Adoption TikTok

I will admit to being a bit of a Luddite (sometimes defined as a person opposed to new technology or ways of working – which certainly applies to me LOL). I’d still be back in Microsoft 3.0, if it wasn’t for my husband pushing me forward. I don’t do TikTok or Instagram or any of the many other platforms available today. I hate apps. I view them as multiplying clutter that I don’t need. However, I did come across notification in my all things adoption about an article in Teen Vogue (which as I am almost 68 would probably have not come to my attention otherwise). The title is Adoption TikTok: Building Community and Critiquing the U.S. Adoption System.”

The young woman wrote – “Myself and an another adoptee were featured in this TEEN VOGUE article! Such an exciting opportunity to be heard and I think the journalist did a wonderful job.”

One woman describes meeting her birth mother in Brazil (she was adopted as an infant by a New Jersey couple). “My mother pulled me into her house and pulled me onto her couch and into her lap, even though I was probably almost twice her size. She looked at my fingers and looked at my toes and, like, it was just so primal to me. Like how you would look at your baby.”

Her adoption, the country she had to leave behind, the shape of her life: All of it could be traced back to poverty. “We are all indoctrinated into this overly positive narrative about adoption, right? We see it in movies and kids’ movies, this trope of adoption being a beautiful thing,” she said. But her story didn’t feel beautiful. Her birth mother’s pain had transformed her already shifting understanding of adoption. While some women choose adoption because they don’t want to be a mother, others lack the emotional support or financial resources to raise children, even though they very much want to. 

TikTok hosts a growing community of adoptees who use the social media platform to shed light on the trauma and economic pressures that have shaped their adoption experience. The hashtag #adopteesoftiktok has garnered tens of millions of views.

You can read the rest of this article at the Teen Vogue link above.

One reader in my group commented – “Research also suggests that open adoption can reduce the grief that many birth mothers experience after giving up a child for adoption.” My only feedback is where it says that research supports that open adoption reduces grief, that doesn’t sit well with me. The study only went to 20 years post placement – yet time and again I am finding in natural mother’s groups – it’s at 20 plus years that things start to unravel, as their relinquished child starts to form and share their own views surrounding their adoption, outside of the influence of their adoptive parents. ~Natural mother 26 years into an open adoption

Fundraising To Facilitate Adoption

Until my FB friend, Laureen Pittman, author of The Lies That Bind (a book I’ve read and reviewed in this blog), posted about this, I was unaware of an adoption agency known as The Cradle. It turns out they have existed longer (since 1923) than Georgia Tann did and have facilitated more adoptions than she did (having placed more than 16,000 children), including internationally and including celebrities (just as Tann did).

As my friend points out in her blog, the film related to the trailer above – is NOT only a Hollywood produced film about adoption meant “to capture 99 years of [The Cradle’s] work through emotional, inspiring stories of adoption.” It’s a polished, obviously professionally produced and edited documentary-style film. But to say it’s “about adoption” is terribly misleading. What it’s really about is fundraising – to facilitate adoption.

The Cradle is a private adoption agency that’s been around for nearly a hundred years. The film is presented and stylized as a celebration of The Cradle’s work by showcasing several “successful” adoption stories from the perspective of the heroic savior adoptive parents and the counselors employed by The Cradle. The fairy tale-like stories portray adoption as something “magical,” and The Cradle as someplace where “dreams come true.” Lofty words and phrases describing The Cradle and its work, such as “destiny,” “meant to be,” “special place,” and even “divine intervention,” are sprinkled throughout the forty-five minute campaign.

She asks – What’s missing? It’s obvious to adoptees. Whether we’re “well-adjusted” or struggling, in the fog or out, wrestling with identity issues, facing secondary rejection, muddling through a reunion, or fighting against the powers-that-be in a closed records nightmare, the emotional turmoil of the adoptee is sorely missing from The Cradle’s fables of the adoptive family. 

Laureen caught my attention, and caused me to go looking yesterday, when she wrote –

I’m so proud of my peers and friends in the adoption community: adoptees and many birth mothers who are brave enough to share their voices in the face of the evil, backwards for-profit adoption industry. We recognize that the adoption industry continues to commodify children and when we are witness to such blatant money-grabbing emotional-pandering as seen in the documentary-cum-fundraising film, “Stories From the Red Couch,” we band together. The 45 minute video is here – https://youtu.be/Gze92CxOOEA.

Laureen writes – This video comes on the heels of my last blog post, written as a review or reaction to the film. Apparently, and thankfully, I wasn’t the only one offended by the film and the continued, age-old tactics of The Cradle to promote and facilitate adoption and discourage (putting it mildly) family preservation. The voices in this rebuttal video are only a handful of the brave adoptee-voices (and one lovely birthmother) who had something to say regarding the “Stories From the Red Couch” video regarding the questionable practices of The Cradle. Be certain to read some of the comments below the YouTube video.

Laureen adds that you can tune in to the National Association of Adoptees and Parents‘ Adoption Happy Hour on Friday, April 15, 2022, to join in the discussion. Their happy hour is every Friday at 7pm Eastern. Replays of their interviews are also posted on YouTube.

When Adoptions Fail

Joyce Maynard with the two Ethiopian daughters,
ages 6 and 11, she adopted in 2010. 

Famous moms like Angelina Jolie, Madonna and Charlize Theron make adoption look easy. In as many as a quarter of adoptions of teens, and a significant number of younger child adoptions, the parents ultimately decide they don’t want to keep the child. But what happens, and who’s to blame, when an adoption doesn’t work?

Writer Joyce Maynard revealed on her blog that that she’d given up her two daughters, adopted from Ethiopia in 2010 at the ages of 6 and 11, because she was “not able to give them what they needed.”

Other cases have been more outrageous, like the Tennessee woman who put her 7-year-old adopted son on a plane bound for Russia in 2010 when things went south. Recently she was ordered by a judge to pay $150,000 in child support.

In the adoption world, failed adoptions are called “disruptions.” But while a disruption may seem stone-hearted from the outside, these final anguished acts are complex, soul-crushing for all concerned and perhaps more common than you’d think.

On her blog, Maynard wrote that giving up her two adoptive daughters was “the hardest thing I ever lived through” but goes on to say it was absolutely the right decision for her – and the children. Yes, she has been severely judged by some people. She says, however, that “I have also received well over a hundred letters of a very different sort from other adoptive parents – those who have disrupted and those who did not, but struggle greatly. The main thing those letters tell me is that many, many adoptive parents (and children) struggle in ways we seldom hear about.”

Statistics on disruption vary. A 2010 study of US adoptions found that between 6 percent and 11 percent of all adoptions are disrupted before they are finalized. For children older than 3, disruption rates range between 10 percent to 16 percent; for teens, it may be as high as 24 percent, or one in four adoptions. Adoptions can take anywhere from a few months to a couple of years to become final – and that window is when most disruptions occur, experts say. While some families do choose to end an adoption after that, those cases are rarer (ranging from 1 percent to 7 percent, according to the study).

Disruption rarely occurs with infants. It occurs more often (anywhere from 5% to 20%) with the older children. That is because the complexities of parenting a child who already has life experiences and certain behaviors is more complicated. When a child is rejected and traumatized early in their development, it changes the way they function and respond to people. Older children – especially ones who have been neglected, rejected and abused will often distance themselves from other people and develop a hard-shell.

According to the study, the older the child is at the time of adoption, the more likely the adoption will fail. Children with special needs also face greater risk of disruption, particularly those who demonstrate emotional difficulties and sexual acting out. Certain types of parents are more likely to end up giving up adopted children. These include younger adoptive parents, inexperienced parents, and parents who both work outside the home. Wealthier parents and more educated mothers are also more likely to disrupt an adoption. There is less tolerance, if someone’s more educated or they make more money,

What happens when a parent decides to give up an adopted child?

If a child has been adopted legally, then it’s like giving up a birth child. The parents who adopted the child have to find a home for the child or some other resources. That could be the adoption agency or the state (who would most likely put the child in foster care). If the parents decide to end the process before the child has been legally adopted, the child would then likely go into foster care. International adoptions follow the same rules, except the adoption agency usually notifies the country that the adoption has failed, however, returning the child to their country of origin is never an option.

If an adoption fails before the parents become the formal, legal parents of the child, the courts usually aren’t involved. If the adoption has been finalized, however, then the parents must go to court. A dissolution – sometimes referred to as an annulment – takes place after a child is formally adopted by a set of parents. The law treats these situations very seriously. States vary on their handling of these situations. Generally speaking, a parent will petition the court where they adopted the child asking to un-adopt them.

Disruption is never easy for the child. It takes an extreme toll and can cause lifelong issues of distrust, depression, anxiety, extreme control issues and very rigid behavior. They don’t trust anyone; they have very low self-esteem. They’ll push away teachers and friends and potential parents and if you put them in another placement and they have to reattach again and then if they lose that placement, with each disruption gets tougher and tougher.

If you are a hopeful adoptive parent – be careful what you wish for. Some adoptive parents believe are will be able to help a child and sometimes, to some adoptive parents, this means changing the child. They believe that if they just love the child enough . . . Truth is, it takes so much more than love. It may be harder to handle than you ever thought possible in your fantasy dreams.

Inspired and borrowed from Today’s – It Takes More Than Love.

Judging The Past By Present Values

Lily MacLeod and Gillian Shaw
~ photo by Carlos Osorio for the Toronto Star, 2012

As a Gemini, twins have always fascinated me. I have wondered if I once had a twin in utero who vanished. Having gone through assisted reproductive medical interventions, I know this happens. It happened with my older son when my pregnancy originally appeared to be twins. I really didn’t want the challenge but in my mom’s group we have several pairs of twins and one set of triplets. The father of the man I am married to was a twin. Both my father in law and his twin brother are now deceased.

The less than common occurrence of multiple births has my attention this morning after watching the documentary – Three Identical Strangers. The story tells how these men were separated at 6 mos and adopted out with strategic intent by the clinical psychiatrist, Peter Neubauer, through the cooperation of the Louise Wise adoption agency. Psychology Today did an article entitled The Truth About “Three Identical Strangers.” The article explains – Dr Viola Bernard was the chief psychiatric consultant to the Wise agency. In the late 1950s (before Dr Peter Neubauer was involved), Dr Bernard created a policy of separating identical twins when they were adopted. Dr Bernard’s intentions are described as benign. In a memo subsequently recovered, she expresses her hope that “early mothering would be less burdened and divided and the child’s developing individuality would be facilitated” by this separation. It wasn’t only the Wise agency but many other agencies that also practiced the separation of twins at the time of adoption.

The conclusion by Dr Lois Oppenheim in the Psychology Today article is – The basic premise of the film, that the triplets’ separation was a heartless scheme undertaken at the expense of the children’s well-being to enable a scientific study, is fiction. The filmmakers could have created a documentary about the complexities of the twin study, its origins and context, and the changing standards of ethical norms and lessons learned. This might have been less dramatic, but it would have made an important contribution to our understanding of gene research and parenting.

Yet, the practice of separating identical or even non-identical siblings in the adoption industry continues and the study and research of such persons continues to this day. Regarding my photo above of Lily MacLeod and Gillian Shaw, the story in The Toronto Star by Amy Dempsey tells us that the 12-year-olds were separated as babies in China but reunited after the two separate Ontario couples adopted them. When their separate/different adoptive parents made the startling discovery that their two daughters were identical twins, they vowed to raise the girls as sisters. Their situation is highly unusual: Lily and Gillian are two of only a handful of twin pairs – mostly Chinese children adopted by North American parents – who are being raised, knowing they are siblings but separately apart. For scientific researchers, the girls are yet another opportunity to study the effects of nature vs nurture in real-time. As for their families – strangers thrown together by the most unusual of circumstances – their situation explores a new kind of blended family, with unique and fascinating joys and challenges.

The Toronto Star goes beyond the story of the twin Chinese girls to note that in the late 1970s, scientists at the Minnesota Center for Twin and Adoption Research began studying what was then a new category of multiples — adopted twins who were separated at birth and reunited as adults. Dr Thomas Bouchard’s landmark paper was titled “Minnesota Study of Identical Twins Reared Apart.” The study shook the scientific community by demonstrating, across a number of traits, that twins raised apart are as similar as twins raised together. The study’s evidence of genetic influence in traits such as personality (50 per cent heritable) and intelligence (70 per cent heritable) overturned conventional ideas about parenting and teaching. And findings of genetic influence on physiological characteristics have led to new ways of fighting and preventing disease.

While I was yet pregnant with my oldest son, I chose to read a book titled Mother Nature by Sarah Blaffer Hrdy which had just come out in the year before. So my interest is long standing and it is little wonder that the issues continue to capture my interest. For centuries, the self-sacrificing mother who places her child’s needs and desires above her own has defined womanhood. Designed by nature for the task of rearing offspring, women are “naturally” tender, selfless and compassionate where their progeny are concerned. Those who reject childbearing or fail to nurture their offspring directly are typed as pathological, “unnatural” women. In traditional Darwinian evolutionary biology, the female of any species has evolved to produce and nurture the species; one could say it is her only role. Feminist treatises have long argued against the necessary conflation of “woman” with “mother,” and classics such as Adrienne Rich’s Of Woman Born have cogently argued that such altruistic maternity is a cultural construct and not a biological given.

From a review (link above) of Hrdy’s book Mother Nature – US anthropologist Sarah Blaffer Hrdy strides into the minefield, examining motherhood across cultures, historical periods, evolutionary tracts and biological species to better understand human maternity. Hrdy’s book resides in that rare space between academic disciplines (she is a professor emerita at the University of California-Davis and she has been schooled in anthropology, primatology, evolutionary theory, history and feminism). Her work can be situated somewhere between specialist treatise and popular biological science. Hrdy’s unique placement enables her to combine the best of Darwinian evolutionary biology with feminist cultural theory, without falling into the political entrapments of either camp.

Heartening for me, as a biological/genetic mother who lost physical (but not legal) custody of her daughter when she was only 3 years old, I am reminded in this review of Hrdy’s book that stay-at-home mothers are rare in the historical and evolutionary archives; community caregiving is an age-old model of childrearing. Throughout history in primate and human communities, mothering techniques involve “allomothers”: the delegation of child caretaking to other members (male and female) of the community. “Mothers have worked for as long as our species has existed, and they have depended on others to help them rear their children,” Hrdy writes. That means I was not the abject failure I believed my self to be for over 60 years but just another kind of mother. Motherhood today often includes women who have jobs and incomes of their own. Hrdy sees this as an evolutionary process to ensure long and safe lives for these mother’s child(ren). A lack of financial resources most certainly drove me to leave my daughter with her paternal grandmother, while I took a risk to see if I could earn some decent money driving an 18-wheel truck. There never was the intention to permanently abandon my child to other people. Thankfully, as adults we are happily close enough at heart and I believe love one another as fully as any mom could hope for. It is actually the lack of financial resources that is at cause for most adoptions.

In “60 Years On, Twin/Triplet Study Still Raises Questions” – an interview of Dr Leon Hoffman by Elizabeth Hlavinka for Medpage Today looks at the ethics of that study, which began in 1960 (the documents from which are sealed in the archives at Yale University until 2065). This tells me that Peter Neubauer, who died in 2008, eventually had his own qualms about the ethics of what he had perpetrated, though he is judged to have mostly been concerned with confidentiality issues that (until open adoptions began) were the rule in commercial closed adoptions (the effects of which continue to obstruct and vex adult adoptees to this day – change comes slowly). My blog today takes it title from an observation by Dr Hoffman – that the problem with a lot of “exposés” is that we judge the past by our present values.  That is an important point. He also notes that at the time of the Neubauer project, there was a prevailing belief that twins would be better off separated, if they were going to be adopted. That twins were more difficult for the mother and that it would be easier for the mother to take care of one child instead of two children. I understand. In our mom’s group, those with twins often hired au pairs to assist them in those early days.

In this interview, Dr Hoffman notes – I always tell parents of kids that I see, “How much is genetic and how much is environment?” and I always say, “It’s 100% of both,” because those two are always interacting with one another. More and more data has shown that genetic variations get very much affected by the environment. I believe this is also evident in the story about the triplets. They even admit that during that time of their own high publicity, they amplified their similarities because that is what people were curious about. It is clear that they each had unique personalities that do seem to have been affected by their adoptive parents and the differing environmental situations they were raised in. As aging adults, the two surviving individuals have very different surface appearances while retaining many similarities.

Since I have looked at mother/child separations now for several years and am against the practice of adoption generally and in favor of family preservation, I was emotionally triggered last night by thinking about the amplifying effect of separation trauma (which IS mentioned by the triplets in their documentary) as yet another separation wound for babies who grew into their humanity in the same womb. Fortunately for the children in my mom’s group, they don’t have either of those added traumas. “The twin relationship, particularly with (identical) twins, is probably the closest of human social ties,” says Nancy Segal, who is herself a twin. This is why it’s so important for multiples to grow up together. Segal, now a psychology professor at California State University, has found about 15 more sets of adopted twin children being raised by different families, most of them Chinese girls. Researchers attribute this phenomenon to China’s one-child policy, which led to the abandonment of thousands of female babies. Though China’s official adoption rules state that twins should be placed together, pairs like Lily and Gillian prove things don’t always happen that way.

I found one other article that I’m not going to say very much about. You can read the story – Stories of Twins Separated at Birth by Pamela Prindle Fierro at the VeryWell Family website. There are the two sisters – Anais Bordier and Samantha Futerman. They found each other through Facebook and YouTube. They had been raised on different continents. The article includes information about the “Jim Twins” – James Arthur Springer and James Edward Lewis who found each other at the age of 39 in 1979. And there are actually MORE stories at this link.

The important thing to learn is that every action taken, that affects another human being, has the possibility of unintended consequences and that there is always the need for a fully informed consent in the interest of human well-being. An issue with adoptees is that due to their young age, they are never able to give informed consent and therefore, their rights are never considered. This is an issue with many adoptees who feel they are treated like second-class citizens with important basic human rights withheld from them – identity and medical issues foremost. An evolving issue with donor conceptions is similar. The human being conceived in that manner had no ability to consent to the method of their conception. Realistically, none of us consents (in a human sense, but I believe we do in non-physical prior to birth as I believe we are eternal souls).

Birthday Blues

My birthday usually falls near the Memorial Day weekend. Many years, I had a L-O-N-G celebration of existing. It was a happy and self-affirmative occasion.

However, when I began to learn about the trauma associated with adoption, I discovered that the day an adoptee was born is not a happy occasion for many of these persons. It is a reminder of abandonment, rejection or at the least, that the parents from who their life descended are not raising them.

Until an adoptee matures and begins to break through the fog of how wonderful it was that they were adopted narrative, many wonder why they act out or sabotage their own birthday celebrations. What is wrong with them ? Everyone else seems happy to celebrate their birthday.

And now I understand better and can see the difference between my own birthday and an adoptee’s. I remember as well there was some confusion about my own mother’s actual birthdate, though eventually it settled on January 31st and now that I have her adoption file – I see the errors and their eventual correction.

Yesterday, I watched a youtube video the Birthday Episode by My Adoption Story by Lilly Fei and the conflicted feelings, which I remember my own mom having about her adoption are so obvious. Two things stood out for me – when she said she was “found” and how she described the way some international adoptions of transracial children involve the child having birth dates that are estimated based upon physical characteristics because the actual date of birth is unknown.

One adoptee writes – One reason I hate my birthday is because its a celebration of the day I was born and then placed in a nursery just sitting there because my birth mom didn’t want to get attached by holding me. It annoys me that this reason even bothers me, but it definitely does. People who aren’t adopted have great stories about the day they were born and how all these people came to see them and hold them and there are pictures. Yeah that doesn’t really exist if you’re adopted.

Many adoptees feel anger and negative emotions that are understandably directed at their birth family…It is not actually the birthday itself. Yet unavoidably the birthday is a reminder of what happened – back then – so each year, when that birthday rolls around, it all comes back into sharp and painful focus. It is what was done to that baby, for whatever reason at the time of birth, that is the actual problem.

One possible strategy for an adoptee is to change the focus of their birthday. Take a few or even several hours of time out on your birthday. Just you – go somewhere you really like, and reflect, alone, on your current goals and how you hope to achieve them. Keep your thoughts written down. Look at them a few times during the following year. Then when the next birthday rolls around, go over your thoughts again and revise them for the current reality. One adoptee found this kind of birthday event to be helpful in overcoming the birthday blues.

One other suggestion is to deal with all of your negative feelings BEFORE your birthday. Don’t avoid them because then you will feel sad that day. By acknowledging your feelings and seeking to understand what they are trying to tell you, you can then let them go for that day and celebrate the fact that you are resilient, you are a survivor, you are worthy to be loved and celebrated, you rock this life (even though you have that trauma of having been adopted).

For more insight, you may wish to read this Medium essay titled Birthday Blues. Adrian Jones says – “There is one certainty with my birthday: I will find a way to sabotage it. As sure as the sun rises each morning, my birthday will somehow become a fiasco. For most of my life it has been like this. I wish it would stop, but it won’t.” He goes on to write what he has discovered is the source of his pain and the anxiety he feels as his birthday approaches –

“You see, I’m adopted. Born a bastard, I was separated from my biological mother at birth. The woman I spent nine months preparing to meet was gone in an instant. In my most vulnerable state, I was motherless. Without mother. At the time, I was overcome by a high degree of trauma, a trauma that cannot be undone. Worse, this trauma is precognitive. I, like millions of my adoptee crib mates, do not know what life is like without trauma, as we were introduced to life in such a traumatic state. Due to recent scientific studies, we know this to be true. Babies are born expecting to meet their mothers, hear their voices, smell their scents, taste their milk.  When their mothers are not available, they become traumatized. If puppies and kittens must stay with their birth mothers for a few weeks before being adopted, why is it okay to separate a newborn from her mother at first breath?”

There is much more to read in that essay. I highly recommend it.

Adoptees Deserve Better

Steve Inskeep, is a co-host of NPR’s “Morning Edition” and “Up First.” He is an adoptee and an adoptive father. He penned an op-ed in the New York Times recently titled For 50 Years, I Was Denied the Story of My Birth. I share excerpts below.

In 1968, a woman appeared for an interview at the Children’s Bureau, an adoption agency in Indianapolis. She was in her 20s and alone. A caseworker noted her name, which I am withholding for reasons that will become apparent, and her appearance: She was “a very attractive, sweet looking girl,” who seemed “to come from a good background” and was “intelligent.” She had “blue eyes and rather blonde hair,” though the woman said her hair was getting darker over time, like that of her parents.

Her reason for coming was obvious. She was around 40 weeks pregnant. She told a story that the caseworker wrote down and filed in a cabinet, where it would rest for decades unseen. The expectant mother said she had grown up in Eastern Kentucky’s mountains, then migrated north as a teenager to find work after her father died. She was an office worker in Ohio when she became pregnant by a man who wasn’t going to marry her. The most remarkable part of her story was this: When she knew she was about to give birth, she drove westward out of Ohio, stopping at Indianapolis only because it was the first big city she encountered. She checked into a motel and found an obstetrician, who took one look and sent her to the Children’s Bureau. She arranged to place the baby for adoption and gave birth the next day.

The baby was me. Life is a journey, and I was born on a road trip. I spent 10 days in foster care before being adopted by my parents, Roland and Judith Inskeep, who deserve credit if I do any small good in the world.

In recent decades, open adoption has been replacing closed and sealed adoptions. The rules governing past adoptions change slowly. Mr Inskeep was not allowed to see his birth records. Everything he has shared about his biological parents was unknown to him growing up. He says, “They were such a blank, I could not even imagine what they might be like.”

His adopted daughter is from China, and like many international adoptees, she also had no story of her biological family. A social worker suggested to him that his adopted daughter might want to know his own adoption story someday. So I requested my records from the State of Indiana and was denied. Next I called the Children’s Bureau, where a kind woman on the phone had my records in her hands, but was not allowed to share them.

In 2018, the law in Indiana changed. Many adoptees or biological families may now obtain records unless another party to the adoption previously objected. In 2019 the state and the Children’s Bureau sent me documents that gave my biological mother’s name, left my biological father’s name blank and labeled me “illegitimate.” On a hospital form someone had taken my right footprint, with my biological mother’s right thumbprint below it on the page.

I saw something similar on my mom’s adoption file records. Tennessee had changed the law in the late 1990s for the victims of the Georgia Tann scandal only, sometime after they denied my mom but no one ever told her. My cousin told me she got her dad’s file (he was also adopted from The Tennessee Children’s Home) after my dad died in 2016 and that is why I now have the file my mom was denied on flimsy reasoning (her dad, who was 20 years old than her mom could not be proven to have died, though her mom had died and the state of Tennessee didn’t really try very hard).

Mr Inskeep writes – It’s been nearly two years since I first read those documents, and I’m still not over it. Knowing that story has altered how I think about myself, and the seemingly simple question of where I’m from. It’s brought on a feeling of revelation, and also of anger. I’m not upset with my biological mother; it was moving to learn how she managed her predicament alone. Her decisions left me with the family that I needed — that I love. Nor am I unhappy with the Children’s Bureau, which did its duty by preserving my records. I am angry that for 50 years, my state denied me the story of how I came to live on this earth. Strangers hid part of me from myself.

2% of US residents — roughly six million people — are adoptees. A majority were adopted domestically, with records frequently sealed, especially for older adoptees. Only nine states allow adoptees unrestricted access to birth records. Indiana is among those that have begun to allow it under certain conditions, while 19 states and the District of Columbia still permit nothing without a court order (I came up against this in Virginia). Also California, when my dad was born, I could get nothing out of them. Florida also remains closed.

This spring, more than a dozen states are considering legislation for greater openness. Bills in Florida, Texas and Maryland would ensure every adoptee’s access to pre-adoption birth records. Proposals in other states, like Arizona, would affirm the rights of some adoptees but not others. The legislation is driven by activists who have lobbied state by state for decades. Many insist on equality: All adoptees have a right to the same records as everyone else.

Equality would end an information blackout that robs people of identity and more. Mr Inskeep notes what my mom (an adoptee) often said to me – “I was never able to tell a doctor my family medical history when asked.” For that matter, until I learned who my original grandparents were from 2017 into 2018, I didn’t know mine either because BOTH of my parents were adoptees.

Closed adoption began as “confidential” adoption in the early 20th century, enabling parents and children to avoid the stigma of illegitimacy. Records were sealed to all but people directly involved. In a further step, by midcentury, even parties to the adoption were cut out. Agencies offered adoptive parents a chance to raise children without fear of intrusion by biological parents, and biological parents a chance to start over.

Access to information about one’s genetic background, heritage, and ancestry is a birthright denied only to adoptees. An adoptee is expected to honor a contract made over his or her body and without his or her consent.

The Chilean Scandal

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Funding Push

The latest trend in adoption seems to be crowdfunding the cost. So it is that today I learned about one such platform for hopeful adoptive parents – Adopt Together.

They claim on their website that they are a non-profit, crowdfunding platform that bridges the gap between families who want to adopt and the children who need loving homes. Hank Fortener, is the founder and CEO of AdoptTogether. He says that he understands the burden that is the adoption process. While he was growing up, his family fostered 36 children and adopted 6 from 5 different countries.

Donations are made through Pure Charity, the crowd-funding platform partner of Adopt Together — if designated, they are conveyed to the selected adopting family.  All non-designated donations go towards the general fund for Adopt Together’s expenses. Pure Charity says – they work with select nonprofit organizations to grow their impact through Fundraising, Technology, Donor Development, and Mobilization Strategies. Further, they note – Pure Charity works within a “Theory of Change” to plan how and why a desired change is expected to happen in a particular context. They are focused on mapping out the “missing middle” between what a change initiative does and how these lead to desired goals being achieved.

Like many things these days the web around this is not only the Pure Charity platform but also they are a “project” of the Hoping Hearts Foundation. A review of this non-profit says – they were created to bring focus to the growing world-wide orphan problem, address the causes leading to children becoming orphans, and support families in their quest to adopt with financial assistance and timely information to facilitate the adoption process. Their website shows their focus is international – Burma, Sri Lanka, India, Haiti, Indonesia, Cuba and Kenya. They describe themselves as – a Christ-centered organization founded to meet the spiritual, medical, nutritional, and basic living needs of orphaned, abandoned, and at-risk children around the world.

There is so much that is problematic about taking children from poor countries and depositing them with usually white families in the United States that I really don’t know where to begin but often families are mis-informed about what is going to happen to their children. Many only hope for their child to get a better education but believe they will return to the family in the not too distant future. There is also a problem with children adopted this way never actually getting citizenship only to find themselves on a deportation list. These are just a few things without going into loss of culture issues.

Back to where I started – what’s the main thing I sense happening here (besides adoption) – it’s money and there are likely more than a few people making a lot of money with these intertwined organizations. Follow the money and things become clearer. Exploitation is always following very close behind.

Mother/Child Separations

Black babies separated from slave mothers. Native American children separated from their families to indoctrinate them into white standards of living. White babies separated from their mothers in the 1930’s through the 1960’s because they were a profitable and valuable commodity in the adoption market (if you were a black unwed mother you could keep your baby as it was no longer a financially lucrative commodity after the Emancipation Proclamation). And most recently, Hispanic babies separated from their mothers at the southern border of the United States.

These may seem wildly different situations but actually they are the same. Society does not value natural families nor do we support keeping children in the families they were born into. We do this at great harm to the children and equally emotional and psychological harm for their mothers.

In regard to Africans enslaved in America, though they most definitely experienced an assault on their personhood, but never yielded. Because misogyny has been dominate until recently, it is no surprise that women’s voices, both in their own time and in later scholarship, remained largely silent. They reproduced, labored, and died in near anonymity. Slave women did not have ready access to birth control and experienced great pressure to bear children. After the abolition of the international slave trade in 1808, the South’s dependence upon natural reproduction increased. Slave women experienced pressure to bear children from a culture that gloried motherhood and from masters who personally benefited from slave offspring due to their financial value.

In 1879, the Carlisle Indian Industrial School in Pennsylvania was a government-backed institution that forcibly separated Native American children from their parents in order to kill the Indian in him, and save the man. For decades, this effort continued. Native American boarding schools were a method of forced assimilation. The end goal of these measures was to make Native people more like the white Anglo-Americans who had taken over their land. By removing them from their homes, the schools disrupted students’ relationships with their families and other members of their tribe. Once they returned home, children struggled to relate to their families after being taught that it was wrong to speak their language or practice their religion.

The Baby Scoop Era was a period in the history of the United States, starting after the end of World War II and ending in the early 1970s, My parents adoptions were just a little bit ahead of their time but Georgia Tann, through whom my mom was adopted was certainly already profiting when my mom turned up, 5 mos old with blond hair and blue eyes, Tann’s most desired commodity. This time period was characterized by an increased rate of pre-marital pregnancies over the preceding period, along with a higher rate of newborn adoption. It is estimated that up to 4 million parents in the United States had children placed for adoption, with 2 million during the 1960s alone. Annual numbers for non-relative adoptions increased from an estimated 33,800 in 1951 to a peak of 89,200 in 1970, then quickly declined to an estimated 47,700 in 1975. By 2003, only 14,000 infants were placed for adoption. The number of hopeful adoptive parents remains far beyond the number of babies available which set off the international adoption boom and the abuses and exploitations in that field.

Most recently has been the horrendous treatment of Hispanic families at our southern border.

Long before the Trump administration implemented its “zero tolerance” immigration enforcement policy in 2018, it was already separating children from their parents as part of a “pilot program” conducted in the El Paso, Texas, area (where I spent my childhood, I am familiar with border issues and politics). Under the El Paso program, begun in mid-2017, adults who crossed the border without permission – a misdemeanor for a first-time offender – were detained and criminally charged. No exceptions were made for parents arriving with young children. The children were taken from them, and parents were unable to track or reunite with their children because the government failed to create a system to facilitate reunification. By late 2017, the government was separating families along the length of the US-Mexico border, including families arriving through official ports of entry. It is suspected that many of these children were placed in foster homes and may have even been placed into adoption as it has proven almost impossible for some parents to relocate their children.

Sometimes, humanity makes my heart hurt.

The Tangled Red Thread

Born into the social experiment of closed adoption in the early 1960s, Noelle was taken home directly from the hospital at the age of three days. Her early life in rural Washington state seemed idyllic. With loving parents, two brothers, and her beloved pets, she had a childhood to be envied. But all that was ripped away, first by the violent loss of her innocence, followed by the slow death of her mother.

Essentially left to raise herself, she embarks on a lifelong journey of self-discovery, guided at unexpected times by “the voice” only she can hear. Even the most mundane choices, such as where to go to college, seem to be divinely directed.

Haunted by recurring loss, Noelle is determined to find her birth mother, to uncover the secrets of the feelings and visions she cannot contain or control. In surviving the breakdown of her husband and marriage, she realizes she has a psychic connection with the family she never knew, and in a series of incredible events reunites not only with them, but also eventually with her soulmate.

A true account of one woman’s life, existing as not one, but two people: one born and one adopted, and enduring the reality of not completely belonging in either world.

Elle Cuardaigh asks these questions, “If adoption is beautiful…

Why do people lie about it?

Why isn’t it the first choice for couples who want children?

Why has it been this way for less than one hundred years?

Why doesn’t everyone give up a baby to someone who can’t have one?

Why does rehoming not only happen but is completely legal?

Why does Biblical scripture have to be twisted in order to justify it?

Why does the Quran condemn it?

Why isn’t it done this way all over the world?

Why are people in other countries horrified when they learn what adoption means here?

Why have several “sending” countries banned international adoption?

Why are adoption agencies being sued or forcibly shut down?

Why do adoptees turn to DNA testing to avoid dating a sibling?

Why is family medical history still the first question asked at doctor appointments?

Why are records kept from the very people they pertain to?

Why is a court order needed to see the records?

Why are adoptees terrified to ask their adopted parents questions about it?

Why do adopted parents swear their families to secrecy?

Why did the Catholic church get rich off its corruption?

Why is coercion routinely employed to get “birth mothers” to relinquish?

Why are there consistently over 100,000 eligible children waiting years for “their forever families”?

Why do white children cost more than black children?

Why is it okay to think of children as commodities as in the above question?

Why do the American Adoption Congress, Adoptee’s Liberty Movement Association, Bastard Nation, Concerned United Birthparents, and numerous other organizations like them exist?

Why do so many adoptees search?

Why did the Australian government officially apologize for its role in it?

Why are adoptees who are murdered by their adopted parents still considered “lucky”?

Why were adoptees used for medical and psychological experiments?

Why are adoptees the punchline of jokes?

Why is it recognized as a childhood trauma?

Why are adoptees considered “as if born to” their adoptive family, yet are subject to conditional terms for incest?

Why in cases where the baby goes back to the natural mother is it called “failure”?

Why are teen adoptees overrepresented in mental health services?

Why do so many rely on it as an industry for their paycheck?

Why is it patterned after the system Georgia Tann – a known kidnapper, trafficker, child killer, and pedophile – developed?

Why is it used as a tool of war and cultural genocide?

Why can’t all adoptees get a passport?

Why are others deported?

Why are adoptees four times more likely than the non-adopted to attempt suicide?

Why can’t we have this conversation?”