We here at Land of Gazillion Adoptees love the folks over at Parents for Ethical Adoption Reform (PEAR). They rock. To use Shelise Gieseke verbiage, they kick some major ass.
What? What’s that you say, dear reader? What about Joint Council on International Children’s Services (JCICS)? What about the National Council For Adoption (NCFA)? Well, the nicest thing we can say about them is, “Meh.” We would like JCICS and NCFA better if they were honest about what they do and don’t do. We would like them better if they quit referring to critically thinking adoptees as “angry adoptees” and “anti-adoption.” We would like them better if the orgs’ leadership quit rotating in and out of the Council On Accreditation’s (COA) board of trustees. (Conflict of interest much?) We would like them better if they quit saying stuff like, “Adoptees need to go beyond talking about their experiences. We’re tired of that. We need research, policy proposals, actual programs, etc.”
Hey you! Tommy DiFilipo and Chucky Johnson! Yes, you, the two SUPER white dudes who’ve made a good living off of speaking for and making decisions on behalf of marginalized kids and women! There’s nothing wrong with adoptees talking about their experiences. In fact, adoptees should be encouraged to share their thoughts, perspectives, experiences, and expertise, especially at your little roundtable schmooze fests with government officials. Furthermore, adoptees have been “going beyond their experiences” for a VERY long time. Unlike organizations like PEAR, you just haven’t been listening or, in many cases, have intentionally blocked adoptees out. And that is eventually going to catch up to you and the “adoption is the answer for everything”/”without adoption we can’t make a living” folks JCICS and NCFA represent.
With that, here you go, dear reader. Our conversation with PEAR.
Land of Gazillion Adoptees: What is PEAR, who are its members, and what is its ultimate goal?
PEAR: PEAR is a 501(c)(3) Pennsylvania nonprofit corporation. We started as a grassroots group of adoptive and prospective adoptive parents who came together in 2007 to discuss the lack of a unified, respected voice for adoptive families alarmed by unethical adoptions they saw or experienced during their own adoptive process. Prior to this, regulatory bodies believed agencies effectively provided a voice for adoptive parents at the table.
Our worldwide membership includes prospective and adoptive parents, adoptees, first parents, foster parents, adoption professionals (social workers and mental health care workers), journalists, and others interested in meaningful, ethical adoption reform.
Our ultimate goal is to help bring about much needed reforms to protect children and their families (both original and adoptive), domestically and internationally.
LGA: Sweet! You mentioned in previous conversations that PEAR members have seen a rise/increased awareness of adoption disruptions. Would you mind talking about that for our readers?
PEAR: We hear of many cases of placements and families failing. Whether these numbers are increasing or families feel more comfortable sharing information is difficult to determine. We hear agencies and adoption professionals say the number is low, yet one of our PEAR members started tracking known international adoption dissolutions and found 110 that occurred in the last 18 months. Failed adoptions is a huge, multifaceted issue that no one is addressing in a meaningful and productive way.
Another small piece of this are adoptions that should have never occurred in the first place because the children were not legal orphans or had family who could care for them, but were placed for adoption through corrupt programs. We have heard of some – the number is small, but growing – adopting families who have disrupted a placement prior to adoption due to this as well as adoptive parents who are fully reuniting the children with their families in their countries of origin. For us, this is an indication that adoptions are not being done properly in the first place and some children who should not even be in the system are deliberately placed for adoption solely to make money for the agencies involved.
LGA: Yikes… Is there a particular trend within the adoption community that you find alarming? If so, what can be done about it?
PEAR: Where to start? One of the most concerning issues is the movement of agencies from one country to the next in search of children to place. We watch these patterns closely and right now our biggest concern lies in African countries where agencies are scrambling to set up programs and open new orphanages. Non-adoption related NGOs on the ground there tell us the huge foreign fees for international adoptions in these countries quickly corrupts the process and leads to harvesting of children from families. When this happens, it results in the production of fraudulent paperwork, identities, social histories etc. Due to this, it is our belief that few of the children who could benefit from a prepared, resourceful adoptive family are the ones actually being adopted.
Another concern from our perspective is the overall flawed adoption process. The Hague has unfortunately not brought many positive changes to this. PAPs continue to be underprepared for parenting a child who has been through an international adoption or an older child placed domestically. Children’s true needs and their social and medical histories are not being adequately (or honestly) portrayed to PAPs. Vulnerable children are being placed carelessly, in our opinion. We are hearing more about coercion of older children to agree to an international adoption when they do not want one, which is unacceptable. The adoption process itself is not child-centered; post-adoption, when the need is greatest, rarely works to provide good support or resources for these families. There has yet to be an adequate safety net developed for children. Back to the issue of dissolution in question 2, we’ve heard of more placements failing and entire families imploding post-adoption. Again, whether this is increasing or people are talking about it more is unknown.
Regulatory bodies need to open their eyes and tighten up the process by passing new regulations and enforcing the ones we have. The Hague regulations need to be revised and there needs to be greater communication between government agencies. They need to start listening to those on the ground – adoptees, parents of origin, and adoptive parents – who will tell the truth and not just what will keep poorly done adoptions flowing unfettered.
Better screening of PAPs needs to take place and post-adoption support services must be provided by placing agencies. To say they are no longer responsible for the well-being of children post-adoption is irresponsible and dangerous.
We absolutely need to have fee caps in place and enforced. We absolutely must make the enormous fees paid during the adoption process transparent, and all parties must be held accountable for them. These fees should be commensurate to local fee for services (whether in the US or abroad). Adoptions of children should not be subject to supply and demand market forces. If we had fee caps in place, it would eliminate much of the trafficking and fraud. The money trail (or lack thereof) is only one piece of the problem, but in our view the biggest.
LGA: Thanks, PEAR and we look forward to future conversations. Please keep up the great work.