On Mia's blog, Rob writes:
Abebech: the burning building test is interesting, but how does one make that determination? Should it really be the PAPs duty to assist the natural family with their decision? Talk about a conflict of interest!I don't see it as a conflict of interests, but as a painful conflict of desires: to parent a child (soon) after perhaps years of waiting and hoping, and to be sure that we are becoming parents in the most ethical way possible.
If a prospective adoptive parent is to be involved before the termination of parental rights, then I do believe that she takes on a responsibility to ask questions --"Has anyone helped you try to make a parenting plan first?" -- and tell truths -- "The pain of your loss may never go away" and "You might be able to parent." Setting the expectant mother aside, I would have owed it to my child to have treated her mother with whatever kindness, honesty and integrity I am able to bring to my relationship with my child. But I cannot set the expectant mother aside.
In my view, PAPs (especially infertile couples) should have nothing to do with a natural family’s decision.
On this we may agree. Maybe paparents should only become a consideration (profiles, dvds, meetings) after the decision to place is firmly made. In most cases, I do not believe that the decision can be firmly made until (well) after delivery. One option, then, is for paparents to have no contact with expectant mothers until then. I am not convinced that the advantages of a relationship established during pregnancy outweigh the general costs of a system that encourages "matching" and adds the emotional pressure of the knowledge that a mother might disappoint a pafamily.
But come to think of it, here, I think I understand the entitlement issue better…
This is one of the best possible outcomes of the discussion at Mia's.
When we met with a mother who selected us, my only intention was to get to know her and to show her that we were going to be amazing parents to her child. I never thought about the “burning building.” She never made me feel that I needed to.Perhaps it wasn't relevant in your case -- I don't know the circumstances.
But let's talk about a hypothetical match for, say, me. I imagine that a woman would see paparents as the unlikeliest sources of encouragement to parent, and so would not seek that. She hasn't heard it yet (probably) from her counselor, sw'er, family -- why should she expect it from me, a woman who waited for years for the chance to parent another child? But does that mean that I shouldn't offer it? I do know aparents who at the very least asked, "Are you sure?" despite their very real fears that she might say "No, I'm not," and that their hopes would be dashed again. Those who haven't gone through the adoption process may not recognize that question as an act of emotional bravery, but I do.
But we can't not do it just because it's hard, or because she hasn't asked us to: Can the obligation to remind me to behave in an ethical manner toward a person fall to that person?
The first real problem with the "burning building" approach is that it is an IMAGINARY one, invented to help us set our limits. I doubt that we can objectively determine what constitutes a burning building in advance. I can say subjectively that single parenting in an economically fragile circumstance doesn't really cut it for me -- I know lots of wonderful people who have done it -- but if there are additional factors, a woman might decide that from her subjective position it does. Better for me to be more conservative about what it might take to place than risk pressuring a woman into relinquishing a child she could have parented.
The second is that it risks paternalism. My planning to sit down and say "Parent! You really should, you know," was very m/paternalistic and perhaps even a bit condescending, as if I in my ten years greater wisdom knew in my heart of hearts something she did not. But better risk that offense, don't you think, than the offense of omission?
Back to the issue, how many potential adoptions did you refuse based upon this test before you found the woman in the burning building?I'm not sure why the number is the issue. Quite frankly, we didn't give it that long.
We started out by telling our sw'er that we were only interested in post-birth scenarios, in emergency placements. However, we were contacted about a few situations by our agency and another. In one case we told our sw'er that if we were to meet the woman we would have said "Parent! You can do this!" Perhaps someone told her her building wasn't burning, or perhaps they helped her put the fire out, or perhaps she found reserves she didn't know she had. In another case we declined to meet; she chose to place. In another, the building was (quite objectively) burning, and I hope someone has helped her put it out. She chose to parent, and I think about that momma and little boy often.
Over time, we realized we didn't want to find a woman in a burning building. We adopted the most beautiful toddler girl in the world nine months ago, and are confronted often enough with ethical questions about international adoption (including waiting children):
Doesn't that just encourage the problems to continue/feed into the system?
Isn't it cultural genocide? The new imperialism?
Isn't it an abuse of power/a demonstration of (white) western privilege?
Didn't you take her away from her country, her culture, her family for your own gain?
Do you think you're a rock star?
(H*ll, yeah, to the last)
Don't worry. Here at newflower, we know we're not immune from critique. And we know it stings like anything. But we're trying to make some good use of it.