Any adoption done right is a process that transforms lives. An adoption done right never cuts corners, and it’s  more than a mere transfer of custody rights. Much as folks want to find a way to make adoption easy, anything as life-changing as an adoption decision just cannot be reduced to a simple, presto-change-o switcheroo of homes and parents.

Ask any placing parent what their hopes and fears are, and they’ll probably say their hope is that their child will have a good life, and their fear is that the child may resent them for choosing adoption. Prospective adoptive parents asked the same thing usually say they hope the adoption will go smoothly, and they fear a baby being born unhealthy, or the placing parents might change their mind about adoption.

But ask an adoptee about their hopes and fears concerning adoption, and you’re likely to get a whole different set of answers. Why? Because even with an adoption done right, adoption is complex. The transfer of custody rights is not all it’s about. Every adoption entails loss and gain, joy and sorrow, dreams and disappointments. Adoptees, unlike birthparents and adoptive parents, were the ultimate stakeholders, yet with the least input. Simply put, they usually have had little or no say in the choices being made for them, even though they were impacted the most by the decisions made on their behalf.

Which is why any adoption done right must be child-centered, first and foremost.

How to do a Child-Centered Adoption

To do a child-centered adoption, two sets of people must set aside their own wants and needs for the sake of a baby they probably haven’t even met yet, which is a big ask.

Expectant parents who are thinking of putting a baby up for adoption are often driven by their own fears of the future, their lack of resources, or the needs of their existing families. Hopeful adoptive parents who long to adopt after years of unsuccessful fertility treatments may be compelled by their grief and prior losses, their fear of childlessness or their relatives’ expectations. 

Understandably, they all have their own ideas of how adoption could solve their problems? But a child-centered adoption requires them all to think, instead, of how adoption may affect the tiny person-to-be in the middle of it all– his or her whole life long. 

By listening to the life experiences of other people who were adopted, and heeding their advice, birthparents and adoptive parents can work together to ensure that the needs of the future adoptee get put first, and that the choices the adults make are tailored to the best interests of the baby or child, if in fact he or she must be adopted. (That’s why Abrazo believes the tranparency and truth of open adoption is always so essential.)

Adoptions done right require Ethics and Best Practice

Adoption ethics are about only ever doing adoption the right way, so that profit is never the driving interest and so that children never become a commodity. (And adoption ethics sometimes require that adoptions not be done, if it’s not in a child’s best interests to be adopted.)

Best practice is about doing things in a way that is proven to result in a successful outcome over all. (In the context of adoption, we particularly like the best practice standards outlined by these guideines out of New Zealand, of all places.) The transfer of custody rights, the legal center of most adoption rulings, is not ever found at the heart of adoption ethics and best practice, interestingly enough.

At Abrazo, we believe that the best interests of children who do need adoption require that everyone involved puts ethics ahead of personal desires. We believe that best practice requires us to not just “do things by the book” (because in Texas, that book is literally called the “Minimum Standards for Licensed Child-Placing Agencies” — and Abrazo believes every adoptee deserves the protection of an agency that exceeds the state’s minimum requirements.)

This is why our homestudy requirements at Abrazo are more intense than other Texas programs. It’s why our staff’s continuing education hours each year regularly exceed the state’s minimum training requirements. This is why we offer free counseling services for all people in our community, whether or not they place or adopt. And this is why we are so adamant about open adoption: because we believe every person ever adopted deserves to have parents that are (all) willing to be honest, every day of their lives.

Don’t settle for less.

For those seeking an adoption done right, in which a child’s best interests is the driving force and not just the transfer of custody rights or a change of home address, choose a licensed nonprofit and tax-exempt agency that puts adoption ethics and best practices at the forefront… just like Abrazo does.

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