National Adoption Month and Teens

It’s that time of year again. Yes, November. National Adoption Awareness Month.

From Child Welfare dot gov – National Adoption Month is an initiative of the Children’s Bureau that seeks to increase national awareness of adoption issues, bring attention to the need for adoptive families for teens in the US foster care system, and emphasize the value of youth engagement. We have focused our efforts on adoption for teens because we know that teens in foster care wait longer for permanency and are at higher risk of aging out than younger children. Teens need love, support, and a sense of belonging that families can provide. Securing lifelong connections for these teens, both legally and emotionally, is a critical component in determining their future achievement, health, and well-being.

This year’s National Adoption Month theme is “Conversations Matter.” Incorporating youth engagement into daily child welfare practice can start with a simple conversation. Listen to what the young person has to say, what their goals are, and how they feel about adoption. Create an environment where they can be honest and ask questions. Youth are the experts of their own lives, so let them partner with you in permanency planning and make decisions about their life.

In 2019, there were over 122,000 children and youth in foster care waiting to be adopted who are at risk of aging out without a permanent family connection. Approximately one in five children in the U.S. foster care system waiting to be adopted are teens. Teens, ages 15-18, wait significantly longer for permanency when compared to their peers. Only 5% of all children adopted in 2019 were 15-18 years old. There is a high risk of homelessness and human trafficking for teenagers who age out of foster care.

More statistics from 2019 (the most recent year data is available) – of the 122,000 children and youth waiting to be adopted: 52% are male, 48% are female, 22% are African American, 22% are Hispanic, 44% are white, while the average age is 8 years old – 11 percent are between 15 and 18 years old.

The History of National Adoption Month –

In 1976, Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis announced an Adoption Week to promote awareness of the need for adoptive families for children in foster care.

In 1984, President Reagan proclaimed the first National Adoption Week. In 1995, President Clinton expanded the awareness week to the entire month of November.

You Never Owe Someone Else Your Baby

In my all things adoption group, the prime mission is to keep mothers and their babies together. To discourage them from choosing a rash permanent solution to whatever their temporary problem is that has caused them to consider relinquishing their baby to strangers. The pressure to do so, due to a shortage of newborn infants available for adoption, is huge. Today’s story –

An expectant mother in Illinois has received assistance from some hopeful adoptive parents since end of March. She’s uncomfortable with them, wants to back out and keep her child, but is afraid. They are already threatening her with things like being sued if she backs out.

Now for a reality check – She should absolutely back out. Keep her child. Sued for what? Money? It would be a waste of their time. She could have a judgment against her but then, they would have to file to collect. If she received assistance from them, she may be lower income and therefore, the likelihood they would be able to collect at all isn’t looking promising. Maybe she signed a contract, but so what ? She still doesn’t owe somebody her baby. She cannot be forced to sign over the baby. Stop contact. Breathe. Stress is no good for the baby.

Nothing they can legally do would be worse than mom losing her baby.

I’d say “take me to court then!” Your gut feeling is correct. Keep your baby!

Even if they paid her a lot of money, it qualifies as a gift because otherwise, it would literally be considered bribery and/or extortion to obtain a child. There is no valid contract available to give your baby to someone for money and it would probably be them getting in trouble if they did have one written up and signed. It’s not illegal in any way to decide you want to parent your own child.

They can’t take her to court. They can’t do anything. If they were to try, they would get themselves in bigger trouble because it means they intended to buy a baby. The law prevents adoption agreements before birth. She should cut all contact and ignore them.

To get them to leave her alone, she could in writing, sent by certified mail, send them a letter stating that any further contact will be considered criminal harassment. She can send them a cease and desist outline warning them that any future contact will result in legal action, including a no-contact order. Any assistance they provided is legally a gift. She could also remind them that paying money or goods in exchange for a child is a federally a trafficking charge.

You can’t buy a baby, and that’s what they are trying to do. If they are with an agency, the agency might try to make her think she needs to give them the baby, but that’s also illegal on their part. Gifts are given with no assumption of anything in return, and items given to “birth moms” (hate that they use that before birth – totally grooming) are expressly and legally classified as gifts. Also, just in general, even if she still was considering adoption, this is a major, massive, huge red flag that these are not good people and should not be parents to anyone’s child. Maybe not even their own biological kids. This is really sick behavior and indicative of people with serious issues.

And why is this so important ? Here’s a true story from another woman in this same kind of situation.

I received some money when I was considering that same choice. I backed out and everything seemed okay. The hopeful adoptive mom showed up at the hospital unannounced, after the baby was born. She just walked into my room (I forgot to terminate my release of information, so when I had the baby she was notified and flew in from California.) She had these baby clothes with her that she had embroidered with the name she had chosen for my daughter. I honestly thought she was going to kidnap her. She ran when I pushed the call button. After that the hospital heightened security and no one could find us without a code. It was a scheduled c section, but it wasn’t scheduled until that last month. I wasn’t in contact with them by that time. It was pretty scary, but the hopeful adoptive parents never retaliated nor were they able to sue me or try to take my child. I’m mentioning this story so hopefully nothing like that happens to anyone else. If you change your mind, don’t forget to tell the hospital to terminate releases of information! You don’t owe them your baby.

Mormon Adoption of Native American Children

The Mormons – yet again. Taking other people’s children to advance their religious cause. A white middle-aged man, Michael Kay Bennion writes in his lengthy dissertation titled Captivity, Adoption, Marriage and Identity: Native American Children in Mormon Homes, 1847-1900 – “I remembered that my third great-grandfather once traded
a horse for ‘an Indian boy, two or three years old.’ Or so his journal said.”

Some Mormons saw the purchase of a Native American as the adoption of a child when they were unable to have children of their own. Jacob Hamblin (a ranch by that name, Hamblin, figured prominently in the Mountain Meadows
Massacre) traded the Utes “a gun, a blanket and some ammunition” for a six-year-old boy “stolen from a small tribe.” Many Mormons view Jacob Hamblin as a type of nineteenth-century social worker, others would assert he was a slave trader. The fact is that Jacob acquired many children and parceled them out, sometimes in exchange for trade goods, making “slave trader” a distinct possibility. Jacob Hamblin, according to his own words, believed that his work saved lives and indicated he felt grief over separating the families.

From north to south, Native American children were entering Utah Mormon families in increasing numbers in the 1850s, even as the New Mexican slave trade slowly decreased. Not all Native American children traded to Mormons easily or happily identified with their captors. There are many stories of runaways and those persons who never adjusted to the Mormon culture. The Utah slave trade caused grief and pain for the children’s parents and also for children who were stolen and placed in Mormon families. Imagine these trembling, frightened captives thrust into a culture very different from their own, who then had new identities imposed upon them.

Native Americans captured, traded, given away, or sold into Mormon homes experienced a difficult cultural shift from growing up Native American to growing up Mormon. Many Latter-day Saint families acquired these children out of a sense of religious duty. They then embraced the difficult task of fostering these children into a new culture, often with mixed results. Most of these adoptive parents felt little or no need to preserve Indigenous customs within the lives of these children. While retaining the external physical characteristics that Mormons and other Euro-Americans used to identify them as “Indians,” they were taught to respond socially as members of Mormon society.

These children had the difficult task of reconciling their past and the newly imposed white identity and their success often was a reflection of the kindness or malicious actions of those white persons involved with them.  This resulted in various behaviors from within uniquely constructed internal identities. Some of these children learned to live in the seams between cultures, some accepted the new culture, and others resisted it.

During the American Civil War, several children were adopted by Mormon families after surviving two horrific massacres which were perpetrated by a Californian Union volunteer regiment of the US Army. At the Bear River Massacre and at a subsequent battle, these volunteers killed hundreds of Shoshones and Bannocks. There were 5 surviving children, left homeless and wounded by the attacks, that required medical attention, food and clothing.  The Mormons in southern Idaho and northern Utah provided these. One of those five died but the remaining four were adopted into Mormon homes.

Against a backdrop of conflict and tribal upheaval, Native American children in Mormon homes would sometimes reach maturity and assert their own identities. Mormon foster parents or indenture holders (a common practice in those times)  attempted to teach the Native American children the white way of life, even as these Mormons tried to reconcile their own deeply held cultural prejudices with a sense of mission – against the actual reality.

An example of this trade in children is illustrated in a story of a Native American who is said to have told a white
Mormon man – “I’ve got too many children, and my wife’s got another new baby and I’ve got to get rid of this one.” To which the Mormon replied, “[G]ive it to me. I’ll take it and feed it and save it. But I don’t want you to take it back, when it gets a little bigger, when it could kind of help the family…We don’t want to raise a baby and then [you] come and take it away [from] us again. So…I’ll pay ya for the little girl.” Turns out the little girl’s mother was not pleased and made a fuss. The Mormon insisted to the Native American man, “Now make up your mind right now and never change it, because you can’t have this baby back if you take the horse.”

This negotiation sounds more like purchasing a pet than adopting a child. The mother of the child, who was understandably distraught over the loss of her child is described as “squawking” like an animal, rather than weeping for
her child. The source of this narrative trivialized a highly emotional parting of mother and child.  Such was the perspectives of white people during that time.

Marginal food and clothing resources among Native American family clusters in the 1850s Great Basin region worsened as Mormon settlers appropriated the best fields and river bottoms for their own use. As previous narratives indicate, sometimes the Native American families simply gave away a child, when resources became so scarce that the child represented more of a burden than an asset.  I call it desperation for their children to survive.

As Mormons encountered Native Americans, they found that the ideal in their scriptures of the chosen Lamanites of the House of Israel rising up to claim their blessings (an interesting tenet of the Mormon religion that believed the dark skinned “fallen” could be made white again) often clashed with the predominant Euro-American image that Indians were perpetually dirty and permanently degraded. In coping with this paradox, Mormons tried to find ways to bring the Native American image up to the standards of their own ideal.

Washing and clothing Native American children is reported in many literary and direct experience accounts of bringing Native American children into Mormon homes. This process of cleaning up natives was not unique to the Mormons. It is frequently found in stories of captivity and adoption narratives, beyond those of the Mormons, and cannot be classified as a unilateral phenomenon, limited to Euro-American captors and Native American captives.

One can feel the deadening sense of deprivation and the unwelcome new smells, textures and tastes that lye soap, water and cotton or linsey woolsey presented to a Native American child leaving their culture unwillingly and entering another. The abrupt changes in sight, sound, odor and taste that Native American children experienced upon entering a totally alien environment would have been severely disruptive.  Their appearance, demeanor, and smell were often disagreeable to Mormon women. It is true that both Native Americans and Whites altered the appearance of their captives. One reason was to bring their outward appearance into culturally accepted norms.  The other reason was an attempt to remove the “other” in them while inducting them into the captor’s culture. Additionally, washing and clothing are known to have had religious overtones in Mormon culture and so, Mormon pioneer women were expressing this in scrubbing newly adopted Native American family members.

It was not only the physical dirt, but spiritual filth that needed to be exorcised, as demanded by their salvational way of thinking. Mormon mothers and fathers understood physical cleanliness as a prerequisite for repentance. In this way, they believed they could participate in redeeming the Lamanites. Some Mormon mothers may have hoped that their Lamanite child would put off their old culture, so that their labor would not be in vain as they presented a clean child, dressed in Euro-American style, to the other family members. With some others, it may have simply been that they could not tolerate unfamiliar odors wafting from the Native American.

The imposition of external markers of the white culture divided the adopted Native American children from their birth culture and delineated the expectations of the Mormon family for their future behavior. Some Native American children seized upon the cues in their new environment and built upon them, some would forever resist assimilation and others would use ethnic behaviors from each culture as the situation demanded. But each child forced into a new way of living had to construct an identity they could survive with.

Regarding all of these children, given the times and environmental conditions caused by white settlement, any one of them might have starved or have been traded to the Utes and taken to New Mexico given the thriving slave trade of that time. However, such a child might have lived a long life, had a family of his own even though, as many did, he had to struggle through all that Native Americans dealt with in the late nineteenth century. That child remaining in his culture realistically would have loved his tribal life and experienced a sense of wholeness, that being separated from it was never going to embody.

Thank you for bearing with me leaning into my history loving heart. Learning that the Mormons had taken 40,000 Native American children out of their culture, adopting them into their religious and family lives, caused me to visit this related story. Back to more usual topics, I’m certain, tomorrow.

Racially Determined Adoptions

I spent most of last summer educating myself about racial inequality and reform issues. Now I see this advertisement. First of all, $13,000 tax credit for adopters??? Think if poor mothers got $13,000 to keep and raise their own babies. The newborn adoption industry would totally collapse.  In Canada, they pay single parents so that they are not burdened with having to find a job and child care. There are no losers in that scenario. This program lasts until the child is 18. The amount per month decreases as the child gets older.

Note that African American babies are less valuable at Everlasting Adoptions. One could ask – Doesn’t this somehow directly violate anti-discrimination laws? Besides the smell of human trafficking in this brochure. No one regulates this business. It’s truly the wild west at this time in human history as regards adoption. This one isn’t even an adoption agency, its like a “travel agent” for people who want to pay someone to find a birth mom for them. If found, the parties then go to an adoption agency to draw up the paperwork but on Everlasting Adoptions website, they proudly take credit for successfully completed matches.

NPR did a story back in 2013 titled Six Words: ‘Black Babies Cost Less To Adopt’. The title for this one came from a Louisiana woman. Other contributors have also addressed the skin-color based fee structure for many adoptions, NPR noted – The intersection of race and adoption has prompted many people to submit their six words to The Race Card Project. Americans adopt thousands of children each year. And as the nation has become increasingly diverse, and with the growth of international adoption in recent decades, many of those children don’t look like their adoptive parents.

One adoptive parent, remembers a phone call with an adoption agency social worker. “And [she] was telling us about these different fee structures that they had based on the ethnic background of the child. And … they also had, sort of a different track for adoptive parents.” Moving through the process would be quicker, if the family was open to adopting an African-American (not biracial) child, the social worker explained to her. “And that is because they have children of color waiting,” but adopting biracial, Latino, Asian or Caucasian children could be a slower process because there were more parents waiting for them. “And I remember hearing this and just sort of being dumbfounded that they would sort of segregate — to use a loaded term — segregate these children by ethnic background before they were even in this world,”

It is a profit-motivated, supply and demand business. Thankfully, NPR also found that some states and agencies are using a different formula to make adoption more affordable for families, with a sliding scale based on income rather than skin color. In that system, lower-income families pay less to adopt. Some agencies are also moving toward a uniform cost system where all adoptive parents would pay the same fees. (Though I am still not in favor of adoption in most cases.) Still, back in 2013, the cost to adopt the Caucasian child was approximately $35,000, plus some legal expenses. I see upward of $40,000 in Go Fund Me efforts set up by hopeful adoptive parents today in 2021.

Dumped Out at 18

This man entered foster care at the age of 15. My biological parents had their rights terminated my senior year of high school. The permanency plan the state created for me was for me to age out of the system and be thrusted into the “real world” at the age of 18.
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If we want to discuss adoption from foster care, we need to talk about the kids that weren’t adopted.
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* 5% of kids adopted from foster care are between the ages or 15-18
* 20% become homeless the day they age out of the system
* 60%-90% of victims rescued from human trafficking spent time in foster care
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The reality is that 23,000 youth will age out of foster care this year alone. I know personally how hard it is to navigate life after foster care and I don’t want other youth to age out of care and have this be their reality.

When considering adoption, please keep these youth, not babies 0-3 years old, in mind.

One woman in my all things adoption group wrote – I’m one of those former foster youths in the system from age 5 to age 16, I aged out and was homeless upon emancipation, never got adopted, only had a failed reunification with my mom in my teens.

Another added this reality – I hate seeing comments from foster parents saying if reunification didn’t happen then kids could be adopted as young children instead of staying in the system as older children. Many older kids come into care as older kids. The reason why older kids stay years in foster care is because most people don’t want older children. They want 0-3, infants, or under 5. She adds – My foster daughter’s permanency plan was defined as another planned permanent living arrangement (APPLA) at 13. The system tossed her aside.

Yet another former foster youth writes – Came into foster care as an almost teen/teen, in 24 foster homes, and nobody but one wanted me. It’s crazy how you can get a teen easily in seconds but people would rather avoid teens and wait years for the kid they really want. I just wish we can be honest. This might hurt to say but all I hear are excuses. Just be honest and say you don’t care about teens in foster care. We’re passed along and pushed aside by everyone. It hurts but you get use to it.

So It Has Come To This ?

This was occurring as recently as yesterday. A TikTok Live baby auction. Tiktok username ambrva put out a video seeking adoptive parents. The video she posted yesterday had 1,800 comments. Most of them begging for her child, some actually bidding on her baby. (I don’t do TikTok but oh my !!)

 TikTok is not any kind of licensed agency. This has a horrifying trafficking situation written all over it. She has no idea who is trying to get her baby.

One woman echoes my feelings – Omg I can’t even. My first thought is she’s not being serious, she’s only trying to get attention. If she is serious what kind of person will she find on tic to to mistreat her and possibly her child ? Why the hell are videos like this even allowed !?!

Another woman’s comment I am totally on board with – I’d love to know who told her that she couldn’t provide what her baby needs.

Another woman expresses the hopes of many – I desperately hope this girl is just trolling. This is a horrifying way to find a family. Anyone willing to get a baby from TikTok shouldn’t have one…

A Difference In Perspective

Within adoption reform communities, there is a deep commitment and ongoing effort to do adoptive relationships in a manner that is focused on the well-being of the adopted child, who through no choice of their own is not with the parents who conceived nor the mother who gave birth to them.

So, here’s the story of two conflicting perspectives on “doing it right”.

My husband and I live in West Africa with our 5 children. We recently adopted twin 4 year old girls in December. These children were being raised by their single Aunt who could not take care of them any longer since she was also raising 6 additional children (her own and also from other siblings), so she surrendered them to an orphanage because their mother had nothing to do with them since they were 1 year old. Unfortunately, this is a pretty common scenario here in West Africa.

We talk often about their “first mom,” allow the twins to miss her and express sadness, assure them they are loved and wanted. We keep in contact with their Aunt and have recently developed an online relationship with their mother. I send pictures and video to their family several times a week so they are able to know how the twins are doing. The twins have been able to talk with their aunt, cousins, and mother on two occasions. My husband and I had hoped to keep this relationship alive so the girls always had a connection to their African family.

Recently I received very harsh criticism from an adult Native American adoptee who was adopted into a privileged white family at birth. She has no connection with her biological family and claims she has never had any questions about them because “her parents did it right.” She insisted that the way we are referring to their mother as “first mom” and the ongoing connection we are attempting to foster will create an identity crisis and undermine my parental authority as their adoptive mother. We are a Christian missionary family (as is she) and she also told me that she believes our behavior and language will cause them to question God and fall away from their faith because of the uncertainty we’ll cause. In her opinion, we need to “squash” the connection with their mother and start referring to her as “the woman who gave birth to you” and to me as your “only mom.” She was also concerned that the girls have “romanticized” their memories of their mom, making her seem better than she was to them.

There is so much attention now being paid to issues of racial inequality and identity that I am not surprised that the first comment was somewhat harsh but here goes –

You are the definition of white saviorism. The very fact that you are missionaries in another country trying to recruit locals to your culture and belief system is white colonization. I find it disgusting and harmful. As to your adoption, it’s sad for all those involved, especially for the twins.

And the original woman’s response –

I teach at an American Christian school for North American children who have parents living abroad either as missionaries, humanitarian workers, or for business. We actually do not interact with locals in the manner you are assuming. But, let me educate you on what happens here in West Africa to children whose parents cannot take care of them…. the lucky ones are given to “schools” that use these children as slaves, abuse them, and force them to beg on the streets for money usually shoeless and hungry. Others are taken out to remote villages and left to starve or sold as human sacrifices or into human trafficking. The fact that you make such a bold statement without knowing anything about what happens here just shows your own ignorance and first world privilege.

The criticism was gently affirmed by another woman –

What was brought up is a valid point. I think your heart is in the right place, but you should always be mindful of how your actions have potentially negatively affected your adopted daughters’ natural family.

In adoption reform circles, financial and other resource support for natural families and keeping children within their birth culture (which means ending transracial adoption, which is not the same is a mixed race family birthing mixed race children, to be clear on this point) is the direction that reformers are seeking in an effort to end the need for removing children from the biological and genetic families.

And finally, an adoptee shares –

As an adoptee ALL I wanted my entire childhood was to know who and where I came from. Since I had no answers I would make up stories about how my first mom was a famous actress etc etc. I found out later in life that many adoptees made up elaborate stories about their bio families. It was literally torturous to not know. I feel now that SO much was straight out stolen from me as a child. And for what purpose???

Since I had no answers about my own parents’ origins, I “made up” stories.  My mom was half African-American – she was not.  My dad was half Mexican – he was not.  I would have preferred the reality and an opportunity to know those persons who I was genetically related to.  My parent died without ever having that opportunity.  Since I have recovered the knowledge of my genetic origins, I am thankful also to now know people I am actually related to by blood.  It has healed to wholeness something that was previously broken within me – without denying the grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins I knew as a child due solely to the adoptions of my parents.

Buying A Human Being

Every single adoptee that is some part of the family I was born into was adopted because the mother was financially desperate (not for the money itself but for the ability to provide for her child).  People with financial resources have been buying these kinds of babies for a very long time (in my family’s case – 90 years now).

Exchanging money for a human being is morally objectionable or it should be (though the unicorns and rainbows pro-adoption community does not find it so).  There is an objectionable word for it – “human trafficking”.

There is a deliberate blindness in some prospective adoptive parents that cloak the practice of adoption as some kind of altruism.  A human being is not an object or  someone’s property.  Human beings NOT possessions to be bought, sold, gifted or traded.

There are those who dress adoption up in religion as somehow God’s will to take a child from the womb of the woman God put it into and give it to complete strangers because God made some kind of mistake in doing that ?  I don’t think so.

Like God wants families ripped apart?

It is all trafficking – adopting, placing, fostering, being a social worker, gal, casa, family court personnel etc.  Where a mom loses her child to Child Protective Services.  Or a woman never really had a choice.  No matter how you try to dress it up – it is still paying money to buy a baby.

 

National Adoption Awareness Month

The general public can be forgiven if they think that National Adoption Awareness Month is a promotion of adopting infants.  That is not the purpose and it could have been titled better.

Thousands of children and youth are currently in foster care and waiting for a permanent home within the embrace of a loving family.  In 1976, then Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis announced an Adoption Week to promote awareness of the need of children in foster care to be matched with an adoptive family.

In 1995, President Bill Clinton expanded the awareness week to the entire month of November. Three years later, President Clinton directed the US Dept of Health & Human Services to expand the use of the internet as a tool to assist in finding homes for foster care children seeking a stable home.

There actually is a National Foster Care Month – May.  Foster Care is intended to support families. It is not intended as a substitute for a child’s parents.

Only 5 percent of all children adopted in 2017 were 15 – 18 years old.  The risk of homelessness and human trafficking is increased for teenagers in foster care.  Average time in foster care is 31 months.