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WSJ Article "Targeting Feel-Good Benefits" Doesn't Feel Good

Posted Jul 31 2009 11:54am
I like most of the writing I read in the Wall Street Journal, so I was surprised to find parts of a July 9, 2009 article "Targeting ‘Feel-Good’ Benefits" at really insensitive. It may be a lack of understanding or poor choice of language on the author's part, but it's an example of how easy it is to play into negative stereotypes about adoption, and I think anyone who writes or edits on the topic should be more careful.

The article points out a cost-cutting trend among employers to reduce or eliminate post-adoption benefits for employees. In the section subheaded Domestic Adoptions, the author writes: Such private-placement adoptions, which typically cost $10,000 to $30,000, may be on the rise, based on anecdotal reports, Mr. Johnson says, as financial troubles may be causing some women to offer for adoption children they might have raised in the past.

First of all, I think it's too easy to read that as "Women who place their babies for adoption make $10,000 to $30,000 on the deal." Not so. Birthmothers may receive financial assistance for basic necessities related to their pregnancy and adoption, like medical care, housing, transportation, and counseling services. They do not receive a fee for the adoption!

Secondly, women don't "offer" their children for adoption. Women, with and without "financial troubles", deliberate and question and hope and pray... and finally they take a leap of faith. They decide to make an adoption plan, in many cases they choose the adoptive parent or parents, and often maintain some contact with the children they created. To say that they "offer" children for adoption makes it sound like they post a notice on Craig'slist and unload the kid to the first person who comes forward with the cash.

The decision to make an adoption plan is sometimes obvious, but it's never easy. This section of the article perpetuates toxic misunderstanding of birth mothers and adopted children, and I'm disappointed in the WSJ for printing it as such.

Sally Bacchetta - Freelance Writer
Freelance Writer
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