Dear Executive Director, Adoption Agency #1,
My husband and I adopted our oldest child through [your agency] in 2005. We chose [the agency] because of its commitment to open adoption, its non-discrimination policies toward pre-adoptive parents, and the promises of long-term counseling.
As alumni of the agency, we have closely followed its changes and growth over the past three years. We noted in particular the various media campaigns, which were often described as generally promoting open adoption, but which seemed more directly aimed at potential birth parents than any other audience.
This letter is in response to your email of December 9. In it, you note that the agency plans to use its profiles on social networks such as Facebook, MySpace, YouTube, etc. to "actively seek out potential birthmothers." Based on this statement, and the fact that these networks are used primarily by young people, my assumption is that you are using them to initiate contact with expectant mothers who fit a certain demographic profile--women you deem to be "potential birthmothers." I find such approaches deeply troubling.
I admit that we have been uncomfortable with the emphasis on 'marketing' by [your agency] from the beginning--both the marketing of the agency to prospective adoptive parents and of adoption to expectant parents. Despite encouragement from [agency] staff, we declined to do any personal networking during our wait, finding 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 as the adoptive family be one of the last steps in a woman's decision to place, not the inspiration for it.
I am concerned that the marketing approach represented by the sponsored Google links, radio spots, television ads, and online videos creates a similar problem. All seem designed to convince expectant parents in crisis that open adoption is an easy solution to whatever difficulties they face. I am concerned that this makes objective birth parent counseling nearly impossible by preferencing open adoption over all other options, without any consideration of an individual's context. The goal seems to be simply to convince more women to place, and to place through [your agency].
Open adoption has enriched our family immensely, and I remain a staunch advocate for it, but it has certainly not been "adoption without tears." We will always be grateful that [agency] staff helped us to understand the benefits of open adoption. But we were shocked by how ill-prepared both we and our son's birth parents were for its realities. During our time with [the agency], the staff brushed our concerns about possible difficulties aside, reassuring us that openness solved any adoption related issues which might arise. I had hoped ours was an isolated incident, but your ads seem to indicate otherwise. Do you expand upon the idealized picture of open adoption given in the ads when counseling prospective birth parents and adoptive parents? Do you prepare them for the emotional aspects of navigating open adoption over a lifetime? Do you make clear in your counseling that there is lifelong grief associated with placing a child for adoption that cannot be fully mitigated by openness?
Several times each year, friends contact us asking for the name of the agency we used, either for themselves or acquaintances, knowing that on the surface we had a fairly quick and smooth adoption process. We have always given an honest evaluation of the strengths of [your agency] as we experienced them in 2005. We also tell them that, disappointed with staff inexperience, high staff turnover, rigid editing of "Dear Birthparent" letters, a difficult hospital experience, inadequate post-adoption support, and with growing concerns about the agency's marketing practices, we declined to use [the agency] for our second adoption.
At this point we will only be warning them that [the agency] seems to be increasingly using coercive advertising measures and appears to be interested more in growth than in providing ethical services to expectant parents and prospective adoptive parents. I can no longer with a good conscience give even a qualified recommendation for [your agency]. And it pains me that I will one day have to explain that to my son.
If I have misunderstood your marketing goals and methods, I would be eager to have them clarified.