As I continue this series of looking back at what I’ve learned over the years, today I’m going to pick on some people that I know and love and a lot of them that I really respect.     So, take this in the manner it’s intended – some honest thoughts about struggles and weaknesses that many organizations have.

Let’s talk about adoption agencies.   12 years ago, if you had asked me this question,  “Do adoption agencies ever do things that aren’t in the best interest of the kids they are supposed to care for?”

My immediate response would have been,  “I don’t think so!”

I thought, at that point, that adoption agencies are totally selfless, always looking out for the kids, always doing what’s right, always putting the needs of the kids first.   I thought, also, that adoption agencies and the people who work at adoption agencies were the experts.   They always knew what they were talking about, they always knew what was the best thing to do for the kids and also knew how to navigate the system in the best way possible for the best outcome.

Let’s face it, I was naive.  I didn’t have a solid view of what was really happening.   I know a lot more now than I did then.   And I know that there are a lot of really good people who work for adoption agencies.    And there are a lot of really good agencies who are doing a lot of really good things.

But, I’ve also learned some things that aren’t so positive about adoption agencies.   Things that I didn’t know about when I started down this road of life.   Please note, these are general thoughts and are not aimed at one particular agency or any person in specificity…….

  • Adoption agencies quite often focus on only two thirds of the parties involved in an adoption – there are the birth parents, the child and the adoptive parents.    For the adoptive parents to be able to or need to adopt a child, something has to happen to the birth parent.    That “something” is either death or extreme sadness and tragedy.    Adoption agencies don’t do nearly well enough in acknowledging that portion of the triad and helping everyone deal with the issues and the ramifications that might have in the future.   This is most common in international adoptions, less common in foster care adoptions and even less of an issue in domestic infant adoptions.
  • Adoption agencies want families for “their” children and tend to under prepare their adoptive parents for the challenges that adoptive parenting might bring.   I couldn’t tell you how often adoptive parents have told me, “My agency never warned me that………. could happen.”    That’s not fair to the parents, that’s not fair to the child and it causes a lot more heartache and wounded souls than it should.
  • Sometimes money causes or encourages adoption agencies to do things that are, in the long run counter productive.
  • Adoption agency staff don’t know everything.    Well, that’s a pretty obvious one, isn’t it?    I mean, they aren’t perfect, they are human too.
  • Adoptive parents who are waiting for their child(ren) would rather hear, “I don’t know, let me find out and get back to you” than they would to hear a “guess” that ends up being wrong.
  • Adoptive parents in process would also rather hear,  “I don’t have anything new to report” than to not have their questions responded to.
  • Adoption agencies should stop talking about unicorns, rainbows and butterflies.    Happily ever after rarely happens.   Deal with it, prepare for it and go make someone’s life better.
  • Adoption is only one piece of the puzzle on how to solve the orphan crisis.    It’s a crucial piece of the puzzle but it’s not the whole answer.    So adoption agencies should not act like they are the total answer to the entire problem.

Am I against adoption?    Absolutely not.   I believe that every child needs a family, every child deserves a family and there are many times where a child’s biological family is no longer able to be that family for them.   That’s when adoption is needed and is a wonderful thing.

Am I against adoption agencies?   Absolutely not.    They do very important work and the vast majority of them do it extremely well.

But there are many things that I know about adoption agencies now that I didn’t know 12 years ago.    And most of those things would have been good to know.

Tom