How I Feel About Pact: It’s Complicated

Recently, “Her” at Parents of Color Seek Newborn to Adopt asked people for their experiences with Pact, An Adoption Alliance. This post reminded me that I’ve been meaning to blog about our experience with Pact. As you can see by the title, it was not a good one. However, when I reflect on our experience, we didn’t so much have a negative experience with Pact as a whole, but with their Director, Beth Hall. I think it’s important to make that distinction.

Some people I trust had glowing reports of using Pact to adopt their children. One friend is a member and really loves what they have to say, and the activities they plan (although they live out of state, so they haven’t been able to attend anything). I read more about them. They specifically asserted on their web site that they allowed prospective adoptive parents (PAPs) to select the sex of their child. They became our #1 choice

On March 10, 2010, I requested Pact’s prospective adoptive parent information. The packet stated that Caucasian PAPs were required to have an adoption consultation and to take the Building Communities Across Cultures (BCAC) class. On March 25, 2010, I emailed Martha Rynberg, then Pact’s transracial adoption contact, and asked if we should do the BCAC first. Beth Hall responded that we could do either first, but she recommended doing the adoption consultation first. At that time, we sent in our Consultation Fee Agreement and our $300.

We attended Pact’s PAP Orientation on May 13, 2010. We were both very impressed with Ms. Rynberg and with Malaika Parker, another Pact employee.

At some point in the spring, we were told that, in fact, we did have to start with the BCAC, not the regular adoption consultation. So, we did the paperwork for the BCAC… Only to be told in July 2010 that they were changing the course and we’d have to do entirely new paperwork.

It took us until August 31 to complete the new BCAC work. We sent in our paperwork and the $350 fee. We set up a meeting for September 28, 2010. Our home study was completed by The Family Network on September 24, 2010. On September 25, 2010, Beth Hall sent out Pact’s “New Policy Regarding Gender Selection.” It stated:

“I wanted to write to all of you who are in process with Pact to let you know that after thoughtful consideration Pact is no longer working with families who are only open to adopting one gender of child and not the other.”

Attached to the message was probably the rudest, most presumptuous communique I’ve ever received from an adoption professional. Titled, “Gender Wars in Adoption – the Myth of Choosing” it equated selecting sex with baby shopping. This document merits its own blog post, so I won’t go into it in depth about it here. Keep in mind, however, that Pact allows families to select a child’s race, and to specify risk factors – disabilities, possible problems, special needs the parents want to avoid. None of that is baby shopping, but choosing a child’s sex is.

I immediately wrote to Beth and asked if they would be grandfathering PAPs who had already paid their fees and were already working with Pact. We paid our Pact consultation fee at the end of March 2010. We had been told to start with the adoption consultation, but that information was incorrect. Then, we were given old files for the BCAC and had to redo the work. At no point in time did Pact ever communicate that they were thinking of changing their policy on sex selection. I hoped that, because we had been working with Pact for 6 months, that they would honor their original policy.

Beth wrote back:

I believe that at this point you are working with us to complete your pre-adoption consultations, and have not actually become a placement client yet.

Of course, the only reason we hadn’t yet become a “placement client” was because Beth gave us incorrect information in the first place, and someone had given us old paperwork in the second place.

Her email message also stated:

We have come to a place of feeling that we cannot do ethical work for children and be part of this kind of preference and as such it is not about exempting anyone from this “rule.” If you are not comfortable with Pact because of this change, you certainly don’t have to work with us.

So now, I’m unethical because I want to select the sex of my child.

I asked for a refund of the $650 that we had given Pact. Beth refunded the $300 for the adoption consultation, but, in a phone conversation on September 28, refused to refund the $350, because Pact had already done some work on our BCAC materials. During the conversation, Beth launched into an unprompted lecture about sex selection in adoption. I can’t remember exactly how she phrased it, but she said something to the effect that PAPs want control in adoption because of the lack of control they have over infertility and fertility treatments. I can’t remember if I actually cut her off there or not – I think I did, with “I’m not infertile. Adoption was our first choice.” She also said that parents who specified gender had “expectations” for their children, and if gender selection was important, those parents should adopt from foster care.  She went on about what if the ultrasound was wrong, and I couldn’t help saying, “Then allow PAPs who want to specify gender to only accept baby born situations.” She said, “Well, we’d never do that” in a way that implied baby born situations were somehow inferior to pre-birth matches. (I found that interesting, because a small, but vocal, amount of people in the adoption community find pre-birth matching to be inherently coercive.) During the call, I very much felt that Beth assumed I had no knowledge of adoption or the issues that surround it. She assumed I was a clueless newbie, when, in fact, I had been researching adoption since 2003, was an adoptive parent to a biracial child, had immersed myself in the adoption community, and, at the time, I even wrote a blog for adoption.com.

The phone call ended with us not getting our $350 back. Because we had paid it, we were Pact members, and we received all of Pact’s newsletters, email messages, and so on.

I have always found Pact’s materials to be pretentious. But, as I’ve said on forums and lists, when your Director wrote the book on transracial adoption, I guess you can afford to be pretentious. I think they make some very good points, but they assume that their audience needs to be hit over the head to recognize issues in adoption. Often, I feel that they are presenting the Bible of Adoption According to Pact. If you can look past that, then you’re really getting a lot of good information.

This isn’t actually the end of it. After we came home with Cassie, we received an actual letter from Pact that asked why we hadn’t done the BCAC class. I decided to take one last shot at getting our money back. I received the following from Beth:

In terms of the refund you are asking for, we offered services for which you voluntarily signed up – according to our records you scheduled an appointment that you canceled with little notice.

This made me very angry. We did not voluntarily sign up for the BCAC – it was a requirement to adopt through Pact. Then, Pact, without any notice, changed their policy on sex selection, three days before our scheduled appointment. I said as much to Beth, and I added:

You didn’t know anything about me or my family. You simply decided I was a clueless adoptive parent who needed a lesson.
My husband wants nothing further to do with Pact, ever. I think Pact provides valuable services and education. I would like to someday be able to take advantage of those. I think my children would benefit. First, we need to get past how badly we were treated. I’m not sure when that’s going to be.
To her credit, Beth wrote a very nice apology, probably the best I’ve received from anyone other than my husband. She offered to roll our money over to any class in 2012 or 2013.
Max won’t have anything to do with Pact again. I’m just not sure… I don’t even know how I would speak to Beth if I saw her at a Pact function. I don’t want to get in an argument, I don’t really want to talk this out anymore. I think Pact Family Camp sounds awesome, not that we could do it until Cassie is older. I think some of their conferences sound very interesting. I haven’t really had the time to take advantage of anything this past year, but that’s a poor excuse. If my kids really could benefit from Pact, I owe it to them to try and establish a positive relationship.
Recently, a friend of mine and her husband adopted through Pact, and she had glowing words to say about Pact and Beth in particular.
I do think Pact is an ethical adoption entity. I do think they provide good services for a price that isn’t completely outrageous. I think they’re pretentious and somewhat hypocritical, but those are really small problems for an adoption organization to have. So I would recommend Pact, despite our negative experience.
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7 thoughts on “How I Feel About Pact: It’s Complicated

  1. Wow! Thanks so much for writing this post. I’m sorry to hear that you had that experience, but I’m happy that you are willing to give a clear and non-emotional explanation of your experience for others. I really appreciate you sharing your story. =)

  2. It sounded like, “Just the facts, ma’am”. I appreciate that. Sometimes when people share, it’s so tinged with emotion that I can’t really understand what happened. Every aspect of the story is clogged with their perspective. In your description I can understand what happened and choose for myself how I might feel if I was faced with those situations. Thank you. =)

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