Three grandpas, two moms, two dads

In Michigan, where I live, same sex marriage is illegal. Regardless of how you feel about same sex marriage, I believe our approach should be about what’s best for the children. In my opinion, children benefit from stability, but children adopted by a same sex couple are deprived of that stability. Therefore, for the sake of the children, same sex couples should be allowed to marry.

The NPR station, Michigan Radio, recently posted a story on the plight of an adopted boy named Lucas. Lucas has two dads, however since their marriage is not recognized in Michigan, only one of them is legally his father.

“Although there’s a lot of talk in Lansing about making kids safe and secure, when it comes to gay and lesbian couples, politics and attitudes about sexual orientation end that conversation,” the author wrote.

Of course, there are many more children like Lucas in Michigan and other states were same sex marriage is banned.  As I wrote in a post introducing a new series “The Future of Adoption,” I believe there are four issues that affect the current state of adoption. Number three was, “What if adoptive parents and their friends and family (and society as a whole) were not afraid of those who are different? (older children, children of other races, same-sex couples).”

Clearly, the real solution to this problem is to dispel fear of same sex couples. But, I don’t think that’s going to happen soon enough. In the meantime, let’s appeal to people’s concern for children.

My stepfather has expressed reserve at being called “grandpa” by my children. According to him, my kids already have two grandfathers, and don’t need a third. I’ve told him, and Grandma G, that there is no such thing as too many grandpas. I think my kids will only benefit from having many people who love them, even if it’s not “traditional.” I think that all kids can benefit from a large group of people who love them, even if that includes two moms or two dads.

Michigan’s same sex marriage ban is written into the state constitution, making it much harder to repeal. But another couple with adopted children is challenging the ban in court. Let’s hope this case results in a positive change.

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Understanding adoption history

Lately, I’ve been interested in the future of adoption and what can be done to fix the existing system. However, I hadn’t thought much about the history of adoption until I came across this site from the University of Oregon. The site offers an interactive history of adoption in the United States beginning in the 1800s. And, as anyone who’s ever taken a history class knows: we can’t understand where we are today, or where we’re going, without understanding the past. If you’re interested in the history of U.S. adoption, visit “The Adoption History Project.”

Support the Massachusetts Alliance on Teen Pregnancy

Last month, I bought some Chloe and Isabel jewelry from Suz, who blogs at www.writingmywrongs.com. Each month, Suz donates a portion of her sales to a charity that supports young, single teen mothers and their children. I’d like to see more effort go into family preservation vs. adoption/foster care, so I was happy to purchase some earrings (the fact that the jewelry is beautiful didn’t hurt either).

This month, Suz’s donations will go to the Massachusetts Alliance on Teen Pregnancy. If you’re interested in the cause (or just great jewelry), please visit Suz’s Chloe and Isabel site.

Foster care and broken adoptions

I recently read this four-part series about broken adoptions in the U.S. foster care system. The article explains that in 1996, Congress passed the national Adoption and Safe Families Act (ASFA). The act was meant to address problems in the foster care system, including children who were moved from one foster home to another. However, the Act had unintended consequences, encouraging quick adoptions at any cost. According to the author, states now receive bonuses of between $4,000 and $12,000 for each adoption finalized. The article goes on to explore the problem and potential solutions.

In part two, the author writes about a paper published in the Capital University Law Review, which I think offers a good solution. The author explains:

“In their report, they suggest that the creation of a national system of child welfare that pays bonuses to states not for adoptions, but for better outcomes and more stable homes, might do a better job of creating those life-long relationships that experts say are so important for the well-being of young people as they grow into adulthood.”

What do you see as the problems with foster care adoption, and what can be done to fix it?

Promising babies in six to nine months

In a recent report, NPR explored how the Internet is changing adoption. The reporter interviewed a prospective adoptive couple, a traditional agency, and a non-profit to learn more about this trend. Apparently online agencies are often unlicensed and make improbable claims such as the one mentioned in the title of this post. The report clearly makes the claim that online agencies are a big problem. But, it’s obvious that online agencies aren’t the only problem.

In my opinion, the whole system is an issue. For example, the commoditization of babies doesn’t help. The prospective parents that were interviewed began to seek a birth mother online after they learned that their wait through a traditional agency would be longer than three years.  Here’s how they described their efforts to become parents:”Essentially, we’re just putting together this marketing campaign to sell ourselves to a birth parent.”

Of course, traditional agencies aren’t  innocent in this commoditization earlier. The report described one traditional agency this way: “the brick-and-mortar agency in Maryland that’s lost business to Internet providers.” Why is adoption considered a business?

I think that many people choose a baby over an older child due to their fears about the “issues” that older children supposedly bring with them. In a previous post, “The Future of Adoption,” I wrote that I think adoption can be changed (in part) by dispelling people’s fears about the unknown and the different. If you’ve never consider foster care, or adopting through foster care, please check out this “Debunking the Myth” document that shares some of the facts about foster care.

Extending the adoption tax credit

I love the New York Times, and I was excited to recently see an article in the publication about the adoption tax credit. The paper’s “Room for Debate” section asked five people to answer the question, “should the adoption tax credit be renewed?”

Becky Fawcett, the co-founder and executive director of helpusadopt.org, advocated for the tax credit because, “the average adoption costs $30,000, and many families simply can’t afford that without help.” I couldn’t help but feel angry after I read Becky’s post. Why is money such a factor in adoption? Why should babies be bought and sold? And why are some babies worth more than others? Anyone who knows me won’t be surprised at my solution: foster care. There are thousands of children in foster care who truly need families and the cost of adopting these children is negligible. Visit your state’s adoption resource exchange and see if you don’t feel the desire to add to your family.

Claudia Corrigan D’Arcy, a birth mother and blogger at Musings of the Lame, explained why birth mothers should receive a tax credit: “the current credit is a form of parental discrimination based on class and economics.” I tend to agree with Claudia and feel that families should be kept together if at all possible. If you agree, consider visiting the Adoptee Rights Coalition Web site to find out how you can help. (Claudia is an organizer with the Adoptee Rights Coalition).

Joe Kroll of the North American Council on Adoptable Children (NACAC), argued that the tax credit should be refundable because it “would ensure that more families of modest means can provide homes to vulnerable children.” Naturally, I agree that support should be given to those who adopt children through foster care, since these children tend to be the most vulnerable. If you’re unable to adopt or become a foster parent, consider making a donation to the NACAC.

Kevin Ost-Vollmers, a Korean adoptee, wrote that including international adoption in the tax credit hurts families because “the international adoption market is still questionable. Help keep foreign families together, and provide aid to troubled adoptees.” Kevin’s solution is to divert money spent on international adoptions to support families in those countries. He references the Korean Unwed Mothers Families’ Association as an example of an organization engaged in this work. I certainly support keeping families together and agree with Kevin on this.

Finally, Jessenia Arias, a blogger at The Not So Secret Life of an Adoptee supports the tax credit because “foster children deserve a place to call home, but the high cost of adoption deters many families. The adoption tax credit is one of the most important resources for them.” I agree with Jessenia that foster children deserve a place to call home, but as I’ve mentioned before, the cost of foster care adoption is very low. It’s usually providing for these kids’ special needs that is expensive. So, while I agree that adoptive parents (through foster care) need financial support, I differ with Jessenia on the reasons.

When I started this new series, the Future of Adoption, I questioned whether or not I wanted to go through with it, simply because it seems impossible to change the system. So, I decided to start with small steps. If you’re interested in this too, please consider following one (or more) of my suggested “action items” above. And if you have your own suggestions, please share them in the comments.

National Adoption Month: the future of adoption

It’s National Adoption Month again. In honor of this “event,” I’m starting a new series called “The Future of Adoption.” In this series, I’d like to explore what adoption can and should look like in the future. I’ll also make suggestions on how we can get there. I’m not a social work, law-maker, or adult adoptee, so I certainly can’t claim to be an expert on the topic. So, if you are an expert, please feel free to kindly correct my misconceptions. And, even if you’re not an expert, I still want to hear your thoughts.

If you’re a regular reader, you may be sick of me talking about Beyond Consequences, Logic, and Control by Heather Forbes and Bryan Post. One of the book’s foundations is that there are only two primary emotions: love and fear. I’d like to build on this idea for “The Future of Adoption” and use it to explain what could be changed in a very broad sense. In future posts, I’ll talk more about specific changes.

What if, in the future, those involved in adoption did not make their choices based on fear?

1. What if pregnant women did not choose adoption based on their fear of being rejected or being an inadequate mother?

2. What if adoptive parents weren’t afraid of their children’s first family?

3. What if adoptive parents and their friends and family (and society as a whole) were not afraid of those who are different? (older children, children of other races, same-sex couples).

4. What if families could stay together because the parents did not make unwise choices based on fear?

I think many people believe about adoption as others believe about abortion: both should be legal, but rare. If we addressed these fears, could we make adoption less common? Could we keep families together? Please share your thoughts in the comments, and I’ll be posting more specific ideas and action items at a later time.