Let’s Establish Standards of Practice for Adoptive Parents

Adoption agencies and adoptive parents have long held the most power in international adoption practice, and adoptive parents speak with hugely influential voices on international adoption policy. Many parents started adoption agencies themselves; many employees of the agencies are parents. Many speak at conferences; many blog, before, during, and after adoption. Many post regularly on Facebook groups.

Most professionals—doctors, lawyers, social workers—have standards of practice that integrate values with research and expertise. Some of these standards are advisory; some are enforceable and have significant sanctions.

Standards of practice for adoptive parents are, of course, unenforceable and even unfeasible. Still, since adoptive parents hold such influence and power over adoption policy and practice, perhaps it’s worth discussing what standards of practice might involve for them.

At the annual conference of the Joint Council on International Children’s Services this May in New York City, I will present a workshop called Standards of Practice for Adoptive Parents. I’ll be focusing on Ethiopia, though I’ll look at practices in many countries. JCICS is an umbrella group of international adoption agencies that also includes doctors, lawyers, parent groups, researchers, and others. Joint Council has Standards of Practice for its member agencies.

I think It’s time to examine some hard questions, and to see what harm and what good is being done in the name of adoption. For example:

  • What responsibilities do adoptive parents (and agencies) have to birth parents?
  • When adoptive families hire investigators to search for their child’s birth family, what are the dangers for fraud? for financial impropriety?
  • When adoptive families “find” birth families that the adoption agency either didn’t know about or didn’t disclose, what should be done?
  • What are the ethical responsibilities adoptive families have in offering or providing financial support to birth families?
  • Many adoptive parents blog in great detail about their adopted children, sharing the child’s history, traumas, medications, behaviors, therapies, hospitalizations, personal story.  Is that their right as parents?
  • Adoptive families are supposed to fill out post-placement reports, sometimes for years after placement. With Russia having closed now to US families, some parents might decide not to file any more reports. What is the impact on the children, the agencies, the future? In Ethiopia, birth families are sometimes promised they will receive post-placement reports. How would adoptive parents know if their reports get to the families? Does it matter?
  • Many adoptive parents “give back” to the country of origin, through non-profit work in education, health care, and other needed services, some right in their child’s village. Some employ birth family members in the non-profit’s work. Are these projects creating dependency? Are they encouraging other families inadvertently to place their children for adoption in order to get employment and money? Are the projects a means to alleviate adoptive parent guilt?

I welcome your thoughts on all of this.

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9 thoughts on “Let’s Establish Standards of Practice for Adoptive Parents

  1. Maureen, I have had many of these same thoughts. I think that the older we get as parents, the wiser we get due to all of our experiences. I have appreciated reading and hearing other aparents as they have posted their stories/experiences online or in magazines. I think that this sharing of experiences makes the aparents coming up better able to handle parenting their adopted children. I also think that more should be done on the agency’s part as far as vetting families better, providing more education to families about search and birth families before adoption happens. A part of me also wishes that social media did not play such a big role in this because of all of the ramifications of the child’s privacy which involves social media. I have learned a lot as a parent through social media, but it also scares me that parents reveal so much about their minor children on some of these sites. I think it is better to hear this information from the adult child (as long as they are comfortable revealing this information). If the aparent could generalize more or give hypothetical examples, this may be better option of protecting their child’s privacy. Unfortuneately, it doesn’t appear that individuals today understand how posting/tweeting/blogging is eroding their privacy–not to mention the privacy of their children–adopted or not. It would be interesting to hear your side of this social media debate. Keep writing!

    • Thank you, Mary. Yes, my eyes have opened more as I’ve gotten older lol. Thank you for your comments here. Social media is such a huge issue in adoption now, for good or bad. Very powerful. Let’s keep talking.

    • Thanks very much, Keren! It’s a complicated, challenging topic. I’d welcome your input on it, and would be happy to share my PowerPoint slides and handouts, if that would be of interest. I’m working on them now. Thanks again.

      • Maureen: will you have your PowerPoint presentation available for re-upload for those of us with Adoption Blogs that support your efforts? And, will you be addressing how we can all get more active in light of the obvious fact that our lives as (many of us working) adoptive parents are so filled?

      • I will share the PowerPoint when I find out exactly what the terms are in light of the conference. Thank you so much for asking about it.

        As to getting more active: always a challenge, in terms of working, raising a family, managing a household, caring for elderly parents, maintaining one’s health and on and on. My quick response here would be to say: We write. We talk. We share ideas when we can. We partner with others, especially adult adoptees and birth/first families. We present workshops at adoption conferences if we can. Small steps can make such a big difference. All that said, I’ve thought a lot about how to get more active in the midst of busy lives, and will be writing more about it. As soon as I can lol.

      • Thanks, Maureen. I appreciate your time. I’ve been very active the past few months with some transparency “issues.” Hopefully, I’ll be blogging about that and placing links to the posts at my Finding Aster Facebook Page. You are a remarkable woman. Thank you.

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