To the editors:

The story titled “Babies Wanted: Childless couples seek alternatives to traditional agency adoption” (May 12) stands on an incorrect premise. By accepting as fact several stereotypes about adoption agencies, the article will mislead couples eager to adopt. It will also misinform pregnant women and the doctors, nurses, counselors and teachers who try to help them decide how to proceed.

The story rests heavily on the notion that, to quote from an early paragraph, “If [people wishing to adopt] want an open adoption, where they and the birth mother meet and perhaps keep in touch after the birth, they must [your Italics] adopt privately.” Here and elsewhere, we’re given the message that all agencies are monolithic and inflexible.

Not so. In fact, a number of agencies have begun arranging adoptions that are open to varying degrees. One of the nationally recognized pioneers is Sunny Ridge Family Center of Wheaton, which has assisted with several hundred open adoptions over the past eight years. Birth parents freely choose those who will adopt their children; often they meet the adoptive parents and correspond with them afterward. The process gives both biological parents and adoptive parents whatever degree of openness or confidentiality they agree upon.

The ability for young women to have so much say in placing their children is one reason for the growth of Sunny Ridge, which now places about 100 infants a year. Birth mothers receive the counseling and post-placement support which, as your article notes, is often missing in private adoptions. The system apparently works: the agency’s largest share of referrals now comes from other birth mothers who have placed children there. Although it has a Christian orientation, Sunny Ridge does serve Jewish couples, as well as couples interested in interracial adoption and singles wishing to adopt.

I’m not suggesting that Sunny Ridge is the answer to everyone’s needs; it isn’t. My point is that the 25 or so Chicago-area adoption agencies aren’t all as rigid–or as insensitive–as your author’s narrow range of sources would have readers believe. My spouse and I adopted through Sunny Ridge, but not before talking with several other agencies less suited to us. Agencies–like prospective parents–are quite different from one another. So are their fees: the article’s assertion that agency adoptions cost more than private adoptions is also an incorrect generalization.

For prospective parents who need an unbiased overview of all adoption possibilities–agency, private, international–there are two sets of informational workshops in the Chicago area: Dimensions in Adoption (810- 1138) and Building a Family through Adoption (747-4000). Both are geared toward helping people decide whether to adopt, and giving those who want to proceed an evenhanded analysis of various agency and private adoption methods. As for the agencies rather glibly dismissed by the article: while they certainly aren’t for everyone, neither are they all still living in the past. Here’s hoping that pregnant women wishing to learn about adoption–not to mention physicians, pregnancy counselors and prospective parents–will get that message.

J.P. McCormick