Adoption Carnival: What Do You Want Reformed?

This post was originally published on on January 29, 2010. Republished here with permission.

MSG_ASoS_CarouselHorseThe topic for Grown in My Heart’s Adoption Carnival V:

Adoption Reform means so many things because we all come from different parts of the adoption community. To you reform may mean making original birth certificates available to every adoptee, to me it may mean making all countries Hague compliant.

Almost everyone involved in adoption believes that the adoption community needs some reform.

So, tell us what you want reformed.

I’ve written about this topic before. I believe that the United States needs one set of adoption laws for private domestic adoption, one for foster care, and one for foster adoption. Currently, different states – even different counties – have different laws. For example, if my son had been born in one county of Missouri, the judge in that county did not allow out-of-state adoptions, so we could not have been able to adopt him at all. Our son’s mother had to move to another county to be sure to deliver there.

I know from friends who have adopted via the foster care system that adopting from another county is difficult, and adopting from another state takes perseverance. Social workers are overworked, the patchwork of laws are confusing to navigate, and some individual judges take liberties as well.

Mothers should have a reasonable amount of time after the child’s birth to decide whether or not to choose adoption. If that amount of time is going to be longer than health insurance will allow the baby to remain in a hospital, then there need to legal options as to where the baby goes during that period. Right now, some states force “cradle care”, while others allow the prospective adoptive parents to take the child home. The problem here is to balance the need for serious consideration with the baby’s need for bonding with his permanent family. If medical issues arise, the situation can get more onerous.

In the same vein, birth mother expenses need to be addressed. Some states do not allow adoptive parents to pay for any expenses, some allow them up to a certain amount, and some allow them without much oversight. In any event, the adoptive parents forfeit the expenses if the mother chooses to parent.

Some people argue that profit should be taken out of the equation. I’d like to research this more. Although it sounds good, I don’t believe that a fully functional adoption system could exist in a completely non-profit setting. A federal cap on agency and attorney fees may be a more reasonable step in the right direction. The practice of racial discounting must stop. Instead of basing fees on the race of the child, base them on the actual cost of services (what a concept!) and on the adoptive parents’ income.

Some states restrict who can adopt. As far as I’m concerned, any single adult or married couple who are 18 years older than the child they want to adopt and can pass a home study should be eligible to adopt. I believe it was South Dakota that had a law on the books that made adoptions of children by homosexuals null and void in their state. So, if you adopted in California and were driving through South Dakota for some reason, your kids weren’t yours. Fortunately, someone decided that was a bad idea, and the law was struck down. Furthermore, I know of at least one heterosexual, single man who would make a great dad, but agencies won’t work with him simply because he’s male. Numerous studies have shown that having a family is more important to children than who happens to head that family.

And then there’s the home study. It seems that every agency has its own requirements. While I would like to see some leeway, I do believe that the basics of what constitutes a home study should be defined on a federal level. What exactly does “education” mean? For some, it’s classes that you must take in person, for a fee, over the course of several weeks or months. For others, it’s a seminar or two. For us, we had to read a few books and get CPR certified.

All adoptees should have access to their original birth certificates. If birth parents are truly concerned about being contacted, there must be a way to indicate if the particular birth parent is open to contact or not. However, I do  believe that a person has an inherent right to know who gave birth to her, especially as we discover that genetics plays such an important role in one’s health.

I’d also like to see enforceable open adoption agreements. There are greater ramifications of those though, and I keep meaning to devote a post to them.
I’ve focused solely on domestic adoption, because that’s what I know. Much remains to be done in all arenas.

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