KEEPING THE PROMISE: The Critical Need for Post-Adoption Services to Enable Children and Families to Succeed
This week the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute published a lengthy report calling for improvement in post-adoption services.
The executive summary starts with the following observation:
Several months ago, when the media focused the nation’s attention on yet another sensational adoption story – this time about a Tennessee mother who put her 7-year-old son on a plane back to Russia – all sorts of disquieting questions flowed through people’s minds. They ranged from the rhetorical (“What kind of mother would do such a thing?”) to the important (“Are children in orphanages being adequately cared for before adoption?”) to the inadvertently stigmatizing (“If a child can be so easily `returned,’ is adoption really permanent?”).
Most child welfare and adoption professionals watched the drama with better-trained, more experienced eyes, however, and so they raised very different questions. For example: “Did the mother get accurate information about the boy before adopting, as well as training and education, so she would be prepared for the challenges of parenting a child who had been institutionalized?” And, most pointedly: “Were post-adoption services readily available to her so that she could help her son, and herself, rather than giving up?”
Apparently the well trained eyes of adoption professionals saw something the stupid sheeple overlooked. Yet nothing is further from the truth. Much of the debate among non-professionals was about post-placement services and training. Apparently the professionals don't want to talk about the not so rhetorical question: "What kind of mother would do such a thing" or the not so inadvertently sigmatizing “If a child can be so easily `returned,’ is adoption really permanent?”.
Both questions are not addressed in the report, since it's not so much a scientific investigation into the failings of the adoption system, as it is a policy piece to push for more adoption subsidies.
The question "What kind of mother would do such a thing" is an important one, because it relates to the question, "how did this person get approval for adoption?".
Nowhere in the report is any mentioning of home studies. The Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute seems to assume all problems stem from damage done to children in orphanages. While this is certainly a factor that plays a role in the outcome of adoption, it seems to completely ignore the role of adoptive families themselves. Was Lydia Schatz beaten to death because of her background in Liberia, or was she beaten to death because her adoptive parents adhered to brutal child rearing methods? Was the life punched out of Nina Hilt because she couldn't love her adoptive mother enough, or because Peggy Hilt couldn't control her all consuming urge to be a beloved mother? Did Lacey Whisenhunt somehow ask for her sexual abuse, or was she really adopted by sexual perverts? Could it be that some adopted children rightfully don't trust the family they are placed with?
The Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute doesn't address these questions. Nor does it address the other important question “If a child can be so easily `returned,’ is adoption really permanent?”. Adoption agencies are all too eager to present adoption as something rosy, calling adoptive families "forever" families. So if something started the stigmatizing, it's the adoption industry itself. The Adoption Institute may want to brush off the question, by calling it stigmatizing, but it actually is a relevant question to ask. Are adoptive parents willing to step up the plate when it is necessary? Would Tory Hansen have dumped a child born to her at the local orphanage if things hadn't turned out so great. This issue too boils down to how are people screened before adoption. Those people not willing to make a huge effort, shouldn't be allowed to adopt in the first place.
As usual the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute has delivered a report entirely written from the point of view of adoptive parents and adoption service providers. The recommendations are therefore predictable: pump more money into a failing system, and hope for better outcomes. In the mean time nothing is being done to prevent idiots and abusers from adopting. When will the Evan B. Donalson Adoption Institute start taking the best interest of children as their focal point, or is that too much to ask for?