National Adoption Awareness Month

The original intent of this effort was NOT to take newborn babies away from their first parents but to raise awareness about ALL of the children in foster care who may age out of the system without supportive people in their lives.

In his LINK> proclamation, President Biden committed to “extending the adoption tax credit to legal guardianships — including grandparents, aunts, uncles, and other relatives — which would make it easier for loving family members to care for children who need their support.  This measure could also help reduce racial inequities in our country’s child welfare system, which too often render some children of color more likely to be removed from their homes and cut off from their families and communities.” This is a reform to the adoption system long advocated by activists and that I frequently mention here.

President Biden also said – The Department of Health and Human Services will provide training and technical assistance to State child welfare agencies in order to better support LGBTQI+ youth, whose needs are often unmet in the foster care system, and take steps to ensure all youth are placed in supportive environments. 

Additionally, the administration is committed to ensuring that older adolescents transitioning from the foster care system have access to housing and education and can pay their bills and prepare for adulthood. President Biden has proposed increased funding for the John H. Chafee Successful Transition to Adulthood program by 70 percent. John Chafee was a Republican, Governor of Rhode Island and a US Senator. He also served in the Marine Corps. He died in 1999.

No Big Deal ?

Because LINK> Rebecca Solnit says it so well in her essay in The Guardian . . .

Being a parent is expensive. Being a criminal is also expensive, whether you lose economic opportunities to avoid apprehension or spend money on your defense if apprehended or go to prison and lose everything and, marked as a felon, emerge unemployable. Abortion is an economic issue, because when it’s not legal, those are the two remaining options, leaving out being dead, which you could argue is either very expensive or absolutely beyond the realms of money and price. And being dead is also on the table because women have all too often died from lack of access to reproductive healthcare, including abortions (to say nothing of being unable to leave an abuser, to whom pregnancy and children can bind you more tightly). They are facing more of that now.

Having no options but to be dead, criminal or a parent is not a sane or moral argument for parenthood, and it’s also pretty different than having certain inalienable rights, including life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Also, now that abortion is unavailable under almost all circumstances in Texas and other states, it’s an economic justice issue in that those with the financial capacity to take time off, travel in search of care and pay for it out of pocket are not affected the way those who cannot do so are. And those who can afford to get an abortion under these circumstances are also those who can afford to defend themselves against possible criminal charges.

All of which is to say, abortion is an economic issue and a labor issue, as well as a human rights and healthcare issue, as the AFL-CIO and other labor unions have recognized. So it’s been confounding to see some supposedly progressive men say that people should talk about economics instead of abortion, as if the loss of reproductive rights isn’t a huge economic blow to anyone facing the possibility of an unwanted pregnancy. The last days before the midterm elections should include robust Democratic conversations about defending rights and pursuing economic justice, with access to abortion central to both.

Access to birth control and abortion laid the groundwork for US women to begin to claim financial, professional and educational equality – a goal still far from realized, overall, but reproductive rights flattened the mountains and filled in the chasms a little. Taking that away pushes women back into the grim era when an unplanned, unwanted pregnancy could upend a life, stop an education, stymie a career, force unwanted dependency on the person who caused that pregnancy – an era when self-determination was an aspiration, not a given.

The Dobbs decision striking down Roe v Wade on 24 June was cavalier about all this. The majority opinion pretends that bearing a child no longer has significant social and economic impact. It cites among its justifications that “attitudes about the pregnancy of unmarried women have changed drastically; that federal and state laws ban discrimination on the basis of pregnancy; that leave for pregnancy and childbirth are now guaranteed by law in many cases; that the costs of medical care associated with pregnancy are covered by insurance or government assistance; that states have increasingly adopted “safe haven” laws, which generally allow women to drop off babies anonymously; and that a woman who puts her newborn up for adoption today has little reason to fear that the baby will not find a suitable home”. In other words, there is no reason not to have an unplanned or unwanted child; doing so is no big deal.

All of which are callous lies. The right not to bear children isn’t just about respectability for the unmarried, and to frame it that way while ignoring the profound and lasting emotional, psychological and physical as well as financial impact of carrying a pregnancy for nine months and giving birth is outrageous. Discrimination against people who may get pregnant or are pregnant continues despite those laws; many pregnant people continue to lack access to healthcare; and the fact that a baby can be handed over is no justification for being forced to bear it. Furthermore, as another branch of the US government that the supreme court could have consulted reports: “The number of children waiting to be adopted also fell in fiscal year 2020 to 117,000”; the number in foster care was over 400,000.

One of the striking things about the conversation in defense of abortion rights in recent months is the testimony by those who’ve undergone pregnancy, miscarriage and childbirth about how physically grueling and even life-threatening they can be. Pregnancy can incapacitate women for months, which is obviously economically devastating to a poor person working in the gig economy or, say, in a nail salon or a fast-food restaurant. It can be an overwhelming experience, interfering particularly in the ability to perform physical labor: the judge may be able to toil on when the janitor cannot. And a lot of people are making a living through work that is physically demanding.

Another striking new note has been the insistence that we need to stop defining abortion as a stand-alone right and look at the criminalization of pregnancy and motherhood, especially for poor and nonwhite women. “More than 50 women have been prosecuted for child neglect or manslaughter in the United States since 1999 because they tested positive for drug use after a miscarriage or stillbirth,” reported the Marshall Project, while noting that miscarriages are common under all circumstances. “Sentences have ranged from probation to 20 years in prison. Women prosecuted after pregnancy loss are often those least able to defend themselves, the investigation found. They typically work low-paying jobs, are often victims of domestic abuse, have little access to healthcare or drug treatment and rely on court-appointed lawyers who advise them that pleading guilty is their best option.” Too, some women die from pregnancy and childbirth, and thanks to unequal medical care, Black women have the highest incidence of such deaths. Pregnancy and childbirth can also cause permanent physical changes, including lasting pain and disability.

The laws making the most intimate conditions of a body and life subject to legal intrusion are reportedly already preventing pregnant people from seeking healthcare and spreading well-founded fear. Making the administration of an abortion a crime is frightening medical caregivers and interfering with their ability to provide care. Some of the proposed abortion bans would include life-saving abortions, and we have already seen cases in which medical care was withheld until a woman’s life was actively in danger. Women are already being denied prescriptions when those drugs can be used in abortions, another way that taking away abortion rights is turning into a broader loss of rights.

The financial and professional impact of parenting in heterosexual relationships still mostly falls on women. The majority of women who have abortions are already mothers raising kids; we are in a childcare crisis that has, along with the long months schools were shut during the pandemic, crushed a lot of women’s working lives and financial independence.

As Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez noted in late September, “When the powerful force people to give birth against their will, they trap millions in cycles of economic setback and desperation. Especially in a country without guaranteed healthcare. And desperate workers are easier to exploit.” The supreme court majority pretended it was undermining access to reproductive rights because they have no significant impact, but of course the court’s agenda was the opposite: to impose the conditions that make women subordinate in rights and economic status.

How Come ?

In my all things adoption group the question was asked – “If these families are so great, how come kids end up in foster care?” Basically supply chain issues with unfulfilled demand make it necessary to remove children from families ?

The Adoption and Safe Families Act provides federal funds to stage foster care agencies for adoptions out of foster care. In order for children to be adopted out of foster care, there must first be children *in* foster care. In order to obtain this federal funding, the state agency must have more adoptions out of foster care than the previous year, which means the agencies must constantly be increasing the number of children in foster care in order to have them adopted *from* foster care.

There are as many as 100 hopeful adoptive parents waiting for every infant who becomes available, and in order to provide children for those families who are waiting for them, those children must first be removed from their biological families in order to be placed with adoptive families who are waiting to adopt them. Hence, coercion in adoption and foster care. A smaller but still large number of hopeful adopters will fight over a child between the ages of 1-5. After that the ‘demand’ starts to drop off, which is why no one is talking about a shortage in the domestic supply of adoptable teens.

Children are *frequently* removed from families for issues relating to poverty or trauma in the parents, and this is not resolved by taking the children from the parents and forcing the parents to pay into the system that has taken their children from them.

A simplistic way to understand suspicious things going on in the foster care space is often (not always) to look at how different ages of children are treated. Another major question is why children are more likely to be removed from their biological parents than from foster caregivers who are abusive toward those children? Foster carers, social workers, and professionals who work with foster youth are quick to believe a child is lying when it’s about one of them.

Adoption Halloween Theme

I just knew there had to be something somewhere that tied an adoption to the Halloween holiday. Sure enough. From LINK> Good Morning America dated Nov 2 2021.

Day care owner, Angie Sheppard (already the mother of 5) first met Shyla when she was 6. Two years later, on her Oct 29th birthday and dressed as a bailiff, she banged the judge’s gavel at the end of each of 15 adoptions finalized that day. The adoption ceremony was called  “Home for Halloween.” All the kids were dressed in costumes for the event.

According to Jenn Petion, president and CEO of Family Support Services of North Florida, ceremonies like “Home for Halloween” are not just fun celebrations but important tools to help kids who are newly-adopted move forward, especially around the holidays. “The holidays can be a particular particularly challenging time as they remember the family that they didn’t have and the pain of of not being able to be in a safe and loving home,” she said. “So to have a finalization event that’s tied to a holiday really starts to change those memories and allows them to symbolize the start of forever, the start of something new, and that they really can have that wonderful happy ending.”

Seeing some of the kids dressed up as superheroes was especially memorable for Petion. “I always think of our foster kids as superheroes, because they really have been through some of the most unimaginable things in their young lives. They are always superheroes in disguise.”

Angie Sheppard said she never expected to find herself in a courtroom adopting a daughter. “She is the life of the house now. Everybody just fell head over heels in love with her.” Shyla had actually asked Angie to be her mom.

National Adoption Awareness Month is recognized annually in November and is intended to bring attention to the more than 400,000 children are in the foster care system. 

Which Would You Prefer ?

A question in my all things adoption group –

We were asked would we consider being a kinship placement for our great-niece. She is 9 years old, and lives 12 hours away. We may be the only stable kinship placement for her.

[1] Would you prefer to be closer to home with strangers and the possibility to see grandparents who you know well more often?

[2] Be with family that loves you but don’t know you as well, and not see grandparents as often?

Response from an adoptee – I’d want to go with kinship who’s committed to (and follows through) with maintaining my distant relationships with friends and grandparents. I’d want to know I’d have a voice in when I’d get to see them (not just when it’s convenient for my guardians), and that it’d be on a regular basis (preferably quarterly). However, this is SUPER personal, and my answer comes from my history of not having a single genetic relative in my childhood

Response from a birth mother (the mother in question has NOT had her parental rights terminated and the child has been in the state’s care for 2 months) –  if I was already feeling defeated in this situation my child moving 10 hours from me would make me less motivated. And it would affect visitation. If rights are terminated or they opt to close the case with a temporary relative guardianship, then I would step in. Or as a former foster care youth – if more than 2 years passed I’d crave stability and wouldn’t care anymore about how close I was to a mom who wasn’t trying to see me anyways. But at only 2 months in care, it’s too short of a time to know how things will play out.

And this – I wouldn’t trust adoptive parents/strangers to keep up the kinship relationship, even if they were local. I doubt they’d have much incentive to continue to allow her to see her grandparents regularly, and there’s little recourse if the legal rights are cut off. From this experience – I was adopted by my great-uncle as an infant, but didn’t know about the kinship relationship until adulthood – and if my adoptive parents wouldn’t even tell me about my kinship relationship, how likely is it that strangers would maintain relationships? I’m grateful that I had/still have the kinship relationships (despite them not telling me), and I wouldn’t have had that, if I didn’t happen to grow up with them.

Russia Stealing Ukrainian Children

Yevhen Mezhevyi with his children

This has troubled me for some time. Today, I learned about this story in Vanity Fair. I have been troubled about what Russia is doing with the people of Ukraine for some time. Here’s the story LINK> “Dad, You Have to Come—Or We Will Be Adopted!”: One Ukrainian Family’s Harrowing Wartime Saga. The subtitle is “Three children survived the siege of Mariupol, forced relocation, their father’s horrific detainment, and their own exile—to Russia.” by Iryna Lopatina via The Reckoning Project.

Since Yevhen Mezhevyi (39 years old) was released from the Olenivka prison camp after a lengthy filtration process, he has been intensely focused on the lives and safety of his three kids. Their story is one of many tales of family separation, loss, trauma, and, in their case, relocation to another country. Since the end of June, the family has been living in one of the rooms of a small, rented apartment in Riga Latvia.

Back on April 7 2022, Russian allied soldiers came to the bunker where the Mezhevyis’ had been sheltering. They made it sound like it was a voluntary evacuation; but in fact, the four of them, along with a group of fellow displaced Mariupol residents, were being forced from the building. There the family was separated. The children were told that her father might not return for five to seven years. The children decided to initiate their own independent search.

The DPR military asked Yevhen about alleged links to the Azov Battalion, a Ukrainian National Guard unit with roots in Mariupol. He was sent to Olenivka prison camp in eastern Ukraine. In July, an explosion in a room designated for Ukrainian POWs would killed more than 50 detainees, many of them from Azovstal, and injuring an estimated 130. By mid-May (at which point he had not seen his children for more than a month), Yevhen and other prisoners were assigned a new task. They were forced to begin preparing rooms for an estimated 2,700 people—captured members of the Ukrainian military who had left Azovstal.

In total, Yevhen Mezhevyi spent 45 days in the prison camp. On May 26, a security guard approached him and told him he was free to go. He made his way to the DOC to pick up his documents where he was told that his children’s birth certificates were the only documents missing. When he asked why, she answered, “Your children flew to the Moscow region today, five in the morning.” A week after his children’s arrival on Russian soil, they were finally allowed to receive a call from their father in Ukraine. They were relieved to be in contact with him for the first time in almost 60 days.

The children’s stay was due to end June 27, at which point they were scheduled to be brought back to Donetsk so that their father could pick them up. But then they were told he couldn’t pick them up and they would be taken to a foster home or shelter. His son said that it was better to go to an orphanage than a foster family. The son was able to call his dad and said to him “you have five days to come and pick us up, or we will be adopted!”

After receiving his son’s call, he felt he had to go to Russia immediately, find his kids, and bring them home. When he arrived where his children were being kept they asked him to tell them how everything happened, how and why the children ended up alone, and where their mother was (they were divorced and he had sole custody).

It took about half a day to do all the paperwork required for the children to be officially handed over. The Mezhevyis stayed in Moscow for a few more days with the volunteer who had hosted them. It soon became apparent that because of the fighting in Ukraine, repatriating to Mariupol was not an option. So they made plans to seek refuge for the foreseeable future in Latvia, which was taking in families displaced by the invasion. On June 22, they arrived by bus in the Latvian capital, Riga, where they have been living ever since.

Ukrainian authorities have confirmed the deportation or forced displacement of more than 7,000 children—5,100 of whose names have been submitted to international agencies in hopes that their representatives can begin to locate them in the Russian Federation or in temporarily occupied parts of Ukraine. Russian officials, meanwhile, have made reference to as many 2.8 million Ukrainian citizens, including over 440,000 children that have been transported to the Russian Federation, though the government has not provided certified lists with the names of the minors or details about their families and hometowns.

Adoptive Mother Mattie Parker

I often believe that adoption is more common than many people believe. Coming across a brief profile of Mattie Parker in Time magazine, who is now mayor of Fort Worth TX, intrigued me. I did not learn a whole lot about her adopted daughter, who is now 19, and from what I know about former foster care youth turned adoptees, it gives me pause to see so many photos of her sons but never one with the daughter. I did however discover a rather surprising Republican woman.

According to the LINK> Fort Worth Report Mattie and her husband, David, fostered, then adopted their daughter, Shainey. She was already 10 years old at the time (which is generally commendable). They have since focused their philanthropic efforts on children in the foster care system, promoting adoption and providing all children with a forever home. They also have two boys, Greyson, 10, and Laney, 4.

More recently in a profile in LINK> The Texas Tribune, I discovered that she is a Republican who has criticized the current state of the GOP and its intraparty battles. She believes that politics is not about party affiliation but should be grounded in public service and making our communities the best places to live and raise our families. Parker is known for making regular appeals for bipartisanship and in Texas municipal races are not partisan. That is the same in my own local county in Missouri.

Parker is one of the youngest mayors in the country at 38 years old. She has been known to buck her party and particularly as an outlier when it comes to expanding Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act — which Texas Republicans have staunchly resisted.

Parker came to the defense of transgender children and their families amid the state’s push to label some parents of transgender youth as child abusers. Gov Greg Abbott, who endorsed Parker when she ran for mayor in 2021, recently directed the state’s child welfare agency to investigate parents who let their trans children access gender-affirming care.

Parker said policymakers should instead focus on providing mental health resources for teenagers and improving conditions for children in the state foster care system. She also cited figures showing transgender teens are more likely to attempt suicide than their cisgender peers. “I’m worried right now that you’re targeting families that are already incredibly vulnerable and in a really difficult circumstance, when there are so many other hundreds of thousands of kids and families that are in dangerous positions with no regard for the subject of transgender,” Parker said.

Legal Conflicts

Straight off, I will say that I am NOT in favor of gestational surrogacy. My primary objection is separating babies from the mother who’s womb they developed in. There is definitely an in-utero bond. I probably do know more families with donor conceived children than most ordinary citizens do. I know of situations where a surrogate was used. One in which the intended mother was actively undergoing chemotherapy at the time her twins were born and who did die when the twins were about 2 years old. They are being raised by their genetic father who donated the sperm in that assisted reproduction effort. I also know of a couple of women who simply didn’t want to wait any longer to have children with no husband in sight. They used both egg and sperm donations. BOTH carried their own children and I know them as awesome moms. These children are all 18 years old now including my youngest son.

The situation that inspired today’s blog regards couples from other countries entering into surrogacy contracts with women here in the United States. In this particular case, the intended parents have refused to come and get their twins for over a year now (they were born in February 2021). The surrogate and her husband are on the birth certificates as the parents but lack any legal custody because the surrogacy contract supersedes any hospital created birth certificate. The woman has both TikTok and Instagram accounts but both are private (possibly due to the legal complications) but I really don’t need to see them myself. The Instagram has a cute profile photo of the twins.

The United States is a destination country for couples who find they have to undergo surrogacy abroad due to the laws in their own country. Surrogacy is allowed in the United States for international patients by law. Not all of the states here are equally “friendly.” The website on LINK> International Surrogacy notes “surrogacy arrangements are legal in the following territories: Nevada, California, Texas, Arkansas, Illinois, Virginia, Florida, New Hampshire, Delaware, New Jersey, Tennessee, and Utah.” The states that ban surrogacy arrangements include Arizona, Michigan, New York, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, and Nebraska cautioning that surrogacy is even considered a criminal offence in some of them.

In the USA, a birth order is the legal document used to assign parentage to a child. These can be either a post- or pre-birth order that establishes the parental rights for the intended parents. This is key when undergoing surrogacy in the USA. Pre-birth orders can be started in the fourth month of pregnancy, whereas post-birth orders are granted on day 3 or 5 following the birth. This choice is very pricey for the intended parents – $95,000 to $290,000 – due in part to the fact that the US healthcare system is run by private businesses.

So back to our “trapped” surrogate and her husband. In order to have legal custody, they will have to go to court. They would have to sue for custody because simply being on the birth certificate doesn’t circumvent the surrogate contract in place. A complication of course is that they are not genetically related to these children and had no intention of parenting them to begin with. This even though they have been effectively raising these two babies for about a year. The intended parents have “broken” their contract but that doesn’t simply negate it legally.

Being a legal parent on a birth certificate does not always mean you have legal custody of your children – if there is another entity involved (like surrogacy, Div of Human Services/Child Protective Services with foster care, adoption until it is finalized, guardianship). It really depends on the country and this is the reason so many contracts, legal fees and lawyers are involved with situations such as surrogacy. Every situation is extremely unique.

Understanding To Do Better

From a Foster/Adoptive Mother – though here is one adoptee’s comment – This must be satirical. You’re joking, right ?, you must be. You cannot really be this ignorant, while still “collecting” your trophies. Disgusting. So with that in mind, here goes –

I have one biological child. Friends of mine adopted 2 unrelated children at birth. When my friends passed away, I first took guardianship of their children (ages 14 & 11) and adopted them two years later. They are now adults and struggle with the many traumas of their childhood. My daughter’s first adoption was open and she has positive contact with her birth family. My son’s first adoption was closed. Upon reaching adulthood, he found another family to call his own and is pursuing adult adoption.

I am also a foster parent to babies age 0 to 2. I went into this thinking that I would provide love to a child in need, until they could return to their family. If a child is reunified but then comes back into care, they return to me. If they cannot be reunified with parents or extended family, or if they are placed with someone who has one of their siblings, there is always the option for them to make the choice to instead stay with me. No child who comes through my doors will ever lack for permanency.

Fostering is not all sunshine and light. Most of my placements were born addicted. Two children each came to me with multiple fractures (skull, arm, leg, ribs). I can more easily advocate for reunification with addicts in treatment than for physical abusers. I most recently adopted the infant placed with me at three days. The termination of parental rights was heartbreaking. Even so, I celebrated this adoption.

I know that adoption is not all happily ever after. I will continue to make the effort to better understand the harsher realities of adoption.

Personally, I think this is better than not trying at all. At the beginning of today’s blog – I indicated that some of the comments were not kind nor gentle. There is certainly more than a hint of saviorism. Here’s another one – you shouldn’t be allowed to care for anyone’s children. You are clearly toxic and think you own them and the right to decide the narratives of their lives. I’m so sad and so angry on behalf of the children who have to call someone “mom” who is so unwilling to honestly learn.

Most Were Unnecessary

The fact is most adoptions are unnecessary.

Answers to the questions that statement raises. Babies are highly in demand and sought after. There are 40 waiting hopeful adoptive parents to every ONE expectant mother/baby. From a business sense it is purely Supply and Demand. This is why domestic infant costs so much. This is why some wait YEARS for a baby. These babies aren’t “in need.” They won’t age out of foster care. They won’t grow up with “nowhere to go.” Adopting these babies isn’t helping anyone except the adoptive parent. Domestic infant adoption is 100% selfish. Most of these adoptions are unnecessary. Most of these mothers relinquish their babies for FINANCIAL reasons. If they had more money/support/resources they would keep their child.

The woman who simply doesn’t want her baby is RARE. These babies don’t need to be adopted because they have a mom and family. The family needs support to stay together. Most newborns are placed bc of TEMPORARY situations. Adoption in the US is a major industry. There isn’t a shortage of children to adopt. There is a massive shortage of babies/toddlers to adopt.

There is definitely a false but virally advertised dichotomy between abortion and adoption. One does not prevent the other. Making abortion illegal, doesn’t mean you’ll get your baby. Forcing a poor woman to give birth so that a wealthy infertile woman can have a baby makes women into breeding stock. It further traumatizes poor families, poor communities and in the case of trans racial domestic infant adoption a recognized form of cultural genocide.

The majority of adoptions are Euro-ethnic INFANTS. Children under the age of 6 years old are the MOST likely to be adopted in the United States and most of those infants are adopted through private adoption (by which I mean not through the state agencies). Some actually place the number of people hoping to adopt vs the number of infants available for adoption as high as 100/1. Some of those people hoping to adopt may decide for whatever reason to adopt darker-skinned infants and a handful may choose to adopt an older child at a later time.

If an expectant mother seeks “help” from a Crisis Pregnancy Center, or calls an adoption agency, they will be pressured with coercive tactics such as guilt (“this family has been waiting so long! You’ll be the answer to their prayers! You’re so brave!”) or shame (“this family can provide two parents for your child. How can you give this child everything they need?). All to convince expectant parents to relinquish their child to the adoptive parents, at which point the money comes into the picture as the adoption agency receives a “finder’s fee” for that child.

This is honestly how the process works. I support financially supporting families so that they can remain together. This is known as family preservation. I will continue working to make the adoption of newborn infants less necessary.