TikTok is currently ablaze over the story of what a man recently claimed was a surprise adoption in Texas.
(For anyone unfamiliar with the term, a “surprise adoption” is typically an unexpected placement arranged after the birth of a baby who needs an immediate home.)
What is a Surprise Adoption?
Some adoption folk refer to this as a “stork drop.” Others call it a “last-minute adoption.” Abrazo fondly codes such situations as a “B.O.G.” (pronounced bee-oh-gee, for “baby on the ground.”)
Contrary to popular thought, though, these situations are not really instant adoptions. Newly-delivered mothers don’t just call from a hospital and say “hey, I never thought about this before, but I’ve decided to give my baby up for adoption right this minute.” Some do call an adoption agency like Abrazo from the hospital and it may seem last minute. Typically, though, they’ve already been pondering their options in private for weeks or months, even if they didn’t tell anybody. They never call on a whim.
When we get those calls, Abrazo’s staff leaps into immediate action. Our degreed counselor/caseworker meets with the mother in person, to provide support and information, and to be certain she is fully aware of all her alternatives before any permanent decisions get made. If she’s certain that adoption is the best choice, she has the right to choose her baby’s new parents. She can meet them in person, and the baby can be released directly to them, provided their paperwork is all in order– but that preparation process (including a homestudy and background checks) cannot be done overnight. Most approved parents have undergone preadoption training for months or years. No adoption should ever happen if it isn’t in the best interests of the baby– nor if any of the parents are not fully ready, for any reason.
Why Baby Zoe’s Case was Not a Surprise Adoption
It was a gay adoptive dad on TikTok that got folks talking (and not in a good way.) A user named will.powerrr (real name: William Carroll Holmes) posted a video in which he balanced a newborn on his knee and accosted her sweet head with a boar bristle brush, while announcing that he and his husband had adopted a black baby named Zoe and have no idea how to do black hair. Supposedly, he was appealing online to Black TikTok, seeking “black parents” willing to instruct these white parents on how to care for her? TikTok viewers however spotted a notorious influencer using an innocent infant for fame, followers and fortune. Many then posted additional content by the couple in which Baby Zoe had been posed on outdoor Christmas decorations, and prominently displayed at various social events. A TikTok user named Jess suggested that this hair video was actually a strategic soft launch for Will’s new family blogger channel. (He is reportedly already posting product reviews and seeking product endorsements.)
Another adoptee and TikTokker named Jordyn contacted Will directly to confirm that both Will and his partner are convicted felons, with over 100 charges between them. Whie none were for child abuse or sex offenses, there were charges related to violence, and both fathers are admittedly recovering addicts. (See Texas standards on adopting with criminal history here.) Baby Zoe’s mother is said to be a twenty-three year old product of the foster care system, with three children already. The two men were present at the baby’s birth and quickly posted on social media images of them cutting the baby’s umbilical cord and doing kangaroo care. (Neither their lawyer nor homestudy worker apparently advised them about honoring the sanctity of the birth process, respecting their adopted child’s privacy, or even necessary babycare.) It’s been alleged that one of the men signed as the father on the baby’s original birth certificate, and that the adoption paperwork and handoff of the baby were completed in the Parkland Hospital parking lot.
Contrary to Will’s original claims, this was not a surprise adoption at all. The couple had been searching for a baby to adopt privately, as they knew they wouldn’t qualify at most adoption agencies. They matched with this young mom at least two months before the due date, allowing for a pre-birth baby shower and their posting of sonogram photos online. The men reportedly paid their attorney $7k upfront and expect additional legal fees to run $3-5k more. There was no disclosure of any payment/s to the mother, which are prohibited under Texas law. (For a more in-depth discussion of the related issues involving transracial adoption, adoptee trauma and adoption ethics, please check out this adoption educator’s video.)
Hoping for the Best for Baby Zoe
There is little reason to doubt that Baby Zoe’s adoption will be quietly finalized in coming months, and eventually forgotten by the concerned public. We hope the birthmother has a qualified therapist providing her grief counseling and post-adoption support. And hopefully, Zoe’s new fathers will remain sober and successful in recovery. Maybe they’ll somehow become more mindful of the many adoption issues that Zoe will face in the future, as a black child with two white fathers? Like any adoptee, she deserves to grow up in a stable home with parents focused on her needs, not their own desires or goals.
There’s much more than just black hair care at stake here, as countless comments on social media are making clear. Just because somebody wants to adopt doesn’t necessarily mean they should. The private adoption industry is in severe need of an overhaul, for the protection of America’s children. Texas lawmakers must do far more to ensure that babies in Texas are being kept safe (and the birthparents, too) from adoption lawyers willing to handle any case merely for the fees.
In truth, the only thing that potentially makes Baby Zoe’s case a surprise adoption is that private adoption standards allow vulnerable children to be independently adopted by adults with checkered pasts, who are subject to virtually no oversight– other than the throngs of TikTok viewers.