Thursday, January 7, 2010

Adoption Agency Uniformity for Adopters?

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?


Anonymous said...

I don't know about that. The same US constituition that provides no right to adopt also ensures that adoption must proceed only under statutory authority, and that individuals cannot make these agreements themselves, individually and privately. While I agree there is no “right” to adopt, what people generally mean when they use that phrase is the “right to be considered” for adoption. On that basis, I see no place for discrimination when it comes to applying to be a foster parent or adoptive parent. The “pass” anti-adoption and adoption-reluctant people give such discrimination, all in the name of reducing adoption (because that is their real goal) is quite ugly in my view. You say discrimination has no place when it comes to apartments and jobs; in fact, discrimination, has no place anywhere. In any case, foster children with parents whose rights have been terminated would not fit under your plan so well either. Their parents wouldn't be available to “request” their favorite family. Nor should they be allowed to do so in most instances.

maryanne said...

Agencies that get federal and state funding, including religious agencies, should not be allowed to discriminate on the basis of religion or sexual orientation. If they want to deal only with their own religious group or not consider gay parents, they should be privately funded by their own denomination and accept no state or federal funding. That is only fair. of course they can still have legitimate criteria for whom they will place a child with, but being the wrong religion or being gay or single are not by themselves real criteria for who makes a fit parent.

Mothers placing though any agency should be made fully aware that their child may not be placed with a Jewish family just because the dealt with a Jewish agency, or a Catholic family if it was Catholic Charities etc. In the past this was especially true if the child was mixed race or handicapped. Mothers should also be aware that while their wishes for a certain religion may be considered, they cannot be guaranteed, depending on circumstances, and that gay, lesbian, and single parents will be considered for some children.

Parents whose parental rights are involuntarily terminated by the state should have no say in who gets the child. Those voluntarily surrendering should do so with full informed choice, including that once the child is the property of the agency, they can place them with any parent they deem fit.

AdoptAuthor said...

Yes, state and federal funding comes with those caveats, as well it should, however adoption agencies DO routinely age discriminate, do they not? Why does that not violate their right to such funding? Why is that considered perfectly allowable? Would you want them forced to allow people over 50 to adopt? According to the question being posed that i quoted atop my post - these issues are up for current debate, not cut in stone.

**US constituition that provides no right to adopt also ensures that adoption must proceed only under statutory authority, and that individuals cannot make these agreements themselves, individually and privately***

Hmmmm???? Is that so? As MaryAnne said previously, I aint no constitutional ttorney either, but I think you might be mistaken on that. Private adoptions occur on a daily basis with any agency. Two people find one another through newspaper ads, online, at the supermarket, through friends or doctors and have the adoption finalized with the assistance of an attorney. I believe that is legal in most states, but will get back to you on that.

However, even when an agency is involved, these days, mothers have far ore say in choosing the parents of their child than we did. They may be making decisions based on BS "facts" and photos and the bios they are looking at may be totally made up...but they are selecting their child's adopters and most often meeting them beforehand. Thus the right to chose is in their hands.

Obviously those who have their rights terminated by the state lose that ability and the state then has custody of the children and in such cases *AS I SAID* the best parents for each child should be selected and in some cases that may be a same sex couple. I did say that, you know! I said that especially for gay kids, they may be a far better choice than any other parents, for instance. They have also been shown to be more accepting of HIV children for whom parents are very much needed and they should obviously not be excluded.

BTW - New South Wales just outlawed gay adoptions.

AdoptAuthor said...

It may just be that they gay community is moving a bit too fast. i think the world needs to accept gay marriage FIRST since adoption has always preferred married couples and gay marriage was just turned down in both NY and NJ as well as overturned in CA - 3 of the countries most liberal states. Just my opinion. Change generally occurs slowly and they seem to want it all all at once. Within our lifetimes being gay has come a very long way from being a total secret to where it is today with politicians being open abut their status. A transgendered person just got a high raking federal position. Seems they are progressing quicker than Blacks or women did!

Look how long adoptees have been struggling for equality and what teeny tiny baby steps they have made in that direction.

I am not sure who **The “pass” anti-adoption and adoption-reluctant people** are, having never heard the term "pass" before, and I cannot speak for anyone but myself. My views on this issue are not to reduce adoptions, they are to keep adoption child-centered and put the interests of the child over that of any alleged "rights" of others - other than those who still maintain their rights as parents to make decisions and choices for their children.

For me it is an issue that does not concern me one way or the other. I am neither pro nor con any groups specific right to adopt because there is not right to adopt. If a group feels they are being discriminated against, then that is THEIR issue. Perhaps, as I said, the AARP with initiate a campaign to fight for the rights of the elderly to adopt!

I am concerned about the rights of mothers and families in crisis and the rights of those already adopted. The gay movement seems large and powerful enough without my help. I have used their movement many times in my writing and speaking as an example to adoptees because they are such an organized force. Here in NJ they came out in the hundreds to protects and support the passage of their legislation. Where are adoptees doing that for their rights?

AdoptAuthor said...

As promised, the following is from:

Most States allow "nonagency" placements of children for adoption, often referred to as "private" or "independent" adoption. One type of private adoption allowed in most States is the "direct placement" of a child by the birth parent with an adoptive family. Many States that allow direct placement have detailed statutory regulation in order to protect the interests of the parties to the adoption.

Approximately 10 States require that all adoptive placements be made by the State Departments of Human or Social Services or child placing agencies that are licensed by the State or meet certain standards. In four of these States, Florida, Kentucky, Minnesota, and Rhode Island, parents who wish to make private placements must first obtain permission from the Department or the court.

maryanne said...

Age of parents has direct bearing on whether they are likely to be around long enough to raise a child. Sexual orientation of the parents has no bearing on ability to raise a child. Neither does marital status of the parent, per se. Age "discrimination" does have a place in determining whether people are fit parents for an infant.

Children placed through agencies, not privately, with gay or single parents are very seldom white healthy newborns vountarily surrendered by young single mothers, so concern about what the mothers wanted does not enter into the picture.

AdoptAuthor said...

I agree. But if you are going to use federal or state funding as a reason adoption agencies cannot discriminate, how do you allow it one are and not another? Seems to me they either are found not able to discriminate in any way to receive such funds or not. I cannot see bending constitutional law that bars discrimination to say it's ok to discriminate based on age but not other criteria. But still not constitutional lawyers here - either of us! :-) So this will be up to the courts to decide.

As for your conclusion about agency vs private adoptions, please do not make the assumption that agency adoptions are necessarily state agencies that are placing older "special needs" children from foster care.

Today, the majority of adoptions are transnational agency adoptions. As such, you are correct that the mothers of these children have no say in where or with whom they are placed.

The children being adopted transnationally are deemed "abandoned" and or "orphans" although it has been reported that most have never seen an orphanage.

Adoption is demand driven and it is the demand that creates the supply. Inasmuch as adoption is supposed to find homes for children and not children for those who cannot have their own, I have no concern whatsoever of the alleged "rights" of anyone wanting a child - no matter what their age or sexual orientation. There are far more people seeking to adopt than there are children - that is why children are being kidnapped and stolen to meet the demand.

AdoptAuthor said...

Adoptees' rights are being ignored

It appears very clear that Speaker Joseph Roberts will not remove his foot from the neck of the adoption community and that adoption reform is dead in New Jersey. To add insult to injury, the adoption community has to listen to reports on how hard the Legislature is working on other civil rights issues such as gay marriage and medical marijuana legislation.

Democratic leaders such as Sen. Stephen Sweeney have stated very clearly that if a bill has the votes, does not increase spending, and has already been approved in one house, it should get voted on in the lame-duck session. Bill A752, the Adoptees Birthright Bill, is the only piece of legislation that satisfies all three of these requirements. No action on this bill will confirm the reality that a bill does not move on merits alone; it must also satisfy a powerful special-interest group or a powerful politician.

The health-care component of A752 provides a means for adoptees to gain access to their family medical history. It has been well established that knowing your family medical history can save your life. Without passage of A752, adoptees will continue to live an endangered life, faced with treatment options rather than prevention of inherited diseases.

While our Legislature ponders whether citizens should be allowed to grow their own marijuana or have to buy it, adoptees will wonder if they had access to their medical history, maybe they would not need marijuana in the first place. The lame-duck session has proven to be just that: lame.

Peter W. Franklin,


The writer is founder of (AWOL).

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