What are Predatory Adoption Practices?
Predatory adoption is not a legal term, and thus there is no clear-cut definition of what predatory adoption practice really is. In fact, there also is no code of ethics in American adoption practice, as there is in indystries such as Real Estate. There is thus very little written specifically about the topic of predatory adoption. I hope for this piece to fill that gap.
As a side note: There are many ways to divide and describe the complex and overlapping makeup of the “adoption community.” One is to divide the community by adoptees, the families they were born into, and the famllies who adopt and raise them. This division however eliminates the plethora of pre-adoption blogs, articles, books, and websites written by and for those who are seeking to adopt who delineate their “journey” through infertility, etc. as opposed to the post-adoption community, who live with the aftermath reality. A final division could be made between those who are pro-adoption - those who profit from adoption financially, the lobby that represents adoption agencies, facilitators and attorneys, as well those who benefit on a more person family manner, and pro-family preservation - and those more critical of the adption practices described herein. It is the post adoption and pro-family preservation adherents who find the pratices described here abhorrent, unethical and predatory, albeit allowable within the loose patchwork of state adoption laws
Predatory adoptions are generally those arranged through “baby brokers.” These can be adoption agencies – both for and not-for profit – considered to be reputable, attorneys or adoption facilitators who find loopholes in the patchwork of state laws and encourage practices such as advising mothers-to-be to move out of state – often to Utah – and/or to lie to the baby’s father or withhold information about the mother’s plans to place their child for adoption.
Those who pay for and agree to such services are predatory adopters and prospective adopters. They include:
- Pre-birth consents need to be illegal in all states because they are catamount or baby selling. Because three states currently have no laws prohibiting them does not make them ethical or moral by any means.
- Pre -birth matching - legal in all states and common practice in domestic adoptions - opens the door to coercion by manipulating expectant mothers in subtle and covert ways. Such pressures include plying mothers-to-be with gifts – including cars - to create feelings of obligation and indebtedness while also creating false expectations for adopters. Less subtle are those who make it known that all living expenses, including medical, will have to be repaid if the mother does not go through with the adoption. These practices can cause grounds contested adoption and scams - women pretending to be pregnant for the payments.
- Those who hover over expectant mothers, befriending and enmeshing themselves into the lives of vulnerable women, until the mom-to-be believes that she is a mere handmaid carrying the child of another.
- Those who invade a mother’s space by being at her bedside when she delivers, allowing her no time to bond and creating pressure on her to sign away her rights, sometimes while still in the hospital, and even after a surgical birth.
- Agencies, attorneys, and adopters who promise “open adoption” with no clear definition of any post-adoption contact; change the agreement after finalization of the adoption; or move without leaving any forwarding address; or who had no intent of keeping any promises made regarding contact. Pre-birth matching (see above) is used hand-in-hand with promises of openness to create an illusion of the mother-to-be being in control when the reverse is true.
- Deny the rights of fathers through deception.
- Keep children from loving, capable parents who were never accused of having abused or neglected their children and who very much want to maintain their parental rights and who attempt to reverse their relinquishment and stop the adoption from proceeding.
Contested adoptions date back at least to the 1960s:
Some recent well-publicized contested adoption cases include:
- Carri Stearns’ unsuccessful fight to keep her son.
- Fathers such as Dusten Brown, Jake Strickland, Colby Nielsen, and Robert Manzanares.
- Those adopters and prospective adopters who ignore obvious red lights and are willing participants in shady adoptions. Instead of walking out the door and refusing to partake in obviously unethical, slipshod, and simply creepy acts, they throw all scruples to the wind, allowing their goal of parenthood to drown out the qualms of their consciences.
Glaring examples of this can be seen in the documentary Wo Ai Ni (I Love you) Mom. The prospective adoptive mother is shown in a hotel room in China counting out a pile of cash to pay bribes. She notes that it might seem
, odd or irregular, but “It’s just the way things are done here.”
The book Finding Fernanda, by Erin Siegal McIntyre, provides multiple examples of potential adopters noting problems, such as the adoption agency showing the same photo for children with different names and back stories, or multiple different photos listed for the same name with the same story. In all but one such case, those seeking to adopt were willing to ignore such obvious red lights.
With eyes glazed over, focused on the brass ring, the prize, the “desperate to adopt” (as many define themselves, sharing their “painful journey” through infertility treatments) – along with the adoption practitioners who profit from the transfer of children, as well as society at large – justify “gray” and “black” adoption practices by making themselves believe that the end justifies the means. They perpetuate the myth that adoption is a win-win and that the children will be “better off” with their newly created families than with those they were born into, no matter how obviously loving and capable the actual parents are.
Many of those who ignore unethical adoption practices domestically, get themselves caught in contested adoptions. Rather than let go and apply to adopt another child once they learn that there is a parent who is willing and able to fight to regain their rightful, constitutional parental rights, they create and engage in protracted, expensive, years-long litigation. They are egged on by attorneys in the hope that: a) the birth parent will not have the funds for attorney fees, and b) in the end a judge will decide it is in a child’s best interest to remain where he or she has formed a bond, despite court-recognized irregularities, fraud, or deception.
These die-hard fighters for others’ children often wage a public relations war, seeking – and often obtaining – sympathy and support based on their one-sided versions of events and/or
demeaning unflattering descriptions of the original parents.
What is an AdoptoRaptor?
Predatory prospective adopters, more often than not, get the prey and thus become legal adopters whom the term adoptoraptors – a nasty, pejorative term for adoptive parents – fits to a T.
If predatory adoption is ill-defined, adoptoraptor is more so and fails to address many of the ethical issues in adoption.
Chris Mara defines adoptoraptor for the Urban Dictionary as: “A person who adopts a child for his/her own selfish needs.” Her definition goes on to include adopters who intentionally keep their child(ren) from knowing their kin. Mara, in other words, uses the term to describe unevolved adoptive parents who are opposed to openness as well as those with a need for their child to be grateful for having been rescued. To the great surprise of many, I’m sure, she lists Angelina Jolie, Madonna, Katherine Heigl, and Sandra Bullock as examples of adoptoraptors without explaining why. Others define adoptoraptor as:
”People or person who adopts too many children. Child hoarder. One who adopts because it is the in thing to do, like carrying a small dog in a purse, or liking Justin Bieber.”
In 2012, Out of the First Mom Closet blogger wrote “You might be an Adoptoraptor,” describing her list of what traits make
s one deserving of this label.
Now a recent Musings of the Lame blog post has written about adoptoraptors in a piece entitled “Thinking of Adoption? Please Try to Avoid Becoming This Kind of Adoptive Parent.” The blog post discusses the neologism, making it clear that the author does not “HATE ALL adoptive parents” but rather uses the negative term adoptoraptor only when “talking about the BAD actions of SOME adoptive parents.”
The Musings blogpost ranks adoptoraptors on ten levels, starting with the most heinous, who actually murder expectant mothers in order to cut their babies from the
ir womb. Technically called “fetal abductors,” these criminals, also dubbed “womb raiders,” are manically delusional and often legally insane.
Next up are those who are perhaps equally nsane and deluded, though less violent. These are perpetrators – almost always women – who kidnap newborns from hospital nurseries – an extreme way to obtain another’s child via self-remedy rather than by legal means. While these women are technically criminals, an abducted infant, out of survival necessity, may form a strong attachment to the person who stole them, whom they have known and accepted as their
“mother, ” barring further abuse.
Such was the case with Kamiyah Mobley, taken when she was just hours old by Gloria Williams, who posed as a health care worker from the University Medical Center, now known as UF Health Jacksonville.
The craving for parentage leads individuals in these first two categories to become like addicts who will do anything to get their drug of choice – in this case, a baby to complete them. The actions of these depraved criminals are totally outside the definition of adoption, however, by any stretch of the imagination – even in their own demented, distorted minds. Both baby-snatching murderers and the above-described kidnappers generally build elaborate schemes in order to pretend to be pregnant. They claim they gave birth to – rather than adopted – their victims.
These people are vultures. They are predators to be sure, the worst kind. They are murderers, kidnappers, and criminals. They are not adopters.
Thus, if you include these people who did not acquire children via adoption under the nomenclature adoptoraptor, you cannot say that
“all adoptoraptors are adoptive parents. ”
Other cases inhabit a grayer area on the spectrum, falling under the misnomer “illegal adoption.” Such was the definition given to the two children taken by Joel Steinberg and Hedda Nussbaum. Attorney Joel Steinberg, with the assistance of obstetrician Dr. Peter Sarosi, took two children via fraud and deceit, telling their mothers that he would place them with good, loving adoptive families. Instead the drug-addict Steinberg and his addicted partner kept both children in deplorable conditions that eventually led to the death of six-year-old Lisa. No adoption was ever filed for either child.
While the mothers (and one of the grandmothers) of these two children were duped into believing the newborn infants were being adopted – and at least one of them paid Joel Steinberg to bring that about – these were kidnappings, not “illegal adoptions.” Neither Stenberg nor Sarosi was, however, ever charged with kidnapping.
“Adoptoraptor,” Musings explains, “is intended to be an insult.” Musings makes it clear that that the term adoptoraptors, which is one of contempt and intended to cast aspersions, does not apply to well-intentioned, loving, caring adoptive parents. It is rather to be used for those at the bottom end of the adoptive parent spectrum who are overcome with desperation, greed, selfishness – lust for a child or children, at any cost. Adoptoraptors are those who have earned disdain by acting with total disregard for ethics or the altruism normally associated with adoption and adopters, and in some cases, have cast aside all human decency, sanity, and even legal considerations.
I’m a wordsmith. As such, I have a problem with the description of the contrived term adoptoraptor, in particular Musings’s point that:
“Not all adoptive parents are adoptoraptors, though sadly, all adoptoraptors ARE adoptive parents.”
If all adoptoraptors are adoptive parents, then by that definition, those in Musings first two levels – those who kill for a baby and those who kidnap – are not adoptoraptors because they did not adopt. Neither is Joel Steinberg an adoptoraptor, because he never adopted the two children he neglected, including the one he abused and killed. We would also have to eliminate on technicality all, who while label
led adoptive parents by the media, are often in fact prospective adopters because the adoption in question, in many cases, has not been finalized but rather hangs in legal limbo.
A more precise statement would thus be:
Not all adoptive parents are adoptoraptors, and some of the most evil baby thieves are not adoptive parents.
Abusers and Abandoners
How can we address reprehensible adopters – aka adoptoraptors – without mentioning those who beat, burn, cage, starve, and otherwise physically and sexually abuse – and murder – the children in their care? Data on such abuses has been collected and reported by the State of Washington’s 2012 report on “Severe Abuse of Adopted Children Committee” and also on the website Pound Puppy Legacy (PPL)? Yet oddly, neither the urban definition of adoptoraptors nor the Musings blog mentions these unthinkably atrocious acts committed by otherwise legitimate adopters.
Some people begin abuse so soon after adopting, they seem to seek out other people’s children intentionally only to torture them in various unthinkable ways. They corrupt and destroy adoption as a safety net for children who are truly in need of safe care. Some justify locking children in rooms or cages and denying food and toilet facilities by blaming the children as incorrigible or as having bonding issues such as Reactive Attachment Disorder, or RAD. Many begin their reign of terror so soon after adopting
, that they appear to have adopted sadistically, for the purpose of having a punching bag.
Another form of abuse of adopted children is abandonment as in the notorious case of the young boy who was adopted and later sent back to Russia on an airplane alone. Other adopted children are abandoned in various types of facilities for “difficult” children and teens. “Rehoming,” which has come to light as a result of the multi-part Reuters report, is a unique and very dangerous form of abandonment involving handing children over to non-vetted strangers, who are often pedophiles. Some states are making the practice of rehoming illegal.
Astonishingly, other adopters and some members of the public, read the self-reported tales of adoptive abusers and abandoners, often buy into their rationales of having been misled about the child’s disabilities or behavioral problems, as if adoption comes with some money-back guarantee that birthing a child does not. In some circles, these abusers and abandoners are seen as victims, deserving and worthy of compassion.
I do not like the term adoptoraptor and do not advocate its use. It is unclear at best. If you are going to use an intentionally derogatory term to demonize those who do not deserve to be called adoptive parents, people who are so obsessed that they feel entitled to use any means to obtain a child, let’s limit the term to those who do worse than simply call adoptees “angry” (as is included in Mara’s urban definition). Instead, let’s have it include adopters who abuse or abandon those of whom they manage to gain custody.
If we are going to create language to describe adopters who engage in appalling behavior, let’s make
your disgust for them clear and less ambiguous. Let’s call them what they are. Some are simply abductors, not adopters. Others deserve labels such as adoptnappers, adoptabusers, and adoptabandoners. And if predatory adoption practices are in play, call them what they are: Predatory Adopters.
It is important to define unethical, predatory adoption practices – and consequences – in the hopes of enlightening those who are about to enter the adoption arena, as well as lawmakers who would serve the best interests of children and their families by removing the gaping legal loopholes and holding adoption practitioners to some standards of ethical practice as Real Estate agents are. Are our children not worth the same protections as pieces of property?
Last updated 10/20/17
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