ETHICS AND ADOPTION:
CHALLENGES FOR TODAY AND THE FUTURE
November 3-5, 1999
Sponsored by the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute
Ethics and Adoption: Challenges for Today and the Future was a conference designed to bring together those who are concerned about the ethical issues that affect the practice of adoption in all arenas -- the adoption of infants and young children in the United States, international adoption, and the adoption of children in foster care who cannot or will not be reunited with their birth families. Designed for practitioners, policy makers, members of the adoption triad [birth parents, adopted adults, and adoptive parents], and others with an interest in advancing adoption practice and policy, the conference provided opportunities to learn and to actively explore the key ethical issues that confront adoption today and in the future.
In the opening session, which took place on the afternoon of November 3rd, participants were challenged to think in ethics terms, both as a general approach to adoption practice and policy issues and more specifically in terms of a framework of values that can guide consideration and resolution of complex issues in adoption. The opening keynote by George Annas, one of the nation's leading bioethicists, addressed Ethics in a World Ruled by Law and the Market: Adoption, Assisted Reproduction and Parenthood. Participants considered the range of ethical issues bearing on adoption from the perspectives of adoption professionals, members of the triad, and representatives from the three key adoption arenas -- infant adoption, international adoption, and foster care adoption
On November 4th, participants engaged in active consideration of real-life ethical issues that affected adoption practice. Beginning with a plenary session that provided an overview of the impact of adoption on triad members, participants divided into working sessions to grapple with such questions as: Does adoption respect the interests of birth parents? Do adult adoptees have rights? Who is a good adoptive parent? And, for lawyers and facilitators, who is the client? In the afternoon, participants tackled some of the complex issues surrounding race and culture in adoption. Following a plenary session in which leading thinkers in the field addressed the role of race and culture from the perspectives of the African American, Latino and Native American communities, participants divided into working sessions to explore such issues as : Should race and culture matter for children in foster care placed with adoptive families? Should kin be the first choice as adoptive parents? Should cultural differences between countries matter? Does the law get it right on the role of race and culture in adoption?
On the closing day of the conference, participants learned from and engaged in lively debate with professionals who addressed a range of issues associated with the business of adoption -- the role of money, who holds the power in adoption, and who is accountable to whom in adoption. After a question and answer period in which these issues were further explored, participants heard from a panel addressing the issues presented by the emerging reproductive technologies -- such as egg donation and embryo transplantation -- that parallel issues in adoption. Are these technologies the new wave of adoption? And if so, can the two areas of assisted reproductive technology and adoption inform one another?
The conference closed with a luncheon speaker who addressed the key next steps: How do we use the knowledge base gained through the conference to shape adoption practice and policy? How can we ensure that ethical considerations are raised and addressed as we develop quality adoption practice and policy for the future?
ETHICS AND ADOPTION CONFERENCE
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