Second Family Confusion ?

Matching Dresses

From an adoptive mother who has attempted an open adoption, which now appears in danger of becoming closed.

So birth mom requested before the adoption that we take annual photos together, our whole family along with her and her son. At the time we were fine with it, we’ve embraced her and her son as an extended part of the family and had no issue with us all having photos together. Well, here we are second year of photos and birth mom bought our daughter a dress for her birthday to wear. She told me about it and I thought it was so sweet. What she didn’t tell me was that her dress was going to match our daughter’s. She shows up with these “mommy and me dresses” for photos we are suppose to take as a family. Totally thrown of guard and didn’t say anything about it. Definitely bothered me though as I feel like that can be really confusing for my daughter as she gets older.

Second issue is that her birth mom is taking photos of our daughter with her biological son alone. I feel like this can be super confusing for a child also. She will see our family photos when we get together with birth mom and brother. Photos with her “second family”. The whole feels wrong to me.

Am I wrong in not being okay with these two scenarios? Like both of these cross boundaries and could be confusing for a young kid right? I don’t want her growing up thinking she has a third parent or another family like that. I guess I’m just looking for validation in my thought process before we address it with birth mom. It would be cute, if that was her mom but she isn’t, I am – and she didn’t even ask me if I’d be okay with it.

On response immediately noticed this red flag of insecurity – if she “was her mom but she isn’t . . .” Actually she is her mom and always will be. Such insecurity and denial of reality. When will adoptive parents learn that the biological parent IS mom and dad ? That never changes. These are the adoptive mom and adoptive dad. That is all the amended birth certificate did – give them rights of authority. It didn’t change the facts of the child’s biology.

Someone else pointed out what may be the crux of the issue – Wearing matching matching dresses with her mother, taking photos with her mother and little brother, are not confusing to that little girl. What is likely confusing to her (and what her adoptive mother doesn’t want to try to explain and justify to her because she knows it doesn’t hold up to scrutiny) is why can her little brother live with her mother, and not her ? The adoptive mother may not even understand what troubles her. This is not as uncommon as it may seem when an unwed mother gives up her first born and then later goes on to have other children. My paternal grandmother was one like that.

AND, why can’t she live with her biological mom ?! Because a selfish adult got attached to someone else’s child, and now that the mother is in a better position it doesn’t matter because the adopter/purchaser/adult; who should be able to manage their feelings appropriately; has the money and the power in the situation, and won’t let them go. This is why it is often suggested to a vulnerable expectant mother NOT to use a permanent solution to what may only be a temporary problem.

A reality check for the adoptive mother – Children need to know that they are loved by their parents! She’ll need the photos of her family. She’ll need the photos of herself and her brother. She’ll need the photos of herself and her mother. If you’re truly thinking of your adopted daughter, then you would understand why those photos should be the most talked about pictures framed in her room. It isn’t about you and your feelings. Think about how she will feel years from now finding out that you stopped contact because her MOTHER purchased mommy and me dresses ? Can you live with the hate, the backlash, the anger, THE TRAUMA!! That’s selfish. Are you really that blinded by a piece of legal paperwork ? Do you not see that it is ONLY a piece of paper and that baby has her mother’s DNA running through her veins! You do understand that there is absolutely nothing that anyone (including a judge) can do to change that ? Or are you really that selfish and controlling that you can’t see passed yourself and your own emotions ?

Vital Record Fraud

One of the issues that disturbs adoptees the most is that their original birth certificates were changed to make it appear as though their adoptive parents actually gave birth to them and usually their names were changed as part of that. This happened to BOTH of my own adoptee parents.

Some one adoptee asks – If birth certificates are such a “vital” record – why are the vital records of adoptees sealed and fraudulent ones put in their place?

At the Adoptee Rights Law Center’s LINK> The United States of OBC anyone can search the status for their state. There you can find out about any restrictions that limit an adult adoptee’s right to obtain an original birth certificate. Only in eleven states (indicated by checkmark) do adult adopted people have the right to obtain their own original birth certificates upon request. Early in my own roots discovery journey, I bumped my head against both Virginia and California who said I would have to get a court to approve my request (thanks to my mom’s adoption being part of the Georgia Tann scandal in Tennessee, when I received her full adoption file records, her original birth certificate from Virginia was there). The birth parents, the adoptive parents and both of my parents were already deceased. As their descendant, under such circumstances which would reasonably mean no one who had reason to object was still alive, I was still denied.

I enjoyed the answer from one adoptee – Because it is vital to maintain the “as if born too” facade. It is much like entering a witness protection program.

Initially the original birth certificates were sealed only from the public. Eventually, the reasoning became to protect the adoptive family from interference by the birth family. According to a document in the University of Michigan Journal of Gender and Law titled LINK> Surrender and Subordination: Birth Mothers and Adoption Law Reform

For more than thirty years, adoption law reform advocates have been seeking to restore for adult adoptees the right to access their original birth certificates, a right that was lost in all but two states between the late 1930s and 1990. The advocates have faced strong opposition and have succeeded only in recent years and only in eight states. Among the most vigorous advocates for access are birth mothers who surrendered their children during a time it was believed that adoption would relieve unmarried women of shame and restore them to a respectable life. The birth mother advocates say that when they surrendered their children, their wishes were subordinated and their voices silenced. They say they want to be heard now as they raise their voices in support of adult adoptees’ rights to information in government records about their birth mothers’ original identities.

Opponents of restoring access, in “women-protective rhetoric” reminiscent of recent anti-abortion efforts, argue that access would harm birth mothers, violating their rights and bringing shame anew through unwanted exposure of out-of-wedlock births. Opponents say they must speak for birth mothers who cannot come forward to speak for themselves. Birth mother advocates respond that the impetus historically for closing records was to protect adoptive families from public scrutiny and from interference by birth parents, rather than to protect birth mothers from being identified in the future by their children. They maintain that birth mothers did not choose and were not legally guaranteed lifelong anonymity. They point out that when laws that have restored access have been challenged, courts have found neither statutory guarantees of nor constitutional rights to, anonymity. They also offer evidence that an overwhelming majority of birth mothers are open to contact with their now grown children.

One had some interesting contemplations – thinking all about adoptees and how we basically prove a large side of nature bs nurture. And I mean the nature part. Our world likes to think that nurture is most important and that we always have a choice. We are a puzzle piece that society and the world doesn’t want us to fit into the big picture, we challenge people’s beliefs that they think are naturally instilled in them, when really it’s all just a bunch of bullshit that has been shoved down everyone’s throats. Even with doctors – good luck getting into the genetics department. The whole thing is gate kept. Really makes me wonder if our existence proves something scientifically that we are aware of, that would change the way people see things.

Most Were Unnecessary

The fact is most adoptions are unnecessary.

Answers to the questions that statement raises. Babies are highly in demand and sought after. There are 40 waiting hopeful adoptive parents to every ONE expectant mother/baby. From a business sense it is purely Supply and Demand. This is why domestic infant costs so much. This is why some wait YEARS for a baby. These babies aren’t “in need.” They won’t age out of foster care. They won’t grow up with “nowhere to go.” Adopting these babies isn’t helping anyone except the adoptive parent. Domestic infant adoption is 100% selfish. Most of these adoptions are unnecessary. Most of these mothers relinquish their babies for FINANCIAL reasons. If they had more money/support/resources they would keep their child.

The woman who simply doesn’t want her baby is RARE. These babies don’t need to be adopted because they have a mom and family. The family needs support to stay together. Most newborns are placed bc of TEMPORARY situations. Adoption in the US is a major industry. There isn’t a shortage of children to adopt. There is a massive shortage of babies/toddlers to adopt.

There is definitely a false but virally advertised dichotomy between abortion and adoption. One does not prevent the other. Making abortion illegal, doesn’t mean you’ll get your baby. Forcing a poor woman to give birth so that a wealthy infertile woman can have a baby makes women into breeding stock. It further traumatizes poor families, poor communities and in the case of trans racial domestic infant adoption a recognized form of cultural genocide.

The majority of adoptions are Euro-ethnic INFANTS. Children under the age of 6 years old are the MOST likely to be adopted in the United States and most of those infants are adopted through private adoption (by which I mean not through the state agencies). Some actually place the number of people hoping to adopt vs the number of infants available for adoption as high as 100/1. Some of those people hoping to adopt may decide for whatever reason to adopt darker-skinned infants and a handful may choose to adopt an older child at a later time.

If an expectant mother seeks “help” from a Crisis Pregnancy Center, or calls an adoption agency, they will be pressured with coercive tactics such as guilt (“this family has been waiting so long! You’ll be the answer to their prayers! You’re so brave!”) or shame (“this family can provide two parents for your child. How can you give this child everything they need?). All to convince expectant parents to relinquish their child to the adoptive parents, at which point the money comes into the picture as the adoption agency receives a “finder’s fee” for that child.

This is honestly how the process works. I support financially supporting families so that they can remain together. This is known as family preservation. I will continue working to make the adoption of newborn infants less necessary.

Not Under But In

One of those platitudes that many adoptees totally hate. This is something insecure adoptive parents say to make themselves feel better.

Another one of those is this one – I was waiting for and hoping for a child for a long, long time and that when I saw my child I knew in that instant that this was the child I have been longing for. To which someone noted – what you just said is extremely gross, predatory and disgusting. Another said, your comment proves once again that whichever child is on offer would be the one that the adoptive parent longed for… and the solution to their sadness.

This one went on to note – We are interchangeable, all the horror we went through, losing our families, losing our names and heritage — it was all something we should be happy and grateful for — our hearts should be full because the adoptive parents got their wish for a child, we are their child as soon as they could lay claim to us.

An adoptee says – The other mottos I despise is that the child is part of God’s plan or a child that is born to a different mother, but was really meant for their adoptive parent. 

Just one last important note for today as I am short on time. From an adoptive mother – I have a seven year old who, although she clearly does love me very much, will still make comments occasionally like- you stole me from my mom, I miss my mom (prior to my fortunately finding her original mother), that’s not my real last name. She came up with these statements all on her own at SEVEN. All of that was before we found her original mother and built the relationship between them that they now have. She doesn’t know any other adoptees, so it isn’t like someone is telling her to have those feelings. So no matter what you think you are doing for your adopted child, they will still grow up to have the same feelings as so many adult adoptees often express. The sooner you, as an adoptive parent, accept this and deal with your own emotions around it, the better you will be able to help your adopted child.

All You Have Is Love

From the LINK> Website for this movie –

Infant adoption has long been big business in the US. Each year, over 1 million hopeful adoptive parents place their well-crafted, picture-perfect profiles into the online, independent adoption pool, hoping to be the chosen ones. However, fewer than one percent of unplanned pregnancies result in adoption. This means that most hoping to adopt will not, but supply would equal demand if the adoption industry had its way. The cost of an infant adoption in America runs between $40,000 and $70,000. Adoption entities – crisis pregnancy centers, agencies, lawyers, social workers, and independent facilitators – can all profit from a finalized adoption.

All You Have Is Love explores the challenges of an unexpected pregnancy and examines how adoption professionals use deceptive tactics to convince women that their children are better off being raised in an adoptive family. Through interviews with birth family members, industry professionals, and reform advocates, this documentary film will reveal the adoption process that so often exploits expectant mothers. The film identifies the various entities involved in the industry, exposes the myth of “open” adoption, and presents and evaluates proposed regulations and reforms.

Time For Reform

I don’t know when people will stop exploiting other humans. I try to be some part of the change. And so does Mirah Riben.

Here’s some food for thought –

Everyone assumes adoption is in the best interest of children. Is it?

In whose best interest are fraudulent birth certificates?

Are there sufficient regulations and enforceable guidelines in place to eliminate corruption, commodification, exploitation, coercion and conflict of interest?

How much does money play a part?

Discuss the ethical issues with a focus on payments of expenses and conflict of interest in legal counsel for relinquishing mothers within the United States.

Suggest solutions to prevent scamming of prospective adopters and coercion expectant mothers which can cause contested adoptions which are lengthy and costly for all parties.

~ Mirah Riben

Mirah Riben is an author and advocate for family preservation and for the right of adoptees to their original birth certificate since 1980 — researching, investigating and writing to expose the corruption, coercion, exploitation, commodification, and trafficking of children for adoption and anonymous contract conception. She has authored two internationally acclaimed books and more than 250 articles. Her work is cited in more than seventy books, journal articles and theses. She is the author of two internationally acclaimed books: “Shedding light on the Dark Side of Adoption” (1988) and “The Stork Market: America’s Multi-Billion Dollar Unregulated Adoption Industry” (2008) and dozens of articles.

Lament and Repentance

From an adoptive parent’s perspective –

We became foster parents to “help the whole family” and adopted our son (met him at 5 weeks in the NICU, brought him home at 6 weeks, adopted him at 2 years). He was our 8th placement- some families we were able to be helpful towards more than others, I can see my failures or ignorance too.

We have kept a private Facebook page to keep biological parents updated with pictures and an ability to message. Some family members have a recent relationship with our son, and I feel like we have all gained family. BUT, the biological parents aren’t safe (actively using drugs).

I hear you adoptee’s. I hear how you hate adoption. I hear your lack of control, choice, autonomy. Hating that your name was changed, lost culture, lost history, lack of belonging, desire for real change in the system and legislation. I hear you. Your feelings are valid and real. Thank you for sharing with us and allowing us to learn and gain understanding and mourn with you.

As an adoptive parent, I sit in lament and repentance – over my ignorance (even after lots of books and trainings), my savior/rescuer habits and mentality, my selfishness and self centered ness. And I’m just sad with you, and sad with my child.

My question…What were things said to you/done/moments of clarity or understanding that helped you bond and attach to your adoptive parents? I understand it’s a journey and a process, but I still want emotional health and intelligence for my teen.

PS – have been in therapy with an adoption specialist for 3 years.

From an adoptee in response –

Do you have any idea how hard it is to love yourself as an adoptee ? F*** your bonding. Kids will bond to others when their brain says it’s safe. And some don’t at all. At the end of the day, the child may never naturally attach to you but that isn’t saying they won’t naturally attach to others. Trying to have those children identify non-biologicals as being the traditional family roles, when they do not actually fit (mom, dad, etc) is not helping make the kids feel like part of your family. It’s an attempt to replace the family they already have. It’s easier for you but it’s harmful for them. Look into support groups for kids of addicts. Keep learning more about active addiction and what is a threat and what is not. Actively support and promote a bond with the original parents, while teaching your adoptee boundaries and healthy coping.

Betty Jean Lifton

Born 1926 – Died 2010 at age 84

I didn’t know of her until today. One of the many defining things that BJ was – she was adopted. And those of us who are adopted ones know that the world infantilizes us and constantly refers to us as ‘adopted children’ even when we are 30, 40, 50, 70 and so on.

BJ was “an adopted child” and it is fitting that she be referred to that way, because she kept a clear and present focus on children, on children’s issues, and on children’s literature. Though I have personally pretty much maxed out on my own adoption related reading, if you have not, she is a good author to look up and read.

BJ is described as being swan-like, quiet but magnetic, slowly turning her head left and right in regal greeting whenever she made her way to a podium at a speaking engagement related to adoption. There was an old-Hollywood glamour to this Staten Island-born, Cincinnati-bred, first-wave adoptee. Her birth name was Blanche. That somehow fit her with her clipped consonants and languid vowels, dramatic mien and throaty chuckle. She easily managed to come across as both mysterious (what did that smirk of hers signify ?) and searingly direct, when discussing the issue closest to her heart: openness meaning open records, openness about origins, open acknowledgement of the adoption experience’s impact on all members of the triad.

She had been adopted through Louise Wise Services. At the time, the only option for Jewish birth mothers and adoptive parents in New York City. She seven years old when she learned about her adoption. She was told her adoption was “a secret.” She described herself as a “good adoptee” — unrebellious, eager to please and to belong. She had an idea of “shadow selves.” Meaning the child the birth parents lost, the child the adoptive parents couldn’t have, and the person the adoptee might have been if raised elsewhere. I get this concept related to my adoptee parents.

Her adoption related books include – Journey of the Adopted Self and Lost and Found, as well as her 1975 memoir, Twice Born. BJ is described as a wise woman and an amazing and magical writer. She has been referred to as the Gloria Steinem of adoption. She saw things through a prism that included more than what most people saw, or wanted to see in the world of adoption. She was a pioneer.

BJ told many tales – like this one about the ‘possible self. To illustrate that, she would give an adoptee two dolls: one was who the adoptee would have been, if she had stayed on the course that she came into the world as – her birth self – and the other was who she actually became in real life. I think my own adoptee mother would have related well to that tale. BJ stated that ‘our possible selves’, as adopted ones, had a huge influence on our current selves and only by bringing them together would we be whole. As the child of two adoptees who now has two kinds of families – the ones my parents were born into and the ones that adoption gave us, I also understand and though it IS complicated, I have that sense of wholeness that I didn’t ever fully know I lacked before I found out during my roots journey.

BJ was a storyteller. Like the one called The Deep Sleep. In adoption circles, the fog may be a similar concept. This is that state that people go into when their original lives are taken from them and are made a secret. She also told stories of brave people who saved children and the brave children who asked questions and found the truth that saved the grownups.

BJ made an amazing difference in the lives of adopted people, birthparents, and adoptive parents as well as professionals in the field. She never wavered in her beliefs, and in her stand for human rights in adoption. She helped the individuals that she spoke with, testified with, did therapy with, worked with and played with. She helped the adoption reform movement and left her indelible mark is on everything that has evolved in adoption reform. She bequeathed us with a passion for the truth.

I credit a lot of my content today to two essays about Betty Jean Lifton – [1] “Goodbye, Betty Jean” by Sarah Saffian at the LINK> Adoptive Families website and [2] to an essay simply titled, LINK> Betty Jean Lifton, by Joyce Maguire Pavao at the Jewish Women’s Archive website.

Yeah, It’s Uncomfortable

Adoptive parents don’t like to hear it said that they “bought a child”. Over and over from former foster parents or adoptive parents, when they realize their role in adoptee trauma, will say “I didn’t know”. Or some variation of the below –

“I thought I was helping” “I had only heard good things about adoption/fostering” “I never thought about the parents” “I didn’t see it as buying a child” “I thought my situation was different” “I….” “I….” “I….” So many “I’s”.

The point is every one of these reasons comes down to a saviorism narrative, that society has created. When you continue using sugar-coated language, you are furthering that narrative.

You are centering yourself to make yourself feel better.

Adoptive parents, whether you like it or not, you bought a child. Money exchanged hands for you to receive a product. Is anyone telling you to go tell your traumatized toddler that ? Of course not. You have done enough damage. But you do need to reconcile that fact within yourself. And when that adoptee starts asking questions, be in a position to take accountability and center the adoptee, like you should have from the get go.

PS The adoptee does not owe you any gratitude for what you did.

Like A Sick Joke

Some adoptive parents want to celebrate what is generally a sad day for most adoptees. I read this comment from one adoptee – People are just out of touch with reality. Why would an adoptive parent send treats to school, so their adopted child can celebrate “Gotcha Day,” even after the child has beg them not to ?

From a mother who surrendered a child to adoption and also adopted one – This poor child. I never use that term with my daughter and honestly that is because I know the pain and trauma of being coerced into giving my baby away. In my home, we acknowledge the pain and trauma of adoption, the reasoning behind her adoption (ours was private with acquaintances) and I’m happy to give her compassion and hugs and a lot of love. I also am happy that the people who adopted my daughter never celebrated the “gotcha” day. That would be extremely painful for me as well.

On a website titled LINK> Considering Adoption, I found an article titled The Controversy of ‘Gotcha Day’.

How do you feel right now after seeing “Happy Gotcha Day” in my blog photo ? The debate is contentious, and it can get heated.  Reactions vary wildly across the adoption community. For some, the language is highly problematic. For others, the entire concept is an issue. Still others have only good feelings about “gotcha day” and celebrate it annually with their children.

The goal in my blog today, is not to ignite a fiery debate, but rather to share a better understanding of the positions some hold. Gotcha Day is believed to be a celebration of the day a family adopted a child. Some families decide to mark this anniversary on the day of placement; others celebrate on the day the adoption was finalized in court. The name of this day and even the existence of the celebration has become a point of controversy for several different reasons. Let’s look at the most common positions.

The language we use when we discuss adoption must be sensitive and respectful. We’re talking about an adoptive family, the original mother and the adoptee. We have to choose our words carefully to ensure we respect the full dignity and autonomy of everyone involved in the process. Language that commodifies the adoption process is a problem. Adoption is not buying children. Children are not the product.

“The most basic aspect of it — its name — is also the disturbing aspect of it… There is also the fact that G-Day, like re-homing, has its origins in the pet rescue lexicon because it implies caught or trapped. Is this really what we want to model?” ~ author Mirah Riben

The other side of every adoption story is that an adoptee “lost everything” connected to their family of origin. From Sophie, who was born in China and adopted by an American family when she was 5 years old: “It’s been said that adoption loss is the only trauma in the world where everyone expects the victims be grateful and appreciative… Gotcha day feels like a day of fake smiles if we don’t acknowledge that it’s also about loss, not just gain.” Having a celebration intentionally denies that loss.

Adoption is acknowledged to involve loss at some level for every adoptee. The felt impact is understandably different for each. There are often confusing questions about heritage and identity for many adoptees. It is important to allow space for both any joy in general and any felt loss when it comes to an adoptee’s day of having become adopted.

Every person is inherently, and without qualification, deserving of respect. Each member of the adoption triad is living a unique story. Each has their own struggles and challenges.

One adoptee shares – I hate the phrase gotcha day. It feels patronizing and inhumane. It’s also not ok if the child is embarrassed or doesn’t want to. My adoptive parents celebrated my Adoption Birthday. Kids were jealous of me that I had 2 birthdays. I just laughed and rolled my eyes – No one wants to be adopted. I enjoyed my 2 “birthdays” and knew that other people really didn’t understand. Gotcha days and whether the adoptee consents are huge issues.

Another adoptee admits – I HATE “Gotcha-day” if you want to celebrate the day you became a family, I think that’s great, but should be family, you should discuss adoption and how the process went (similar to a mom who tells her child about their birth). It should not be a day to praise these “wonderful” people for taking in this child that “no one wanted”. And it sure as hell shouldn’t be gotcha day. That’s what they say at the animal shelter !!!

Yet another said bluntly – I was forced to have this. It embarrassed me and I hated it.