Thursday, October 22, 2009

Marketing Adoption

Reading the Annual Report of Open Adoption & Family Services of Portland, Oregon is always an eye opener. Like any business, it glosses over negative results and pumps up plans to expand its customer base and increase production.

According to the 2008-09 Report, adoptions were down from 56 in 2007-08 although it’s not clear by how much. It claims 53 completed adoptions although other figures in the report indicate 47 placements in 2008-09. The decrease may have resulted from the poor economy – if you’ve lost your high-paying hi-tech job, deferring parenthood or taking a freebie from the foster care system rather than plunking down big bucks to an upscale adoption agency is a good way to cut costs. Still, according to its 2007 990 report, filed this May with the IRS, OA&FS had revenues of $1,273,898 which translates to $22,500 per kid in 2007-08 which of course would have gone a long way to helping their natural families raise them.

OA&FS is dealing with this downturn through marketing aimed at Prospective Adoptive Parents who were considering black and brown kids from abroad. US ratification of the Hague Convention and reports of widespread corruption in foreign adoptions has made these kids more difficult to acquire and OA&FS is hoping to benefit from a new-found, recession-spurred interest in domestic adoption.

Of course, as OA&FS creates more demand, it needs to produce more supply. According to the Annual Report, it “conducted outreach presentations to over 2,500 health professionals, social workers, and others regarding its “unique open adoption services.” The outreach included a “Pregnancy Options Dialogue” with Planned Parenthood and other partners.

OA&FS has trained over 200 Oregon Department of Human Services caseworkers about its program. “Having the ability to make a voluntary adoption plan through OA&FS supports birthparents in making a proactive choice, provides the child immediate permanency and diverts a case away from the already burdened state system.” One can only wonder how voluntary the adoption plan is with a DHS caseworker breathing down a mother’s neck. (“Don’t want the State to take your baby? GIVE him away!”)

OA&FS is increasing its efforts to plow the fertile teen ground. According to the Report currently only about 25 percent of the 13,000 to 14,000 women who surrender newborn infants are teens. “Agency staff reached out to Planned Parenthood Teen Councils and teen support groups.” In addition OA&FS “presented a workshop at the Oregon School-Based Clinic conference. ...Throughout the year, OA&FS counselors shared information about open adoption to over 350 teens attending public and alternative high schools, and the professionals who work with them.”

Oregon and Washington have recently mandated more comprehensive sex education in public schools and OA&FS has found sex ed classes to be “an ideal opportunity to increase access to adoption resources for students and to increase adoption-related training for teachers, counselors, and school nurses.” OA&FS’s well-paid Executive Director, Shari Levine ($103,283 including benefits in 2007-08), boasts that using her position as co-chair of the Teen Pregnancy and Young Parent Network for Multnomah County (Portland), she “has made great strides toward the inclusion of pregnancy options as part of sex education in schools.”

OA&FS has found a potential goldmine in the Latina population because, according to the Report, 53 percent of Latinas in the US will have at least one pregnancy before age 20. To mine the supply of possible babies from the Latina population, OA&FS has added bilingual staff to recruit Latinas, a group that has been resistant to giving their children to strangers, apparently because Latinas are unfamiliar with the more “advanced” customs of their adopted country.

OA&FS reports that the average age of OA&FS birthmothers was 25; the average age of birthfathers, 28; adoptive parents, 40. Me, I wonder how many of those parents, average age 40, consider themselves to be "infertile." Which is of course, the biological norm for a woman aged 40.

Seventy-four percent of the children surrendered had zero to mild prenatal exposure to drugs or alcohol. By including this information about the natural parents, OA&FS makes its product more attractive to those considering “building their families through adoption.” Of course, these facts also raise the question of why these infants are available for adoption in the first place. It’s kind of like banks today which only lend money to those who don’t need it.

OA&FS also reports that fourteen or 30 percent of its adopting families in 2008-09 were gay or lesbian. I have mixed feelings about this. When I surrendered my daughter in 1966, it was so she could have a married mother and father which I had learned from health ed classes and the media (particularly Ann Landers and TV sit coms) constituted a proper family. The desirability of the nuclear family, however, is apparently a thing of the past, except perhaps to religious conservatives.

I have no love for the “Leave it to Beaver” family model which would have excluded me as a single parent. On the other hand, the image of newborn infants leaving their mothers’ arms to be raised by a couple of men in their 40’s who have no biological connection to them leaves me cold as well, particularly when their natural mothers are healthy women in their 20’s, not at all like the hip and smart-ass teenager portrayed in Juno. Let me add before I get accused of homophobia, that I have no problem with gays, single persons, or anyone else adopting or fostering children who need homes.

11 comments :

  1. Jane,

    I think that the adoption world is heading for a major crash. First, more and more television shows are those that are more realistic about adoption.

    I love Bones - good show if you like science - the thing is one of their shows was about a child killed by a pedophile. Not only was the child stolen, but the woman that stole him was a foster mother.

    Having been in the system, I remember what it was like. How it must be for children of failed adoptions. The black garbage bag was a staple until I entered the army at age 20. I have only owned 2 suitcases in my life. My mother-in-law bought them for me because she hated my "duffle" bags.

    The idea that they are touting that nightmare in schools scares me. It gives all these young girls that think for some reason they can just walk away after an adoption (gee, where did they learn that) the idea that somehow it will be ok to use that as a way to do what they want with no responsibility.

    Sigh, why can't they just tell them the facts, the emotional results and give them condoms? It is the best way and the most effective.

    JMHO

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  2. "and give them condoms?" Yup, yup, yup. ITA, Lori. Can't say I'm all that wowed about teen parenthood or that I would be wowed about bringing up a grandchild. In fact, I'd be pissed. Would prefer that young women not get themselves into these situations. But yes, give them the truth about adoption.

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  3. osolomama, a lot of people are truly offended by my ideas, but the truth is, like it or not, teens have sex.

    Anthropologically, genetically, the human body has a timer. Just because modern humanity has decided that teens are kids, does not make it so.

    For thousands of years, young women and men married prior to the age of 18 and sometimes as young as 12 or 13. Why? Well, reality sets in that if you don't have you children young, you won't have them. At least that is what our genes are telling our bodies.

    Even as late as the Elizabethan age a young woman beyond the age of 18 who was unmarried, was considered an old maid and not likely to be good at mothering or carrying a living, strong child into and through life.

    So, when you look at it, modern man, in an effort to lower the employee/job ratio to a 2/1 or 1/1, decided that young people from pubescense to 18 or 21 (depending on where) were in "puberty" (that somewhere stage that is truly over when they have developed their adult male and female heights and have started menstruation and production of viable sperm) until they were long past the historical/genetic time of reproduction.

    So, as the unworthy, truly blunt and honest person that I am, when my neice started all that non-sense, and true to form for me, I sat her down, with a friend and her mom, and told her the facts as my father told me and my mother pretended did not happen. Men are after one thing and it is not marriage and babies (not directly anyway). Sex happens, use a condom (if you need to understand proper use, I will teach you). If you need condoms ask your parents, don't expect your partner to have them - no matter what it, is your body. The mother was furious for two years, until her daughter told her she was having sex and wanted condoms because her boyfriend stopped buying them.

    Needless to say, some parents hate me, some think I am wonderful. Worse when their kids ask very descriptive questions, LOL, and I answer - extremely honestly.

    Truth is always better than a lie - even if your best friends butt does look huge in those pants! LOL!

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  4. Awesome Lori. So how doe we replace the nonsense some schools spout with YOU?

    Actually the message my kids got in the '90s in good old Kansas public schools seemed to emphasize how to put on a condom more and how to avoid STDs than anything else.At least that's what they brought home.

    Condoms from Price Club kept the drawer full at all times.

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  5. I love this forum, the comments are always very interesting. Lori, I personally feel that your second comment simply says it as it truthfully is, like it or not teens have sex. Parents rush around protecting their kids from all sorts but seem to shy away from informing them about sex and the prevention of teenage pregnacy. Deal with it world, teens have sex, we wouldn't let our kids ride a motor-bike without a helmet don't let them go out into the world not knowing how to protect themselves from unplanned pregnancies.

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  6. jmomma,

    Well, I think I can't be in all places at once. I just think that it is easier when parents just tell the truth than when they tell them about how sacred sex is and how the first time should be special (I don't know about the rest of the world, but my experience is that it is always a disaster).

    For me, I was blessed with a father that respected my mind and would absolutely flip out on me if I acted stupid or ignorant and would not even bother to hear him. We argued philosophy (origins of man, sex, politics and education) before I entered middle school and he was always straight honest with me.

    Amazingly, I was his most difficult child, the only one out of 8 that was abandoned to foster care - and even more amazing, my daughter is/was (he has past now) his favorite grandchild and he would tell my sibs that when they would start on about who was grandpa's favorite.

    All of the mother's here - adoptive and first - (I have to admit for the sake of honesty, I often want to write REAL rather than any of the other descriptives) - talk about honesty. This is just another thing that honesty keeps from becoming a nightmare.

    I would be delighted to corrupt other people's children if it would give those children a chance to be real, not have unprotected sex as often, and prevent more adoptions than are absolutely necessary. The only problem is, other adults absolutely have a cow because I am totally honest and tell it on a level that is straight and a bit crude - but real.

    Thanks for the thought though.

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  7. ah i love open adoption and all the great things they do, here's to hoping they are able to make more placements this year than last. thanks for featuring a great adoption agency in a state that has beautiful adoption laws!

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  8. Anonymous,

    Question, where you being facetious? Cause fact of the matter is adoption, open or closed or anything else is BS! I think that a ward, who retains their own identity and who has their own, separate, legal rights, is a huge step up from legally purchasing a child.

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  9. Lori, what do you mean by "ward"? Just curious. Not to just barge in on the discussion. :) Here's some history on me: I gave my newborn son up for open adoption when I was 16 with no pot to piss in or a single resource, and now that I am ready to have a baby with my husband of 7 years, we have unfortunately not been able to, despite trying everything. Talk about bad luck....

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  10. Patricia, Lori's comment was posted 3 years ago. We generally discourage posting on such old posts because they are hardly ever read, and certainly Lori will not find this.

    I am so sorry to hear of your circumstances, Patricia. While this will not alleviate the pain you must feel, you are not alone, are a significant proportion of women who give up a child never have another. It's something they don't tell you when you are relinquishing, or not offering to give you any help. Of the two writers, here, Jane and myself, only Jane went on to have other children.

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