Adoption Issues On Facebook

Ten years ago, there was an article in The Guardian which the title “Facebook has changed adoption for ever.” The sub-title was “Social network sites like Facebook are changing what happens after adoption. At the click of a button, birth parents can contact their children – and vice versa – with far-reaching consequences.” I would add inexpensive DNA testing via Ancestry and 23 and Me have done as much.

The lead-in on that article noted – “Adoption is undergoing a revolution. Until recently, it has been a closely managed process, with social workers going to enormous lengths to protect children placed with adoptive families from inappropriate contact with birth relatives.” That was always the argument but never the truth. The truth was that social workers and adoption agencies were protecting the adoptive parents from the intrusion of the natural bond between the original parent and their child. There certainly have been “. . . cases of adopted young people being contacted by birth parents through Facebook. There are even more instances in which the approach is initiated by adopted young people themselves, who are curious about their birth families.” You can read that rest of that decade old perspective at the link above.

Now today, another one. This one published in Wired titled Adoption Moved to Facebook and a War Began and raising the hackles of some in my most important (though I do belong to several) adoption related support group at Facebook. The sub-title notes – As the adoption industry migrates to social media, regretful adoptees and birth mothers are confronting prospective parents with their personal pain—and anger. I do see these in my support group. In fact, adoptees are the “privileged” voices there.

This is true to the best of my own knowledge on the subject – “The adoption industry has never been very well regulated, and there is a history of certain firms engaging in unethical practices. But when agencies were the primary facilitators of adoption, they could at least perform basic vetting of birth mothers and adoptive parents and manage complex legal processes. The open marketplace of the web removed that layer of oversight.” Wired refers to people in adoption support groups as anti-adoption but then goes on to note that these are older women who, as “unwed mothers” in the 1950s and ’60s, were forced to give babies up for adoption; women whose churches still pressure them to give up children born outside of marriage; adoptees who want to overturn laws in 40 states that deny them unrestricted access to their original birth certificates. These are legitimate experiences and desires that do not in themselves constitute being anti-adoption.

However, as understanding of the deep sub- and un- conscious trauma that adoptees experience and the lifelong regret that mothers who surrendered their children to adoption as a permanent solution to a temporary situation are increasing shared openly or privately in groups that maintain anonymity, as my dominant choice does, there is a desire to limit the number of adoptions that do take place. There are recommendations for kinship guardianship whenever possible, for true efforts on the part of foster parents to assist the original parents in successfully navigating the child welfare requirements for reunification with their own children and that at the least, when adoption seems somehow the only alternative left – allowing the child to retain their original identity by NOT changing their name nor creating a new “false” birth certificate the creates the impression that the adoptive parents gave birth to that child.

These are reasonable attempts at reform.

In the movement Wired identifies are a wide range of perspectives. Some recognize the value of adoption in certain circumstances and have specific goals, like improving federal oversight, eliminating practices that are coercive to birth mothers, or giving them more time to reverse a decision to give up a child. Others see adoption as wrong most of the time – in my group it is NOT as Wired indicates “in all cases” – but there is a recognition that the natural bond between a biological mother and her child is a reality. Some are finding community and expressing feelings of anger and pain for the first time; birth mothers describe pressure, regret, and lifelong mourning for the children they gave up, while adoptees talk about their sense of estrangement and about not knowing their medical history. Certainly, poverty plays a role in children being removed from their parents and placed for adoption.

Wired does proach the topic of the Termination of Parental Rights (TPR). The article notes that TPR has been called the “civil death penalty,” because of its severity and finality. It is overwhelmingly levied against poor families. Some children are taken away from parents who abuse them horribly—and others who should be removed are not and die at the hands of abusers. Nationally, the majority of children are removed from their homes by child protective services not for abuse but neglect, which can be a more subjective state. Neglect can mean a child was left in a hot car for hours or that a child’s parent is an addict. Or it can mean that a child was alone at home while their mother worked an overnight shift or went to the store, or that there’s not enough food in the fridge. In other words, poverty can create conditions that lead to neglect, and the exigencies of poverty can also be interpreted as neglect.

My own adoption support group advocates, and some experts in child-welfare reform do as well, for helping families get what they need—rehab, food stamps, child care subsidies. We agree that should be prioritized over permanently removing children from their parents. In a 2019 paper, “A Cure Worse Than the Disease? The Impact of Removal on Children and Their Families,” Vivek Sankaran, a professor at the University of Michigan Law School, and his coauthors note that removing children from their homes is traumatic for both parents and children, and that standards for removal vary from state to state. In some states there must be evidence that a child is in immediate danger; in others, suspicion of neglect is sufficient cause. Some states allow a parent to appeal the removal within 24 hours; in others a parent may have to wait 10 days. As a result, the authors note, states and even individual counties have widely varying rates of removing children.

“If we eliminated poverty in this country, that would be the best abuse- and neglect-prevention program,” according to Elizabeth Bartholet, director of the Child Advocacy Program at Harvard Law School.

It is true that the internet, along with widely available genetic testing, has dismantled the possibility of a truly closed adoption.  However, the truth about open adoptions is the adoptive family an easily end the relationship. Open adoptions exist at the discretion of the adopting family. They are not legally enforceable in all states, and where they are enforceable the cost of a lawyer can be prohibitive for a birth mother.

My adoption support group often recommends the Saving Our Sisters (SOS) organization to expectant mothers considering a surrender of their baby. This group seeks to persuade birth mothers that financial strain shouldn’t prevent them from keeping their children. When a woman who is having second thoughts reaches out to SOS online, the group tries to find a “sister on the ground” nearby to bring her diapers, a month’s rent, or a baby swing. In 6 years time, they helped 90 mothers and their children remain together, rather than be lost to adoption.

 

Glitter Birthmoms

This is a new term for me this morning but I will admit I struggle with this now. At one time, I wouldn’t have but I have learned too much related to all things adoption to go along with the denial or self soothing perspectives that the adoption industry puts forth and way too many mothers who surrender a baby to adoption absorb and then believe it. These birthmoms speak about adoption as some win/win scenario.

Someone asked the obvious question – What are glitter birth moms? And here was the response – Someone who is glad they adopted out their child and doesn’t regret it.

One woman talked about the ones she sees that are proudly proclaiming their child is in a closed adoption for their own “privacy” but are also Extremely Online, using their full name and photo, IDing themselves as biological moms. Uh, that’s not really how privacy works but they’ll find that out when the adoptee does DNA and matches with close relatives. (And this does happen increasingly these days – in fact DNA and matching has revealed to me my adoptee parents’ – both were – genetic families).

Just recently, I saw one like this from a Christian agency and the woman has gone into counseling unwed mothers to surrender after getting a degree in some social work area. I just couldn’t . . . Here is how someone describes a similar situation – The ones whose stories adoption agencies/adoptive parents trot out in adoption circles to reinforce the narratives they want. They usually talk about how young they were or what obstacles they had, how they picked the adoptive parents (blogger’s note – and I actually supported my youngest sister during a pregnancy where she sent me the profiles to give her a second opinion but that was before I learned all I have learned), what wonderful people the adoptive parents are, how they have thrived since then, sometimes how their child is doing, and saying they know they “made the right decision.” They paint adoption as “giving my child a better life than I could offer.” All of this is very typical.

One adoptee said about such women – my guess is denial and a way to deal with guilt, they can safely live in the fog. I hate the way adoption is always about the parents, adopted or biological.

Another adoptee shares this –

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I don’t **know** this is how my birth mom is for a fact… but at least on the surface she fits the bill on
paper;

She had me at 16, before her 17th birthday

& Because she placed me for adoption

(and that she escaped the stigma,
as she didn’t show and no one knew she was pregnant)

She was able to easily graduate high school

Get her bachelor degree

Married the “love of her life”

And have two well behaved sons at the appropriate time deemed by society

She is a pillar of her community, a kindergarten teacher

She is head of PTA and very active at fighting for kids rights and services in her community (ironically)

It hurts more because I was always
fed the narrative “she did this for me” “she wanted you to have a better life”

No.

It was always about her

She wanted a better life

She wanted to escape stigma

It was never about me

Another adoptee shares – My “unfit” biological parents both went on to have more children and raised them in stable, loving families, unlike the adoptive one I got. Like we always say, placing your child or adoption is a permanent solution to a temporary problem and nothing to be proud of. My biological parents can insist they did it out of love for me all they want but all I would ever hear is “we couldn’t be bothered to get our shit together in time to keep you in the family but look at all these lucky siblings we did do that for!”

And this was an important piece of advice – Please don’t start framing adoptees as either having a “negative experience” or “bitter and abandoned.” This will only silence your child and make them feel they cannot share complex feelings. The best thing I ever did for my daughter was tell her she had every right to feel however she wants over a situation she had no control or say over. Its quite possible for adoptees to love their parents but find parts of their adoption traumatic or challenging. For Example my daughter mourns not growing up with her siblings I get to raise. That doesn’t make her bitter or negative – its a completely normal response to an abnormal situation.

Someone shares this, which I alluded to above about a Christian agency – There are glitter birth moms who make a career out of it, by becoming an “adoption professional” and are paid by agencies to speak at events, promote adoption to other expectant mothers, etc. I follow them closely. It has a two fold impact – not only is the birth Mum able to turn their relinquishment into an income stream but it continually reinforces to them that they made the right choice. And this is far easier to live with than being open to considering the alternative. I have seen one of them do a complete change – she was actually featured in national articles supporting adoption. I’m not exactly sure what happened – whether the openness reduced, the reality of what she had done started to sink in as her child got older, however I have seen her talk about how her she has really struggled with her mental health. She hasn’t come out and owned her past but I have seen her commenting against adoption now.

And this very honest assessment that has some balance integrated into it – I don’t know if I’m considered a glitter birth mom, I don’t regret placing my daughter given the circumstances of my life at that time and the circumstances of her current life. However, I wouldn’t preach that it’s the greatest thing ever either. I just feel it was the best choice out of the ones I had at that time. I didn’t do it all for her, yes she was definitely a consideration but I’ll admit my choice was selfish too.

That’s part of why when I see women being praised when they are considering adoption that it irks me so much. It’s not selfless and brave and giving some couple a chance at parenthood. It’s hard, and emotional and traumatic for everyone and people don’t want to hear that. My daughter is 9 and it breaks my heart a little. She told me she never wants to be pregnant and have biological children. She wants to adopt children like she was and I wonder if this is her way of reacting to her trauma. I see her often, I’m pregnant with her little brother and first biological sibling, and she’s so in love with him but I worry how she’ll feel when he’s here, the relationship that they could have had, if she hadn’t been placed.

Lastly, in the realm of Welfare Queens exploiting a system, I need to include this sadly misguided perspective on it all – There is a glitter birthmom in my life. She was a former foster youth who aged out and has been having children since then. Her oldest is 24 and she is pregnant with #12? now. She has raised none and actually believes she is doing good by giving infertile families babies and encourages her biological children to do the same with her own grand babies.  I believe it is a survival narrative. She knows how to get housing and WIC and medical care and all sorts of benefits. She does not see the impact of her decisions on her children – even those who have been vocal with her about it. And the trauma of knowing they have siblings all over the country that they may never meet. It is a sad cycle being repeated by the next generation.

Erasing History

I think if my mom was here, she’d say much the same.  When I found a cousin on my paternal grandmother’s side, she immediately noticed something that had escaped my attention – my grandmother’s name was not on his adoption papers – the Salvation Army owned him.  This is the enduring legacy of adoption and I am simply VERY fortunate I was able to track down who ALL 4 of my original grandparents were – not for lack of the powers that be trying to obscure it.

Today’s adoption story (is not my own but I can relate) –

“This is a strange life. Looking back over it now I feel that I was propelled into constructing a life that has been totally separated from who I am. This was deliberately done by the State and its agents once they had got their hands on me and my brother. They stole me from my mother’s arms and then proceeded to lie about who I was, about where I had come from about my ancestry. They deliberately falsified fundamental documents about my identity. The moment that I was born I was unborn. They removed my mother’s name and the name that she had given me from history and acted as if they had never existed when they did exist. They did so on the basis that this history was inconsequential and as such could be wiped like one wipes a blackboard clean.”

“I have had no choice but to struggle with the circumstances of my birth from the very beginning. I was thrust into a battle between life and death, truth and lies, reality and State manufactured fiction. I was born a pawn on the chessboard of the States so called battle for public morality. I was the symbol of the transgression, of the fact that sex outside marriage existed. But no one talks about this fact, no they still see adoption as that of being rescued from a mother and a family that chose not to care for you. It was no such thing. The State set in motion the theory of Closed Adoption through its adoption practices and through the whip of economic compulsion tens of thousands of mothers gave up their babies. There was no money to keep them and no public support or support from their families. All they received was righteous moralistic outrage as their pregnant daughters were sent away.”

I say I can relate because –

My paternal grandmother was unmarried and had an affair with a married man.  I would suspect she didn’t know he was married when she first started seeing him in the mid-1930s but I think she probably did know by the time she knew she was pregnant.  Self-sufficient woman that she was, I don’t think she ever told him that she was expecting his child.  None of his family knew he had any offspring until I turned up.  DNA proved to them I was actually related.  My grandmother did know who the father was.  She gave my dad his name as a middle name and put his photo next to one of her holding my dad at the Salvation Army home for women and children in El Paso Texas that employed her after she gave birth at one of their homes in San Diego California.  She applied for employment and they transferred her to El Paso Texas with my dad in tow and that is where he was adopted.

Continuing with this man’s emotional story –

“I feel tired today. I feel tired full stop. For my entire life I have been struggling to deal with the circumstances of my birth. From the very beginning my heart was wounded. When you are given away, rejected, abandoned, it is personal. It hurts. When you are forced to live in a society that acts as if the wound does not hurt, it is suicidal because there is no outlet for the pain. No acknowledgment, no sorrow, nothing but silence. Your life is built on this silence. Holding in the hurt, trying to act as if you belong when you have been permanently displaced, always blaming yourself for how you feel because the whole system has set you up for self-blame. From the very beginning no one listened to your cries for your mother. From the very beginning you were met with silence. From the very beginning your most vital needs were ignored and your heart was hurt. You were separated from your emotional needs and your heart was born under an avalanche.”

“From the very beginning it all felt like it was your fault, that you had done something wrong, as if you had had brought this situation upon yourself simply through existing. From your first breath you were struggling for your life without love. There was no beauty in your birth, instead they had turned your life into a fight for survival and no one took any responsibility. They just left you to it. And that set the pattern of your life, of the life that they had created for you, you were abandoned, rejected and left to it. No one checked on how you felt. No one asked if you were struggling. They just left you on this hard road all on your own having to work out how to survive on your own. A road populated with strangers. And you lonely and you knew what the world could do.”

“Even though nobody said anything your birth set the path that you would follow as you tried your best to come to terms with it by outrunning your hurt heart. You felt that, in the silence, that this pain, this sadness that you felt in the world always must have been a sign that something was wrong with you. And there was, but no one would tell you what it was. And so in the absence of an explanation you labelled this hurt, this feeling as meaning that there was something wrong with you and so you locked up your heart and who you were. It was clear that you had to become someone else, you had to not be the person that you had been born to be. And you were right. They did not want the person that you were born to be. They did not want your ancestry, your mother, your personality and who you were deep inside. No, they just wanted a blank slate, a void, a nothing who would be exactly what your adopted parents wanted you to be. They called this attachment. You attached by disassociating from yourself, from your thoughts, your feelings and your emotions. You were to become “as if born to” these adopted parents and their names would be writ large on your birth certificate.”

There is more, much much more.  I won’t go on but adoption hurts.  Loss of identity hurts.  No family history hurts.  It even hurts children like me who’s two parents were both adoptees.

 

The Tangled Red Thread

Born into the social experiment of closed adoption in the early 1960s, Noelle was taken home directly from the hospital at the age of three days. Her early life in rural Washington state seemed idyllic. With loving parents, two brothers, and her beloved pets, she had a childhood to be envied. But all that was ripped away, first by the violent loss of her innocence, followed by the slow death of her mother.

Essentially left to raise herself, she embarks on a lifelong journey of self-discovery, guided at unexpected times by “the voice” only she can hear. Even the most mundane choices, such as where to go to college, seem to be divinely directed.

Haunted by recurring loss, Noelle is determined to find her birth mother, to uncover the secrets of the feelings and visions she cannot contain or control. In surviving the breakdown of her husband and marriage, she realizes she has a psychic connection with the family she never knew, and in a series of incredible events reunites not only with them, but also eventually with her soulmate.

A true account of one woman’s life, existing as not one, but two people: one born and one adopted, and enduring the reality of not completely belonging in either world.

Elle Cuardaigh asks these questions, “If adoption is beautiful…

Why do people lie about it?

Why isn’t it the first choice for couples who want children?

Why has it been this way for less than one hundred years?

Why doesn’t everyone give up a baby to someone who can’t have one?

Why does rehoming not only happen but is completely legal?

Why does Biblical scripture have to be twisted in order to justify it?

Why does the Quran condemn it?

Why isn’t it done this way all over the world?

Why are people in other countries horrified when they learn what adoption means here?

Why have several “sending” countries banned international adoption?

Why are adoption agencies being sued or forcibly shut down?

Why do adoptees turn to DNA testing to avoid dating a sibling?

Why is family medical history still the first question asked at doctor appointments?

Why are records kept from the very people they pertain to?

Why is a court order needed to see the records?

Why are adoptees terrified to ask their adopted parents questions about it?

Why do adopted parents swear their families to secrecy?

Why did the Catholic church get rich off its corruption?

Why is coercion routinely employed to get “birth mothers” to relinquish?

Why are there consistently over 100,000 eligible children waiting years for “their forever families”?

Why do white children cost more than black children?

Why is it okay to think of children as commodities as in the above question?

Why do the American Adoption Congress, Adoptee’s Liberty Movement Association, Bastard Nation, Concerned United Birthparents, and numerous other organizations like them exist?

Why do so many adoptees search?

Why did the Australian government officially apologize for its role in it?

Why are adoptees who are murdered by their adopted parents still considered “lucky”?

Why were adoptees used for medical and psychological experiments?

Why are adoptees the punchline of jokes?

Why is it recognized as a childhood trauma?

Why are adoptees considered “as if born to” their adoptive family, yet are subject to conditional terms for incest?

Why in cases where the baby goes back to the natural mother is it called “failure”?

Why are teen adoptees overrepresented in mental health services?

Why do so many rely on it as an industry for their paycheck?

Why is it patterned after the system Georgia Tann – a known kidnapper, trafficker, child killer, and pedophile – developed?

Why is it used as a tool of war and cultural genocide?

Why can’t all adoptees get a passport?

Why are others deported?

Why are adoptees four times more likely than the non-adopted to attempt suicide?

Why can’t we have this conversation?”

Secrets

Even in this day and age, some prospective adoptive couples believe they can have a closed adoption and that their adoptee child will never know that truth.  However, secrets have a way of outing themselves eventually.  These adoptive parents could probably convince themselves that this child is 100% theirs and has no ties to other living human beings but that would be self-delusion.

A couple wrote, after 3 years of marriage it is clear that the husband is incapable of procreating a child of his own. This is the second marriage for the woman and she has a daughter that is 10 years old. It is said that it is this little girl that is motivating a quest to adopt a baby because she wants to be a big sister. Since it has become evident that the husband is incapable of causing a conception, they feel like a piece is missing from their family. They don’t want the adopted child to know that truth.  Therefore, they want a closed adoption.

The 10 year old isn’t going to know this sibling is adopted and can keep the whole thing a secret ?  I don’t think so.  Yet, this couple is so deluded that they are advertising their search on the internet ?  Like, don’t they know, stuff on the net is there eternally ?  Do they really believe these circumstances can be kept private ?

An adoption on this basis is set up on lies.

One adoptive parent admits – How many of us embarked on this journey not knowing much and blossomed and opened our mind to new things after having mentors and people who really cared about helping us learn. In fact many of us yearned for an open adoption and then life had different plans that didn’t allow that to happen? I see a lot of people passing judgement. I do think this couple will have a rude awakening, no secret big or small remains that way for a lifetime, however I hope that they can find the right people to educate them on their journey.

An adoptee shares – It’s hard enough growing up when you know you were adopted! Closed adoption is never, ever the answer, and closed *secret* adoption should be effing illegal. Well, all of it should be illegal but let’s start somewhere!

If there is going to be an adoption at all, then I am all for open adoption and keeping the birth family involved. To me you are not just adopting a child, you are adopting a family. Whether you have a closed adoption or an open one, that child will always have another family. You simply cannot erase that reality and what about DNA testing that is so prevalent now ?  That is how some adoptees that were lied to find out the truth.

Correcting that thought about “adopting a family” – that isn’t accurate and is impossible, even under the most charitable of situations.  The reason those impacted are turning against adoption is that bottom line – it is taking a child away from the family they were born into.

Once again – can’t we just support families ?  Financially, physically, emotionally and mentally.  Whatever they need to stay intact ?  Why is that so hard for society to come to terms with ?

 

One Way The System Is Broken

I read a heartbreaking story today and I want to share it because not only does it illustrate something that is really not just but also that love is real and true and people can and do change.

So this woman was adopted at age 5. Her mother’s rights were terminated voluntarily because she had failed to complete her “plan”.  The woman was placed into foster care – twice.

At the time, her father was incarcerated on assault charges. Other than the fact that he had lost his temper and gotten violent, she doesn’t know anything more about the circumstances.  What she does know is that he did not get violent with her mother or any of his children.  I too understand inheriting a temper, I got my father’s much to my own surprise when I discovered that well into my 50s.

Back to my story.  The father did NOT want to give up his rights. He wanted to parent the child himself, when he was released. He wasn’t serving a particularly long sentence.  However, his rights were forcefully terminated because he was in jail.  Sadly, he was released a few months after she was adopted.

At some point, the father spoke to a caseworker.  He learned there was a prospective couple planning to adopt his child.  It is said he made threats to harm the couple planning on adopting his child.  He threatened to forcefully take his child back if he had to.

So it is said that for this reason, the adoptive parents chose a closed adoption.

Sadly, her dad maintains to this day that she was “kidnapped”.  This is an understandable perspective.

Turns out, her dad lived close by her entire childhood even though she did not know him. He remarried a few years after his release.  He went on to have 4 more children who he successfully parented. A portrait of her hung in their bedroom all the years of her childhood.  They even had a small cake to celebrate her existence on her birthday each year.

This just feels so very sad . . .

Never True

Social workers believed that to save children they had to deny them information about their past. To help them, they unintentionally hurt them.

Some social workers believed that keeping adoptees’ identities secret allowed the adoptee to make a clean break with their past.  Secrecy protected adoptive parents from intrusion by birth relatives.  It protected the privacy of single mothers.

In the early 1950s, social workers believed that closed adoption worked. A social worker’s effectiveness was measured by how many unmarried mothers she could persuade to surrender their children – with a goal to persuade all of them.

Social workers believed that after surrender, the mother would simply go on with her childless life as though nothing had happened.

It was believed that “normal, healthy” adoptees would have NO curiosity about their roots.

All these things that social workers once believed turned out to be not true.

A Sacred Duty

In discovering my original grandparents, I’ve learned to be a part of both the adoptive and original families.  This may be disconcerting to some of my adoptive family, aunts, an uncle and some cousins but I don’t love them less.  I recognize we share life experiences that I can never actually share with my original family relations no matter how much I learn about our history – and I have learned a lot.

Though I’m not an adoptee, I have experienced some degree of “reunion” and it has been much more than simply restoring a connection that was lost, it is about trying to become acquainted with “new” family members and nurturing relationships that will continue for me until the day I die.

There are reforms taking place within the practice of adoption today that haven’t stabilized but are allowing for more flexibility within the unique family system in which the adoptee is the center.  Whether they opt for an open adoption or not – every adoptive parent needs to be aware that the possibility an adoptee will seek reunion fundamentally exists.

Closed adoption enforces a rigid boundary upon adoptees by automatically excluding the original family from the adoptive family’s boundaries.  That was the case for my adoptee parents.  Thankfully, that has not been the case for my niece and nephew (both given up for adoption by my two sisters).  Not that theirs were open adoptions, they were not.

What changed is their adoptive parents accepted it as a sacred duty to assist these adopted children in discovering their original family members when they were ready to request that for themselves.  Thanking all that is good.