Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Workshop 1.3, Part I: Ensuring Ethical Relinquishing Practices

Ethics and Accountability Conference
Sponsored by Ethica and Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute
October 15-16, 2007

Bullet points for discussion during this workshop:
  1. What elements should be included in true options counseling?
  2. What should the rights of relinquishing mothers and fathers be?
  3. What is an appropriate time period during which relinquishing parents should be able to reverse their decisions to place their children for adoption?
  4. How can informed consent to adoption be assured?
  5. What services can be put into place to protect the rights of relinquishing parents?


Melissa Griebel is the Vice President of Ethica, Inc. The mother of two boys, both adopted through domestic, transracial adoptions, she enjoys open adoptions with both sons’ birth families. Melissa, who has served on the Foster Care Review Board for Pima County, Arizona and who moderates two forums addressing domestic adoption issues, has a strong interest in the ethics of domestic adoption, and a special interest in the issues that affect transracial adoptees and their families.

Frederick F. Greenman Jr. is the legal advisor and former Director to the American Adoption Congress and the Treasurer and a director of the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute. Senior counsel to amici curiae in the historic case, Doe v. Sundquist, upholding the 1995 Tennessee Adoption Act, he also assisted counsel in the Does v. Oregon, upholding the ballot initiative and statute which granted adoptees from Oregon access to their original birth certificates. His interest in the subject stems from having surrendered a daughter for adoption at her birth and with whom he reunited 15 years ago.

Jini L. Roby, JD, MSW, MS an attorney and social worker, is an associate professor of social work at Brigham Young University, where she researches and teaches global issues of children at risk, including those who are adopted. She is a former adoption social worker, president of the Utah Adoption Council, founder and director of an agency to prevent and treat child abuse, and a guardian ad litem attorney for children in the public child welfare system. She has assisted several governments of sending countries to establish laws, regulations, and services to birth families contemplating adoption.

Susan Livingston Smith , Program & Project Director of the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute, is a leading scholar in the field of post-adoption services. A licensed clinical social worker and Emerita Professor of Social Work at Illinois State University, she has published books and numerous articles in scholarly journals.

Fred Greenman: Speaking on Question 1: What elements should be included in true options counseling?
  • I am a birthfather
  • For the best information on this panel's topic. I recommend reading the article Adoption Consents: Legal Incentives for Best Practices by Elizabeth J. Samuels, Adoption Quarterly, Volume 10, Number 1, 7 March 2007

    [Fleasbiting note--Adoption Quarterly charges $35 for a copy of the article. Another article on the same subject by the same author is available for free download at: "Time to Decide? The Laws Governing Mothers' Consents to the Adoption of Their Newborn Infants," by Elizabeth J. Samuels of the University of Baltimore School of Law Fleasbiting will also eventually be publishing notes from Conference Workshop 2.3 where Elizabeth Samuels was one of the panelists.]

  • A few remarks on the subject that Elizabeth Samuels covered so well:
    • Those who counsel birthparents should understand and make sure their clients understand:
      • The emotional consequences of relinquishing a child can be huge. As a birthfather I had 30 years of insomnia as the result of relinquishing my daughter (and that is mild compared to what other birthparents have suffered)
      • Expectant parents considering a surrender become almost "infantile"--that is, they become submissive, out of control of their emotions, and un-adult like in the way that they make decisions.
        • I certainly was.
        • At the time I surrendered my daughter, I had served three and a half years in the military on active duty; I had gone to officers' candidate school: I was a first lieutenant; I was a second year law student. I was certainly an adult and had seen and done many things as an adult. Presumably I knew quite a bit.
        • And yet I behaved like an infant; I was submissive and not in control of my emotions. And that is typical
      • Anecdotally, Samuel's article tells about a Kansas legal case in which a woman behaved in a similarly "infantile" fashion
        • It was the Friday before Christmas, she had just given birth, and the hospital was closing; the social worker and everyone else was pressuring her for a quick decision to surrender and so she gave in.
        • She was in her late 20's, a college graduate, a licensed professional--and yet she gave into the pressure of the situation; she didn't have the strength to insist that she be allowed to wait and make the momentous decision in her own time frame
        • The next morning, having changed her mind and decided to keep her baby, she called the adoptive family--because she couldn't reach the agency--and the adoptive mother told her something on the order of...Sorry--we've bonded with the baby and we're keeping it--Merry Christmas!
        • The birthmother fought the case through the Kansas courts and ultimately it went to US Supreme Court which eventually denied cert.--that is, the US Supreme Court declined to hear case. That meant that the lower state opinion was left to stand
        • The lower Kansas state opinion had affirmed the adoption and had refused to allow the birthmother to reclaim her child
  • People in this situation are extremely vulnerable--no matter what their education, no matter what their background

Susan Livingston Smith: Question 2: What should the rights of relinquishing mothers and fathers be?

  • Safeguarding the Rights and Well-being of Birthparents in the Adoption Process."is a report I authored that was published by the Evan B. Donaldson Institute in November 2006. It delineated critical standards in regard to expectant parents who are considering placing their children for adoption
  • Expectant parents need to be fully informed of all their options and rights. They need to be aware of the resources available to them. They should be helped to formulate alternate plans--plans for parenting their child. They should be helped to understand their legal rights. Etc.
  • Absolutely most importantly of all, expectant parents need to be helped to understand the implications of all the above. This is sometimes harder than it seems.
    • People in this situation are in shock; even the obvious long term implications of these decisions aren't necessarily clear to them. Even things that seem fairly straightforward need to be explained
    • This is especially true when adoption is not something in the expectant parent's previous experience.
    • Anecdotally, the importance and long term implications for something like, say, choosing an adoptive family isn't necessarily clear to an expectant parent in this situation.
      • A young college student became pregnant and, being in a state of denial throughout her whole pregnancy, told absolutely no one until she delivered.
      • In the hospital recovery room she called a social worker in order to give her baby up for adoption. While the mother was still under the influence of drugs from birth, the SW came to the hospital and told the young woman that she could choose the adoptive family or the family could be chosen for her. The young mother said, "Well, you choose them."
      • In shock and under the influence of drugs, hearing something for the first time, how could she understand the implications make an informed choice? It is hard to understand the implications of anything the first time you hear about it. It takes time to process information/think through all the implications of info you are given. It is hard to process information in this kind of crisis situation.
      • In this anecdotal story, for example, the idea of picking a family for your child is potentially very significant. This young woman needed to know that picking a family for her child could have been incredibly empowering to both the adoptee and the adoptive family--to know that the birthmother specifically chose them for each other is empowering to both.
    • Explaining, understanding, and processing the significance, implications, and life-long consequences of these decisions is a process that can't be done quickly or in an encyclopedic way. It takes time. It's hard in the situation

  • Parents should make decisions free from coercion or pressure
    • Again, it is not enough to know facts, but parents must accurately understand the implications of these facts.
    • It is a truism that laws shape practice--but sometimes when people are uninformed of the law and its implications, that shaping is to the detriment. This is true of birthparent rights--if the implications of the laws are not understood.
      • If a law says that surrender CAN be taken on the fourth day after childbirth, it means that surrender can't be taken before the fourth day. But it does NOT mean that a parent must sign on the fourth day--or make a final decision on the fourth day, as if it were some kind of final once-and-for-all-you-have-to-make-a-decision-today deadline.
      • Oftentimes when a parent is told that there are four days til signing, they think that they HAVE to sign a relinquishment on the fourth day. And no one tells them any differently. They don't understand that they don't have to sign then--that they could take more time, decide when they're ready, and then sign/not sign on their own time schedule.

  • Parents should have the right to receive non-directive counseling and independent legal representation.
    • It is a right, but not one that is provided for or a condition of a valid relinquishment--that is, almost nowhere is it a real REQUIREMENT.
    • Therefore, very few birthparents get both non-directive counseling and independent representation. Yet in terms of ethical practice, all should be getting both.
      • Most states say that you have to inform the expectant parent as to their right to counseling or legal representation--but the law doesn't provide these services or the fees for them or require that those taking the relinquishment provide them
      • Louisiana is one of very few states that require both.
      • Some states may require one of the two.

  • Birthparents should have the right to change their mind at any time before consent is legally binding
    • Many times expectant parents have a sense of obligation; They'd like to change their minds, but they feel they've maybe gone too far to change their mind
    • The fact that the expectant parent can change her mind and has every right to do so, should be reiterated to everyone at every step of the adoption process
      • In situations where expectant parents meet PAP's, it needs to be reiterated to both parties that adoption is the plan right now, but that the expectant parents have every right to change their minds and might very well do so.
      • The counselor needs to constantly verbalize to the expectant parent that changing your mind is their prerogative

  • Post adoption contact agreements need to be enforced. Every state needs to have a process for enforcing post adoption contact agreements.
    • Vast majority of birthparents from whom I received emails after publishing this report said something like... I made this adoption decision based on the fact that I was told I could see my child and be a part of his/her life forever. But now the adoptive family says no, I can't see the child.
    • Making an agreement in order to get a relinquishment and then going back on that agreement after the relinquishment is given is completely unethical. We shouldn't be using contact provisions to get relinquishments and there ought to be a way to enforce contact agreements

Jini L Roby

  • In the international adoption context, the meaning of options counseling is very different
  • Any adoption agency "worth its salt" will build that into its international program options counseling--exploring options for the parents other than relinquishment and for the child, other than IA
    • In cultures outside the Western world, kinship care options is the most important--absolutely essential--option that has to be explored. It is a given.
    • Agencies must absolutely be culturally competent in the sending country in which they are working
    • Providing the option for first parents to parent their child themselves (a part of options counseling) means that the agency must help the parent find the necessary resources to make this a viable option.
      • It is true that there are varying degrees of resources available overseas in the "sending countries."
      • However, I believe--and I have seen--that finding these resources is a matter of will. Most countries do have some resources and if an agency has the will to find these resources and connect the parents with them--the resources to be able to parent their own child--can be done in most cases.
      • People say, oh, without IA these children will absolutely die. I've seen that with the will and the resources that that doesn't happen. It is a scare tactic. But there has to be a strong will (from the agency) to make it happen.
      • Birthparents can be connected to resources--they are entitled to be connected with resources.

    • As for independent legal representation, is easier said than done in many countries. Independent legal representation for the birthparent rarely happens in an IA context.
      • First, in many countries there isn't the tradition of legal representation for everyone.
      • Secondly, it doesn't happen because of the power differentials/disparity involved between first parents and adoption agencies.
      • And the agencies, feeling that their resources are already stretched, feel that they can't afford to provide independent legal counsel for the relinquishing parent.

    • Another important legal aspect is making sure that birthparents in these countries understand what it means to relinquish a child.
    • The cultural understanding is often very different as to what adoption/relinquishment means
      • Many cultures perceive that adoption is an incomprehensible lie--A lie created to say that the real parents are not parents. And they believe the truth is that behind the lie, the real parent remains the real parent.
      • In more cultures than not, the idea of the termination of parental rights is a totally foreign idea that has never been heard or practiced. Explaining what this means is therefore very important. Even with explanations, it is difficult for people to grasp in many cultural contexts. How can it be that you can say a parent is no longer a parent? How can such a thing be? And how can a non-parent be the parent now? This is a hard thing for us to understand as Westerners--how hard this idea is to grasp. Until I saw it myself, I didn't understand how hard it is for other cultures to grasp our idea of adoption.

    • Unethical practices I've seen in other countries:
      • Dynamics where those who are counseling/recruiting birthparents in other countries actually try to pit the birthparents against each other instead of ensuring that both make the decision as a parent team--and I've seen this used--are very, very unethical.
      • Carrots dangled in front of parents to induce relinquishments of children are unethical. I've seen this take many forms. We will send you gifts; we will continue to help your family; we'll send you to college; we'll send you on trips to Disneyworld; we'll keep in touch with you; we'll provide openness.
        • Especially awful are the false inducements--false carrots dangled to obtain relinquishment. Most of these promises are never followed through on.
        • Expectant parents have the right not to be defrauded. In many sending countries because of economic disparity, the US and West is thought of as being paved with gold, so they have skewed ideas of us and life here.
        • Similarly, the idea that anything could be hard there in the West, for their children, is also hard to comprehend. It is an idea as far-fetched as the idea of the fiction of judges creating new parents.

    • Birthparents should have the right to recognized as parents for a lifetime. Not just to be viewed as the biologic or genetic tools for getting the child onto the earth for the adoptive parents.
    • Finally counselors must be sensitive and recognize the pain and loss that relinquishing parents deal with. I know that as a biological mom, even imagining being separated from my child like these women are causes extreme emotional distress. We have to afford relinquishing moms the same emotional humanity.
    • Finally we should work to help birthparents live in world without shame; Where they can be accepted as having made the best decision at the time on behalf of their children

Fred Greenman
  • On contact enforcement....
    • Very few states provide for enforcement of contact agreements. Where provision isn't made, contact agreements are usually not enforceable. They ought to be, but they aren't.
      • If not enforceable in a particular state, that should be made brutally clear to the relinquishing parents.
    • Care should be taken to make sure contact agreements are done according to applicable laws. For example, many times the law says that agreements must be incorporated into adoption decrees. Anecdotally, where an agreement was not properly filed in court, birthparents are now in court fighting to have it enforced.
      • Especially important to get things right because the legal clout and money is often with AP's. It's hard/expensive for birthparents to get justice.
  • If birthparent rights were enforced by courts, much bad adoption practice would be eliminated.
    • For example, if courts enforced the rights of birthparents to rescind relinquishments during a reasonable period of time after surrender, better practice--thorough non-coercive counseling and independent legal representation--would become standard practice as an insurance to avoid later birthparent change of mind.
    • Because birthparent rights aren't taken seriously by courts, bad adoption practice is allowed to flourish.

Melissa Griebel Let's go to bullet point 3: What is an appropriate time period during which relinquishing parents should be able to reverse their decisions to place their children for adoption?

Susan Livingston Smith:
  • This is a controversial question. There are strong opinions both ways. If you work with adoptive parents, you tend to see it strongly one way. If you work with birthparents, then you tend to see the other side of the issue and feel strongly the other way.
  • One reality that shapes thinking is the availability of infant care while birthparents are struggling with this decision. This care is simply not always available everywhere in this country.
  • The waiting period between birth and the time of relinquishment:
    • The European Convention on the Adoption of Childrensigned by 18 European countries says that relinquishment for adoption can't happen prior to 6 weeks after the birth of a child.
    • Trying to be realistic, the Evan B. Donaldson Institute recommended that there ought to be a period of at least 7-10 days before a mother or father could sign a relinquishment document for a child. For 2-3 weeks following this signing of the relinquishment document there ought to be a revocation period in which a parent can change their mind without having to prove anything before a court as to why its in the best interest of the child.
    • There are now only 6 states that require at least 3 days to pass after birth before a child can be relinquished.
    • There are several states that allow relinquishment before the birth of a child, although there is a provision within these states that allow the decision to be rescinded.
    • The longest period of time in the US between the time of birth and the time of allowable relinquishment is Louisiana which requires a minimum of 5 days.
    • I asked an Obstetrics professor how long it took a woman's hormones to reach a normal level again after birth. He answered that he'd never read anything from a research point of view, but that he'd say it would take at least two weeks for the hormones released during the birth process to dissipate. The hormone flux is huge. It must take several days for a woman to be able to think more clearly without these hormones at play. Should a woman be allowed to relinquish during this time of flux? Is it fair to her and her child?

  • In terms of revocation periods...
    • There are 17 states that have a revocation period from 3 to 30 days--most on the shorter side. Very little power or lobby. In NC, the revocation period was recently shortened from 30 days to 7 days. It is a battle to get the laws to give adequate time.
    • Elizabeth Samuels wrote a wonderful article about the revocation period.

Melissa Griebel Do you know how many states allow fathers to sign before the birth or how much time they are given?

Susan Livingston Smith
  • Even ensuring that the birthparents understand that there is a revocation period, what that means, and how to revoke their consent is a problem currently.
  • I was involved in a case where a birthfather was able to get his child back because they (the agency) had not explained the revocation period to the father. The agency had placed the child before the revocation period was over and the father changed his mind within the period but the agency said--sorry, but we already placed the child. It took a judicial ruling to get the child back. But to understand how difficult even that case was and how hard it is for the average birthparent to undo a relinquishment, you should understand that this father and his family spent $200,000 in legal fees fighting to get the child back--and he had changed his mind within the legal revocation time. It is difficult to get a child back--the legal process is hard and costly. Not all birthparents can manage to do it; and not all have the resources to do so--in fact, very few do.

Melissa Griebel Let's go on to the next bullet point: How can informed consent to adoption be assured?

Susan Livingston Smith
  • I have spent time looking at ethical codes for social workers and thought about how it applies to obtaining consent from birthparents.
  • As for what consent means and how it is worked out practically...
    • Even in terms of medical consent, I for one have even stopped reading medical consent forms because they scare me to death. Things that can go wrong are spelled out.
    • But in adoption, we don't include in our thinking about informed consent/counseling/forms, the implications and long term consequences of the relinquishment decisions.
      • For example, the fact that relinquishing parents will experience long term grief.
      • Yet, similar situations require counseling and forms that spell out the implications and long term consequences.
        • What do we put surrogate parents through--the processes we require? We require counseling, etc. We ask, are you sure this is something you can do?
    • With expectant parents and adoption, by contrast, it is usually once over and lightly. Often not out of maliciousness--we perhaps think the expectant parents know what they are doing?
    • But we instead need to make sure that before someone signs a document, that they've had adequate time, they've had adequate information, they've had independent legal counsel, that they know whether the post adoption contact agreement is enforceable, that they know whether there are other people in their extended family that would like to raise this child (kinship adoption), that birthfathers have been asked if they want to raise the child
      • BTW, birthfathers should be offered every service that expectant mothers get-- expectant fathers should know that they have the right to all the same services as the expectant mothers
      • We give short shrift to the father. We often see him as an obstacle to get around. This is unethical.
  • In short, there should be a lot of quality counseling, services and decision making that goes into a informed consent decision.

Melissa Griebel
  • I've seen adoption websites that actually state that they find that fathers don't care as much about their children as mothers do.
  • There was a case about 7 years ago in Reader's Digest, etc. about a expectant father named Spenser. The agency sent him the relinquishment paperwork to sign and he refused and said he wanted the child. He was not allowed to have the child. He fought 3 years to get guardianship and to get his child back, but he never succeeded. The adopting parents were also never allowed to fully adopt the child, but received permanent guardianship. He never got the opportunity to have his child though he never wanted to sign the papers and he didn't. And no one knew quite what to do.

Susan Livingston Smith
  • In the case I talked about earlier, the birthmother who had already surrendered gave the paperwork to the birthfather--a college graduate in an exclusive relationship with the birthmother.
    • There were specific instructions with the paperwork saying that the paperwork had to be witnessed and notarized, etc.--in order for the relinquishment to be valid. And the birthfather didn't do any of that--he simply signed it.
    • And yet the court looked at none of that as a reason for the papers being invalid--they simply looked at intent--did he intend to relinquish his child?
    • And his changing his mind came clearly within the revocation period, when he also should have been able to change his mind anyway.
    • A licensed SW took short cuts and didn't do things properly.
    • Much that is not in the best interest of expectant parents passes as meeting the letter of the law when it really doesn't.
    • There's a lot that happens that is just plain sloppy. And that hurts real people.

Jini Roby
  • I'd just like to remind us that under the provisions of the constitution, parents have the right to parent their biological children but there is no right to adoption that is protected by the constitution or by any state for that matter.
    • That should give us some perspective about what informed consent means.
    • It means giving away a right that you have--that is constitutionally protected--and so how rigorous should the process be when a person is giving away that kind of a right?
    • We often talk about informed consent, but we rarely talk about voluntary consent.
      • Consent should be both informed and voluntary.
      • Informed--meaning that you know what the legal ramifications are of giving that consent--and voluntary--meaning that you have OTHER options but that you choose this option.
      • Here again, in the international context, I see that consent is often not voluntary. In the international context it is often informed. But sometimes it is not even that.
        • Working in sending countries I have seen that people who come from the US and Europe are perceived as very intimidating.
        • It is easy to feel intimidated and grant their wishes.
        • These people also see that you are powerful and that your arms ache for a child...and so there is emotional intimidation as well.

Fred Greenman
  • Informed consent...
    • I don't think you can have informed consent with the very vulnerable people we're talking about without independent counseling and independent legal counsel.
    • This independent legal counsel is required in some places, but even where it is, the attorney is usually selected and paid for by the adoption agency or the AP's.
      • And remember that this adoption agency is a business that continues--they are involved in a series of adoptions.
      • There are problems having to do with repeated hiring.
      • The party who does the hiring quickly learns which legal counsel will "be troublemakers" and which will "help speed the process along as expected."
      • It is the attorneys who are helpful to moving the process along who will be hired. And everybody knows that--the people giving the advice and counseling do too.
      • The only way to get proper informed consent for those who can't afford their own counsel in these cases will be if you have independent counsel, publicly funded--maybe something like legal aid or the public defender's office.

Melissa GriebelThis may work into the last question which we have to cover: What services can be put into place to protect the rights of relinquishing parents?

Fred Greenman
  • Well the independent legal fees coverage would certainly be my first suggestion, but also the one that Susan Livingston Smith suggested, which was that, along with a reasonable rescission or revocation period, there have to be places in which to place a child during the revocation period.
    • You cannot expect to place a child with the AP's during this period of time and then expect to yank him back.
    • The nice thing about a capitalistic system like ours is that if the law is changed and something like this is mandated and money is provided, then the need will be filled. Foster parents will be found.
    • Children were routinely placed in foster care in previous generations, for at least to six months, to be evaluated, and this could easily be reinstated.

  • As a social worker who believes in infant attachment, I wouldn't advocate placing a child in foster care for six months.
  • Research on infant development shows that it takes 6-8 months before an infant is attached to a primary caregiver.
  • However, a month of quality temporary care is not going to harm an infant. And I agree that having that required time before relinquish is allowed is something that needs to happen. But not for six months...
  • Another thing that interferes with the practice of informed consent is that many expectant parents do not contact an agency until very close to their due date.
    • When I was doing research for this paper, one agency told me that 42% of their expectant parents who relinquished didn't contact them until the last 10 days before birth or else after birth.
    • This quality work of informed consent takes time.
    • Often there is the perceived need to rush when you have a client who has already given birth or is about to give birth.
    • This reality constraint causes professionals to try to shorten the process--to get it done quickly. It would be better to slow it down.
    • It would be better to not place the child until you're sure that the parent isn't going to revoke their consent--that they've had time to make a good decision.
    • Our tendency to speed things up causes a lot of the problems that we then have to go back later and fix.

Jini Roby
  • We often think in terms of "birthparent rights" versus "best interest of children"--I think we have to stop thinking in terms of mutually exclusive categories like that.
  • We have to take a review or an overview of what adoption is meant to do.
    • Adoption is meant to create adequate SUBSTITUTES for children who are not ABLE to stay with their families of origin.
    • It behooves us to think as to how we can best protect the child's interest by protecting and preserving their families of origin.

  • When we talk about birthparent rights, we should not think of these as opposed to the rights of children to grow up in a loving family with happiness and understanding.
    • Yet I see that dichotomy all too often out in the adoption practice world. I don't know how many times I have heard agencies out there say something like this, "Oh, I can't believe that a birthmother did it to us again! In other words, she changed her mind!"

  • We have to be reminded again and again as to what the purpose of adoption is.
  • The constitutionally protected right to parent one's child and the right to self-determination and most of all the belief that children really are best cared for in their families of origin if in fact those families can be supported to do so--if the ability and capacity is there.
  • A final word about dual representation....by one single adoption agency. I am increasingly having trouble with this concept. In the legal world, one law firm is NOT allowed to represent opposing parties.
    • We don't want to think of adoption as an adversarial situation--the parties in adoption as being opposing parties, but you know what? They are. It is one of those hard truths that we have to face.
    • The fact is that only one set of parents--or opposing set of parents--will have the right to raise the child.
    • Our legal system grants exclusive or almost exclusive rights to one set of parents. Let's face this fact. It is an adversarial situation.
    • And so what are we doing, doing options counseling for expectant parents AND doing adoptions out of the SAME agency--I think it's unethical. And I think that we think very much towards doing what Fred suggested--having separate entities do options counseling for birthparents and doing adoption services to place children.

Melissa Griebel
  • I want to put in my own comment on a topic that hasn't come up yet, and that is the payment of birthparent expenses.
    • The payment of birthparent expenses is very problematic in the realm of coercion, emotional coercion, feeling of obligation, financial coercion.
    • There should a separation of where the money comes from and the prospective adoptive parents. There is a lot of controversy on exactly how something like this is set up, but I think it's really important.
    • From an ethical viewpoint, however, it's essential to take care of the needs of an expectant parent separate from the adoptive parents and the infrastructure for the adoptive parents.

Please see Workshop 1.3, Part II: Ensuring Ethical Relinquishing Practices--Question and Discussion for notes from the remainder of Workshop 1.3

1 comment:

  1. I read your entire post and found myself in a quandry like most of the APs out there. Our son came to us after a 6 week "cooling off" period where he lived with his mother and grandmother but not the rest of his family. He came to us many months old and the result of poor nutrition in the household. In that 6 week period, I don't believe the agency did much if anything to help his mother discover her options regarding improving nutrition in the household. She had 5 children and may or may not have been receiving aid from a variety of resources. We will never know how extensive her network of support was or how much assistance she had been offered by the agency. As an advocate for moms and their children in transitional housing, I feel that I could have put her in contact with more resources had I been the one she asked for assistance rather than the agency. We can tell that her son was well loved and that he suffered no abuse (or neglect other than a lack of sufficient food). It keeps me awake at night wondering if we could have kept this family together by simply directing them to better resources.

    The other thing which bothers me is that the mother checked the "annual visit" box on her form and when we inquired about scheduling the visit (we are open to and welcome contact), the agency told us that "it wasn't her intention" and that "she checked that box in error". When we asked for confirmation, the agency said they "would ask the next time she called" them. We feel as though we should take her checking this box as a sign that she knew what she was requesting and that the agency should actively contact her to confirm. We are not comfortable with their explanation. However we have no idea how to contact the mother and don't know what we should do to resolve our misgivings. The knowledge of who she is and where she was last living is not with us but with the agency. How can we get this kind of information without tipping our hand regarding what we would like to find out?

    I don't expect an answer but we are trying to do what is right and don't really know where to go next.