Louisiana HB 568 is Misguided

Louisiana HB 568 has been proposed to avoid those seeking to adopt from being scammed, a very worthwhile and needed goal.   Having your hopes and dreams – not to mention thousands of dollars – stolen from you, at a vulnerable time, is devastating and should never happen.

However, the solution proposed by House Bill 568, sponsored by Rep. Rick Edmonds, R-Baton Rouge, which has cleared the House, does address or rectify the root of the problem.

Adam Pertman, adoptive father, former Exec. Dir. Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute, president of the National Center on Adoption and Permanency, and author of Adoption Nation put it very simply:

The money’s the problem. Anytime you put dollar signs and human beings in the same sentence, you have a recipe for disaster..

The bill contains an exception for expectant moms who, in good faith, decide not to proceed with the adoption in favor of parenting the child. However, Rep. Joe Marino, I-Gretna has expressed the very valid concern that the exception would not prevent a birth mother from being arrested or threatened with arrest if she changes her mind after receiving payments from a prospective family.

How do you eliminate the possibility of scams and prevent such arrests? First, medical and housing and food expenses for expectant mothers planning to place their children for adoption can and should be covered by Medicaid and WIC and other state and local programs for those in need. Any additional expenses should be paid by a non-reimbursable state pool set up for this purpose.

A non-reimbursable state pool would be paid into by a fee tacked onto every adoption in the state thus eliminating direct payments from prospective adopters to expectant mothers which open the door for corruption and coercion.

Delegitimize all direct payments

Payments made from those wanting to adopt to those considering it create feelings of indebtedness and undue obligation for pregnant women considering adoption and also create feelings of entitlement and false expectations for those hoping to adopt.

Madelyn Freundlich, MSW, MPH, JD, LL.M, author and independent child welfare consultant in New York City, echoes Pertman’s concern and speaks more directly to the issue at hand, asking:

To what extent do prospective adoptive parents’ expenditures to cover a birth mother’s medical . . . or other living expenses create a sense of indebtedness that may affect her decision-making? . . . Does a birth mother ultimately ‘owe’ it to the prospective adoptive parents to follow through on an adoption because a good deal of money has been expended?

Money passing directly between the adult parties to adoption often comes with overt or covert messages of repayment.  Mothers considering adoption placement are already under a great deal of stress and likely are indigent. The belief or fear that they would have to repay such expenses can negatively impact their ability to freely reach an informed decision.

Adoption is not baby buying or paid surrogacy. We like to believe that adoption is altruistic and in the best interest of children. We must maintain this value with ethical practices and the best way to do that – and prevent scams – is get the money out, particularly by eliminating direct payments that commodify infants.

For more, see: “Ensuring Ethical Practice _in Child Adoption: A Guide for Legislators, Practitioners and Consumers of Adoption Services“.

Mirah is author of two internationally acclaimed books, more than 200 published articles, and cited in twenty professional journals having been researching, writing and speaking about American and global child adoption, restoration of adoptee rights, as well as contract anonymous conception and surrogacy since 1980. More at her website and Wikipedia. Read other articles by Mirah, or visit Mirah's website.