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Ensuring Ethical Practice in Child Adoption: A Guide for Legislators, Practitioners and Consumers of Adoption Services Mirah Riben Revised and updated for The Evolution of Adoption Practice: Activist and Community Perspectives, Adoption Initiative Biennial Conference 2020/2022, St. John's University in Collaboration with Montclair State University
Earlier versions presented by Mirah Riben at:
Adoption Ethics and Accountability, Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute and Ethica, Inc., Arlington, Va., 2007 Adoption Law Institute, Adoption Law Institute, PLI New York Center, NY, 2009 Open Arms, Open Minds: The Ethics of Adoption In The 21st Century Conference, St. Johns University, NY, 2010 Defining Ethics in Domestic and Global Adoption Practice, Open Arms, Open Minds; The ethics of Adoption in the 21sr Century, 2010
Her works are cited in more than eighty books, professional
Mirah Riben has been researching adoption since 1980. She is author of two books and more than two hundred fifty articles. Her works are cited in more than eighty books, professional journals, articles, and theses. 1988 2008
Child Welfare Information Gateway ChildWelfare.gov
“It is imperative that professionals working in adoption act ethically to ensure the rights of all the involved parties at all points in the process.”1 1
Maureen Hogan, Executive Director, National Adoption Foundation in Pertman, Adoption Nation: How The Adoption Revolution Is Transforming America 193 (2000). “People assume that adoption is a benevolent, philanthropic response to the needs of orphans, but it’s not always. In some ways, it’s just another giant industry in which people see a way to get rich.”
Is the purpose of adoption to find homes for children in need or to fill a demand for babies?
Article 7, U. N. Convention on the Rights of the Child; Troxel v
* Article 7, U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child; Troxel v. Granville, 530 U.S. 57 (2000); Meyer v. Nebraska, (1923); Pierce v. Society of Sisters, (1925), Prince v. Massachusetts, (1944); Stanley v. Illinois, (1972); Wisconsin v. Yoder, (1972) ; Quilloin v. Walcott, (1978) ; Parham v. J. R., (1979); Santosky v. Kramer, (1982)
In order to protect all of the
In order to protect all of the parties to adoption, including disenfranchised minors, the indigent and vulnerable the following changes in practice must be established and enforced:
EVERY ADOPTION Domestic, Transnational, Private, Step-Parent, Independent and State:
Must ensure there is no coercion, pressure or exploitation of poverty, age, illiteracy, language, or misunderstanding of the permanency of adoption. Must ensure the best interests of the child are primary by appointing a guardian ad litem to represent the child and their best interest.
Claims of orphan status must be verified via proof of death of both parents. Claims of abandonment must be verified. All efforts must be made to locate extended family members and they must be provided resources needed to care for their kin. All efforts must be made to find in-country placements. Out-of-country placements should be a last resort. Out of country adopters must be made aware they need to file for the citizenship of adopted children to avoid deportation.
DOMESTIC INFANT ADOPTIONS: Privatized Entrepreneurial
Not-for-profit and non-profit are tax status
Elizabeth Samuels, Time To Decide
Elizabeth Samuels, Time To Decide? The Laws Governing Mothers’ Consents To The Adoption of Their Newborn Infants. 2005, Tenn. Law Review. “Infant adoptions in the United States are arranged primarily by private agencies and independent facilitators characterized by high fees, demand for children that outstrips available supply, and marketing aimed both at prospective adopters and pregnant women who might consider placing their infants for adoption . . .”
Realtors must complete ethics training and are bound by an eleven-page National Realtor Code of Ethics and Standards. Businesses from restaurants to nail salons are bound by codes and regulations to protect the clientele they serve. They are regulated, subject to inspections, and can be closed for violations.
Yet anyone, with no legal or social work education, training, or certification can arrange adoptions with no oversight and no enforceable code of ethics.
Who will enforce them? Who will create ethical standards of
Is the permanent transfer of child custody less important than the transfer of real estate? Who will create ethical standards of decency and protection in adoption practice? Who will enforce them?
fraudulent certificate “of birth” that claims the adoptee was born to
Every adoption in America – including step-parent adoptions –eradicates the adoptee’s truth of birth and heredity by sealing the original birth certificate and issuing a fraudulent certificate “of birth” that claims the adoptee was born to biological strangers.
ALL states* either deny adult adoptees access to their original, authentic vital records or have restrictions to access - such as disclosure vetoes - that do not apply to non-adoptees. *FOR STATE LAWS SEE:
for states to commit fraud? In whose best interest is it?
How is it ethical for states to commit fraud? How is it in the adoptees’ best interest to put their health and that of their offspring at risk by not knowing their genetic truth and medical history in a day and age when openness and honesty in adoption is encouraged? In whose best interest is it?
PAYMENT of FEES
into a social service in which payments
Elizabeth Samuels, Time To Decide? The Laws Governing Mothers’ Consents To The Adoption of Their Newborn Infants. 2005, Tenn. Law Review., 509: “Adoption experts concur that we need to transform...adoption... into a social service in which payments by adoptive parents play no part.”
‘client’ because he or she is paying the fee for the services.”
Madelyn Freundlich, director of the Policy Dept. of Children’s Rights, a national advocacy organization for children in government custody, quoted in “Time to Decide” by Elizabeth Samuels: The prospective adopter “is the primary, if not exclusive ‘client’ because he or she is paying the fee for the services.”
Fees for legal representation of BOTH relinquishing and adopting parties are routinely paid by those planning to adopt. This constitutes dual representation of parties who have separate, and potentially conflicting, interests.
“The research on ethics in adoption shows that adoption,
L. Anne Babb, author, Ethics in American Adoption (1999) “The research on ethics in adoption shows that adoption, more than any other human service, is rife with conflict of interest . . .”
Madelyn Freundlich, MSW, MPH, JD, LL
Madelyn Freundlich, MSW, MPH, JD, LL.M, author and independent child welfare consultant in New York City: “To what extent do prospective adoptive parents’ expenditures to cover a birth mother’s medical or other living expenses create a sense of indebtedness that may affect her decision-making?” (continued) These are serious ethical questions for adoption practitioners
“Does a birth mother ultimately ‘owe’ it to the prospective adoptive parents to follow through on an adoption because a good deal of money has been expended ?”
Dual representation violates the ABA Rules of Professional Conduct
Attorneys are put in a bind when prospective adopters, their attorney, facilitator, or adoption agencies, who have a stake in the completion of the adoption, recommend, suggest, or pay attorney fees to represent the relinquishing parent(s).
American Bar Association Rule 1.7: Conflict of Interest:
a lawyer shall not represent a client if the representation involves a concurrent conflict of interest. A concurrent conflict of interest exists if: (1) the representation of one client will be directly adverse to another client; or (2) there is a significant risk that the representation of one or more clients will be materially limited by the lawyer's responsibilities to another client, a former client or a third person or by a personal interest of the lawyer. (b) Notwithstanding the existence of a concurrent conflict of interest under paragraph (a), a lawyer may represent a client if: (1) the lawyer reasonably believes that the lawyer will be able to provide competent and diligent representation to each affected client; (2) the representation is not prohibited by law; (3) the representation does not involve the assertion of a claim by one client against another client represented by the lawyer in the same litigation or other proceeding before a tribunal; and (4) each affected client gives informed consent, confirmed in writing.
Susan Smith, “Safeguarding The Rights and Well
Susan Smith, “Safeguarding The Rights and Well Being of Birthparents In The Adoption Process,” The Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute report 2006: “This practice of dual representation raises acute ethical and practical concerns.”
New York Law Journal 11/11/09 https://www.law.com/almID/1202435338397/
“The adoption field itself remains such a legal gray area that it tests the ethical limits of the attorneys who specialize in it.”
L. Anne Babb, author, Ethics in American Adoption (1999)
“Professionals have yet to develop uniform ethical standards in adoption or to make meaningful attempts to monitor their own profession.”
ADDITIONAL ETHICAL GUIDELINES Necessary in Domestic Infant Adoptions
1. Ensure there is no coercion, pressure or exploitation of poverty, age, illiteracy, language, or misunderstanding of the permanency of adoption. 2. No expectant mother moved out of state for the purpose of adoption. 3. No expectant mother encouraged to conceal the father’s identity. Efforts must be made to locate father for consent.
4. NO PUTATIVE FATHER REGISTRIES
Because it is in the child’s best interest to know who their father is, DNA test results should be sufficient to establish paternity.
5. Judges must ensure that relinquishing parents are aware that adoption does not guarantee a “better life”. Adoptive parents die, divorce, go bankrupt, terminate adoptions, abandon, rehome,2 abuse3 and have killed children in their care. Adopted children have been burnt, starved, and caged by those entrusted with their care.
2/25/22 2/24/22 3/1/22
6. There needs to be judicial verification of full disclosure to both relinquishing and adopting parents of: The trauma caused by maternal-child separation that can result in permanent neurologic damage4 to the child as well as feelings of abandonment/rejection, and Lifelong unresolvable grief suffered by mothers who relinquish
7. Full disclosure, verified by a
judge, that both relinquishing and adopting parents are aware that adoptees of all ages – even those adopted at birth– are over-represented in mental health and substance abuse treatment facilities5,6,7 and have a four times higher rate of attempted suicide than non-adoptees.8
8. NO PRE-BIRTH CONSENTS After initial meeting, no contact between expectant mothers and prospective adopters until after the birth, relinquishment, and revocation period to eliminate feelings of indebtedness, obligation, or pressure which can be interpreted as coercion, and can thus cause a contested adoption. This would also eliminate false hope and expectations for prospective adopters.
PRE-BIRTH CONSENT to ADOPTION in ALABAMA
When Consent Can Be Executed for Adoption in Alabama: Citation: Ala. Code § 26-10A-13 (a) A consent or relinquishment may be taken at any time, except that once signed or confirmed, it may be withdrawn within 5 days after birth or within 5 days after signing of the consent or relinquishment, whichever comes last. (b) Consent or relinquishment can be withdrawn if the court finds that the withdrawal is reasonable under the circumstances and consistent with the best interest of the child within 14 days after the birth of the child or within 14 days after signing of the consent or relinquishment, whichever comes last. (c) All consents or relinquishments required by this act shall be filed with the court in which the petition for adoption is pending before the final decree of adoption is entered
9. All states should mandate a minimum of two weeks post-birth with postpartum mothers encouraged to see, hold and breastfeed their babies before relinquishment or placement. (It’s considered inhumane to separate puppies and kittens prior to four weeks.) 10. Standard practice in all states should include a thirty-day revocation period after relinquishment is signed with liberal and unrestricted visitation.
11. In order to eliminate even the appearance of exploitation or coercion, expenses should NEVER be allowed to be paid or offered as a gift directly from prospective adopters to expectant mothers. Housing and medical bills paid by Medicaid and WIC. Any additional expenses paid from a state pool.
Guardian ad litem for the infant or child; and
Impartial third-party option and resource counseling for parents considering relinquishment with an emphasis on finding mother/child foster care and/or family-centric substance abuse treatment if needed; and Legal representation provided by neutral third party for every relinquishing parent.
13. Until all states set up a pool for expenses, prospective adopters must be made aware that any hint, suggestion or implication of repayment of expenses paid to expectant moms if they do not proceed with adoption, can be adjudged coercion and result in a contested or revoked adoption, and risk of criminal charges for extortion and/or attempted baby buying.
14. Judges must verify “open adoption” is explained clearly, thoroughly and in detail, and relinquishing parents are made aware that: They are relinquishing ALL parental rights, and that There is no enforcement of any post adoption contact agreements.
Do we not need a federal agency to oversee state adoption laws?
Why is the only involvement of our federal government in adoption, to provide a federal tax credit to adopters . . . A tax credit that was intended to encourage the adoption of children in state care but is now used for infant and transnational adoptions which need no encouragement?
Legislators, Practitioners and Consumers of Adoption Services:
MUST speak up and DEMAND accountability. Silence is duplicity or complicity. INNOCENT CHILDREN DESERVE NO LESS.
This slide show, with all notes, reference
and resources is available at: Presentation Tab Or contact:
END NOTES: 1. (Slide # 5 ) Child Welfare, Ethical Issues in Adoption. 2. (Slide # 36) Americans use the Internet to Abandon Children Adopted from Overseas 3. (Slides # 37-38) The seven news articles that depicted abuse by adoptive parents all appeared in approximately a 30-day period between mid-February and mid-March of 2022 while I was preparing this presentation. 2/7/22: The founder of an international adoption agency in Ohio has pleaded guilty to her role in the fraudulent adoption of a Polish child who was later abused in Texas, officials say. Margaret Cole, 74, of Strongsville, Ohio, admitted to conspiring with agency employee Debra Parris, 69, and others in transferring the child to people ineligible for intercountry adoption, according to a news release from the Department of Justice. Without completing a home study or criminal background check, the agency helped oversee the transfer of custody. in August, the child was taken to a children’s hospital in Fort Worth with “significant injuries in several areas.” 2/10/22: Tracy and Timothy Ferriter, both 46, of Jupiter, FL, were charged with aggravated child abuse and false imprisonment of a 14-year-old son since He was forced to live in a locked structure in the garage. rcna15676 2/24/22: Kimberly Deaton of Northern KY was arrested when her adopted son had large amounts of swelling and cuts on his face as well as severe bruising all over his back and was allegedly hit in the face with a baseball bat. nky-parents/
2/25/22: Kimberly Monique Smith, 37, of Rural Hall NC accused of physically abusing and then killing her 5-year-old adopted son. The death penalty is being perused. 3/4/2: Orrin and Orson West of California couple told police their 2 adopted sons went missing in There were subsequently charged with murder of the 4 and 3 year old adopted boys. west/ / 3/15/22: Corrigan Clay, 43, American pastor who moved to Haiti and adopted two Haitian orphans and opened an evangelical pre-school is now facing U.S. charges for “engaging in illicit sexual conduct” with a child while living in the Caribbean nation. He is being prosecuted by the Justice Department’s Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section, for sexually abused the unidentified child, who was under 18, from January 2014 to December 2017, the indictment states. corrigan-clay-who-adopted-haitian-orphans-charged-over-child-sex-abuse 3/17/22: Two toddlers were adopted into a Fort Bragg family and within a year both were dead. It took more than three years but their adopted father, a soldier, is now facing murder charges.
4. (Slide # 39) How Mother-Child Separation Causes Neurobiological Vulnerability Into Adulthood /how-mother-child-separation-causes-neurobiological-vulnerability-into-adulthood.html 5. (Slide # 40) Bohl and Marich, Relinquishment and Addiction: What Trauma Has to do with it. 6. Sunderland, Paul. Lecture on Adoption. 7. Kaplan, Adoption and Mental Illness 8. Keyes, et al. Risk of Suicide Attempt in Adopted and Nonadopted Offspring
Adoptees "Flip the Script" on National Adoption Month;. https://www
AmericanAdoptions. Adoptee Issues: The Impact of Adoption Trauma, Loss and More APS, How Mother-Child Separation Causes Neurobiological Vulnerability into Adulthood Bohl, David and Jamie March. Relinquishment and Addiction: What Trauma Has to Do With It. Evolve Treatment Centers, The Effect of Early Trauma on Adopted Adolescents
Johnson, Vicci Una. Trauma, Trust, and Academic Achievement Stories Shared by High School Dropouts. Maté, Dr. Gbaor and Zara Phillips. The Trauma of Relinquishment - Adoption, Addiction and Beyond, video of panel with world-leading trauma and addiction expert. PACT. Grief and Loss in Adoption: Best articles, essays, videos. Riben, Mirah. Ethical issues in American Infant Adoption. Riben, Mirah. Adoption-Related Trauma and Moral Injury Riben, Mirah. The Lifelong Trauma of Adoption Relinquishment
Robinson, Evelyn Burns, Adoption & Loss: The Hidden Grief.
Rosetta, Meg, Lutheran Family & Children Services. Grief and Loss in Adoption. Samuels, Elizabeth. Time to Decide? The Laws Governing Mothers' Consents to the Adoption of Their Newborn Infants Samuels, Elizabeth: Surrender and Subordination: Birth Mothers and Adoption Law Reform, Michigan Journal of Gender & Law, Vol. 20 , Iss. 1 (2013) Sunderland, Paul. Lecture on Adoption - YouTube. Verrier, Nancy. The Primal.
See Mirah Riben on: MirahRiben.blogspot.com Mirah on linkedin.com/in/mirah-riben / Revised 3/24/22
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