Q: Should Congress pass a law requiring adoption agencies provide services to all potential parents, including gays, lesbians and single parents? Or should agencies continue to set their own adoption policies?
This question is being asked of social workers in light of adoption is becoming increasingly entangled in the gay rights struggle.
It seems to lead to a further conundrum: Should all adoption agencies be bound by the same rules or should religious agencies be allowed to follow their own set of standards and restrictions beyond those set by the state?
I think of myself at the time I was being pressured to relinquish my daughter. I was being convinced that my child deserved two parents: a mother and a father. That was reason number one for me to lose my parental rights, as it was for nearly all in that era. Thus, I would have been devastated, as many of us from that generation were, if I had found out that my child had been placed with or wound up being raised by, a single parent. (Gay couples did adopt at all back then. It was more unheard of than single parenting.)
Although I have never been religious and was in fact raised by parents who I jokingly refer to as non-practicing atheists, I was strongly aware of my Jewish ethnicity and as such selected a Jewish adoption agency so that my daughter would be raised in that heritage and culture. I trusted that by selecting an agency of a particular denomination, my child would be placed within that community. Not so for all who did likewise. As we collectively found out after the fact, once we sign the papers we lose all control. Our children became chattel of the agency to do with as they see fit, or shall I say what profits them most. And so, many of the babies placed with New York's most infamous Jewish agency, Louise Wise, were placed in non-Jewish homes.
So, on the one hand I believe that agencies should be able to provide specific services for those who desire such. However, if they are not going to able by the wishes of the mother anyhow, then why give them that power?
My own personal case is again enlightening. I chose an agency called Jewish Chid Care Association of New York (JCCA) now also known as Ametz. I was trying very hard to obtain the support needed to keep my daughter and delayed signing papers for six months at which time the arm twisting was too intense to resist any longer. I was told - it being 1967 - that to delay my decsion beyond six months would deem her "unadoptable" since it was a buyers market at the time with a huge inventory of infants. I was told she'd bond with her foster mother and no one would want to adopt her. In essence, sign by six months or doom her to a life of foster care. I signed.
Never during any of this process was I ever informed that she was being fostered by an Italian Catholic family in the Bronx. Mind you, I had not signed away my parental rights during this period and yet was uninformed that although I chose a Jewish agency and requested - assumed - a Jewish home for my child, that she was living in a Catholic home (albeit a very loving and caring family).
Oddly, despite the hard sell to sign by six months so she could be adopted, she was not adopted until she was a year of age. Again something I was never informed of.
Many years later, I was horrified to learn that my daughter had endured this horrible transfer at the age of a year - when she was in fact calling her foster mother Mommy. When I confronted the agency about their reason for doing this I was informed - more than a decade after - that the reason was that I requested a Jewish home for my daughter. Yes I had, but I was never asked if that criteria over-rode her remaining with a loving family with whom she had lived since birth and was very bonded....a family who despertaely wabted to adopt her.
What does all of this mean and how does it relate to the original question? I guess my feelings on the issue are that the MOTHERS who are relinquishing should have a right to selection criteria for their children while they are still their mothers and have the right to do so. They should be able to request a married man and a stay-at-home mother if that is their choice, or practicing Buddhists, an interracial couple, a single working mother, or two Daddies. Their choice - like the choice of who one dates, marries or creates a child with - is a personal one with personal criteria and not bound by laws of discrimination, civil equal rights.
But these are not the questions being asked. And when they are asked, they are not always upheld any more than requests for open adoption are...because when you relinquish your rights, you relinquish ALL of your rights.
The questions are always: how does adoption best serve the paying clientele? Can they "discriminate" against those willing to pay their fees, or should adoption be mandated like the sale of homes to be done blindly of any any discrimination?
Whose rights are paramount in adoption?
Whose rights should be paramount?
Since adoption is a privilege - not a right or entitlement - I see no reason why agencies and individuals in private adoption - cannot set criteria as they please, hopefully in the best interest of the child.
Let me be clear and forthcoming and state that is a radial as i am about adoption, I am equally as radical in all my liberal views and fully support same sex marriage as the right of adults to do as they chose. I also want to clearly state that I do not believe that either hetero- or homo-sexuals are inherently good or bad parents. I believe in fact that same sex parents may be optimal for, for instance, a gay child. I do not hold with the nonsensical and ttoally unproven mythology that homosexuality is learned nor that gay parnts would encourage it.
Discrimination based on age, sexual orientation, ethnicity has no place whatsoever in home sales or apartment rentals, employment etc. But children are not a commodity. They are human beings with their own right to the best care possible. Adoption agencies have always use selection criteria to screen who is best suited to parent based on facts such as age with precious few outcries of discrimination. I see no violation of anyone's rights in continuing to make such selection criteria based on the choices of mothers and the particular agencies religious or ethnic affiliation. I believe a Mormon agency has a right to place children only with Mormon families. I think we can no more legislate how a religious agency acts than we can legislate the dogma of their religion. If you don't agree with their beliefs, you simply pray at another house of worship or not at all. As a Jew, I would no more apply to adopt a child from an Amish adoption agency - if one existed and if I wanted to adopt - and then scream that they were discriminating against me.
I do not see adoption as part of the gay rights issues as adoption is not a right for anyone, nor as it is an age discrimination issue. The only discriminated against parties in adoption are those denied equal access to birth certificates on which they are named and i find it sad that gay rights are eclipsing that issue.
What do you think?