Conflict Induced Adoption

Illustration by Nat Castaneda)

An interesting custody battle is taking place. I am going to summarize. You can read a more detailed account at this ABC News LINK>Baby orphaned in military raid now at center of custody battle with her relatives and Marine.

In September 2019, a weeks-old baby girl was found badly hurt but — miraculously — alive in the rubble of a raid by U.S. special operations forces. Both of her parents were killed in the operation and she was placed under the temporary medical care of the U.S. military to recover from burns and physical trauma. The military had targeted a home in central Afghanistan, looking to capture or kill suspected foreign fighters associated with al-Qaida.

Today, the 3-1/2 year old girl (known as Baby Doe) is claimed by two families who are fighting a complex legal battle over the right to raise her. On one side are her paternal uncle and cousins in Afghanistan, with whom she was placed by the Afghan government in early 2020. Her uncle’s son and his wife, referred to in court as John and Jane Doe, cared for her for 18 months. Baby Doe and her Afghan family fled the Taliban and came to the US. John and Jane Doe have now resettled in Texas.

On the other side is a U.S. Marine lawyer who was in Afghanistan at the time of the raid and who successfully petitioned a local Virginia court to grant him an adoption order. An attorney for the Marine, Maj Joshua Mast, has contended in court filings that the girl had no surviving biological relatives (which the U.S. government says isn’t true). Mast’s attorney described her as an “orphan of war and a victim of terrorism” and Mast used the adoption order in Virginia to take custody of Baby Doe in September 2021. Baby Doe currently lives in North Carolina with Mast, his wife and their children. In September, John and Jane Doe filed a federal lawsuit suit against the Masts, claiming that the Masts unlawfully took Baby Doe.

The case is being reviewed in both Virginia and federal courts. Also involved are the Pentagon, the State Department and the Justice Department, who say the child should be returned to her Afghan relatives.

Following Afghan cultural traditions, Baby Doe should have then been taken to her next closest relatives. But who was she? Who were those relatives? Was she even Afghan? The US worked with the Afghan administration of then-President Ashraf Ghani and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to locate Afghan relatives who could raise her as their own, in line with local customs.

Mast was serving in Afghanistan at the time, as an attorney for the government’s Center for Law and Military Operations. In that role, he was involved in discussions about what to do with Baby Doe and took a keen interest in her welfare. He advocated for her transfer to the United States, so she could be placed for adoption far away from the dangers of “a country known for child abuse, neglect and sexual trafficking of children,” as an attorney for Mast once wrote. Mast’s court filings have also stated that Baby Doe’s parents were likely combatants, not collateral damage from the 2019 military raid. In late 2019, when Mast and his wife, Stephanie, sought an adoption order, they claimed Baby Doe was stateless and needed continuous medical care. John and Jane Doe claim that Mast abducted Baby Doe days after he had helped them arrive in the US in August 2021, as part of the chaotic US evacuation from Afghanistan.

The Justice Department filed a motion that argued the case should be moved to a federal court. The motion also stated that the Masts’ adoption should not have been granted, citing a U.S. government decision that Baby Doe should be returned to her Afghan family. The State Department likewise said in a recent statement to ABC News that the baby should have been brought back to her relatives. “Reuniting the child with the family members in Afghanistan was the right thing to do,” a department spokesperson said.

“We need a full investigation on this case and how this child could have been adopted away from her relatives,” Lisa Lawrence, a Defense Department spokesperson, said. “The investigation could lead to loopholes that need to be closed within our system. There shouldn’t be anyone from any rank of military that can push something as significant as an adoption through without following proper protocol and procedures.”

To Separate Or Not

An interesting question from an adoptive parent showed up today – two children had to be removed from their natural parents. They have the same mother but different fathers. Each father has a sister willing to care for both kids until they can be returned to their parents. Is it better to keep the children together with one aunt ? In that case, one child will be related to the aunt caring for them but the other not – biologically. Or is it better to separate the children, in order to prioritize having each child be cared for by an aunt who they are biologically related to ?

Under these unfortunate and traumatic circumstances, is it better to be in the same home with your sibling, if you are being cared for by your sibling’s aunt (who is not biologically related to you) ? Or is it better to be in a separate home from your sibling, so that both of you are cared for by an aunt you are biologically related to, even if it means not living with your sibling ?

The originator of these question is one of the aunts. If placed with her, the toddlers will also be placed with their two older brothers. This she feels is an important aspect for all 4 of the kids. She does not want the kids separated but she does not know if being cared for by an only indirectly related adult matters, if that keeps the siblings together. She notes that their goal is reunification. The other aunt and this woman do not live near each other. If they are separated, their sibling contact will not be as often as might be desirable. Either aunt relocating is not an option. These kids are toddlers, so not old enough to establish their opinion. Their parents have not expressed a preference in this situation.

A response from a domestic infant adoptee – If the siblings get along, keep them together. Make sure they have opportunities to spend time with other family members as well. These siblings staying together should be your top priority.

Another adoptee shared – this actually happened to my nieces and they both ended up with the oldest one’s aunt and it worked well for them. I think it’s best to keep siblings together whenever possible UNLESS the relative would treat the non-biological child differently or keep them from seeing their family.

A former foster parent notes – in my experience it was best to keep siblings together. Sometimes the county would split up siblings and it was so hard for the kids to understand why they can’t be together. They missed each other. Are the toddlers more familiar with one of you, than the other ? They should go to the one they are most familiar with-in my opinion. (Response was that they are familiar with both aunts equally.) They are already being ripped from their home, their parents and everything they know (even if it wasn’t ideal, it was still what they know), so please don’t take them from each other.

A former foster care youth says – from experience, sibling separation is torture on top of trauma. Siblings are truly the only ones who are going through the same situation and having that support is invaluable. They can visit the other aunt.

Another adoptive parent to foster care siblings suggests – is it possible to do a shared custody – one aunt becomes primary home and the other aunt has lots of phone calls, takes care of the kids for long weekends, helps if there is an emergency, is a place that kids also know well as their extended family.

Another affirmed – I grew up in this exact situation, but it was my grandmothers. I am thankful for their supportive friendship that gave me stability. Always welcome at either house, open communication, always invited to things. At least once a week in Elementary School, my brother and I would get picked up by the grandma we didn’t live with, would have dinner at her house, she took me to dance class, I spent weekends and breaks with her. One took guardianship of me as a teen, so that she could make medical appointments for me since I lived with her. Absolutely a great solution.

The one who originally posed the questions confirmed – this is currently how we live. I’m one of the aunts and I have the toddlers’ two older siblings and what you describe is the relationship that we have with their immediate and extended family. The other aunt will be part of this village, without a doubt.

What Is Child Endangerment?

When my children were very young, I used to worry that some rather innocent parental choice might cause us to lose custody of them. There was a memorable episode of The Simpsons – LINK>Home Sweet Homediddly-Dum-Doodily – the third episode of the seventh season. Homer and Marge lose custody of their children to the state. The kids end up in foster care at Ned and Maude Flanders’ house. Marge and Homer were spending the day at a spa, while the children were in school. Baby Maggie was left in the care of her elderly grandfather, Abe Simpson. This caused the parents to be accused of negligence after Bart was sent home from school with head lice and Lisa was found shoe less. Child Protective Services agents arrived at the Simpson house and judged it to be under incompetent care.

This was much less likely when I was growing up in the late 1950s and early 1960s. I do remember getting in trouble for going too far from home on my bicycle. I also remember wandering in wild and remote spaces and never feeling concern from my parents, though in adulthood I learned they weren’t aware of the extent of my journeys LOL.

We never left our two sons alone and never even employed their grandparents (who lived next door) as overnight babysitters. I suppose we have been overprotective but they are still alive and have not gotten into any serious youthful trouble. They’ve been allowed to develop their own character absent being overly influenced by peers. So often I read in adoption related spaces how easily children have been removed from their natural parents for no more than poverty, which this country does pitifully little to address and probably will do even less in the next 2 years with extremist Republicans in charge of the federal government.

Two recent events have gotten my attention. This country has a serious double standard depending on one’s race and class status. One event is alluded to in the image I chose for today’s blog (more on that below). The other I just read about in The Huffington Post – LINK>What Is Child Endangerment? When Leaving Your Child Alone Becomes A Crime. I remember hearing a similar story from my own mother. She left two of us alone to run to the grocery store, I believe. We were discovered by a neighbor. My mom learned her lesson and the police and/or Child Protective Services were never involved.

The Huffington Post story was about two children, ages 2 years and 5 months, who were left alone in a New York City hotel room, sleeping and under camera surveillance, so that their parents could go out to dinner about a block and a half away. Life is what happens next. The father had a sudden heart attack at the restaurant and was rushed by ambulance to the hospital, where he was later pronounced dead. The mother accompanied her husband in the ambulance. In the midst of this crisis, she asked both a close friend and her parents to rush to her children’s hotel room and attend to them (as she continued to monitor them by camera). However, the hotel denied entry to her friend (which actually is policy, I remember being with my dad but in a separate room in a hotel and he asked the front desk what room I was in and they would not tell him). In the case of these children, the hotel called NYPD.

The issue of a double standard comes up in this case, though the mother does face two counts of “acting in a manner injurious to a child” and is scheduled to appear in Manhattan criminal court on Thursday. One commenter noted – “If she was a poor woman in an inner city she would’ve been arrested.” In fact, some children are left alone in inadequate circumstances by single mothers due to a lack of affordable child care options, while that mother must work to feed, house and clothe her children. Any individual can make a call to the police or to Child Protective Services, triggering a process leading to state involvement, which can include the parent’s loss of custody. New York’s juvenile court has defined such neglect with this example – “A child of 12 might be fine alone for two hours in an afternoon. Yet, the same child may be incapable of responsibly caring for a 5-year-old for that same period of time.”

This case gets attention because the parents are wealthy and well-known. As I have already noted – most other cases involve disproportionately poor and working-class parents who leave children alone when faced with a need to go to work or on a job interview, when they don’t have accessible, affordable child care. Families living in poverty or near poverty are judged far more harshly than wealthy parents. Parents who are taken to family court are at very high risk of having their children removed from their custody and placed in foster care. More often than you may think possible, this leads to the permanent termination of their parental rights.

The Guardian had an update this morning, LINK>No fight or warning before six-year-old boy shot teacher, say Virginia police, regarding the case of the Virginia teacher who was shot by a 6 year old who brought a loaded handgun to school. The 9mm handgun used by the boy was bought legally by his mother and kept in the family’s home. It remains unclear whether the mother will face any legal charges. Virginia does not have a law that requires unattended guns to be stored in a particular way or a law that requires gun owners to affirmatively lock their weapons. The issue will be whether it can be proven that the mother’s actions violated a Virginia law that prohibits anyone from recklessly leaving a loaded, unsecured gun in a manner that endangers the life or limb of children under 14. It could be argued by gun advocates that the child was never in danger – but certainly his teacher was.

We All Want To Feel Safe…

Safe by Kristin Brantley Poe<LINK

I was inspired by this adoption related painting to consider the concept of Safe. I found a related kind of article at LINK>Fostering Perspectives, an effort by the North Carolina Div of Social Services and their Family and Children’s Resource Program.

Safe can be defined as free from harm or hurt. So, feeling safe means you do not anticipate either harm or hurt, emotionally or physically. One emotion we often feel without consciously knowing it is the feeling of safety.

It’s likely you’re able to recall at least one time in your life when you didn’t feel safe. Do you remember what emotions you were experiencing when this happened? Several emotions often compete for attention during traumatic events like this. The author of the article writes – When I was feeling unsafe, I was scared and anxious, and my body just froze in place. My heart pounded and my mind was racing to figure out what was going to happen next. Because I was not in control of my body’s reaction, panic was closing in.

Your interest in adoption related topics including foster care and family preservation is probably why you read this blog. It is highly probable that you may have heard the expression “safety, permanence, and well-being” before. We use these terms to compartmentalize the vision we have for child’s welfare. Caring people want children to have a permanent family who will be there for them for the rest of their lives.

The concept of safety is always evolving. Historically, we may have thought of safety as simply being free from physical abuse, free from sexual abuse, free from emotional abuse, and free from neglect. This type of safety is a critical first step on the road to well-being. We can broaden our definition of safety to include the concept of feeling safe; a concept that is called psychological safety.

What research tells us is that permanency and general well-being alone are not enough. It matters if a child does not feel safe. To have the kind of a good quality childhood that allows the child to develop, grow and be well in all aspects, the child needs to have a feeling of psychological safety as well.

At every age in a child’s development there are things that help a child to feel safe. When they are very young it might be a pacifier, a special blanket, sucking their thumb, a stuffed toy, a loving caregiver, a kind word, a smile, a hug, or the act of either rocking back and forth or being rocked. As children grow older, a feeling of safety might take the form of a friendly voice on the telephone, a comfy pillow, a special meal, friends, clubs, a special location, spiritual beliefs, or books.

Unfortunately, some seek safety through unhealthy behaviors – over-eating food, getting drunk on alcohol and/or high on drugs.

One important thing to remember is that children who have experienced trauma may get a sense of safety from things we hardly ever think of being related to the concept – food being readily available to the child at all times might just help them feel safe from hunger. The comfortable temperature in a room might help them feel safe if they have experienced homelessness or inadequate shelter.

It can be surprising to learn that things we may believe should create the feeling of safety such as a comforting hug or a hot bath could actually cause a child who has been abused to feel terribly unsafe. Sights, sounds, smells, people, places, things, words, colors and even a child’s own feelings can become linked to trauma. Afterward, exposure to anything associated with the trauma can bring up intense and terrifying feelings. Often, these associations to a trauma will be completely unconscious.

This is why it can be challenging for non-related (genetically and biologically) caregivers to actually help. It could help to become a really good detective. Such an effort might help a child identify things that make them feel safe. It could also help eliminate or minimize the things that cause the child to feel unsafe.

All caring people should understand that just because a government agency has certified a foster/adoptive/kinship parent as “safe” (often meaning such obvious factors as having the right locks on doors, or that there are no criminals living in the home, and that family pets are up-to-date on their rabies shots) does not mean that a child moving into this home will feel safe. In fact, what government agencies define as a “safe home” has very little to do with a child placed there feeling safe.

“If your (adoptive) parents or foster parents go on and on about what happened a long time ago, that’s kind of putting you down and not really making you happy.”
~ Angel, age 13

Adoption, Foster Care or Guardianship

Came across some thoughts. Just passing them along.

To the thought that adoption equals indentured servitude, one adoptee said – It started as permanent indentured servitude and nothing has changed except the marketing. In answer to that, someone else said – Until the law changes, hopeful adopters can choose guardianship or (not quite as good) choose NOT to amend the birth certificate per this LINK>google doc on State Laws.

The perspective from an adoptive parent, who adopted from foster care, and who is also the sister of an adoptee – The problem with guardianship is it varies so much on what it provides and how it functions. Part of me wonders if that is by design – make it so onerous that it’s the less desirable option.

Washington state recently passed a law that forbids children to be removed from a placement – if that placement is willing to provide LINK>minor guardianship but not adoption. This was specifically done with kinship in mind – apparently children used to be removed from willing kin placements to be put up for adoption, if a grandmother didn’t want to make her grandchild, her child, on paper.

Under a guardianship, the youth loses the benefits they would keep if they had been adopted or remained in foster care, including medical benefits. Guardians can apply for cash support but it is SUCH a complex process and many people don’t qualify. Her perspective is that it makes guardianship only possible for a specific socioeconomic group – and less possible for kin. Like with adoption, a teen must consent. The system leaves many teens frightened that guardianship means no more stability than foster care – with less oversight.

This adoptive parent would love to see a streamlined guardianship process that is a federal/legal mechanism. One that conveys the same parental rights and responsibilities towards minors that adoption does, while simultaneously banning any birth certificate amendments, legal name changes and still preserves legal ties to all genetic family members.

From the daughter of an orphan and an anti-adoption activist – someone saying that “in guardianship the youth lose benefits that they would keep in foster care” – that is the whole point of guardianship and adoption – to transfer financial responsibility from the state to the guardian or adopter! The adopter or guardian puts the child on their medical plan, feeds them, clothes them etc. The government does provide adoption incentive payments and tax credits and sometimes Medicaid for children with complex medical needs because its still cheaper than having the kid remain in foster care. If guardians or adopters ever lose their jobs and can’t support the kids they took in, they can go on welfare, just like the families the kids were taken away from.

The federal government is betting that won’t happen. The federal government has started offering states Title IV funding for achieving ‘permanency’ through guardianship but it is a relatively new development. Title IV refers to federal student aid in which there is a demonstrable financial need to be able to attend public, private nonprofit and proprietary schools. Attendees of these colleges can receive student loans, grants or enter a work-study program.

Hopefully, guardianship would help stop the bullying of people into adoption. Some persons make guardianship sound like it is not as good as adoption for money related reasons. It is outrageous that ‘the system’ is manipulating teens into believing that adoption offers them more stability and oversight than foster care. Foster care meets their needs until they reach the age of 18. They have a right to facilitated visitation with their family. They can’t be moved out of the county where their family resides. They can’t be homeschooled or forced to participate in their caregiver’s religion. They don’t have to call their caregivers “mom” or “dad” and their care givers are not legally allowed to refer to them as their son or daughter. Their caregivers have to take them to mainstream doctors and dentists. They are assigned a caseworker to monitor the safety and appropriateness of the placement. If they are abused in a foster home, they can sue the state and be awarded damages. They always have the right to be returned to live with their family – if it ever becomes safe and however possible – even after their parents rights have been terminated – ONLY if they have NOT been adopted.

Child Protective Services pushes for adoption in order to meet quotas. They receive bounty payments when the meet federal government requirements for completing placements into adoptions. When kids age out of foster care, they age out with their rights intact and there are many programs and scholarships available to them as former foster youth. These would not be available to them, if they are adopted or obtain a guardian. With both guardianship and adoption, the child loses the oversight of the state. The state is freed from the liability related to what happens to the person in the adoptive home or at the hands of the guardian, if any abuse occurs.

At least with guardianship, the youth remains a member of their family with all kinship rights intact – permanently. The guardian has to do the job of a parent without the title. Legally a child is entitled to the same level of care and support from a guardian that they would receive from an adoptive parent, only they won’t lose their kinship in their family and they can return to their parents, if the situation improves. The guardian does not have a right to keep the person permanently. A guardian also is not allowed to exploit a child in their care, the way an adopter can (such as putting them on Youtube and profiting off filming their every move, as so many adopters and parents do these days). Adopting without changing the birth certificate is not as good as guardianship but it is vastly better than adopting and changing the birth certificate for those who are forced to adopt their kin, rather than serve as guardians.

A Never Baby Person Parented

Kelsey Graham with baby daughter

I’m a family preservation, never adopt out if one can help it, person and so I really liked this story in the LINK>Huffington Post – “What It’s Like To Be The ‘Young Mom’.”

Kelsey admits – “I was never a baby person. Growing up, when family members would have kids, I stood back, adoring the baby from afar, but passing on chances to hold it. I never babysat beyond watching my younger brother. And while it’s true what they say — when it’s your child, it’s different — it was still overwhelming being responsible for another life when I was just starting to lay the foundation for my own.”

She was in her sophomore year of college when she got pregnant and was 20 when she had her baby. I can relate. I was 19 when I had my daughter. My pregnancy was deliberate as I was married and all of our “married” friends also had young children and so, I didn’t see any reason to wait. Really, I was still a child when my daughter was young. My marriage didn’t last and unlike the author of this story, I didn’t go on to college until much later when I picked up a few hours but never graduated.

Happily, for Kelsey – she is still with her then boyfriend and now father of her daughter. With a strong support system from her family, her boyfriend, and his family, she was able to finish her degree. At 27, she was fortunate enough to return to school to earn her master’s degree. During that time, she worked in the Graduate School Office as an assistant with other students ranging in age from 20-year-olds who had just graduated with their bachelor’s to others in their 30s. She says, “It was nice to be around people closer to my age and, even more, to be back in the school setting I loved and where I felt like I belonged.”

Often feeling like she didn’t fit in, which she describes in quite a bit of detail in her op-ed, she realized that women are judged for whatever choices they make, especially if they deviate from the very narrow idea of what’s “normal.” I also understand this from my own personal experiences but thankfully, I do have friends who seem to understand my unconventional life experiences are what make me – “me”.

I do know that I have always been living my life as best I could. I know my experiences matter just as much as those who have trod more conventional paths. I am glad for my Facebook friends today. I realize these woman include all the women who have also taken the path less traveled. It’s comforting. The author notes – “Being a young mom is what brought her to me, and I’ll always feel lucky for that.” Yes, I can say the same about my own daughter – despite the bumps on our own journey together, when I could not financially support the two of us and didn’t have the kind of family support the author had on her own journey, I was no longer married to my daughter’s father and he didn’t believe in paying child support nor did I want to fight him for it.

Kelsey is a Copywriter and Freelance Writer. You can find her at LinkedIn here – https://www.linkedin.com/in/grahamkelsey/.

Poverty

I belong to a group of people who actively seek a world that works for every person. Within the adoption related communities, I promote family preservation. At one point, our federal government tore families apart. I believe some of those children have been returned and some remain lost in a system that has likely allowed them to be adopted.

I grew up on the border in El Paso Texas. A friend of mine who still lives there wrote to me today these words – “This is an invasion. No telling whom is crossing. A bit frightening. I have not been frightened until about a week ago.” I happen to know that she is on the more conservative side of Republican perspectives. I can’t judge what she is experiencing there. When I was younger, I had several adventures in Mexico and some misadventures that still turned out with me returning safely to the United States. I always knew that our American legal system was preferable to what I might encounter with the Federales in Mexico.

I do know that as the misdeeds of our former president become ever more obvious, his side of the partisan divide loves to use immigration issues to distract from the factual inconvenient truth. Realistically, I do know the the US can’t take in every person who wants to come here. We do have a shortage of the kind of labor pool who is willing to do a lot of the work that migrants are willing to do. Our social security system could use the increase in tax revenues to support today’s and tomorrow’s beneficiaries. I do know that immigrants (my biological, genetic grandfather was one) make a net positive contribution to our country economically.

What I think has changed is technological. Inexpensive “smart” phones and social media drive, I believe, the global increase in desperate migrations, whether from the global south to the United States or from Africa and the Middle East to Europe. The news spreads and who can, with any heart or compassion, deny the desires of people seeking a better life ? I believe most to these people who embark on dangerous journeys in the hopes of better circumstances would prefer to remain in the countries of their birth if the danger and wealth inequality were alleviated.

In less than a week, we celebrated the idea that a baby born in the most humble of circumstances could mature into a man who changed the hearts of multitudes. That is the real truth of Christmas regardless of whether the story actually occurred or not.

The Foster Care Problem

Today again, for the umpteenth time, I learned of 2 children being removed for neglect when that neglect was fixable! It’s criminal these kids are removed.

Being part of the Foster Care System in a non-kinship capacity makes you part of the problem:

If being a foster parent is such a good thing, if they are doing right by these kids, then why do we have these statistics?

Half of foster youth will never graduate high school

One in five will enter the homeless population

One in four will be involved with the criminal justice system

The False Belief: Neglected, abused children are pulled from their home and placed in welcoming environments that are stable and safe

The Reality: More than 1/3 of youth in foster care have documented abuse in foster homes. The act of removal adds additional layers of trauma

So you, who are wanting to become a foster parent, are thinking you are one of the good ones right ? You would not abuse a child – so fostering is the right thing to do because you’re a good guy.

Awesome, but to fight for these kids, you often have to really fight and you are at the mercy of the state. You really have no leverage. You are a glorified babysitter in many cases.

That means your fighting for these kids could be one mis-step away from crap with the caseworker that will cause you to lose that child to a home that WILL abuse them considering how high the likelihood of abuse in foster care is.

So before someone else says it – let’s talk about “what’s the alternative, just let children be abused by their parents ?”

The False Belief: Children removed from their homes are removed “for a good reason”; otherwise they would not be removed

The Reality: “Neglect” is cited in 76% of the cases but what is considered neglect runs the gamut: lack of proper supervision, food insecurity, housing/utility issues, medical challenges, safety issues, assumed neglect due to poverty level, assumed neglect due to the race of the family.

What would solve the “Neglect” issues cited above ? These are ALL solvable issues and addressing them would reduce the number of removals by 76% !!

Why do so many NOT see how the money, time and energy, that goes to Foster Parents and/or the Foster Care system, could be put to programs for family preservation. Doing so would vastly reduce the number of removals and keep children with their families.

What is it going to take for John Q Public to get this and advocate for change ? What is it going to take for foster caregivers to do better and put their time and efforts behind helping families keep their kids out of foster care.

Reproductive Justice

And Reproductive Justice MUST include adoptee voices because adoptees are intimately familiar with the same systems of white supremacist violence that make reproductive justice necessary. Today’s blog is thanks to an op-ed by Tina Vasquez in LINK>Prism. The goal of this series about reproductive justice and adoption was simple – disrupt the adoption storytelling that has become the norm in mainstream media. These feel-good stories from the perspective of adoptive parents rarely include the voices of adoptees or question the preponderance of “cheap, easy, and fast” transracial and international adoptions by evangelicals that amount to little more than child trafficking.

No more salvation narratives. No more narratives of gratitude. No more framing adoption as a “win-win.” No more white saviors. We will question adoption as a system—its power dynamics, its economics, and its privileging of certain “reproductive destinies.” “Out of the Fog” is a phrase adoptees often use to describe facing the reality of their adoptions.

LINK>Operation Stop Child Protective Services (CPS) was founded by Amanda Wallace. She spent 10 years as a child abuse investigator before realizing that “she had become the silent enforcer for an oppressive system.” She now lends her insider knowledge to families navigating the system and trying to regain custody of their children.

About 27% of adoptions are transracial, according to a recent survey from the Department of Health and Human Services: birth mothers are disproportionately women of color, and adoptive parents are overwhelmingly white. Low-income Black and Native American children are the most likely to be separated from their families. Poverty is often interpreted as neglect when applied to these people.

When Roe v. Wade was overturned in June, white evangelicals wasted no time communicating their desire to take the babies that result from forced pregnancies. Never mind that most people denied abortion care simply become parents and that there is little evidence linking abortion bans to increases in adoption.

Time and time again, the solution offered to state violence is adoption, yet we fail to center adoptees whose lived experiences and areas of expertise touch every injustice and systemic problem our movements battle against. This is especially true when it comes to reproductive justice. While efforts are being made to explicitly discuss adoption as a reproductive justice issue, adoptees’ voices are still not being uplifted in these conversations. Adoptees are building their own movements—including Facebook groups like LINK>Adoptees for Choice—but will movements for sexual and reproductive health, rights, and justice invite them into the fold?

Dismantle The Systems

A mother who lost her child to adoption writes (she is also a family preservation activist, which I am too) –

I recently infiltrated a local foster/adoption support group (FASG), and I just want to point out the obvious difference in atmosphere between that group compared to the average mom/community group.

Any time someone in the FASG needs/wants ANYTHING — crib, diapers, formula, respite care, help with electric bill, clothes, high chair, a new bike, you name it — it’s provided, no questions asked. I’ve never seen so much free stuff passed around. It was a bit of a culture shock for me, to be honest.

But when a struggling mother asks for help, she is almost always demonized. I’ve seen women dragged through the mud and their social media accounts doxxed and overanalyzed just for asking for help. (e.g., “I see you got your nails done 6 months ago. I guess you can’t be struggling *that* bad. Maybe you should reprioritize your life.”) The personal attacks are always almost immediate.

If we helped mothers the way we help fosterers/adopters, there would be no need for the foster/adoption system. I agree. We do not do nearly enough to help struggling families survive in our current society.

She explains further – I believe our society’s general lack of knowledge surrounding women’s rights is (at least partially) to blame. And by “women’s rights,” I’m not referring only to abortion. Did you know that it wasn’t until 1988 that it became illegal for a husband to rape his wife in Arizona? And it wasn’t until 2020 that a rape survivor could terminate the parental rights of her rapist when the rape resulted in the conception and subsequent birth of the rapist’s child.

Children have been weaponized against women/mothers. Since we’re no longer the property of our husbands/fathers, they’ve gone after our children as a means of controlling us. We, as women/mothers, have GOT to do better to support one another. Because clearly no one else is going to do it.

Adding to this… I am in no way trying to deflect from the lived experiences of adoptees. I created the Hell that my placed daughter and other “kept” children will have to live in (and their children, spouses, grandchildren, etc). I’m merely suggesting that we should do more upfront to prevent the separation of families to begin with.