I can’t vouch for this method – Trust-Based Relational Intervention – I’m only just learning about it. TBRI is an attachment-based, trauma-informed intervention that is designed to meet the complex needs of vulnerable children. TBRI uses Connecting Principles for attachment needs, Empowering Principles to address physical needs and Correcting Principles to disarm fear-based behaviors.
A question I saw that I could easily have is whether TBRI is somehow religion based. The answer I saw said – TBRI is NOT a faith based approach but one that is solidly grounded in neuroscience and brain based research. It is an evidence-based, trauma-informed model of care for vulnerable children and youth with a theoretical foundation in attachment theory, developmental neuroscience, and developmental trauma.
Dr Karyn Purvis was the Rees-Jones Director and co-founder of the Karyn Purvis Institute of Child Development at Texas Christian University in Fort Worth Texas. She was a co-creator of Trust-Based Relational Intervention and the co-author of a best-selling book in the adoption genre, and a passionate and effective advocate for children. She coined the term “children from hard places” to describe the children she loved and served, those who have suffered trauma, abuse, neglect or other adverse conditions early in life. Her research-based philosophy for healing harmed children centered on earning trust and building deep emotional connections to anchor and empower them. On April 12, 2016, Dr. Karyn Purvis passed away at the age of 66.
TBRI involves three principles for working with kids from hard places – Connecting, Empowering, and Correcting.  The Connecting Principle asserts that the caregiver must first be mindful about themselves and what they bring to the interactions with their child. Any unresolved issues or triggers the caregiver might have could get in the way of them connecting with their child.  The Empowering Principle focuses on meeting the child’s basic needs for food and hydration, as well as meeting their sensory needs, to help the child regulate and to create an ideal environment for connecting and learning. The Empowering Principle also asserts that daily routines, rituals, and preparation for transitions are important to a child’s overall ability to regulate, as well as to build trust and connection with their caregiver.  The Correcting Principle aims to address a child’s behavioral issues in a positive way. Two important principles in the correcting component are proactive and responsive behavioral strategies. Proactive strategies focus on putting the child on the right path before they even have a chance step one foot onto the wrong path. Responsive strategies are used to mindfully react to a child’s inappropriate behavior. Two essential responsive strategies are to provide the child with choices and to encourage redo’s.
Yesterday, this blog was about the rights of fathers, today it is about the Reproductive Justice Movement. Reproductive justice includes the right to abort a pregnancy but also the right to raise a child in a safe and supportive community.
Why Reproductive Justice ? The experiences of Black, brown and Indigenous women who have been sterilized, abused, or punished for bearing children. Welfare laws based on misleading impressions of so-called welfare queens – Black women who allegedly had babies to collect welfare checks but wasted the money. These stereotypes have led to welfare policies that discourage welfare recipients from having more children by reducing their benefits.
The white-dominated reproductive rights movement’s “choice” framework privileges the most socially advantaged people in society. Those who have the ability to make choices. It doesn’t take into account social structures, power arrangements of race, class, gender, heterosexism, immigration status, religion – all of which shape one’s ability to have reproductive autonomy.
High Black maternal mortality is a matter of reproductive justice. States that have passed or will soon pass abortion bans have the worst healthcare systems, the highest maternal mortality, especially Black maternal mortality, and the highest infant mortality. As a result of [the supreme court decision] Dobbs, we’ll see increases in maternal mortality – deaths of pregnant people who intended to carry to term – because their health will be compromised.
It includes ending police violence, abolishing prisons, and all the inhumane carceral approaches to meeting human needs that have a profound impact on one’s reproductive life. Prisons are a major impediment in the United States to reproductive freedom. People who have had their children taken away by a discriminatory child welfare system that targets Black neighborhoods for family separation do not have reproductive freedom. To me, reproductive justice is inextricably linked to the fight against the prison industrial complex and the family policing system.
The reproductive justice framework is more effective than the reproductive choice approach. the movement for reproductive justice must be aligned with movements for housing, abolishing the prison industrial complex, environmental justice, and economic justice, because all of those movements are essential to supporting freedom, including reproductive freedom.
Movements seeking to limit or abolish the power of the criminal legal system and the prison industrial complex are relevant to opposing Dobbs’ assault on reproductive freedom. People are already being arrested and imprisoned for stillbirths and miscarriages; that standard will be applied to abortions as well. Recognizing the interconnected nature of these challenges is essential.
Today’s blog leans heavily on an interview in LINK> The Guardian of Dorothy Roberts. She is an internationally renowned scholar of race, gender, and the law at the University of Pennsylvania, who has dedicated her career to exposing attacks on Black women’s reproductive rights dating back to slavery and persisting to the present.
You can learn more about Reproductive Justice at this LINK> SisterSong. Reproductive Justice combines reproductive rights and social justice.
I’ve told some version of this story before and can’t promise I won’t again, though with evolving perspectives, these likely do change over time. My dad died only 4 months after my mom. She died first in September 2015 and he followed in February 2016. It was a profound event in my own life as I am certain it is in many lives. After my dad died, my youngest sister said, “We are now orphans.” I remain estranged from her. The cruelty she expresses towards me when we are in contact with one another causes me not to want to be involved with her. Not long ago, the state of Missouri informed me that they held some abandoned asset of my mom’s and I jumped through hoops and ended up with a whopping check for $20. Because I needed to provide my sisters names and addresses, so they could receive their own shares, I contacted my youngest sister’s conservator, who had been appointed to manage her funds. Turns out, he has been free of her for 2-1/2 years and no longer has that responsibility. The judge turned him loose and I understand. My sister is difficult and uncooperative and so, she is on her own now. So be it. I never wanted to take her freedom away from her. It was her own lawyers and the need for a family member to ask the court to look at her circumstances that forced my own involvement.
The topic today was inspired by a Daily Guide for Sunday, July 10 2022 in the Science of Mind magazine written by Rev Dr Jim Lockard. That phrase that is my title today comes from an affirmation he put at the end of his essay. He mentions that some people have never known their family of origin. That was certainly true for BOTH of my parents – as each of them was adopted and they died knowing next to nothing about their origins. I was conceived out of wedlock by a teenage mom. I could have so easily been given up for adoption but thankfully, I was not. It seems that one of my purposes in this life was to reconnect the threads of my parents own origins and I have now made it as far as is necessary for my own peace of mind. I know who all 4 genetic grandparents were, something of their stories and am aware of quite a few living, genetic relatives now that I am in contact with.
After my mom died, I came into contact again with an aunt. She is the widowed wife of my dad’s brother (my uncle was also adopted). A profound experience for me in high school was witnessing my uncle’s slow decline from Lou Gehrig’s disease. She is a nurse who met him when he was a Marine and hospitalized due to an auto accident. I had been thinking about this aunt for several days. It seems we do have a “spiritual heart connection” and so, she had been thinking about me and called me recently. It has been true since my mom died that she still calls me to check in from time to time – mostly to hear the latest for me and adds a few insights into her own life. Mostly, she just listens. I find her easy to talk to, honestly, though she is much more conventionally religious than I am. She usually asks about my sisters and how are they doing. She used to tell me she was praying for my estranged sister and I but she no longer tries to reach me that way. She had only one child with my uncle and he died a few years ago, too young and somewhat unexpectedly. She lives with an elderly sibling and that sibling’s spouse. My aunt is now 90 years old and I never know how much longer she will be in my life but she is totally lucid and I am always happy to hear from her.
Mine is a strange reality to live. Learning who my genetic relatives were and are, has to some extent, distanced me from the ones I grew up with. Even so, I remain fond of the adoptive grandparents I grew up with (now deceased) and with the aunt just mentioned and one other (my dad’s step-sister, who he acquired when his adoptive mother remarried after a divorce). My mom also had a brother who was adopted through the Tennessee Children’s Home before her. I am not all that close to him but did see him at my mom’s memorial service. It was his daughter’s receipt of his adoption file that had her call to tell me – I could get my mom’s. That opened the door for me to become genetically whole again and fulfill an intended life purpose.
I got seriously triggered with my husband yesterday. I need to work through my thoughts and I’m sure this is going to prove a lengthy process of contemplation.
Some background –
Both of my parents were given up for adoption in the 1930s. Their circumstances were somewhat different and somewhat similar. My mom’s genetic biological parents were married but at 4 mos pregnant after 4 mos of marriage for reasons I’ll never really have reliable answers to (but a few theories given what I have learned), her husband left her. He didn’t divorce her for 3 years, so there is that as well. With no husband in sight, she was sent to Virginia from Memphis TN to give birth and I would assume expected to leave the baby there but she did not. Instead, after her return to Memphis with my infant mom in tow, she became a victim of Georgia Tann.
My dad’s mom was unwed. She had an affair with a much older married man. Then, she went to a Salvation Army home for unwed mothers to give birth. After about 2 or 3 months, she was released with my dad still in her custody. It appears my dad’s father never even knew he existed. When my grandmother found no support for her and the baby with her cousin, she returned to the Salvation Army seeking employment and was transferred with my dad still in tow to one of their homes in El Paso Texas.
My mom’s adoptive parents relocated to El Paso Texas and in high school, my adoptee mom met my adoptee dad. Probably during the summer after my dad’s graduation from high school before entering a university my parents had sex and my teenage mom discovered by Autumn that she was pregnant. My dad’s adoptive parents supported him marrying her and quitting his hopes of a university degree to go to work and support his new family. I’m pretty certain my mom’s adoptive parents, had they had a chance, would have sent her off to have and give me up. Thankfully that didn’t happen to me.
So the truth I cannot deny is that had my parents NOT been adopted and had they both not ended up in El Paso TX and attended the same high school where they met at a party through mutual friends, I would not exist at all. I owe my very existence in this life to ~gasp~ adoption. I think I once described this situation as imperfectly perfect.
Until about 5 years ago, when I was able to uncover the identities of all 4 of my original grandparents (something that both of my parents died still not knowing), I thought adoption was the most natural thing in the world and that my parents were orphans. I had no idea there were people I was actually genetically biologically related to living out lives as unaware of me as I was of them. I knew nothing about the mental and emotional impacts of the trauma of my parents being separated from their mothers may have caused. I’ve learned a LOT about that since then – as this blog very frequently shares. To be honest, I now would prefer to see vulnerable women supported, so that they could raise their own babies.
So what is my conflict of interest ? My husband’s desire that my writing add some revenue to our family. Of course, I would love for that to happen as well. I have developed a negative attitude toward Christian Evangelical saviorism as it applies to adoption. My husband wants me to make my next book oriented towards Evangelical Christians (I have just finish a revision of my parents’ adoption stories for the 3rd time and will go about trying to obtain a literary agent for that work).
What !?! I accused him of asking me to betray my values for monetary reasons. He spoke of “witnessing.” That stayed with me all afternoon. I reflected on the kind of people my adoptive grandparents were. 3 of the 4 were religious. My dad’s were fundamentalist in the extreme. When one church wasn’t as strictly interpreted per the bible as they wanted, they changed churches to a stricter one. My mom’s adoptive father has been described as morally ethical but not religious. I see that same characteristic in my husband. My mom’s mother however had a surprisingly enlightened spirituality – especially when I consider what I have heard of her own very bible religious mother (to the extent of neglecting home and family). This grandmother’s spirituality was not far different than my own (which was what surprised me when I discovered it). My husband has a negative perspective on religion in general and believes vulnerable people are exploited by it. So I could not believe that HE would suggest such a thing to me. He admits that he is a bit like Mr Krabs in the SpongeBob episodes – all about the money (only really he is incredibly down to Earth, he just worries about supporting this family as he ages).
Yet, aside from the last 5 years of having it banged into my consciousness through my favorite adoption triad group, where the voices of adult adoptees are given preference and describe all that is wrong with adoption and foster care in general, what is it that I actually know from my own experience ?
My parents each felt differently about their adoptions. My dad never spoke to me of his but cautioned my mom against her efforts at locating her birth mother – who had already died by the time she was actively seeking that. One of the last things she wrote to me before she died was an explanation regarding why she couldn’t complete a family tree at Ancestry.com – “it just wasn’t real, because I was adopted but I’m glad I was.” Though I cannot say that she truly was “glad.” She didn’t know any other life.
Both of my sisters gave up a child to adoption. I cannot honestly say that my niece or my nephew would have been better off being raised by my sisters. They are good solid people – both of them – now married in their own adulthoods.
So the question is – can I find a way to target a Christian Evangelical audience, who is going to adopt anyway – regardless of how much I might preach to them about all of the impacts of trauma in this child they desperately want for whatever reason (I do believe there is a bit of missionary purpose in those desires) – and gently prepare them for reality and hope this brings about better outcomes for the adoptee ? Honor fully my evolved values in the effort ?
Sharing the words of one adoptee, Mary Constance Mansfield, for today’s blog –
It’s exhausting. People just refuse to connect the dots. Adoption agencies and private adoption attorneys make no money if they don’t encourage and often time coerce a young woman to place their infant for adoption.
There’s a whole group of women who struggle with infertility and are praying a newborn experience the trauma of being abandoned by their mother, because they deserve to be a parent.
They are quite sure that their almighty, always right, god, chose this other woman’s child to actually be their child and they are sure their love will heal whatever trauma the infant might experience. And they will address it when and if the child brings it up. Because they believe they have a god given right to be a parent.
I would disagree….
Well many of us don’t actually come out from the innate Stockholm syndrome that the adoption industry thrives on until our last adoptive parent dies and that ghost kingdom we kept hidden for so long begins to scream at us.
The American Academy of Pediatrician’s official statement about an adopted child is “It should be assumed, ALL adopted children have suffered an irreversible trauma” and they recommend early recognition and appropriate treatment. They know that the child doesn’t have the vocabulary to bring it up. The earlier the recognition the better the chance for recovery.
With the influx of the “domestic supply of infants” that’s expected from the overturning of Roe vs Wade, it’s imperative that those who end up adopting do their due diligence and actually help the child talk about what they feel.
Yes it will hurt when you hear they think about their bio mother and wonder if they have siblings, among other things any child would ask if they knew they were living with strangers but had a history before they were adopted. But that pain you feel is for you to deal with. It’s not so you can convince a child they don’t need to know anything truthful about life before adoption. The reality is you should’ve already grieved the biological child you can’t have and done your homework in regards to the trauma of never seeing your mother this side of the womb causes, so you can be aware of the symptoms when you see them.
And for the sake of keeping it real. Most private adoption agencies are affiliated with a church or a denomination. And private adoption attorneys? Well they are just that…. they get paid only if they find a womb wet infant for the 30 to 50 people in line for one. They have absolutely no monetary reason to give natural mother’s the info regarding resources available if she should want to parent.
Part of what drives the anti-abortion effort is that the supply of adoption available infants has dropped to almost nothing. Certainly, adoptee centric groups continue to counsel expectant mothers considering adoption to keep and raise their own children to save them from the trauma that separation from the mother who’s womb a baby grew in causes trauma that leads to a diverse variety of physical, mental and emotional effects.
Today, I discovered this person – The Adopted Chameleon. She writes, “Amy Coney Barrett has said she isn’t inclined to protect women’s rights because the baby can be put up for adoption. She has adopted children and knows nothing about adoption. She is clearly biased. John Roberts and Clarence Thomas have adopted children also. They are biased also.”
The Safe Haven Laws are often used to prove that a woman does not need to parent the baby she carries to term. What these people seem to conveniently ignore is the 9 months of a woman’s life that she must give up to gestate a baby. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood comes quickly to mind. Forced birth to supply the demand for babies by couple who are infertile or just can’t have enough children. There are truly gross examples of that kind of overconsumption of children – I’ve written about some of these in the past.
The Adopted Chameleon continues her thoughts with this – “These people are going to decide the fate of future mothers. They use their religion as the reason why abortion should be illegal. Abortion was never a sin in the Bible. The Bible talks about how to make a woman drink the bitter water if her husband thinks she was unfaithful. It never says its a sin. Abortion is used as a fear tactic in voting. People think they are saving babies but they are traumatizing mothers. Then if the mother relinquishes the baby, the baby is traumatized. The cruelty and ignorance of people is right in front of us. They show no remorse for separating families and taking rights away from babies that will be adults without rights. Adoption should be the last option. Adoption is trauma.”
A Christian mission is an organized effort to spread Christianity to new converts. Missions involve sending individuals and groups across boundaries, most commonly geographical boundaries, to carry on evangelism or other activities, such as educational or hospital work. The Pro-Life movement is actually a “mission” and it really matters not if the original parents are poor or of a different color than the hopeful adoptive parents – what matters is converting the heathens to the one true faith.
I woke up this morning to a husband who is worrying about what this contingent minority in our country will do next. Don’t believe this is all that they want. We are on the road to authoritarianism. Could they make these laws retroactive to punish anyone who ever had an abortion when it was legal ? Could they relegate anyone who has been donor conceived to a second class citizenship along with any person who is not the “right” color ? Though I will say that such things could occur, if the current path continues along the current trajectory, making laws retroactive against people who were acting under legal provisions at the time they did whatever will certainly be a dark day for freedom and will usher in a most draconian phase of life in these United States. So I will urge you to Vote Blue – Democrat in November and again in 2024 – if you value freedom at all.
Obedience, conformity, oneness and sameness over freedom and difference. These authoritarian inclined persons are unwilling to tolerate complexity, diversity and difference. Latent authoritarianism relates to a predisposition towards child-rearing values that exclude independence, curiosity and an ability to think through challenging subjects from one’s own points of view. It includes a concern with structuring society and social interactions that minimize any diversity of people, beliefs and behaviors. They favor disparaging, suppressing and punishing differences. ~ from Can It Happen Here ? page 182-183.
As Rebecca Solnit has written, “First they came for the reproductive rights (Roe v Wade, 1973) and it doesn’t matter if you don’t have a uterus in its ovulatory years, because then they want to come for the marriage rights of same-sex couples (Obergefell v Hodges, 2015), and then the rights of consenting adults of the same gender to have sex with each other (Lawrence v Texas, 2003), and then for the right to birth control (Griswold v Connecticut, 1965). It doesn’t really matter if they’re coming for you, because they’re coming for us. ‘Us’ these days means pretty much everyone who’s not a straight white Christian man with rightwing politics.”
Another adoptee shared – a former therapist of mine was adopted (her and a twin brother went to the same family in a domestic infant adoption). She’s also a pastor’s wife. She threw ALL my adoption trauma out the window and basically gave me both this same speech about me getting to skip generational trauma from my biological dad’s family and also that it was all God’s plan. I saw her twice and ghosted her. She also told me I didn’t have Bi-Polar Disorder after I was diagnosed in an actual hospital setting, and after only speaking to me twice for about 40 minutes each time. I swear Christian therapists are insane.
Another one admitted about the therapist that she just said the quiet part out loud inappropriately. The kids that are removed for abuse and similar are adopted out because they’re trying to save the kid and stop the cycle. Honestly a lot of kids DO end up better off, BUT of course there’s the trauma. I feel like an orphan no matter my adoptive or biological connections in adulthood. But that pain had me vowing to give my son a better life. And while I wouldn’t say I’ve succeeded at that (married an abuser, we also had to escape) the hope is because I’ve tried to stop and break the generational cycle that he’ll do better than I ever was or could be able to.
Another one said – Separation trauma from adoption IS generational. We can pass to our kids and screw them up and all they did was have a parent that got adopted. So adoption continues generational trauma. Tell that idiot therapist to research epigenetics and then find a new one.
I do believe it IS passed down. Both of my parents were adopted. Myself and my sisters certainly had issues within our own parenting that I do believe is directly related. Thankfully, our children do seem to be breaking those trauma cycles in their own lives.
I heard a snippet of a story about two women, who as babies, were switched at birth. Martha Miller was asked – Does the thought ever cross your mind, what if the switch hadn’t been made? What if the McDonalds had just taken me home and I’d grown up in the house with my biological parents and my biological brother, who would I be?
She answered, Oh, that’s a funny question. I really only thought about that one time. I only let myself think about it one time. It was actually right after I met them. And I was going back to my mother’s house. So I left Prairie du Chien and I was driving. And it was then that I started thinking, oh, my gosh, my life would have been so different. And the more I thought about it, the more I realized, you know, I can’t think about this, because it’ll drive me crazy if I do. And so I kind of made a promise to myself that I would just never go down that road again, that I was just not going to go there. And I really haven’t, because there’s no point.
The little bit of the story “Switched at Birth” replayed for This American Life that I heard had me reflecting on it as the child of two adoptees. They were switched but they were taken from their original mothers, who’s wombs they developed in, and given to literally “strangers” to be raised as those people’s own children. Since learning about who my original grandparents were and something about their stories, I also realize that the what if’s – what if life had unfolded differently ? – are honestly pointless because it did not.
If the trauma of breaking the mother/child bond formed in utero is real, and I do believe it is real, then whether the parents know (in adoption, the adoptive parents know they did not give birth to that child) or don’t know (because the mother did give birth but brought the wrong baby home from the hospital with her) would not change the experience of trauma in the infant.
Regarding nurture, the child may have been treated differently from an adoptee growing up because that knowledge isn’t there in the parents raising the child. Does that make a difference ? I think it might.
Back in 1994, back in the day when people still delivered big news to each other by mail, two women who barely knew each other, Martha Miller and Susan McDonald, got a letter from Martha’s mom. “Dear Martha and Sue, have you ever suspected or been told that we took home the baby that belonged to Kay and Bob McDonald and they later took home the baby that belonged to us?” It was 43 years after “the fact.”
Mrs Miller actually knew this, the day she got home from the hospital in 1951 – that she had the wrong baby, a baby born to a woman named Kay McDonald. But she kept it quiet all those years. She had noticed that when she weighed the baby, the weight was two and 1/2 pounds less than at birth. But then, she hemorrhaged and went into convulsions, landing her back to the hospital for several days. At that point, she simply dropped the “mixed-up baby” issue.
One thing that makes this whole switched thing even stranger is – the two couples knew each other. The Millers were at the McDonalds’ 50th anniversary party. They have mutual acquaintances. They lived a short drive from each other’s houses in Wauzeka and Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin.
Martha did not look nor act like any of the other Miller children. She was a delight, so pretty, so photogenic, so full of life. The other Miller children were very serious. Martha excelled in music, was a great cheerleader at school, very popular, and a blonde. The other Miller children had dark hair and all needed glasses for nearsightedness. Martha did not need glasses.
All the kinds of differences adoptees growing up with other children who are biological to the adoptive parents are very familiar with – the feeling of not really belonging in the family you are growing up in. In fact, Martha’s mother actually told her later, “I really didn’t expect that much from you, because I knew that you weren’t our child.” For Martha, that was a hard thing to hear.
The older girls, who Martha was raised with as sisters, had “sort of” always known about the possibility that “Marti” wasn’t their biological sister. They had vague memories of their parents talking about it, after they brought Martha home from the hospital, about how this baby looked different from Mrs Miller’s other babies, and that maybe this baby had been switched.
Mrs Miller ended her revelatory letter with this – So now we are both aware of what happened 43 years ago. We love you, Martha Jane– I’m sorry. We love you, Martha Jane, as dearly as our other six children. I think you know that you will always be our daughter. But I thought each of you should know your biological and spiritual backgrounds. And know you have mixed feelings about this revelation. I have much anguish and many tears.
Learning truth like this, as a grown up with children of your own, it is disruptive. That is the kind of news nobody ever wants to hear. And when you get this kind of news as an adult, that your mom isn’t really your mom or your daughter isn’t really your daughter, and at the same time, you have a new mom or a new daughter, it is not so clear what you’re supposed to do with this new parent or new child who’s now in your life. What are you supposed to be with each other?
Sue McDonald was different from the rest of the family in certain ways. She was dark and tall and skinny in a family that was none of those. In a pretty lighthearted household, she was nervous, studious, serious. But that didn’t seem so strange. Even so, when Sue was in junior high, a friend said to her, “you must be adopted, because you do not look at all like your parents.” Sue answered, “I don’t know.” So she asked her mother, “Am I adopted?” And her mother said, “Oh, no, no. I definitely was pregnant and you are my child. I wanted a baby and you’re my baby. You were not adopted.” As to the physical differences, her mom just said – you just take after great-grandpa this or aunt so-and-so.
Now that they know, one of the toughest things both Marti and Sue have to deal with is logistical. Having two sets of parents and two full sets of siblings and cousins is kind of a practical headache. For myself as well. Now that I know my “real” cousins, I still have the adoptive ones and aunts and an uncle from my parents’ adoptions that have been there throughout my life to show concern about.
There is a LOT more to this story, so if you find it interesting, do read the transcript – Switched at Birth.
At the end of this comment, the person wrote – “I am truly astonished you have read this entire comment. You must REALLY care. Thank you for reading.” I do – REALLY CARE.
This appeared in response to the blog titled Adoption Is A Selfish Act, which I posted back on Nov 25, 2020. I write daily so that is going pretty far back. I am surprised to see that blog had 23 views because I am lucky to get a couple of views on any single day. I did go back and read it again.
And I did read all of your long comment and found it sincere and thoughtful.
Your comment went into my spam folder because of your using MY Gazing In The Mirror WordPress website address. This troubled me right away. How you could even do that is beyond me but obviously it is possible. BTW that blog has nothing to do with this one except they have the same author. I attempted to email you to clarify this but it bounced. It appears to be related to Greenbrier Schools in Greenbrier, Arkansas. My paternal grandfather’s family is deeply rooted in Arkansas.
I was inclined to approve your comment anyway but have decided, to instead address your comments in this new blog, and feel that you may see this one too. I always try to not only be honest but respectful and considerate of anyone who comments. So that you have hidden yourself makes me sad. Maybe you do not have confidence in yourself enough to present yourself to me honestly.
I will make a few responses but because of all of the above will not show your entire comment.
Certain references to saviorism, which often does drive adoptions – especially on the Evangelical Christian side of religion, seem to have troubled you. I can understand that you feel an emotional objection to that as you state that you are a Christian.
As to overpopulation, at one time I was more worried about that but it is expected to peak at 8 billion in 2040 and then decline. Overpopulation article on Vox.
Regarding “Open Adoption”, unfortunately a lot of good intentions going into such an agreement fall apart – either sooner or later. Most do not succeed in living up to the promises.
The identity issue you dismiss is real and I don’t think it is brought on by being treated differently due to adoption (except in cases of transracial adoption where the difference in race between the adoptive parents and the adoptee stands out). Fact is, babies are born with a name given to them by the conceiving parents and in adoption, most adoptive parents change the child’s name to something different that they like better. My parents (both adoptees) used to tease one another with their birth names – once they had been able to even learn those. An adoptee lives under an “assumed” name much like a criminal on the run might.
What is interesting is that you seem so passionate about these issues – when you admit that you are not adopted and that you don’t even have children yourself nor do you want any. If you could be open with me about who you are, I’d be happy to discuss whatever in more detail with you. As it is, I have written about almost everything to do with adoption or foster care so much – that I’ve probably all said it all before and am always in danger of repeating myself. I wish you well-being and happiness.
Whether it gets through or not, it is a step in the right direction. New legislation authored by California Rep. Karen Bass (D), would drastically change that standard: Under the 21st Century Children and Families Act, states could not even attempt to permanently sever children from their parents until they’d been in foster care for two full years consecutively, barring extreme circumstances — and even then it would be up to the states, and no longer a federal mandate. The reason that this is important is that the 1997 Adoption and Safe Families Act (ASFA) requires states to terminate parental rights when a child has been in foster care for 15 of 22 consecutive months. Granted this is just a tiny step.
“This bill is an important first step in moving away from cookie-cutter timelines that have caused devastating harm to children and families for decades,” said Kathleen Creamer, managing attorney of the family advocacy unit for Community Legal Services in Philadelphia.
Existing exemptions would be maintained for certain “aggravated” circumstances, such as when parents have committed sexual abuse or have been involved with the death of another child. But the legislation would free parents from the federal timeline when their custody rights are threatened due to incarceration or immigration detention — or in cases where they are actively working with the court to overcome hurdles in their lives to successfully bring the family back together. Parents are not subjected to the federal timeline if their children are placed with relatives.
Under the bill, if a state so chooses, it could eliminate all timeline requirements, except in cases involving aggravated circumstances.
Bass announced her landmark legislation in a news release Thursday. “It’s time to update old child welfare laws,” she said. “More needs to be done to improve foster kids’ options for stability in their lives. Premature modification of parental rights too often leaves children in foster care with no legal family.”
The legislation is at the earliest possible stage, and far from guaranteed, with many elements that could lead to controversy, including strengthening the rights of prospective LGBTQ parents. The bill could also be challenged by representatives of the adoption industry, policy watchers said.
“With respect to the timelines, we’ll be looking at those proposed changes carefully and considering how they affect children and families involved in foster care, especially BIPOC children and families, given the systemic discrimination they face,” said Mary Boo, executive director of the North American Council on Adoptable Children.
Children removed from their homes following allegations of abuse or neglect remain in foster care while their parents address the issues that landed them there, issues typically arising from extreme poverty. Under family and dependency court oversight, local child welfare systems must mitigate the circumstances that led to the child’s removal into foster care, offering the parents therapy, anger management, parenting classes and drug treatment, as well as the time necessary to overcome situational crises such as homelessness or illness.
But that time is often not enough. The pandemic has brought heightened scrutiny to the “cruelty” of federal timelines. Parents such as Charles Redding of Minnesota have fought to regain custody of their children when circumstances are stacked against them to no fault of their own. Redding, for instance, had emerged from jail with no computer to attend court-mandated hearings and online classes, and the local center where he needed to go for drug testing suspended services. Earlier this year, Redding’s two children sobbed through a virtual court appearance, imploring a Hennepin County juvenile court judge to give their dad more time to secure stable housing for them to live together.
David Kelly, a former official in the U.S. Children’s Bureau, called the bill introduced this week “a critical, long overdue step toward justice for families,” adding: “I hope it proves a galvanizing moment for realizing the family children need most is their own.”
Bass is a longstanding champion of children and parents caught up in the foster care system — families who are disproportionately Black and Native American. She is among those emphasizing that the bar for reunification is often too high, and the impact of permanent family separation too damaging to continue the federal standards as they currently exist.
“The changes that I’m proposing today focus the foster care system on the child and the idea that children should be at the center of our efforts,” Bass stated.
Her legislation would require that before moving to terminate parental rights, states must describe the steps they took and services they provided to help keep a family together. It would also mandate data collection on the accessibility and availability of those services.
Shanta Trivedi, director of the Sayra and Neil Meyerhoff Center for Families, Children and the Courts at the University of Baltimore said that while states are already required under law to provide services under a “reasonable efforts” standard, the proposed law will ensure that protocol is followed for every family.
“This puts teeth into the ‘reasonable efforts’ requirement that were previously absent,” Trivedi said.
The bill has another key element: It adds sexual orientation, gender identity and religion to federal nondiscrimination protections that previously only included race and ethnicity. Under the proposed law, states and agencies they contract with could not “deny to any person the opportunity to become an adoptive or a foster parent” based on those additional factors. The provision would directly challenge laws in nearly a dozen states that permit faith-based providers to exclude members of the LGBTQ community by following religious ideology in choosing which foster and adoptive parents, or even which youth in foster care, they will and will not serve.
The legislation proposed by Bass retains current legal requirements that adoptions cannot be delayed to match children with families of the same race, gender, culture and religion. But it instructs states to consider such factors if that is requested by the child or their birth parent.
When the Adoption and Safe Families Act became law decades ago, nearly a third of all foster children had been in the system for at least three years. The timeline was designed to push those cases in the direction of adoptions or guardianships so that children didn’t languish with uncertain futures.
Since then, adoptions from foster care have more than doubled — from 30,000 in 1998 to 66,000 in 2019. Over the past decade, federal statistics show that the number of children awaiting adoption has also increased, by more than 20%.
The attempt to rewrite ASFA comes at a time when some are pushing for its outright repeal, including Jerry Milner, the Trump-era head of the U.S. Children’s Bureau. Along with Kelly, his former deputy, Milner now leads a consulting group helping state and local systems interested in significant reforms of their child welfare systems, including the strengthening of family bonds so children can avoid permanent family separation.
Critics of the current timeline that pushes for termination of parental rights after 15 months describe it as arbitrary and unjust to the families who mostly come from communities of color where daily life and the weight of historic and systemic injustice can bear down on home life. Advocates for parents say the federal timeline also penalizes people in recovery for substance abuse or seeking treatment for mental health challenges — complex healing that can take time and involve relapse and setbacks.
In a February 2021 op-ed, Creamer and Chris Gottlieb, co-director of the NYU School of Law Family Defense Clinic, described the social context around the original law: “Passed in the wake of the now-debunked ‘crack baby’ scare, and at the same time as nefarious federal laws on crime and welfare, it reflected the racial and class biases that were ascendant at the time and that to this day continue to inflict harm on children, youth and families.”
Under the proposed legislation, a 24-month timeline was selected to align with the Family First Prevention Services Act, a 2018 law that overhauled the federal child welfare system to decrease reliance on group homes and emphasize foster care prevention. But as it is currently worded in the Bass bill, states could choose not to abide by the two-year timeline — the legislation as written uses the word “may” — not “shall” — while continuing to receive federal funds for the children who remain in foster care.
“We are hopeful that this is just the beginning of making sure that states have the flexibility they need to embrace and uphold family integrity,” said Shereen White, director of policy and advocacy for the national nonprofit Children’s Rights.
Child welfare policy consultant Maureen Flatley, who helped craft both the original Adoption and Safe Families Act and Bass’ new bill, said the additional protections for parents would not only help more children reunify with their families, it could reduce the number of young adults who leave foster care alone and disconnected from stable housing, income or a support system.
Flatley said while the timelines can succeed at creating a greater sense of urgency around permanency for foster youth, roughly 22,000 youth still age out of foster care each year with no legal family ties. Meanwhile, many of their parents may simply have needed more time to complete court-ordered service plans.
“By maintaining those family connections and those relationships, we may be able to mitigate and limit the number of kids who are aging out alone,” Flatley said.
Under the 1997 Adoption and Safe Families Act, states have received financial incentives to push foster children along the adoption path, despite critics’ objections. Bass’s bill does not address adoption incentives, instead taking aim at timelines that lead to the termination of parental rights — a critical first step for children to be adopted.
Still, even staunch detractors of the existing law applauded Bass’s attempt to update it through a social justice lens.
“I don’t know what the chances are for passage, but the fact that we can even have this discussion shows that the racial justice reckoning finally is reaching child welfare,” said Richard Wexler, an outspoken foster care critic and executive director of the National Coalition for Child Protection Reform. “If it passes, it will improve the lives of, ultimately, millions of children.”