It was nearly 6 pm when the office door chime rang, and although it was already ‘quitting time,’ these days it seems there’s no good time when adoption shouldn’t happen.

In our lobby stood a young person, modestly dressed, who spoke in broken English. (We’ll use gender-neutral pronouns here to shield their privacy.) They asked politely if this is an adoption agency, and we assured them that it is. They asked if we were still open, and we affirmed that our staff is available whenever needed.

They then stated that they needed adoption for their child, and that was when the floodgates opened.

Of course, we urged the weeping visitor to come in, awkwardly offering handfuls of tissues as an welcome gift of sorts.

Is Adoption The Right Choice?

The visitor shared their story. Like so many, it was heartbreaking… born in this country, raised in another, came back seeking a better life. Splintered family, wrenching poverty, limited education. Teenage pregnancy. Child Protective Services had taken the teen parent and baby into stage care temporarily, then spit them out as soon as the teen parent aged out.

This young parent had done their very best, but feared it still wasn’t enough. They’d been struggling (and thinking about this) for awhile, they said. They’d taken advantage of every social welfare program available. Worked hard at a long line of minimum wage jobs. Found a humble place to live, and had an old car that was running on a prayer.

Now, circumstances beyond that parent’s control had left the parent underemployed, months behind on rent, and now, about to be late to pick their little one up from the state-paid daycare.

“Go get your child and come back, we’ll wait,” we promised.

Is This When Adoption Shouldn’t Happen?

We waited, unsure whether or not they’d come back? Abrazo had a foster family at the ready, if needed. Our staff surely knew how to take a child into our immediate care, if that was best.

Yet upon their return to our office that night, our plan quickly changed. For what we clearly saw was a good parent and a secure, well-adjusted child for whom adoption was not– and needn’t be– the only option.

The fact that this parent was desperate enough to make an adoption plan that night just to keep their child safe didn’t make it the best thing to do, even if it was done with the right intentions on all sides. (And despite the fact that Abrazo knows plenty of hopeful parents waiting to adopt.)

Doing Right by Children

Ethical adoption professionals, after all, are duty-bound to help parents in all crises evaluate their options, and take the time to be sure to do what is best for each child, whatever the circumstances.

Obviously, adopting parents pay for private agency services enabling them to adopt. Agencies don’t stay open by talking folks out of adoption. Some places might have investors raising opposition and barking about bottom lines in such cases.

But Abrazo is truly a nonprofit agency, so the bottom line here really is about what children need the most, and how best to meet those needs. And what we saw that evening was a child who is securely bonded and needed to stay with this parent who loves and needs them, just as much. 

Happily Ever After (…?)

So we talked that night about this being one of those times when adoption shouldn’t happen. Instead, we offered to help find the resources they most needed elsewhere.

We sent that parent and child home together that night, and we’ve made calls on their behalf and checked in with them several times since. The rent issue is getting resolved with the landlord. They’ve gotten on the public housing list. New job options are being explored. Counseling services were made available. A college placement test is being taken.

In short, the tears have been dried, the sun is out again and the future looks brighter for parent and child.

Whether/Or Not

Abrazo will still be here to help in the future, if there proves to be some greater reason the adoption option should be revisited? But honestly, we hope they won’t need us.

Just because an adoption can happen isn’t not always a reason that it should. Adoption, however positive, should always be an option of last resort.

Adoption agencies should be devoted to child welfare first and foremost, whether or not placement is ever the actual outcome.

There should be no shame in parents deciding when adoption shouldn’t happen– and fewer regrets even if it must.



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