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.

Romanian Orphanages

An estimated 100,000 Romanian children were in orphanages at the end of 1989, when communism ended. The high number is linked to the pro-family policies pursued by former dictator Nicolae Ceausescu. In 1966, the regime banned abortions and contraceptives to keep the population from shrinking after World War II.

I remember hearing about these children long ago. Today, I was reminded of them by a link to an article in The Atlantic. Maybe what I heard about was the public execution by firing squad of Romania’s last Communist dictator, Nicolae Ceaușescu, who’d ruled for 24 years. This past Christmas day was the 30th anniversary of that execution and the discovery of his network of “child gulags,” in which an estimated 170,000 abandoned infants, children, and teens were being raised. Believing that a larger population would beef up Romania’s economy, Ceaușescu had curtailed contraception and abortion, imposed tax penalties on people who were childless, and celebrated as “heroine mothers” women who gave birth to 10 or more. Parents who couldn’t possibly handle another baby might call their new arrival “Ceauşescu’s child,” as in “Let him raise it.”

To house a generation of unwanted or unaffordable children, Ceauşescu ordered the construction or conversion of hundreds of structures around the country. Signs displayed the slogan: the state can take better care of your child than you can.

At age 3, abandoned children were sorted. Future workers would get clothes, shoes, food, and some schooling in Case de copii—“children’s homes”—while “deficient” children wouldn’t get much of anything in their Cămin Spital Pentru Copii Deficienţi, a Home Hospital for Irrecoverable Children. The Soviet “science of defectology” viewed disabilities in infants as intrinsic and uncurable. Even children with treatable issues—perhaps they were cross-eyed or anemic, or had a cleft lip—were classified as “unsalvageable.”

In an era devoted to fighting malnutrition, injury, and infection, the idea that adequately fed and medically stable children could waste away because they missed their parents was hard to believe. Their research led to the then-bold notion, advanced especially by John Bowlby, that simply lacking an “attachment figure,” a parent or caregiver, could wreak a lifetime of havoc on mental and physical health.

In the decade after the fall of Ceaușescu, the new Romanian government welcomed Western child-development experts to simultaneously help and study the tens of thousands of children still warehoused in state care. Researchers hoped to answer some long-standing questions: Are there sensitive periods in neural development, after which the brain of a deprived child cannot make full use of the mental, emotional, and physical stimulation later offered? Can the effects of “maternal deprivation” or “caregiver absence” be documented with modern neuroimaging techniques? Finally, if an institutionalized child is transferred into a family setting, can he or she recoup undeveloped capacities? Implicitly, poignantly: Can a person unloved in childhood learn to love?

In the fall of 2000, the Bucharest Early Intervention Project was launched. The BEIP study would become the first-ever randomized controlled trial to measure the impact of early institutionalization on brain and behavioral development and to examine high-quality foster care as an alternative.

The researchers employed Mary Ainsworth’s classic “strange situation” procedure to assess the quality of the attachment relationships between the children and their caregivers or parents. In a typical setup, a baby between nine and 18 months old enters an unfamiliar playroom with her “attachment figure” and experiences some increasingly unsettling events, including the arrival of a stranger and the departure of her grown-up, as researchers code the baby’s behavior from behind a one-way mirror.

100 percent of the local community kids living with their parents were found to have fully developed attachment relationships with their mothers. That was true of only 3 percent of the institutionalized kids. Nearly two-thirds displayed contradictory, jerky behaviors, perhaps freezing in place or suddenly reversing direction after starting to approach the adult. 13 percent were deemed “unclassified,” meaning they displayed no attachment behaviors at all.

As early as 2003, it was evident to the BEIP scientists and their Romanian research partners that the foster-care children were making progress. Children taken out of orphanages before their second birthday were benefiting from being with families far more than those who stayed longer. The next year, the Romanian government banned the institutionalization of children under the age of 2. Since then, it has raised the minimum age to 7, and government-sponsored foster care has expanded dramatically.

Meanwhile, the study continued. When the children were reassessed in a “strange situation” playroom at age 3.5, the portion who displayed secure attachments climbed from the baseline of 3 percent to nearly 50 percent among the foster-care kids, but to only 18 percent among those who remained institutionalized—and, again, the children moved before their second birthday did best. The benefits for children who’d achieved secure attachments accrued as time went on. At age 4.5, they had significantly lower rates of depression and anxiety and fewer “callous unemotional traits” (limited empathy, lack of guilt, shallow affect) than their peers still in institutions.

Sadly, about 40 percent of teenagers in the study who’d ever been in orphanages, in fact, were eventually diagnosed with a major psychiatric condition. Their growth was stunted, and their motor skills and language development stalled.

My source for today’s blog has much more content. Can an Unloved Child Learn to Love ? by Melissa Fay Greene in The Atlantic.

Hopeful Adoptive Mother

I already knew that trans-national adoption is problematic and a global problem.  I was riveted reading a OLD story in Mother Jones magazine from the Nov/Dec 2007 issue titled – Did I Steal My Daughter ? by Elizabeth Larsen.

She started a journal to document her daughter’s adoption.  In this she writes, “I feel so sad for the pain your birth mother must be in since she is not able to raise you,” I wrote. “But I believe now that I am your ‘real’ mommy.” Reading those words now sparks a flash of shame. Because even though my daughter was, as is required by U.S. immigration law, legally classified as an orphan, she had two Guatemalan parents who were very much alive.

People have been parenting children not born to them since the dawn of time. But adoption as an irrevocable severing of a child’s relationship with her biological family is largely a European and American practice.

“Informal adoption and kinship care have always existed, but our form of formalized adoption by nonrelatives is very, very new,” advises Hollee McGinnis, policy and operations director of the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute, a research and advocacy organization.

The push toward secrecy and sealed records took hold in the postwar culture, when adoptions were increasingly run by social workers. Confidentiality was thought to shield both mothers and children from the stigma of illegitimacy, and it allowed parents to hide their infertility even from their own children—birth certificates were simply changed to list the adoptive parents.

As more women gained access to contraceptives and legal abortion, and the stigma of unwed pregnancy lessened, fewer American women placed their babies for adoption, and those who did had more power to get what they wanted, including knowing their children’s fate. Today, almost no American woman deciding on adoption seeks anonymity; roughly 90 percent of mothers have met their children’s adoptive parents, and most helped choose them.

While society has belatedly acknowledged the trauma of American women who were forced to surrender their children, birth families abroad have remained shrouded in mystery, allowing parents and professionals to invent the narrative that best suits them. “Practitioners 20 years ago assumed we were rescued from these horrific nations and would never go back,” says Hollee McGinnis, who was adopted from Korea when she was three and has been in touch with her Korean family for more than a decade.

More in the Mother Jones article if you are so inclined.  Here’s the link – https://www.motherjones.com/politics/2007/10/did-i-steal-my-daughter-tribulations-global-adoption/

Follow The Money

How did the effort to find homes for orphans who no family would claim or street urchins who did a bit of mischief turn into an industry motivated by profits ?  Just follow the money.

In 1916, adoption was so uncommon, children were placed in “foster” homes where they were expected to “work” in return for their keep.

Before that, throughout history, babies were routinely murdered at birth by their parents. Infanticide was practiced and condoned even in ancient Greece, endorsed by Aristotle and Plato.

It is grim. Sickly, disabled or female infants were suffocated, drowned or dashed against rocks. More often unwanted children were “exposed”, abandoned in marketplaces or on hillsides. Most died of starvation, others were forced into slavery or maimed for exhibition.

When my oldest son was an infant, I became aware of this song as performed by Peter, Paul and Mary – it is grim.

Hush-a-bye, don’t you cry
Go to sleepy, little baby
When you wake you shall have
All the pretty little horses
Way down yonder in the meadow
Lies a poor little lambie
Bees and butterflies, picking out its eyes
Poor little thing’s crying, “Mami”
Hush-a-bye, don’t you cry
Go to sleepy, little baby

Poverty was so pervasive and contraceptive methods so ineffective that the killing of children continued. Infanticide was the most common crime in Western Europe between the Middle Ages and the 18th century.

The first orphanage in the US was established by Ursuline nuns in 1727 but such institutions were rare. People were reluctant to support homeless children financially.

When adoption became a profitable business, there was an improvement for many of the most unfortunate children.  Then, exploitation of women who would have rather raised their children became a profitable enterprise.  After that, corruption set in.

Taking Care Of Women and Children

The same people who want to dictate medical decisions involving women don’t want to provide a good quality of life for them.

The American Social Safety Net Does Not Exist

After welfare reform, poor people were supposed to be able to find work. Not all of them could—and then the jobs disappeared. And according to Andrew Yang, a 2020 Presidential contender, the problem is only going to get worse.

In 1996, Aid to Families With Dependent Children—that is, welfare as we knew it—ended. The Republican Party, which had dominated the federal government since the Reagan Revolution, had had welfare in its sights ever since Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society expanded antipoverty programs. Liberals and progressives labeled welfare reform one of the worst things President Bill Clinton did, and rightly blamed it for the increase in child poverty that followed.

For the right, though, shrinking welfare was part of a larger effort to decrease the size of government and appeal to working-class whites who had come to believe—erroneously—that AFDC largely benefited urban black recipients who didn’t want to work. Antipoverty advocates on the right argued that work was a better way out of poverty, and in the booming 1990s, this was partly true.

~ The Nation, published October 3 2016

My husband has heard local people directly express the belief that their tax dollars are providing welfare to black people in St Louis and they do not like that. It is sad. Our county is one of the poorest in Missouri and their tax dollars are just as likely supporting a neighbor.

The problem with the Pro-Life movement is that it doesn’t provide for the children it wants to see born. It doesn’t provide a quality life for those children. It may even be that due to a diminishing stock of babies available for adoption (due to access to contraception and changing morals in our young people) there are not enough children to provide new converts to the cause ? Am I cynical about the reasons they seek to overturn Roe ? Yes, I am. Actions speak louder than words.

My sister was forced to give up her daughter to adoption because she was turned down for public assistance when in financial desperation she moved back in with our parents. She was a waitress her whole life, retiring from Denny’s, where the pay was so low that without tips it would have been exploitation. Come to think of it – it was exploitation.