AdoptTogether Crowdfunding

It has become quite common for hopeful adoptive families to turn to crowdfunding to pay the expenses of adopting a newborn baby. The cost is often $50,000 for an international adoption, about $30-40,000 domestically. That is due to additional costs of bringing a child in from another country.

Hank Fortener, is the founder and CEO of AdoptTogether. The website says – “His family fostered 36 children and adopted 8 from 5 different countries while he was growing up. He knows firsthand how painful & euphoric adopting a child can be, and it is this experienced heart for adoption that drives AdoptTogether.”

In my all things adoption group, someone asks an obvious question – how many original moms could that $30,000 help to keep their baby, instead of surrendering it to adoption ? I agree. As a society we really don’t care enough to help families stay together.

An article in Forbes back in September 2021 highlighted the work of this organization. In that interview, Hank says – I had the idea that if we could turn crowds into communities, if it truly takes a village to raise a child, it can also mean it takes a village to raise funds to bring a child home. It did not seem fair that insurance could cover most expenses of having a baby in a hospital, but there was nothing for those who could not have a child, or chose to parent a child that needed parents. AdoptTogether was born in our hearts 2009, and then went live in 2012. The organization has helped over 5,000 families raise over $26 Million.

According to Daniel Pollack and Steven M Baranowski writing in The Imprint – Ethical Challenges Remain in The World of Private Adoptions. Adoption practices continue to challenge the ethics of social workers due to myriad conflicting interests which have existed since the practice began. Dangerous informal child care arrangements in the early to mid 1900s have been replaced by a patchwork of state and federal laws, regulations and child care practices meant to serve the best interests of everyone associated with adoption, but we continue to allow for ethically concerning “wrongful” adoptions.  

Social workers have found themselves observing or being caught up in ethically challenging adoption practices that have continued to lead to unethical family disruptions and poorly implemented adoption policies, all of which have created more “wrongful adoptions” and a continued mistrust of the profession. Disrupting family structures for the so-called “best interest” of the child is the most ethically challenging aspect of adoption and child welfare practices. The rescuing of “orphan” children from “Third World” countries has led to an increase in human trafficking and is the most blatant form of family disruptions for the sake of making money through the guise of a legal adoption.

Personally, I do not believe that crowdfunding making it possible for more families to afford to adopt improves the ethics of the adoption industry.

I Try To Stay Humble

Before I began to know who my original grandparents were (both of my parents were adopted) – adoption was the most natural thing in the world. How could it not be ? It was so natural both of my sisters gave up a baby to adoption. So, in only the last 3+ years, my perspective has changed a lot. I see the impacts of adoption has passed down my family line, ultimately robbing all three of my parents daughter’s of the ability to parent. Though I did not give my daughter up for adoption, finding myself unable to support myself and her financially, I allowed her father and step-mother to raise her without intrusion from me. To be honest, I didn’t think I was important as a mother. I thought that a child only needed one or the other parent to be properly cared for. Sadly, decades later, I learned that situation was not as perfect as I had believed. My sister closest to me in age actually lost custody of her first born son to her former in-laws when she divorced their son. He has suffered the most damage of all of our children and is currently estranged from his mother’s family, viewing us all as the source of his ongoing emotional and mental pain. I love him dearly and wish it wasn’t so but it is not in my control nor my sisters.

I realize that not every adoptee has the same experience. We are all individuals with individual life circumstances. Right and Wrong, Better and Worse – such exactness doesn’t exist. Everyone heals in different ways. We all begin where we begin. I began where I was when I started learning some of the hard truths and realities about the adoption industry as it operates for profit in this country. I also know that the adoption practices of the 1930s when my parents were adopted are not the same overall in 2021. There are only a few truly closed adoptions now and many “open” adoptions. I put the “open” into quotation marks because all too often, the woman who gives birth and surrenders her baby for adoption because she doesn’t feel capable of parenting, just as I didn’t feel capable in my early 20s, discovers that the “open” part is unenforceable and the adoptive parents renege on that promise.

Those of us, myself included, have become activists for reforms going forward. Society has not caught up with us yet. Certainly, there are situations where the best interest of the child is to place them in a safe family structure where they can be sufficiently provided for. No one, no matter how ardently they wish for reform, would say otherwise. The best interests of the child NEVER includes robbing them of their identity or knowledge of their origins. In the best of circumstances, I believe, adoptive parents are placeholders for the original parents and extended biological family until their adoptive child reaches maturity. Ideally, that child grows up with a full awareness and exposure to the personalities of their original parents.

Any parent, eventually reaches a point in the maturing of their child, when it is time to allow that child to be totally independent in their life choices, even if they continue to live with their parents and be financially supported by them. It is a gradual process for most of us and some of us are never 100% separated from our parents until they die. Then, regardless, we must be able to stand on our own two feet, live from our own values and make of the life that our parents – whether it was one set with a mother and a father or two sets of mothers and fathers (whether by adoption or due to divorce) – made possible for us as human beings. I do try not to judge but I do try to remain authentic in my own perspectives, values and beliefs. Those I share as honestly as I can in this blog with as much humility as I have the growth and self-development to embody.

Almost Never Acceptable

It’s very hard to understand why ANYONE would choose to take another mom’s (or dad’s) child either through adoption or by becoming a foster caregiver. The only acceptable path I see is true kinship, when their parents are dead, ie they are orphans (both of my parents were adoptees and I thought they were orphans when I was a child – I was totally ignorant that biological family existed and was living lives unknown to me). Other than that, no possible excuse.

So here are some questions for adoptive parents and foster caregivers to contemplate: How do you not see what an absolutely horrible thing this is to do? Have we as humans become so blind that we see taking another mother’s child as a good thing? Where is the accountability for adoptive parents and foster caregivers since they are contributors to this huge problem of family separation? Why are we constantly talking about the best interest of the child and not the best interest of the family? Do adults who lose their children not count as well?

A better choice is guardianship and not adoption – if there are children who have arrived in your home, who aren’t able to be with their first/birth family. Allowing them their identity and knowledge of their genetic family.

One should feel absolutely sick to their stomach, if they’ve built their own ‘motherhood’ on another woman’s brokenness and loss. How cruel and selfish, to be so focused on your infertility loss, that you failed to see the other humans in your family’s picture.

No one advocates kids being abused. 

Our society needs to be doing something before a crisis sets in. Maybe the parents need support and some intervention but this should occur WAY before it becomes necessary to remove children from their natural home. Maybe those parents didn’t have a good role model, to show them how to parent properly. Without a role model for how it is done, it can really be an impossible task. Maybe if, as a society, we didn’t leave so many parents unsupported, there would be no need for adoptive parents and foster caregivers.

I know that this sounds very utopian. The challenge is actually translating this into the real world solutions. So how would real world people make a difference for families where the children have been separated from their parents for apparently valid reasons involving the child’s welfare? Here are some ideas related to foster care . . .

The social end goal for that situation is reunification of the children with their parents. There are a lot of steps along the way. Weekly urine analysis requirements, parenting classes, drug counseling, therapy, visits/phone calls with kids, parents needing housing, a job, education, showing up to court.

As a foster parent your job should be to walk along side the parents as an additional support to them in their own efforts. You can’t make anyone do anything, but you can support them, encourage them and remind them of the ultimate goal. You can help pay for those weekly urine analysis requirements, if $10 a week is too much. You can help them get signed up for parenting classes, you can drive them to parenting classes. You can help them find a drug program and get started with therapist. You can provide transportation and support after those sessions. You can go to court and support them and advocate for them. You can help them get to visits, or call them instead of waiting for them to call. You can help by providing resources for housing/jobs. Transportation, if needed.

And then after you’ve helped, you’ve taught them a lot about where to access the resources they need. You’ve shown them what they can do for themselves. And now, they may have many of the skills they need to be successful. You’ve lead them to goal by supporting them and making them feel safe that you aren’t only there to take their children away. Now they can find their own way to parenting their children properly.

And the inconvenient truth is this – too many foster parents flat out refuse to spend any time with the children’s parents or even talk to them because they look down on them as inferior and damaged and not worthy of help. Yes, it is true that some children’s parents are not safe, but it is more true that most of these parents simply need some help to be safe.

The Legal Rights Of Siblings

This from someone with experience – If you are adopting a child or children in who have siblings being adopted into other homes, make sure you have a quality attorney, NOT one of the ones that are contracted with through the state. Know the laws in your state in regards to sibling rights post adoption. Your attorney needs to go over this in great detail. Sibling separation agreements, continued contact agreements, etc are just RECOMMENDATIONS and not legally binding, unless they are worded in a certain way. This means that even though they are telling you these things will have to be agreed to and take place in order to adopt, any adoptive parent can choose to cut contact without punishment – at any time – and there’s nothing you can do about it.

Don’t be like me. Don’t think that just because the agreements are there and someone is verbally telling you this has to be done is going to mean that it will prove legally binding. It may not. Don’t be ignorant like me. KNOW THE LAWS. Have an attorney who is well versed in these matters. And make sure that continued sibling contact is legally required and can be enforced. I learned a valuable lesson about this, but it may be too late and sadly at the expense of 3 children who shouldn’t have to be denied contact. 3 children who will carry scars and wounds because of my ignorance in this area. I don’t know – what the fuck was I thinking ? But undeniably, I fucked up. I preach and preach about us being educated and I failed to educate myself in regard what may possibly be the most important aspect of adoption. Don’t be like me. Don’t fuck this up. Make sure your kids and their siblings if they have been separated by adoption have legal rights to remain in contact with each other. Please. Don’t put your kids and their siblings in the situation my stupidity put mine in.

The truth is the best intentions in adoption often fall through. Adoptive parents can just say “it is not in best interests of our child” and get judge and court order to close contact. A common tactic is to move so far away, it’s no longer feasible to have physical contact. Even in the case of agreed to open adoptions, the intentions are often not followed through. Then, there is the less visible problem – if an adoptive parent does not want contact, the child is placed into an impossible situation. The child has to choose between loyalty to their adoptive parents or to their separated siblings – it’s a no win situation. When I became a non-custodial mother and my daughter was older, I provided her with a calling card so that she could call me at no charge, when doing so was not going to complicate her life with a step-mother and half and step siblings. She was in control.

These kids are human beings and should have the right to maintain contact with their siblings, at the very least, after adoption. It is increasingly known that genetic connections are better for the child than the loss of them.

Another woman shares her experiences –

I have played this game for 25 years with my daughter’s adoptive parents. I would suggest not pushing back at them at full force. The more you push the more they will close down. Tt’s not about twiddling your thumbs ….. it’s about playing the long game. Sigh. And I understand this as regards my daughter. It was very hard to be an absentee mother but now that she is in her mid-forties and her step-mother died quite a few years ago now, I am grateful I have managed to retain a good relationship, a loving relationship, with her. She often mourns her mom who died. I would never ever criticize the woman who raised her. That is totally misguided for anyone caught on the outside.

Reform work currently taking place in the state of Ohio seeks to establish the lawful connection for siblings in foster care. There is more work that needs to be done, so that the right to maintaining a connection isn’t terminated, if an adoption occurs.

Here is the view from a person who became separated – I read my sibling agreement contract. I was supposed to see three of my older siblings (the ones I lived in the house with before foster care) 3 times a year. I have no clue how it fell apart, but I never saw my siblings again – until I found my biological family at 17. We were all able to get together once last year after 15 years apart. Then again, I read the open adoption contract too and that also fell apart. I was supposed to know my family but it seems like nobody cared enough.