The issue is this: what happens when a family adopts a child from Ethiopia and, at some point in the future, becomes aware that their child has a biological sibling still in Ethiopia, and that the sibling is being relinquished by your child's birth family? Assuming that the adoptive family would be interested in adopting that bio sibling, Imagine Adoption could facilitate that adoption on behalf of the adoptive family...right???? Well, sometimes is the answer...depending on circumstances. When this issue came up last week, I talked to a few adoptive families here in Canada and went back to find my own notes on the discussion I had with Imagine quite a while ago...all in order to figure out what to do in the event that this happened in our case.
Here are a few important things to know, for all of those prospective adoptive parents out there who might be open someday to adopting a bio sibling of their Ethiopian-born children:
- when you go to collect your child in Ethiopia, assuming that you are able to meet with your child's birth family, never, ever mention that you would be open to adopting any of their other children. When I first heard this, my immediate response was why. But there is a definite reason for this, beyond the general inappropriateness of saying this to a parent about their child. The reason is this: From an Ethiopian legal/ethical perspective, this might be construed as step #1 in a baby buying process. I know, I know, of course it wouldn't be what you intend - I get that. But think of it from the perspective of the birth parents and the expectations that it may raise about you as the adoptive parent of their child(ren). What might they expect in return for the gift of adopting and raising their current/subsequent bio child? Perhaps nothing (hopefully nothing), but there's a perception issue that's raised here, if nothing else.
- In fact, if there is ever any subsequent contact between you, as the adoptive family, and the birth family, never mention your openness to adopting any other children that they may relinquish into care. The fact is that this makes it illegal/unethical for Imagine to facilitate a subsequent sibling adoption. Imagine cannot be part of any such arrangement, because of the legalities of it and because of the perception that could be had of that kind of situation. It is a sign of an ethical agency if they refuse to facilitate that subsequent adoption under those circumstances, however brutal it would be for the adoptive family to be unable to pursue that adoption.
- In fact, as I understand it, any direct contact between the adoptive family and the biological family may put Imagine into a difficult position regardless of the nature of it. Frankly put, what if the bio family has/develops expectations of you as the adoptive family - for example, that you will support them, etc. This is something that you as an adoptive family may actually be ok with, but from the perspective of the adoption agency (and, at a more general, ethical level), this would put them, and you, into a potentially very awkward position. I don't know that Geoff and I will ever even have the opportunity to have contact with the bio family of our Ethiopian-born children following our return to Canada, but my thinking is that the safest way to do it would be through Imagine; on the other hand, if there were ever direct contact between the bio family and us, I would ensure that the loop of communication would not include Imagine, because I would never want to make it awkward for them as an agency...or for us, particularly if we were ever in a position to adopt a subsequent bio sibling.
- If you are open to adopting biological siblings of the child you adopt from Ethiopia, my understanding is that the correct way to go about that is to inform Imagine and/or the orphanage your child comes from, that you would be open to adopting any subsequent biological children that are relinquished by the family. In our own situation, though we aren't looking to increase our family size beyond the three children we will have following our adoption, we will be indicating to Imagine that we would like to be informed if any existing bio siblings come into care; if we have an opportunity to visit the orphanage that cared for our children, we will also advise them of the same. My understanding is that the orphanage and Imagine would be very happy to give the adoptive family something like a 'first right of refusal' under these circumstances, and that Imagine would be willing and able to legally facilitate that subsequent adoption.
Any thoughts about this? Any nuances I've missed? For those families who have BTDT, any additional information you can share?