Open Mike: Define "adoption reform"

I normally draw a firm line between my adoption and work lives, but it occurred to me on one of my freakingly-boring delightful commutes recently that what I do for a living provides some new ways of looking at the challenge of adoption reform.

I'm a project manager, have had my PMP ("Project Management Professional") certification since 2002, and have spent most of my professional career managing projects and programs of various sizes. I work in the telecommunications industry, which has a mindset about 180 degrees from the one we have here in adoptionland. But the principles I've been trained to follow to solve complex challenges offers some techniques that might give new insights into why reforming adoption as we know it is so darned difficult.

Project Management 101: Define the challenge and objective(s) clearly. Identify all stakeholders. Establish a team. Define all the steps necessary to reach the objective(s). Identify risks to reaching the objective(s). Create a plan to get there, and contingency plans to mitigate the risks. Develop a timeline. Assign each workstep to a team member. Establish a communications plan, including dispute management plan. Establish a mechanism for handling inevitable change. Celebrate success. Determine if and how the team will continue to work together after the defined goal has been reached.

This is a highly simplified view of project management, but you get the point. And it works; my company is so used to project management methodology now that we do things this way as a matter of course. 25+ years of managing projects have also taught me that the projects themselves develop an identity. Even today, people I've lost touch with at work and then encounter years later will identify the way we know each other through our project. I remember you from the such-and-such project or We worked together on Project XYZ, didn't we? It's hard not to feel good about accomplishing something, and when people remember all those years later, it's better still.

The result is that stuff gets done, which is probably why slow progress in adoption reform frustrates me so much. I see a lot of talk, and a lot of dedicated work by individuals and focus groups, but I don't see the kind of cross-organizational communication that I think is needed to distill our various goals and messages into the one that will grab our country's attention and set the stage for change. I also don't see the sense that we're marching toward a common goal, even in small ways. Obviously, if "adoption reform" only means "stopping adoption" to you, it's going to be hard to get onto a team with a group that doesn't share that point of view. But it seems to me if we could do that for some specific goals - open records strikes me as one of those (and there are certainly more) - we could push the issue forward a little more quickly.

So let's see see what applying these principles to the adoption reform challenge can do. If nothing else, it should give us some insight into why we seem unable to break out of our stovepipes and find enough common ground to get lawmakers to listen seriously.

As with all Open Mikes, the only rule to be respectful. Be creative, say what's on your mind. Anonymous comments are welcome. And with these simple rules in place, here's today's question:

Define "adoption reform." If possible, include specifics in your answer: laws you believe should be passed or changed, policies you believe should be followed.

Comments

I personally don't think how a adoption agency can give unbiased information or counseling because they have something to gain from people placing children for adoption. I think whoever is telling them of their rights and programs should be someone who has nothing to gain or lose if they place or parent.
I also think that the time in which a birthparent can sign tpr is too soon in most states. In my state it's 72 hours. I don't recall having the right to a lawyer. Another thing I find odd is that how come as a 15 year old miner we can't sign a document to have our own checking account, because you can't hold a child to a legal document, but you can when it's a tpr. I think open adoptions should be legally enforced. I am thinking both parties could use counsel on how to deal with it. I don't have the answers on how to change adoption but that's a few of my thoughts on what is wrong. I am not anti adoption, but it does bug me that adoption is so expensive. If two couples who can't have children want to adopt, the only couple who can find a way to give out thousands and thousands of dollars gets to adopt. Just because one doesn't say have 15 grand doesn't mean they can't afford a child. I also wonder about the people who do find a way to have that kinds of money. Are they putting themselves in debt or causing financial strain on them. I will admit that it bugs me when I see soon to be adoptive parents asking for donations. It's nothing personal. It's more against the agencies. Why does it have to cost so much. It also goes back to how can adoption be moral if there is profit involved.
Jenna said…
There are many things that need reformed in adoption. However, my boss recently had a gem of a point when discussing this subject with a known unethical adoption agency owner. She said, "My concern is less about the argument over the idea of "birth mother rights" and more about whether or not we are equipping mothers will all of the information they need to make such a life-altering decision."

That, right there, puts all of the reforms in order. If we're informing them about the ins and outs of everything involved, from the legal aspects to the emotional fallout, then everything will begin to fall into place.

The thing is that when we're only selectively telling expectant mothers considering relinquishment half truths, we're undermining the good that can happen in adoption. When my unethical agency neglected to tell me that open adoptions weren't legally binding in my state, they forever shaded my adoption decision with the color of gray. When mothers aren't told that those 72 hours (or whatever their state specifies) are a minimum and not a maximum, we aren't allowing them to make the decision without the pressure of the ticking clock. Whenever agencies are telling potential adoptive parents in a match to go ahead and pay for x, y or z thing, we're setting up future families for that risk of scam and fraud. Until we start saying, "no, this is the law, you can't do that," or, "this is the reality, make your decision wisely," or, "you can take as long as you so choose," well, we're not going to get anywhere.

Of course, this comment has totally neglected to address the atrocities that exist in the foster care system that, in most honesty, need more attention than this issue right now. My heart breaks for the children who need real homes but can't find them because of the overworked, underpaid staff ... and a myriad of other issues that I won't rant about here.
Addie Pray said…
First let me say I love this idea.

Adoption Reform-

In the most simple terms, all policies must be reformed to do what is best for the child, at all times. Focus should be on the long term, and how presently difficult situations can be remedied with an emphasis on family preservation.

There should be no financial gain involved in adoption. No more than actual and provable expenses should be paid, in public, private, domestic and international adoption.

Standardized training should be required of both professionals, perspective and current adoptive parents, and natural parents.

Adult adoptees should be allowed access to all records concerning their birth, TPR, and adoption, without restriction at age of adulthood.

There's a start. I could go on.
dan said…
"Adoption Reform" is a breathtakingly broad and vague term - perhaps intentionally so. On one side, there are legalities such as birth mother rights, access to birth records, prosecution for fraud or misrepresentation by agencies or birth mothers, and establishment of minimum standards for adopting parents which would equalize the economic advantage owned by the very wealthy, while excluding those who are unsuitable parents regardless of income. For this kind of reform to be meaningful, it must be comprehensive, embracing all the players in the process within a well-defined and legally enforceable structure.

If that sounds like Big Brother meets Third Mom, yeah, that's probably right. We've seen where "education reform" got us, which wasn't very close to our goal. We're now looking into "health care reform," and the scale of the project has petrified us for two decades. Or how about "reforming the financial sector" - see how easy that's going to be? I fear that this legalistic approach will produce little improvement unless we can first achieve some underlying changes in approach and attitude.

We can start to treat adoption as an important component of a caring society, and to support it morally and emotionally rather than dismiss it in the belief that it is self-regulating and takes care of itself. Birth mothers need more support; social service agencies need to provide better education and screening, agencies need to get out of the "business" of placing babies and into the "service" of building families and enhancing lives. Adoption should be recognized as an often-painful and often-joyful experience, unsuitable to generalizations except the generalization that it can be made into a good solution for everyone involved given sufficient flexibility, respect, and resources of the heart. Adoption should be elevated in the national consciousness and we should be educated about what it's brought to this country - how many of our founders were adopted or adoptors; its biblical precedents; its value and significance. No legal reform will made any real difference if the social conception is not burnished. Adoption reform must start from within, and then the technical enhancements will ensue perforce.
maybe said…
Just a few off the top of my head:

-open access to the OBC and ABC for all adoptees, birth, and adoptive parents (for all past adoptions).

-end the alteration/falsification of birth certificates (for all future adoptions).

-issuance of adoption certificate to prove parental rights in lieu of falsfied birth certificates.

-eliminate the "infant adoption awareness" (NCFA program) that trains and encourages doctors, teachers, clergy, guidance counselors, etc. to promote adoption.
Cedar said…
Can adoption be reformed? Can one erase 158 yrs of adoption history with 'reforms'? I wonder.

Why adoption is how it is

I think that with the history of legal child adoption (created in 1851. NO, not "Biblical"), its intent and purpose to find homes for unloved and unwanted children and the fact that the foundation of adoption law is predicated upon that fact, large-scale reform is next to impossible to accomplish if you wish to find a way to provide substitute care for children who ARE loved and wanted and recognize that adoption does not mean a "clean slate" for adoptees complete with a new identity that totally replaces the old.

An institution that is meant for the situation 156 yrs ago of babies abandoned on orphanage doorsteps and street urchins is not easily changed, especially now that it is a big industry providing enormous profits to numerous businesses.

So yes, I am one of those who believes that adoption itself cannot change, as long as the basic principles go unchallenged. Even "minor changes" are difficult to accomplish. The open records movement is an example: no movement in the last 150 yrs with so much support has been so ineffective in changing law and policy. Why? Because the basic legal (and historical) precepts of adoption go unchallenged -- people don't understand why a formerly "unloved and unwanted child" would have any desire to know information pertaining to the "abandoning parents" (i.e. OBC).

The only successful large-scale 'reforms' in adoption are ones that support the notion that these children are unloved and unwanted: shortened "grace periods" post-birth to take "unwanted babies" even sooner from "abandoning parents," shortened or eliminated "revocation periods" to provide "security" for the adopting family (who are of course 'saving' an 'unwanted child'). Growth and deregulation of the industry. These reforms pass easily and have in fact constituted a national movement of sweeping change.

Cedar

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