The Hard Topics: Adoption Profiteering

There are a number of hard topics emerging from the shadows in the foster/adoption world. Over the next few posts, I want to introduce topics such as adoption profiteering, payments for children, white saviorism, rehoming and adoption from foster care. While these are important topics, I believe they are of second importance to the first job all of us in the foster/adoption world: the safe care of children.

Would it surprise you if I said there was corruption in the adoption world? No, it probably wouldn’t. But it may not be something that you’ve heard much about. From international to domestic to the foster care system, there is much brokenness. That is why it is best to do thorough research to ensure that good intentions don’t end up causing more harm.

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on

Profiteering has a long history in international adoptions. This New Republic article from 2016 gives an excellent overview of the trend of Christian adoption from a secular view. Using the nations of Ethiopia and Haiti as a particular example, the writer calls attention to the fact that many children placed up for adoption in some nations are not orphans. They’re just from poverty.

While caring for widows and orphans is indeed a biblical command, we have a responsibility to ensure that we are indeed the best home for a child and not de facto engaging in a transaction to purchase a child from an impoverished family in order to fulfill our family needs and give the child “a better life.” Biological family is the best place for any child, unless there are clear safety or dependency issues.

In the article referenced above, Keren Riley puts it this way: “By some people’s actions involved in international adoption you would think it <The Bible>  said, ‘Visit widows, take their orphans and leave them both in distress.’’’

To prevent is to research. Adoption is indeed a noble and high calling. We as adoptive parents have the right to know our preferred agency’s approach to adoption. We have a due diligence to know as much about the child’s family history as possible and we need to know where the money goes. With an international adoption costing as much as $50,000, according to the Child Welfare Information Gateway, how that money is spent is of utmost importance to determining how legal and ethical your child’s adoption is. Sadly, there are some that seek to profit off adoption by recruiting families to sign away rights in exchange for financial compensation.

The same is true, albeit on a smaller scale, for domestic U.S. adoptions.

But another take on profiteering is that adoptive families are profiting off of their experiences, exploiting their children in the process. This is a much, much harder area to define. Recently, I saw an online movement against one of my mentors for the fact that support their family training others about adoption.

This family is very popular on social media and regularly hosts trainings and seminars on adoption-related issue, based on their many years of experience. The claim that they are profiting off the backs of their children is worthy of cultural cancellation, claims the activists.

I can see both sides of this argument very clearly and there is no neatly checked answer box. As foster/adoptive parents, we have a due diligence to our kids first. That means we must protect their stories, work to heal their trauma and give them loving support to be overcomers of their past to one day make a successful transition to adulthood. Exploitation has no place in this equation.

However, the work of foster/adoptive care is very hard. The road is very lonely and while there are required trainings and internet resources, in our eight years on this journey, the best experience is from those who have walked it out.

And there’s the rub. To share your experiences, in order to encourage and educate others, you have to put glass around your house so others can see inside. That level of vulnerability can be viewed as exploitation if not handled appropriately. I believe that foster/adoptive parents should be given wide leeway when it comes to defining appropriate for their family. Those doing the work in the trenches need to hear from others in the same place, they are the only ones that can fully understand one another.

For those that make obnoxious profit off their adoption story, there may be a case for exploitation. I think of several Instagram adoption influencers who post an endless stream of photos and videos of their kids seemingly without filter. Most of those who share online, and I would count myself in this group, really work to find a balance between sharing and oversharing. Do we always succeed? No, but we try.

For clarity, I don’t make a profit of off my social accounts. For me, this is about providing a voice in the community from a dad – as there are very few dad-oriented foster/adoption accounts. My background as a writer and communicator makes sense in this realm. If one day I could pay bills from this work, I’d be thankful, because that means more time at home, focusing on my children. Those are the ones that really matter.

Hard topic, right? I’d like to know your thoughts and questions. Thanks for sticking through this one.

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