The Money Is The Problem

I am short on time today and if things go as planned, there won’t be another blog here until Friday. This is an important issue and so I want to give it some space. Very often money in adoption causes problems. It is not only the direct expenses related to adopting a baby that cause the problem, it is money passing from hopeful adoptive parents to expectant mothers that causes many problems. Sometimes, it is the hopeful adoptive parents that have been scammed by a woman pretending to be pregnant who then goes silent and disappears about the time the baby is due to be born. Of greater concern to me and many people within the adoption community is the coercive effect adoptive parents giving money directly to a pregnant woman who may be in difficult circumstances to make her obligated to turn her baby over to the hopeful adoptive parents.

This is becoming an issue in the awareness of legislators in some states. In my example here today – Louisiana House Bill 568. Present law provides for the crime of adoption deception and defines the crime as being committed by any person who is a birth mother, or who holds herself out to be a birth mother, who is interested in making an adoption plan and who knowingly or intentionally benefits from payment of adoption-related expenses in connection with that adoption plan if any of the following occur:
(1) The person knows or should have known that she is not pregnant at the time the payments were requested or received.
(2) The person accepts assistance for living expenses from a prospective adoptive parent or adoption entity without disclosing that she is receiving such assistance from another prospective adoptive parent or adoption entity at the same time in an effort to adopt the same child.
Proposed law amends present law to include when a person has the specific intent to make false
representations to induce the payment of living expenses or other benefits in connection with a
purported adoption placement.
Proposed law does not apply to a person who agrees to an adoption plan agreement and
subsequently, in good faith, declines to proceed with the prospective adoption in favor of parenting the child.

Amendments Adopted by House –

1. Specify that the person needs specific intent to make false representations to induce the payment of living expenses or other benefits in connection with a purported adoption placement.
2. Provide an exception for persons who do not agree to an adoption plan agreement and
subsequently, in good faith, decline to proceed with the prospective adoption in favor of parenting the child.

A women concerned with the reform of Ethics in Adoption is proposing this – eliminate direct payments from hopeful adoptive parents to expectant mothers. Vulnerable women/parents should be able to change their minds at ANY point without penalty. Exchange of money and threat of prosecution should not be leveraged against vulnerable women/parents who want to parent their own children and change their minds. The proposal would move all payments for medical, etc… to social services instead of “direct payments” from hopeful adoptive parents, and make such transfers of money, “direct payments,” illegal.

You can read that proposal here – Louisiana HB 568 is Misguided.

Invalidating Adoptee Perceptions

Adoptive parents and even hopeful adoptive parents often say:

“I know many adoptees that don’t feel like their adoption was a bad thing, they are glad they were adopted” or “they don’t have trauma, they are fine” or “adoptees whose lives are fine are not online talking against adoption.”

One of the last emails I got from my adoptee mom before she died, she actually said “glad I was,” meaning adopted. She was lamenting how she just couldn’t finish doing the family trees on Ancestry because she knew the information just wasn’t real – for her or my dad (who was also adopted). So it was not that I believed she actually was “glad” she had been adopted but what else could she say at that point ? Neither my mom nor my dad really knew anything beyond a few names – at most – about their original parents.

I didn’t invalidate her feelings – my dad never expressed his own feelings about adoption to me. After both of my parents died, within one year, I knew who all 4 of my original grandparents were, something about their stories and had some contact with some biological, genetic relations.

So those who are not adoptees, who say these kinds of things probably just miss the signs that are there but not verbalized. I know my mom dearly wanted to make contact with her first mother but the state of Tennessee denied her access (which they then gave me in 2017 – wow it doesn’t seem like 5 years already that I have felt finally “complete”). If she had been so happy about being adopted, she would not have tried so hard to accomplish a reunion.

The thinking described above is problematic because it assumes that adoptees always feel comfortable sharing their true feelings about adoption with adoptive parents. That is rarely the case.

One adoptee admits –  I spent 50 years saying I was fine adopted, never an issue and believed it. I knew I responded to things differently than others, but never equated it to being adopted. It’s very difficult for adoptees to verbalize true emotions. The changes in our brain at separation try to protect us from rejections. It’s all subconscious. I had no idea my lifetime narrative was to protect myself, until I did deep work in therapy that focused on opening those areas of the brain to process the trauma. Life changing. The processing is very hard and easily something you’d try to avoid. Once you do it though, at least for me, it was life changing. I was 50. I get so angry I didn’t do it sooner. I didn’t know I should and clearly neither did my adoptive parents because I always appeared fine to them.

They don’t have the support to speak freely about their own feelings. Instead, they say everything is fine because the trust is broken. Maybe they tried to express these feelings in the past and were rejected or judged. The fear of rejection is so ingrained. It’s just not something most would attempt to do. The adoptee may feel too fearful to tell their adoptive parent or foster parent how they truly feel. They may have received a message that feeling any other way than glad is wrong.

One adoptee says – From the outside my life looks quite successful and there are lots of people who know I’m adopted. I’m absolutely certain that there are those who would point to me as a ‘happy adoptee’. No, you idiot, I don’t know you that well or trust you enough to share my pain and trauma.

To say of any adoptee – “They don’t have trauma, they’re fine.” It’s just so very invalidating. Every adoptee will automatically have trauma, no matter how they were adopted. To me, it’s the equivalent of a racist person saying they have black friends. Just because you have black friends doesn’t mean your ideals are not racist or harmful. Adoptees can grow up having a good life while growing up but they all come into adoption with trauma.

Nancy Verrier writes in The Primal Wound: “As adults, we believe what we want to believe, and we want to believe that a child who is not causing any trouble is well-adjusted. It is important to not be lulled into believing that this child suffers no pain-that ‘my child is not having those problems.’ Adjustment often means shutting down, creating a ‘false self.'”

Which leads another adoptee to say – This was true for me well into adulthood. It was not until I was about 40 that I started processing my adoption and how adoption trauma affected my whole life. Even now, I talk about my adoption trauma to some people, but not others. If hopeful adoptive parents think that adoption trauma only happens to those “with a bad experience,” they will continue on with pursuing adoption; and then, not be able to see and address the trauma in the child for whom they are caring.

Adoptees often talk about how they feel the need to be people pleasers in order to be accepted (my mom certainly was that way and she passed that trait down to her children). An adoptee is likely to tell their adoptive parents whatever they think those parents want to hear.

Which leads a foster parent to admit that they had experienced this first-hand. She says, When we started fostering, one of my adult adoptee friends was all rainbows and unicorns about it. As our relationship grew deeper and she heard more about how I was supporting the kids’ ability to know their families and saw how we worked for family preservation, instead of keeping the kids with us, she began to tell me her complicated feelings about her own adoption, and how she felt like she couldn’t have those conversations with her adopted family.

In the interest of fairness to people who have already adopted and may think that many of my blogs are too negative. Few people with any depth of knowledge on adoption think all adoption is wrong. I now present this point of view from an adoptive parent –

I work with adoptive families. I make an effort to learn from people who have experienced adoption trauma. I do this so that I can try to help my own kids, and other adoptive families who have already adopted, to see the signs of trauma and do their best to help manage this. Do the best they can for their kids. What is upsetting for me is when the comments say “adoption is a horrible thing”. I have seen some comments that literally say ALL adoptions are awful and should never be done. Using the analogy of dating apps, saying no one should ever use a dating app because someone ended up raped, would be similar. That anyone you meet from a dating app is actually terrible. Anyone who gets married from meeting someone there is in a fog . . .

Note from the blog author – many will say of adoptees who think their adoption was good and only good that they are still in “the fog” and have not woken up – but I laugh at this because I met my husband of over 33 years through an eligibles ad in an entertainment weekly, back in the day before heavy internet usage – my mom was horrified but my parents ended up being grateful we found each other.

continuing from the paragraph before . . . That such persons will eventually realize that they are miserable. I truly hurt for the adoptees who have parents who don’t acknowledge them or have been cruel to them. It is awful and has changed my mind about many aspects of the adoption process in this country. However being an adoptive parent in itself is not a bad thing. I have seen little acknowledgment that there are birth parents who are not going to parent. And some have no family support. Is it better to put those kids into an orphanage than to adopt them into a family who loves them and tries to give them a wonderful family and childhood?

I don’t think so and here’s why. My daughter’s birth parents were on the road when she was born. They had no idea where they would be living. Her birth mom has lived in many states since then. Anyone who adopted her would have been out of state within a week after she was born. But I was told that I screwed up by adopting out of state and I should have moved (multiple times, I guess) to be near her birth mom. Not everything is black and white.

I would love to see adoptees who have had terrible effects from trauma or adoptive families who are unwilling to listen to use their experiences to help other adoptive families learn how to act, be the way they would have wanted their adoptive parents to act. I believe this would be more productive than just telling them they are awful people for wanting to raise a child. My daughter has literally yelled at me for trying to understand the perspectives of adoptees who acknowledge their trauma. I have tried to encourage her to explore the same places that I have, to see if her adoption has had negative effects on her. I really would want to help her work through that. She has seen some of those places. Her opinion is that they are toxic. I continue to expose myself because it’s important for me to know the other side, so I will be able to recognize if my kids are struggling with adoption trauma – even if they don’t see it.

I am only suggesting that it would be a lot more effective, if everything weren’t so black and white in adoptee spaces. I’m still trying to learn what I can but I do think some people can manage trauma of any kind (adoption or otherwise) with little negative effect, especially if they have loving support. I hope that’s what we are all striving for.

And all of that above received this reply, which honestly is my own opinion too, at this point – I do believe there should be no adoptions. None. Zero. I want universal healthcare, good sex education, universal basic income, easy and free abortions. And any child born to parents who are not safe should be cared for by guardians, not adoptive parents. The harm done by having your life legally altered and severed is unnecessarily extreme.

Finally just to drive home the point to end this lengthy blog –

MOST adoptees had absolutely *wonderful* adoptive parents, and that *it didn’t matter* how good their adoptive parents were, or how much of a “positive adoption experience” the adoptee had; every adoptee still has trauma. Their DNA was still literally altered by early childhood trauma. Their identity was altered without their consent. Most adoptees have been denied the very basic right of having access to their own original birth certificate.

Yes, there are some children who cannot remain with their parents. *Most of the time* those that absolutely *cannot* be with their parents (which is so unbelievably rare), have at least *one* member of their biological family that could raise them. And in the *exceptionally rare* scenario where none of that is possible, adoption STILL isn’t necessary.

If you cannot love a child, care for a child, make that child a part of your home and your family, provide financial physical and emotional support for that child, without having legal *ownership* over that child, then you have absolutely *no right* caring for that child. Full stop. There is no “not all” or “what if” that can change the fact that adoption *is not necessary* to provide care to a child.

Adoption is unethical. There is absolutely *no changing that*. Caring for a child who has no home or safe family is not a bad thing, and literally *nobody* in their right mind would say that (but consider – whether or not there *could* be a safe family for that child, if their original parents were simply provided with good support). And that is NOT all that adoption is.

Many with a depth of knowledge about adoption, would allow that adoption *only* happen for older children (and by older I mean 16+, and even that I honestly hesitate to be okay with, as it’s perfectly possible to adopt an adult). And *only if* that child is ASKING to be adopted, without being prompted in *any way* by either the foster parents or the system itself. And *only if* the child fully 100% understands what adoption means, and has been told explicitly what they will lose by being adopted. *Only then* is adoption even possibly acceptable.

Everyone, please, just stop assuming an adoptee “had a bad experience,” if they speak out against adoption. Many adoptees would be frankly pissed off that you would imply that their *wonderful* and *caring* adoptive parents were bad parents.

I will continue to believe what I now do.

Infertility and Narcissism

So many times, I have read adoptees speaking of their adoptive mothers as narcissists. It seems that Infertile women have a higher rate of narcissism. Many of these women become adoptive mothers. The findings of a research study (Psychological profile of women with infertility: A comparative study) revealed that infertile women group differed from fertile women group with respect to narcissism, dimensions of attachment style and uses of defense mechanism. The primary infertile group also showed marked difference from the secondary infertile group with respect to those variables.

Though I did love my adoptive maternal grandmother, I am forced to realize that she likely was a narcissist. I had to look up the definition. “Personality qualities include thinking very highly of oneself, needing admiration, believing others are inferior, and lacking empathy for others.” My mom struggled with her, never felt she quite measured up. My adoptive maternal grandmother was a phenomenal person and well regarded in her own circles but I do believe she damaged my mom’s own self-esteem.

Some of the comments I read in a group that seeks the ethical reform of adoption included these –

I am unsure if the narcissism pre-exists and adoption amplifies it, or if adoption creates narcissism. I think you would have to be a narcissist to think you are superior to an actual mother and have the right to take her baby, keep her baby, and deny / control her contact. Along with belittling her and gaslighting the mother and her child. To invade a mother’s pregnancy and birth, smear their infertility over her and her baby, and exploit her – that takes a particular cruelty and ruthlessness. While dressing it up as being ‘noble’ or ‘kind’ to the rest of the world. Glad this is being looked at. There’s plenty of infertile women who don’t adopt out of empathy for the mother. They accept their childlessness.

My observation too, narcissism in so many adoptive mothers with weak, ill equip adoptive fathers trailing behind them, trying to pick up the broken pieces but failing miserably. It’s a terrifying thought – children being adopted into these unstable and often unsafe environments

Mothers who had narcissist as parents are a target group for adoption predation. The roles that narcissists put their children into, now that they are mothers, allows them to be exploited by adoption counsellors in order to procure babies for their clientele, the prospective adoptive parents. These mothers are far easier to manipulate and their trauma is exploited, which often hasn’t been addressed or dealt with previously. Like all that is bad in adoption practice, it exploits the trauma and uses it as emotional impetus for an outcome against the mother and against her keeping her baby, along with the impossibly brief time frames allowed for her to make a decision. The ultimate goal – relinquishment.

AdoptTogether Crowdfunding

It has become quite common for hopeful adoptive families to turn to crowdfunding to pay the expenses of adopting a newborn baby. The cost is often $50,000 for an international adoption, about $30-40,000 domestically. That is due to additional costs of bringing a child in from another country.

Hank Fortener, is the founder and CEO of AdoptTogether. The website says – “His family fostered 36 children and adopted 8 from 5 different countries while he was growing up. He knows firsthand how painful & euphoric adopting a child can be, and it is this experienced heart for adoption that drives AdoptTogether.”

In my all things adoption group, someone asks an obvious question – how many original moms could that $30,000 help to keep their baby, instead of surrendering it to adoption ? I agree. As a society we really don’t care enough to help families stay together.

An article in Forbes back in September 2021 highlighted the work of this organization. In that interview, Hank says – I had the idea that if we could turn crowds into communities, if it truly takes a village to raise a child, it can also mean it takes a village to raise funds to bring a child home. It did not seem fair that insurance could cover most expenses of having a baby in a hospital, but there was nothing for those who could not have a child, or chose to parent a child that needed parents. AdoptTogether was born in our hearts 2009, and then went live in 2012. The organization has helped over 5,000 families raise over $26 Million.

According to Daniel Pollack and Steven M Baranowski writing in The Imprint – Ethical Challenges Remain in The World of Private Adoptions. Adoption practices continue to challenge the ethics of social workers due to myriad conflicting interests which have existed since the practice began. Dangerous informal child care arrangements in the early to mid 1900s have been replaced by a patchwork of state and federal laws, regulations and child care practices meant to serve the best interests of everyone associated with adoption, but we continue to allow for ethically concerning “wrongful” adoptions.  

Social workers have found themselves observing or being caught up in ethically challenging adoption practices that have continued to lead to unethical family disruptions and poorly implemented adoption policies, all of which have created more “wrongful adoptions” and a continued mistrust of the profession. Disrupting family structures for the so-called “best interest” of the child is the most ethically challenging aspect of adoption and child welfare practices. The rescuing of “orphan” children from “Third World” countries has led to an increase in human trafficking and is the most blatant form of family disruptions for the sake of making money through the guise of a legal adoption.

Personally, I do not believe that crowdfunding making it possible for more families to afford to adopt improves the ethics of the adoption industry.

Uprooted

This kind of discovery is happening more and more often with the advent of inexpensive DNA testing. I belong to a circle of mom’s who all gave birth in a 4 month period of time in 2004. We have pretty much stayed in contact – at least a majority of us. At one point, way back when, our group ended up divided on the common question for those who conceived via Assisted Reproductive Technology over whether we would tell our children the truth or hide it. Some definitely chose that second path, my husband and I did not. I am grateful for that choice.

It’s not as though we’ve ever made this a big issue in our household and I’ve not made it a public issue locally as well (in the early days I received some hints of questions seeking to know). One of the strategies early on was to let our children tell if that was their choice and not make that choice for them. Only recently, have I become more outspoken about our family’s origins because – gee, I will be 68 this coming May and I have two sons, one that is almost 18 and one who will be 21 this February.

There is another strategy that we owe it to other woman who could be deceived by our having given birth at advanced ages that they have all the time in the world – as I believed in my 40s when my husband decided he wanted to be a father after all after 10 years of marriage. He was always glad I had “been there and done that” so no pressure on him to parent, as I do have one daughter who is now soon to be in her 50s and she has gifted me with two grandchildren. Then we learned how low the odds of that actually happening were due to my own advanced age. A nurse practitioner recommended her own fertility doctor saying “you don’t have time to waste.” He is the first one who told us that there was “a way” and that way for us was via egg donation.

We have stayed in contact with our donor since day one. Facebook makes that easier today. The boys have met her in person more than once but distance limits that contact. I do show them pictures from her FB page from time to time. When she tested with 23 and Me, I gifted my husband with a kit, and then when my oldest son turned 18, I gave him one, and rather than wait for the youngest one to turn 18, went ahead and gave him a kit.

Doing this also allowed us to tell our boys, now that they are older, all of the reasons that we chose to do what we did. Also to emphasize that they simply would not exist or be who they are any other way. There is no “if only” things had been different. And that no one could be more of a mother to them than I am and it is clear by their behavior towards me that I am precisely that to them even with this complete knowledge.

While it is decidedly strange to see another woman listed as their mother at 23 and Me after having carried their pregnancies in my womb and breastfeeding each of them for a year, as well as being in their lives 24/7, I do not regret making private message access to her available to them if they so choose.

I understand the yearning for truth about our genetics. Both of my parents were adoptees who died 4 months apart, still basically ignorant of their origins. My mom did try to get her adoption file (a file I now have complete possession of) in the early 1990s. Within a year of my dad’s death, I had identified all 4 of my original grandparents and have contact with some cousins and a couple of surviving aunts.

There are very real and serious issues with donor sperm. It has produced a lot of children with the same genetic paternity and has existed under a protection of privacy. Unlike egg donation which we are aware that our donor went through a painful process as well as a fraught experience with powerful drugs, it is relatively easy and painless to donate sperm, as my own husband did in order to give birth to genetically, biologically related sons (our sons do have the same maternity and paternity and so are 100% siblings). Some egg donors were also promised privacy in the early days of assisted reproduction.

Here is some information about the book, Uprooted, that I have featured today (but which I have not read) –

By his forties, Peter J. Boni was an accomplished CEO, with a specialty in navigating high-tech companies out of hot water. Just before his fiftieth birthday, Peter’s seventy-five-year-old mother unveiled a bombshell: His deceased father was not his biological, genetic father. Peter was conceived in 1945 via an anonymous sperm donor. The emotional upheaval upon learning that he was “misattributed” rekindled traumas long past and fueled his relentless research to find his genealogy. Over two decades, he gained an encyclopedic knowledge of the scientific, legal, and sociological history of reproductive technology as well as its practices, advances, and consequences. Through twenty-first century DNA analysis, Peter finally quenched his thirst for his origin.

​In Uprooted, Peter J. Boni intimately shares his personal odyssey and acquired expertise to spotlight the free market methods of gamete distribution that conceives dozens, sometimes hundreds, of unknowing half-siblings from a single donor. This thought-provoking book reveals the inner workings—and secrets—of the multibillion-dollar fertility industry, resulting in a richly detailed account of an ethical aspect of reproductive science that, until now, has not been so thoroughly explored.

The Audiobook and ebook have been available since January 4 2022. The print book is to be released tomorrow on January 25 2022.

Choosing Not To Have Children

More than one friend in my age group has told me that their grown children do not intend to have children which will mean no grandchildren for my friends. Even my oldest son has expressed some doubts that he will. What is going on here ? Very real concerns about how climate change will make the future very difficult for today’s children and their children and much sooner than I had previously heard – like by like by 2050.

Because I think daily about issues at least tangential to adoption, that is the first place my thought goes and in an article in The Guardian titled Should I have children? Weighing parenthood amid the climate crisis by Megan Mayhew Bergman I read – Ellie at age 23 wrote the author, “While I don’t believe the changes we’re seeing have to signify end-of-days, I do believe there are incredibly thoughtful solutions at hand which – if we can pull them off – would bring about a world I’d very much want to have children in. But I also think my generation may have found itself at a unique moment in which more people isn’t the answer, and alternatives like adoption represent more eco- and ultimately, human-conscious choices.” And to be certain, more than 100,000 children have been born in refugee camps in Myanmar and in Bangladesh’s Cox’s Bazar, the largest refugee settlement in the world, which is vulnerable to extreme flooding and landslides.

Recent polling reveals that four in 10 young people are “hesitant to have children as a result of the climate crisis” and “fear that governments are doing too little to prevent climate catastrophe”.

An article in Vanity Fair last year by Tatiana Schlossberg titled How Should a Climate Change Reporter Think About Having Children? She goes on to say – Reproduction is a fundamental feature of life on earth, but a morally fraught decision for anyone who has the choice. And there’s not even a right answer. She mentions a drive through a scenic passage in Colorado but that “I felt so angry at our species. Angry because we are willing to destroy all of this and to do so knowingly, because we seem to value no life other than human life, and I’m not even sure how much we value that.” I would have to agree with that last bit somewhat.

She goes on to share – when you are a married straight woman in your 20s and everyone wants to know when you’re going to have a kid, it turns out to be almost impossible to avoid thinking about the future.

In answer to that, she shares – There are two familiar arguments about not having a kid when it comes to climate change. The first one is that it is unkind and irresponsible to bring a child into a world whose future is uncertain at best and apocalyptic at worst. The second one is that, as a privileged, white American with a sizable carbon footprint, any child of mine would be another person with a similar environmental impact, both in terms of greenhouse gas emissions and resource consumption. According to those two lines of thinking, having a child is unethical, both because of what it would do to the child and because of what that child would do to the world.

Realistically, she goes on to admit – As both a reporter and a person in her child-bearing years, I don’t know what the right thing to do is—and I don’t think that there is a right thing to do. I find myself feeling much the same way. I do believe humanity will continue to exist and on some level I feel that raising a reasonable number (like 1 or 2) of children to be highly aware and ethical will be valuable to whatever the future will bring.

She also acknowledges that – not having a child is not the same as becoming a vegetarian or buying an electric car. Having a child, becoming a parent, can be a defining feature of life on earth—the reproduction of aspen trees is not necessarily parenthood, but it is part of the same drive to pass on genetic material; it is hardwired in us, and we share it with all other lifeforms.

A dear friend of mine is involved with Project Drawdown, a climate-advocacy organization, that has ranked the 100 most effective solutions to climate change, and found that together, education and family planning for women and girls is the second-most effective way to reduce emissions (after reducing food waste, which includes shifting to a plant-rich diet and preventing deforestation), because when women are more educated, they generally have fewer children, and also add to the economic and cultural success of their communities.

The Vanity Fair article author notes – The birth rate in the United States and much of the developed world is declining. When people express concern to me about there being too many people on earth, they don’t seem to be saying there are too many Americans; they are, knowingly or not, talking about limiting the growing and increasingly young nonwhite populations in the global south. Throughout American history, anxiety about population is almost always linked to race or national origin, so what I always want to say in response is, “Who are you talking about when you ask me that question?”

I do feel lucky to have the female freedoms I do because of the time in which I have lived. I acknowledge that I am indebted to the work of so many women which has given me choice (and currently, that is highly under threat). Support for reproductive freedom is a core part of my own political identity, as is support for climate action as an environmentalist. We try to raise our sons to value the same things as well.

I will also admit to a certain degree of arrogance in that kind of thinking. That my having kids is okay because my kids will be a good persons and who knows ? One of them might solve climate change. OK, so the latter idea is probably not the most likely outcome, nor is it the most powerful argument in defense of my having children. Any person could say as much. True, I di think that my children are special, geniuses, perfect in their own ways, but I also realize that my children doesn’t necessarily have a greater right to be born than anyone else’s. I am sad for the youth of today. Even back around the 2000s when my husband and I decided to have these two boys, the concern was not as urgent as it seems today (and I say seems because it should have been more urgent then and even in the early 1970s when I had my daughter).

DNA Matters

My apologies for not writing blogs recently. I’ve been out of it with an illness for 5 days (that’s how long since I last shared a blog).

Over the course of my becoming informed, one aspect I had not considered the importance of is genetic mirroring. Really, I should have known sooner. When my niece found us (she was given up for adoption by my sister shortly after birth), she was troubled the most by body image issues. In that situation, she and my mom discovered they had something in common. Our family’s natural genetic inheritance came from stocky, big boned women. Both my mom and my niece were adopted by thin, stylish women. It is only natural, they were never going to look like their adoptive mothers.

Today, I read this –

Something that makes me so mad as an adoptee is when people say “biology doesn’t matter” or “DNA doesn’t make a family” or any other version of that statement. Yes, to an extent we create our own family, and we can choose who to have in our life. But do you know how f***ing PRIVILEGED you (general you) sound when you say “DNA doesn’t matter?” It doesn’t matter to you because you have the choice whether or not to have your biological family in your life. But for adoptees, former foster youth, and donor conceived persons, we don’t have a choice. DNA and biology mean so much more to us BECAUSE we were robbed of it as children, when we had no say in the matter.

It’s also really easy for you to say “biology/DNA doesn’t matter” when you have never had to worry that the pain in your breast could be breast cancer in your early 30s, because you know nothing about your family medical history; or when you have never had to worry about what hereditary diseases you may be passing on to your own children; or when you’ve never had to put “adopted, history unknown” on an intake form for a doctor’s appointment. It’s easy to say “it doesn’t matter” when you’ve never had your children ask why none of their cousins look anything like them. It’s easy to say “it doesn’t matter” when you aren’t having to explain for the thousandth time how your siblings could be so much older than you. It’s easy to say “it doesn’t matter” when you don’t have people asking if you’re actually your mother’s grandchild when you’re standing up at her funeral, because you’re so much younger than all her other children. It’s easy to say “it doesn’t matter” when you’ve never felt like a stranger in your own family.

So please, next time you find yourself about to say “DNA doesn’t matter,” think about how that sounds to people like us, who didn’t get to choose whether we grew up with biological connections. It f***ing hurts when people are telling us that the one thing we can’t have, and the one thing we want more than anything else, “doesn’t matter.” Trust me: DNA MATTERS. And if you didn’t have access to your own genetic mirrors, you would realize that.

It helped my niece when she understood that her body was exactly as her genes intended it to be. Among the many ways adoptees are expected to be something they are not, it is to fulfill some idea the adoptive mother has that she can remake the child’s physical presentation into what she wants it to be. Clearly not a realistic expectation but you would be surprised at how common it is.

When I saw the photo of my maternal grandmother holding my mom for the last time at surrender, I understood that her Scottish farm girl body was the whole reason we were built like we were. Learning who my original grandparents were (both of my parents were adopted) has brought me so much peace with my appearance. Too bad my parents never had that opportunity. Seeing people who look like you, because they share many of the same genes makes such a difference in a person’s life. Seeing how much my paternal aunt looks like my dad or how much my dad not only looks remarkably like his father but they even shared the same interests in life, somehow – these all make everything make so much natural sense.

My sons are donor conceived. At the time we chose that path to parenthood, inexpensive DNA testing was not a reality. Fortunately, being as ignorant as we were about issues I’m so much more informed about now, somehow we still made all the best choices given our circumstances. Our egg donor is known to us – not intimately but well enough. Of course, the boys have had their father as an important male genetic mirror. However, from the beginning, I could see the donor in my sons faces and especially similarities with her biological children. It always made me smile as a reminder of the gift she gave us. Fortunately for the boys, they are 100% genetically related.

Recently, the oldest half-sibling got married and the youngest was the best man. Though my sons are fully informed about their origins and the reason they were conceived in the manner they were, I literally forced them to look at photos of these half-brothers and current photos of the egg donor. One seems more interested than the other but I made them look anyway. True we have been in the donor’s presence more than once but not of her children. But time passes. I want them to know what these people look like – at least. They have direct access to her and the one that recently married through 23 and Me without my involvement – if they want to communicate privately. So far, they don’t seem to need or want that but its there if they did.

I know families in my personal donor conceived circle (we’ve been collected together as a mutual support group of 20 families for 18 years now) who made other choices not to be honest with their conceived children. I won’t judge their own choices but I have been forever grateful we have handled our own choices the way that we have – with total transparency and honesty. It was so much more important than we ever imagined at the time we were doing what felt ethical and correct to us at the time.

Not Indicating A Scam

The online matching sites are proliferating.

Most of what hopeful adoptive parents want to call a scam – simply isn’t that. It is a factor of market dynamics when the demand FAR exceeds the supply.

It’s usually –

“She was talking to other hopeful adoptive parents, therefore, it’s a scam.”

“She ghosted us, so it must be a “scam.”

“She blocked us, clearly it was a scam.”

“She never contacted our attorney, so it was always a scam.”

Do you seriously expect an expectant mom considering adoption to “settle” on the very first person she talks to on the internet?

If she posts in a “matching group”, you do realize that literally hundreds of hopeful adoptive parents are going to show up in her inbox within minutes?

If she contacts you because she sees you begging for a baby online, do you think you’re the only ones she has available to contact?

Do you really expect her to contact your attorney within days?

I’m not in favor of expectant mothers giving up their infant without first trying their darnest to parent.

So, I don’t agree with the idea of all these matching sites in the first place.

I think advertising yourselves wanting a baby is tacky and despicable – but if you’re going to do so, could you at least stop feeling so damn entitled and thinking everything that doesn’t immediately go your way must be a scam?

Realistically, it’s 99% impossible to be scammed in adoption – IF you do things legally, ethically and don’t let your selfish desire for a baby override your own common sense.

Sorry, but I don’t feel sorry for any hopeful adoptive parent who either gets “scammed” or believes without any good cause they were just because they didn’t get what they were hoping for. In this life, as the song lyrics by the Rolling Stones describe, “You can’t always get what you want. But if you try sometimes, you get what you need.”

A Lifetime Of Regret

The Maiden of Sorrow painting by Tyler Robbins

In a discussion about a same-sex couple (two females) who wanted a family and were seeking perspectives on donor conceived vs adoption, a woman who gave up her baby at birth was strongly defending her choice as best for the child. This kind of denial is not uncommon. Truth is that many women who surrender their child at birth spend the rest of their lifetime in sorrow. Not even getting into the trauma that EVERY baby suffers at a preverbal, subconscious level due to that separation. Today’s story is from a woman who surrendered her child.

I’m a Birth mother. When I placed my daughter for adoption I lost the only good thing in my life. She was my joy. My reason for living.

I spent the next decade deeply suicidal and one of the things I heard a lot from people was that “suicide is selfish because it takes one person’s pain and passes it on to ten others.” These days I can’t help but think how much this statement applies to adoption too.

When I hear hopeful adoptive parents talk about the anguish infertility caused them and how they’re pursuing adoption now because they NEED to be a mother, I wonder if they realize they’re doing exactly this. They are trying to take away their pain of not having a baby by passing that pain onto the birth mother, father, child, grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins instead.

I have spent years in agony over the loss of my daughter, crying and begging god to change what happened. I’ve watched others get pregnant and wondered why they were worthy of motherhood and I wasn’t. I’ve felt the need to be a mother because I was a mother. But I am a mother without a child now.

The future which hopeful adoptive parents were unwilling to live (a life without children) has become my reality instead. Do hopeful adoptive parents or those who have already adopted realize – they are transferring their pain onto others, when they accept somebody else’s baby to fulfill their dreams ? What makes the pain spread through suicide so obviously selfish but the pain spread through adoption so widely acceptable ?

The first response was empathetic – you’re making perfect sense. Except the pain that leads people to suicide and the pain of having a child and losing it are both astronomically greater than any pain felt by never having children. So that makes adoption exceptionally selfish. I’m sorry for the pain you have been through. You did not deserve any of it. Saying a prayer for you.

It is frequently said in my all things adoption group that adoption is a permanent decision to a temporary solution. Society really needs to wake up to the harm of commercializing babies for profit and support struggling mothers and/or families better so children do not need to be taken from the family they were born into.

There are some adoptive mothers who finally realize that their infertility was at least psychologically caused by feeling their own mothers didn’t love them, even though there may have also been a physical component. If a woman is not whole in mind and emotions, any child brought into this life will have flawed parenting. There is also often a religious component to adoption. Some feel that God is punishing them with infertility and though some kind of twisted logic believe that adopting a child will get them back God’s good graces. So many don’t want to heal, they refuse to even admit they need to. And it’s their children and their children’s true mothers who carry the burden of their lack of awareness regarding their true issues.

Regarding a relinquishment of one’s babies and suicide came this comment –

I am an adoptee. My Mom died by suicide because her pain was too much to bear from losing two children to adoption.

I have been saying much of the same thing in regards to suicide. It’s not selfish or cowardly or a crime. I have also been saying that hopeful adoptive parents or those who have already adopted are transferring their pain. Most do not heal before adopting. Adoptive parents are wrongly revered by our society. Nobody thinks to question them or ask them anything. Sadly, adoption is usually option B and adoptive parents do not heal nor research the topic before getting their wallets out.

Fact is – adoption is big business. A for profit business. So if there were no adoptive parents, the money to be made selling babies would decrease. Sadly, adoption is socially acceptable, romanticized, sensationalized and is thought by many to be beautiful, rainbows etc. Adoptive parents are viewed as heroes and altruistic.

Suicide is stigmatized and people are afraid to discuss it and truly do not understand it. Our society has a hard time sitting in discomfort and looking at other people’s pain. That is why suicide is quickly labeled as selfish. In reality, society is selfish for not asking why the pain was so heavy. Even the words used around suicide make it seem like a crime or a choice. (committed suicide, killed oneself, took their own life). We are the selfish ones. We need to be talking about this. Not to mention the high suicide attempt rates and suicides among adoptees, as well as their original moms. Nobody is going to physically die because they can’t have a baby but many adoptees and moms are dying from the grief, trauma and loss that is the truth of adoption and family separation.

Every day, my effort here is to change the narrative about who adoptees are, about their stories, about the importance of keeping families together. Mine is one small voice but those who share my perspectives are legion. So the effort at reform begins with changing the narrative – adoption is NOT a “selfless” act but a “selfish” act. There is so much pain in adoption. I wish more people were aware of (and cared about!!!) the devastating consequences.

The Chilean Scandal

In the 70s, 80s and 90s, there was a wave of children leaving the country and due to this phenomenon they are currently spread all over the world. Those decades were very difficult times for the country’s history due to the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet.

Since some years however, it is known that many of these children have not been left by their mothers and/or families voluntarily. As a result, today there is an official investigations in progress that tries to identify those involved. The official complaints of families who have lost their children under the most strange circumstances are still coming in on a daily basis and official numbers have past the amount of 10.000 official declarations in the year 2018.

The mothers and families are looking for their children! The adopted children are adults today and have always lived a life away from their birth-country and -families. Their families who never wanted to be separated from their children in the first place. 

Chilean Adoptees Worldwide was founded in Chile in 2018 by Alejandro Quezada, Angélica Martínez and Jessica Pincheira, all of whom were adopted illegally and lived the biggest parts of their lives in The Netherlands, Sweden and Belgium. Alejandro returned to Chile in 2014 to investigate his own adoption and continued to live in Chile today.

Here is one story – Maria Diemar always knew she was adopted. Her Swedish parents were always open about her Chilean heritage. When she was 11, Diemar’s parents showed her the papers that arrived with her in Sweden as a two-month-old baby in 1975. The file on her parentage offered a brief, unflattering portrait of a teenage mother who sent her newborn girl to be raised by strangers on the other side of the world. “They said she was a live-in maid, that she had a son who lived with her parents, and that she was poor,” Diemar remembers.

The Adoption Centre is a Swedish NGO who had facilitated her adoption. Sweden has one of the highest per-capita international adoption rates in the world. In the 1990s, the agency launched a program to help adoptees reunite with their biological families. However, they had no information on Diemar’s mother.

She went to Chile but she own efforts proved fruitless. Finally, thanks to some dogged efforts by an adoption search angel in Chile in January 2003, her mother was found. As often happens in adoptee efforts for reunion, the answers are bittersweet. Her birth mother declined to meet Diemar in person. She was married now and was afraid that her husband would not take kindly to the appearance of a long-lost daughter who was not his. But she wanted Diemar to know she had never intended to give her away. She said her baby had been stolen from her at birth.

In September 2017, Diemar watched a film by Chilean documentary-maker Alejandro Vega, in which women, mostly from poor and minority backgrounds in Chile, described how they had been tricked or coerced into giving up their babies for international adoption. While he was working on a follow-up report in 2018, Vega made contact with Diemar, through an adoptees’ Facebook group. At her request, he reviewed papers relating to her adoption and found them to be full of errors and omissions. From what he had seen of her file, he believed there were fundamental problems in Diemar’s adoption.

This news was devastating. Diemar felt she had accepted that her adoption was done in the proper manner because she couldn’t handle the emotional fallout. Now the truth hit her with full force. “My whole body reacted,” she said. “I started to shake and cry.”

During the 70s and 80s, between 8,000 and 20,000 Chilean babies and young children were adopted by families across Europe and North America. The biological mothers were typically very young and very poor. These adoptions were part of a national strategy to eradicate childhood poverty, which the military dictatorship hoped to accomplish by removing deprived children from the country. International adoptions had begun decades before Augusto Pinochet took power but by 1978 promoting adoption became the official policy of the government. Pressure on mothers to give up their children increased and international adoptions surged.

The effect of Pinochet’s policies was the “criminalization of poverty.” State power was used against poor families to prevent them from raising their own children and a climate of violence prevented most mothers from resisting. Not only were the victims poor, many of them were also members of the indigenous Mapuche community, a group that has long been persecuted. Under the dictatorship, the precarious existence of these women was seen as an obstacle to progress.

Many countries had severed relations with Chile after the 1973 coup that overthrew the nation’s democratically elected government. “The dictatorship promoted adoption as a mechanism to rebuild diplomatic relations,” says Karen Alfaro, a professor of history and geography at the Austral University of Chile and an expert on Chile’s international adoptions, “especially with countries that had received Chilean exiles and whose governments were critical of human rights violations.”

And in the early 70s, accounts emerged from Chile of women being coerced by child-welfare workers into giving up their young children. Some said they had been falsely told by doctors and nurses at government-run hospitals that their babies had died at birth. The mothers were never given death certificates or allowed to see their babies. Those who attempted to involve the police, or took their stories to the media, were intimidated and treated as mentally unstable by the very people involved in taking their children.

Would-be parents in Europe and the US were paying international adoption agencies between $6,500 and $150,000 for each child. A cut of these fees often found its way to Chilean professionals who helped to identify “eligible” children and extricate them from their marginalized and uneducated parents. “International adoption agencies had representatives in Chile who developed networks of paid mediators, most of whom were public officials, to provide children for adoption,” Alfaro said. “There were social workers paid to issue false reports of child abandonment, and there was money for doctors and nurses to generate birth certificates that would say the baby died at birth, and judges paid to approve transfer of custody.”

Finally, in September 2018, under pressure from groups working to reunite families divided by abusive adoptions, Chile’s lower house of congress created a commission to investigate these historical allegations. By July 2019, the commission released a 144 page report, describing “mafias” of healthcare professionals and public officials who used nefarious methods to take children from their mothers and ensure a regular supply of babies in what had become a “lucrative business”. What had been an unregulated practice before Pinochet took power had been legally codified during the dictatorship. The result was that unscrupulous adoptions practices carried on with impunity. The report concluded that the adoptions were crimes against humanity.

As a child, Maria Diemar dreamed of hugging her birth mother and reuniting with her. “I thought I was going to look like my mum,” Diemar said. “That felt important to me.” As an adult, after the revelation that she may have been forcibly taken from her, Diemar accepted that, no matter how comforting a reunion might be, it wouldn’t change the sorrow of the past. 

Very much like the Georgia Tann case, from time to time, rumors of scandal emerged in Chile. From 1974 to 1975, a scandal about the alleged sale of Chilean babies overseas was investigated after Chilean media questioned whether these were really orphan, and whether they had been given up willingly. In 1974, Chile’s supreme court dispatched a family court judge to Sweden to investigate. But the judge issued a favorable report about the Adoption Centre in Sweden and its operations in Chile. A newspaper article published in August 1975 said the judge had found no evidence that the Adoption Centre had broken the law. On the contrary, they found that the agency was providing children with an ideal environment in which to grow.

In 2017, a criminal investigation into historical international adoptions was launched in Chile by Mario Carroza, a judge in the Santiago court of appeals who has overseen numerous investigations of human rights abuses under the military dictatorship. According to Kerstin Gedung, the current director of the Adoption Centre, views on the primacy of biological parenting have “evolved” in the decades since the agency was active in Chile. The Adoption Centre ceased operations in Chile in 1992. Laws and regulations have improved and the organization has helped to develop guidelines and ethical rules for international adoption, she said. “We worked in accordance with the legal framework that existed in Chile in the 70s and 80s and the adoptions were legally correct and confirmed in courts in Chile and in Sweden,” Gedung reported.

In Chile, in the wake of its devastating 2019 report, congress ordered the creation of a Truth and Reparation Commission and a DNA database to help families and adoptees find one another. Yet efforts to investigate the deeper connection between these historical crimes and the role played by Pinochet’s dictatorship have stalled. 

Diemar has been studying Mapuche culture, and its language, Mapuzugun, which has brought her a measure of peace. Chile’s native populations are eligible to receive official accreditation of their indigenous status and Diemar hopes to one day secure hers. She has met her brothers and sisters but has only spoken with her mother over the phone. She thinks her mother is coming around to the idea of meeting her daughter in person. “I really would like to see my mum in person, see what she looks like and sit down with her and learn more about my background,” Diemar said. “She is my mum.”

A much more extensive article regarding this story is in The Guardian – The Scandal of Chile’s Stolen Children.