By any account, a horrific story. An unethical agency. And a lack of interest in how the decision to relinquish might be affecting the parents. But pretty much par for the course in adoption. Nothing I felt compelled to write about.
Until I go to this bit...
Couple deny allegations that led birth parents to halt adoption:
Adam Pertman, executive director of the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute, a policy, research and education organization, said it's essential that an agency work for both sides.
'Good, ethical practices entails serving everybody's needs and means acting purely transparently in all regards,' he said.
Mr. Pertman was concerned that people might look at this example and think that all adoptions work this way.
Perhaps I should give Pertman a pass on this. And I don't really care to tear him down personally. But his comments reveal a lack of ethical sophistication that seems rife throughout the adoption industry.
It is NOT "essential that an agency work for both sides." Indeed, it is unrealistic to think that an agency CAN work for both sides. It is called "conflict of interest," and it is a thorny ethical issue.
When my wife an I went to buy our house, we were informed of the rules governing real estate agents. Our agent would work for us. The seller would have an agent working for them. That would avoid even the appearance of a conflict of interest. When we wound up bidding on a house being sold by an agent who worked in the same company, our agent made it clear that she could not assist us in the bidding process to avoid any ethical pitfalls.
Our society understands conflict of interest when it comes to buying and selling houses. But when it comes to the adoption industry, the norm is still to believe that somehow social workers are better than normal human beings, and aren't subject to conflicts of interest. We get conflicts of interest in the law, in business, and in medicine. But when it comes to adoption, when it comes to the unmet demand for healthy infants, we don't recognize that a conflict of interest can arise and try to protect both the parents and the prospective adoptive parents from the conflict.
This is merely a symptom of the failure to recognize the very real ethical complexities posed by our adoption industry. Until we face up to those realities, we won't see real change. A case like this is awful, but Pertman's reaction to it isn't strong enough.
When human beings are subjected to conflicts of interest, we will see ethical lapses. It's only a matter of time. Instead of chastising agencies to rise above the inherent conflict of interest we've put them in, we need to develop a system where both sides have their separate representatives that can advise them and advocate for them.