Advertising For Adoption

Lately it seems a lot of my blogs spark from things I’ve seen on adoption forums.  It’s nice to have a supportive outlet, but with many people in different stages of infertility or from different backgrounds in adoption, these forums can often become heated debates with strong willed people.  I try so hard to see both sides of every situation and inject my opinion as just that, my opinion.  If I give more than the 2 cents they asked for, I do it so as the “voice of reason”.  I try not to belittle anyone, but when emotions are involved, defenses come up and people don’t always want a differing opinion or “extra advice”.

Networking and Advertising your adoption plans can be one of those subjects that is a hot topic.  It is a topic that I am interested in for many reasons.  I work in marketing; networking is what I do.  So, for me, where does the line need to be drawn in what is ethical and what is not?  First starting with what is legal is good.  People often claim they have talked to their lawyer and know it’s legal already, but I question how often that is true.  Not that I assume people are liars, I just know that from my own research there are a lot of legal caveats with adoption advertising.  When you tell someone it might night be legal, they get defensive and may say they have talked to their lawyer already, just to feel better to the stranger they are talking to.  No one wants to look like an ass.

Billboard taken out in New Jersey in order to market to expecting mothers that would only have a 72 hour period to change their mind instead of the Maryland 28 days where the couple lives. Neither state has laws against advertising. But is this ethical?

Billboard taken out in New Jersey in order to market to expecting mothers that would only have a 72 hour period to change their mind instead of the Maryland 28 days where the couple lives. Neither state has laws against advertising. But is this ethical?

What type of networking or advertising do you feel is OK and what is too much?  For instance, when my husband and I were first looking into expanding our family via adoption, I created a Facebook page.  I invited all my friends and family to like the page.  I posted on there that our desire was to adopt and I would periodically post cute sayings/memes as well as updates of where we were in our journey.  We weren’t with an agency, we weren’t home study approved, we were just expressing our want and sharing our journey.  Once we were home study ready, I got a little eager and since I work in marketing, I took out one of those ads you see on the side of the page asking people to “like” our page.  After 2 days, I took the ad down.  It seemed a little over the top for me.  I didn’t know if there were laws against it or not.  I didn’t know if there was any official faux pas I was making, I just didn’t feel comfortable anymore having an ad out there promoting such a delicate want to strangers.  Many people I know have those types of Facebook pages.  We still have ours up and running actually.

The debate that ensued on the adoption forum stemmed from a woman asking who she should pass out fliers and networking cards to to promote her adoption journey and website to reach more people.  My advice was just to be careful; that it might not be legal and that in the adoption community there is a fine line between what is ethical in networking and advertising. I also told her to tell her church members, coworkers, friends, family etc.  But that she should also talk about it frequently to anyone she got in a conversation with; make the natural segway that she is hoping to adopt and that talking about it is often much more well received than physically handing someone a card or flier.  She did not take my advice well.  She was offended by my input.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Networking and/or Advertising: Is it Ethical?

Pro’s:

1.  Being proactive.  It helps the “wait” if you are doing something.  If you are working toward the end goal of expanding your family, you pass time quicker and feel like you have done everything you can do.

2.  Possibly reducing the wait time by connecting yourself with a match faster than the agency or facilitator you are working with may be able to do.

3.  Find the right match for you.  If you are looking on your own terms, you may find that perfect person that will be a beautiful extension to your family.  The expecting mother and you may have a lot in common and connect easily, allowing the open adoption to be a beautiful relationship.

4.  It helps you connect to other families in your area also touched by adoption.  You may network at church, school, work and other places just by sharing your adoption journey.  This can not only offer you support, but possibly lead to a match.

Con’s

1.  When does networking become advertising and portrayed as distasteful?  Often people that market themselves for adoption are not as heavily trained as those going through an agency and therefore may use incorrect terminology in their advertisement as well as come across as “trolling” for a baby.

2.  Taking out an ad (We’ve all seen Juno and how they advertised in the Penny Saver), you are opening yourself up to it looking like you are buying a baby.  Think about it, you advertise a product that you want people to buy.  How is this different?

3.  Not everyone will agree with adoption.  You may receive backlash from people against adoption or just think you should either not have children or try a different route to grow your family.  So prepare yourself to be open to criticism.

4.  You may attract scammers.

5.  If you are embarrassed to tell your child how he/she came to your family, it may not be the right way to do it.  It can connote a feeling of “purchased” when ads are placed.

6.  It might not be legal.

So The Legal Aspects:

Some (not all) states have laws against advertising.  While some flat out ban any form of advertising, others have laws that allow agencies, lawyers facilitators, social workers to advertise.  Some states allow those professionals to advertise, but place stipulations on the situations in which they can advertise.  Other states have laws as to what type of media can be used in advertising when the adoptive couple or expecting mother is the one doing the advertising.  Do you know the laws of your state?

These are the states that have some sort of law defining advertising or banning advertising:

Alabama

California

Delaware

Florida

Georgia

Idaho

Illinois

Indiana

Kansas

Kentucky

Louisiana

Maine

Massachusetts

Mississippi

Montana

Nebraska

Nevada

New Hampshire

North Carolina

North Dakota

Ohio

Oklahoma

Oregon

Tennessee

Texas

Utah

Virginia

Washingon

Wisconsin

To see what laws/stipulations your state has, you can find more information hereThis link also provides information on if your state allows the use of facilitators in adoption.

For more information on adoption laws, training and resources visit my Adoption Information page.

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Birth Father Rights – Sound Off

lawBookA few days ago, on an adoption Facebook page, a moderator asked the question: “If you could change one adoption law, what would it be?”.   Wow, where would I start, how could I choose just one?!?!?! I went with a general answer of “federal adoption reform laws” and then added in a few examples of lowering/standardizing adoption fees and making birth father part of the process and not a burden.  This spiraled out of control by people in the “anti-adoption camp”.  They accused me of saying that the birth father posed a burden to me getting my baby via adoption.  This is NOT at all what I meant and luckily before I saw it a friend came to my rescue.  Although the nay sayers still questioned my intent.  So here it is…

In many states birth fathers have very little rights when it comes to the baby they helped create.  Utah is the worst of all the states.  Adoption agencies in Utah actually will pull expecting mothers from their home state to Utah and house them there (at the expense of the potential adoptive parents) to hide them away from birth fathers who are seen as someone that can interfere with the adoption plan.  The right for these men to have a say in the adoption or parent their child is stripped of them.  In states like mine, Ohio, things work a little differently, but recent proposed adoption laws seem to be getting more and more like Utah in my opinion.

When we matched with our first expecting mother, she lived in Indiana which is a state that allows expecting fathers to sign their rights to the child away prior to the birth.  Although the father of the baby did so prior to birth, he later regretted it very much.  This was a constant source of heartache and stress in our adoption match and was one of the reasons the match was not fruitful.   With our second match, the one that resulted in the placement of our son, it was in Ohio and done differently.  The expecting father had rights.  He was involved.  He was a part of the process and agreed 72 hours after birth, just like the mother. It’s not always the case in Ohio though.  Ohio has something called a Putative Father Registry.  In Ohio a woman is not obligated to tell a man she has become pregnant.  It is said to be the man’s duty to inquire if a pregnancy resulted from intercourse.  After birth in Ohio, a father has up to 30 days to register that he thinks he MAY be the father of a child born.  This can disrupt the adoption and that’s not what this blog is about… this blog is about the fact that he is not required to be notified or given any opportunity to fight for his child before birth.  He has to KNOW the registry even exists in order to register.  Did you know about this registry?

Ohio’s new bill passed the House in January and it takes the ability for a father to register with the Putative Father Registry from 30 days down to 7 days.  They are also stating that it “Establishes a pre-birth notification process modeled after the one used in Indiana to provide a mother the option to notify a putative father prior to giving birth”.  I’m sorry, but why is this a legal matter?  The expecting mother CAN ALREADY NOTIFY him.  What this is actually saying though is that now she can ask him to sign away his rights or be forced to sign away his rights by serving him a court order as they are able to do in Indiana and other states.  Don’t mistake the verbiage they are using in the bill for being pro-woman or pro-family.  It solely serves the purpose of diminishing the man’s role in the adoption process because agencies see him as an obstacle to overcome so they can place the baby in a paying clients hands.

As an adoptive mother, I am NOT ok with any form of coercion when it comes to becoming a mother.  If a father is not involved in the adoption plan, I don’t want it to be because he was tricked, manipulated or lied to.   I am part of an adoption triad that is VERY open and is open with all family members.  Not only are Ezra’s birth parents involved regularly in his life, but extended family members as well.  Adoption doesn’t have to be ugly like these laws are trying to make it.

Here is more information on the Ohio Putative Father Registry Law:

3107.061 Putative father on notice that consent unnecessary.

A man who has sexual intercourse with a woman is on notice that if a child is born as a result and the man is the putative father, the child may be adopted without his consent pursuant to division (B) of section 3107.07 of the Revised Code.

Effective Date: 06-20-1996

3107.062 Putative father registry.

The department of job and family services shall establish a putative father registry. To register, a putative father must complete a registration form prescribed under section 3107.065 of the Revised Code and submit it to the department. The registration form shall include the putative father’s name; the name of the mother of the person he claims as his child; and the address or telephone number at which he wishes to receive, pursuant to section 3107.11 of the Revised Code, notice of any petition that may be filed to adopt a minor he claims as his child.

A putative father may register at any time. For the purpose of preserving the requirement of his consent to an adoption, a putative father shall register before or not later than thirty days after the birth of the child. No fee shall be charged for registration.

On receipt of a completed registration form, the department shall indicate on the form the date of receipt and file it in the putative father registry. The department shall maintain registration forms in a manner that enables it to access a registration form using either the name of the putative father or of the mother.

Amended by 129th General AssemblyFile No.180,HB 279, §1, eff. 3/20/2013.

Effective Date: 07-01-2000

3107.063 Searching putative father registry.

An attorney arranging a minor’s adoption, a mother , a public children services agency, a private noncustodial agency, or a private child placing agency may request at any time that the department of job and family services search the putative father registry to determine whether a man is registered as the minor’s putative father. The request shall include the mother’s name. On receipt of the request, the department shall search the registry. If the department determines that a man is registered as the minor’s putative father, it shall provide the attorney, mother, or agency a certified copy of the man’s registration form. If the department determines that no man is registered as the minor’s putative father, it shall provide the attorney, mother, or agency a certified written statement to that effect. The department shall specify in the statement the date the search request was submitted. No fee shall be charged for searching the registry.

Division (B) of section 3107.17 of the Revised Code does not apply to this section.

Amended by 129th General AssemblyFile No.180,HB 279, §1, eff. 3/20/2013.

Selecting an Adoption Agency

Learning about adoption was overwhelming for me.  You are not alone in feeling that way! We contacted at least half a dozen agencies and read countless chosingarticles online trying to figure out where to start and what to expect.  We were not only in distress about how long we had been trying for a baby, but then we learned that we could have anywhere from three months to several years on the waiting list for an adopted baby too.  Then factor in the enormous price tag associated with agency adoption and we were dazed.  As we began to verbalize we were considering adoption to others; we got all kinds of input.  Some of it was amazing and helpful.  Others only shared horror stories of adoptions gone wrong or questions of why we weren’t doing IVF like their friend, sister, cousin, neighbor did.  We had to take some time and process this.  Was it really what we wanted?

Fast forward several months of just setting all the agencies paperwork aside and living life… we hopped back on the train to adoption and settled down and found the right agency for us.   But how do you pick the right agency for you?  The agency we picked was a small agency located in Ohio that only dealt with Ohio birth mothers and Ohio adoptive families.  Their cost was much lower than the national agencies and they had high placement rates with a wait time that averaged 18 months.  They were very upfront about their outlooks and what we could expect.   They made us feel like we COULD do this and we WOULD be parents again.

One of the top questions I get asked by people considering adoption is: “what agency did you use?” People like to know that they can trust the agency with the task of giving them the family they have dreamed of.  So that’s the first place to start.  If you know anyone who has adopted, ask them what agency they used.  Ask them if they liked the experience.  Ask them if there was anything they wish they would have known going in.  Some agencies are very commutative with their families while others don’t relay every bite of information as it comes in.  You need to decide what you are looking for.

Things you may want to look for in an agency:

  1. What services do they provide expectant mothers?
  2. Do they offer ongoing support to all members of the adoption triad?
  3. Do they discriminate against single, transracial or homosexual families?
  4. How long is their average wait?
  5. How many families do they work with at any given time?
  6. How many placements do they do a year?
  7. What is their fee structure?
  8. When are the fees due?
  9. How do they handle expecting mother living expenses?
  10. Do they have “waiting” support groups or resources for you?
  11. Do they charge different rates for non-Caucasian children? (I know, it sounds weird, but some do!)
  12. How do they advertise?  Check their website for how they talk to expecting women considering adoption.  Are they guiding her in her decision or supporting her no matter what her decision?
  13. Do they support open adoption?
  14. How well do they communicate if you email or call with questions?
  15. Go with your gut and don’t sign anything too quickly.
  16. How do they handle birth fathers?  Do they see them as an obstacle or include them in the process?

You are looking for a few things by asking these questions.  You need to know how they operate and what will be expected from you so there are no surprises, but you also will be able to learn if they are ethical in their practices.   You may be thinking something like, “well I am not gay, so that doesn’t apply to me.”  Or “I was planning to adopt an African American child anyhow, so that’s great that the fees are reduced.”  But these things do nothing to promote ethical adoption or getting children to their forever families.

All this information can be overwhelming.  Hopefully you have found some recommendations from friends or support groups that can help you narrow down your search to a few agencies.  Once you start collecting information, you may want to start some file folders to keep each agency separate and you can then go through your own personal checklist of things you like and dislike about each agency.  Ultimately, go with your gut.  If something feels off, don’t ignore that.  Remember they have marketing to keep them afloat and in the business of facilitating adoptions.  You have to see through their glitter and make sure they are ethical for everyone involved.

Good luck in your journey!