The Myth of Choice in Adoption

Information is power.  When armed with information a birth mother has the power she needs to make an informed decision.  When information is withheld from birth mothers about the long-term effects of relinquishment on both herself and her child, can it really be said that she made a choice?  Is it a choice when she is not presented with every avenue she can utilize to raise her child?

Adoption Truths: Whose Responsibility is it?

When adoption “counselors” present only skewed information it gives the illusion to the birth mother that she is making an informed decision.  A birth mother trusts that the “counselor” is looking out for her best interests and the best interests of her child. She is already scared and unsure of her ability to parent.  When she seeks out counseling in other scenarios, i.e. depression, anxiety,  she can safely assume that the counselor is going to help her and do so with her well-being in mind.  She would assume that an adoption counselor would have the same code of ethics.  The problem is that most adoption “counselors” have a vested interest in a mother giving up her child.  The counselor in this scenario is employed by the adoption agency and this is unethical.

The counter argument to this would be that it is the mother’s responsibility to seek out and understand all the nuances of adoption.  She needs to educate herself on all the possible outcomes for herself and her child.  That it is not the agency’s responsibility to talk a mother out of adoption.

Let’s take this out of the adoption context for a moment.  Imagine a 17-year-old boy who is told by his doctor that he has a heart condition.  His doctor has told him there are 2 options, he can either have surgery or he can attempt to control his condition with medication.  Whose responsibility is it to explain to this boy all of the side effects, all of the possible outcomes, what the dangers of each choice entails?  Should it be the boy’s responsibility to research and educate himself on all the possibilities?  What if his doctor has only told him all of the positive outcomes of surgery without informing him of the negative outcomes or not explored in-depth the medication option?  Take it one step further, what if his doctor actually gives him misinformation about his condition?  None of these things would be ethical.  The boy would not be able to make an informed decision. Is that true choice?

Am I the Face of True Choice?

For years I had thought I made a true choice.  I thought that I had chosen to give my child a better life.  I was scared and naive.  I was told that yes, I would be sad for a long time, but someday I would have children of my own.  I was told that giving my son to his adoptive parents was the best option because they were stable and would give my son the best life.  I was not informed of the possible long term effects of adoption for my son.  I was not told about the myriad programs out there to help me succeed in raising my son.  I was offered so called counseling that only focused on the adoption option.  I was not informed of the long term effects to myself.  I was not offered therapy or support groups.  I was continually told how wonderful adoption is, how it is a gift, how it is selfless.  I was not told that his parents could stop sending me photos and updates at any time (which they did).  I was dropped like a hot potato after relinquishing my son.  There was no follow up. I wanted to believe I had made a true choice because the other side of it was unthinkable.  It turns out I gave my son up without being fully knowledgeable about all my options.  He was my son, my blood, my love, my family and I gave him away.

Real Choices Need Real Information

For adoption to be a true, ethical choice the adoption industry needs to employ truth and transparency. It should be their responsibility to present all possible outcomes to prospective birth mothers.  It should be their responsibility to present every possible option available to mothers so that they can parent their children.  A mother should be counseled by a professional who has zero vested interest in the outcome.  A mother should have at her disposal her own attorney that also has no vested interest an there needs to be no conflict of interest.  It is only when the truth is presented to a mother that she can truly make a real choice about adoption.

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4 comments

  1. wackyadorablefamily

    I think this sounds right, being someone who has never taken part in traditional infant adoption. I think the only way the adoption agency could fulfill that responsibility with the existing conflict of interest would be to use their funds to contract with an outside agency at another location, and even then there would still be a financial conflict (when the majority of bmoms walk out of said agency choosing to parent, you think their contract will be renewed?). I love the attorney idea. As an attorney I would want to advise moms that resulting potential health conditions both physical and medical will not be covered by the agency, the afamily, or anyone else. Just because she’s trying to choose her child’s best interests, doesn’t mean she has to be completely unaware of her own! Maybe it would result in bmoms being able to demand full health coverage for any condition resulting from relinquishment. If you circulate a petition, I’ll sign it.

    • leenilee

      I never thought of the potential for an agency being liable for mental health post relinquishment. It’s definitely interesting. If anyone should bring about a lawsuit like that it should be the BSE moms.

      • wackyadorablefamily

        Not that they’re legally liable but more that bmoms can shop around and find an agency that will meet their needs; agencies can use that as a recruiting tool, but they won’t need to as long as bmoms don’t know there are health consequences and what they are. I was unaware of the phrase Baby Scoop Era until you said that; thanks for sharing that. Sounds similar to the 1/3 of native children being removed just because their parents were native, pre-ICWA.

      • leenilee

        Oh ok I see what you mean. Part of me thinks that the government needs to be more involved in regulating the industry. I haven’t researched that statement at all, so I’m just spit ballin’ I don’t see any way the agencies can counsel women without ethical implications. Maybe if the government required all agencies to have women counseled by outside parties and foot the bill for it? I think that would go over like a lead balloon though. Or if society canned the whole idea of profiting from adoption and made the entire institution a social service, that would probably work better. I honestly don’t know what would work, but its important to have the conversation.

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