Thoughts from an outsider

There are a couple of thoughts first and foremost in my mind. And the first is, that a lot of lip service is given to ethical adoption practice and the importance and focus of "the child."

Unfortunately, the reality is that adoptees and first/birth parents are marginalized.

Even at a conference about adoption ethics and accountability.

They tried. I have to give lots of kudos and props to Ethica, Inc. and Korea Focus, who worked so hard to get me there and have been only supportive and advocates of hearing ALL voices involved in adoption.

So far this has been an interesting conference and I’m learning a lot about how adoption "professionals" (of which I am, too) need to do a better job focusing on the needs of the kids. But I need to say that a lot of the "talk" about focusing on the needs, or "best interests" of the children, are in fact couched excuses for perpetuating the status quo. There has been relatively little discussion about who is, in fact, the "client." And the fact that we’re using the word "client" is problematic.

In the opening panel, Linh Song, the executive director of Ethica, summed well my personal view. She asked, "Can we advocate for reform without being seen as anti-adoption?" For it seems that anyone who critiques adoption is summarily discounted as being "anti-adoption" and dismissed. I have stated it before and will state it again. What is often considered best practice in one decade we can look at in hindsight and say that we failed. We failed kids, we failed families (of origin and adoptive) and we failed communities. We must critique our current practices and not wait for the next generation to clean up our messes. As Linh put it, "unethical practices are the greatest threat to the continuation of adoption."

The best part of this conference so far is meeting people I admire. I was fortunate enough to meet and spend time with some amazing people. I’m a fan of Indigo Williams Willing and her work. I got to meet Laura Romano, an adult adoptee from Columbia who was featured in a documentary, Las Hijas, which I saw just a few weeks ago. I don’t think people cared much about the blogger panel, but I got to meet some great activists including Margie from Third Mom, Usha and Desiree from Fleas Biting, Claud from Musings of the Lame, Suz from Writing my Wrongs. I reconnected with Nathalie Cho and got to know Linh. I spent time with a UNICEF ambassador from Guatemala and along with Nathalie and Indigo, we spoke to him about the future of Guatemalan adoptees and the questions they might be asking in five to ten years. Is Guatemala ready for them? Who is going to be accountable to the next generation of adoptees?

What I’m most disappointed about is that most of the people who should be here – the agencies who practice adoption – are not well represented. The speakers are amazing and smart and have good things to say (for the most part) but we’re kind of preaching to the choir here.

There are hundreds of agencies who are practicing unethical adoptions and they are not here.