A Failed Adoption Is Not The Same Thing

A woman shares this – Someone’s asking how to support a friend whose adoption has been disrupted at [a specific point in an unborn baby’s gestation]. This friend is a would be adoptive parent. The responses to this situation, that include some from other adoptive parents who identify themselves as having experienced this, equate it to a death in the family, stillbirth, or trauma.

Certainly, one could relate the two up to a point. The prospective adoptive parents have been excited about the pending adoption. They have the expectation of holding a newborn in their arms. They may have invested in a crib, baby clothes and diapers among their other preparations. But the similarity stops there.

My daughter experienced a stillbirth with her first pregnancy. She describes to me being given the expelled fetus in a blanket to hold and say goodbye to at the hospital. She tells me that when she became pregnant again with my grandson, she could hear this first one saying to her in her heart, you weren’t ready for me then.

Another woman shares (she is an adoptive parent) – I have had two late term stillbirths. Both were cord deaths. In no way, shape or form would I say that a failed adoption is at all related to experiencing a stillbirth or death loss. You cannot even put the two together. It’s only recently that stillbirth has been allowed to even be spoken about. This is why pre-birth adoption matching of unborn babies to be shouldn’t be allowed! Adoptive parents who compare the two, taking away from the women who have had an actual loss by birthing a stillbirth baby by comparing that tremendous sorrow with a belief that their loss of a baby because the expectant mother has changed her mind is a kind of mental illness.

An adoption reform response to prospective adoptive parents experiencing this kind of loss could be – “While this is a type of loss for your family, can you shift your perspective and realize how amazing it is that this mother and your family will not have to live with the certain regrets surrounding an adoption? It is a lovely and precious thing for this mom to be able to parent – just as it would have been for you.”

Bridging A Detour

Still raising awareness about Foster Care issues.

A request for guidance or advice – my wife and I have 4 foster kids. We get along great with the biological mom and they’re actually going to be reunified in the next month which is a huge win.

The biological mother has come to us and told us she is pregnant again, this time with twins who are due in December. At 25 years old, she is doubting he can handle 6 kids. She is asking us to adopt the twins.

We said “yes” of course but are wondering now what ?

Differences of opinion – focusing on the biological mother’s motivation to reunify with her children. Being pregnant with twins and faced with a total of 6 children, could feel overwhelming. This coming from an adoption reform and family preservation perspective.

This person wanted to know what the barriers were for this biological mother to keep and raise ALL of her children.

Yet, the group where this occurred, is made up of hopeful adoptive parents who offered the usual pro-adoption narrative line – “She is making a loving choice.” They were more focused on offering advice related to pursuing the adoption.

I really liked this response –

Of course, she is overwhelmed. I’ve been there. At 28 years old, I have 6 kids. Yes, it was hard but we’ve made it work.

Another person reflected on why this story is disappointing.

The foster parents have been doing everything correctly with the biological mother and have been supporting the reunification of the foster care children with their original family.

One can understand the foster care parents believing that this person they care about, needs their help – by adopting these twins she hasn’t met yet.

And I agree with the suggesting that this expectant mother needs counseling before she choses a permanent solution which in the moment is a temporary situation because change truly is constant.

And here’s the suggested response to be truly supportive of this young mother – “It’s going to be hard but you can do this. How about we help with babysitting, meals, grocery pick up, we can watch them overnight a couple times a week so you can sleep.”

Racially Determined Adoptions

I spent most of last summer educating myself about racial inequality and reform issues. Now I see this advertisement. First of all, $13,000 tax credit for adopters??? Think if poor mothers got $13,000 to keep and raise their own babies. The newborn adoption industry would totally collapse.  In Canada, they pay single parents so that they are not burdened with having to find a job and child care. There are no losers in that scenario. This program lasts until the child is 18. The amount per month decreases as the child gets older.

Note that African American babies are less valuable at Everlasting Adoptions. One could ask – Doesn’t this somehow directly violate anti-discrimination laws? Besides the smell of human trafficking in this brochure. No one regulates this business. It’s truly the wild west at this time in human history as regards adoption. This one isn’t even an adoption agency, its like a “travel agent” for people who want to pay someone to find a birth mom for them. If found, the parties then go to an adoption agency to draw up the paperwork but on Everlasting Adoptions website, they proudly take credit for successfully completed matches.

NPR did a story back in 2013 titled Six Words: ‘Black Babies Cost Less To Adopt’. The title for this one came from a Louisiana woman. Other contributors have also addressed the skin-color based fee structure for many adoptions, NPR noted – The intersection of race and adoption has prompted many people to submit their six words to The Race Card Project. Americans adopt thousands of children each year. And as the nation has become increasingly diverse, and with the growth of international adoption in recent decades, many of those children don’t look like their adoptive parents.

One adoptive parent, remembers a phone call with an adoption agency social worker. “And [she] was telling us about these different fee structures that they had based on the ethnic background of the child. And … they also had, sort of a different track for adoptive parents.” Moving through the process would be quicker, if the family was open to adopting an African-American (not biracial) child, the social worker explained to her. “And that is because they have children of color waiting,” but adopting biracial, Latino, Asian or Caucasian children could be a slower process because there were more parents waiting for them. “And I remember hearing this and just sort of being dumbfounded that they would sort of segregate — to use a loaded term — segregate these children by ethnic background before they were even in this world,”

It is a profit-motivated, supply and demand business. Thankfully, NPR also found that some states and agencies are using a different formula to make adoption more affordable for families, with a sliding scale based on income rather than skin color. In that system, lower-income families pay less to adopt. Some agencies are also moving toward a uniform cost system where all adoptive parents would pay the same fees. (Though I am still not in favor of adoption in most cases.) Still, back in 2013, the cost to adopt the Caucasian child was approximately $35,000, plus some legal expenses. I see upward of $40,000 in Go Fund Me efforts set up by hopeful adoptive parents today in 2021.

The Lies That Bind

I finished reading this book yesterday evening.  On Saturday, it absorbed my entire 4 hour writing session because I simply could not stop reading.  That was the first time a book truly did that to me.  It is a page turner, at least it was for me, because having been on my own journey to discover my family roots – I understood empathically the disappointments and the excitement of being on the hunt.

There are differences in our experiences.  Laureen is an adoptee and she definitely offers a clear-eyed and honest expression of the issues that most adoptees face.  It was easy for me to recognize the truth in these descriptions.

I am not an adoptee but what I have discovered is that as the child of two adoptees (and neither of my parents knew much at all about their origins or heritage when they died after 8 decades of life) I am almost as impacted by the issues adoptees face as the one who is adopted is.  My situation has only been slightly better because I do know who my parents were  but nothing beyond them until very recently.

There is a bittersweet aspect that I won’t give away but I do highly recommend the book – even if adoption has not impacted you.  Why ?  Because it is written so very clearly about why reform is needed in adoptionland – from the practice of placing children to the unsealing of adoption records in all 50 states.  This is a situation with societal impacts which all people should care about.

Fragility Self-Test

Before you decide to adopt or foster a child, consider your own emotional state.  Here’s some help for contemplation.

1. Do I feel defensive when an adoptee, former foster youth or birth/first mother says “adoptive parents tend to…?”

2. Do I feel angry when people tell me I benefit from adoptive parent privilege — that the adoption industry works in my favor, or that my socioeconomic class and/or race enabled me to adopt?

3. When an adoptee, former foster youth or original mother talks about adoption, do I feel defensive because they’re describing things that I do or think?

4. Do I feel angry or annoyed by the above questions?

5. Do I have a history of embracing hopeful or adoptive parent behavior that I now feel ashamed of, so I need to show people that I’m no longer “like that”?

6. Does saying “not all adoptive parents” or similar phrases make me feel better when someone calls adoptive parents out for some perspective or behavior?

7. Do I expect an apology when I feel like I’ve been unfairly accused of poor adoptive parent behavior?

8. Do I feel better when I say, hear, or read, “every (adoption) experience is different?”

9. Do I try to convince adoptees, former foster youth and original mothers that they’re wrong about adoption by pointing out people from their position in the triad who agree with me?

10. Do I feel the need to talk about my own hardships (such as infertility, a “failed” adoption, or a difficult childhood) when an adoptee or original mother talks about their pain?

11. Do I think the adoption community would benefit if people stopped talking about the hard stuff, were more supportive, learned from “both sides,” or focused more on the positive?

12. Does being told that something I say, think, do, or otherwise value is harmful make me want to shut down, leave, or express my discomfort/displeasure in some way?

13. Do I feel the need to state that I have friends/family who are adoptees or first mothers when someone points out my problematic behavior?

14. Do I feel the need to prove that I’m one of the good ones?

15. Do I feel that my opinions and perspectives about adoption should be given equal weight to that of an adoptee or original mother, that I have something unique and important to contribute to the adoption conversation, and/or that it is unfair to be told to listen more than I speak?

16. Do I feel the need to defend myself on any of the above points when commenting in a discussion?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, you are dealing with adoptive parent fragility. Take time to reflect on why you feel the way that you do. Take time to listen to adoptee and original mother perspectives.

Adoptive parent fragility is a hindrance to healing because it prevents adoptees/original mothers from being able to engage with adoptive parents in honest conversation, without also having to bear the burden of catering to adoptive parents’ emotional comfort.

At its worst, adoptive parent fragility can cause an emotionally unhealthy situation for adoptees/original mothers because of the power dynamics and the weight of being responsible for the adoptive parents’ feelings, while not being allowed the same consideration to express their own.

There is also the weight that comes with people that you care about lashing out at and abusing you (verbally, emotionally, and/or digitally).

If we cannot talk honestly about the issues surrounding the traditional adoption industry, then we cannot make progress towards creating a healthy reform.

Who Was Georgia Tann ?

Georgia Tann in the photo above is with her most desirable kind of adoptable child, a blond fair-skinned girl.

From a Memphis Tennessee Commercial Appeal article dated October 7, 1979 –

Georgia Tann was accused of selling babies for profit.  The money apparently bought her the “good life” of fur coats, chauffeur-driven limousines, gambling trips to Cuba, a summer cottage on the Mississippi Gulf Coast and social status with Hollywood’s movie stars.

The state of Tennessee charged that Miss Tann made more than $500,000 in her illegal baby-selling scheme during the decade before she died of cancer on Sept 15, 1950.  Both her own granddaughter and the state investigator believe she spent all of her money before she died at the age of 59.

Her granddaughter said, “It was a running joke in my family that Georgia Tann’s last will said, ‘I spent it all’, Vicci Finn said (she is the daughter of Dr Victor Watson and June Tann Watson – her parents were both dead by this date).

“When Georgia Tann found out she was ill and wasn’t going to live long, they (the Watsons and Miss Tann) went on a nationwide tour. They stayed at the finest hotels and spent money. This is what my mother told me.”

Miss Tann was in charge of the Tennessee Children’s Home Society, Memphis Branch, from 1922 until her death in 1950.  Both my mother and her older brother had been adopted from that agency in the 1930s.

Georgia Tann wasn’t able to defend herself during the investigation as she lapsed in and out of consciousness due to the complications of cancer.  The powers that be in Memphis at the time (many of whom were directly implicated as having benefited from or were beholding to, because they too had adopted children from Ms Tann) chose to let the matter die as the primary criminal target was taken beyond conviction by death itself.

The adoption agency was closed, never to be allowed to reopen, 3 mos after her death.  Many reforms were instituted in Tennessee as a result of the practices uncovered.  The state also decided to unsealed the agency records for those persons directly affected by the practices in the mid-1990s.

Which is why I now know much more of the actual story of my mother’s own adoption than she did and died not knowing.