Why Your Child Needs You to Engage in Ethics When Adopting

Why Your Child Needs You to Engage in Ethics When Adopting

Ten years ago, I was in a very different place.  We had begun the adoption process for the first time, and my type-A self had one goal:  get a baby ASAP.

I had been through the proverbial ringer.  A mysterious year-and-a-half long illness resulted in a near-death experience and the diagnosis of an autoimmune disease.   On my third day in the hospital, during a session with a Diabetes Nurse Educator, she brought up the subject of having biological children.  While she droned on about the risks of pregnancy, one word popped into my mind:  adoption.

Choosing adoption was easy for me.  I wasn’t willing to put my body through hell for the sake of having a biological baby.  I just wanted to be a mommy.

What wasn’t easy?  The adoption process.  The journey from A to Z stretched a million miles.   After we selected an agency, I whipped through the paperwork and procedures (interviews, home inspection, fingerprinting, etc.) with fury.   I felt a sense of desperate urgency:  that there was a baby out there for us, and the sooner I got the ball rolling, the better.   I had a false sense of control.

Of course, it was “hurry up and wait.”  And wait we did. I didn’t understand why other couples were chosen before us and instead of us.  We were young, educated, financially stable, and childless.  Weren’t we the ideal family?

Waiting fourteen months for our first child turned out to be the most incredible gift.  I evolved to learn that instead of asking, “How many placements do you do a year?”, I would say, “How do you support moms who come to your agency and opt to parent?”   Instead of praying that God would give me a baby quickly to ease my aching heart, I prayed for my future child and his or her birth parents.   Instead of willingly spending every dollar we had saved to engage in price-inflated adoptions of the “perfect” baby (white and healthy), we were conservative, thoughtful, and mindful with our finances, knowing that we, as the hopeful parents, had a lot of power and needed to be wise, not hasty.

We now have four children, all of whom were adopted.   And with each adoption and each passing year, we have learned more and more why ethics matter.  “Ethics,” if I had to boil it down to a simple definition, means always choosing to do the right thing, even when it isn’t easy, convenient, or personally comfortable.

Why are ethics so incredibly important in adoption?   Because every decision a hopeful parent makes impacts the future of other people.   If the match results in a placement, the ethical decisions made by the parents forever affect the adoptee.

There is nothing, and I mean nothing, more important than looking your child in the eye and saying with a clear heart, “We made ethical choices.”   Because any adoption that results from manipulation, coercion, or inauthenticity is an adoption that will in some way harm the adoptee.

Adoption should always be about the child.  And that begins with the hopeful parents, at every turn, choosing ethics over selfishness.   It is absolutely challenging, but it’s also life-changing.

Often hopeful parents ask me about particular situations and what I think the correct decision is.  And I always tell them, you probably already know what the ethical choice is.  You just have to have the conviction and courage to do the right thing.

As you wait for your child, I implore you to think beyond the now.  I know you’re tired of waiting.  I know the road has been long and bumpy.  I know you’re disappointed, exhausted, and disheartened.   I know because I have been there.   But you know what a good mom or dad does?  A good mom or dad doesn’t just consider the path at their feet.  No.   A good parent considers the future.  All the tomorrows.   And makes the best choices he or she can for the well-being of their child’s forever.

You are the mom or dad-in-waiting, and your job right now is to always choose the “road less traveled.”  Why?  Because as Robert Frost so eloquently wrote in his poem The Road Not Taken, choosing that road makes ALL the difference.

Written By
Rachel Garlinghouse

Rachel lives in the St. Louis area with her husband and four children.  Her favorite things are kitchen dance parties, coffee with a dollop of ice cream, and shopping at Home Goods.  Rachel is passionate about the intersection of adoption and race, sharing her experiences in her books and articles, on her blog White Sugar Brown Sugar, and via media appearances, including CNN, MSNBC, CBS, and NPR.   Rachel and her husband have been in the adoption community for a decade, encouraging others and simmering in hope, empathy, and education.  Contact Rachel and keep up with her family’s adventures on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest.

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