Advertising Children Available for Adoption

I am about to violate almost every best practice I try to follow when posting on my blog because I’m writing:

  • While my thoughts are still not fully formed in my head
  • About an item I perceive as a problem without posting a solution
  • On a topic I suspect may be controversial.

But, I have to write and I have to write now to get the thoughts out of my head so I can enjoy a family and friend day in Pittsburgh, PA watching the St. Louis Cardinals take on the Pirates (sorry, local friends, go Cards!).

A few weeks ago, I was scanning my News Feed on Facebook when I saw a beautiful photo of 3 children that a friend had posted. I clicked on the photo and began reading the caption and came face-to-face with my first advertisement for children available for adoption through a foster agency. Many of you likely read that last sentence and wondered where I’ve been living because this is a fairly common practice (I’ve now discovered), but I didn’t know that at the time and couldn’t believe what I was reading.

I was adopted as a baby, and there were no color photos advertising my birth weight, general temperament, health status, favorite binky, etc. for prospective adoptive parents to scan to determine whether I might be the right choice for them. Nope, my adoptive parents just had to wait and see what turned up when they went to pick me up. I say that to say, I’ve only been in foster care a short period of time and it was while all the paperwork processing was taking place for my parents to adopt me. So, I don’t know the trials, heartaches, etc. that come with being a child in the foster care system and waiting to be adopted while babies seemingly stream through the adoption process with ease (another post for another day).

Yet, I have to think there is a better way to attract prospective adoptive parents than an advertisement that is shared in the newspaper, via websites, and on Facebook. And here’s why…in my research on this trend, I found tons of agencies that take this approach and one such agency project explanation read:

“By photographing these children in their best light, capturing their hope, their vulnerability, their pride, we bring the cause of adoption into the hearts of millions of caring citizens each year.”

As an adoptee, I struggle with many of those concepts. “Best light” gets me because it sets the stage for belief that parents are going to get that “best light” kid and not the one who has legitimate struggles based on their circumstances, which may be why so many foster children have difficulty finding permanent placements with families. “Vulnerability” gets me because it sets up a “savior” complex for the adoptive parents and a “rescued” complex for the child. “We bring the cause of adoption into the hearts of millions of caring citizens” gets me because not all people who would feel “called” to adopt after seeing one of those ads should do so!

But what really gets me, and the reason I had to write this today is one simple matter; think openly and ask yourself where you have seen ads similar to this before? I imagine you will think of the exact place I did – your local humane society. And that’s the part of this that burdens my adoptee mind and heart. Advertising children for adoption in the same way we advertise animals for adoption just seems wrong to me. And perhaps adoption agencies did it long before humane societies did, but for the love of humanity, where was the outcry from the adoption world that taking this same approach for animals was degrading to children? And, if the history is that we did it with animals first (I have to admit I haven’t looked it up because I don’t think my mind can handle the potential answer), then…wow…just wow.

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Baby Girl (last name redacted)
7 pounds, 13 ounces
18 and 1/2 inches long
34 cm head size
32 cm chest size
Sleeps on her side with a blanket over her ear
Likes formula
Normal health

(which likely would have been my ad at birth)

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