoption, and I'm so grateful for your post that really lays out some absolute requirements in my mind.
Christina said…
I've been struggling with this very thing recently. Our son has been in our family almost 18 months now, and we have so many other big stressful things going on and it would be SO easy to just walk away. And last week, when a perfect stranger accused the adoption ethics blog I work with of "scare tactics" and insinuated we were anti-adoption, I just about threw in the towel. Like you, I thought, why bother? But I remembered one TRA who blogged that while AP's have the freedom to walk away, Adoptees don't, because they live it every day. So I stick with it... tired, frustrated, exasperated... but hopeful.
KimKim said…
Margie, it makes a huge difference and bit by bit it can change people's lives in a positive way. I am overjoyed you are here.
Margie said…
Anna - when I wrote the part of this post that dealt with money, I was asking myself that same question - how? I don't know, but it's something we have to figure out.

Michelle, Thanksgivingmom - I just saw an article that plays right into that topic on Divine Caroline, I will email it to you both.

Christina - I was on your ethics blog yesterday, and was absolutely amazed at the good work you are doing. Don't let the dogs get you down!!!

Kim - thank you! You are THE BEST, and you've taught me more than you'll ever know!!
Thanksgivingmom said…
I would love to see that article. Thanks Margie!
Margie said…
TGMom, I sent you the link to the article in an email, let me know if you don't get it.
Thanksgivingmom said…
Thanks! It had been in my junk mail so I hadn't seen it!

Don't worry, I had a right little talk with my email setting it straight as to what is and what is most certainly NOT junk!
Margie said…
Kippa, hey, it's good to see you!

I'm going to ahead and post the link to that Divine Caroline article here. It's not specifically about revocation period length, but I think it's a good example of what happens when the focus turns to looking for "red flags" that a mother might be changing her mind about adoption, rather than providing her the support she needs, including the time, to make a really unpressured decision. And that's good for prospective adoptive parents, too.
thecurryseven said…
I found your blog through Christina and completely agree with what you've written here. I would add one more factor in the feeling of entitlement that is seen on some adoption blogs and this is the degree of choice potential adoptive parents have. Adoption should not be about choosing the child that fits your preferences (e.g. gender or age)... but about providing a home for a child who needs one. Often those two things don't match. I realize my view is not held by most (and makes some very angry), but the more PAP's can choose the type of child they wish to adopt, the more the process commodifes the children. Our culture creates a strong sense of entitlement when it comes to the "lifestyle choices" we feel it is our right to make... and children are more and more becoming one such lifestyle choice. -- And yet, I know that children cannot be randomly assigned to families. I know that PAP's must make some important choices, such as adoption agency, country of adoption, degree of special need, number of children.... I just wish the focus were more on the children and less on the parents who are intent on acquiring the child. I ache for the children who won't be picked because they are older... are boys... have special needs....
Anonymous said…
Hi Margie,

I’m a PAP in the DC area (we’re waiting for a referral from Korea) and while I’ve met you on two occasions, I mostly know “of” you through the wonderful following you have in the local Korean-American community and via your educational efforts at our agency. I’ve been following several blogs and issues within the international adoption community and specifically reading your blog called Third Mom. I only realized a few weeks ago that Margie = Third Mom, go figure.

Thank you so much for sharing your experiences and for keeping the dialogue going. When the issues are emotional and difficult, you don’t shy away and that’s incredibly brave. Most of all, you speak/write respectfully about issues, even when you strongly disagree with the position that others may have taken. This is so important because your message remains clear, not twisted and possibly ignored as a personal attack.

I can say that we (speaking strictly for the other PAPs that I’ve met) may not have the experience or confidence to comment on the blogs, but we are out there reading, looking and trying to find our place at the table. The personal insight that you and other adoptive parents, first mothers/first-families, and most importantly adoptees generously share helps me have a better understanding of my own journey and my obligation to the child that will join our family.

Change takes time and it may never be universal. But it’s almost Spring and soon it may be warm enough to go without socks for a bit:).

Thank you again,

Anonymous said…
This post is concise, sensible, and utterly necessary. I would love to see it put into article form (perhaps or Adoption Today.)

"It includes simple logical practices that respect a mother's human and civil rights, ensure that her decision is unpressured, and assure that the adoptee has access to his or her identity and information. Profit is absolutely out of the picture."

I truly believe that your vision will come to be because, indeed, it is a matter of human and civil rights. It takes time and previously censored or marginalized voices are only recently being heard.

I cannot fathom the inference I've read elsewhere that reform-minded bloggers speaking to previously censored issues are not actively trying to make a difference. The pen/keyboard is mighty. One woman's voice, her personal experience given words, can begin to change the world.

"Human and civil rights are the benchmarks in my adoption vision, as opposed to faith based criteria, which may or may not respect those rights."

I saw you speaking to this elsewhere and applaud your attempts. Faith based criteria is so subjective, even within the same religion. (Eg: My Presbyterian Church has split with another because the other is anti-Gay/Lesbian ordination, etc. and our session does not share that opinion.) One person's immoral is another's moral. One person's "whacked out" is another's enshrined. Thus, it is murky territory for a vulnerable pregnant mother to embark into faith based counsel where there is financial profit involved for those who counsel ... even if she is of the same faith as those counseling her.

I understand your weariness and your final question to yourself. I share it. After years, I've become more discerning about who to bother entering into dialogue with and how much energy to invest once I do so. Old notions, especially those held as sacred institutions, have always been difficult to challenge.

I absolutely believe that your voice, your heartfelt words out here in the middle of cyberspace, are changing people's hearts. As a mom who surrendered, they have been like a balm at times in my journey. As a woman, they have reminded me that we can unite when we see our fellow women hurting. As a mom/birthmom, I admire your love for your children.

Keep writing. It's making a difference.

Ansley said…
Word! I've been thinking about the same things lately.

I hope you don't mind, friend, I linked you...
Seoul Siblings said…
Keep on the responses here so far, you ARE making a difference!!! Keep on writing...keep on talking about it...keep on educating the rest of us who need it.

And I completely agree with another comment on change takes time and people to fight for it. It also takes energy and the willpower to continue even when things seem bleak.

And we as adoptive parents need to be asking questions about this very topic of ourselves, of the program we decided to adopt from, and of the agencies.

Keep on doing what you are doing!! You ARE being listened to.

RedOak said…
Long time listener, first time caller.... :P

I love your writings, and this one hit me in a particularly powerful way. I hope you don't mind, but I linked it and quoted it here:
Margie said…
Red Oak, I read the thread you referenced in your forum post - thank you very much for your kind words. But mostly, thank you for speaking out to your friends and encouraging them to do the same.

I love what you said about now being afraid of the hard subjects. Love it.

Thank you :)

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