A variety of ethical issues exist concerning the adoption of children and are described in detail throughout this volume.
The idea that it is acceptable to do anything in order to adopt a child, particularly an infant, is a disturbing issue and a problem in contemporary society.
Desperate prospective adoptive parents will sometimes resort to baby buying, and unscrupulous attorneys will make it possible through BABY SELLING. In addition, some pregnant young women see an opportunity to make a large amount of money from an unwanted pregnancy and either actively pursue unethical attorneys or eagerly agree to a baby selling plan.
The issue of baby selling is complicated by the fact that what is legal in adoption in some states is considered baby selling in other states. An example of this is that some states allow pregnant women to receive support money while others place a ban on such payments.
The issue of SURROGATE MOTHERHOOD is another ethical problem in our society, and several states have moved to ban surrogate motherhood or limit such practices to a no-profit status.
Organizations such as the NATIONAL COMMITTEE FOR ADOPTION, among others, believe surrogate motherhood is planned baby selling. Proponents of surrogate motherhood, including RESOLVE Inc., believe couples should have the right to create a biological child by another woman who consents.
REPRODUCTIVE TECHNOLOGIES have enabled physicians to fertilize eggs outside the womb, which has created a host of ethical dilemmas when there are disagreements among the parties involved. (See BIOETHICS) In 1990, a California woman gave birth to the genetic child of another couple and sued for custody. She did not win her suit, but many related ethical issues were considered in light of this suit. It is now possible for physicians to use a donated ova, fertilize it and then implant the fertilized egg in another woman, even a woman past menopause. Concerned individuals wonder about the morality of buying and selling ova, as well as the ultimate effects on the child. (See ZYGOTE ADOPTION.)
Even donor insemination, a process that has existed for many years and wherein semen is either injected into the woman or an egg is fertilized outside the woman and later implanted, has come under attack by prominent individuals.
TRANSRACIAL ADOPTION is another major issue of our times. Proponents of transracial adoption believe that while it is the best plan to arrange adoptions for children in samerace families, it is not possible to find enough families for all the black and biracial children needing to be adopted; consequently, they believe a loving permanent home is preferable to foster care.
Opponents of transracial adoption, chiefly the National Association of Black Social Workers, believe transracial adoptions rob the children of their racial identity. They also believe social services agencies do not recruit black adoptive parents in sufficient numbers and state that more active recruitment would solve all or most of the problem of black WAITING CHILDREN.
The COSTS TO ADOPT are frequently debated as ethical issues; for example, SLIDING SCALE FEES are now banned in the state of Pennsylvania. A sliding scale ties the adopting parents' fee directly to their income, and less affluent people pay a lower adoption rate than more affluent people.
Critics charge that this is a form of baby selling, while proponents, including most professional standard-setting and accrediting organizations, believe it is fair to charge less affluent adopting parents a lower rate than wealthier parents, making adoption affordable to them.
There are also positive aspects of costs that are often ignored; for example, the cost to the state and federal government to maintain a child in foster care is greatly or totally diminished when that child is adopted. (Some adoptive parents receive subsidies for adopted children, so state and federal costs are still paid, albeit at far lower rates than when the child is a foster child. See ADOPTION ASSISTANCE PROGRAM.)
Additionally, when a pregnant woman chooses to place her child for adoption, the adoptive parents incur the expenses of raising the child. Should she desire to parent the child and receive Temporary Aid to Needy Families (tanf) food stamps and Medicaid for at least 18 years, the costs to society are hundreds of thousands of dollars.
For-profit adoption agencies disturb numerous adoption experts and create another ethical dilemma for state legislators. Although only about 5% of all adoption agencies are for-profit according to the National Council For Adoption, experts worry that this percentage may be on the rise and fear that children will suffer as a result of the profit motive.
Dissenters of this view argue that even nonprofit adoption agencies can be greedy and hide large revenues in huge salaries for the director and staff, thus zeroing-out the "bottom line."
Some people believe INTERNATIONAL ADOPTION presents many ethical issues; for example, they wonder aloud why it costs $20,000 or more to adopt an infant from a foreign orphanage (where costs are far lower than in the United States) when fees to adopt a healthy white baby in the United States may be less.
OPEN ADOPTION also presents numerous ethical issues to adoption agencies and others involved in adoption. Whether to introduce prospective adoptive parents to a pregnant woman, when to introduce them (before or after the child is born), whether to allow the adopting parents in the delivery room and other dilemmas face those who believe in open adoptions.
A key issue is whether meeting adopting parents provides too much pressure on the pregnant woman to choose adoption rather than parenting. Another key issue is the extent of her involvement in the child's life after he is adopted. Experts disagree widely on whether contact is good for the child and how much contact is advisable.
Advocates of TRADITIONAL ADOPTION believe most pregnant women and adopting parents prefer confidentiality. They argue that if birthparents and adopted adults desire to find each other later in life, MUTUAL CONSENT REGISTRIES can afford them such an opportunity as long as both wish this confidential information to be released.
Adopting parents are demanding more information on children before they adopt them today. Adoptive parents who were deprived of critical information have filed WRONGFUL ADOPTION lawsuits. As a result, caseworkers are more sensitized than in past years to providing nonidentifying information about the child and the birthparents and information about any abuse or neglect that may have occurred.
Whether or not adopting parents should have access to confidential records, when they should have such access and how much information should be withheld are continuing controversies. (See also GENETIC PREDISPOSITIONS; INTELLIGENCE.)
Find more information on ethical issues
©2000 by Christine Adamec and William Pierce, Ph.D. Reprinted from The Encyclopedia of Adoption, 2nd Edition (2nd Edition) with permission of Facts On File, Inc.
Note: Our authors are dedicated to honest, engaged, informed, intelligent, and open conversation about adoption. The opinions expressed here may not reflect the views of Adoption.com.