June 06, 2007

Advertising in Adoption

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?

5 comments:

Dawn said...

Heh -- I think we're the same person. I could've written this exact thing and hit "publish" very proudly. :)

Tammy said...

Our Province doesn't allow for personal networking by paps. No websites. No letters to doctors. To me, it felt like a safety net. On one hand, I didn't have to worry about whether or not I was doing "enough" on our behalf. I had done all I was allowed. OTOH, I didn't have to worry that the agency (who doesn't actively advertise themselves as in radio ads, newspaper ads, etc) or we were doing too much, causing someone to make a decision they didn't want to make.

I think that telling friends and family in a casual way that you are hoping to adopt is fine. But that's about it.

Both our placements came as a result of social services referring an expectant mother to our agency after a possible parenting plan was already in place.

I appreciate this post. The amount of "advertising" that is done in adoption makes me uncomfortable too.

Going Back to Square One said...

You know, our packet that included our application had a whole sheet of things we should do to network/advertise/shout-out our intentions to adopt.

The whole thing left a nasty taste in my mouth. Some of the bullet points included contacting school guidance counselors, crisis pregnancy centers, pastors...all things I felt morally opposed to; and we used a Christian agency.

We briefly considered using Parent Profiles, but never really made it that far since our placement happened so quickly.

Part of me felt a bit put out that our agency was suggesting to us that we needed to do this long list of 'extra-curricular' networking since part of our placement fees were specifically earmarked for profiles, etc. Yet, the other part wondered if going the extra mile would speed the process.

Yet, there was no way in the world I was going to put a sign on my car, pass out special business cards, put up notices at schools and grocery stores or wear an "I WANT TO ADOPT" t-shirt. The thought just made me ill.

Praise God that He had our placement all worked out without us having to wonder if we really needed to do those things.

With what I know now, I would turn and run from anyone who suggested those things to me. I'd run fast and hard.

Erin said...

Next time I'm going to wear the above mentioned "I'm adopting" tee shirt. I'm also going to hand out business cards at the local high school to any pregnant girl I see, but only the white ones of course. OOOO and maybe I can get covered on twenty twenty and they can profile me on their show so I can reach MORE girls who managed to get themselves knocked up.

DrSpouse said...

I'm coming to this from your recent post, but I was interested that you said your matching was "old school" because you didn't do much beyond online profiles, six years ago.

Our agency does have online profiles, only on their website, though we also work with a lawyer because of our particular circumstances, and he suggested loads of marketing, which we weren't comfortable with either. However, our agency (and this is 2011) said that very very few of their matches come through the online profiles, and given the circumstances of most of the placing parents, I'm not surprised. They said they think it will happen in the future, but not at the moment.

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