Lately, the overturning of Roe v. Wade is bringing the subject of adoption up for debate. Social media backlash, however, rightfully questions whether America should actually be reconstructing adoption, or deconstructing it entirely?

In Highland Park, IL a three-year-old boy named Aiden McCarthy was orphaned on Independence Day, when his parents were among the many gunned down by a madman. Aiden may ironically be considered “one of the lucky ones” for he was rescued by bystanders and will be the recipient of more than $3 million raised on GoFundMe, plus he has loving grandparents who have already pledged to adopt him. He will grow up with people he is already familiar with, who will gladly keep the memory of his parents alive, and who are financially-equipped to provide him with the best of care and with counseling, if needed.

Little Aiden’s tragic situation reminds us that adoption will always be a needed alternative in cases of children who genuinely need stable homes when life circumstances have otherwise turned unstable. Yet adoption isn’t a fix-all solution and it’s wrong to pitch it as one.

Maybe it IS time to look at reconstructing adoption. Perhaps the problem isn’t that adoption isn’t culturally relevant anymore, but rather, that it doesn’t deserve to be, not until we all learn to do it better?

When Reconstructing Adoption, What Needs Repair Most?

The universal concept of adoption has, admittedly, become an institution beset with problems, despite its many successes. Ask anyone what those interested in reconstructing adoption should fix first, and you’ll get plenty of helpful suggestions.

Adopting parents will say adoption should entail less paperwork and fewer fees. Placing parents would say adoption should offer more support (financial, legal and emotional), and less judgement. Adoptees are rightfully frustrated that they have little or no say in the decisions made for them and no legal rights to access their own original birth records. Adoption professionals want more respect and less blame. Child welfare advocates want more homes for older kids and children with special needs.  Family preservationists just want adoption banished all together.

And here’s the thing: none of them are wrong: nobody should get rich off of adoption. Original birth records rightfully should belong to those they name. Adoptees do need to have a head seat at the table enabling them to be better heard by all. Birthparents and adoptive parents should have more protection, and open adoption agreements should be made legally-enforceable. Hard-to-place kids must receive priority in the child-placement stratosphere. Adoption professionals who do adoption well could be better recognized for their dedication. And those who see problems in the adoption industry ought to be allowed to have viable child-centered solutions considered. 

Unintended Consequences of Cutting Corners

Leveling the playing field, in the interest of promoting adoption to justify abolishing abortion in America, is bound to wreak unanticipated disaster. If you haven’t heard of “the law of unintended consequences,” you’re not alone. In an EconLib article, Rob Norton explains it like this:

The law of unintended consequences, often cited but rarely defined, is that actions of people—and especially of government—always have effects that are unanticipated or unintended.

We’ve definitely noticed this in the adoption field over the years. When Texas lawmakers implanted a law restricting mothers from relinquishing for 48 hours after birth, it unexpectedly resulted in hospitals discharging newly-delivered Medicaid patients at 24 hours. Suddenly, Texas adoption agencies (not as principled as Abrazo) began allowing prospective adopters to “babysit” newborns they could not yet take placement of. This only shortchanged those babies’ birthmoms by increasing the pressure on them to rush their decisions. It cost those newborns valuable time with the only mothers they physically craved. And it increased the risks for hopeful adopters, having to bond with and care for a baby they might not actually get in the end.

Similarly, Texas’ obliteration of the legal protections for unmarried fathers in termination process, its promotion of legalized baby dumping (aka Safe Haven), our Legislature’s refusal to recognize adult adoptees’ rights to their own birth records, and now the elimination of medically-safe abortions are additional instances in which the law of unintended consequences only further compromises adoption in unexpected ways. We fear it will be the children of Texas and the state’s already-broken Child Protective Services program that ultimately must bear the burden of such systemic oversight.

Real change takes real effort. Those who wish to change adoption must do the hard work and heavy lifting to actually make it better for all. (That means us, and that means you, too.) Because if the law of unintended consequences teaches us anything, it’s that government shortcuts intended to prop adoption up will only weigh it down, one way or the other.

Reconstructing Adoption Without the “Help” of Anti-Abortionists

One adoptive mother in particular drew the ire of many in her effort to justify overturning Roe v. Wade. Her response in effect suggested  “eliminating abortion isn’t a big deal– there’s always adoption.” That woman’s name is Amy Coney Barrett, and her words lit the proverbial match that set fire to the dumpster fire that seeks to equate abortion with adoption– which is a mistake on either front.

Most adoption professionals surely would like to see adoption continue as a relevant option for those in need– no doubt about it.  But know this: those “we’ll adopt your baby” signs make Abrazofolk cringe, too, because predatory practices have no place in ethical adoption proceedings. The “adoption industry” isn’t aided by the involuntary recruitment of those for whom adoption is not the right solution. Much as we’d like to see a revival of regard for adoption in America, it won’t happen like this– forced adoptions better the future for nobody. 

Reconstructing adoption means better equipping adoption professionals to meet the actual needs of children, and not merely justifying their fee-based services. This means educating the public about the meaning and effect of adoption in the lives of adoptees and both their birthfamilies and their adoptive families. It means empowering people to decide for themselves when adoption is and is not an optimal option for the welfare of the child/ren involved. It requires long over-due adoption reform; truth and transparency; and lifelong post-adoption support for those for whom child-centered adoption truly was the best possible alternative.

Being pro-birth, like being pro-choice or pro-adoption, is but a goal with an agenda. In contrast, reconstructing adoption (like expanding resources for those facing unplanned pregnancy or unexpected parenthood) does far more to establish a healthy foundation on which to build a better future. (Let’s work towards that.)


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