Still Mulling the Ethics Conference in DC

I’d like to boil down all the information, discussion, and debate for those of you who weren’t at the Ethics and Accountability in Adoption Conference in DC last week put on by Evan B. Donaldson Institute and Ethica, but ya know what?  I just can’t.  I’m swirling it around in my head the sheer diversity of information.  It was unlike any professional conference I have ever attended. 

Here’s how it worked:  The main focus, as stated before was ethics and accountability in adoption.  Simple and to the point, right?  Well, that topic was further broken down into three separate components:  Accountability to Families of Origin, Accountability to Children/Adopted Adults, and Accountability to Prospective and Current Adoptive Families.  For each segment there was a large panel meeting for everyone to attend, followed by smaller panel meetings to choose from.  For example, the Main panel of Accountability to Children/Adopted Adults was followed by your choice of: 

  • “Protecting Racial/Ethnic/Cultural Ties in Transcultural/Transracial Adoption”,
  • “Alternative Routes to Permanency,”
  • Adoptee Access to Records History and Searches,
  • Supporting Adopted Persons Post-Placement,” and
  • “Marketing Children for Adoption”

Each panel had four panelists which included a moderator that initially addressed some main questions (i.e.”Is legal permanency the best option for every child?  Are there more informal forms fo permanency that should be considered in some cases?  What alternative forms of permanency should be considered internationally?”).  Each panelist came from a different viewpoint which mihgt have included Adult adoptee (international adoptee), Adoptive parent, child welfare adoption worker, agency adoption worker, Ethica rep., Donaldson rep., attorney, First parent, advocate, etc…. so you can imagine while answering a few questions from a few perspectives, that’s gonna raise some REALLY great thingking in the audience.  Once the panel finished, each discussion was opened to the audience to make comments, ask questions, show evidence or what have you that dissects the topic even further.  Just some real eye-opening stuff being said throughout the whole conference. 

I was surprised by a few things–at how firmly some folks are set in their beliefs that even with such great evidence and people willing to make themselves vulnerable to tell their stories, and research and all, that they still can’t even consider a different point of view.  I am convinced there were some people there that left amazingly  unchanged.  Likewise, I was surprised at some of my own reactions to the information presented.  Of how little I really know, of how fearful I am to learn more.  Of how this effects my family, Woob’s family, my work, my life.  Because with all this comes an accountability that I don’t feel ready or equipped to conquer.  I feel small and weak.  And I’m not really even talking about some of the BIG QUESTIONS, but thinking smaller about right here in my own little box.  I don’t see myself as an activist.  But I do feel the need to DO something.  Where in the world to begin?

As I’ve been contemplating all this, my mind keeps going back to a post Paragraphein wrote called “Everyday Activism“: a little while back that has just stuck with me here and there, but seems to be screaming to me right now.  Check it out.  If you already read it once, go back and read it again.

And I was terribly happy to either be introduced or gather the courage to introduce myself to Margie, Suz, Claud, and Brenda while I was there…people who use their voices to make change every day.  A bunch of beautiful women facing some huge issues with compassion and grace.

Hehe, when I started this post, it was with the purpose of bringing up a point that the adoption attorney on one panel used to explain how they get expectant parents making an adoption plan to give accurate information about themselves.  She stated she uses three main “tactics” (of course after building positive rapport and a trusting relationship with the mother).  And I quote: 

  • 1. The “voice of reason”,    (where she explains the good that comes from truthfulness, for the baby and the aparents)
  • 2. The “stick”,  (where she tells them if the parent lies or withholds info, there could be serious legal consequences)and
  • 3. The “carrot” (a letter from an aparent that talks about all the bad things that happened to them and their child when the child’s birthmother did not give good info).

That whole thing REALLY made me uncomfortable.   I agree that information is important if the adoption is going to happen, but I don’t really think there’s any room for adoption professionals to use terms like “the stick” or “the carrot” if they want to be perceived as ethical.   Perhaps she should’ve just stopped at the trusting relationship part.  And she had more to say, not all of it really comfortable to listen to, but a great illustration of how there does need to be change in our system.  BTW, that was a really FUN audience to sit in.  The more she spoke, the more air seemed to just be sucked out of the room.  You could hear the frantic scribbling of questions, comments, foul language on note cards from around the room.

I have no idea if any single word in this post has made sense.  Thoughts, comments, questions, dissention…they’re all welcome here.  I’ll be happy to clarify if needed.  I just couldn’t go and not write ANYTHING…I’m sure there will be more to come.

Have a good Monday, everyon!



Filed under adoption, ethics, reflection

7 responses to “Still Mulling the Ethics Conference in DC

  1. Pingback: Adoption » Blog Archives » Guatemalan adoption law raises concerns

  2. Oooooh, the “Carrot” and “Stick” references ick me out too.

  3. I agree. That doesn’t really sound ethical at all…and while information is important, coercing doesn’t come across as ethical…I’m interested in hearing more about this conference!

  4. jenn11970

    Sounds like they had a lot of information, and gave a balanced view. I hope you will write more about it. I so wanted to go, but it was just simply too far.

    I really don’t like the attorney’s way of getting information either. I would think that using the “voice of reason” a few more times would do the trick.

  5. cynthia

    I’m sorry I missed the chance to talk to you-
    (I don’t blog) but i’m an adoptive parent in an open adoption also interested in adoption reform.. and I was there too!
    I feel like we non professionals were in the minority, but the conference really was amazing.

  6. I’m sure it was very informative & illuminating. And I’m sure that there were some very…closed mined-set in their way of thinking-individuals there.

  7. suz

    So glad you wrote about this. I have been intending to. I REALLY disliked that presenter (as you could have guessed) and Claud, Brenda, Bern and I were furiously writing questions and challenges to her statements. She is scary. Proof that there is much work to do in ETHICS if ADOPTION ATTORNEYS dont know the difference between legal and ethical.

    The fact that she encourages PAPS to get amnio’s done on an expectant mothers child is heinous. Not to mention all her other suggestions.

    It was great to meet you too. Only wish we had chatted more. Meeting progressive, open minded APs always encourages me.

    Will add you to my bloglines.

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