November 28, 2007

Dan Quayle Was Wrong

When T and I were considering different domestic adoption agencies, we decided that we wouldn't use one which required potential adoptive parents to be married. It was important to us when adopting the first time, and again when choosing an agency for our second adoption.

It was partly in support of equal access to adoption for the unmarrieds: partnered couples who couldn't marry or chose not to marry, and single people. We wanted to support an agency which did not discriminate against potential adoptive parents for qualities which--we felt--had no bearing on their ability to parent. And in private domestic adoption, in which expectant parents most often choose the adoptive family for their child, we especially saw no reason to exclude unmarrieds from the pool of potential adoptive parents. After all, if someone felt strongly that their child should be parented by a married couple, there would be nothing preventing them from only considering married couples. And if someone connected with, for instance, a single person it should be their prerogative to choose them. We simply thought such decisions should be made by the placing parents, not pre-emptively by the agencies.

But there was another, perhaps more significant reason. We were concerned that presenting an unmarried expectant parent with only profiles of married couples sent an unspoken message that two-parent households are inherently better than one-parent households. It must be difficult to believe that parenting your child is a legitimate option if profile after profile is tacitly telling you that you're less worthy simply because you're single. We did not want to be party to that, especially knowing how many people were likely already hearing that message from their families or religious communities.

People have very different views of single parenting, marriage, etc. stemming from everything from religious beliefs to political positions to cultural mores. The danger is in trying to apply those views universally. I don't fault anyone for holding to a strict personal ethic in this arena. T and I ourselves are part of a faith tradition which frowns on sex outside of marriage. But we don't believe that those precepts should be forced on anyone else, and we definitely don't believe that people can "redeem themselves from sexual sin" by placing the resultant children for adoption. Sure, sometimes pregnancies are the result of mistakes. But there is no reason to compound mistake upon mistake with an unnecessary adoption. Or a rushed wedding, for that matter. People get so caught up in their moral agendas that they don't see the very real people in the middle of these situations. And that is how people get hurt.

I've known women who unexpectedly became pregnant and decided to embrace single parenthood. I've also known women who felt that single parenting was not right for them for a variety of reasons; a couple made adoption plans and others terminated their pregnancies. And I've known single women and men who have pursued parenthood through adoption. Those were all complex and intensely personal choices. They deserved to be able to make them free of pressure from those who didn't have to live with the consequences.


Jess said...

I think this is really thoughtful and well-written. I love your attitude and if ever Torsten and I decide to go the domestic route with adoption, I think we'd want to embrace similar values when choosing an agency.

Clementine said...

Interesting--I never even considered this topic.

Our state's DSS welcomes LGBT people (single, partnered, or legally married) as preadoptive parents, so that was't an issue for us. When Hester joined our family through a surprise private adoption, the placing agency supported our 2-mom homestudy completely. I know this wouldn't have been true at many other agencies.

Hmm. Food for thought.

Anonymous said...

Did you find many options using those criteria? When we were looking at agencies I think that only one or two reputable agencies (but not necessarily great agencies) would work with couples that didn't have documented infertility. I don't know if any in our area work with same-sex partners. I guess that's what we get living in the buckle of the Bible belt.

What do we do in adoption when there are no agencies in our area that meet the criteria we believe are necessary to fulfill an ethical adoption?

This is a great post. Thanks for sharing it.

Heather said...

Kohana, we didn't have too much trouble, but I think you're right that geography makes a huge difference. We were looking in L.A. and the Pacific Northwest, where there are definitely progressive streams. Like you, we needed an agency which didn't require documented fertility. I noticed those tended to be more open to unmarried p-aparents in general. But that's just anecdotal.

If we hadn't been able to find a quality local agency, our plan was to use an out-of-state agency (with a local one handling the state's legal paperwork). I know of at least two couples in the pool at our agency right now who are doing that. One lives on the East Coast the the other is actually in Europe. It creates different logistical problems, but we thought would have been worth it.

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