While Claudia is having a Fascinating Life talking about ethics in the adoption process, I am thinking about ethics post-adoption. I am thinking about them as they pertain to Ethiopia specifically, but probably as they pertain to most adoptive situations (I don’t really know that yet – but maybe I will by the time I am done typing.)
Let us assume for the sake of not rehashing what is being discussed at Claudia’s blog, that an AP entered the adoption process through all the appropriate, legal channels.
Let us assume that for all intents and purposes all the adults involved in the process understood the ramifications of their actions, and entered into the relinquishment and adoption process with forethought, knowledge and a belief that adoption was the proper choice (for whatever reasons). Let us assume that from the on-set the relinquishing/first family had no intention of gaining monetarily/resource wise by placing their child for adoption. Let us assume no-one crossed Claudia’s wall. (If for some reason you haven’t read Claudia’s posts on this subject, you probably want to.)
Before I go any further I want to say two things: first, I hate the slippery slope argument. Hate it. Seems to me it is usually employed by people who are making the slope slippery just by slinging feces. On the other hand, most discussions about ethics require examining the slippery slope at such a close level that your nostrils burn from the sting of the smell. Second, I hate it when people try to make rules/laws/policies based on what I refer to as “the lowest common denominator.” You will never write guidelines, laws or even treaties that will stop the slimiest of people from behaving the way they do. Rules provide lane-markers for those who are trying to do things the right way. They provide deterrents for those who might accidently cross lines. But people who steal babies to sell them, won’t read the Hague guidelines and decide to give the babies back.
I am not sure if the preceding paragraph has any bearing on this post or not. But now you know a little more about me, and I got to use the word feces.
Okay, where was I?
Right, assuming no-one crossed Claudia’s wall…
Is it ethical for an AP to search for their child’s first family even though the contract they have with their adoption agency says they cannot until the child is 18-years-old? Does it matter if life expectancy in the child’s birth region is between 40 and 50 years? Does it matter if there is an impending war in the country and it is likely that communication will be limited in the future?
Is it ethical for an AP to have an ongoing relationship with the first family, by-passing the agency as an intermediary, even if the agency contract says this is not allowed? Does it matter if the agency is no longer working in the region where the child was born so is no longer facilitating communication between the parties?
If the AP and birth family are maintaining an ongoing relationship and the birth family is facing a crisis, is it ethical for the AP family to help them? It is ethical for them not to help?
What types of help are ethical? Providing money? Providing food? Offering the birth parent a job? Connecting the birth parent with a training program? Securing medical assistance?
Is it ethical to help the biological siblings if not the birth parents? What about providing education funding for bio siblings who are still living with the first family?
Is it ethical to build a school? a well? a library? in the village where an adopted child was born? Or do you have to build it in the next village over? What if an AP inadvertently contributes to a project in the village where their child was born?
Is intention part of the criteria in evaluating the ethics of a situation?
Does it matter if help is provided “anonymously” versus “on-the-record’? Does it matter if the help is provided from a distance versus face-to-face?
Is there a time lapse that must occur before certain activities take place? If it isn’t ethical to provide help the first time you meet the birth parent, does that change when
a year has elapsed? Three years later? Ten years down the road?
What about a change in circumstances? Does help become ethical when the country is facing the worst drought in 60 years? When civil war is knocking on the family’s door? When one of the first parents dies?
What if a AP family works for, or volunteers with, or even creates, a non-profit organization that benefits people in situations similar to the first family’s? Wouldn’t we all applaud this action? What if they do it a community away from where their child was born? What if their child’s parent then relocates to the community being served?
Is it incumbent upon an AP to anticipate every possible down-stream ramification and base her decision on that?
If some first families already place their kids up for adoption hoping to get something in return, is an AP who helps the first family of their kid responsible for what the other parents already do? Or are they just responsible for every person who does it in the future? Or do they hold no responsibility for other unethical adults’ behaviors? What if the next unethical parent is from the same village? What if he is from the same family? Has the AP added to a “culture” of unethical expectations even if their intentions were pure?
In 24 years can an AP look at their child and say, “Yes, I knew your mother was going to die, but the contract I signed said I couldn’t help”? Will the child think, “Wow, my
Mom is so ethical”?
Do some people gravitate to closed adoptions so they don’t have to think about this stuff?