Eight realities for those considering adopting or placing a child for adoption: Educate yourself.
November is National Adoption Awareness (NAAM) month. What better time to weed through the hype intended to tug at heart strings and “push” adoption as an admirable way of creating or adding to your family and a “loving” way to provide a loving family for your child.
Reality #1. Voluntarily signing away your parental rights is not brave. Raising your child is!
So-called open adoption is a continuum of scenarios starting with birth and adopting parents meeting prior to the adoption, to being identified, to sharing letters at agreed upon intervals, perhaps photos and at the ideal tip of the spectrum – visits. The problem is that even these alleged “open adoptions” all begin with the termination or relinquishing of parental rights, sealing the child’s OBC and issuing one that falsely shows the adopters as the parents of birth. See “Broken Promises” by Heather Lowe.
The severance of the rights of the parents of birth gives adoptive parents 100% of the decision-making. They can claim any number of reasons to stop visits or even all communication. Conversely, some mothers find visits too painful. There is no way to force openness to continue if either party is non-compliant.
Reality #2: Adoption does not guarantee a better life!
Reality #2: Children are not clients of adoption agencies nor are mothers in distress or fathers who are too often left in the dark. The only paying clients in the mega billion-dollar industry are those who seek to adopt.
Adoption agencies, whether for- or not-for-profit are business that have overhead and salaries to pay. Not-for-profit and non-profit are merely tax statuses. They meet those financial obligations and make their salaries by completing the transfer of children to those who pay tens of thousands of dollars per transaction. There is no national oversight of interstate adoptions within the U.S. nor any ethical code for agencies and practitioners.
The large sums of money adoptions generate is very enticing to thugs worldwide who will steal or kidnap children through violence, threats, or deceit and adopters paying fees may be unwittingly supporting such criminal or untechnical activities.
In most states, one needs no special training in child welfare, social work, or law to facilitate or arrange adoptions or advise and even “counsel” expectant mothers and perspective adopters, despite recommendations and referrals. Check their credentials, keep your eyes and ears open and do not ignore your gut when it senses something is not right! You could wind up totally deceived, either losing your child in ways you never wanted or being the recipient of a stolen child trafficked for adoption. It happens and is devastating.
Reality #3: All adoptions are not equal. Programs such as NAAM and the Adoption Tax Credit (curently facing a challenge that is being loudly protested) were both initiated to encourage the adoption of children in state care who might benefit from the security of adoption and both have been coopted by the profit and greed of a market driven industry that procures infants and imports or traffics babies from overseas to meet the excessive demand while rejecting those in care who are labeled “special needs” in some cases simply by virtue of age – the ones the programs were intended to help.
Adoption is not an altruistic or sefless act of “saving” or “rescuing” “orphans” when in many cases families have used such facilities to provide education and health services. Nearly 90% of children in orphanages worldwide have family who have no intention of allowing their children to be permanently taken from them. Many countries are terminating their international adoption programs and encouraging adoption within their homeland.
Australia manager Will Pashley speaking recently about orphanage tourism and the “ophange industry” noted that many of the children in orphanages are not orphans, but rather have living family members and are being exploited to satisfy a demand :
"It has become clear that there are a growing number of orphanage-type settings where it is effectively child trafficking..."
Finally, there is no need to encourage or promote adoption other than from foster care because there is an abundant excess of demand that in turn creates exploitation, coercion and fraud to fill. According to Kathryn Joyce and the Puffin Foundation Investigative Fund at The Nation Institute, in 2009 there were 150 couples competing for every baby available for adoption.
Spending tens of thousands to dollars to adopt is not altruistic or necessity, nor is it an act of humanitarianism, when children can be adopted from foster care for very minimal fees and often subsidies. Churches and others who wish to help would do far more good by helping fledging families here and abroad. They could help provide temporary shelter for a single mom and provide needed baby supplies. Or, they could fundraise to build schools and have wells dug in hard-pressed areas of the world and thereby help entire families and villages rather than taking one child and leaving the family in the same condition they were before with the addition of grief.
Reality #4. It’s not simple – or cheap -- to “just adopt” if you wait too long and find conception does not come as easily past your prime. Fertility is stressful. Treatments are costly and can be painful. Many people experience adoption failures before succeeding. All of this is tremendously draining on the psyche and bankbook.
Rather than sponsor and support adoption, we need to work to reduce demand by providing education on reducing as much infertility as possible by educating the public starting in High School health classes focusing on preventable causes including delayed childbirth. As with cancer and heart disease, there will always be some infertility. But reducing the numbers of sufferers is a goal worthy of pursuit.
Reality #5. Many who succeed in adopting find that while they tried to avoid children with “special needs,” every child who is separated from the person they spent nine months or more with, suffers a trauma. Those who are institutionalized in overseas orphanages are no less “damaged” from lack of bonding and/or genetic issues such as FASD than are the children in state care here in America.
Adopting a child of an ethnicity that is unlike the adopting families adds yet additional issues for the family and the child. It is far from simple or easy. Read about rehoming to get a glimpse at what can go wrong and the desperate situation it leads to for some who adopt.
Reality #6: Traditional adoption is not the only – or best – way to be provided safe, permanent care for children in need. American adoptions in all states except Kansas an Alaska seal original birth certificates (OBC) and deny adopted persons access their true and accurate OBC for all of his life in most all states. Some states now allow adoptees access to their own unaltered OBCs upon reaching adulthood, under certain circumstances. The sealing of these records - purportedly sealed to protect adopted persons from the “stigma” of illegitimacy which no longer exists - has never been shown to be any person’s best interest varying conditions.
The lack of an authentic birth record dated within less than a year from the time of birth causes problems for adopted persons obtaining drivers’ licenses, etc. and is causing the deportation of some adoption from overseas.
Reality #7: In general adoption – both domestic and international - takes children from families in lesser materially advantages situations and places them with those better heeled, so to speak. But how do we measure “better?” Is it all financial? If having more “advantages” is the goal, why not take every child from every family temporarily on food stamp assistance or those from parents working two jobs each to stay afloat and give them all to more affluent professionals, CEOs or celebrities? They’d have “better” lives by dollar and cents standards.
Reality #8: There is no guarantee of a “better” life – only a different one with a huge tradeoff! If adoption is “better” why are so many adoptees so outnumbered in care facilities and why do they attempt suicide at four times the national average?
If adoption is “better” why do professionals and adoptive parents, such as Nancy Verrier, author of The Primal Wound, document the trauma?
Ten to 25 percent of adoptions disrupt before they are finalized. Fewer adoptions fail after finalization according to statistics that are dated and do not include the trend called “rehoming.”
Even more disturbing are cases of abuse, severe neglect, or murder by adoptive parents. The most recent, as of his writing can be found here. We know that abuse rates are greater in foster homes, yet once adopted families are not followed. Thus our only source of data are anecdotal via news reports by the State of Washington’s 2012 report on “Severe Abuse of Adopted Children Committee” and also on the website Pound Puppy Legacy (PPL).
Such horrifying cases are particularly disturbing in light of society’s expectations of adopters being properly vetted and not becoming parents unexpectedly or unintentionally but rather with great forethought and effort.
BE AWARE and BEWARE
Read about adoption from those who have lived it! Check out #Flipthescript and the FliptheScript video.
When researching adoption online, check your sources. Online support groups for those seeking to adopt may share the “easiest” way to obtain a child, not necessarily the most ethical or reliable.
Note that adoption agencies such as American Adoptions and Adoption Network, which come up first and second in a Google search for “adoption statistics” might provide accurate stats but are not objective unbiased sources of information as is the Child Welfare Information Gateway and the Donaldson Adoption Institute or Adoption and the American Adoption Congress. On the other hand, however, the National Council for Adoption is the lobby for those who profit from adoptions.
Read about adopters who thought they were dealing with reputable agencies only to find they had become a major part of the problem, rather than the solution such as in this case. Read about how mothers and fathers are conned by the greed of those who will lie and manipulate all to gain the highly-sought and valuable prize.
Society needs to hop off the feel-good unicorns, take off the rose-colored glasses, put the rainbow Kool-Aid down, and look at the realities of adoption as opposed to the feel-good myths.
If you are considering adoption – either adopting or placing – the writings of adoptees, adoptive and birth parents reflecting on their experiences and thoughts of adoption are crucial reading. There is no other way to discover the long-term effects of the decision you are approaching but to hear the true-life reflections of those who have hindsight with adoption.
If you have personal plans for adoption, you want to read these books and anthologies by adoptees from a variety of backgrounds each with a unique viewpoint about their experiences:
- Christian, D.R. and Transue-Woolston, Perpetual Child: Dismantling the Stereotype
- Lifton, B.J., Journey of the Adopted Self: A Quest for Wholeness https://www.amazon.com/Journey-Adopted-Self-Quest-Wholeness-ebook/dp/B00CW0M7Q6/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1509666412&sr=1-1&keywords=Betty+Jean+Lifton
- Lifton, B.J., Lost and Found: The Adoption Experience
- Lifton, B.J., Twice Born: Memoirs of an Adopted Daughter
- Mackieson, P., Adoption Deception: A Personal and Professional Journey
- Myung, J. J. and Vance Twins. Adoptionland: From Orphans to Activists
- Myung, J.J., Moon, J., Kim, K., The “Unknown” Culture Club: Korean Adoptees, Then and Now
- Paul, Maria. The Bastard Chronicles: An Anthology: 20 Years of Adoptee Equality Activism in the U.S. and the Birth of a Bastard Nation
- Potter, M.A., The Last Invisible Continent: Essays
- Transue-Woolston, A., Flip the Script: Adult Adoptee Anthology.
- Transue-Woolston, A., Lost Daughters: Writing Adoption from a Place of Empowerment & Peace
- Trenka, J.J., Fugitive Visions
- Trenka, J.J., The Language of Blood
- Trenka, J.J., Outsiders Within: Writing on Transracial Adoption
The following two links have lists of recommended blogs written by adoptees. Each shares their person lived experience and insights:
Finally, one partiualr blog post, “Dear Adoption, If We Both Have Lost” is a sensitively written, must-read for adoptive and prospective adoptive parents from the dual perspective of an infertile adopted woman.