The Anti-Adoption Movement

There is definitely a movement to reduce the adoption of newborns from unwed mothers and from people whose only sin is poverty. That’s not to say that it is not also important that children are never left in a seriously abusive situation. Unfortunately, what is “abusive” to some who insist on interfering in other people’s lives is not what true abuse actually is. Very few activists are claiming that adoption shouldn’t be an option, but the activists currently involved in the issue recognize that adoption is far from the perfect solution it was so long perceived to be. 

Already hopeful adoptive parents living in Texas are celebrating a bumper crop of adoptable babies in about one year from now. I suspected that as one of the motivations all along.

One woman describes her experience. The adoption agency had her move to another state while pregnant, purposely isolating her from friends and family who might have helped her. Though she knew who her baby’s father was, the agency told her not to tell him she was pregnant. She could have sued him for child support—he was a wealthy lawyer—but the adoption agency didn’t talk about that, only about the hardships she would face as a “welfare mom,” should she keep her child. They called her a “family-building angel” and a “saint” for considering adoption. “It was crazy subtle, subtle, subtle brainwashing.”

Adoption has long been perceived as the win-win way out of a a difficult situation. An unwed mother gets rid of the child she’s not equipped to care for; an adoptive family gets a much-wanted child. But people are increasingly realizing that the industry is not nearly as well-regulated and ethical as it should be. There are issues of coercion, corruption, and lack of transparency that are only now being fully addressed.

One issue is where an “open” adoption is promised but the adoptive parents sooner or later renege on that promise. So one reform is seeking to guarantee that “open” adoptions (where birthparents have some level of contact with their children) stay open. Activists also want women to have more time after birth to decide whether to terminate their parental rights. Given time with their newborn, many new mothers change their mind about adoption and decide to give parenting their child a serious effort. Young women who find themselves pregnant and unmarried still face pressure to choose adoption. 

Reproduce justice activists tend to focus on rights to contraception and abortion. Adoption reforms are equally important when it comes to men and women having full control of their destinies. Thanks to legalized abortion and a drastic lessening of the stigma against unwed mothers, the number of babies available domestically has been shrinking since the mid-’70s. Fifty years ago, about 9 percent of babies born to unmarried women were placed for adoption. Today that number is 1 percent. 

Adoption is too stark in its severance of the legal relationship between those adopted and their birth family, and out of line with the emotional realities for most involved. Adoption is not a risk-free panacea.  It is highly complex, with implications for all concerned that endures for decades. The identity needs of adopted people are very important and adoption, in its current form, does not recognize these.

There are other options, such as kindship placements or guardianship, which can provide safety and stability for children, but do not require such a severe break with key relationships. When we do not provide financial support to families in need but instead take their children away from them, we have to ask ourselves – Are we really promoting the human rights of all children, irrespective of background, to live safely within their families of origin? It would appear that we do not.

Some of the above was excerpted from The Trauma of Adoption. Other parts of this blog were excerpted from Meet the New Anti-Adoption Movement. Some comments are my own.

Your Baby Never Comes Back

I don’t know if I’ve mentioned this book here before. The cover is certainly familiar but it has come back up for me today. Someone who has read it says – It focuses on international adoption and Christian international adoption in particular rather than a more general look at adoption. But it’s a very interesting deep dive into that corner. You would particularly be fascinated, I think, by the way this myth of “millions of orphans” was created.

The New Republic published an article by Kathryn Joyce back in 2015 titled – “Do You Understand That Your Baby Goes Away and Never Comes Back?” Now you know where the title of my blog today comes from. The byline is – “Adoption is embraced in the Marshall Islands, but in the Ozarks, it means something very different. The tragic consequences of cultural misunderstanding.” Guess what ? I do live in the Ozarks. I may have even read this article back in my early days of becoming aware of all things related to adoption.

Springdale Arkansas is home to a large Marshallese population. The Koshiba’s lost their child in a method similar to some of Georgia Tann’s techniques. After a draining all-nighter in labor, an unfamiliar woman shows up in the hospital room with relinquishment papers. The father signs them without reading them deeply and the mother is still too groggy but signs them too. Barely making it with 3 children already, the couple had hoped to receive a big enough tax refund to fly the mother’s sister in from the Marshall Islands for childcare that would allow for both husband and wife to work and provide for their family.

So in March 2014, the mother pregnant once again, the couple had decided to place their unborn baby for adoption. They already had three children to care for, and both had other children from previous relationships living with extended family. The stories that circulated among the Marshallese in Springdale made U.S. adoption sound not dissimilar to customs back home: The adoptive parents would call and send pictures regularly; the biological parents would have the right to reclaim their children if need be; and the children would return to their birth parents when they turned 18. They’d also heard that Marshallese women who placed their babies for adoption in the United States were paid around $10,000.

The hurried nature of the exchange at the hospital left the parents without contact information about the adoptive parents so they could check on their baby from time to time. When the adoption agency would not cooperate with her wishes, the mother called the police. She says the police called the adoption attorney. That is when the mother first learned that she wasn’t entitled to any information. It turns out, she “willingly” entered into a closed adoption. Closed adoption is the default form of adoption in Arkansas. Adoption records are sealed; no identifying information about either birth or adoptive parents is shared and the parties can only contact each other through their agency or attorney. 

The article is long but worth reading. I’ll let you decide if that is something you wish to pursue.