I am a part of various adoption groups on social media, and it is admittedly a little hard to stomach at times. Don’t get me wrong, I love adoption. I consider myself an adoption advocate and encourage others to adopt any chance I get. However, as beautiful and life-giving as adoption can be, it has a dark side. Adoption can be ugly. It can be heartbreaking, manipulative, and even downright evil. These social media groups are often sunshine and rainbows, but the fakeness is so thick it’s often suffocating. It is vital to understand the ugly parts of adoption so you can truly appreciate when adoption is beautiful.

Unethical Adoption Agencies

When beginning the adoption process, one of the first things you will do is find an adoption agency. Unfortunately, not all agencies are created equally. In fact, some are strictly business-based. Adoptive parents are clients and birth parents are simply providing the product. I know. It is sickening to think of in that sense, but we are talking about the ugly parts of adoption. Some agencies are simply disgusting.

Only a year ago, CNN profiled a story of a young girl, Mata, adopted from Uganda. Her adoptive family was told that she had been abandoned. However, after Mata’s mother did some digging, she realized that Mata’s birth mother has been told Mata was going to be given educational opportunities, not that she would be essentially sold to another family. This adoptive family did what they knew was right and returned Mata to her mother. Unfortunately, you will find this story time and time again.

An ethical adoption agency will respect the rights of birth parents and make sure that their interests are represented. They will not hint at ways to coerce birth parents into placing their child. An ethical agency will provide all the information requested and will be open to questions. If you feel like an agency is hiding something, or they make blanket statements disrespecting birth families, it is time to find a new agency.


When adoptive parents are seeking to match with a birth mother to adopt a child, they will often create a profile and/or social media page to let people know that they are pursuing adoption. The point of these profiles and pages is to get the word out and allow birth parents to connect with them if they feel they might be a good match. The issue here is that the Internet is a world of opportunity. Unfortunately, this opportunity includes random strangers bombarding these pages, stating they are pregnant and wanting to place their child when, in fact, that is far from the truth.

Scammers have always been and will likely always be an ugly part of adoption. This also has the misfortune of often perpetuating a negative view of birth parents. When adoptive parents have been scammed time and time again, it is easy to put a wall up or to assume the worst. This is why using an agency is often incredibly helpful to prevent scams from escalating. The good news is that scams are typically pretty easy to spot. You can read more about ways to avoid scams here.

Empty Promises

There is little I disrespect more than adoptive parents making empty promises to birth families to gain custody of a child. As adoptive families are seeing the importance and the health that is found in open adoption, this is becoming less of an issue; however, it is still a particularly despicable part of adoption. The issue here is often that open adoptions are not legally enforceable in most states. Even when they are, it is often left to the discretion of adoptive parents to hold up the agreement.

In seeking a family with whom to place her child, a birth mother may find a family who agrees to open adoption. They may agree to visits and communication. In the beginning, all is well. However, life happens, and the agreement gets tossed by the wayside. Adoptive parents realize this is not what they wanted. However, it is the birth family and the child who is punished.

The bright spot in this is that the view of adoption continues to shift. The acknowledgment of adoptee rights to familial connection grows stronger, so much so that many agencies are educating fervently on the value of open adoption and the respect of birth families. Promises that are made by adoptive parents should be held sacred when it is not a detriment to the child.

Adoption is beautiful, wonderful, and ugly at times. It is my hope as an adoption author and advocates that all members of the adoption triad continue to grow in knowledge and adoption education. Agencies need to do due diligence to make sure all parties are protected. Ethics are vital in adoption. Just because certain practices are not illegal does not make them okay. Lives are in the balance and adoptees deserve for adoption to become more beautiful as we acknowledge and attempt to extinguish the ugly parts.