As a birth mom, I hate adoption advertising. As an adoption professional , I hate adoption advertising. I hate the idea of “targeted marketing” and paid Google ads. The very thought of sitting down and trying to figure out the demographic group I should push a Facebook or Instagram Ad to irks me to my core. Doing this implies that all birth mothers come from the same walk of life and we don’t. But a very wise woman once told me, women are going to place their babies for adoption and they need to find you.
I have made it my personal and professional mission to make On Point Legal the best and most ethical adoption provider in the State. Partnering with organizations like AdoptMatch and implementing The Lifetime Healing Foundation’s post placement care curriculum have solidified our place as an ethical adoption provider. So Ashley Mitchell, founder of The Lifetime Healing Foundation, is right. If a woman is going to make an adoption plan, she needs to make it with us. Because at least then, I know she will make the decision of her own free will with no coercion. She will know her options. She will have access to free counseling for life. And she will be respected.
But even still, knowing I have the blessing of one of the most respected birth mom voices in the country, I struggle with the marketing aspect of my job. I can promote On Point Legal and our services and why we’re different and better all day long. But when it comes time to specifically trying to reach women that might be considering adoption, I don’t want to. I’ll do it – but I don’t like it.
One of the most important aspects in adoption advertising is language. I saw a Facebook ad this week from a local adoption agency that read “an unwanted pregnancy is a chance for adoption.” That made my stomach churn. An unwanted pregnancy. The link then went to a blog post they had written titled “ Navigating Transracial Adoption in an Unwanted Pregnancy.” There is that phrase again – an unwanted pregnancy. (I will come back to the fact that the most important tip this article gave adoptive parents in navigating transracial adoption is hair.) Not only is the term ‘unwanted pregnancy’ extremely dated, its awful adoption language. Unexpected, unplanned, unintended – but never unwanted. My daughter wasn’t unwanted. A bit unexpected, but never unwanted. And I haven’t met a single birth mom who would say their children were unwanted.
In addition to being negative adoption language and disrespectful to expectant mothers, it’s also detrimental to adoptees. Adoptees are born into a traumatic sense of loss and have to attempt to navigate those feelings of loss and abandonment while growing up. Why would we label them as unwanted? Don’t adoptees struggle with that enough? Adoption professionals have got to do better.
As a small law firm, we don’t have a million dollar marketing budget like most agencies. We don’t partner with facilitators or matching services. We don’t spend $1,000 a month on paid Google ads. But we also don’t charge our clients upwards of $40,000 to adopt so we can fund an outrageous marketing budget. And we never will. Our marketing budget usually consists of self designed materials, Office Depot print services and a lot of dedication.
Currently, 33 states have laws that limit or regulate adoption advertising.
Another important piece of this discussion are the laws that govern adoption advertising. Each individual state has their own laws and regulations. Currently, 33 states have laws that limit or regulate adoption advertising. Usually, this means that only licensed child placing agencies IN THAT STATE or crisis pregnancy centers can advertise about adoption. Yet sites like Adoption For My Child post babies available for adoption weekly. Not only are they NOT a licensed child placing agency, but they are an Ohio based consultant advertising in other states. Is this illegal? Yep. Do most states stop it? Nope.
Google ‘Adoption’ or ‘Adoption Agency’ and this ad is almost guaranteed to come up.
Here we have a team of vultures that prey on expectant mothers and filter them through some of the most unethical agencies in the US. They work with agencies that fly women to “adoption friendly” states so a birth mothers rights can be terminated in 24 hours. Their website advertises ‘Free Housing’ and ‘Adoption Money.’ This is another instance of an out of state consultant illegally advertising throughout the US.
Examples like these make me hate adoption advertising. I will sit with the same Facebook ad or info packet for a hospital for days making sure my language is right, while other people just don’t care. But things won’t change until people speak up. Do your research – look at how a company advertises on the internet. Stop working with sites like Adoption For My Child and Chosen Parents Adoptions. Stop working with unlicensed and unregulated facilitators and “matching services.” Until they stop making money, they won’t stop preying on expectant mothers.
If you’re a hopeful adoptive parent working with us, your adoption process might take longer. And I know the wait is hard. But you’ll never have to wonder if an expectant mother found us because we used the tag line ‘Pregnant & Need Money?’