Identifying Unethical Adoption Agencies 101

First, a PSA: New post up at Anti-Racist Parent. Please go over, read it and share your thoughts there. And while you're there, check out all of outstanding posts by ARP's contributors and staff.

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Many thanks to Mia for sharing this information.

A adoption agency maintains two websites. One, whose name makes it clear that adoption is their goal, has a photo of a pregnant woman in its header captioned with the words The Greatest Gift of Love. The other shows a picture of a blissfully sleeping baby, and has the words Helping Couples on their Adoption Journey as its tagline. The website's designs and styles make it clear that they work in tandem, a joint effort targeting pregnant women and couples seeking to adopt.

The site targeting pregnant women offers them these services:
  • We offer a toll-free phone number where our staff is available to you 24 hours a day/7 days a week- 1-800-807-0848.
  • We can assist you in making a personal adoption plan. We realize that you want to provide the best life for your baby and we can help you do that.
  • We will support you during your pregnancy and birth of your baby. We will offer you counseling, medical care and legal assistance.
  • We have a caring, supportive, and dedicated staff that desires to give you the respect and level of service you deserve.
The one focused on adoptive parents offers this :
    1. *NEW* Caucasian/African-American Boy, 2/10/09, UT, $23K + potential medical expenses, *BM used marijuana during pregnancy and wants open adoption with poss visits
    2. *NEW* African-America/Hispanic Girl, 2/28/09, Maryland, $20K, Alcohol exp during pregnancy
    3. *NEW* Caucasian/Hispanic Unk Gender, $35K, May
    4. Caucasian Unk Gender, $37K, June
    5. Caucasian/African-American Boy, $30-35K, Apr
    6. Caucasian/African-American Boy, $30-35K, June
    7. African-American Boy, 2/23/09, $20K, GA
    8. African-American Girl, 3/10/09, $20K, AL
    9. African-American Boy, 3/13/09, $20K, GA
    10. African-American Boy, 3/25/09, $24, UT
    11. African-American Girl, 4/11/09, $24K, UT
It also offers a sliding scale for its adoption services:

Minority Adoption Program Services:

  • Personal Adoption Consultant that will guide you through your adoption from start to finish
  • Discounted Home Study Fees* (Minority Adoption Program savings of $250.00)
  • Discounted Family Profile Services (Minority Adoption Program savings of $200.00)
  • Discounted Consulting Services and access to our nation wide agency network (10% off all consulting services- except Do It Yourself Consulting Package- $100 off)
Please go over and take a look, first from the point of view of a frightened, pregnant woman, and then from that of a prospective adoptive parent. I did, and here are a few of the things that kind of smacked me in the face. They would send me running to the hills if I were looking for pregnancy counseling or adoption services:
  • I saw no mention of 501c3 status, which if correct would mean these are for-profit agencies.
  • Beyond the licenses these agencies claim to possess, I saw no affiliations or connections to any reputable non-profit adoption organization, nor any reference to any involvement with the wider adoption ethics community.
  • Language on both sites, and particularly the clearly-worded names of the agencies and the taglines The Greatest Gift of Love and Helping Couples on their Adoption Journey, make it clear that the end goal of any pregnancy counseling is adoption.
  • Pregnancy services appear to offer support for medical fees for pregnancy and support.
  • I did not see a fee breakdown anywhere, although it could be buried on one of the pages I didn't see.
  • Photos of pregnant women on both sites are either generally faceless or avoid direct eye contact. What appears to be a post-adoption photo of a young woman who has used this agency's services shows her with books in hand and smiling, and is placed next to a paragraph that talks to her "hopes and dreams." This use of photos dehumanizes the pregnant woman and skews her decision toward adoption, which is presented as the way for her to achieve non-related goals.
  • Photos of prospective adoptive parents and staff are of smiling faces making direct contact. Photos on the site targeting prospective adoptive parents are largely of babies.
  • No post-adoption support are offered for mothers, adoptees or adoptive families.
  • Fee scales differentiate prospective adoptive parents by race, rather than income.
  • Fees for advertised "situations" are applied on a per-child basis, and are also differentiated by race, with African American children offered at lower rates than white children.
All this from just a cursory scan of the websites. I'll give these folks credit for one thing, though: they really get coercion. It's packaged so slickly that you can see how easily a pregnant woman or new prospective adoptive parent could be drawn in. But openly price-tagging children? And charging by race? Even if this agency's goal is to make it possible for lower income PAPs (which in their minds may equal minorities) to adopt, this is NOT the way to make it possible.

As long as dollars change hands in adoption, we have to be vigilant to the potential for abuses that could lead to human trafficking. Although I'm jaded enough to believe that there are plenty of agencies that purposely use this potential to their advantage and for their profit, I also believe that even well-meaning agencies can become complacent and leave the door open to the very corruption they are trying to avoid.

I therefore sent an example of the fees on this agency's site, which are there for the public to see, to the Change.gov "share your ideas" site. Although adoption reform isn't at the top of the new administration's to-do list, you never know when you might reach someone with an open mind and willing ear.

Comments

Britta said…
I'm a birthmom, hence I tend to be a bit hypersensitive about stuff like this. So it's hard for me to always be completely unbiased when looking at stuff like that.

But--come on! Price-tagging of the babies left an instant bad taste in my mouth, along with categorizing children as a"*NEW*" product...like adoptive parents are putting these babies on "layaway."

I dunno, that seems pretty hard to ignore.

Thanks for sharing this.
Mia said…
It is so blatant that even my 9 year old could look at it and see they are putting a price tag on a child's head and even more disgusting they base that price tag on race. We are NOT being hypersensitive. It is what it is.

Thanks for posting Margie!
a Tonggu Momma said…
Not to mention the whole **NEW** tag made me also feel sick to my stomach.
Margie said…
Yes, indeed, the entire thing is stomach-turning. But apparently it's legal, in my opinion because no one with the power to change it has had the light bulb go on yet. All the more reason, as Mia says, to call it what it is. We're heading toward the tipping point, and sooner or later we'll get there. Just wish it was sooner!

We should never forget, either, that without PAPs willing to participate, the demand would dry up and these kinds of agencies would fold. Clearly this agency has customers or they wouldn't be in business, and those customers don't appear to see anything wrong with the agency's attitude or approach.
mama d said…
What part of the algorithm ranked UT babies as more valuable than GA or AL babies? There are so many layers of offense here, so many -isms that I'm finding it difficult to wrap my mind around them. Unfortunately, my heart clearly sees the objectification and injustice.
cindy psbm said…
several other blogs about adoption that I follow have pointed out the horribleness of this website. I have searched it in vain to find anything that states that a women who decides to place is still a person.
I have emailed and tried to post comments several times, to no avail.
Thank you for saying that this is wrong, that they are being extremely unethical in their approach to adoption.
Even in their personal blogs they seem to refer to there adopted children as possessions.
Thank you thank you thank you for seeing birth/first moms as real people.
I am will not stop sending them messages that how they treat adoption is wrong and the opposite of anything 'christian'.
This makes me sick to my stomach so I have to go sit down with my head down. Thank you for posting about it.
Cedar said…
"110. During the course of 2002, the Special Rapporteur received many complaints relating to allegedly fraudulent adoption practices. The Special Rapporteur was shocked to learn of the plethora of human rights abuses which appear to permeate the adoption systems of many countries ... Regrettably, in many cases the emphasis has changed from the desire to provide a needy child with a home, to that of providing needy parents with a child. As a result, a whole industry has grown, generating millions of dollars of revenue each year, seeking babies for adoption and charging prospective parents enormous fees to process the paperwork... the Special Rapporteur was alarmed to hear of certain practices also allegedly occurring within developed countries, including the use of fraud and coercion to persuade single mothers to give up their children. "

- page 25, "Rights of the child: Report submitted by Mr. Juan Miguel Petit, Special Rapporteur on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography in accordance with Commission on Human Rights resolution 2002/92. E/CN.4/2003/79," United Nations Commission on Human Rights (2003)

This website you found exemplifies why adoption in North America is often just another euphemism for human trafficking.

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