Thursday, March 25, 2010

A Libertarian's View on Adoption and Government

Everyone knows libertarians want the government to keep its paws off enterprise and human affairs. I've realized that I mostly agree with this viewpoint when it comes to adoption and foster care--in many ways, government regulation hurts more than helps families.

(For example, Dorothy Roberts, in her book Shattered Bonds: The Color of Child Welfare, writes about how social service agencies and government policy tend to tear apart low-income minority families by removing children at an alarming rate and putting them in foster care, instead of focusing on reunification. Which is just backward. Adoption should not effectively cause a bio family breakdown, it should be the last resort.)

And, furthermore, it's intrusive to have the government own information about you that you can't access as an adoptee--namely, your birth certificate and information on biological family, health, etc.

So I was excited to see an article about adoption, "The Welfare State Kills Children," on The Freeman site, expecting a well-articulated libertarian rant about faulty government intervention in adoption. Which it was, to an extent, but it left much to be desired. Writer James Payne focuses on the government's negligence in allowing Renee Bowman, who severely neglected and abused her 3 adopted daughters, to adopt, but then decries the impediments to adoption many good potential adoptive families face. True, there's tons of policy and red tape. (My parents waited a whopping seven years to adopt me!) Adoptive parents are highly screened, as they should be. And yes, the government failed big time with Renee Bowman.

But in advocating better/faster adoption processes and privatization, Payne ignores the possibility that the reason the kids are in foster care in the first place might be the real issue of concern. That putting a kid in the foster care system costs tax payers ten to eleven times more than putting money toward helping the biological family if poverty is the issue, which it often is. (Now of course for some kids adoption is the best option.) As happens with most mainstream media, the issue is seen from an adoptive-parent perspective. Reporters don't always know to look behind the issue.

Payne suggests adoptions be handled by private agencies. Sure, this can often be a better process, and Payne believes that bad practices would be naturally eliminated because adoptive families would not patronize those bad agencies. (This is what I love about libertarians--they're so hopeful!) But private adoption still doesn't quite leave the government out of the transaction--in most states still, the government owns the sealed records and the child's birth certificate. When we turn it all over to a business model, the power would lie with adoptive parents, as they're the paying customers. But yet with a "largely unregulated" system that he suggests there's the risk of child trafficking, which happens all over the world and even in our US of A. There are many risks of any option. Which ones are we willing to take? 

We need to educate the public about ALL the issues of adoption so we can join forces with libertarians like James Payne, who I suspect would fight with us for unsealed birth certificates.


Anonymous said...

Libby, I have to tell you, reading your blog has opened my eyes to the complexity of the issue of adoption. Recently I heard a story of a coworker wanting to adopt, and she and her husband had begun the process with a specific child, only to have the birth mother decide at the last minute to keep the baby. She and her husband were devastated (which is understandable--the process for adopting parents sounds like it can be heart-wrenchingly long and painful). But I have to admit, as I was hearing the story, my gut-level, emotional reaction was to feel happy for the birth mother and the child. I have no idea what her situation is, or whether she is "capable" of caring for the child (and isn't it funny how people on the outside form these judgments about what that even means?--as someone who grew up with a mother who, from the viewpoint of many, was questionably "fit" to raise us, I am thankful that we were not taken from her, although we easily could have been), but I understand what you often say about how adoption should be a last resort.

Craig was telling me about some research he read about children who grow up in tough circumstances (poverty, probably some abuse and neglect), and how in many cases, research has shown that the children who are allowed to stay with their biological families (vs being put in foster care, even when the foster families are emotionally healthy and financially stable) on the whole grow up more emotionally well-adjusted than if they were taken out of their homes and grew up apart from their biological families. Crazy, huh?

Liberty said...

Erin, your comment made my day! That's exactly why I'm doing it--so more perspectives can get out there.

Ask Craig for me where he found that research--I would LOVE to see it.

I'm glad you were able to stay with your family growing up. And it's been cool hearing about your stories of reunions the past few years! (PS: Have you written any more memoirs lately? I still remember those crumbling stairs... :) )

Anonymous said...

I will ask him! It might have been from a book we were reading awhile back, called "The Unexpected Legacy of Divorce"