Another One Bites The Dust

Not since Georgia Tann’s Memphis Branch of the Tennessee Children’s Home has an adoption agency operated so brazenly and been allowed to continue selling children as government officials turned a blind eye to reports of malfeasance.

A federal grand jury today charged Margaret Cole, Robin Langoria, and other employees of European Adoption Consultants (EAC) with fraud, money laundering and bribery in connections with adoptions from Uganda and Poland.

EAC had been granted accreditation under the Hague Convention for Inter-Country Adoptions by the Council on Accreditation. That accreditation is considered a sort of gold standard in the realm of international adoption agencies: it involves a substantial amount of time and work and fees to receive.

In 2015, EAC had a complaint lodged against it for a case in China. In December 2016, the State Department debarred EAC, and their Hague accreditation status was revoked. The IAMME website (IAMME became the sole Hague Convention accreditor in 2018) states this: “Nature of the Substantiated Violations: The Department of State temporarily debarred adoption service provider, European Adoption Consultants, Inc. (EAC) from accreditation on December 16, 2016, for a period of three years. As a result of this temporary debarment, EAC’s accreditation has been cancelled and it must immediately cease to provide all adoption services in connection with intercountry adoptions.

The Department found substantial evidence that the agency is out of compliance with the standards in subpart F of the accreditation regulations, and evidence of a pattern of serious, willful, or grossly negligent failure to comply with the standards and of aggravating circumstances indicating that continued accreditation of EAC would not be in the best interests of the children and families concerned.”

The FBI raided EAC in 2017, and the agency closed. Cole had founded EAC in 1991. EAC had worked in adoptions in Bulgaria, China, Democratic Republic of Congo, Haiti, Honduras, India, Panama, Tanzania, and Ukraine, in addition to Uganda and Poland.

According to federal court records, 574 named defendants got away with $200 million selling 8000 children over 40 years. Yet the State Dept continues to present a campaign against human trafficking, but does not include adoption trafficking. The State Dept does not define adoptions as force fraud and coercion as they do for human trafficking. They never connect their own dots. The problem is that adoption trafficking isn’t illegal. Only trafficking for sex or slavery. Agencies like EAC knew this as well as how hard it is to prosecute cases – and plenty of adoptive parents just didn’t care either as long as they got the kids they wanted.

It’s so sad that the department of state has been aware of this type of corruption, orphans are being “created” through fraud and deception for the purpose of adoption, and for years and years this has been happening. The US authorities have looked the other way. Factual complaints have been filed on case after case, there has been investigation after investigation, authors have researched and books have been published, outlining the crimes and those involved, many articles have been written and testimony given, the news is given coverage with major networks, and yet still, charges towards those involved fail to achieve justice.

There is still no accountability for those who have lied, coerced, and trafficked children for the purpose of adoption. The agencies and the identities of directors and staff, as well as those they chose to work with in another country, are no secret to the US authorities, both federal and state. Yet, most all of these people walk free and live their lives with ease. But for the children and first mothers involved, some will face irreparable physical damage, and emotional trauma forever. For the adoptive families, emotional and financial damage continues.

One person noted that they knew this had happened to an innocent mother and her children in Guatemala. And also to her own family around 2006,..and here we are,…still talking about it. Nothing seems to ever change when evil intent is afoot. With international, transracial adoptions everything is cleansed and purified. Any wrong doing is raised to a level of calm speculation and cool logic. The horror of it all never dwells on the harm done to the victims. At worst, some will admired the shape of the argument, never shuddering at the distortion caused by the criminal mind. The end justifies the means . . .

Colorblind Idealism

There seems to have been an evolution among some citizens in the United States to realize that racially colorblindness isn’t really the answer to racism. In the evolution of adoption and in an attempt to get some children in foster care placed in stable homes, transracial adoption was seen as the answer. As some of these adoptees have reached adulthood, they are increasingly speaking out about why growing up black in a predominantly white community and school has proven challenging, even difficult for them.

Recently The Washington Post had an article by Rachel Hatzipanagos that focuses on transracial adoptees – I know my parents love me, but they don’t love my people. A few years ago, there was a Medium piece – The Myth of Colorblindness by Rosa Perez-Isiah.

For adoptees, their adoptive parents couldn’t see and rarely talked about the racism they experienced. Classmates’ racist comments about their hair and eyes were dismissed as harmless curiosity. America’s racial dynamics were explained in the language of “colorblind” idealism. 

In her Medium piece, Perez-Isiah says – Colorblindness is the belief that we don’t see color or race, that we see people and that we are all the same. These beliefs are widely held by well intentioned people, including educators and school leaders. These are idealistic beliefs and there are a number of issues with this ideology. Colorblindness negates our diversity, race and culture because we all see color and we all have biases. When we identify as colorblind, we are suppressing our authentic views and in the process, perpetuating systemic racism. Race matters and it has impacts on opportunities, education and actual income (as well as its future potential). Colorblindness oppresses people of color. When you fail to see color, you fail to acknowledge the current narrative, a system of injustice for many non-white people.

Cross-cultural adoptions have been debated for decades. In 1972, the National Association of Black Social Workers took a strong stand against the adoption of Black children by White parents. Several years later, the federal Indian Child Welfare Act was passed to address the wave of Native American children being separated from their tribes and placed with White families.

The growth in transracial adoptions from foster care in recent years has far outpaced the growth in same-race adoptions and transracial adoption is now 28% of all domestic adoptions in the United States. More recently, the national conversation about systemic racism (driven by George Floyd’s death in 2020) has cast a new light on interracial adoption and prompted transracial families to confront the unspoken cultural divides in their own homes.

For adoptees, there is a transracial adoption paradox. Growing up, they experience many of the privileges that come with Whiteness because of their adoptive parents. When they then enter the school system or move out of the family home to live independently as adults later in life, they’re confronted with the reality of being perceived and treated as a racial minority. Not so subtle is the experience of white students putting their pencils in the hair of a Black student and marveling at the way the texture makes them stay in place.

When adoption agencies take on a color-evasive approach with hopeful prospective adoptive parents, they signal to these white parents that race does not need to be a significant factor in their decision-making. Then, by extension, it is no surprise that these adoptive parents might not think that the race of their adoptees is a significant factor in raising their child. Often these parents naively hope their support will make up for racial difference, even when they acknowledge there are challenges in raising a child of a different race.

From a transracial adoptee – “I believe that a lot of people think that adoption is this beautiful, magical, straightforward process. And also when they think of adoption, that they are centering around this “White savior” image and focusing on adoptive parents more than adoptees. And/or birth, biological parents — those two seem to get left out of the narrative a lot. I also believe that adoption from a birth mother, birth parent perspective can be very intense, very complex, very emotional. And I believe that we need to lean in and listen to adoptees and birth parents more.”

Today, many adoptees have their DNA tested, either at Ancestry or 23 and Me. For an adoptee that was raised white, it can be an amazing experience to discover their father is Black and see somebody that looks like them, finally a true racial mirror. One mixed race adoptee notes – “I think a lot of White people think that they have a good handle on race … and have what they would call a ‘colorblind’ kind of mentality. But I don’t think they understand that when you say the word ‘colorblind,’ what I hear is ‘I see you as White’.”

Another transracial adoptee suggests – “I think first acknowledging that your child is not White is, like, a huge step for a lot of White adoptive parents is to, like, see outside. Because a lot of parents see their child as, this is just your kid. They don’t see them in racialized terms. But in seeing them in that colorblind way, you are not protecting them. You are not preparing them to grow up and be an adult.”

Adoption is a trauma. Every adoptee has a different response to their trauma. Often it takes therapy to understand what was experienced as a pre-verbal infant and more importantly, how it continues affecting the adult adoptee. Therapy can help an adoptee get over feeling defective simply because they were given up for adoption. It can require learning that babies are placed for adoption for a number of reasons and that none of those reasons have to do with the baby or the value of that baby regardless of their skin color. The adoptee, not the adoptive parents, needs to be the center of their own life and story. Much of the narrative around adoption centers on the adoptive parents and frames their actions as selflessness and saving a child.

One Black adoptee admits –  I longed, and continue to long, to understand why I needed to be adopted, why I needed to be shipped across the country, why I couldn’t stay in the South, why I couldn’t stay with Black families, why I couldn’t have stayed with at least my biological extended family.” And though I am white and my mother was white too, this is a universal need in adoptees. My mom’s genetic, biological family was in the rural South and she was taken by train from Memphis to Nogales Arizona by her adoptive mother. For a long time, my mother believed she had been born in Memphis, a belief her adoptive mother was also led to believe by Georgia Tann, until birth certificate alterations made clear my mom had been born in Virginia which just made my mom believe she must have been stolen from her mother because things like that happened with Georgia Tann’s adoption practices.

Sadly, the saviorism of white adoptive parents is just so prevalent. Unfortunately, there is a deep-seated belief that white people can take care of Black people better. I have been learning a lot about this in overall society by reading White Tears/Brown Scars by Ruby Hamad.

I end today’s blog back where I started with the issue of colorblindness – Why is the colorblind narrative popular? The Medium piece notes – it is easier to identify as colorblind than acknowledge differences that make us uncomfortable. This is easier for people to handle, especially in schools where we may lack the information and guidance to have difficult conversations about race. Another reason is simply not knowing…you don’t know what you don’t know. Many people also repeat what they’ve been taught and fail to reflect or question those beliefs. In the end, we don’t realize how harmful the myth of colorblindness can be.

Adoption is a challenging situation regardless – add in racial differences and it becomes doubly so. It takes courage and practice to shift from a colorblind to a color BRAVE ideology.

Michael and Robert Rosenberg

Anne Meeropol, adoptive mother of Robert and Michael Rosenberg

Ethel Rosenberg was a 37 yr old mother when she became the first and only woman ever executed for espionage in the United States. Her sons were only 3 and 7 yrs old when their parents were arrested. They were 6 and 10, when their parents were executed. Now mature men, Michael and Robert took their adoptive parents’ surname (for obvious reasons).

It would appear that their mother was scapegoated and treated very unfairly. The prosecution laid all of the blame on her as the older spouse. Ethel’s younger brother, David Greenglass, had been arrested first for that same crime of espionage. A month after her husband, Julius was arrested on July 17 1950, Ethel was seized by the FBI and charged. She called Michael at home and told him that she, like his father, had been arrested.

“So you can’t come home?” he asked.

“No,” she replied.

The seven-year-old screamed.

Historian Anne Sebba (author of Ethel Rosenberg: A Cold War Tragedy) likes writing about women who have been misunderstood and she says, few have been more misunderstood than Ethel Rosenberg. Her brother, David Greenglass had briefly worked as a machinist at Los Alamos. He was arrested as a link in the chain of persons passing secrets about atomic technology on to the Soviets. David quickly admitted his guilt. His lawyer advised him that the best thing he could do for himself (and to give his wife immunity) would be to turn someone else in.  And actually, it was his wife, Ruth Greenglass, who said that Ethel had typed up the information David had given Julius to pass on to the Soviets. David then changed his story the week before his trial to corroborate his wife’s version.

Michael and Robert never saw the Greenglasses again after the trial. Robert says that when he thinks of his family before his parents were arrested – he has, “this feeling of a golden age, of a wonderful loving family before it was ripped apart.” Ethel Rosenberg was a particularly devoted mother, with a progressive interest in child psychology. Though at first the boys were sent to live with Ethel’s mother Tessie, she resented the situation. So the boys were sent to a children’s home. Julius’s mother Sophie tried to rescue them but she was too frail to handle young boys.

On June 16 1953, the children were brought to Sing Sing prison in New York State to say goodbye to their parents. Ethel kept up her usual brave appearance, but on this occasion Michael – who was 10 yrs old by that time understood what was happening. Her outward calm upset him. Afterwards, Ethel wrote a letter to her children: “Maybe you thought that I didn’t feel like crying when we were hugging and kissing goodbye huh… Darlings, that would have been so easy, far too easy on myself… because I love you more than I love myself and because I knew you needed that love far more than I needed the relief of crying.”

Because no extended family was willing to look after the boys, they were eventually adopted by Abel and Anne Meeropol, an older leftwing couple. They could finally grow up in anonymity among loving people who told them their parents had been brave and admirable. On this Juneteenth, it is interesting to know that Abel Meeropol wrote the civil rights era song Strange Fruit. The boys enjoyed a happy, academic, leftwing upbringing as Meeropols. They told almost no one their real surname, and Robert, who was a toddler when his parents were imprisoned, never considered reverting to it. It was more complicated for Michael, who could remember playing ball games with his father in their apartment.  

In 1973, local media unmasked the boys’ identity, ignoring pleas to respect their anonymity. The boys then wrote their memoir, We Are Your Sons. They sued the FBI and CIA under the Freedom of Information Act and obtained more than 300,000 pages of once secret documents. In 1995, the Venona papers were declassified. These were messages sent between Soviet intelligence agencies that had been intercepted and decrypted by US counterintelligence from 1943 to 1980. It is clear that Julius Rosenberg and the Greenglasses were definitely spying for the Soviets. There was very little about Ethel. She didn’t have a codename like Julius and the Greenglasses. She was simply “a devoted person” (ie a communist) but it was stressed that “[she] does not work” (ie she was not a spy).  With these, the boys began to believe in their mother’s innocence.

The boys realized reading the Venona transcript that Julius and Ethel didn’t do the thing they were executed for. Ethel didn’t work for the Soviets and Julius wasn’t an atomic spy but more accurately a military-industrial spy. Although Julius passed on weapon details, he wasn’t passing on details about the atomic bomb. Morton Sobell – who had been convicted for espionage along with the Rosenbergs, served 18 years in Alcatraz – eventually he gave an interview to the New York Times. He said that he and Julius had been spies together, and confirmed that Julius had not helped the Russians build the bomb. “What he gave them was junk,” Sobell said of Julius, probably because he didn’t know anything about the bomb. Of Ethel, Sobell said, “She knew what he was doing, but what was she guilty of? Of being Julius’s wife.”

In 1996, David Greenglass finally admitted he lied about his sister: “I told them the story and left her out of it, right? But my wife put her in it. So what am I gonna do, call my wife a liar? My wife is my wife. I mean, I don’t sleep with my sister, you know. I frankly think my wife did the typing, but I don’t remember.”

Robert launched a campaign for Ethel’s exoneration in 2015 – not for a pardon, because that would suggest she had done something wrong, but a full exoneration. Anne Sebba says, “I think she just had other concerns: she was looking after her children and trying to be present for them. She gave up activism when her children were born. Her main identity was as a wife and a mother, and that’s what mattered to her.” In 2019, Michael’s daughter, Ivy, made a documentary about Roy Cohn, who was the prosecutor of the Rosenbergs. In Bully Coward Victim, she made the connection between her grandparents’ execution and Trump.

“There’s a very binary idea of the political world, in which people are guilty or innocent, right or wrong. But understanding nuance is essential to understanding how politics work and how society works,” says Robert. He is hoping that President Biden will look at exonerating Ethel favorably. “That the US government invented evidence to obtain a conviction and an execution is a threat to every person in this country, and to not expose that is to become complicit in it. The personal stuff is obvious, but the political stuff is equally powerful,” Robert says.

Anne Sebba finds the two sons delightful to talk to: wildly intelligent, always interesting, completely admirable. She wonders how on earth did they triumph over such a traumatic childhood?  Sebba says the two men have an extraordinarily high level of intelligence. Second, she finds that they had amazing adoptive parents. And now knowing how important those early years of life are, she believes Ethel must have given those two boys so much in the few years she had with them, enough to last all their lives. She believes that Ethel must have been an extremely good mother.

I love history and found this story fascinating and in that it intersects with adoption made it irresistible for me to share with you today in my blog. The much longer story, from which this blog was excerpted, can be read here in The Guardian by Hadley Freeman, The Rosenbergs were executed for spying in 1953. Can their sons reveal the truth?

Extremist Hate Against Women

January 2017 – a group of identical-looking white men in dark suits look on as their president signs an executive order banning US state funding to groups anywhere in the world offering abortion or abortion counselling.

Such a despicable lot. So glad these smug, self-serving members of the male gender are gone now. This morning I’ve been reading in The Guardian an article by Jacqueline Rose titled “Damage: the silent forms of violence against women.” How does this relate to adoption ? It reminds me of The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood – making women carry babies in the hopes that infertile, Christian couples will be able to adopt their baby.

I am unabashedly pro-Choice. Not that I like abortions. I’ve had one and it has haunted me the rest of my life – even though it was legal, even though I still feel justified by the circumstances – the pro-Life contingent has caused my heart to sorrow even so. I am a mother – 3 times now. I’ve seen my babies growing in my womb on ultrasounds. I’m not immune to the sentimentality of baby stuff. However, no women should be allowed to die from a poorly performed illegal abortion. And to be brutally honest – no woman should be forced to incubate a baby that she cannot afford and does not want to raise. 9 months of her income producing life potentially cut short. For many, a kind of non-COVID lockdown to preserve their future prospects, if they do decide to relinquish their baby to adoption. And my constant bottom line is this – the planet is already over-populated. There is no need to produce more humans than are being naturally produced by willing carriers already.

Thankfully, one of President Biden’s early acts in office was to rescind this executive order of Trump’s.

In June 2019, Kate Gilmore, the UN deputy commissioner for human rights, described US policy on abortion as a form of extremist hate that amounts to the torture of women. “We have not called it out in the same way we have other forms of extremist hate,” she stated, “but this is gender-based violence against women, no question.”

It is a characteristic of such mostly male violence – “violence regnant”, as it might be termed, since it represents and is borne by the apparatus of state – that it always presents itself as defending the rights of the innocent. These men are killers. But their murderousness is invisible – to the world (illegal abortions belong to the backstreets) and to themselves. Not even in their wildest dreams, I would imagine, does it cross their minds that their decisions might be fueled by the desire to inflict pain. Neither the nature nor the consequences of their actions is a reality they need trouble themselves about. Such violence in our time thrives on a form of mental blindness.

Violence is a form of entitlement. Unlike privilege – which can be checked with a mere gesture, as in “check your privilege”, and then left at the door – entitlement goes deeper and at the same time is more slippery to grasp. As if hovering in the ether, it relies for its persistence on a refusal to acknowledge that it is even there.

I’ve often been glad I wasn’t born a male. It must be an awful burden at times. No man comfortably possesses masculinity (any more than, other than by killing, one person is in total possession of anyone else). Indeed, such mastery is the very delusion that underpins the deranged and most highly prized version of masculinity on offer. Prowess is a lie, as every inch of mortal flesh bears witness. But like all lies, in order to be believed, it has to be endlessly repeated.

If sexual violence arises from a form of tunnel vision, and from burying those aspects of the inner life that are most difficult to acknowledge or see, it is also the case that raising violence to the surface of public consciousness is not always transformative in the ways we would want it to be. Recognizing an injustice, and bringing it to the world’s attention, is no guarantee that the offence will be obliterated and justice prevail.

Trans experience, also the target of violence, belongs here, too, as it clearly binds the issue of sexuality to that of political struggle – freedom achieved and withheld. Despite being far more widely accepted than ever before, transgender people are still being killed for daring to present the world with the mostly unwelcome truth that sexual identity is not all it is cut out to be. Not everyone comfortably belongs on the side of the inaugurating sexual divide where they originally started, or to which they were first assigned. Some cross from one side to the other, some see themselves as belonging on neither side, others on both (these options are by no means exhaustive). Sexuality creates havoc. Kicking it back into place – a doomed project – is one way in which an oppressive culture tries and fails to lay down the law.

“Supremacist feminism” is the Spanish sister term to “feminazis”, coined by the late US rightwing radio host Rush Limbaugh to describe radical feminists – who, he claimed, “want to see as many abortions as possible”. In September 2019, protesters in more than 250 towns and cities across Spain declared a “feminist emergency” after a series of high-profile rape cases and a summer in which 19 women were murdered by current or former partners (the worst figures for more than a decade).

“We’re only saying what everyone is thinking” is the common justification and refrain. They wrap themselves in the mantle of redemption, as if they were saving the world from burning injustice (righteousness raised to the pitch of frenzy is the particular skill of the far right). We are all subjects of violence, not least because we are embedded in a violent social world. There is always a point in any ethical position or turn – the struggle against injustice, the fight for a better, less violent order – where it starts and stutters, trips and breaks, before setting out on its path once more.

If we do not make time to think about the causes of violence, we will do nothing to end violence in the world, while we will surely be doing violence to ourselves by complicity.

The article from which most of today’s blog is taken is a long one but can be read at the title linked at the beginning of this blog.

The Injustice of Disability

This is one of those issues that one rarely sees discussed.  Here’s the story –

The natural mom of an adult son who suffers with MS reconnected with him 2 years ago. She had him when she was 14 and her parents adopted him out.

His wife recently died and they have an 18 month old. He fell down with the child in his arms and she needed stitches. Hospital called Child Protective Services and they removed the child saying her son is not fit to parent the child due to his disability.

Both his adoptive parents have passed away. Natural mom is a nurse in New York.  Her biological son is in a different county in New York. She has tried to help him by calling and email but receives no response from the caseworker or the supervisor. She assumes it may be because she is not recognized as his family member.

This child is currently in foster care. The mother was asking what else she could do, to try and get custody of her grandchild? Her son supports her effort. He is heartbroken his child is now living with strangers.

The most obvious first step for this mother is to obtain the services of a lawyer and file an emergency petition for custody.  The father will need to name her as the legal guardian of his child.  This is admittedly expensive but it is usually the fastest way to address a situation like this.

And it almost goes without saying because it is so very obvious that the man didn’t abuse or neglect his child. He has a disability. The state should have helped him find resources to care for his child rather than taking his child away.

Bottom line – the son should be able to tell the caseworker that he wants his baby with his mother. As long as she can pass a background check, that should be where baby goes, regardless of legal relation.  The placement hierarchy is usually in this order – grandparents, then siblings, then extended relatives, then anyone else that knows the baby as requested by the child’s parents with random foster parents – a last resort.

Kaepernick – Biracial, Adopted by a White Family

Colin Kaepernick’s life story is soon to be streamed on Netflix.

“The series provides an introspective look at Kaepernick’s early life as a Black child growing up with a white adopted family and his journey to become a great quarterback while defining his identity. The series will focus on Kaepernick’s formative high school years, lending meaningful insight into the acts and experiences that led him to become the activist he is today,” according to a series synopsis.

Kaepernick added in a news release: “Too often we see race and Black stories portrayed through a white lens. We seek to give new perspective to the differing realities that Black people face. We explore the racial conflicts I faced as an adopted Black man in a white community, during my high school years. It’s an honor to bring these stories to life in collaboration with Ava Duvernay for the world to see.”

Kaepernick was born in 1987 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, to Heidi Russo, who is white. His birth father, who is African-American (of Ghanaian, Nigerian, and Ivorian ancestry), separated from Russo before Kaepernick was born. Russo placed Kaepernick for adoption with a white couple named Rick and Teresa Kaepernick. The couple had two older children: son Kyle and daughter Devon. The Kaepernicks decided to adopt a boy after losing two other sons to heart defects.

Kaepernick lived in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, until age four, when his family moved to California. When he was eight years old, Kaepernick began playing youth football as a defensive end and punter. At age nine, he was the starting quarterback on his youth team, and he completed his first pass for a long touchdown.

He was a 4.0 GPA student at John H. Pitman High School in Turlock, California. Kaepernick played football, basketball and baseball and was nominated for all-state selection in all three sports his senior year. He was the most valuable player (MVP) of the Central California Conference in football, leading his school to its first-ever playoff victory. In basketball, he was a first-team All-CCC selection at forward and led his 16th-ranked team to a near upset of No. 1-ranked Oak Ridge High School in the opening round of the playoffs. In that game, Kaepernick scored 34 points, but future NBA player Ryan Anderson of Oak Ridge scored 50 points to lead his team to a victory.

Few noticed the first protest by Kaepernick because it came before a home preseason game in August 2016. He remained seated on the bench, and when asked about it by a reporter after the game, he explained: “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color. To me, this is bigger than football, and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”

There had been several shootings of unarmed black men that summer, and Kaepernick acknowledged his actions could have consequences. “If they take football away, my endorsements from me,” he said, “I know that I stood up for what is right.”

Kaepernick went from sitting to kneeling after a conversation with Nate Boyer, a former Green Beret and NFL player. “We sort of came to a middle ground where he would take a knee alongside his teammates,” Boyer told HBO’s Real Sports. “Soldiers take a knee in front of a fallen brother’s grave, you know, to show respect.”

How he has been treated has been very wrong. Our own president did not help the situation. Now Kaepernick is seen as having been on the right side of justice by many people all over the world.

The Sad Stories Just Keep Coming

A mother writes –

I am the mother of 2 daughters. My rights were terminated and my children have been adopted by their step mother. I lost on a technicality. Originally, I had a shared custody with my ex. He took off and I couldn’t find my kids.  I couldn’t seem to find the right help or didn’t have the $ or connections. Finally, I found them [many many years later] and went to court. 

The judge literally said “I believe you but I have to rule on the law and you didn’t provide support for the last four months.” [How could I ?,  since they were on the run].

I found out that the girls father and step mother were divorcing.  Something told me I should try again.  So, I called him. He said he would ask my girls if they wanted to see me. He held true and my oldest daughter said “no” but my youngest said “yes”.

He made me agree that I would not tell them what really happened. My children have been completely brainwashed.  I am not allowed to defend myself [not that I want to bash anyone – that isn’t healthy either] but I am trying to build a relationship.  My daughter just doesn’t trust me at all. And she is very back and forth.  I don’t want to push her and I want be there for her.

I have also found out that my children suffered a lot of abuse from both step mom and dad [dad was abusive with me as well when we were married]. I’m trying my best to prove myself without over stepping their father’s rule.  I fear he would just yank her back from me again.  He doesn’t want to be the bad guy.

I’m just trying to figure out how to handle this appropriately. It’s a hard line to walk but I’m willing to.  My younger daughter is almost 15.  I have completely respected the older daughter not wanting anything to do with me.  I just pray maybe one day she will change her mind [she is almost 18].

Sadly, I don’t believe this is a unique story.  Just one of a multitude about how children become separated from their mothers.

Choosing One’s Ancestors

Because I didn’t have any genetic ancestors most of my lifetime, knowing who they were and where they came from filled a void in me that my two adoptee parents were never given the opportunity to receive.  They both died knowing next to nothing and within a year of my dad dying (four months after my mom died), I knew who all 4 of them were – including my dad’s unnamed father (his mother was unwed and he was given her surname at birth).

Because thoughts about race and identity are currently prominent in the United States and because of the horrendous injustice that has occurred here all too often (so that even in other countries, the protests have also grown in awareness of the issue), I was drawn to a conversation that took place between James Baldwin and Margaret Mead in 1970 as shared by Brain Pickings.

During the week I spent in Jean Houston’s home in Oregon, she spoke frequently about her dear friend and mentor, Margaret Mead.  She even has a larger than life portrait in her front door drawing room that she suggest’s Margaret insisted be painted and delivered to her after Mead’s death.  Houston writes about the influence of Mead frequently in her book A Mythic Life.

In this conversation between Baldwin and Mead, Margaret says – “I think we have to get rid of people being proud of their ancestors, because after all they didn’t do a thing about it. What right have I to be proud of my grandfather? I can be proud of my child if I didn’t ruin her, but nobody has any right to be proud of his ancestors.”

She goes on to add – “The one thing you really ought to be allowed to do is to choose your ancestors.  We have a term for this in anthropology: mythical ancestors… They are spiritual and mental ancestors, they’re not biological ancestors, but they are terribly important.”

Mead notes that there are very few black people in America who don’t have some white ancestors, with which Baldwin agrees, and they go on to explore why the “melting pot” metaphor is deeply problematic in honoring the actual architecture of identity.

Before I knew who my parents biological/genetic parents were, I made up my racial identity.  Since my mom was born in Virginia, I thought she ended up being given up for adoption because she was half-black.  I find it interesting now as I steep myself in issues of racial identity, that I believed my dad was half-Mexican because of his coloration and how well he related to the people in that country when he crossed the border at Juarez/El Paso.

Neither of these was actually the truth.  Turns out my mom does have a bit of Mali in her DNA and that on her mother’s Scottish side there were slave owners, a fact that I am not proud of.  Yet, until I knew better, I would say I was an Albino African (and said it quite proudly as I tried to recover a sense of identity that adoption had robbed me of).

My dad’s father was a Danish immigrant and quite dark complected.  I don’t know enough about the Danish people to know why that was their skin color or why their eyes were brown.  Maybe someday, I will explore that aspect of my own racial identity.

I found this story which Baldwin conveyed in that discussion quite illuminating –

“I remember once a few years ago, in the British Museum a black Jamaican was washing the floors or something and asked me where I was from, and I said I was born in New York. He said, “Yes, but where are you from?” I did not know what he meant. “Where did you come from before that?” he explained. I said, “My mother was born in Maryland.” “Where was your father born?” he asked. “My father was born in New Orleans.” He said, “Yes, but where are you from?” Then I began to get it; very dimly, because now I was lost. And he said, “Where are you from in Africa?” I said, “Well, I don’t know,” and he was furious with me. He said, and walked away, “You mean you did not care enough to find out?”

“Now, how in the world am I going to explain to him that there is virtually no way for me to have found out where I came from in Africa? So it is a kind of tug of war. The black American is looked down on by other dark people as being an object abjectly used. They envy him on the one hand, but on the other hand they also would like to look down on him as having struck a despicable bargain.”

So it is for adoptees who’s rights are second-class, some basic rights of knowing where they came from often denied them.  Over decades worth of time, they have been robbed of that sense of identity that so many people take for granted.  However, as a woman who’s skin is white, I am grateful that racial identity was not emphasized in my childhood home and that as a white person growing up on the Mexican border, I was definitely part of a minority race.  I will admit that I didn’t suffer the slings and arrows that the black race has in this country but I could not fully embrace any idea that I was somehow superior because of the color of my skin.  I consider that one of the few blessings of being ignorant for most of my life about my racial identity.

Lifetime No Contact Order

I didn’t know this was a thing.  It seems draconian and excessive.  There seem to be some cases of children placed into state custody where the parent has not only had their parental rights permanently terminated but is denied permanent contact forever with their own children.  It may relate to addiction.  But lifetime ?  This just seems wrong and it may not actually be “lifetime”.

I read that – the court order essentially is in place until the kids turn 18.  It is thought that the kid’s can choose whether to extend it or let it lapse at that point.

In the case I read about, which is typical of many poor people who encounter the legal system, the mother was coerced through fear tactics to sign this as part of her plea bargain.  I agree with the person who shared this story that such a permanent lifetime no contact order would do more harm than good for the kids and their mom over the long run.

People do change.  Lord, how I know that up close and personal.  I’ve done some pretty stupid things in my lifetime, even put my sweet baby girl at risk in my naivety.  Thankfully, she survived my immaturity.

It may be that how this particular situation resolves will depend on the relationship that the foster parent has with the genetic/biological parent.  Hopefully in this case, both the foster parent and the mother can let the caseworker know they object to this stipulation that was obtained under duress.  It may be that getting all of the parties to request the court make a change will prove successful in allowing the potential for contacts within this family.  If the judge is not willing, there is always hope in an appeal.

Part of our modern reality is that there are parents now who have gotten into addiction – often it begins with a valid need for pain relief – or it did, until society woke up to the fact that the pharmaceutical industry had a profit motive in getting people addicted to begin with.  End of societal inequity and/or injustice rant for today.

Slightly Off Topic

This may seem off topic but please bear with me.  This morning I realized that my tolerance for injustice has diminished.  I believe that learning about how my maternal grandmother was trapped and exploited has done that to me.

My grandmother’s only deficiency was poverty.  She went to Porter-Leath orphanage for temporary care of my mother while she attempted to get on her feet financially and they accepted my mom under a temporary condition.  My grandmother tried to reach her husband, my grandfather, who didn’t respond to the Juvenile Court’s notification – I believe – because he was out with the WPA trying to help Arkansas deal with a Super Flood of the Mississippi River that began the month my mom was born.

Georgia Tann had a repeat, paying customer in my adoptive grandmother.  She had previously adopted a son from the Tennessee Children’s Home and returned to them seeking a little sister for the family before my mom had even been born.  Miss Tann had a network of enablers, movers and shakers in the Memphis elite that helped her acquire product to sell.  Forgive my harsh judgment.

So my poor grandmother was pressured with a surrender or I’ll have you declared unfit by my good friend, the Juvenile Court Judge Camille Kelley.  Even so, 4 days later my grandmother tried but failed to recover my mom.  She never had any other children.

I have always paid my medical bills – even those I thought unfair – even if I made the creditor wait and sent them only the smallest amounts for the longest time.  Having been uninsured for 30 years, I was grateful to finally qualify for Medicare.  I thought might as well catch up the basics and so went to my local nurse practitioner for a pap smear.

Unknown to me, the coding recommended by the laboratory to the doctor’s office for women between the ages of 30 and 65 was to also do a hpv test on the same specimen.  This was never discussed with me.  Medicare paid $29.44 against a bill of $128.20 for the pap smear but refused to pay the $169.80 for the hpv test.

I have been fighting this bill for 8 months and find myself trapped and exploited by a greedy laboratory.  I offered them $60 for the hpv test if they would write off the rest as they did for Medicare.  I thought I was being more than reasonable.

They have refused my offer and so I will now refuse to give them even a penny.  I no longer tolerate such exploitation.  The doctor’s office should have advised me to wait a year for the pap smear and this would not have even occurred.  I refuse to be a victim.  I never gave my permission and I won’t give in now.

Thank you for reading if you made it this far.  Do NOT allow LabCorp to do any tests for you.  I won’t ever again allow them to do any tests for me and I will not use my local doctor’s office for my next Medicare approved pap smear in 3 years.  They both lose.  I am not worried about a small black mark on an otherwise excellent credit rating.  I don’t intend to use credit anyway but I do have an Amazon Visa as long as I can pay in full with the first bill if I need that or just want to burnish my credit rating.