Adoption and Financial Assistance: Tools for Navigating the Bureaucracy

By Rita Laws; Tim O'Hanlon | Go to book overview

13
Disclosure of Information and
the Liability of
Adoption Agencies

The law isn't justice. It's a very imperfect mechanism. If you press
exactly the right buttons and are also lucky, justice may show up in
the answer. A mechanism is all the law was ever intended to be.

-- Raymond Chandler ( 1888-1959)


"WRONGFUL ADOPTION" LAWSUITS

One simple but profound difference between families with biological children and families formed by adoption is that in closed adoptions, adoptive parents are dependent on outside agencies for information about their child's past. Given what we know about the risks associated with severe neglect, sexual abuse, and prenatal drug exposure, it seems astonishing that agencies would fail to disclose crucial information about the children they place for adoption. Nevertheless, withholding unpleasant information has been an all too common practice, although one seemingly motivated more by dangerous good intentions than malice.

In recent decades, an alarming number of families who adopted children without adequate background information found themselves confronting emotional problems and learning disabilities for which they had no explanation. Precious time was wasted and vitally needed services delayed while the parents blamed themselves and searched for answers.

In the 1980s, adoptive parents filed the first in a succession of successful wrongful adoption lawsuits against adoption agencies. The term wrongful adoption is actually somewhat misleading because families have taken legal action primarily to recoup the ruinous costs of medical or psychological services, not to dissolve their adoptions. Before the issue of damages could

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