There is some chitchat around the blogosphere right now about adoption advertising, mostly spurred by the recent media attention given to a couple who posted numerous billboards about their desire to adopt an infant.
What's my take on it? The whole thing creeps me out. Even laying aside my deep concern at some specific statements made by the couple about domestic adoption and the rights of first mothers, the billboards make me uncomfortable. Were they the most progressive people on the planet in regard to adoption, I would still disagree with their use of advertising.
The primary defense of this couple is that, while billboards may be a bit unorthodox, they are just another form of the networking that prospective adoptive parents do all the time. They are no different than posting your profile on the internet, sending letters to doctors' offices, or advertising in the back of a magazine. I actually agree with that--which is exactly why I think they are inappropriate.
Our first agency encouraged waiting couples to do personal networking. They viewed it as a way prospective parents could be pro-active during their wait. T and I said "no way" and that was the end of that for us. We both found the whole idea too personally distasteful. We felt that it inverted the placement process by putting the focus on our desire for a child rather than on a woman's process of considering her options. It was important to us that choosing us be one of the last steps in a woman's decision to place, not the inspiration for it. The profiles should come out after an initial decision to place has been made, not before.
My discomfort with advertising ties into my bias toward agency adoption in general. I'm absolutely not saying all agency adoptions are perfect and non-agency adoptions are not. I've witnessed wonderful private adoptions and agency adoptions which are disasters. But I think well-run agencies are our best shot at making sure that the education, counseling and support that are essential to successful, ethical adoption are available. Adoption is far, far more than matching up waiting families with people who need to place. To me, direct advertising like this focuses on that one step at the expense of the others.
I do realize that I am culpable as an adoptive parent for adoption advertising to a certain extent. Even though T and I did not personally network, our agency did network itself on our behalf. Agencies (or adoption lawyers, for that matter) have to put their names out there somehow in order to do their work, even if it's just grassroots networking within their region. I'm actually glad our current agency advertises locally, because their primary mission is options counseling and the vast majority of clients do not make an adoption plan. Organizations which connect people with parenting resources and support are vital. But there is absolutely agency advertising targeted at expectant parents that I feel goes way too far. It is impossible to visit a commercial website about adoption or do a google search about adoption without coming across it.
I don't have all the answers, but I am interested in the conversation. What kinds of advertising by individuals do you think are appropriate? By agencies and lawyers?