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?”

Un-Adopted

The Stauffer Family minus Huxley

The video began like so many others. YouTubers Myka and James Stauffer, in the glow of camera-friendly lighting, staring into the lens. But this time, instead of energetically updating their roughly 1 million subscribers (over 700,000 on Myka’s YouTube channel and over 300,000 on the family’s vlog, The Stauffer Life) on their “kiddos” or Myka’s “mommy morning routine” or vegan-meal ideas, the couple had somber expressions.

“This is by far the hardest video James and I have ever publicly had to make,” said Myka. Wearing white shirts that matched the linens on the bed where they sat, the Stauffers revealed that they had placed Huxley, their then almost 5-year-old autistic son from China — whose adoption process and life they had documented for more than three years — with “his now new forever family.” Myka and James tearfully explained that the extent of Huxley’s needs had not been clear when they’d adopted him, that it was never supposed to happen this way, and that they loved him.

In the kindest light, Myka, now 33, and James, 35, were painted as well-meaning but naïve parents who had gotten in over their heads; in the harshest, they were fame-hungry narcissists who’d exploited a child for clicks and profit only to discard him when caring for him proved too difficult.

According to the US Department of Health and Human Services, anywhere from one percent to 5 percent of the more than 100,000 adoptions in the U.S. each year are legally terminated in what’s called a “dissolution”. The Stauffers’ decision to relinquish custody of Huxley could be called rare but it is not uncommon in adoptionland.

Myka said she’d long wanted to adopt; at one point, she and James talked about having six or seven children, with multiple adoptions, and were specifically interested in a child from Africa. James was more reluctant, she said, and after several conversations, she finally pleaded, “Can you please, please in your heart just consider adoption? Just really genuinely think about it, because it’s really important to me.” He ultimately agreed, and, later in 2016, the couple posted a video announcing their plans to adopt and their intent to take viewers along with them on their “journey.”

Sharing information about a child’s adoption before he or she is in the home is frowned upon by adoption experts.  Not only can publicizing an adoption jeopardize it, but it’s often seen as playing into the stereotype of white families swooping in to “save” foreign children.

International adoptions to the U.S. have dropped to a fraction of what they were a decade and a half ago, as many countries, including China, have revised their protocols. (For the 2019 fiscal year, the U.S. Department of State reported just 2,971 adoptions to the US from other countries, down from almost 23,000 adoptions in 2004.) China still accounts for more adoptions to the US than any other country, but now almost all adoptees from China to the US are toddler age or older, and many have existing health conditions. If the Stauffers adopted from China, they would almost certainly be choosing a child with special needs.

Myka and James asked viewers to invest not only time in Huxley’s adoption story but money.  In October 2017, Myka and James, along with their three biological children, traveled to China to pick up Huxley. The accompanying video, which they called Huxley’s “Gotcha Day” — a term popular on YouTube but criticized by the adoption community — racked up more than 5.5 million views. Myka and James dedicated it “to all the orphans around the world” and set the video to “You Set My World on Fire,” by Sweden’s Loving Caliber, an acoustic track with the lyrics “Just tell me you’ll stay or take me away / I want you for myself every single day.”

Since adopting Huxley, Myka and James’s online success had grown substantially. Total earnings are difficult to estimate, but the Stauffers earned from $4,100 to $66,700 from their three channels in April and May 2020, according to analytics site Social Blade, a number that does not include revenue from sponsorships. Myka had hired a manager to handle all the direct marketing from companies that wanted to work with her.

The Stauffers began to consider a way out that was never part of the “journey” they had expected to experience, much less share. When they finally broke their silence in late May, they said they had initially kept quiet because they didn’t want to jeopardize Huxley’s transition to his new family. In their video, Myka said that Huxley was thriving in his new home, that he was happy, and that “his new mommy has medical-professional training and is a very good fit.” But the optics of their situation were fraught. In the middle of a pandemic and a national reckoning over racial injustice, when the president and multiple other right-wing leaders repeatedly referred to the coronavirus as the “kung flu” or “Wuhan flu,” Myka and James were a privileged white couple who’d given away their Chinese son.

Other adoptive parents have described situations that seem to echo the Stauffers’ sense of hopelessness. In her memoir The Best of Us, author Joyce Maynard describes adopting two girls from Ethiopia and then, just over a year later, placing them with another family whose mother she met during the adoption process. “With an ignorance that staggers me now — ignorance, and some arrogance, no doubt — I had believed my love would be there like an eternal flame, and that this love of mine could fix whatever had been broken in my daughters’ lives.” When this proved not to be the case, that the road to attachment would be a long one, she describes it as “the most profound sense of despair I had ever known.”

One of the biggest misconceptions is that dissolutions happen because the child is bad. Nine times out of ten, it is NOT the child’s behavior. It seems like it’s the child’s behavior, but it’s the child’s behavior triggering something in the family.  The most common reason for dissolution is that the parents feel incompetent to manage the child’s behaviors.

These are just excerpts.  You can read the entire story here – Why Did These YouTubers Give Away Their Son?  I had encountered the story previously but I didn’t know it in depth.  It is a cautionary tale about international adoptions as well as chasing after lucrative clicks and sponsorships.  It is a double edged sword waiting to cut the next victim.

The Sad Fact of Rehoming

A women writes – “I used to be a support coordinator for developmental disabilities, I saw people put their kids in medical group homes. I can not fathom making that choice. Of course parenting kids with medical needs is hard, that’s what home health support is for. If you’ve made money off your parenting, you should actually parent.”

One person quoted from an article: “With international adoption, sometimes there’s unknowns and things that are not transparent on files and things like that,” James Stauffer said. “Once ‘H’ came home, there was a lot more special needs that we weren’t aware of and that we were not told.”

The issue is a couple that re-homed their adopted son because he had developmental disabilities.  The woman quoting the article commented on the issue – “Oh, cool, I wasn’t aware that if you gave birth to a kid, you have some sort of guarantee that nothing ever will happen in that human’s life that will require more than Leave it to Beaver style parenting. Sorry this kid didn’t fit into your perfect little mold and dared to be human and have problems. Hope none of your kids born to you biologically get into a car accident or come down with a serious illness or get cancer. Cause clearly you’ll just dump them, too??? Yeah. Probably not.”

Another woman wrote – “My daughter has autism and she’s the most honest, compassionate, nature loving and sweetest girl I’ve ever meet. I’m glad that I changed my mind on adoption and even more so now!”

I remember my OB having “the conversation” with us about “possibilities” such as this woman shares –  “I was told my oldest had Down Syndrome. (Mind you we were teenagers when we found out we were expecting.)”

“My OB said it does not matter how I feel about it but you do have options. I remember looking at her and asking what she meant. And she said well some people cannot handle finding out their child is not ‘standard’ so they chose to abort or put up for adoption. I remember how crushed she looked telling me.”

“I said nope absolutely not. He is us and we are him and we will figure it out together He was perfect and healthy and no Down syndrome.”

“My aunt fostered special needs kids, I fell in love with “J” and wanted my parents to adopt him. He was so fun and loving and knew no meanness or sadness. I won a young authors contest writing about him. I’ll always hold him close to my heart.”

When I was a teenager, I volunteered at a summer camp for special needs kids.  It was a life-changing experience for me.  My husband and I have worked for most of our business life together in various aspects associated with our county’s sheltered workshop.

To Imagine Disability Otherwise, a TEDtalk. This woman was my sister-in-law in my first marriage. Her child was born before my daughter with severe birth defects. This led her to make disabilities her life’s work. She has a strong belief in supporting conventional lifestyles for disabled people.  I am proud to know where her life took her.

No, You Don’t Deserve A Baby

Regarding adoption, one prospective couple wrote – “I want a baby not a full grown kid. My husband and I deserve a baby. We both crave a baby to raise as our own”.

I get that.  Not that I believe they deserve someone else’s baby but that they are hoping for that blank slate that Georgia Tann always advertised her babies as being.  Science has determined that isn’t the truth but anyway.

Another prospective adoptive couple stated, “Older children come with so many issues. You can’t mother an older child like an infant. Especially as first time parents”.  Though I was not a first time parent, my husband was.

When my husband decided he wanted to be a father, we did talk about adoption but decided that we wanted a truly blank slate as our beginning position.  We wanted to conceive and for me to carry our baby in my womb, give birth and breastfeed that baby for a reasonable length of time.  We did need considerable medical assistance and there was a compromise involved that seemed reasonable but still must be faced fully and accepted.  Which I believe I have for the most part.

Regarding the expense of adoption, someone was quoted as saying, “Adoption should be free like abortion is”.  Now that does blow my mind because abortion is not free.  I know.  I had one back in the mid-1970s.  There is a cost in dollars at the time and over the long run a cost mentally and emotionally with making such a significant decision.  I continue believe it was the right decision at the time I made it but that doesn’t equate to the reality being easy to live with.

Here is another statement that is absolutely not true – “If adoption wasn’t so expensive, there would be more kids who find homes”.  Fact is there are 4 couples wanting to adopt for every child available to be adopted.  That is one of the reasons that over the most recent decades, many couples have gone out of the United States to obtain a child to raise as their own.

One of the major interests among the members of the adoption community – original parents and adoptees – is reform.  Part of reform is actually raising awareness and changing perspectives.  That is the hope and the purpose for which I write a blog on related topics each day.

Selling Babies

My original maternal grandmother and mom were exploited by the Tennessee Children’s Home Society branch at Memphis.  Though no actual records exist to show that any money changed hands, I believe it did based upon the history of that organization and the fact that my adoptive maternal grandmother had actually “specified” the characteristics that she wanted in the baby sister she was adopting to go with the little boy she had adopted from the same agency a couple of years earlier.

The TCHS warned my adoptive grandmother that “rarely do they have a baby so desirable” and therefore my adoptive maternal grandmother must act quickly and she did.  Georgia Tann’s story teaches everyone about the importance of ridding adoption of lies and secrets.  That is the purpose of pushing for open adoption records.

There needs to be a law making the sale of, or traffic in, children for the purpose of adoption illegal because while it isn’t known for certain to be happening in the United States, there is every indication that American adoptive parents who are looking overseas because they are unable to adopt quickly enough here in the United States, may be victims of inappropriate adoptions originating in other countries.

In 2006, a reporter wrote that 23,000 children – born in other countries – had been adopted by Americans. China is the most common go-to country with nearly 8,000 orphan visas granted from there. Russia comes in second, followed by Guatemala, South Korea, Ukraine and Kazakhstan. And Americans are increasingly turning an eye to African countries including the celebrities Angelina Jolie and Madonna.

When The Baby Thief was written by Barbara Bisantz Raymond in (published in 2007) an international adoption by an American parents cost as much as $40,000 and she noted that can like seem an enormous sum to brokers in countries where the average annual income is $1,800.

Where There Is Demand

In the decades after World War II, there was a huge demand for “adoptable” babies.

If the demand for adoptable babies continues to exceed the supply . . . if the laws and courts continue to emphasize that the “rights of the child” supersede the “rights of the parents”, then it is quite possible that, in the near future, unwed mothers will be “punished” by having their children taken from them right after birth. A policy like this would not be executed nor labelled explicitly as “punishment”. Rather, it would be implemented by such pressures and labels as “scientific findings”, “the best interest of the child” and “rehabilitation of the unwed mother”.

~ The Baby Scoop Era

Once unwed mothers in the United States began to chose to keep their children, international adoptions became all the rage.  Without strong familial support, it was generally not possible for a single mother to really support herself and her child because the self-reliant tradition in the United States does not believe in financially supporting such mothers.  I was such a single mother after divorce who was not supported by my child’s father.

Back in the 1970s, growing up, I knew a girl who kept her child but mostly it was the grandmother who raised it.  Even more recently in the early 2000s, I know of a similar case.

But in my own family, where both of my parents were adopted, there was no familial support for their daughters keeping a child if they were not married.  Adoption was suggested as the solution.  The results speak for themselves.