Sunday, November 4, 2012

A Conversation

Reading this post - and please read it - recently brought back to mind a conversation I had with someone who had spent a few months working with a pregnancy center in my town. She felt that I was too negative about adoption. I'll post parts of the conversation here. There are a few small bits left out because of the personal nature of some of the comments but you'll get the gist of it. I started the exchange by asking a family member to ask this person if they had heard of a particular book and the following conversation was the result......

Me: Could you ask L if she's familiar with this book.....  The Missing Piece: Adoption counseling in Pregnancy Resource Centers by Curtis J Young

"Counselors must be trained to give women sound reasons that will counter the desire to keep their babies. One example is to reinforce the notion that it takes a strong, mature woman to place a child for adoption. Honestly addressing the issue of financial survival can be compelling as well. Counselors must communicate that adoption can be an heroic, responsible choice and that the child benefits tremendously ..." - From The Missing Piece: Adoption Counseling In Pregnancy Resource Centers by Curtis J. Young. Family Research Council (2000).

If this book and others like it are being used to train the people working in pregnancy centers then these people are also part of the coercion process. From what I've learned the industry also uses these centers to feed the demand for babies.

L:  "I have not heard of this book. I don't believe most (all) Christian pregnancy centers are part of the "adoption industry."  Adoption (here at least is only brought up if abortion is either stated as the mother's intent or in a situation where it is a very strong possibility due to multiple stresses.  It's not presented as an option because anyone thinks the mom might not be the best mom possible.  It is presented as an option when/if the mom sees abortion as the only option.  Also the pregnancy center here does not work with lawyers or "commercial" adoption services, but with a very well-screened group of 3 or 4 Christian=oriented adoption agencies.
Adoption is certainly a highly-charged subject.  In appropriate circumstances, it can be a great blessing for mom & child.  Our adoption advocate, who walks women who seek that option, thru the process had a daughter, who got pregnant as a senior in high school, who realized she was not prepared to parent at that time, and that her goals for herself and her baby were higher.  She placed her son for adoption in an open adoption situation & both families were there for the birth & they have maintained a close relationship ever since.  The daughter is his "tummy mommy" & there is much love all around."

"I believe in very many cases adoption IS "the loving option" and that "adoption" may be being a good mom.

I think it is very hard to go back 40 years later & try to second guess decisions made -- and the roles of everyone in those decisions.  I'm currently writing a talk for a prison retreat about choices == and one of the points in there, with which I totally agree, is that, in the end, unless threatened with some serious harm,  we are responsible for the choices we make.

Please don't tar & feather all adoption with the negative aspects of some, especially if you intend to publicize that.  That could be a death sentence for some of these babies."

Me: I must reply as I felt scolded by your email. You may not have intended that but that is certainly how it came across.

You mention the "adoption industry" in quotation marks as if you don't really believe that it's an industry. If this is not how you intended it to read then my apologies. In my view and the view of many, many others, it is indeed an industry. It is a multi-billion dollar a year industry that mainly serves the needs of adopters. It has become an industry that uses children as a commodity. It is there to provide children for needy adults as opposed to homes for needy children. If it were truly about helping children there wouldn't be such a huge number of older children in foster care whose parents have already lost their rights to them. there's a high demand for newborn babies, with 20-40 couples competing for each of those babies while those older children languish with no permanent home.

In a report submitted by M. Juan MigueL Petit, Special Rapporteur, to the UN States: "Regrettably, in many cases, the emphasis has changed from the desire to provide a needy child with a home to that of providing a needy parent with a child. As a result, a whole industry has grown, generating millions of dollars of revenue each ear, seeking babies for adoption and charging prospective parents enormous fees to process paperwork."

Take a look at these....

Unfortunately, these are not the exception. This type of thing goes on everywhere. In their own words, they are results driven, use aggressive birthmother outreach, can get you a baby in 12 months or less, can give that pregnant girl airfare, sightseeing tours, all expenses paid and even scholarships for college. How do you think agencies can make these promises to prospective adopting couples and charge them anywhere from 10-50,000 dollars? They have to convince women to surrender their children. Follow the money. 

"I think it is very hard to go back 40 years later & try to second guess decisions made -- and the roles of everyone in those decisions.  I'm currently writing a talk for a prison retreat about choices == and one of the points in there, with which I totally agree, is that, in the end, unless threatened with some serious harm,  we are responsible for the choices we make.
There may be all sorts of influences brought to bear, but the final choice is our own, no one else's."

Are you trying to tell me that I'm second guessing what happened to me 30 years ago? That I'm not taking responsibility for choices? You weren't there, I lived it and have been living it for 30 years. Coercion takes many forms, it's not just about the threat of harm. One option does not equal a choice. There has to be more than one viable option in order for a choice to be made. When a girl is in a position of being pregnant, no father present, no money, no job, no place to live because she's been told that she cannot bring the baby home, she is surrounded by people telling her that she's not good enough to raise her child because she's single, that her child deserves more than she can give, is not given any information about resources available to her to help her keep and raise her child, is told that she can't be seen in public once she starts to show, is shipped out of town to be hidden from view, is told it must be kept a secret from everyone, gives birth and is not allowed to hold or even see her own child at all because there's a big red sign over her bed with the letters BFA - Baby For Adoption - which alerts the hospital staff that her baby is to be kept from her even though, as her mother, she is legally the only person in the world who actually has rights to that child, when you are told to sign a legal document with no legal representation and no explanations, when you are not given copies of that document, when all this is happening to a naive, scared out of her wits young woman who is totally alone, I would say there was coercion going on. When your back is against the wall it's not a choice.

That's how it was. During the time I lost my daughter and for the decades previous to that women and girls were coerced out of their children by not only Catholic Social Services but many, many other agencies. We signed documents and were never given copies of those documents. We were lied to, told our babies would go directly to their adoptive homes from the hospital. Just recently I found out that my daughter was in a foster home for 7 weeks. I didn't name her because the adoptive family was going to name her, she was to go to them immediately. Instead my daughter was a nameless, parentless infant for almost 2 months. I was told she would go to a loving home with 2 parents. I had to lose her because I wasn't good enough since I was single. Her adoptive parents divorced when she was only 3 yrs old. Her father moved out of state and she only saw him for 2 wks out of every year. Mark and I married when Liz was 16 months old and have been married for 29 years. If she had stayed with me she would have been raised with her own mother and with 2 parents in the home. I had to give her up because I was single and she ended up being raised by a single mother anyway.

In the past the industry and society blatantly shamed us into surrendering our children, now they use much more subtle tactics. It hasn't changed much, only in techniques. The National Council for Adoption is the largest lobbying group for adoption agencies here in this country. Past president Tom Atwood in his letter titled Reviving the Institution of Infant Adoption from 2006 said "NCFA is expanding it's efforts to revive the institution of infant adoption through sound pregnancy counseling and public communications that promote infant adoption awareness and understanding." They need to revive it because the number of adoptions is down meaning revenue is down. It's a supply and demand issue. The demand is high for white newborns. Counseling needs to be worded carefully so that more mothers will surrender.

Let me be clear, no one is advocating that children stay in dangerous, abusive, or harmful situations - NO ONE. When a mother or her family cannot take care of children and they can't stay with anyone in their original family then they need to go to a good loving home. We all want children to be safe and loved. What I'm talking about here is the industry working to find babies for infertile couples. The standard now is pre-birth matching of pregnant girls and adoptive couples - this is coercive. Calling her a "birthmother" when she is still pregnant is coercive - it implies that a decision has been made, she is not a "birthmother" she's simply an expectant mother. Using the lure of open adoption, 80% of which close in the first year and are all in the control of the adopting couple, is coercive. Open adoptions are also not enforceable. Adult adoptees still have no access to their own original birth certificates in 42 states. Unless adoptees are reunited with their original families, they have no access to their medical history which can be a dangerous situation for themselves and their children, they can't in many instances even get a passport. They simply don't have the same rights as everyone else. That's wrong.

I could go on and on about what is wrong with adoption and the changes that need to be made. I'm working for family preservation and adoption reform. Adoption is incredibly damaging not only to mothers but also to children. The damage done by adoption is much more common than you think. It's not a loving option, it's an act of desperation. It's a permanent solution for a temporary problem. Circumstances change. People shouldn't lose their children because they are single or don't have enough money. When my daughter's adoptive parents divorced no one suggested that her amother give up the children. When Mark and I were going through rough times with unemployment, no one suggested that we give up our children to people who could provide more yet this is what's happening to young parents. It's happening because there's a need to fill for infertile couples.

Books to read: The Girls Who Went Away by Ann Fessler, The Primal Wound by Nancy Verrier

Excellent blog by an adult adoptee, she has many good articles, videos and information if you want to wander around her site.
good posts....

 "It is very hard to respond to your response.
First, I'm sorry if you felt I was scolding.  It was certainly not my intent.
However, I do truly believe that you see only one side of the adoption issue.  And I can see from what you've told me of your experience, how you would feel that way.
I refuse to believe that all adoption agencies are just in it for the money.  I think most of the Christian ones are non-profits.  Adopting parents do frequently provide most of the  biological mother's costs...She & the baby might not be able to survive without that assistance and it seems to me to be an acceptance of responsibility for the child before birth, just as you accept the expenses of your own child.
I know that there IS an "adoption industry", just as there is, even more so, an "abortion industry."
Abortion really is a permanent solution to a temporary problem...although, for a large percentage of women that choice later has serious aftereffects.
Adoption may seem similar to you.  For the expectant mother, it may be a permanent solution to a temporary problem also, but for the BABY it may well be a permanent solution that in its best interests.
This certainly does not apply to all cases.  I have a problem with adoptions that are primarily based on "what other people will think." Realistically, it is not the adoption industry's fault that that attitude exists.  It probably always will.  But it certainly isn't the only reason for adoption.

I just think you need to be open-minded enough to admit that in many cases adoption truly is a loving option.
It takes a very generous and loving heart to release your child to another IF you would truly prefer to keep the child, if your motivation is the well-being of the child.  And also realistically many young, single mothers are either unwilling or unable to parent.  Should adoption not be an option for them?  Do you think abortion is a better option? 

Yes, maybe society should be providing more resources for single, pregnant expectant mothers...but, at this time, they are eligible for Pregnancy Medicaid, Food Stamps, and WIC which is a great help, especially considering medical costs.  They also do get assistance in various ways from pregnancy centers with stuff like free parenting classes, diapers, clothes, etc. And there are several homes available for single expectant moms, just in the Ocala area alone.

My concern, again, is that if you paint the all adoptions in a negative way, women in troubled situations, will turn to abortion instead and then have to go through the rest of their life knowing that they killed their child. 
I know many would be put-off by your description of the industry, especially if they have never seen the good side of it...and they are extremely pressurable in these cases, looking for the EASIEST out.  It takes a lot of courage and generosity to carry a baby to term, knowing that you are going to release that child to another, even if you know you really can't or don't want to keep it.   Anything that makes it easier to rationalize that that choice isn't worth it, I believe, is harmful ."


I'm not going to go into another long discussion, I just want to make a few short points.

I made it clear that I wasn't talking about ALL adoptions.

You are making the assumption that I only see and hear one side - this assumption is false.

You are making a connection between abortion and adoption where there isn't one. Abortion is a decision made in the first trimester about whether or not to remain pregnant. Adoption is a decision about whether or not to parent and shouldn't be made until after the child is born, after the mother is healed from the birth, done dealing with post-partum hormone changes, has spent time with her child and truly has the time to make a fully informed decision free from pressure.  

"Abortion really is a permanent solution to a temporary problem...although, for a large percentage of women that choice later has serious aftereffects." - I agree.

"Adoption may seem similar to you." - That is the most amazing understatement! The lifetime of grief suffered by first mothers is astounding and beyond comprehension to those who haven't experienced it. Mothers are at risk for PTSD, suicide, severe lifelong depression, substance abuse and a whole host of other problems. I think it's very difficult for people to grasp the extreme damage that is done to not only mothers but the children as well. And I'm talking about "normal" adoption situations, not the ones where a child ended up with an abusive adoptive parent. I know too many adult adoptees who had very loving adoptive parents and yet suffer from the damage done by being separated from their mothers and original families. Adoptees are also at risk for the same problems as the mothers. I think too many times people make the assumption that if a woman keeps her baby she'll end up abusing it. There are abusers that are natural mothers and abusers that are adoptive mothers. Adoptive families have the same issues as other families - divorce, financial hardships, illness, death, etc.... There's no guarantees anywhere. What I'm trying to do is prevent UNNECESSARY separations.

Simply because some adoptions work out fine for all involved doesn't mean we shouldn't try to change what's wrong with the system and help make it less painful.

L: "I'll be brief, too. The only side you are presenting is the bad side, so I didn't know if you saw any good side.
Women who have had abortions have all of the psychological & physical problems you mentioned of those whose place for adoption, plus the guilt of having killed  their child...especially substance abuse, depression, & suicide..
I DO believe that, in some cases, there is a connection between adoption & abortion in that, if adoption is not a viable possibility, many desperate women will choose abortion rather than attempt to deal with the situation.  Do you honestly believe that all women in problem pregnancies would choose parenting over abortion if adoption were not available?
I'm basically saying, as I keep repeating, don't literally, "throw the baby out with the bath water."
Don't try to destroy the whole adoption system because of the things you don't like about it.
I have only a few months experience at the pregnancy center, but, even in that short time, I talked to one young woman who saw abortion as her only possibility.  She didn't want an abortion but felt she did not want to parent either.  She'd never even considered adoption, but seemed relieved and willing to hear more.
Also abortion is not a decision just made in the lst's legal right up until delivery in FL & expectant moms considering adoption can change their mind right up until that point also.  The possibility of adoption vs either parenting or abortion gives them almost 9 mos. to think about what they are going to do.

I know it is very hard to be entirely objective when you have been hurt, but, if you are going to be crusading on this subject, you need to be aware that the media is very happy to show only the bad side of things w/o ever balancing it with the good."

So that was the conversation with this friend of a family member. At this stage in the conversation I didn't feel like there was any point in going on with it. It seemed like we were at an impasse. No matter what I said she was going to come back with the usual rhetoric about abortion vs. adoption and I wasn't going to change her mind about anything. I don't know if I gave her something more to think about or if we were just both beating our heads against the wall. What are your thoughts?


  1. It is clear that L is very naive about the complexities of adoption for the child. All she mentions are the usual stereotypes that adoption is in the child's best interest, puts the child first, and that the adoptee always gets a loving family. Tell that to the adopted Sandusky boys or the Ethopian adoptees in Franklin Park, PA (see Mirah's blog) or the innumerable other adopted children who did not end up in loving homes. In some cases the damage (psychological and otherwise) from being given up is so severe that giving a child up for adoption could be considered a form of child abuse.(Now don't let any feathers get ruffled, I realize you were forced or coerced). In that same vein, given all the potential damage to the mother it could be considered mother abuse as well.

    I do disagree with the family preservation position that adoption and abortion have nothing to do with one another. I think they are connected. It certainly makes sense to me that a person with a pro-life pov would assume that a woman is having an abortion because she does not want to parent. They are making the point that the expectant mother can just go through the nine months and the delivery and will have no more responsibility. What they fail to acknowledge is the devastation done to both the mother and the child by such a casual attitude of "just give the baby up for adoption". They are woefully ignorant or just woefully choose to not understand the truth about what adoption really is and how it really affects both the mother (and in some cases, the father) and the child. And even the whole extended family for that matter.

    1. Robin, I do understand what you're saying regarding the abortion/adoption issue. Unfortunately one is used(misused)as a solution to the other and there are other reasons for a woman to seek abortion such as health risks of pregnancy. For me, abortion fits in the category of reproductive rights that should be separate from the conversation of whether or not to parent a child. I think separating the 2 is the only way to keep adoption from being used as the abortion problem solver.

      I also think L is very naive in thinking that "Christian" adoption agencies, because they're non-profit are not part of the adoption industry. I don't believe she's done any reading outside of what her church teaches so she's just following along in her expected pro-life role.

      You are so right, there is a prevailing attitude out there that women can just hand over their kids, pat themselves on the back for doing the "right thing" and "giving a gift" and then go on with their lives. I think too many really choose willful ignorance. If they were to truly examine and understand what happens to mothers AND children then it would turn what they believe inside out. Because there are so many of us it would mean that so many of them, people in society, would have to face their own contribution to the pain.

    2. " I think separating the 2 is the only way to keep adoption from being used as the abortion problem solver."

      Interesting point and I will have to give this more consideration. Unfortunately, I think that the only people who will think this matter through more thoroughly are those like myself (aka the choir).

  2. It's patently false that abortion leads to the same mental health problems as adoption.