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.

I Am Adopted. I Am Shame.

I hate holidays. I get this innate, overwhelming knowledge that somewhere nearby, in this very city, my birth relatives are gathering for tradition and celebration. Except me, of course, since I’m not supposed to exist.
Except I KNOW. I can feel it in my blood, like a rising tide. I should be with them. Blood calls to blood. But I’m not, and even if I knew their names or where they were, they wouldn’t welcome me.
I’m a secret.
I am shame.
I’m a bastard.
My distant Irish ancestors weep. They want to know why I am severed. I have no answers. I’m not allowed to have answers.
My children ask me questions. I have no answers. They’re not allowed to have answers, either.
My mother’s brief contact revealed little about my life.
It was a mistake.
I’m a mistake.
I don’t exist.
My mother doesn’t want me to exist.
If I did know who and where my birth family was, and I was stupid enough to go there, they could easily have me arrested. My mother filed denial of contact with the state, criminalizing me for wanting my original birth certificate. Never mind that I have zero way to identify her. Never mind that the incompetent Illinois CI program gave her my identifying info without my consent. She knows exactly who and where I am yet I still have nothing.
I am a criminal for wanting to know my origins.
I am a criminal for continuing to want to know my origins after being told to shut up and go away.
I am a criminal for publicly disagreeing with adoption policies and practices.
I am a criminal for standing up for myself.
Meanwhile, everyone’s talking about all the lucky Illinois adoptees who are getting their birth certificates. Oh, except those who were denied. And those from certain adoption agencies who are essentially filling in the blanks with, “We don’t feel like telling you.” And those whose information was never recorded, was recorded in error, was falsified, was destroyed, is mysterously “missing,” or exists in another state or country. Hmmmm. That seems like a lot of exceptions for a law that gave “all” Illinois adoptees their rights.
I am a pariah for not sacrificing myself so others can have access.
I am a pariah for standing up for left-behind adoptees.
I am a pariah for not accepting the status quo.
I am a pariah for insisting upon equal rights for everyone.
I hope my mother is reading this. I hope the Illinois politicians are reading this. I hope every single person who is getting their Illinois OBC is reading this. I hope every last one of you who has ever supported a conditional law is reading this.
And I hope all my fellow nonexistent denied bastards and our counterparts, those uppity hell-raising first mothers, are reading this.
If we are shame… then so are the people who shame us.

Image: Idea go / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Steve Jobs And Offensive Adoptee Stereotypes

Steve Jobs was one of my personal heroes. I probably wouldn’t have gotten into IT or started my own business without his influence. But my grief at his passing was marred by the constant references to his adoption. And the adoptee stereotypes I’ve encountered made my jaw hit the floor with the speed of the Tevatron. (Not the LHC, because I live near Fermi so I’ll give some love to the home team.)
What scares me is that I didn’t even notice myself at first, and trust me, my adoption-BS meter is finely tuned. We all saw what the news coverage was like. Steve Jobs, gone! Such a visionary! Such a genius! And did you hear he was adopted?
Even adoptees mentioned it, talking about Jobs as “one of us.” I started to do the same thing. I was proud of Steve for being adopted, for showing the rest of the world we’re worth something.
And then I realized, holy shit, what we’re really saying is, “Steve Jobs succeeded even though he was a bastard.” We’re praising him, not because he succeeded, but because he Succeeded While Adopted (SWA).
Bastards have to work harder. We’re never good enough. Not even Steve Jobs was good enough.
It’s even more obvious in the Walter Isaacson biography, which has more adoptee stereotypes than an NCFA convention. The first chapter is the incendiary “Abandoned And Chosen,” loaded words which epitomize the primary adoption stereotypes: that birth mothers abandon and that adoptees are “chosen” for “a better life”. Notably, a biography of an adoptee begins with the lives of his adoptive parents. The adoptee is always a secondary character in his own story.
Steve’s first mother found out he hadn’t been adopted by college graduates as she stipulated, and refused to sign the papers. “The standoff lasted weeks,” Isaacson writes, and describes that Jobs’ mother eventually “relented” (read: gave up after constant pressure and coercion) but made the a-parents “sign a pledge” that they’d send him to college. Yeah, about as enforceable as any of today’s supposedly “open” adoptions. Then Isaacson goes on to interview Steve’s friends about his feelings about being “abandoned” (even though his mother obviously fought for him). Like many adoptees, myself included, Steve internalized abandonment because everyone in his universe told him he was abandoned. The rest of the chapter is equally repugnant. Steve Jobs lived the adoptee stereotype and, in death, he’s become the epitome of it.
This is a best-selling book! What the hell kind of message is this for adoptees, especially young ones, that a wildly popular book about a wildly popular person is riddled with stereotypes? I’m not talking about a stray remark here or there. I’m talking screaming misogynistic anti-adoptee lunacy. If anybody brought us to the 21st Century it was Steve Jobs, yet his authorized biography reads like a 19th Century handbook on social work. Go read even just the first few pages and you’ll be as appalled as I am.
In the vernacular, OMG. *deep breath*
Another underlying message I heard in the buzz surrounding Steve’s death was that adoption redeemed him: that if he had been raised by his birth mother he wouldn’t have succeeded. We don’t know that. Maybe he would have been an even greater success. Adoption is trying to take credit, when the credit is due to Steve for fighting the societal restrains of being a bastard.
Steve Jobs succeeded despite adoption, not because of it.
Many of the less-desirable personality quirks attributed to Steve, in particular his control issues, are traced back to his adoption. As adoptees our lives have been controlled for us. Is it any wonder we want to take that control back? Why is that seen as a bad thing? Is it because allowing us to do so might acknowledge our humanity, and the inherent problems in adoption?
Words are powerful. If you say something it is likely to become true. (Or, as Wang Chung said: “The words we use are strong; they make reality.” Profound advice from 1980s pop.) I thought we were making some progress on adoptee stereotypes but now I’m realizing we’ve only scratched the surface. It’s so ingrained we can barely get people to acknowledge it much less treat us with some level of respect.
Jaw still on floor, gathering neutrinos.

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.

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.

Gray Market Adoption: The Twin Who Didn’t Die

This is a guest post from Rose, who is kind enough to share her experiences. I hope there is someone out there who can help with her search. Tis the season, and we could use some miracles…
My name is Rose and I am an adoptee who was reunited with my birth mother in 1988 with whom I had a very close relationship until her passing in February 2001. To honor her life and the memory of my twin that I thought was stillborn I wrote the following story:
Two tiny spermatozoa maneuver their way through the dark passageway in search of the prize when suddenly two large oval shaped masses loom in front of them. Each sperm cell burrows its way into the warm gooey side of its respective prize and becomes one with the egg, fertilizing it and thus beginning the cycle of life anew as it has done since the dawn of creation.
The now fertilized eggs begin the trip back down the same way that the sperm traveled up not too long before. As they travel, toward their new home for the next eight months, the eggs begin to divide becoming multi-celled organisms. They eventually reach the uterus where they burrow into the soft lining and continue to grow and divide.
Six weeks pass and by then the host knows of the presence of the two travelers and she welcomes them, but not all are happy about their arrival. The host is told to get rid of the ‘unwanted mass of cells’ but she refuses to. She does her best to protect the two little travelers but it is difficult. On two separate occasions violent earthquakes rock the cocoon that envelopes the twins. They do not know that is happening, only that what was thought to be safe and secure is not. The twins grow more anxious as each day passes, afraid of what will happen next.
Though on the outside, the next six months pass by without incident, all is not well within as the food supply becomes non-existent. The smaller of the twins grows weaker each passing day and it becomes apparent that it will not survive to see the outside world. The Littlest One, as it is called, musters its remaining strength and telegraphs the message to the one in front that it can no longer hang on. As a bright light appears and surrounds The Littlest One, it telegraphs a final good bye to its companion and is lifted by gentle hands into the loving embrace of the Creator and carried into the light. ‘But, wait,’ The Littlest One asks, ‘What about the one left behind? I can still see her.’ ‘Don’t worry’, says the One with the gentle hands. ‘She will be born very soon. She will not know about you until many moons have passed but she will never forget you because she will carry that knowledge deep within herself that you indeed existed. You will not be forgotten. Fear not little one and rest now, for you are home.’
No one knew whether the Littlest One was a boy or girl nor did they care, except for the remaining one. She mourned the loss of her companion, yearning to once again see his/her face. It was the Creator of all Life who reached down and took the Littlest One home, where He named the child and where He continues to gently rock the little waif in His loving arms, even to this day.
With each anniversary of my mother’s passing, and my birthday, I would think of my twin. In December 2007, all of that changed when I found out information that changed my life for ever. While going through paperwork on Mom’s family tree, I came across what I assumed was Mom’s hospital records from my birth. Curious, I started to read and there it was in black and white: a ‘delivered and a healthy male infant…’ My twin, a brother, had been born alive!
I wish that my story had a happy ending and I could report that I found him and we are living happily ever after, but that is not the case. Unfortunately, my twin is just another statistic in the world of gray market adoption. For reasons that are known only to the doctor who delivered my twin and I, he felt that it was necessary to place my twin with another family. The couple who took him only knew that the birth mother could not care for him and he needed to go to a home that could give him what she could not. What the family did not know was that the fact that the birth mother had not given her consent and in fact did not know that the child had been born alive. She had been told that it was stillborn. The hospital records were altered to look as if Mom had given birth to only one child, me. However, fortunately for me the doctor did not completely alter the records so that the records I held in my hand contained the first clues as to what happened those many years ago.
As a result of the deception on the doctor’s part over fifty years ago, finding my twin is like trying to find a needle in a haystack, a haystack marked the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania is not only a closed records state, it’s locked tighter than Fort Knox. In fact, it would be easier to get into Fort Knox than it is trying to find out anything from the powers that be. Pennsylvania, as in many of the other closed adoption records states, feels that the records should be permanently sealed to protect the privacy of the birth mother. In my case, protecting her privacy is a moot point as she is now deceased and she never wanted it protected in the first place. The only person that is being protected is the doctor who perpetrated this crime that has affected three innocent people, not to mention our spouses and children.
Since that December night, I have been on a search for one thing and one thing only: The truth. That is all I want to know, for in knowing the truth, I know that I will be set free and no one can take that away from me.
Rose
ISO twin brother, Pottstown Memorial Hospital, Pottstown, PA, March 17, 1959

Katherine Heigl, I’m Calling You Out On Adoption

Katherine Heigl is adopting a child because she’s “done with the whole idea of having my own children.”

“I wanted to tell everybody so you don’t think I stole a Korean baby,” she said, laughing.

She’s getting a lot of sympathy in the press for adopting a child with medical issues. Okay, I get that, nice humanitarian effort and all. BUT, baby selling is not a laughing matter. It is devastating to adoptees and birth families alike. And there is too much of a “rescuer” mentality here for my liking, as if she is trying to garner sympathy for being so big-hearted as to adopt a special-needs child. Is she going to give up her career to be available 24/7 to this child? Could she have accomplished the same thing by adopting, say, a 15 year old African-American boy, someone who is not as malleable as an infant?

I understand Heigl’s character on Gray’s Anatomy was a birth mom. I can’t speak to that because my TV watching consists almost exclusively of science fiction (why bother with mainstream stuff when I’m busy plowing through the entirety of Hercules: The Legendary Journeys? Mmm.. Kevin Sorbo…) But I can tell you about Heigl’s show from a few years back, Roswell, in which she played a half human/half alien hybrid whom–ahem!–had no access to her origins. In other words, the epitome of the sealed-records adoptee.

Let me quote some of Heigl’s dialogue from the season 2 episode, “Surprise”. In this scene Heigl’s character Isabel has returned to her place of origin, the pod chamber where she and the other three human/alien hybrids awoke. She’s just been through a really traumatic experience on her birthday, no less, and she begins a monologue to her birth mother.

Happy birthday, Isabel. I’m 18 today, Mother. October 25th, at least that’s the day we’ve always celebrated as my birthday, but you’re the only one who really knows the real day. I guess that’s why I came to the only place I’ve ever seen you. I loved that day, but you disappeared and the picture of you is already fading and it’s all I had. I was so happy because you were beautiful and warm and I even though I looked like you. But it wasn’t you, not really. I don’t know what you look like. Maybe I’ll never know. It isn’t fair, I need you! Where are you? God, it’s my birthday, we should be together! How could you leave us? How could you tell us that important information about destinies and saving the world and then just disappear… answer me!

I can’t watch that scene without crying because it pretty much sums up exactly what I’d like to ask my own mother every year on my own birthday.

I wonder if Heigl has equated this with her own adoption efforts. For her new daughter’s sake, I hope she has. To watch Roswell is to gain a greater understanding of how much it sucks sometimes to be adopted, how much it especially sucks not knowing where you are from, who your people are, and what your history is… and what lengths others are willing to go through to keep you from knowing.

More Excellent Articles About Adoption

In my previous post about excellent adoption articles, I can’t believe I forgot this one, which is the most accurate public smackdown of the adoption industry I’ve seen in a long while, if ever.

For a corollary, check out Divine Caroline:

And here’s another good article, which is about the addiction many adoption specialists and mental health practictioners have these days to so-called “attachment disorder”, which I think I’ll call DWA (“Driving While Adopted”).

Adoption Isn’t A “Choice” For Everyone

There’s this billboard that has been ticking me off for months now. It used to be on the northbound Metra tracks. I was so happy when they took it down, but now it’s back up along eastbound Route 14. It’s sponsored, natch, by McHenry County (Illinois) Right To Life and pictures a couple with a baby and the slogan: “Adoption. The choice everyone can live with.”

I have so many beefs with this billboard I could cook a chuck roast. It’s a daily reminder to me of everything that is wrong with adoption.

  • The billboard is specifically promoting infant adoption. Never mind that there are plenty of foster kids in Illinois and elsewhere who would be delighted at a chance for a good home.
  • It pictures Obligatory Cute Picture of Healthy White Infant with Smiling Heterosexual Caucasian Couple. In other words, it promotes adoption of white infants over infants of other ethnicities, foster kids, and kids with disabilities. Get Your Tabula Rasa Here! It also discounts single-parent adoption, gay adoption, and anything other than the stereotypical “nuclear family”.
  • This ad is designed to get expectant mothers to surrender kids–in other words, to make money for adoption agencies. I don’t see the RTL groups posting ads offering help for expectant moms or brochures on where they can find support. If it’s really about fighting abortion and not promoting adoption, why not offer every alternative? Nor do I see them giving expectant mothers realistic information about adoption (PDF).
  • It portrays adoption solely from the perspective of the adoptive parents. The baby is a perpetual infant without voice, and the (birth) mother* is nonexistent.
  • It says nothing about the lifelong impact of adoption upon everyone involved, including the adoptive parents.
  • (Plus, the damn thing ends in a preposition. My English teacher is howling from beyond the grave.)

Some people, especially the RTL crowd, get bent out of shape at criticism of infant adoption, or indeed any criticism of adoption at all. This billboard’s message is clear: An expectant mother’s only choices are abortion (“murder” in RTL parlance) or Warm Happy Fuzzy Adoption. What this billboard carefully does NOT point out is:

  • Adoption is not Warm Happy Fuzzy. Adoption begins in loss. There’s no way to make that prettier or more palatable.
  • Adoption is not a guarantee of a better life, only a different one.
  • Adoption should be a last resort. All efforts should be made to keep children with their families of origin, and only if they are truly in danger and there is absolutely no other choice should they be relinquished for adoption. But most prospective adopters want unspoiled goods, the tabula rasa, not an older child or one with potential problems or one whose birth family might want (horrors!) to maintain a relationship. They pay good money and like any consumer they demand a quality product. Which is why adoption is about finding a child for parents who want one instead of finding a home for children who need one. That leads to the adoption industry snatching up as many products (read: children) as possible.
  • Adoptees grow up; we don’t remain voiceless infants forever. Adoption was never a “choice” for us, nor for our mothers, many of whom were forced socially or literally into surrendering us. It’s also not a “choice” for our extended families, friends, and significant others, all of whom are faced with the negative impact adoption has had on our lives and the lives of those around us.
  • Adoption agencies make billions on infant adoption. Adoption is a profit-making venture, not a charity, however it may be portrayed.
  • Adoption agencies get federal subsidies for promoting adoption, to the point where they push adoption to strangers over keeping birth families together.
  • Adoption agencies deliberately market in such a way to discount the negativities of adoption (again, because they make money from adoption). Which means any information about adoption from an agency or adoption “professional” should be taken as suspect.
  • Adult adoptees are routinely denied access to their origins. Birth mothers are routinely denied access to the paperwork they signed and information about their offspring. Illinois has mechanisms that purportedly facilitate contact but they’re about as effective as a walrus trying to tango.
  • So-called “open” adoptions are rarely enforcable from the biological family’s side. Once the adoption is finalized, the adoptive parents can–and do–take off with the kid, never to be heard from again. “Open adoption” is a marketing phrase to get an expectant mom in the door.
  • Foreign “orphans” often are not orphans at all, and may in fact have been stolen from their families. Adoption, international and otherwise, is chock-full of corruption.
  • Adoptees are torn not only from their families but also their countries, languages, and cultures of origin. Birth mothers suffer long-term consequences including depression, anxiety and other stressors that can diminish their health. Hollywood and made-for-TV movies gloss over these impacts, just like adoption agencies do. It’s not a pretty picture but it is the truth.

Why are we adoptees supposed to be grateful that we were not raised in our families of origin? Why are our mothers supposed to go away and never be seen or heard from again? Why can’t we promote support of expectant mothers instead of stealing their children to feed the adoption industry’s profits? Why can’t we restore unconditional access to adoption records? Why are we supposed to ignore what is wrong with adoption and simply accept the happy-go-lucky picture the billboard above invokes?

How about this as a new billboard? “Adoption is a permanent solution to a temporary problem. Support expectant mothers and unconditional records access.”

* I use the terms “birth mother” and “birth family” on this blog although some find it offensive, not because I disagree (I find it offensive too) but because it’s more likely to be picked up by search engines. Which is a further demonstration of how relinquishing mothers and adoptees are dehumanized in discussions of adoption.

Targeted For Adoption II

Don’t drive through Texas if you want to keep your kids.

According to the Chicago Tribune that’s the message being sent by a small Texas town, where cops are alleged to have racially profiled motorists, telling them they had to forfeit their cash, possessions, and even their children.

[T]he police seized $6,037 that Boatright [one of the motorists] said the family was carrying to purchase a used car—and then threatened to turn their children, ages 10 and 1, over to Child Protective Services if the couple didn’t agree to sign over their right to their cash.

“It was give them the money or they were taking our kids,” Boatright said. “They suggested that we never bring it up again. We figured we better give them our cash and get the hell out of there.”

Several months later, after Boatright and her husband contacted an attorney, Tenaha officials returned their money but offered no explanation or apology. The couple remain plaintiffs in the federal lawsuit.”

I’ve blogged before about children targeted for adoption by social workers and others in authority. This article makes me wonder if there was some sweet deal between the police and CPS, or if the cops were simply using the time-honored tactic of bullying people by threatening their children. Either way it’s abhorrent. We all know once CPS (or whatever they’re called in your state) gets involved, parents are guilty and have little recourse however wild or unfounded the allegations. Which I’m sure was exactly why those motorists surrendered their money to the cops instead of their kids. Who wouldn’t? I’m just glad they’re taking their case public to demonstrate the sorts of atrocities that too often happen behind the scenes. I also wonder if we are seeing an uptick in this sort of behavior given the economy, the federal funds behind adoption subsidies, and the pretty penny to be made adopting infants. In this case I’m guessing they’d have bunted the 10-year-old to foster care in order to snatch the more marketable 1-year-old sibling. Sounds like Nebraska.