A Map of [International] Adoption Ethics

This is a fascinating map, and an extensive, two and a half part post…but well worth the read.

This may be one of the most explicitly clear break-downs of the Land of Adoption Ethics that I’ve read in the blogging world so far.   It’s one of the first places online where I’ve seen an adoptive parent own up to the tunnel vision that can happen as a result of heartbreaking infertility.  And it’s definitely the first place I’ve seen an adoptive parent make clear that those who benefit from adoption (agencies and adoptive parents) should not be involved in the decision-making of whether an adoption should take place or not.

That’s what an ethical adoption is, to me. An ethical adoption is not about how many social outreach programmes an agency has. An ethical adoption is not about how wonderful and kind the agency staff are. An ethical adoption is not about how great the kids are, or how well they fit their new families. An ethical adoption is not (necessarily) about waiting the longest for a referral. An ethical adoption is certainly not the very best possible thing that could happen to child. An ethical adoption is about the people who benefit from adoption staying on their own side of the wall. 

So, who are these people? I think there are two main players on one side of the wall. I’d say that prospective adoptive parents (PAPs) and adoption agencies are the key beneficiaries of international adoption. PAPs have an obvious emotional investment in the process, adoption agencies have a financial interest.

I know, I know, nobody is allowed to ‘profit’ from adoption, but there are a lot of people who make a living from it without, strictly, turning a ‘profit’. This is totally legal, and I’d say that mostly it’s totally fine. Homestudies need to be done, and someone has to do them. Dossiers need to be collated, and someone has to collate them.  Later, children need to be cared for, and someone has to do that caring. Even the nannies in the baby homes are, in some small way, benefiting from adoption as agency employees. There’s nothing immoral about making a modest living from doing honest work involved in the adoption process, as long as those people who benefit stay on their own side of the wall. 

And there’s more:

Ethical doesn’t mean good. Ethical doesn’t mean wise. Ethical doesn’t mean that adoption is win-win. It doesn’t mean that  everybody is always happy with what happened. But I’d say the minimum is that an ethical adoption picks up the pieces of a tragedy that has already happened  to a child – the loss of his or her parents. An ethical adoption is never an active part of making that loss happen. An ethical adoption takes a bad situation (kid with no family) and makes it – hopefully – better (new family). Ethical adoption is not the reason the bad situation happens in the first place.

Read the rest here.


If every adoptive parent understood how important this is, I think that somewhere on that map would be a land, larger than exists today, called “The Field of Mutual Respect and Understanding”.  Thanks, Claudia, for taking the time to articulate your thoughts and post them to the world, where there are bound to be people who disagree and call you all kinds of names for not thinking the “right” way about things.  As a transnational, transracial adoptee (who may or may not be called “angry and bitter” by others), I appreciate this.  A lot.


2 responses to “A Map of [International] Adoption Ethics

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