Letter to the editor: Adoption charity reflects bias

To the editor,

David Wert’s  project described in the June 24 University Times article is well-intentioned but reflects a common bias — the belief, especially among people with disposable income, that adoptive parents will make a better home for a child than would the child’s birth parent or parents. In fact, a 2016 study by the Donaldson Adoption Institute found that four out of five women who trust their children to adoption do so at least partly for economic reasons. How much they would welcome charity such as Mr. Wert describes! But their network does not help them connect with people with enough money. 

Mr. Wert might respond that the adoptions he is helping are mostly of orphans from other countries. However, many agencies use the term “orphan” loosely, offer for adoption children who have living family members, and allow those family members to assume that adoption just means getting an education in the U.S. and then returning to their home country (see Kathryn Joyce, “The Child Catchers”). 

Many adoptive families do make good homes for children. But so also might many birthmothers, who never forget, as documented by Ann Fessler in “The Girls Who Went Away.” And there is an inherent loss for a child in knowing no one biologically connected to them — sometimes this also makes them a puzzle for their adoptive families. There are reasons that 60 to 70 percent of domestic adoptions today involve some amount of openness, but this does not solve these problems.

Perhaps more government stipends, long-lasting enough to enable all parents to raise their children, would help, but passing these would require overcoming that basic prejudice against people in poverty.

Marianne Novy
Professor emerita of English and Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies 
Member, Pitt Adoption Community for Education (PACE)

Christina Newhill
Professor, School of Social Work
Member, PACE

Tim Ziaukas
Professor emeritus of public relations, Pitt–Bradford
Member, PACE

Katelan Hudson
Admission and recruitment coordinator, College of Business Administration
Member, PACE