Busting The Myth

It’s painful to realize you have been lied to by the adoption agency you turned to in a moment of desperation. Even my own self, in leaving my daughter with her paternal grandmother for temporary care, that turned into her dad raising her and then a remarriage for him to a woman with a daughter (they then had a daughter together), could be perceived as abandonment as well. I have admitted to my daughter that there are similarities in her experience growing up with that which adoptees experience in being separated from their natural mother. At the time, I thought one parent as good as the other (even though I didn’t intend for her dad to get her). I really intended to recover her but it did not work out that way and to this day I struggle with what I did in ignorance.

In my all things adoption group, one woman writes – and then when your baby is *one week old* and you come out of the fog of the agency telling you it’s the right, selfless thing to do and realize what a terrible, life altering decision you just made – it’s too late and you have to spend the next several years in court and hope your family can lend you around $100,000 for legal fees to get your baby back from the wonderful, brave, selfless adoptive parents that have your kid.

Another wrote – this comes off extremely harsh and unproductive to me because these women do not understand the ramifications of the decisions they’ve made. And that is true for me as well. I was 22 years old at the time I left my daughter with her paternal grandmother. Life altering indeed !!

Someone else said – bottom line is regardless of intentions, the infant brain perceives it as abandonment. I’m fiercely defensive of my momma; I believe that the despicable social mores of the Baby Scoop Era and sheer desperation drove her to surrender me. My baby self was damaged either way. That’s what I believe this graphic is trying to convey.

And I agree. Sheer desperation has caused at least 3 of the 4 adoptions that are part of my childhood family (both of my parents and then each of my sisters gave up a baby). One of my sisters simply thought it the most natural thing in the world – I believe – because our parents were adoptees. Unbelievably, my mom who struggled most with having been adopted, coerced my other sister into doing it.

One noted – Just once, why not talk about how the fathers were nowhere around and went unscathed in everything. To blame a mother who was . . .

In my own parents’ case – first, for my mom, her mother was married but he more or less (whether intentionally or not) abandoned her 4 mos pregnant. After she had given birth, she brought my mom back from Virginia (where she had been sent by her own father out of shame) to Memphis. She tried to reach my mom’s father but got no response. Though there was a major flood occurring on the Mississippi River at the time (1937) and he was in Arkansas where his mother lived and his daughters were. He was WPA fighting the flood there in Arkansas. His granddaughter (who I have met) does not believe he was the kind of man to leave a wife and infant stranded. Georgia Tann got ahold of my mom and exploited my grandmother to obtain a baby to sell. My mom was 7 months old when her adoptive mother picked her up but she did spend some of that time in what was believed to be temporary care at Porter-Leath Orphanage. That was my grandmother’s fatal mistake because the superintendent there alerted Georgia Tann to my mom’s existence.

In my dad’s case, the father was a married man and an un-naturalized immigrant. I don’t believe he ever knew. My paternal grandmother had a hard life. Her own mother died when she was only 3 mos old (the original abandonment if you will). She was a self-reliant woman. I don’t believe either of my grandmothers intended to abandon their children. After giving birth in Ocean Beach, near San Diego California in a Salvation Army home for unwed mothers, my grandmother then applied to work for them and was transferred to El Paso Texas. I believe they pressured her to relinquish my dad. He was with her for 8 months.

Finally, here is one person’s experience with being adopted – Abandonment is exactly right. And it directly leads to abandonment and attachment issues later. Even with therapy and understanding what happened and learning coping strategies, I still feel this horrible gnawing black hole inside of me when I feel like someone might leave me. And it can get triggered by such inconsequential things. The worst part is that it’s a self fulfilling prophecy, especially before learning how to lessen the effects on others, because the behaviors I’ve done out of desperation drove the people I was scared of losing away. And sometimes that’s felt deliberate, like it won’t hurt as bad if it was my idea and I left them instead of them leaving me. It hurts just as bad.

False Narratives

Recently the post of a new mother who just gave birth a few days ago and is giving up her child for adoption asked what items from his birth she should keep. She received over 700 comments, mostly from adoptees and birth mothers, urging her frantically to back out and keep and raise her child. The responses spoke eloquently of the reasons why. I thought this one excellent –

Obviously none of us could possibly understand to the full extent your situation or circumstances which led you to this decision, and I don’t doubt for one second that is consumed you entirely the past 9 months. Knowing that you only have just one more day before making probably the most difficult and life changing decision of anyone’s life, I’m sure you’d want to consider absolutely everything, especially if there was anything new which you hadn’t considered before.

Most of the people in this group are either fellow birth mothers or adoptees, so more than anyone else they understand exactly what you and your baby are going through, and will go through.

Knowing the main reasons why women choose adoption being financial and/or relationship instability, we’re all just here to let you know that if those are factors in your decision, there absolutely is support available so that you don’t feel as if you have to make this decision. No one should be coerced or forced into making a decision under the guise of being “best for your baby.”

If finances are an issue, there’s lots of support out there; not only from this group, but government programs, and there are so many church programs and charities. There are so many people here who can help you find whatever services you need because we’ve needed, and used those services ourselves.

We just want to make sure that you know the reality, that it’s actually far more important to have your birth mother in your life rather than having two parents who are non-biological. So if a lack of a father figure is affecting your decision, just please don’t be fooled into believing this false narrative that it’s more important to live in a two parent household, because that’s simply not true.

I’m sorry if you’re feeling guilt tripped, I truly don’t believe that was anyone’s intention.

We all just want to show you that you’re not alone and that you don’t have to make this decision if you don’t want to. We just want you to know that all those typical reasons that society tells us is why women should choose adoption, every single one of those reasons is complete b***sh*t in the real world. But so many people still believe the lies and the false narrative, so that’s exactly why this group is here, to show everyone there’s another way.

One more adds something important – Our mothers’ decisions caused preverbal, pre-personality developmental trauma that we have lived with for decades. It isn’t rainbows and butterflies. Adoption does not guarantee a better life, just a different one. Adoptees are overrepresented in mental health care. We are four times as likely to try to kill ourselves. This is our life, you are about to choose for your son. That is why we are speaking up.

You can find this group – Adoption:Facing Realities – at Facebook. There is a 2 week read only rule because the perspective is rather different from most adoption oriented groups. The comments of adoptees are given priority. Anyone in the triad (birth mother, adoptee or adoptive parent) is welcome but you should be warned that the rainbows and butterflies fantasy narrative of the adoption world is not what you will find there. However, you will find honesty, detailed personal experiences and a belief in family preservation. The group also includes former foster care youths now grown and transitioned to the adult world.

So Many Questions

Today’s blog is thanks to Elle Cuardaigh – If Adoption Is Beautiful.

*Adoption, meaning the current concept of it in the Western world. The complete legal severing of the natural relationship between child and parent(s), replacing the original family and (sometimes) culture with another, including changing the child’s identity and sealing the original records, keeping information from everyone involved.

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?

And again, Why is it that we can’t have this conversation?

Elle Cuardaigh is author of The Tangled Red Thread.

The Anti-Adoption Movement

There is definitely a movement to reduce the adoption of newborns from unwed mothers and from people whose only sin is poverty. That’s not to say that it is not also important that children are never left in a seriously abusive situation. Unfortunately, what is “abusive” to some who insist on interfering in other people’s lives is not what true abuse actually is. Very few activists are claiming that adoption shouldn’t be an option, but the activists currently involved in the issue recognize that adoption is far from the perfect solution it was so long perceived to be. 

Already hopeful adoptive parents living in Texas are celebrating a bumper crop of adoptable babies in about one year from now. I suspected that as one of the motivations all along.

One woman describes her experience. The adoption agency had her move to another state while pregnant, purposely isolating her from friends and family who might have helped her. Though she knew who her baby’s father was, the agency told her not to tell him she was pregnant. She could have sued him for child support—he was a wealthy lawyer—but the adoption agency didn’t talk about that, only about the hardships she would face as a “welfare mom,” should she keep her child. They called her a “family-building angel” and a “saint” for considering adoption. “It was crazy subtle, subtle, subtle brainwashing.”

Adoption has long been perceived as the win-win way out of a a difficult situation. An unwed mother gets rid of the child she’s not equipped to care for; an adoptive family gets a much-wanted child. But people are increasingly realizing that the industry is not nearly as well-regulated and ethical as it should be. There are issues of coercion, corruption, and lack of transparency that are only now being fully addressed.

One issue is where an “open” adoption is promised but the adoptive parents sooner or later renege on that promise. So one reform is seeking to guarantee that “open” adoptions (where birthparents have some level of contact with their children) stay open. Activists also want women to have more time after birth to decide whether to terminate their parental rights. Given time with their newborn, many new mothers change their mind about adoption and decide to give parenting their child a serious effort. Young women who find themselves pregnant and unmarried still face pressure to choose adoption. 

Reproduce justice activists tend to focus on rights to contraception and abortion. Adoption reforms are equally important when it comes to men and women having full control of their destinies. Thanks to legalized abortion and a drastic lessening of the stigma against unwed mothers, the number of babies available domestically has been shrinking since the mid-’70s. Fifty years ago, about 9 percent of babies born to unmarried women were placed for adoption. Today that number is 1 percent. 

Adoption is too stark in its severance of the legal relationship between those adopted and their birth family, and out of line with the emotional realities for most involved. Adoption is not a risk-free panacea.  It is highly complex, with implications for all concerned that endures for decades. The identity needs of adopted people are very important and adoption, in its current form, does not recognize these.

There are other options, such as kindship placements or guardianship, which can provide safety and stability for children, but do not require such a severe break with key relationships. When we do not provide financial support to families in need but instead take their children away from them, we have to ask ourselves – Are we really promoting the human rights of all children, irrespective of background, to live safely within their families of origin? It would appear that we do not.

Some of the above was excerpted from The Trauma of Adoption. Other parts of this blog were excerpted from Meet the New Anti-Adoption Movement. Some comments are my own.

The Last Resort for Who ?

There is a contradiction in this statement – “adoption should be the last resort for the child” and yet adoption is the “last resort” for infertile people? It’s a selfish perspective that only serves the adoptive parent who couldn’t have children. They are only thinking about what is best for them and not what’s best for the child.

Think about how this would feel –  knowing you are someone’s “last resort.” How does that feel ?

Adoption is trauma regardless the loving intent of the people who adopt.

It’s not the responsibility of a child to heal infertility loss for anyone or be a last resort. Children are not blank slates or interchangeable. Parenting is not a right, it’s a privilege.

It’s like hoping for a bad thing to happen to the child and it’s mother so a good thing can happen for you.

How about helping young mothers keep their babies instead of hoping they will lose their baby.   The majority of babies are given up by kind loving mothers who are too young and poor to care for them.

There should be more resources and programs for single mothers with little income, so that they can help keep the child. Why should we look at helping find the child a better home, rather than taking care of the immediate problem for the mother, and helping support that mother. It’s like putting a bandaid on a dirty wound. You’re only fixing the outer problem by hiding and ignoring the problem beneath. Thus the wound becomes infected. That infection is causing trauma to the child and the mother.

A very sad example – I placed my only child after trying to raise him for nearly two years. I was an excellent young mother until two men broke into my apartment and raped me. I had a nervous breakdown and no longer felt capable. I wish someone would have been there to help me. He also ended up being sexually abused for six years, so it’s not all rainbows and butterflies, and he is messed up from it.

The 100% percent pro-adoption industry narrative, brainwashes the culture’s general view and is a very harmful form of coercion. What is the implication ?

That you are not good enough to parent your own child. Yet by giving your child up, you receive the deepest respect because you have proven that you are a loving, selfless person who only wants what best for your child. You do that by allowing someone else who is much much much more more qualified, stable, etc etc than you are, to raise your child. In other words: it’s selfish to keep your child. Be a loving mother and make a loving adoption plan with glitter and rainbows to boot. This is a very dangerous and insidious narrative and coercion tactic. It is the dominant strategy within the adoption industry.

Instead, “let’s minimize trauma and support families in keeping kids safe.” This is the healthy way forward.

PS – in case you are wondering, though generally against adoption almost all the time, the group I belong to group has never advocated for children to stay in abusive situations. They may however, support family reunification after therapy and counseling for the parents and the affected children. If the family can make it through all of the hurdles, they will be better parents due to learning how to parent better and children always prefer their original parents, they are resilient and with time and therapy may yet overcome their early challenges.

A worker in a residential treatment center noted – It’s an ugly world for some kids and their symptoms are ugly from what they suffered. Most of the kids that we worked with did come from adoptive family and were adopted at birth. The children who were adopted later in life, did have less problems. It’s never a “better than” problem. In this person’s history was their adoption at 3 days old. Her biological mother lived in the same town as she did – yet she never knew it. From her perspective, her adoptive parents were pretty selfish. Not only for that reason but the feeling was that it was her job as an infant to solve the problem of their infertility. Of course, that wasn’t possible. Not every person has the same adoption experience. The fact remains, every infant adopted has trauma from having been separated from their mother. And that feels like a life-threatening situation to a child who has no words and no language.

Adoption is actually *never* the only option. Legal guardianship doesn’t sever all genetic ties and create a false birth certificate. Here is an example of some of the complications of being adopted. She applied for a “Real ID” (you know, the one we are all going to be required to have soon, if we want to travel even within the US). The online system REJECTED her birth certificate information, because it is a FALSIFIED LEGAL DOCUMENT. This is just one of the issues adoptees face for the rest of their lives, because somebody decided they couldn’t adopt a child without altering their true identity.

Epigenetics At Work

Adoption does not just negatively affect the adoptee emotionally. Adoption affects their children … for life! You know, the hopeful adoptive parent’s and adoptive parent’s future grandchildren! It has nothing to do with how great an adoptive parent you are to that child. Separation trauma is imprinted in our brains and that experience changes our DNA.

So if that trauma from being separated from your mother, then later in life resulted in you having anxiety, bouts of depression, anger issues or any other mental health challenge, rest assured you likely passed these traits onto your kids.

Adoptive parents and hopeful adoptive parents: This is NOT ok. It is NOT ok to screw up future generations, just because you want to build your family but can’t you can’t conceive naturally, are infertile. That is some serious selfish crap.

Your choices affect not only your adopted kids, but their children – your grandchildren, even your great grandchildren. These issues are not coming from their biological genetic family – as so many adoptive parents prefer to project the causes onto other people. They are coming directly from the act of adoption. You, the adoptive parents, contributed to this in a very big way. You bear responsibility.

Sit with that.

Rant aside – here’s an example –

My grandfather was “adopted” but I put it in quotation marks because he didn’t know that he was adopted until after his adoptive parents passed and my father was a young adult. Our family does *not* talk about it. But my brother and cousin and I all have a difficult time with believing in relationship permanence. We constantly expect relationships to just pull a 180 on us, despite not being able to point to any particular extreme example of this in our own lives. Alternatively, my grandmother and uncles grew up in a group home. She later went on to teach there. When I think of my “heritage” that’s usually the first place that comes to mind. Those were the people at my family reunions who could tell me what my grandmother and great uncles were like and if I was like them. There’s no one to do that for my grandad because his entire community and a family betrayed him. When people ask me about the origins of my last name, I don’t know what to say because “I don’t know, they were some random awful people that found my grandfather and then lied to him for his whole life” is not the answer people are wanting to hear.

Another person had this comment –

Adoption trauma snakes its way through both the biological families and the adoptive families! ADDRESSING this truth is minimized and rarely talked about – except in adoption loss circles! I’ve been in reunion for 18 years – lived adoption loss for 50 years! I know what I am describing!!!!!The loss of a newborn baby to an agency, which then hands the baby to complete strangers is heinous! Heinous! The families affected by the loss of myself as a newborn babe are broken. Words to process the loss are hard to find. Generational affects are serious – tragic.

A more graphic description – I feel the darkness of adoption loss, coercion and money exchange for a newborn babe creates a ”creepy crawly rash of the mind” inside any person involved in the failure to protect the sanctity of the mother/child primal bond. To deal with that ugly rash – to hide it – to pretend it’s not there – to fully look at and accept what the loss of a child’s mother means to satisfy the need to feel normal (gotta have a babeeeee) would take more courage than most people can muster. Falling on the floor courage – the darkness is heavy. The rash can not be seen. The truth cannot surface. To witness the fall to the floor? Can’t unsee it – ever! Life changing. Instead….pretending adoption is just grand – best – needed – soothes that itchy rash but cannot heal the source of it.

Another story – my parent was adopted in a step-parent adoption (yet raised by biological mom), and their adoptive parent did absolutely everything to keep the other biological parent and half-siblings connected… and before this was a societal discussion. It could certainly be described as the closest to “ideal” an adoption can get. Although, there was literal abandonment on several occasions by my biological grandfather — who was adopted in a closed infant adoption. (My parent was their first child, and first biological connection.) By the time I was born, I grew up with biological and adoptive grandparents in equal measure. I just had two sets of grandparents. But I always felt something was off. I always felt “different” from my cousins (from my parent’s half-siblings), like something was wrong, but everything was fine….? It’s hard to describe even now. Learning about the effects has allowed me to understand my parent’s experience so much better and see parts of them more clearly than I did before. I showed me the ways that adoption trauma had snaked through my family and impacted my life and nervous system even though I had no first hand experience with it. And I can see the impacts even down to my daughter (who is 3 generations removed from the original trauma).The impact of generational trauma should not be underestimated!

Prayers Please

This is a TRUE and ONGOING situation and typical of many, many of these kinds of circumstances.

There is a mom who gave birth yesterday to a baby girl at a hospital in Florida. How messed up is this? Mom can’t (now couldn’t) have visitors due to COVID restrictions. She was allowed ONE support person during delivery and guess who it was? Yup, hopeful adoptive mom.

Due to their policy, the person there during delivery is the ONLY person allowed in. Baby was moved to a room with the wannabe mom AND wannabe DAD. (Ya know, they consider the wannabe mom’s desire for a “support person” and so they allowed dad.)

The adoption agency involved in Florida is a major player in the state. The new mom has now told the social worker (employed by hospital) last night that she has decided to parent her child. Of course, the hopeful adoptive parents and adoption agency employee refused to leave the hospital – until the hospital social worker and nursing staff told them they had to.

As they were leaving, the adoption agency employee told the hopeful adoptive parents to “get some sleep and we will regroup tomorrow.”

Happily, the hospital will now allow the new mom’s mom to come and support this morning. The mom has been prepared by members of an all things adoption support group for the antics common in domestic infant adoptions that occur when agencies and hopeful adoptive parents don’t get their way. They often will call Child Protective Services just for spite.

Please keep this new mom and her baby girl in your prayers for continued good outcomes. Thank you.

And just to know – This is STANDARD behavior in the world of domestic infant adoptions. Coercion, manipulation, isolation, preying on vulnerable women at a vulnerable time. If you are a hopeful adoptive mother who signs up to adopt via a domestic infant adoption, you are supporting these kinds of practices.

It doesn’t matter IF the expectant mom was going to allow you to adopt HER child. If she changes her mind after seeing her precious baby – NO means NO. Every new mom has every right to change her mind. In today’s story – these hopeful adoptive parents are not going to get her baby but it is almost certain that eventually they will get someone else’s baby. They always do.

It is never an unwed, expectant mother’s responsibility to provide an infertile couple with a child. And they always speak glowingly of the sacrifice such mothers make to allow them to take her child away from family.

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.

 

Stuff Happens And It Goes Horribly Wrong

Today’s story is so long, I will NOT try to convey it all. If I do this well, I can summarize it to make the relevant point.

There is a mom with 2 children at home ages 9 and 3. There is a 15 month old boy at the center of a custody battle. He was NOT removed by child welfare authorities. The circumstances of the pregnancy are complicated. This child’s father is a married man with a wife and newborn (she was pregnant at the same time this woman was). Paternity was assessed during the pregnancy which led to her separation from the older children’s father.

All of this turmoil, left the expectant mother vulnerable to a coercive adoption agency that stands to make $35,000 if the adoption can be finalized. The biological father will not relinquish, which is the obstacle for the hopeful adoptive parents who have had custody of the boy almost continuously since birth.

Though heroic for a husband faced with these circumstances, he came to the hospital when she went into labor.  The baby arrived at a time that there was NO hospital staff in the room. Her husband caught baby, otherwise he would have ended up on the floor.  Her daughter was instantly in love with the baby and wanted to hold him every second. The biological father, while remaining with his wife and newborn, offered to financially support the mother.

She is dealing with so many emotional issues, she has been on anti-depressants the whole pregnancy. Her therapist asked her what is she going to do about her situation ? She tells him she is thinking about adoption because she doesn’t feel she can raise another baby without help. He wants her to call and talk to 2 agencies before their next session. She admits that she was clueless and had NOOOO idea about adoption or agency red flags etc.

So she meets with a social worker (who actually was the Director of the agency). For the first time, she felt like she was able to share her story without the other person judging her or making her feel worse for what she had done. Talking to her felt like such a relief. So, they agree that she’ll contact their available families and see if any are comfortable with her situation. At the time, there were only 2 families waiting and 1 was not comfortable with her situation.

So, she looks at the profile of this couple, and she sees how important family is to them. She cries reading about their issues and many attempts to carry a pregnancy, even with adopted eggs. It makes her even feel so guilty. Here she is with an unplanned pregnancy, and not even science can help this couple. 3 weeks later, they meet for the first time over dinner.  Long story shorter, that couple leaves the hospital with her baby and she goes home without him.

However . . . bear with me, I am trying to get to the heart of this story as it stands now.

She made it very clear that first night that she was going to be very involved in her son’s life. Openness was a must and the couple agreed to it. I cannot relate how many “open” adoptions go bad once the adoption is finalized. No expectant mother relinquishing custody of her newborn should ever rely upon it. It is never legally enforceable and the adoption parents will have all of the leverage. They treated her like an outsider, like she was no more than a surrogate.

When her son was 1 week old, the social worker insisted that the hopeful adoptive parents allow her to visit. By that weekend, she told her social worker that she wanted to regain custody of her son and she didn’t want to proceed with the adoption. The hopeful adoptive parents begged her not to take him away but later that day, she picked her son up from the agency and brought him home.  Her son’s biological father was saying he would leave his wife and come back
to help her raise the baby. Then admitted he couldn’t do it. Conflicted parents all the way around.

She was coerced into signing the termination of parental rights by the hopeful adoptive parents, when she decided again to give up the idea she could raise the baby based on her current circumstances. Yet, there was a sticking point when a letter from her psychiatrist was required to prove that she was mentally capable of understanding the adoption plan. The psychiatrist refused – twice. So often an agency will exploit the post-partum period of a new mother. She wants her baby back now and she is fighting to achieve that. The biological father won’t consent, so that is in her favor. She’s concerned about causing trauma for her son by uprooting him.

The most reassuring, personal experience response was this – “As a child that was with the same caregiver from birth to 2 years and then moved.  That experience was not horribly traumatic for me. The trauma for me was losing my mother in the first place. I don’t call what I had a transition because it was less than a handful of quick visits. I have zero recollection of the family I spent those 2 years with. The bond is not your child to the hopeful adoptive parents, it is the hopeful adoptive parents who are bonded to your child.  Please don’t let anyone’s words about trauma change your course. There may be a slight adjustment period – or none – since your son will be back with the person who’s loss initially was experienced as trauma. Mother/child separation is the true wound. My suggestion is listen to those that have lived it, not those speculating about its effects.”

So this has been today’s cautionary tale.  The all things adoption group I belong to always counsels expectant mothers to try raising their newborn babies for an extended period of time. The hormones and emotions are wacked out and many a natural mother regrets for the rest of her life giving her baby up too quickly. It is a permanent solution to what is often a temporary problem.

 

The all things adoption group I belong to always counsels expectant mother to try raising their newborn babies for an extended period of time. The hormones and emotions are wacked out and many a natural mother regrets giving her baby up too quickly for the rest of h

Is It Really ?

One hears this a lot from people who want to adopt a baby – “I applaud you for your courageous choice to give your daughter a chance at a better future. There are so many women with infertility issues like myself who would love to adopt a child. Please keep me in your thoughts if you know of other women in your situation. I have a lot of love to give.”

One cannot really say if being adopted gives anyone a “better life”. Both of my parents were adopted. They both would have grown up with some degree of poverty had they remained with their original mothers. And the truth of the matter is, my dad still grew up with some degree of poverty. In fact, he actually experienced food insecurity and hunger as a child. We always had more food on our table at dinner than we could eat. My mom told me that was the reason why. And my dad was so obese as an adult, he relished his nickname Fat Pat.

I do appreciate his adoptive parents. My granny was hugely influential in my life. We often spent days and weekends with her. A word from her that was very serious about some issue had the power to change the direction I was traveling in. Having learned my parents more or less full background stories, I believe had it not been for my granny, my teenage mother who conceived me out of wedlock, would have been sent away as so many girls in the 1950s through 1970s were, to have and give me up. I believe my dad’s adoptive parents insisted he do the right thing and quit college and go to work, after quickly marrying my mother so I would be born legitimate. And my nuclear family experienced hardships but we knew we were loved, even though our parents were strangely detached, having had their own familial bonds broken before the age of one year.

And how about my mother ? Her dad was the vice president at a large bank in downtown El Paso Texas. Her mother was a socialite and charity do-gooder. She was also influential in my own life for different reasons than my granny. She modeled for us good manners and good taste in home decor and clothing. However, my mom – while wanting for nothing of a financial basis – struggle with her adoptive mother. My grandmother was always thin and trim (she would starve herself if necessary, her mother and sister were quite rotund) and my mom’s body type was never going to be that – big boned Scottish farm girl stock that she was. My grandmother also dangled her wealth as a carrot and a stick over my mom.

My mom’s father was very poor and her mother’s family was also poor. My grandmother lost my mom when she gave birth while separated from her lawfully married husband during a massive flood on the Mississippi River. Unable to contact him for support or reconciliation, Georgia Tann along with her enablers the Juvenile Court Judge Camille Kelley and the Porter-Leath Orphanage supervisor Georgia Robinson (to whom my grandmother turned for temporary care while she tried to get on her feet financially without family support) exploited her financially precarious situation and coerced her into surrendering my mom for adoption. She tried to undo this 4 days after signing the papers but Tann was not letting my mom loose as her soon to be adoptive mother was already on her way from Nogales Arizona by train to Memphis Tennessee to collect her. My grandmother had previously adopted a son from Tann.

One cannot actually say my mom had a “better” life either. The truth about adoption is – the child has a DIFFERENT life from the one they would have had with their original parent(s). Better is a subjective concept that adoptive parents like to believe in order to justify taking a child, due to their own infertility, from another woman. It honestly is that simple.