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One of THE Biggest Problems in Adoption

by Laura on May 1st, 2013

We guarantee you a child in 6 months!

You can have a baby in your arms in less than a year!

Consider yourself paper pregnant!

Playing on desperate women, and financially tapped-out couples, adoption agencies seemingly tell prospective adoptive parents (PAPs) anything to get them in the door, laying out the (exorbitant) down payment to cover the completely necessary “paperwork and processing” fees, and on their way to adopting a child for their very own.

As quickly and seamlessly as possible.

We offer excellent customer service. To whom to you provide excellent customer service? Ah ha, the customer is the paying client. This is super telling.

What’s wrong with that, you ask? Weeeelll … if you’re paper pregnant, then you’re assuming that the mom is already a birth mother–she isn’t. She hasn’t relinquished yet. She may change her mind … so she’s a mother, and you’re a prospective adoptive parent.

I’ve talked about the money transfer to acquire baby property, and how icky I believe adoption fundraising to be. But today I want to talk about a little-considered aspect of the adoption process. I wonder:

Are Potential Adoptive Parents ever turned down?

Probably yes, I’m sure it “does” happen. However, is issue, in my opinion is one of THE BIGGEST PROBLEMS in adoption.

Stories from those who’ve been there

Here’s a wonderful (anonymized) story from an adoptee friend

My former co-worker purposely went off her bipolar meds and stopped going to the psychiatrist so that the adoption agency wouldn’t know or find out about her mental illness. She and her husband were provided with a child from [a country outside the U.S.] after their check cleared.

Agencies will only know what the PAPs want them to know.

In the case of my former neighbor, she held it together until they got the adoptee home. Then she was home on the couch in a depressive state for a couple of months. The agency did not follow up. *sigh*

An adoptive mom and adoptee who went through the home study process herself told me

Home studies are a joke. Just a formality, everyone in the adoption world knows that. If there’s no criminal record and they have enough money, they can get a child.

There’s the recent article about an adoptive mom’s post-adoption depression. She is very open and honest about her experience, and I applaud her for that. Unfortunately her words betray an underlying ignorance to the problems inherent in adoption agencies being the ones who both take the money and determine adoption eligibility. (Hi. My name is conflict-of-interest and I am an adoption agency. Nice to meet you.)

When an adoptive mom gets a baby, then gets depressed

Amy Rogers Nazarov writes in My Post-Adoption Depression

Moreover, I’d had a clean bill of mental health as we moved through the adoption process. (In fact, any history of a prospective adoptive parent’s using antidepressants or receiving counseling of any kind, whether or not it’s related to depression, can derail their chances of adopting a child from certain countries, South Korea among them.) Nevertheless, I was in the throes of an adoptive parent’s version of postpartum depression.

My heart goes out to Ms. Rogers Nazarov. She. didn’t. even. feel. she. “deserved.” to take maternity leave. She kept on working! What was she thinking? I get it. She felt she didn’t deserve to take time off because she didn’t birth her baby. But maternity leave is also for the baby–to have time with his mother, to bond, to have the full, undivided attention of his mommy; whoever that is.

This story points to many adoptive parents’ potential post-adoption issues. First, there’s the infertility, and if the loss of the idea of a biological child is not processed, then that grief is likely to spill over into the parenting of a child that was birthed by and even once cared for by … someone else.

Next, there’s the question of to what extent a PAP hid any potential history of mental illness or even therapy going into the home studies.

Finally: it’s the adoption agency (who again, let me underscore: took. the. money.) who makes the decision as to whether the paying client is competent. This must change.

Therefore, One of THE Biggest Problems in Adoption = Agencies.

[Stepping down off of soap box and heading for a glass of wine. I am riled up, forgive me.]

*  *  *  *  *

New! Check out the Newsy News Page  with links to the places I’m guest posting this week, in honor of the re-release of Adopted Reality.

“Women Gray Tshirt” by posterize, “Hand Holding Dollars” by jannoon028, both from


From → Adoption, Expat Mommy

  1. Renee Davies permalink

    You don't have to apologize for being angered by profound injustice.

    • Laura permalink

      Thanks, Renee … and you're right. Injust *should* make us angry, and rightfully so.

  2. Monika permalink

    You hit the nail right on the head. BINGO! Score one for Laura! Adoption agencies should NOT do home studies – PERIOD. They're approving singles and couples to adopt who might be able to pull off the appearance of being ready to welcome a child into their home, but no follow-up is ever done and of course they have the almighty dollar motivating them. I love (even though they're both dead now) my grandparents. But they should have NEVER been approved to adopt. EVER. And this was over 50 years ago!

    • Laura permalink

      Thanks, Monika! I'm so glad to rack up points *against* the agencies :) Yes, agencies doing home studies just smacks of conflict-of-interest.

  3. Audrey permalink

    I knew many gals who went on to adopt. I heard time and time again of their homestudy process and some of the issues that would come up.

    Not one of them (I'm talking probably 100) was ever turned down to adopt. They might of had to address little things like a past "DUI" or whatever, but many of them (so called Christians) would lie or find a way around the issue. I remember many of them talking about how they would scrub their house from top to bottom, because apparently you need only have a "clean" house to prove your child worthy. "Let me show you how I live day in and day out." Lies!

    When we went to visit my son's adoptive family when he was four months old (had never been to their house before), I was overtaken by the smell of dog piss! I was also shocked at the state of their house. Not that it had to be spic n' span (who's is?), but I can guarantee that house didn't smell like that or look like that when the social worker arrived. The dog pissed all over the house…you could see the pee marks everywhere. I was most disgusted by how much he pissed in my son's room. He wasn't crawling yet, but the thought of him eventually crawling around that filth drove me bonkers!

    My point is that a homestudy doesn't do much more than show they were never caught doing something illegal. If you place your child believing the adoption agency is preparing the adoptive parents to parent your child well and has screened them thoroughly…you can forget that!

    They told me they would provide my child with a life I couldn't. Turns out the only they could provide was a "different" life. And I know he won't die from dog piss, but something as stupid as that sure puts things surrounding adoption into prospective.

    Adoption only guarantees a different life…nothing else.

    • Laura permalink

      ((Audrey)) I'm so sorry about your son's adoptive family. This is NOT okay, and it really sucks that that happened to both you and him. You're totally right–adoption guarantees a different life.

  4. I suspect that agencies take the money and pass their "clients" because parenting is seen as a right rather than a privilege. Potential adoptive parents sometimes resent being fingerprinted, FBI clearances, medical exams, therapist interviews, providing references, etc. because biological parents don't have to do those things….and so the work of the home study is a reminder of infertility and what led them to try to adopt in the first place. I'm aware of at least one agency that *apologizes* to their PAPs for all the work of home studies, sympathizing with "its' so unfair" sentiments…and therefore reinforcing entitlement. GRRR.

    How do we ensure that kids are safe, healthy and loved? How do we attend to the rift in biological history and identity that adoption creates? How do we help adoptees to navigate that rift without internalizing all of the grief/loss/guilt/shame of all of their parents?

    I don't know how we solve it, but I agree with you that it is a huge problem.

    • Laura permalink


      I agree that PAPs do recent the hoops they have to jump through. But, they want to parent a child who has experienced the loss of family, heritage and sometimes language — through adoption. They should understand that it's about finding the best family for the child, the ones best suited to help their adoptee navigate their adoptedness. … I think this shift in perspective would help tremendously.

      Thanks for writing!

  5. dee permalink

    I'm sorry but the single mom is crying her eyes out and the agency is telling her that she should surrender because these parents are SO INCREDIBLY better for her child, if she really loved them, they would surrender. in the past the baby would just be taken if the mom didn't agree. I read cases as recently as 1997 were the mom is declared mentally ill and locked up until she agrees to surrender. With fees nearly a year's salary adoption has nothing to do with for the best of the child. a natural mom suffers all her life (in most cases woman feel an increased amount for grief with time) for the loss of her child.

    • Laura permalink

      These stories are truly heartbreaking, and exactly why the adoption industry needs overhauling.

  6. Back in the '70's when I worked in the UK, the adoption process was rigorous, the assessment long and detailed and the eventual application went to a Panel of experienced people who approved and often did not approve applications, It probably wasn't perfect but there were standards, an emphasis on getting it right for kids and of course no money changed hands at any time because adoption was State run.How hard can that be to achieve?

    • Laura permalink

      Yes, the UK seems to be doing a lot of things right when it comes to adoption — compared to the U.S. (and possibly Australia–but at least they apologized). There needs to be standards and evaluation by a neutral third-party. It *shouldn't* be that hard …

  7. I will join you for the glass of wine.

    I feel the same way. Thank you for bringing to light what has for too long been in the darkness.

    Just shared it on AR Facebook.


    • Laura permalink

      I can't wait for the day when we can sit together for a glass of wine … Thanks for the AR share :)
      <3 Laura

  8. Paul Hedg-peth permalink

    Having served in an administrative capacity at an international adoption agency I can answer Laura's question very directly because it was my responsibility finally to either approve or deny an application to adopt. I can state from personal experience that yes, we did deny some applications. And as a matter of policy in those instances we refunded ALL the monies paid by the applicant to that point, despite the fact that agency staff had spent a lot of time completing a home study, checking references, etc. Furthermore, honesty on the part of applicants was never a reason for rejection. We told applicants upfront (at informational meetings, before any money changed hands) what information (e.g. history of child abuse) would exclude them from approval. With few exceptions (such as just noted) there were very few individual factors that would result in an application being denied. However I did deny some applications, and dishonesty on the part of the applicants was a key factor in that negative decision in every instance.

    I resent the implication that all adoption agencies are in it 'for the money'. In my experience as an administrator of international adoption programs I found that no more than 20% of all fees paid by applicants actually went to the placing agency. Yes, international adoption is extremely expensive. I am an international adoptive parent and I did not receive any kind of 'discount' on the fees involved because most of the fees did were not even paid to the agency. My adopted 'child' is now an adult but as long ago as the adoption happened, I could easily have purchased a new car with the funds involved. But very little of that money actually went to the adoption agency.

    • Lee H. permalink

      Can someone please reply to this person, Paul, so I don't have to…? Any takers?

    • Paul, considering you were personally benefiting as an adoptive parent for the agency you also oversaw seems like a huge conflict of interest to me.

      The fees are outrageous, even if the 20% is true (which I doubt). Why does international adoption cost so much? Could it be because adoption agencies fund orphanages in other countries to keep supply coming? Is it because much of the money changes hands in cash once the parents arrive to other countries? Comparing your child's adoption costs to a car is quite surprising, and really hi-lights that children are seen as commodities.

      If the best interests of children were of utmost importance in this country, adoption agencies would get zero profit and only provide a service — not a "product".

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