Monday, November 15, 2010

Adoption Awareness: Adoption Scenarios Update

Thanks to all of those that have commented on the question, "How committed are you to not take part in an adoption that includes corruption, illegalities, or unethical behaviors."

There are some very thought-provoking comments in the comments section of that post. If you aren't sure where you stand on some of these issues, please consider heading on over there to read various points of view.

For what it's worth, I'm going to share my own convictions about the scenarios I presented. I'm sure not all will agree. I do tend to take a pretty legalistic view on adoption when it comes to an agency's role. I think this is most likely due to the fact that I was horribly naive and took part in a corrupt adoption program during our first adoption, without knowing it. I've got a life time of "making up" to do. I do feel very convicted to be vocal about corruption, because I don't want another family (and certainly not a family I am charged with assisting) to have to live with the guilt I have to live with. I do place a very high degree of responsibility on an agency to always err on the side of caution with ethically gray areas. If our agency in Cambodia had done that, our family would have been saved from a lot of pain. They should have done more to protect against corruption, or they should have gotten out of the "business" of adoption all together.

  • Scenario 1: Would I allow my adoption to proceed if I knew there was one falsified signature?

AS A PARENT: Maybe. It would depend on whose signature and why it was falsified. Judge? Obviously not! Someone's statement about how my child's birth father died, who couldn't travel 13 hours to sign the document and gave statement over the phone? Probably so.

AS AGENCY REP: Nope. It creates a precedence for the next adoption. It's a slippery slope. And I won't be responsible for deciding to falsify anything on another child's adoption.

  • Scenario 2: Would I go forward if I knew that a previously unknown parent had been found, and had not given permission for the adoption.

AS A PARENT: No. Never.

AS AGENCY REP: No. Never. No matter how what I think of the parent, he/she has a right to their child unless the legal system within the country has taken away parental rights.

  • Scenario 3: As long as you aren't doing it, is it okay for the agency to do something unethical?

AS A PARENT: No, but since I'm not the one doing it I might put it out of my mind and tell myself I couldn't have done anything about it.

AS AGENCY REP: I have to change this question a bit to say, "Is it okay if my in-country team does something unethical as long as I'm not personally involved?" No. On one hand I cannot be held accountable for something I don't know about it. On the other hand, I AM responsible to do whatever is needed to protect against it happening (through training and many tough questions). If it does happen, I'm responsible to do whatever is possible to never have it happen again (stop working with the person, insist they go back and make it right, etc.).

  • Scenario 4: How much do you accept the statement, "This is just how it's done in Ghana. Gifts are expected."

AS A PARENT: That statement is a beautiful justification for me to turn a blind eye to bribery. I might want to do just that, since it is the culture and all. I don't really accept the statement deep down, but I could use it to wash away any potential blame that could come upon me for corrupt practices within my adoption.

AS AGENCY REP: I detest this statement. I feel it is the single biggest cop out that agencies (and parents) give in order to excuse corruption. Ghana has laws. American agencies are required to follow U.S. and Ghanaian laws. Period. If you can't find a way to work within the law and respect the culture, you shouldn't be doing adoptions in Ghana. I'm telling you, it's possible to do both.

  • Scenario 5: Is it okay for parents to ignore when something is done illegally (for instance, running an unlicensed children's home), since it's better for the children?

AS A PARENT: This is something I would want to question my agency about. I would want to know how they justify acting outside of the law. But ultimately, if my child was better cared for because of the unlicensed home, I would look the other way.

AS AGENCY REP: It's another slippery slope. An agency is required to work within the laws of U.S. and Ghana. [Sorry I'm such a broken record on this one.] If they pick and choose which laws to follow, how are parents assured that the next time it won't be something that the parent (or authorities) would not look the other way on. "In the best interest of the child" is another statement that can be used to justify illegal practice.

  • Scenario 6: How do you feel about expediting fees? Is it okay to pay someone to do something faster than it would typically be done, even if it's not an official fee?

AS A PARENT: I really am okay with expediting fees, even unpublished ones, as long as the person is being paid to do actual work.

AS AGENCY REP: Yes, when the expediting fee is so standardized that it is impossible to receive a document in good time without it, and when a person is being paid for actual services (walking a document from desk to desk, searching through stacks of applications to find a "lost" one, etc.). No, when you are asking a person to do something faster (such as create an adoption decree) that the person would not do for everybody but only as a paid favor to you. To me, that becomes a bribe.

  • Scenario 7: Would I want to go back and correct documentation if new information was gathered?

AS A PARENT: It would depend on the new information. If the father's middle name was discovered and it would mean we had to lose two months to add the middle name, no. I would note the change and share with my child. If there was new information on cause of death, probably so. To me, that's big and although not likely to change the outcome of the case, I would feel deceitful to go forward with improper death information. Missing information is different than completely false information, to me.

AS AGENCY REP: Yes, I would change the information. I wouldn't change the information just to be difficult, but in anticipation that the embassy *IS* difficult. They will catch inconsistencies in spellings or death stories, and will insist everything is consistent on every document. Better to change it before that point. [Do I think the embassy should be so absurdly anal about the spelling of a name? Absolutely NOT! But I don't make the rules.]

Hmm...when I read my own thoughts on these things one thing sticks out. I am much more likely to look the other way or make an illegal or potentially unethical move in my adoption if I am "just" the parent. I want my child home, and could ultimately sacrifice my own value system in order to get the child home (as long as I felt absolutely assured the child was in need of adoption). As a parent, "the end justifies the means" much more than I would have originally thought.

As an agency rep I see that I am really quite legalistic and unbending on most potentially gray ethical areas. I think this is for two reasons. 1. I don't want to go to jail!!!! 2. I don't feel I have the right to take ethical liberties with another person's adoption. Ever. 3. I feel like it's my job (sometimes) to protect adoptive parents from themselves. In the heat of the moment adoptive parents (myself included) would do almost anything to be united with our children. But after it's over, I promise you, you will live with doubt if you give in. I want to protect "my" families from ever living with guilt and doubt over their adoptions, even if that means they get mad at me. =-(

Have a blessed day everybody. I think I will go and NOT think about adoption ethics for a while now! My brain is fried!


Cindy 4:47 PM  

As one of your families I love everything about this post. I am still working on my own post about how we ended up feeling comfortable with Ghana and this post will help me write it!

Charissa 8:24 PM  

I appreciate you talking about this. I wish more adoptive parents and agency reps would not only talk about the corruption but do something to stop it. We found ourselves in the very difficult place of having to terminate an adoption that we learned should never have been. We have tried everything in our power to report but unfortunately many people involved either turned a blind eye or covered for those involved in the corruption. It is heartbreaking to say the least. We have no idea what happened to those children we fell in love with, and deep down part of me will always feel responsible. After all at least if we had followed through with the adoption we would know they were safe. Now, who knows what became of them. Thank you for talking about this.
P.S. Saw Dr. Chang today and we really liked him.

Kara Busath 9:52 PM  

Great post. The fact that you are thinking so deeply about very difficult issues shows you are exactly the type of person who should be facilitating adoptions. We were handed a badly mangled Ghanaian adoption with some of the problems you addressed. Every day I'm amazed and grateful we eventually got our daughter home. I ache for the American families and Ghanaian children still there that I know who didn't have a happy ending. I've personally seen how devasting the results can be when adoption facilitators start setting ethics aside. It's deeply painful. And there's nothing gray about that.

Amy 7:36 AM  

I 'second' Cindy! As one of your families, I am very appreciative of your passion for doing the right thing. Thanks for your strong voice & strong spirit!