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.