Buyer’s Beware

LINK> Elle magazine has an article – Inside America’s Adoption Fraud Industry – by Sarah Green. Stories like those shared in that article are not new to people involved in adoption related communities. And generally speaking, the internet has brought not only more contact for many of us with family and friends, plus a wealth of information we may not have encountered otherwise, but also the danger of being taken in a scam. If you are thinking of adopting this way, do read the article for examples of red flags and safe ways to proceed.

One couple in the story spent dozens of hours and thousands of dollars perfecting every detail for their baby’s homecoming — from building and furnishing his nursery, to stocking frozen breastmilk and baby supplies. Arriving in Houston Texas, instead of a baby they met disappointment. Meeting with their lawyer on a deserted restaurant patio, “All I can remember is our lawyer sitting us down and opening with, ‘I think this is a scam. I’m so sorry’.” Deep down, they knew he was right.

Sadly, this deception is not uncommon. America’s public adoption industry includes high infant price tags, often years-long wait times and a frequent lack of autonomy. This has prompted thousands of couples to look into alternative resources, such as social media, in order to take personal control. In America, privately-handled adoptions are not outlawed as they are in many other countries. This unprecedented shift towards reliance on a federally unregulated market has created the perfect breeding ground for scammers wanting to exploit hopeful adoptive parents.

Social media adoptions represent a significant trend where prospective parents and birth mothers locate each other independently, with little or no professional assistance. Only 18,300 babies are voluntarily relinquished for adoption annually, yet over a million American families hope to adopt each year — this translates to 55 families vying for each adoptable infant. In 2022, adoption ads have sprung up all over Instagram and TikTok, featuring strategic hashtags and polished profiles of eager couples promoting themselves as the perfect parents for any available newborn. 

The scale of adoption fraud has not been quantified. There are no publicly available statistics on the prevalence of this crime. One FBI investigator believes that adoption fraud is as prevalent as any other financial crime. There are also elements of shame and hurt that prevent victims from admitting what has happened to them. It appears to be an under-reported crime.

Social media has allowed this type of criminal activity to transcend state borders. Whatever legal or procedural safeguards a state imposes, the internet can render them meaningless. This makes it nearly impossible for victims to pursue legal action. However, a Georgia state law passed in July 2021 made both adoption fraud and deception illegal. If someone allows you to expend money on a reasonable reliance of a false adoption plan, it is now a prosecutable offense.

There is even a Facebook group dedicated to LINK> Ending Adoption Scams. Their ever-growing list of known scammers has become an invaluable resource for countless prospective parents.

Not All Misses The Point

Within a large adoption community discussion space, one often sees the push back from some that their adoption experience was not so bad. When I first went into that community, I was definitely in “the fog” of believing adoption was a good thing, or at least natural. Both of my parents were adoptees and both of my sisters gave up babies to adoption – no wonder – but I have learned so much in the 4-1/2 years since I began to learn about my original grandparents that my perspectives, I believe, are not only more realistic but better informed. I owe a lot of credit to that adoption community that I continue to be a part of.

This morning I did several google searches looking for content to add to the text graphic above. Hard to find anything under “not all,” oppression vs protection, etc. But finally I did find one that seems to bridge both points of view – I Am Grateful To Be Adopted—and Yet, Adoption Is Still Traumatic by Theodora Blanchfield at Very Well Mind, <LINK>. I was also surprised to see a blog from Missing Mom from last year show up in a search.

I think this article also reflects something my adoptee mom said to me at the end of her life – she never could really totally sort out her mixed feelings about having been “inappropriately” adopted (as she termed it) as well as being denied her own adoption file by the state of Tennessee or any possibility of a reunion with her original natural mother (who it turns out was married but separated from my mom’s father and therefore, exploited by Georgia Tann). She said something like, “you know, because I was adopted” (related to trying to create a family tree at Ancestry and how it “just didn’t feel real to her”) and quickly adding “glad I was.” Yet, it didn’t feel genuine.

Like Theodora, my mom grew up in privilege (my mom’s adoptive father was a banker and her mother a socialite). Yet, Theodora writes –

“I have dealt with severe depression, and my psychiatrist monitors me for signs of bipolar because of genetic susceptibility combined with that attachment trauma. I’ve been in inpatient treatment for six weeks, I’ve attempted suicide twice (adoptees are four times as likely to attempt suicide as non-adoptees and deal with mental health issues at a higher rate than non-adoptees). I receive monthly ketamine infusions for my treatment-resistant depression.”

I am aware my mom, admitted to me, she had at least once contemplated suicide. I know that she was frequently under the care of a psychiatrist and was sometimes prescribed Lithium (a mood stabilizer that is approved for the treatment of bipolar disorder, also known as manic depression. Bipolar disorder involves episodes of depression and/or mania).

Theodora notes – Adoption narratives, like many other things on social media, paint things much more black and white than they actually are for many people. Anti-adoption advocates paint adoption as akin to human trafficking; adoptive parents and adoptee advocates paint adoption like it’s a fairy tale with a happy-ever-after ending. But what if it’s somewhere in between? 

She goes on to describe many other unpleasant effects that she believes ARE related to the trauma of having been adopted. She adds “Privilege doesn’t negate not knowing where you came from or erase that always-wondering what’s nurture and what’s nature—something you’ve probably never thought about if you’re not adopted.”

She adds, “Telling an adoptee that you ‘don’t think of them as adopted’ is a knife that cuts both ways. It’s meant to be an olive branch, but it also discounts that it is my reality, that I was separated at birth from the woman with whom I share DNA who carried me for nine months. It invalidates the reality of the complexity of all those feelings bubbling up just below the surface, pushing them down until that soda bottle bursts, spilling out years of repressed emotions.”

Who Even Am I Anymore

A journal for processing various experiences for adoptees including late discovery, to donor conceived, and for those who discover a non-parental event and misattributed paternal event.

Between 6 and 10 percent of people who order mail-in DNA kits are shocked to discover Misattributed Parentage. Others may learn the truth without saliva; their lives are turned upside down by unexpected phone calls, social media messages, or files left behind by an older generation.

The effects of a DNA-Discovery can be life altering and identity shattering. Without a precedent for this brand new global phenomenon, the world is scrambling to catch up, finding itself short on resources to address this kind of trauma.

Who Even Am I Anymore is the first process journal of its kind, specifically designed for a community of people that grows larger each year. Eve Sturges used her experience as an NPE, a licensed psychotherapist, and host of the podcast Everything’s Relative to craft thoughtful questions for this uniquely existential journey. Designed to be used by individuals or in groups, with a therapist or without, this resource offers itself as a compass to those who find themselves unexpectedly lost at sea.

One reviewer writes –
I am a Late Discovery Adoptee and experienced years later via DNA test that my biological dad was not my biological dad. Eve asks just the right questions. I loved these writing prompts. They give me the opportunity to reflect, write it all out and heal from the act of writing.

Another one writes –
As an NPE (non-parental event) it truly helped me to get through and process the feelings from the trauma of finding out my dad isn’t my dad.

You can learn more about Eve Sturges at her website.

Caught In The Middle

Some circumstances in life are just plain hard to judge. I understand the point of view of this adoptive mother, even so, where is the compassionate middle ground. I haven’t decided. Here is one adoptive mother’s point of view –

I had to discuss with my son’s biological mom that there are boundaries and if she wanted to be involved in any way then she needed to understand them and honor them. My son is MY son, not hers. We came up with a special name that we refer to her as. Never mom. Also we discussed social media. She is never to address him as her son. He is not her son. She is to call him by his given name. I understand that biological moms have to deal with the emotional aspect but so do the adoptive moms. She is no longer his mother. A mother is far more than giving birth. A mother raises you and puts you first. I am very close with his biological mom. I have a great relationship with her for my son’s sake and it was a surrender. She was not forced in any way. But she is not his mother any longer. I am. I accept her role in his life as a special person who loves him. But I am his mother, not her. And she understands and respects that. She is thankful that I allow her to be a part of our family. I didn’t take his mom away from him. She took her role as mom away from herself including by making bad choices and choosing drugs over parenting. I’m his mom and will always be. She will always be a special person in his life but never his mom. Advice to other adoptive moms – set boundaries and don’t let biological moms walk all over you. Let them know their role in the family now.

The person who revealed this mindset commented – I find this very sad and very controlling. What if the child decided one day to call his birth mom “mom” ? She can’t call him her son ? This is sad. Birth parents grieve too. They hurt too. Even parents from foster care. They grieve. They lost their child. I wish we can offer empathy to birth parents especially from foster care instead of looking down on them and using innocent children to hurt them and the child.

I do feel that putting a child in the middle of this situation isn’t fair to the child. The same kind of thing happens very often in divorce. I remember trying to walk that difficult middle ground. “You still have a mother who loves you. And you still have a father who loves you. But we are not going to all live together anymore.” Life is complicated enough. So how to simplify the situation suggested above ?

I do agree with this perspective – “I’m sure the only reason the biological mother agrees with this is so she can have something to do with her son. There is a difference between a ‘mom’ and a ‘mother’ but it is ultimately up to the child to decide how to view each one of these women. Not the biological mom or the adoptive mom.” These two should not be playing their own issues off with the child caught in the middle.

Someone else disagreed and I do see this point as well – No difference between a mother and mom to me. I have two moms and two mothers. Same difference. It’s not confusing. I see no reason to distinguish a difference or set them apart.

And in fact, this is a valid point – If it wasn’t for the biological mom, the adoptive mom wouldn’t even have her son in the first place. I don’t give a damn if the biological mother’s rights where legally severed, she is still his mom at the end of the day and always will be the woman who gave birth to him.

I am still seeking what I sense is an important middle ground. I understand the need for the adoptive mother to be the final say in most of what happens in this child’s life, to maintain her parental authority to make decisions – at least for a minor child. Yet, emotions and feelings are less clear. I believe that most children actually are capable of keeping the two women in a separate yet proper perspective. My heart tells me that is the truth.

What I am sensing is a possessiveness, an ownership of one person over the love of another person, by putting the magical role of motherhood into the middle of this situation. As the divorced mother of a daughter who’s step-mother married her father and so, the two of them raised my daughter, I already understand what a difficult balancing act these situations are. I did attempt to put my daughter’s feelings and interests ahead of my own. My daughter and I have discussed how similar her childhood was to that of someone who was adopted.

Parental Impostor Syndrome

It’s one thing to pretend when you are a child, quite another when you are a mature adult trying to pretend you are the parent (though actually you are) of your adopted child. An article in The Guardian caught my attention – “Everyone knows you’re not a real mum.”

The parental impostor syndrome some adoptive parents have – that they are faking it, and will never cut it as a parent – is seldom acknowledged. The concept of an impostor syndrome is loosely defined as doubting your abilities and not feeling good enough. There are certainly quite a lot of adoptees who have felt they were not good enough in their adoptive parents perspective.

Ranee, 52, lives in south-west London with her husband and their two adopted children. Ranee is of Sri Lankan heritage and her husband’s family are from Mauritius. Because of this, it took a long time for them to be matched with their children as many councils are keen to match the ethnic backgrounds of potential parents and children.

Ranee says, “It was as if I had fake written on my forehead.”

During that time, Ranee and her husband went through a rigorous vetting process, yet when the process was complete and they were a family with children, she felt disoriented by how much she didn’t know. “I remember walking into the playground and thinking, ‘Everyone knows you’re not a real mum,’” she says, upon taking her five-year-old to school for the first time. “It was as if I had a siren above me, or ‘fake’ written on my forehead. Just trying to talk to parents on a playdate, or wondering what other kids would eat was tricky. My children were really picky eaters, and all of this made me think I didn’t know what I was doing.”

She says she had done courses and read books to try to prepare, but nothing quite readied her for the experience of becoming a parent. “I didn’t have any mum friends and I’d gone straight from working to being a stay-at-home mum. I kept thinking, ‘Does everyone feel like this? Is this how it is?’”

Ranee, a food photographer, says now that the adoption is completed, her impostor syndrome has largely gone. “Occasionally it comes back when we’re dealing with school issues, but I now have a network of friends who have also adopted and that has helped me gain some perspective.”

As well as the fact that she and her husband went from a couple to parents of two in one day, Ranee thinks anxiety about whether she was doing things “right” played a big role in feeling like an impostor. “I sometimes felt as if there was a model parent out there, but I learned to lower my expectations, and understood that my children don’t know any different. I now subscribe to ‘good enough’ parenting. I know I will make mistakes and I have to forgive myself and not get het up.

“I used to want to run out of the playground and hide under the bed. But I’ve learned that you just have to set your own standard. Trust that you will be a great parent, and fight your children’s corner. One day you’ll fail, the next day you’ll feel less of a failure, and so on, until it normalizes.” Years later, she says, things look very different. “I have two amazing kids who are teenagers, and I know they will forge their own lives, and I just want them to be happy.”

And parenting it doesn’t get any easier with more children, because each child will have a different personality requiring different methods of parenting. My sons certainly teach me that lesson all the time. One keeps to himself a lot but will eat anything I cook. The other one is socially outgoing but a very picky eater, I say he is a purest. And there’s something about being a parent in your 50s and 60s, you don’t have the physicality of your 20s or 30s.

When I was having lots of challenges with my older child, I realized it was a cry for attention. He had “lost” me to his younger brother who understandably needed nursing and diaper changing. When I realized this, I swapped with my husband when we were out with the family and even at home, spending one-on-one time with the older boy and the problems turned around very quickly.

We think we have to live up to other people’s examples but that can make us feel inadequate. All the parenting books are suggestions but you have to invent your own way of parenting, because every child is unique. Good enough parenting is a good goal. The mistakes we make give our children space to grow into better adults, things to rebel against, and it helps them forge their personality. We love our children but what is more important is to respect them. 

Don’t let your self-doubt define you. Enjoy your own parenting style because it allows you to display your authenticity to your children and gives them permission to have their own style.

Folksong by Cory Goodrich

corygoodrich.com

This is not my personal story but I do know at least one friend for whom it IS their story as well and so, I have become more interested in NPEs.

Cory Goodrich is a NPE or the recipient of a non-paternity event. This is when someone who is presumed to be an individual’s father is NOT in fact the biological father. This presumption may be on the part of the individual, the parents, or the attending midwife, physician or nurse.

“I’ve always questioned so many things about my family and my life throughout the years, and also about my own mother, who always seemed to be holding back,” Goodrich said.

“I finally decided to ask myself the questions: If a family tree falls in the woods, and no one is around to see it, do I even exist?” I do love this tree related quote !!

A promotional description paragraph sums up the book, Folksong by Cory Goodrich.

“It’s a story about the father who took her in, the father who took her away, the father who gave her away, and her 89-year-old mother, whose broken heart finally gave out while still protecting the secret to Goodrich’s identity. Sifting through the remnants of a life captured in letters and old Polaroids, Goodrich discovers a secret that sets her on a journey with life-altering consequences. In the era of Ancestry.com, DNA testing, and social media, Goodrich was able to gather together just enough pieces of a puzzle locked away for over 50 years to clearly make out the unfathomable image it depicted. Goodrich reminds that while things aren’t always what they seem, stunning fortitude and unexpected legacy can rise from the disorganized ashes of a toppled identity.”

Goodrich says, “I describe ‘Folksong’ as a memoir of love and longing, an ode to self-discovery, an emotional ballad of grief and forgiveness, and a heart-stirring look at the lengths to which a family will go to protect themselves and each other.”

Sometimes, a few breadcrumbs are all you need, as I discovered during my own family roots journey. Since my dad’s mom was unwed and she didn’t name his father on his birth certificate, I thought I’d never be able to know who my paternal grandfather was. I will admit that getting my DNA tested at Ancestry and some intriguing “hints” of some people I seemed to related to – actually were – right on target. When I finally had a last name for my paternal grandfather, the man I once contacted through Ancestry, who finally months later, wrote me – I wish I could help but none of the names you have given me seem related to me. Then, I gave him the new name – mystery solved – my grandfather was his grandmother’s brother.

Disclaimer – I have not read this book. Still I would recommend it to anyone feels they may also be a NPE.

The deception with tact, just what are you trying to say?

You’ve got a blank face, which irritates

You see dimensions in two

State your case with black or white

But when one little cross leads to

You run for cover so discreet, why don’t they

Do what they say, say what you mean

You told me something wrong, I know I listen too long but then

One thing leads to another

~ partial lyrics from The Fixx song One Thing Leads to Another

Adoption Scams Are Real

This woman ended up on the radar of my All Things Adoption group.

The very first comment was related to a baby shower photo Breanne Paquin posted with this remark – “Anchor centerpiece for a baby shower. Does she understand the implication of anchor baby? Wearing a dress with her stomach pooched out too. Makes you wonder if she was even going to tell the baby he was adopted.” “Anchor baby” is a derogatory term that insinuates these children are little more than pawns.

Someone else worries – I’m convinced she’s going to end up physically stealing someone’s baby if she can’t find an expectant mother to give her theirs, like it’s seriously concerning.

Another notes – If there were red flags why was she continuing to purchase a baby from someone she literally never met anyway? So much hate towards the biological mom, questioning if she existed at all. This is all her fault. And all the hundreds of thousands of comments boohooing with her and celebrating she’s on the news, meanwhile she’s deleting heartfelt comments trying to raise awareness.

Yet another notes the truth – Desperate people believe what they want, not what they see.

Regarding this woman’s self-promotion on social media, someone else wonders if she’s doing this as a go around. A way to make people offer her their babies. Jump the waiting list so to speak. Stand out from the crowd. And adds – she’s just another entitled white savior. They’re a dime a dozen.

The motive seems transparent to someone else – that’s my guess. If she was actually “traumatized” she wouldn’t be doing this. She is trying to get another baby. And the other person notes – maybe just “a” baby because this one didn’t exist. To which another says, yep a baby I’m sure any baby will do. Unfortunately some birth mother out there will probably do it for some internet clout alongside her.

It is sadly noted – why can these people be so blind – acting like the money is the issue here. “Sorry you lost so much money so you can’t PURCHASE your wanted baby.”

And I am one with the others – we will change the narrative, of that I have no doubt.

Looking Back Before Moving Forward

It’s typically a time of the year to reflect on everything that has happened during the last year. It’s always grounding to look back and reminisce on every moment that has stood out. Our local newspaper does this every year – the first 6 months in the issue before New Years and the last 6 month in the first issue published after New Years. It doesn’t matter whether our moments have been positive, negative, happy, sad, or a mix. Every moment we live through shapes us into the individuals that we are today.

I will probably continue to try and write a new blog every day. I learn so much doing this as I don’t constrain myself to repeating my own family’s story over and over again because that really would get boring not only for me but for any readers of my blog. I often share other stories related to adoption that I come across – usually excerpts with a link to the full article. Often I make personal comments within my blog that an article triggers me to think of.

So, yes it’s also a time to look towards the future. Maybe you’ve heard the saying, “New year, new me!” but I don’t perceive anything really new about me or anything truly new under the sun that might be shared in this blog. I never know however when someone may discover an old one in a google search or come across my blog in some random way, so I don’t really expect there will be any earth shattering changes in the content that I write about. Just pounding on many of the same points over and over again, to maybe reach someone who has become receptive to the way I am viewing adoption now – thanks to so much emotional labor shared on social media by adoptees and former foster care youth. I have NO New Year’s resolutions related to my own work here, which my daughter has referred to as my seeming mission. My goal remains trying to come up with something I have not written or shared before and to do so almost every day (I do occasionally miss one). I expect that I will just keep going because I am not ready to give it up yet.

Some foster children or newly adopted ones have been through a lot of trauma. It is reasonable to understand that the holidays may have a negative connotation for them, or they have nothing to relate enjoying a holiday to. One woman writes – I know for my adopted siblings, they were able to look at the first new year that they spent with us as a clean slate. They had lived a life that no child should live before and during foster care. Since we were planning to adopt them before my parents went to meet them, this was the first time that they had a sense of stability. I understand that this is a hard concept to grasp, especially for those who didn’t grow up in the system. Imagine not knowing where your next meal is coming from, who you’re going to be with, where you’re going to be, and if this foster family loves you and willingly keeps you. These thoughts are constantly nagging in the back of their heads, but now it’s like a breath of fresh air.

And so, to you who are foster parents, it may be difficult to not use language regarding the future of your foster kids. It is completely full of unknowns and can be scary for these kids. Put emphasis on the future they can expect with YOU. It may be helpful to reassure them that you will be there for them – while they’re in your home and that you will make sure that they are taken care of.

Acknowledging that some parts of today’s blog were assisted by – How to Celebrate New Years As a New Adoptive/Foster Family? by Emily Perez a stay-at-home mom with a BS in Elementary Education from Eastern Oregon University. When she was younger, her parents did foster care and adopted 5 children from all walks of life to become her siblings.

Is It OK ?

Is it appropriate ? I adopted my daughter thru foster care. I never met her mom or any of her family. I found them on social media and really want to reach out. Is that inappropriate? My circle is against it. They don’t understand the trauma associated with adoption. I know she has aunts and lots of cousins but I know almost nothing else. I won’t pretend they don’t exist. They are a part of her story and eventually my daughter will probably want to know about them.

About that circle of friends ? They don’t understand what and how it will effect your adopted daughter.

Additional information – this child is 2 years old. Some perspectives. If she’s very young, reach out to a few of the adults and go from there.

If she’s old enough to understand what’s happening, then she should be in charge of this decision. In that case, she may be ready right now, she may not be, or she may want to just look at their accounts for a while, before reaching out. Make certain, it’s her decision if she’s older.

This one could have been my adoptee dad’s perspective, if he had had the possibility – I found my birth parents through social media. I wish I hadn’t reached out but I did and the interaction was fine. Be careful, sometimes it’s better not knowing …

In response to that, someone else asks – do you think this adoptive parent can act as a buffer to mitigate any difficult feelings that may arise as a result of contacting the first family? I had a lot of hard feelings when I met my biological dad and his family, but not knowing was worse.

The response was – no, I don’t think even Jesus Christ himself could mitigate those feelings. I go back and forth about knowing and not knowing. Not knowing was hard, but knowing and having to face the reality of my genetics is harder. My first people are selfish and the reason I was relinquished was so they could party and have no responsibility. My male first person is wealthy, has always been and they had the means to care for me. They told me they just didn’t want to parent. Those feelings I hold towards them do not taint my thoughts on this particular question.

Adoptee Reunions do not always succeed in happy endings as this comment shares – sometimes I wish I would have just watched my birth parents and my birth siblings lives on social media from afar and never reached out. Our reunion eventually went south and it sucks. They made our reunion about them and refused to respect my trauma and my boundaries.

There was this emphatic response – Not inappropriate – please do! You can’t be sure how they’ll respond but at least trying is the best thing you can do for your adopted daughter

Refreshing

It is refreshing to encounter an adoptive parent with such clarity about her adopted child. Heron Greenesmith writes at Parents.com – Please stop calling my adopted daughter ‘lucky.’

She writes – I “would have given anything for her to be with her biological family instead.” It was not a newborn infant that was adopted but a 5 yr old child. “Love can be burden, particularly if you are a 5 year old who has never met these people who know everything about you.”

It was as she wrote about her experience on social media that she was told – “She’s so lucky.” – perhaps a thoughtless platitude, a senseless nothing typed quickly into a comment bar.   “Lucky girl to have such dedicated parents!” (Dedicated? Why did that word carry so much power to imply that adoption was somehow more work than literally creating an entire human in one’s body?)

And here is why she does not consider her daughter lucky – her daughter was taken away from her natural parents and siblings. She experienced indescribable grief and trauma at an age before many of us even begin to understand that level of misfortune is possible. She also sees a young child who walks through life with the burden of knowing one may lose what one loves without warning.

She admits that some parents are unable to keep their kids healthy and safe. Our nation’s child-welfare services are designed to support these families in need. They are supposed to keep kids healthy and safe while parents are getting the assistance they need. And if further tragedy strikes and parents are wholly unable to care for their children, the system turns its gears and tries to find a new home for the child.

She is also not comfortable with the reasons that some people may consider her adopted daughter lucky – Lucky to be with parents in a higher tax bracket? What does that say to the children in low-income families whose parents are keeping them healthy and safe? Does it tell them that poverty itself is justification for removing kids from their parents? And too often, poverty is the justification for removing children from their biological families.

She writes “there is nothing I would not give for her to have been safe, fed, and clean in her first home, without having to have gone through hell first.” “She is incredibly unlucky and will spend her life carrying her tragedy with her. It is our job to help her understand her tragedy and help her carry it.” She remembers that first day and a terrified kid being driven in a car by people she’d met two weeks earlier to a new house where she’d live “forever.” But she is also aware that to her daughter, “forever” doesn’t truly exist.