Slowing the downhill roll of adoption misconceptions

Among the things that make me particularly angry is the disconnect between the message some adoption agencies deliver to prospective adoptive parents and reality. Even when APs come to adoption with open eyes and minds, they can be sent down a bunny trail if inclusive, truthful, up-to-date, culturally-accurate information is withheld.

To name just a few contributing factors:
  • Adoptive-parent-centric agency information and attitudes
  • Intentional and unintentional “sugarcoating” of adoption loss and grief
  • Failure to define the context of a particular adoption: in other words, applying misleading and untruthful generalizations and stereotypes to first parents, adopted people, adoptive parents and the adoption experience
  • Acceptance of societal stigma as justification for adoption

I’m pretty sure that everyone interested in improving adoption practices will agree that there’s a better chance of influencing new adoptive parents if they can be reached at the beginning of the process. Adoptees, first parents and adoptive parents invited and willing to speak with waiting and new adoptive parents therefore have a golden opportunity to open some eyes. I have offered my thoughts elsewhere from time to time, and it seems that those who seek change or an end to adoption aren’t necessarily comfortable speaking in settings that promote adoption. An adoptive parent preparation course does that de facto, creating a bit of a dilemma.

I think it's pretty straightforward: if you feel your integrity will be compromised by speaking at an organization that exists for the purpose of adoption, don’t go. Unfortunately, no matter hard I look for other ways to reach the population in need, I always come back to the agency as the most important place to start.

What to do?

I can only share my approach. I have done some speaking to new and waiting APs at agencies in our area, and I have found that I can deliver the message I want to deliver if I respect the context of the presentation. I speak only on topics I select, and bring the handouts to make sure the families get them. I take care to include information that adoptees and first parents want adoptive parents to receive. I include references to writings by adoptees, first parents, and respectful adoptive parents, as well as links to organizations that support adoptees and first parents.

Recently I've decided that I don't want to speak anymore on my own. My daughter and I have done some programs together over the past couple of years, and the authenticity of the session has increased exponentially. Duh, right?

Is this a perfect approach? No. But it starts the ball rolling, and gives prospective adopters another view of the experience on which they are about to embark. I believe the old that saying says it’s better to light a candle than curse the darkness. None of us can fix it all, but if we are willing to influence what we can, the status quo can change.


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