Who Controls Adoptee Narratives?

I have been thinking a lot about Amanda’s recent posts at Declassified Adoptee. Through her experiences as an adult adoptee and her training in social work, she brings a lot to the table on how practices can and should be changed.

But, reading her blogs about adoptee narratives and the responsibilities of social workers to maintain them (here and here), I have to ask: What happens to adoptee narratives when agencies and social workers aren’t even involved?

My private adoption was handled by three people: the delivery doctor, an attorney who took my mother’s relinquishment… and my adoptive father, also an attorney, who handled all other legal aspects of my adoption including the altering of my birth certificate and the sealing of my adoption file.

Someone is going to tell me that a social worker had to get involved at some point. There was a social worker who came and did the home study on my adoptive parents, prior to the finalization of the adoption – which amounted to glancing around their picture-perfect home and declaring everything A-OK. As far as I know there were no social workers or agencies involved in my surrender. Certainly there was no one advising my first mother of her rights or options.

Instead, there were three laymen who had absolutely no interest in maintaining my narrative (or hers), and a vested interest in burying it.

They also had no training in social work. Basically you had three amateurs who were able to use loopholes to facilitate a private adoption, under the radar of those governmental entities whose job it is to make sure kids are safe.

I have no narrative prior to my adoption. I was born, my mother surrendered me to the custody of the delivery doctor, I stayed with him and his wife for a week, I was picked up by my adoptive parents. That’s it. No agencies, no social workers, nobody double-checking to make sure i’s were dotted and t’s crossed.

It took most of my life for me to learn that much. My adoptive father lied to me until I forced the issue in my late twenties. He told me he knew nothing of my past other than the fact that my mother was Catholic and wanted me raised that way. I haven’t been able to confirm that. What I did confirm, and what he was eventually forced to admit, is that he handled all aspects of my adoption and therefore knew the complete contents of my file. He also had a copy of my original birth certificate, which he appears to have ordered destroyed upon his death.

Not only did these men not perserve my narrative, they actively went out of their way to destroy or conceal as much of it as possible.

As it stands now, I’m in limbo. I am legally barred by denial of contact from obtaining my original birth certificate. The narrative these men worked so hard to deny me may be forever out of my grasp.

I worry that, as long as secrecy is a staple of the adoptive process, there will always be situations like mine where the people who control the narrative are the same people who want it suppressed.

The ONLY solution is to cease altering adoptee birth certificates immediately, and to restore the rights of ALL adult adoptees to access their original birth certificates. Only then will the power to control narratives be returned to the people to whom they belong.

Setting Adoptive Parents’ Expectations

(Where have I been? I think I got adoption burnout. There is so much crap going on out there that frankly it’s depressing. That, combined with my birthday, which as most of you know I detest as a reminder of my own adoption baggage, made me want to take a serious vacation from adoption. But I’m back now and hoping to blog at least a little more frequently.)
The papers are full of the baby Vanessa case, in which a prospective adopter “won” against a birth father who was never informed of his child nor his rights. I say “won” in parentheses because the only “winners” in this case are the permanent guardian (dubbed adoptive mother), the lawyers, and the adoption agency. You can read the highly subjective LA Times article about the case here.
First of all, I was offended by the LA Times reporter’s coverage of this matter. The print edition of the Chicago Tribune (same parent company as the LA Times) headlined the article as “Baby Vanessa stays at home,” an implicit bias that the adoptive family is “home” and the biological family is not. I also didn’t like the repeated emphasis on “the only parent she knows.” Vanessa knew her mother; perhaps she is unaware to express it verbally, but all children, even (especially!) newborns, are well aware of the existence of and need for their biological mothers. In yet another example of serious media bias about adoption, this article the reporter did her best to make the putative adopter a saint and the biological parents the villains.
As I remarked on Facebook:
I think the process of adoption leads many adoptive parents to think that way [that adoptees are objects to be possessed rather than human beings with feelings]. They are encouraged to pick the “best” products (eg children with less of a possibility of birth parent “interference”), the mythical tabula rasa they can shape as desired and which will make up for not being able to biologically procreate. Just look at the amended birth certificate, which shows adoptees “as if” born to the adoptive parents. Our society is already consumer-driven and the agencies and private facilitators play on that. It sets impossible expectations for the adoptee because no one can ever live up to those perfect standards.
Which makes it clear that the adoption agencies and facilitators are really all about the money and don’t care what happens to people or families after they get paid. Because if they did care they would make sure to set appropriate expectations on the part of the adoptive parents, since this scenario inevitably leads to family disfunction and perhaps even dissolution (whether via the “adoption returns department” or the adoptee deciding as an adult to dissolve the relationship as I did). I think most adoptive parents are reasonable people that get sucked into the adoption industry mindset. You’ll always have some crazies who have to have a child no matter what but I don’t think it would be the rule rather than the exception if it weren’t for the fact that the adoption industry grooms them into believing that they MUST have a child at all costs, and that if they pay enough money they can erase their infertility and re-establish their status in our parent-centric society.

Doss seems to have overlooked the real villain in this case: AdoptHelp, which neglected to check the Ohio Putative Father’s Registry, allowing Doss to believe she would be able to adopt Vanessa without Mills’ consent. Doss claims to have spent $400,000 on attorney fees (which seems excessive) and has made public pleas for contributions to help her pay these costs.

So then the question becomes: Why don’t people go after adoption agencies when they falsely set prospective adopters’ expectations? Why do they go after the biological family instead? Answer: Because vilifying the biological parents ensures continued supply (children for adoption). It’s hard to fight a profitable industry with lots of lawyers and lobbyists to give it teeth, but it’s easy to fight a resource-poor individual, especially when the media and the court of public opinion is likely to side in your favor.
Doss wants to enact legislation that would, as Jane puts it,

give prospective adoptive parents a sort of squatter’s rights to children although they couch it in terms of preventing “reactive attachment disorders,” promoting bonding, or whatever psychological lingo carries the day.

Lorraine, Jane’s co-blogger at FMF, points out:

Doss is not adopting Vanessa; she will be her permanent guardian at this point, not her ADOPTIVE mother.

Speaking from an adoptee perspective, adoptees are neither objects to be owned nor fodder for touchy-feely newspaper articles written about them when they are too young to claim the ownership and privacy of their own origin stories. How would you feel to find out that the public knew about the intimate details of your life before you were able to understand them yourself? Many of us have also wondered how Vanessa is going to feel when she is old enough to understand that her “adoptive mother” (permanent guardian) deliberately prevented her biological father from claiming custody. Will Doss lie about it, in which case Vanessa will find out the truth through casual research? Will Doss bias Vanessa toward her own biological origins in order to preserve adoption attachment? I can tell you that either scenario is likely to result in Vanessa recoiling from the woman she has been groomed to call “mother” and struggling to discern her own identity sans the foundation of origin she should have had, except for a profit-hungry adoption agency and a prospective adopter whose expectations were falsely set.
But back to the question of prospective adopter expectations. What should those expectations be? I think we should treat prospective adopters in the same way Douglas Adams fictionally treated the President of the Universe: anyone who wanted the job was automatically disqualified. Again, from comments I made on Facebook:

There really needs to be better setting of the expectations of prospective adopters. Too often it’s all about them obtaining a child as a status symbol as opposed to actually wanting to reach out to a child in need (because if the latter was the case, why aren’t they taking in the foster kids who actually need help as opposed to taking children from families who lack resources to raise them). Every time I think about how the tens of thousands people pay for one adoption could go to helping a family stay together, it infuriates me.

Prospective adopters would do well to understand that any information they get from adoption agencies or facilitators about adoption is, in itself, biased. You don’t ask the person selling cars whether the brand his dealership sells is better than the brand across the street. You go out and ask people who have actually bought the car you’re considering. Some of them will tell you they like it, others will tell you they don’t, and you base your decision on a synthesis of the two. In this case, prospective adopters need to get out there and ask advice from biological parents and adult adoptees who have no ties to agencies or adoption profits. That’s the only way you’re going to find out the truth about adoption, and unfortunately a lot of it isn’t as pretty as the glossy brochures or biased media articles would have you believe.

The Critical Difference Between Foster And Infant Adoption

It’s National Adoption Awareness Month, and many of us in the adoption community are writing about adoption–not the feel-good articles you’ll see in the press, but writing that gets to the truth of what adoption actually is. And some of it, perhaps even most of it, isn’t very pretty.
A number of folks have pointed out that NAAM, which started as a way to promote adoption of kids already in foster care, has turned into a gigantic singalong in favor of infant adoption. So I thought I’d explain the difference between infant adoption and foster adoption.
  • Foster adoption is adoption of kids who have already been separated from their families, and are living in foster care.
  • Infant adoption is adoption of children, often newborns but sometimes slightly older, whose mothers are unable (either by choice or, more often, through clever coersion and familial/societal pressure) to care for them.
Do you see the critical difference? In foster adoption, family separation occurs BEFORE adoption. In infant adoption, separation occurs FOR adoption.
Foster kids are desperately in need of homes. But they’re older and may have suffered abuse or other situations that deem them, in the eyes of some prospective adopters, less than “ideal.” They often come with inconvenient birth families and awareness of their own origins. There is also a stigma attached to adoption from foster care, as if adopting a foster kid means taking on “damaged goods.” An infant, on the other hand, is considered a tabula rasa. In fact, healthy white or pass-for-white infants are such a prize commodity that they go for tens of thousands of dollars. While there is also stigma attached to infant adoption (indeed, adoption of any sort), it’s more likely that neighbors and friends are going to congratulate you on adopting an infant than adopting an eight-year-old out of foster care with, say, medical issues and birth family members still in the picture. That might take *gasp* reordering of one’s life on a massive scale. It’s “not what we signed up for.” (Never mind that life is full of things we “didn’t sign up for.”) Infants are cute and cuddly and, above all, malleable. As I’ve said before, why rent when you can own?
NAAM should be about finding homes for foster kids, the ones who truly need it. Instead it’s become about infant adoption: how to encourage it, how to advertise it, and how to convince as many expectant mothers as possible to surrender their top-quality tabula-rasa infants, because that’s what the market wants.
That’s not to say that there aren’t infants in foster care who need homes. And that’s not to say that there aren’t adoptive parents who open their hearts to children who are actually in need, infants or otherwise. But there is also the side of National Adoption Awareness Month that most people won’t see or don’t want to see–the adopters with entitlement mentalities, who think they deserve a child simply because they want one, and who turn that want into an obsession that drives them to go to any extreme to fulfill it. (Try the Vaughns for one despicable example.) These are the people who drive the market for infant adoption.
Infant adoption is rarely needed, certainly not the number of infants who become available for adoption. Think of all the time and money that is spent on infant adoption. Now, imagine that time and money being used to get as many kids out of foster care and into loving homes as possible. Also imagine that time and money being used to help expectant mothers who find themselves without resources. Oh, but then they might decide to raise their own children, meaning less available product and therefore less money made by adoption agencies. Infant adoption, not foster adoption, is where the real money is. And adoption agencies, despite their “charitable” reputations, are in it for the money. Anyone who tells you otherwise is, ahem, selling something.
Next, think about the efforts made to recruit infants from other countries, to the extent of lying and outright stealing children. Imagine if, instead, the resources spent on these expensive and unnecesary adoptions were spent instead to provide safe, effective, affordable care within such countries, to promote extended family adoptions when parents are truly unable to support children, to promote in-country adoption to preserve the children’s heritage, leaving international adoption as a very last and rare resort.
In the current atmosphere, this would never happen. There’d be an outcry from agencies, prospective adopters, and the general public, ostensibly on behalf of the poor “orphans.” What is not known to most people is that a lot of those kids have parents and/or families, and are designated “orphans” for the sole purpose of making them more adoptable/profitable. Again, that’s not to say there aren’t true orphans in need of help, but there’s also a whole industry that has been built on marketing children from other countries to Westerners. Which is why so many adoptees, upon expressing discontent with adoption as it is practiced today, are scolded with, “Would you rather have been raised in an orphanage?” or “Would you rather have been aborted?” as if the logical choice–being raised in one’s original family–was never an option. The adoption industry needs the perception that there are more orphans languishing out there than there actually are, in order to keep the profits coming. And, let’s be honest, there are some prospective adopters who get off on the idea of being the “rescuers” of “orphans.”
The unfortunate fact is, not everyone who wants to be a parent is going to get that opportunity. There are other ways to matter to children besides obtaining a child by any means necessary. Is it really that important to own? Has our society become so materialistic that we can’t put aside avarice for altruism? Why can’t we help children stay in their families of origin instead of wasting all those resources on unnecessary adoptions? The way adoption is currently practiced only encourages unethical and illicit behavior.
This is one reason that adoption agencies, private “facilitators” and some adoptive parents try to diminish the voices of adult adoptees, first mothers and fathers, and those scant few adoptive parents who dare to speak out against corruption in adoption. First mothers (and fathers!) can speak to their experience of being coerced into giving up their children. Adult adoptees like me (I was adopted as a newborn) can speak to the fact that no infant is a tabula rasa. Adoptive parents can speak to the corruption that they have personally witnessed.
No, the adoption agencies and those adopters who consider themselves “entitled” would be much happier if we keep National Adoption Awareness Month as squeaky-clean as possible. Let’s put these myths to rest. Foster adoption is about finding homes for children who need them. Infant adoption is about selling children to people who want them.

The Details Of An Adoptee’s Life Are Sacrosanct

… or, they should be.
I can’t get this post from Cricket’s Adoption Blog Of Shame out of my mind. These adoptive parents took it upon themselves to change this child’s birthday. Yes, it’s possible, even likely, that his original birthday was just a guess, but that doesn’t matter. Changing his birthday because it fits better with the school schedule, or because it’ll make him fit on the growth chart? As an adoptee, that absolutely galls me. Adoptees lose so much. They should not lose the few details they may actually have.
As others pointed out on Cricket’s blog, there may be clues to his original birthday in the date he was given from Ethiopia. The point is, that information is HIS. The details of an adoptee’s life belong to the adoptee, and adoptive parents have no business taking it upon themselves to alter them. Even if they later tell him the truth, think about how he will feel knowing that his very birthday was “not good enough.” The same principles apply to the adoption story. That story belongs to the adoptee, not the adoptive parents. Changing it, making stuff up or lying (either directly or by omission) is unethical, no matter how well-meaning the intent.
Most of you know that my adoptive parents didn’t tell me the truth about what they knew about my adoption. All my life, I was told they knew only that I was born in Chicago. I didn’t find out until my mid-20s that my adoptive father was the attorney who sealed my file. He therefore knew everything, from the contents of my original birth certificate to all of the details in my super-secret adoption file. This is a prime example of adoptive parents who had WAY too much control over the situation. A couple years ago I wrote about how too many adoptive parents hold the keys to an adoptee’s information. Some of them use that as a form of control. Mine certainly did. Behave yourself, be the Good Adoptee, and we might dole out tidbits of your background as we see fit. Disobey, refuse to cooperate, and we will hold your information hostage… or even destroy it. Which is exactly what my adoptive father did with his copy of my original birth certificate when I got too close to the truth.
But one of the things I managed to discover was my time of birth. To anyone who has their background it’s an insignificant detail. To me it was a revelation. A new piece of information about myself! And an accurate one, too, because it was taken directly from my original birth certificate. My time of birth is one of the few things I know for sure about my origins. No one has the right to tell me it’s insignificant, whatever their opinion might be. That information belongs to ME.
People who keep an adoptee’s information from them, or deliberately conceal or falsify it, have no business adopting. And control of this information should be taken out of the hands of adoptive parents by making it available to the adoptee at age of majority. By corollary, that means there should be no third parties between the adoptee and that information–no confidential intermediaries, no hoops to jump, just the same access to the same information that non-adopted people take for granted.

Vote by Oct 30 for Demons Of Adoption Awards 2010

Don’t forget to cast your vote for Pound Pup Legacy’s 4th annual Demons Of Adoption Awards. Votes are due by October 30. You can cast your vote here, and (if you have a strong stomach) read more about the nominees here.

From the web site:

Each year Pound Pup Legacy presents the Demons of Adoption Award to raise a voice against adoption propaganda and the self congratulatory practices of the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute’s annual Angels in Adoption AwardsTM

Until October 30 you will have the opportunity to vote for the recipient of this year’s award.

The nominees are:

* LDS Family Services: for being the most secretive of all adoption agencies, using coercive tactics in obtaining infants for adoption and having no respect for father’s rights;

* Gladney center for adoption: for being one of the most profit-centered agencies around and blocking open record efforts in Texas;

* Christian World Adoption: for their involvement in “harvesting” practices in Ethiopia and their blind ambition to “save” each and every “orphan” in this world;

* Larry S. Jenkins: for his involvement in nearly every case where father’s rights were violated;

* Joint Council on International Children’s Services: for promoting the interest of adoption agencies at the expense of children, and pushing agency friendly legislation in Congress;

* Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute for giving their seal of approval to persons and organizations that promote the interests of the adoption industry and pushing agency friendly legislation in Congress;

* Council on Accreditation: for their lack of research done on inter-country adoption agency histories prior to giving out Hague accreditation;

* American Adoption Congress: For failing to remove state reps who were openly working against open access for adult adoptees;

* American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey: for opposing open records for adoptees and “protecting” closet moms, based on a “stack of anonymous letters” claimed to be from “birthmothers”.

* Christian Alliance for Orphans: for promoting the business interests of adoption agencies through churches.

* Southern Baptist Convention: for passing resolution no. 2 , pushing the business interests of adoption agencies to the members of their church;

* Adoption.com for systematically banning voices that oppose current adoption practices and their continuous pro-adoption propaganda;

* Scott Simon: for his vomit-inducing book “Baby, We Were Meant For Each Other” and his grotesque crying and blubbering about his purchasing of another human being;

* WE tv: for their hideously exploitative series ‘Adoption Diaries,’ turning what is a highly emotive and complex topic into ‘reality’ show fodder.

Adoption Discrimination: CBS Calls Adoptees “Used Babies”

There has been widespread discussion in the adoption community about an offhand remark from a recent episode of “Rules Of Engagement” on CBS. You can watch the clip here.

One character said, in response to the news that there would be no food at an adoption fair he was planning to attend with his wife:

“A lot of nerve calling it a fair when they’re not offering some sort of meat on a stick.”

His wife says: “…If we get serious about adoption we need these people to like us.”

His response: “If they can’t like me for who I am then I’m not going to buy one of their used babies.” (cue canned laughter)

And that’s just the commercial. I can only imagine how the rest of this adoption-related plot is going to work out.
Okay, yes, this is a comedy. But discrimination against a particular group of people should not be fodder for the laugh track. This is why adoptees and first mothers face discrimination: because people make light of our situations. Losing your family is not funny. Surrendering a child is not funny. (Neither is infertility, for that matter.) There is also something to be said for comedy that isn’t afraid to make a point when a point needs to be made. M*A*S*H comes to mind — comedy combined with serious assessments of the impact of war.
I know a number of adoptive parents who are open-minded, honest, and willing to accept adult adoptee and first mother viewpoints even if those viewpoints make them uncomfortable. In my opinion, these folks totally rock and I wish more adoptive parents were like them. Unfortunately, far too frequently I encounter the other end of the pendulum: adopters with an entitlement mentality, who believe they “deserve” to be parents at all costs, who stick to the stereotypes because anything else interferes with their mental image of themselves as “rescuers.” (Go check out Cricket’s Blog Of Shame list for some nauseating examples.)
To me, this dialogue smacks of that: “Of course we should be fed, if we’re going to an adoption fair! Of course we should be wined and dined and pampered; we’re the paying customers! We expect top-notch service and prime quality merchandise — which we’ll return if it doesn’t match our expectations.” To such people, first mothers are mechanical wombs and adoptees are malleable Barbie dolls who never grow up. Note also the currying of adoption agency favors: Hide your true self, suck up to the agency and maybe you’ll be rewarded with a kid. Sadly accurate.
I don’t care that the dialogue is supposed to reflect the abrasive personality of the particular character who said it. The fact remains, people who don’t have direct connections to adoption (and even some that do) get their ideas about it from TV, movies, and books. Which means that if writers are going to use adoption as a plot point (I’m talking to YOU, Diablo Cody) then they better get their facts straight and realize what an impact their words will have on people for whom adoption is more than just a sitcom.
We also have to consider the impact upon young adoptees, who are at the forefront of adoption discrimination. Many are already ostracized, especially those who are of a different race than their adoptive families. I can tell you how such a remark on a television program would have felt to me when I was a child. In the era of “Diff’rent Strokes,” all adoptees were assumed to be poor kids who were damn lucky to be raised by wealthy whites. I hated the show, hated the assumptions, yet it was the only portrayal of adoptees I knew so I absorbed the stereotypes even as I struggled to find my own identity. Adoptees deserve better, and we as a society know better, thanks to the voices of the many people who write, blog, and otherwise share their viewpoints on this polarizing subject. Yet Hollywood is still stuck repeating the same damn stereotypes with a 21st century facelift. Instead of wealthy white men, we get adoption fairs. Instead of adorable black kids, we get international adoptees, donor conceptions, and donated embryos. Same crap, different era.
The dangers of discrimination arise from stereotypes and assumptions. Adoption agencies are to blame for setting unreasonable expectations in the minds of many prospective adopters. The mass media is also to blame for continuing adoption stereotypes: that adopting is “the same” as giving birth, that adopting a child negates the traumas of infertility, that “good” adoptees don’t ask questions, that “bad” adoptees search, that all first mothers are “whores” who didn’t deserve their children… the list goes on. People still believe this nonsense precisely because it is perpetuated.
What we need is open, honest discussion about adoption: what the stereotypes are, what makes them stereotypes, and how those stereotypes hurt people. Just as we shouldn’t accept discrimination based on race, gender, or sexuality, neither should we accept it based on adoption.
If you want to contact CBS, here is the contact information. It wouldn’t hurt to contact your local CBS affiliate, too.
Ms. Nina Tassler
President, CBS Entertainment
CBS Entertainment
7800 Beverly Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90039-2112

Will The Haiti Incident Reform The Adoption Process?

See also my previous posts on Haiti here and here.
In watching and reading the news coverage about the ten Americans arrested for child trafficking in Haiti, I’ve been wondering if this might be the catalyst that starts some serious reform in adoption.
When this incident first occurred, I figured the news media would do what they always do: gloss it over. I was expecting a lot of whining about “poor Americans”, plus condemnation of the Haitian government which would capitulate to U.S. pressure and give these people a slap on the wrist. And who knows, maybe that will still happen. Personally I would like to see the lot of them get convicted in a Haitian court and receive the highest possible term in a Haitian prison. That Laura Silsby seems like a piece of work. The Haitian judicial process will have to determine the culpability of the rest of the group. “God told us to” is not a defense.
But on a broader level, I would like to see this be the catalyst to cease ALL private facilitation of adoption. If we’re going to have adoption–and I’m under no illusions that we’re going to get rid of it–then it should only be done by accredited agencies that are monitored by independent third parties. As this incident illustrates, anyone, regardless of qualifications, can set themselves up a “non-profit” and start facilitating adoptions. That has GOT TO STOP. Contrary to the whining of some (mostly prospective adopters), I don’t think that would make the adoption process harder or more expensive. I think it would offer greater protections for everyone, including prospective adopters. It might reduce the number of adoptable kids… but did you catch what was said on Anderson Cooper (CNN)?
COOPER: It’s — and so they’re handing this out. I mean, essentially, what we now know is, they were around in Port-au-Prince trolling for kids, I mean, going around, trying to collect kids under the age of 10, so, for whatever reason, they could take them to the Dominican Republic.
And what they — we had also just learned today is they told that guy David Louis they were actually going to bring some of these kids into the United States, or they had offered to — to bring Richard’s kids into the — back to the United States, which, you know, the fact that Richard and his wife — that his wife said, look, do not go to this orphanage where our kids are in the process of being legally adopted, and they went anyway to try to get them, to me, that just raises all sorts of red flags.
PENHAUL: It certainly does raise red flags, as well as the fact that they were looking for children aged from zero to 10, kids aged under 10.
I asked an NGO specialist about that. Why zero to 10? He says kids zero of 10 are much easier to send in adoption. You can bet your bottom dollar, if those kids were going to be sent into adoption, they were not going to be adopted in the D.R. They would have been sent abroad for that. Maybe the D.R. was a halfway house.
I don’t know that for sure, though, but, certainly, the people that you have talked to tonight, you can piece it together. It seems like that. And, yes, certainly, they were trawling for orphanages as well, because the three translators that we have spoken to extensively have said that they also were asked to telephone another orphanage, and that other orphanage also declined help.
These people were deliberately going after kids ages zero to 10… BECAUSE THEY WERE MORE ADOPTABLE. In other words, more lucrative, more palatable to prospective adopters. Read the rest of the transcript for more on how blatant they were about sweeping in and snatching children, including those who were already cleared for adoption by American families (and whose adoptive families told them outright to stay out of it). So, yes, restricting who can facilitate adoptions might result in less children available for adoption, but you know what? That’s a good thing for prospective adopters. Unless you’re saying you don’t really care where the kid comes from as long as you get one…
My adoption was private. It was facilitated by the delivery doctor and two attorneys. One attorney took my mother’s relinquishment and passed it to the second attorney, who happened to be my adoptive father. The first attorney and the doctor were affiliated with a highly-regarded adoption agency here in the Chicago area, but for mysterious reasons they were able to moonlight a few private adoptions, like mine. I have been asking myself why for a long time and the only answers I’ve come up with are unpleasant. There were no checks and balances, no accredited entities verifying the procedures, no one independently advising my birth mother on her options and rights. There was just the handing off of a newborn in a hospital parking lot. I think that’s wrong and I want it to stop. And the only way it’s going to stop is if we quit letting any random bozo facilitate adoptions, and if we throw the book at people when they’re caught.
I’d also like to know why it is that no one is investigating other incidents of potential child trafficking, like the Rendell raid or Mike Roberts, the Texas businessman who’s trying to pull a raid of his own. Apparently if you’re the governor of Pennsylvania or a hotshot CEO it’s okay to snatch kids. Laura Silsby’s problem was that she was an amateur, flagrantly flaunted the rules and got caught. I think the Haitian prime minister is exactly right in requiring his personal approval for each and every child leaving the country.
But I’d like to see more protections from the U.S. side, starting with a public outcry over baby brokers of all stripes and utter refusal on the part of prospective adopters to deal with these sorts of criminals. Only by shutting down the market demand will we see an end to baby selling.

What Needs Reform In Adoption? Everything!

This month’s Grown In My Heart blog carnival asks the question, “What do you think needs reform in adoption?” I could fill whole stadiums with answers to that one, but I think everything that concerns me boils down to one word: TRANSPARENCY, or lack thereof.
Take, for example:
  • Domestic and international adoption scandals: children targeted for adoption, mothers coerced into surrendering, adoptive parents duped into a false sense of security about the adoption process
  • Situations like Haiti, where crises are used to exploit children and families
  • Sealed adoption records, the myth of birth parent “privacy”, the discrimination faced by adult adoptees and their mothers, and the facade of compromise legislation
  • The lure of open adoption, which is rarely enforcable by the birth mother
  • “Crisis pregnancy centers” which are often fronts for adoption mills
  • Misinformation about the long-term effects of adoption, especially for transracial and transcultural adoptees
  • The general public’s lack of understanding about adoption, which is promulgated by the adoption industry so clandestine and questionable practices can continue. Part of this is driven by media bias in adoption reporting, which leads me into…
  • GET ADOPTION OFF TELEVISION. I have to wonder why there isn’t legal protection for minors exploited on television (think Jon & Kate or Balloon Boy). I think about these kids whose adoption stories are being told on TV (e.g. Teen Mom, 16 And Pregnant) before they even have a chance to know for themselves. Can you imagine how devastating that will be for them? It’s one thing to have consenting adults on these shows but something far different when we’re talking about babies and children. And even when it’s consenting adults, the information is almost always skewed. Let’s face it, reality shows and made-for-TV movies are not solid journalism, but most people base their ideas about adoption from them.
If adoption were transparent, if the procedures were scrutinized, I think there would be far less (although not zero) corruption. People will always find a way to game the system, but transparency and repercussions make it harder. Ratifying the Hague Convention would be one step. Restoring original birth certificate access to adult adoptees AND birth mothers would be another. We need more education for prospective adopters. We need independent and transparent regulation of adoption agencies. We need to get rid of private adoptions that too easily fall into the gray-market or black-market category. We need to eliminate pork-barrel legislation that turns original birth certificate access into a windfall for politicians and their well-connected cronies. We need to distinguish between infant adoption and foster-care adoption. We need to support mothers and families. We need to turn adoption from a boutique industry into a system in which kids who need help will get it.
But what we most need to do is take the profit margin out of adoption. If there is no money to be made, profiteering will decrease. I don’t anticipate this will happen anytime soon. Adoption is big business, with the funds and resources to hire lobbyists to maintain the bottom line. What we, as individuals, can do is demand transparency of adoption agencies and practitioners, and of our elected officials. We can also continue making scandals public, so that those who do game the system are caught. And we can educate the general public about adoption, including its flaws and misconceptions.
Adoption should be a last resort. We should strive to support children: with their parents where possible, with extended family where not, via domestic adoption in their country of origin and via international adoption only as a last resort. Yes, that means less adoptable children, but this isn’t about finding a child for everyone who wants one. The adoption industry sets very unrealistic expectations while continuing to sweep necessary reform under the rug. Let’s return adoption to its roots–finding homes for children in need–and do away with the corruption that currently defines it.

More Concern About Haiti Adoptions

There is growing concern about the fast-tracking of Haitian adoptions. Read on for some excellent blogs on the subject.
I’ve seen a lot of media coverage about Haitian orphans being “saved” or “rescued” by flying them to foreign countries for adoption. But “orphan” doesn’t necessarily mean the child has no living relatives. In many countries, parents place their children in orphanages temporarily until they can get back on their feet. Even if their parents are dead, these so-called “orphans” may have siblings, extended family, or others who can care for them. In a disaster like Haiti’s, we should be focusing on helping the country recover, not focusing on the wants of prospective adopters.
Okay, here it comes… the knee-jerk reaction that those of us advocating caution would rather see these kids starve and die on the streets. On the contrary, we want these kids cared for, kept in their own families where possible, domestically adopted where not, and internationally adopted only as a last resort. And yes, that means less adoptable children, and that’s just too bad. If you are so eager for a child, there are umpteen kids in the American foster system. They’re not cute “orphans”, but they do need help. If you’re really that interested in helping a child, that shouldn’t make a difference. But swooping down on Haiti like vultures is not going to help those kids.
There is also the question of what the “pipeline” is. Those American adoptions that were already “in the pipeline” are being fast-tracked. But what does that mean, exactly? It could simply mean those prospective adopters have passed the preliminary stages. They may not have passed home study or the other qualifications of being adoptive parents. And with the records in Haiti a shambles and at least one judge dead, it’s hard to know which children have actually been approved for adoption. Shouldn’t we take those tens of thousands of dollars a single adoption costs to help the people of Haiti as a whole? Wouldn’t that help more children in the long run?
Another thing that concerns me is the possibility that sweeping these kids into adoption’s net may result in increased “disruptions” down the line. A disruption is a nice name for returning an adoptee… a failed adoption. But what expectations does the adoption mill set for prospective adopters? It’s the glossy brochure, the “adopt and your life is complete” mantra. Reality is much harder for these children. You can’t take a child who is suffering from trauma and the loss of loved ones, bring them to America, plunk them down in front of McDonald’s and Nickelodeon and expect that they will grow up with no difficulties. I am concerned that some of these prospective adopters are so relieved at having their wishes finally granted that they will overlook the needs of the child. When that child begins to suffer from PTSD, will they blame the child for not fitting in? For being an “angry adoptee”? Will these adoptees be sentenced to quack therapies or drugged into behaving? Will they be returned to a country they no longer know, or shuffled off to yet another “forever” family?
In the words of Buffalo Springfield…
There’s something happening here
What it is ain’t exactly clear…
It’s time we stop, children, what’s that sound
Everybody look what’s going down.

Haiti: Adoption Snatching In Action

Some people are trying to use the earthquake in Haiti as an excuse for a mass snatching of children for the adoption mill. I’m not even going to try to compete with the stellar coverage of other bloggers, so read on to learn about Operation Pedro Pan from the 1960s and how it is being replayed today.
The answer to this horrific tragedy is not to take these children from their culture, but to reunite them with extended family wherever possible and help Haiti as a whole regain its footing. I can’t say it any better than Bastardette:

We do not object to Haitian children, orphans and otherwise, being sent to credible and documented parents or family members in the US legally for temporary or permanent care depending on the circumstances. We do object to the unethical and possibly unlawful mass transfer of traumatized children, many with family status unknown, to foreign shelters and foster care, removed from their culture and language, with little hope of reunification. We also object to children being used as commercialized foreign policy pawns. Although Pedro Pan had positive outcomes for some, its intent and motives make it an illegitimate model for today’s Haitian earthquake child victims. Cold War politics destroyed Cuban families. Unchecked adoption industry greed, pap entitlement, and soft neo-colonial foreign policy cannot be permitted to disenfranchise a generation Haitian children.