The Future of Adoption

Experts have been making recommendations for a long time, as you can see for yourself below, about how adoption can better serve adoptees.

"The treatment of the child as a commodity for the adoption market is no more evident than in the cases of independent placements in states where little or no professional regulation is mandated.  But even with agency placements, particularly public agencies, the protection of the adoptee through maintenance of records, in our experience, has tended to be haphazard and at the pleasure of the individual administrator.  In recognition that adoption is a lifelong process for all parties to it, a multiplicity of services is required before and after the child's placement.  The need for these services beyond the placement should compel the provision of adequate legislation, funding and staffing, with expansion of research efforts at all levels (Baran & Pannor, Chapter 17).

In addition to increasing services and research, formal curricula should be developed in order to train more adequately all whose employment bears even indirectly on adoption; in particular, training is essential for social workers, lawyers, physicians, educators, and mental health professionals. (Winkler et al., 1988).

It is important to note that in the United States, adoption--which involves some of the most sensitive, fragile, and complicated aspects of all human services--has historically been 'more completely in the hands of lay persons than any other area of social welfare'.  (Silverman & Weitzman, 1986, p.2). This has particularly been the tendency in public welfare agencies handling placements (Cole & Donley, Chapter 15.)  This is further, the problem of persisting lay attitudes among professionally trained adoption workers, for example, the assumption that the need to search implies either a criticism of the adoptive family or wish to have remained with the birth parent. (emphasis mine)

With regard to the adopted person's access to birth information, we believe that no efforts should be spared in assuring the preservation and provision of all records pertaining to the adoptee's birth and birth parentage, including hospital and updated health records.  The adoptee should have the protection of a professional adoptee advocacy team charged with representing the child at placement (if independent) and for all adoptees, available on request of any other subsequent point in the adoptee's development.  Such a team should include a jurist, a specialist in child development, and any other advocate or specialist who can make a contribution relevant to the particular adoptee's needs.  Ideally, the adoptee would have access to needed information within the context of an encounter with an adoptee-advocate, rather than in the context of 'counseling' which too easily risks a patronizing undercurrent (Smith, 1976).

With regard to the psychological needs of the adoptee, the various attempts to circumvent the open record--for example, state registries (which, for complicated reasons, relatively few birth mothers utilize) and compulsary intermediary systems--abrogate one of the most fundamental principals of social work practice, self-determination. (emphasis mine) Under such systems, the locus of control, which the search serves to remedy, remains outside the adoptee thereby keeping her in a position of passivity and dependence. (emphasis mine)  There is also the unstoppable assumption that reunions mediated by adoption workers have better outcomes than reunions worked out solely by the adoptee and birth parents themselves.

It is undoubtedly evident throughout our consideration of the theoretical, clinical, and human issues involved in the search, we take a firm and unequivocal stand that the needs of children--those who are the most vulnerable and in no way responsible for the events affecting them (in this case, the adoptee)--should take precedence over the presumed needs and alleged rights of adults.
(emphasis mine).  From this most fundamental principal follow certain conclusions as to how adoption practice must be altered if it is to serve rationally, responsibly, and compassionately.  In adoption as in other contexts of child welfare, failure to accord children priority assures the perpetuation of needless emotional suffering from generation to generation.

We would finally note the bizarre paradox that the foster care system determinedly maintains the biological tie at all costs, even at risk of continued neglect or even abuse for the child.  The system of adoption with legal transfer of the child's ownership, however, determinedly severs the biological tie at all cost, even at risk of potential lifelong complications for the adoptee (Triseliotis, 1984).

The search therefore constitutes  the adoptee's attempt to repair a sense of loss, relieve the sense of disadvantage, consolidate identity issues including body image and sexual identity, resolve cognitive dissonances, internalize the locus of control, and satisfy the most fundamental need to experience human connectedness."*

*The Psychology of Adoption, pp. 88-89, 1990, edited by David M. Brodzinsky, Associate Professor of Development and Clinical Psychology Rutgers University, Marshall D. Schecter, Professor of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry of Pennsylvania School Medicine (Emeritus)

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