Pluses and Minuses

A Former Foster Care Youth, then Adoptee writing her thoughts… contemplates – Am I the only one that struggles with going back and forth with being – glad my parents gave me up and then, at the same time sad that my extended family didn’t keep me ? I can’t imagine the person I would be, if I was raised by my biological parents… if I were to guess, I probably wouldn’t have finished high school and would be living off welfare. But being given up also caused additional trauma including feeling unworthy, unloved and abandoned. I was sexually abused in the first foster family I was placed with. Then, the second family had so many foster kids, I never got attention. The family that adopted me did so because their biological daughter passed away at 20 years old, so they took me in. I always felt like I had to be who she was… Then again, my adoptive mother did teach me to be a strong, independent woman who doesn’t need to depend on anyone including the government, financially. So I think, there are pluses and minuses in being given up and adopted. However, I also think, if my biological mother had received the help she needed, mentally and financially, maybe I would not have had to go through any of my imagined or my real outcomes.

I am not an adoptee myself but I have thought about such things. Both of my original grandmothers could have raised my parents had they had the proper support and assistance. I have no doubt about that. My mom may have grown up in more poverty because her adoptive parents were financially very well off. This did allow some benefits and privileges for my mom and for me and my sisters. I’m less certain about how my dad may have turned out.

His original mother was unwed and had an affair with a married man. I doubt he ever knew he had a son as his extended family here in the United States and still living in Denmark did not know he existed. DNA proved my relationship to them. My paternal grandmother did go on to have other children but also a rather difficult life as I have been told. No doubt he would have been loved. He was very important to his adoptive mother as well who had a huge influence on the outcome of my own life. She was a strong woman in her own ways.

I grew up with good adoptive grandparents, aunts and cousins and I am grateful for all of them. Learning about my original family has had a bittersweet effect on me. It has left me more lonely in odd ways – not part of the adoptive or the genetic families – in reality. More alone than I was before I knew . . .

Ethics In Adoption

Adoption is a BIG Business

From an adoption community post –

There is an economy at work in adoption.

Let’s begin with adoption agencies –

An adoption agency connects hopeful adoptive parents with expectant mothers in crisis who may wish to relinquish their child for adoption. In the process of negotiating, the adoption agency receives money from the hopeful adoptive parents (in most cases), and sometimes (rarely) from expectant mothers. The money is used to pay for the associated legal fees, the matching service, and sometimes for care for the expectant mother. This money also pays the salaries of the agency employees. This is true even if the agency is listed as a “not for profit” agency. The employees, social workers, and directors are not working for free.

Hopeful adoptive parents reach out to agencies for help in finding an available child (usually an infant) to adopt. There are 40 hopeful adoptive parents (couples/families) for every infant available for adoption. That is an estimate, some say it may be as high as 1,000 hopeful adoptive parents for every infant who becomes available for adoption.

If you look on websites and in social media, an expectant mother who indicates anywhere that she is considering adoption, will receive hundreds, often thousands, of responses from people who would like to adopt her baby. The demand far exceeds the supply of infants available for adoption. In the leaked Supreme Court draft written by Alito he makes a note of that lack of supply.

So, let’s apply the law of supply and demand –

In order for an agency (which, whether for profit or not for profit, stands to make money from the transaction) to keep itself in business, the agency must provide a certain percentage of infants for the demand. When supply is low and demand is high, coercion enters into these transactions. Agencies must obtain children for their market and are willing to do whatever it takes to supply that market. Social workers and agency contacts do whatever it takes to convince an expectant mother that one of their adoptive couples is better for her child, than she could ever be.

If she receives any money from the agency to cover her expenses but then decides she wants to parent, they will call her a “scammer” or a “fraud.” In many states there is no revocation period during which a woman who has given birth but indicated she is willing to give up her baby can change her mind. Those are considered “adoption-friendly” states Some have short revocation periods. In many cases, social workers pressure expectant mothers to hand their babies over and sign their termination of parental rights, while the new mother is still within the first 48 hours after birth.

Coercive tactics are part and parcel of domestic infant adoption. International infant adoption is even more coercive and heinous because some parents are not even told that their legal rights to their child are being severed.

So, what about the children in foster care ? They’ve already had their parental rights severed. Some hopeful adoptive parents believe they are only motivated to help these unfortunate children. But there’s an economy at work there too. You can be forgiven for not knowing that, thanks to the many promotions of this method of adoption by various states. A federal stipend is paid to foster parents for children of all ages, from under a year old until they age out of the foster care system at 18.

In 1997, the Adoption and Safe Families Act (ASFA) went into effect. Its purpose was to achieve permanency for children who had been in foster care for a long period of time by having them adopted. The intent of the law was good: permanent placements for children who had been abused, neglected, or abandoned. Its implementation, however, has proven faulty. It has amplified the corruption that has always been endemic within the Child Protective Services system.

The ASFA provides federal stipends to state agencies for each adoption they process out of foster care. Because the states receive money for having children adopted out of foster care, they now have a financial incentive to take children from actually SAFE families and place them into foster homes, so that they can be adopted. The more recent Family First Prevention Services Act includes federal funds to pay for services aimed at preventing the use of foster care by providing better support to parents at risk of losing custody of their children.

Regarding the current concept of “Foster to Adopt” –

Foster parents already receive a generous stipend from the state for caring for the state’s ward. Often, a foster parent will even receive an infant fresh from the hospital due to “risk of future harm” from their parents. These infants are placed with foster parents whose aim is to adopt. Both the foster parents (who wanted to adopt an infant) and the state child protection agency (which receives federal monies for every adoption from foster care) stand to gain from the adoption of this infant “out of foster care.”

The economic implications of adoption are the most straightforward and fact-based way to address whether ethical adoption is even possible. To whatever degree this all matters to you personally – consider the social impact of adoption and the reasons why adoption is considered unethical based upon social reasons.

Include in your considerations why children are removed by protective agencies simply due to perceived neglect caused only by poverty. Consider how it is possible that stipend money paid to them somehow makes foster caregivers more fit to parent than the biological parents. Look into the statistics for suicide and mental health issues among adoptees. Contemplate why laws promote adoption rather than legal guardianship.

Adoption is a contract made between two people – in which a third person is subjected to its ramifications – without their consent. Thank you for contemplating the ethical ramifications of adoption and the use by the state of foster care to increase adoptions.

Did You Know ?

Did you know that among the many hurdles that parents face when their children are removed (often due to poverty mainly) and placed in foster care, that these struggling parents are also hand a bill for the costs of that foster care of their children ? This has been the way that it has been handled but that may change over the coming weeks and months.

According to Aysha Schomburg, the associate commissioner of the Children’s Bureau which is the agency that provides federal funding to state and county child welfare agencies, their “default position” now is that states should stop charging the child’s parents and “find innovative ways to support families.” She adds, “When a state child support agency takes what little funds a parent has when a child enters foster care, it makes it harder for that parent to pay for gas or bus fare or to get to work; harder to get or keep stable housing. That’s not what we want.”

Impoverished families keep getting those bills until they’re paid off completely. Some parents still get billed for years — even 20 years or more — after being reunited with their kids. So this is a financial burden that can stick with families for years — and decades.

Examples of how big these bills can be . . . a Minnesota mother’s tax refunds were garnished after her three children were placed in foster care. That bill was over $19,000 after her children spent 20 months in foster care. One couple in Washington state had the horrendous experience of having their son taken from them due to the husband being charged with assaulting their 4 year old son. Eventually, all charges were dismissed but it took 13 months to get their son came back home. The state sent the couple a bill of $8,000 for the boy’s foster care and garnished their paychecks. 

The policy changes will only apply to parents coming into the system now in some states. In reality, some states will be more generous and other states will not. A 1984 federal law requires state and county child welfare agencies to, when “appropriate,” collect the money and return part of it to the US Treasury to reimburse the federal government, which pays for a large percentage of foster care.  

There is more where the content for today’s blog was sourced – “The federal government will allow states to stop charging families for foster care” by Joseph Shapiro posted at NPR’s website.

Hanger Baby

My sister is a hanger baby. My mother was terrified of giving birth after then seven children. When she was pregnant for my sister, she tried to abort her using a hanger. It was one of those secrets of the family.

My sister was born normal but as she grew, she was more street smart than book smart. My mother favored her terribly because of the guilt in what she had attempted to do. She thought she made her stupid.

My mother had three nervous breakdowns, suffered with debilitating alcoholism, and we lived in incredible poverty our whole lives. The only pride we were afforded was knowing we our father was a good catholic who used that at every turn to borrow money using his ten children as collateral.

There were little joyful experiences in my childhood. One friend asked me once to think of my happiest moment when I was a child. I have a photographic memory but could not think of one happy experience. I am sure there were some, but they were usually times that were devoid of trauma, so they were happy in comparison.

I was cursed on my birth by my mother. She delivered me in a drunken stupor.. She hung on to the doorway frame of the wall when they tried to take her to deliver me. She just screamed how much she hated me. I lived my life in galvanized numbness. I don’t think I have been able to fully shake it. I was well in my twenties before I realized that some parents love their children.

People always say they are speaking for the unborn. But they are not. They are speaking for their religious bias. They are speaking for a conditioning to bring babies into the world for some kind of political numbers game. The unborn would be better off if they landed in a place of love for them. It worked out well for my sister being born because of my mother’s guilt, she had an advantage in life.. I was not so lucky.

Every child has the right to be loved. I did not have to endure such a loveless existence. As I grew, I have had many memories bleed through about my past lives. It was not a thing that was in my belief system and yet the memories bled through.

If I had past lives, then I know I have future lives. I have the knowing that all of who I am doesn’t depend on this one lifetime. Nor does it with any fetus. I have had sessions with clients who brushed people’s lives by being their miscarried baby. It was all the interaction they needed to complete the transaction between parent and child.

What I have endured, I would not inflict on an innocent baby. There is the starving, being poor, being unloved and trying to thrive through incredible dysfunction. It is not something I think of everyday but the trauma of being a “have not” in a world of “haves” is the most cruel fate you can thrust on a baby. It would be different if it was merely a material thing. A mother’s love can help a child through any disadvantage. But without the love between a mother and child, the fate of both seems an unnecessary fate.

I know everyone who says they are pro life think they have the most scrupulous vantage point. But if they lived the life of a loveless baby, they may be much more agreeable to allowing there to be a choice. Perhaps they can trust Love to make the best choice for each soul and take their discretion out of the equation.

~ this personal experience was shared my Facebook friend – Jen Ward. Her website is – Jenuinehealing.com

Coping With Reality

Mental health issues cause a lot of the removals of children from their parents. It is true that families lose their children to Child Protective Services because they are struggling with mental health and poverty.

We do have a mental health crisis in America. Many therapists only serve the 4Ws- Wealthy Worried White Women. Some people can’t access mental health care at all. Other people are ridiculed for needing mental health care, and so they won’t get help because they are embarrassed. Reaching out for help needs to become more acceptable in every day life. We need more mental health supports to address these issues, regardless of age, race, sexual oriented, socio-economic status or rural/urban location.

One person admitted – I was told I must not have financial issues if I can afford to smoke. That isn’t true. I can’t afford actual mental healthcare. Yes, my nicotine calms me down. Is it healthy? No. Do I want to stop? Yes. Don’t judge poor people for having addictions to cope with life. If they drove a Lexus, it would just be mommy wine culture that helped them cope.

One truthful response –  it’s easier to point out and shame someone else’s addiction, rather than deal with your own more socially acceptable addiction.

National Coalition for Child Protection Reform

I ended up here because of the mention of CASA – Court Appointed Special Advocates. I wondered if there was anything of concern about what they do and found this organization – the National Coalition for Child Protection Reform (NCCPR). My illustration came from their blog and I also read this – “the Tampa Bay Times has discovered that maybe all those children don’t need to be in foster care after all!” in the blog from 2018 right below that Christmas themed graphic.

In fact, from so much that I have read, many children are often removed from their parents for no worse of a crime than living in poverty. The NCCPR is working to help America’s vulnerable children by changing public policy concerning child abuse, foster care, and family preservation. Truly this looks like an organization I could feel good about promoting.

The NCCPR advocates for systemic change. There are many links and a blog at their website. They note that a question they get all the time is “How can I help change the ‘child welfare’ system ?” Often people ask how they can help fix the system because of a personal experience.  But every personal experience is different. NCCPR has 2 publications that outline specific ways to fix child welfare and model systems to emulate. Doing Child Welfare Right focuses largely on improving child welfare services and changing financial incentives.  Civil Liberties Without Exception focuses on reforms to bolster due process for families. There are MORE suggestions here – How You Can Help Reform Child Welfare.

When It Is Family

A woman’s sister writes – My sister asked me to care for her baby. The mom signed the form to terminate her parental rights, when her baby was only 2 days old. She had been in a car accident during pregnancy and lost her job. She is now financially stable, has her life together (her baby is only 5 months old now) and wants me to discontinue my adoption process regarding her baby.

The problem is – we don’t want to give her baby back. Is there anything legal – my sister, the baby’s biological mom – can do ? We’re so close to finalizing the adoption, all that is left is the home study. What do we tell our child, when she’s older, about why we refused to give her back to her original mom ?

Just goes to prove, that just because we are siblings born into the same family, once we are adults, all bets are off. I’ve seen it many times in many situations.

One commenter said – I truly can not fathom doing something so obviously horrible and disgusting. The fact that this woman is aware that what she’s doing is wrong because she wants to know what to tell the child (once they get older), well, it just makes it even worse. How incredibly selfish. That poor baby !

Important points not to miss – this women is the mother’s sister ! The baby’s Aunt ! In MANY families …. family members do HELP family members in crisis, to care for their children. Often via a parent-placed, joint custody with the more stable family having primary physical custody. The best thing about this is that there is no need to change the baby’s birth certificate. Any sister could raise her sister’s child appropriately, while calling herself Auntie. In some Indigenous cultures, it is not unusual for a primary caregiver to be called “Auntie” when that person is not the child’s actual mother. A term of endearment for the care given.

An overwhelmed pregnant women in crisis. with poverty related issues of housing, employment, transportation, food and daycare insecurity …. such a woman is easily manipulated into thinking she is not enough. Then in this particular case, add the huge factor of her physical injuries ….

This woman never offered her sister the option of providing temporary care. It was adoption or no help at all. That makes it very easy to see how this situation developed.

Most infants placed in foster care will remain there an average of 15 months with maybe 2 – six month extensions. That this Mom got herself back together in under 6 months is phenomenal. She has maintained contact with her infant and is now in a position to parent her child. Ethically this is a No-Brainer. This woman should definitely reunify her niece with her original mom. Need to tell other children why ? Family helps family. OK, someday you can tell the child that you did miss her living with you but you don’t regret doing the right thing at the time.

5 months is only the blink of an eye in this child’s life. Transitioning this baby as soon as possible back to the child’s original mother is important. Time is of the essence. Do the right thing !!

So often a pregnant woman in temporary crisis is pushed into a permanent solution – and then things get better. Most adult adoptees will counsel such a woman to sincerely try parenting her child first, before surrendering the child to adoption. Many times, this leads to a happy ending for mother and child.

Two Men – Adventures in Africa

I am reading the book, Exterminate All The Brutes by Sven Lindqvist, which is not at all what I expected. In yesterday’s reading I found linked two men with books set in the Congo. Henry Morton Stanley, who wrote In Darkest Africa, published in 1890 and Joseph Conrad wrote Heart of Darkness, published in 1899. I read that both grew up motherless, both had been adopted by benevolent father figures and that both ran away to sea, changed their name, home country and identity. This I thought this a worth topic for my Missing Mom blog. So some historical stuff today.

Henry Morton Stanley

Henry Stanley was born in 1841 as John Rowlands in Denbigh, Denbighshire, Wales. His mother Elizabeth Parry was 18 years old at the time of his birth. She abandoned him as a very young baby and cut off all communication. Stanley never knew his father, who died within a few weeks of his birth. There is some doubt as to his true parentage. As his parents were unmarried, his birth certificate describes him as a bastard. His baptism registry indicated that he was the bastard son of John Rowland of Llys Llanrhaidr and Elizabeth Parry of Castle. The stigma of illegitimacy weighed heavily upon him all his life.

The boy John was given his father’s surname of Rowlands and brought up by his grandfather Moses Parry, a once-prosperous butcher who was living in reduced circumstances. He cared for the boy until he died, when John was five. Rowlands stayed with families of cousins and nieces for a short time, but he was eventually sent to the St Asaph Union Workhouse for the Poor. The overcrowding and lack of supervision resulted in his being frequently abused by older boys. Historian Robert Aldrich has alleged that the headmaster of the workhouse raped or sexually assaulted Rowlands, and that the older Rowlands was “incontrovertibly bisexual”. When Rowlands was ten, his mother and two half-siblings stayed for a short while in this workhouse, but he did not recognize them until the headmaster told him who they were.

Rowlands emigrated to the United States in 1859 at age 18. He disembarked at New Orleans and by his own account became friends by accident with Henry Hope Stanley, a wealthy trader. He saw Stanley sitting on a chair outside his store and asked him if he had any job openings. He did so in the British style: “Do you need a boy, sir?” The childless man had indeed been wishing he had a son, and the inquiry led to a job and a close relationship between them. Out of admiration, John took Stanley’s name. Later, he wrote that his adoptive parent died two years after their meeting, but in fact the elder Stanley did not die until 1878. This and other discrepancies in Stanley’s own autobiography lead some to argue that no adoption took place.

Stanley reluctantly joined the American Civil War, first enrolling in the Confederate States Army’s 6th Arkansas Infantry Regiment and fighting in the Battle of Shiloh in 1862. After being taken prisoner at Shiloh, he was recruited at Camp Douglas Illinois by its commander Colonel James A Mulligan as a “Galvanized Yankee.” He joined the Union Army on June 4 1862 but was discharged 18 days later because of severe illness.  After recovering, he served on several merchant ships before joining the US Navy in July 1864. He became a record keeper on board the USS Minnesota, and participated in the First Battle of Fort Fisher and the Second Battle of Fort Fisher, which led him into freelance journalism. Stanley and a junior colleague jumped ship on 10 February 1865 in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, in search of greater adventures.  Stanley may have been the only man to serve in all three of the Confederate Army, the Union Army, and the Union Navy. He is remembered for the line – “Dr Livingstone, I Presume ?” Henry Morton Stanley wrote In Darkest Africa published in 1890. This is how his story intersects with the next one.

Joseph Conrad

Joseph Conrad born Józef Teodor Konrad Korzeniowski in 1857 in Berdychiv Ukraine. His family called him “Konrad”, rather than “Józef”. His father was arrested and imprisoned in Pavilion X of the Warsaw Citadel. Conrad would write: “[I]n the courtyard of this Citadel—characteristically for our nation—my childhood memories begin.”

His father’s sentence was commuted, and the family was sent to Chernihiv in northeast Ukraine, where conditions were much better. However in 1865 his mother died of tuberculosis. His father also died of tuberculosis in 1869 leaving Conrad orphaned at the age of 11. The young Conrad was placed in the care of his mother’s brother.

Since he showed little inclination to study, it was essential that he learn a trade; his uncle thought he could work as a sailor-cum-businessman, who would combine maritime skills with commercial activities. In the autumn of 1871, thirteen-year-old Conrad announced his intention to become a sailor. At the age of 15, he was sent to a boarding house for orphan boys. The owner’s daughter recalled: “He stayed with us ten months… Intellectually he was extremely advanced but [he] disliked school routine, which he found tiring and dull; he used to say… he… planned to become a great writer…. He disliked all restrictions. At home, at school, or in the living room he would sprawl unceremoniously.”

“Living away from one’s natural environment—family, friends, social group, language—even if it results from a conscious decision, usually gives rise to… internal tensions, because it tends to make people less sure of themselves, more vulnerable, less certain of their… position and… value… ” ~ Zdzisław Najder

After nearly four years in France and on French ships, Conrad joined the British merchant marine, enlisting in April 1878. His book Heart of Darkness was published in 1899 and like Stanley’s account is set in the Congo. To Conrad’s credit, his contains bitter reflections on colonialism. Conrad regarded the formation of a representative government in Russia as unfeasible and foresaw a transition from autocracy to dictatorship. Conrad’s distrust of democracy sprang from his doubts whether the propagation of democracy as an aim in itself could solve any problems. He thought that, in view of the weakness of human nature and of the “criminal” character of society, democracy offered boundless opportunities for demagogues and charlatans.

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

Maternal Abandonment

I haven’t read the book, Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens, but now I want to. A movie based on the book is coming to theaters this summer. In looking into the book, I find that the mother abandoned her children. In 1952, six-year-old Catherine Danielle Clark (nicknamed “Kya”) watches her mother abandon her and her family. While Kya waits in vain for her mother’s return, she witnesses her older siblings, Missy, Murph, Mandy, and eventually Jodie, all leave as well, due to their father’s drinking and physical abuse.

The story follows two timelines that slowly intertwine. The first timeline describes the life and adventures of a young girl named Kya as she grows up isolated in the marsh of North Carolina from 1952 to 1969. The second timeline follows an investigation into the apparent murder of Chase Andrews, a local celebrity of Barkley Cove, a fictional coastal town of North Carolina. Stories of children raising themselves with wildlife for companions have always fascinated me.

This story touches a sensitive place in me. While it was never my intention to abandon my daughter, could it be perceived that way ? Could she have experienced my “disappearance” as abandonment ? She was only 3 years old at the time and the realities were not something I could easily explain to her. Her dad and I had divorced. He had informed me that he would never pay child support because I would just party with the money (as though child care and pediatrician bills and all the normal daily expenses didn’t add up, leaving nothing leftover to even think of doing something like that). Therefore, I didn’t ask the court for any child support during the divorce hearing (which my husband did not attend) but the judge awarded me $25 in case I wanted to come back and ask for more. I never did but I did look for “better” (ie male dominated) employment that would pay enough to support the two of us.

It was always my intention to come back for my daughter with a bit of money saved, earned from driving an 18-wheel truck with my romantic partner of that time. A financial foundation for our mutual support. I left her with my former mother-in-law, who eventually gave her back to her dad. He remarried a woman with a child and eventually they had a child together. Since I could not give her a stable family life as a single impoverished woman, I let it be. I stayed in contact with my daughter and had short visits with her during her summers out of school. Still, it has always troubled me . . .

I feel fortunate that she doesn’t hate me for it and that we do have a good relationship as mature women raising children (she gave me a grandson, then I had a son, then she gave me a granddaughter, and then I had another son). I’ll never fully get over my own shame at not having done “better” by her.