Why Honesty, Not Political Correctness, Should Guide Your Open Adoption Decisions

This guest post is by Michelle Erich at Michelle Erich Law.

Do you bring your political correctness into your adoption efforts? It might not be a good idea.

Adoption is likely not the place to practice this insidious philosophy that sometimes means sacrificing honesty in favor of censorship under the guise of “political correctness”. Rasmussen Reports (November 2, 2011) conducted a survey that concluded that 79% of Americans see political correctness as a serious problem.

I certainly agree that it can be a serious problem in an adoption scenario.

Health of an adopted child

Consider the health of a child for starters. Everyone hopes for a healthy, happy, good looking, talented, robust, charismatic child. But it may not be politically correct to say so. While pregnancy does not guarantee any of that in the child, and neither does adopting, sometimes prospective adopting parents are asked to consider a child that is known to have health problems, such as down syndrome or other disorders.

The problem may have been discovered in a sonogram, amniocentesis, or the child is already born and diagnosed. There are people with a true heart to parent such a child, but if that is not you, you must say so, even if it is politically incorrect. I  asked a couple if they would consider a child whose mother suffered from paranoid schizophrenia.

I was happy when they told me they knew all about the disease due to a family member, they knew that it is believed to have a genetic component, and that they absolutely could not handle worrying that the child would someday develop that problem.

I found a family with a different comfort level for that child. But imagine the unhappiness all around if that couple had adopted that baby, then worried constantly, and likely subjected that child to an unnatural level of scrutiny as time went on.

The color and race of an adopted child

Health is just one issue. So is color. If you want a child who looks like you, who will fit in physically with your family and community, speak up. I once counseled a childless couple who said they didn’t care about anything, they just wanted a child, any child to parent. I asked about the husband’s accent and learned he was originally from New Zealand.

I asked how his family would handle it, if they adopted a child of color. He blanched and said his father still thought Aborigines were animals, not human, and would never accept a child of color as a grandchild.  Despite this couples’ feelings, I pointed out that the best interest of the child would require that they adopt within their own race. They seemed embarrassed to admit the truth of that, but finally did so.

Another time, I was not so quick to catch the family issue. I introduced a couple to a prospective birthmother who was Hispanic and her boyfriend, the baby’s father, who was Asian/black mix.  We had a nice dinner together, all seemed to go well. The couple were offered the baby and smiled in delight.

A few days later I received a scathing letter from the adoptive parents attacking me on a personal level and disengaging my services. It was baffling, confusing and hurtful, until the light dawned. Though this couple lived in Los Angeles, the husband was from the South. He would not admit to a racial issue, and maybe it wasn’t his but his family’s issue, nevertheless, it was there.

They had used me as an excuse to reject the birth mother I had brought them! The birthmother was emotionally wounded by the rejection, not understanding why the family backed out. It was sad all around, but if they had been honest with me, I would never have let that meeting happen.

The gender of an adopted child

In the privacy of your meeting with your adoption representative, you need to clearly enumerate your needs and desires. If you already have two daughters and only want a son, say so. If race, color, ethnicity, gender, or health is an issue for you, it is important that you understand your own needs, including extended family, and that your representative also understand them.

Don’t neglect the financial matters, either. I have had clients say they have an adoption budget, but then as the costs mount, I learn that they dipped into it for a vacation. If you agree to help support a birthmother through her pregnancy and her roommate bails out leaving her with double the rent you planned to pay, you must have a financial safety net for such things.

If your representative is an attorney, everything is confidential except those matters you expressly say can be shared.  If not an attorney, there is no confidentiality requirement, so have a discussion about sharing information with a prospective birth mother, before you give away all your secrets! But this is the time to remember honesty is truly the best policy. Check the political correctness at the door!

Michelle Erich is an open adoption attorney in Ventura, California with more than 20 years of experience working with expectant parents and hopeful adoptive parents. You can find out more about her and her services at Michelle Erich Law.

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Photo credit: Dominiqs