This continues my response to the National Review article on adoption that I began yesterday (National Review, 11/17/18). November is National Adoption Month, hence the NR piece.
As I said yesterday, all 14 contributors to the article enthusiastically promote adoption and for the best of reasons. Many, many children worldwide don’t have parents or close relatives to care for them. They desperately need good, loving homes and only adoption can provide them. Adoptive parents are usually motivated to meet that desperate need. Good for them.
But, however well-intentioned the writers of the NR piece are, there’s a lot they don’t know about the laws on adoption and its practice. They see the bright side of adoption, but not the dark. And it’s that dark side that tends strongly to thwart their own good intentions and the good that adoption can do.
Here’s a small sample of the writers’ thoughts on adoption:
[Adoption] is the finest answer to the question of what to do with a child who finds him or herself alone in this hard world, unprotected and unloved…
I don’t know of anything we do that is more important than to give kids a family and a home, a place to belong…
The American people believe deeply in the importance of family, and most view adoption as a beautiful way for a child to become part of one…
Our nation has a duty to care for our children — it comes with being an American. It comes with being a human. Not one of us has been released from our moral duty to love, emotionally and in practice, those that are beaten, abandoned, and abused, even though many of us feel that we should be “called” to foster or adopt a child.Who could argue? Sadly, many children need good homes that, for one reason or another, their parents can’t provide. That adoptive parents step in to do so for children unrelated to them and often unknown to them, is something we should never stop applauding.
But not one of the 14 writers knows that our system of adoption runs contrary to the very reason adoption exists. Put simply, our system of adoption daily increases the number of kids needing to be adopted. It very often forces adoption on kids who don’t need it. In the process, it denies good adoptive parents to children who need them. That’s true in the U.S. and worldwide.
In 1997, the Adoption and Safe Families Act began providing federal funding for states for every child removed from their biological families and placed in foster care and then more funding for children adopted out of foster care. Those monetary incentives immediately made a huge impact on state child protection agencies. One North Dakota former state senator said that, “when that federal money came down the pike” an enormous uptick in children taken by state CPS occurred. In short, kids who previously hadn’t been considered in need of removal from their parents, all of a sudden were deemed at risk.
And of course we often see exactly the type of overreaching by caseworkers that strongly suggests a motivation other than simply a child’s welfare. Consider, for example, the recent case of Dillon and Melissa Bright in Houston. The efforts by CPS caseworkers to shanghai their two children away from them, including committing perjury, were so egregious that Judge Michael Schneider ordered CPS to pay the Brights $127,000, not in damages (those are presumably still to come) but for their bad behavior in court.
Then there are putative father registries whose sole purpose is the removal of unmarried fathers from the adoption process. PFRs require unmarried men who father children to file a special form with the state. Failure to do so within the requisite period, usually within 30 days of the child’s birth, means Dad has no right to contest the adoption of his child. Many of those fathers could provide good, loving homes for their children, but aren’t allowed to. As with CPS, PFRs serve to put more children on the adoption market than would otherwise be there.
Plus, state child welfare agencies routinely make no effort to contact fathers when a child is taken from a mother due to abuse or neglect. What if Dad could provide a good home and good care? We’ll never know because he was never contacted. Instead, CPS channels those children into costly foster care preparatory for adoption. Again, public policy and practice increase the number of kids who need adoption.
Why is that a problem? There are about 425,000 kids in the U.S. at any given time who need to be adopted because their parents are dead, in prison or have had their parental rights terminated. Needless to say, there are millions of children in other countries in the same situation.
But only about 125,000 adoptions are completed in the U.S. each year and only about 75,000 of those are “stranger adoptions,” i.e. not step-parent adoptions. In short, the number of willing and capable adoptive parents comes nowhere near matching the needs of parentless children.
So when public policy needlessly increases the number of children on the adoption market, it simultaneously denies to the same number of children, either here or abroad, the parents they need.
No article on the very real need for adoption is complete without an examination of the many ways in which public policy and law make adoptions of children without parents harder. Unfortunately, the National Review ignored the dark side of adoption, to the detriment of its readers. Perhaps more importantly, it missed a golden opportunity to demand reform. If adoption is so important (and it is), reform of existing law and practice is equally so.