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.