Sunday, August 1, 2010

Justice for birthmothers is an oxymoron


Lately, I’ve been involved with a mother and daughter who are those pariahs of civilized society, parents trying to get their kids back from the only family the child has ever known. Irony all intended.

Last month, a woman called me and asked me to help her 15-year-old daughter get her infant daughter back. The story she told was this:

When Leticia learned her daughter, Ashley, was pregnant, she went to her pastor for advice. He referred her to his wife who conveniently happened to run an adoption agency.
Over the next several months, Leticia and Ashley met with the adoption social worker as well as a couple interested in adopting Ashley’s baby. But Ashley did not commit to placing her daughter. Leticia says they were looking for help, not adoption.
Ashley gave birth June 16, via caesarian section. Five days later, Ashley signed an irrevocable surrender to the agency while still under the influence of drugs and the effects of the delivery. The next day, with her mother’s help, Ashley tried to revoke her consent. Too late under Oregon law!

Neither Leticia nor Ashley has funds to pay an attorney. (I cannot represent Ashley because I do not have an active license.) A generous Portland attorney agreed to begin the case, based on coercion and lack of informed consent, but cannot afford to continue pro bono. The sad fact is that family law attorneys are often sole practitioners who cannot take on time-consuming cases for free. Even if they were willing to accept nothing for their time, it costs them a thousand plus dollars every month for shared office staff and rent, supplies, utilities, and insurance just to open their doors. Additionally, litigation requires money for court reporters, expert witness fees, travel, and the like.

Family law attorneys who could afford to do the work (those who represent celebs in divorces for example) are unlikely to take on cases for birthparents because they represent adoption agencies and prospective adoptive parents. In other words, attorneys with the big bucks count on the other side for those bucks.

Ashley’s attorney has asked the judge to appoint a lawyer for her. Oregon provides attorneys in cases where the child welfare authorities are trying to take children but there is no statutory authority for judges to appoint attorneys for parents seeing to revoke consent. Leticia has contacted Legal Services which declined to help, explaining that it takes only cases involving domestic violence. (Depriving a mother of her child and a daughter of her mother is not domestic violence?)

I have talked to the American Civil Liberties Union on Ashley’s behalf; the ACLU, which takes only cases alleging a violation of constitutional rights, is considering her request. While the ACLU has been aggressive in fighting legislation allowing adult adoptees access to their original birth certificates, contending that such laws would invade birthmothers' constitutionally protected right to privacy, it is not too much to hope the ACLU will find that laws which allow mothers to lose their children on the most fragile of pretexts are unconstitutional. In fairness to the ACLU, I should add that it depends upon volunteer attorneys and has many more requests for help than it can possible meet.

Ashley’s case is only one of many cases throughout the country where a parent seeks to contest an adoption and confronts a legal system which demands money in order to achieve justice. Several mothers have resorted to using the media to launch a national fund-raising campaign. Carla and Nyles Moquin, who live in Salt Lake City, have been fighting for four years to undo the adoption of Carla’s daughter Peri. We’ve written here and here about Utah’s appalling anti-parent adoption laws.

Stephanie Bennett and her parents also waged a national campaign to raise funds to contest the adoption of Stephanie’s daughter, Evelyn. In 2006, 17 year old Stephanie went to her school counselor, Thomas Saltsman, for advice on her class schedule. When he learned she was pregnant, he arranged for her to meet with employees of the notorious Ohio adoption agency, A Child’s Waiting, which the State eventually shut down. After Stephanie gave birth, Saltsman encouraged her to run away from home and place her daughter for adoption with ACW. Stephanie reconciled with her parents and fought the adoption, but unsuccessfully. The baby remained with the adoptive parents.

Even when parents have money, finding the right lawyer is not easy. Time is obviously of the essence. State laws which allow mothers to revoke surrenders typically give them only a few days. The longer it takes a mother to find an attorney, the lower her chances of winning in court. Fueled by the industry and adoptive parents, the media springs into action, condemning “selfish” birth parents that put their interests before the child’s. Judges face enormous pressure to keep the child with the only family she has known, or risk emotionally crippling the child for life, a concept the media typically plays up. Actually, reports of children returned to their natural parents (Baby Richard, Baby Jessica) are positive, even after many years. (Scroll down to the third story on the page: A child's life shows folly of adults, media, and for how the media treated the natural family read Lorraine's story originally published in On the Issues: May the Richest Parents Win--The DeBoer Case.)

In 2008, I sought to create a directory of attorneys on Origins-USA’s website who agreed to consult with parents seeking to overturn adoptions. I wrote to the Chairs of the Family Law Section in every state and Washington DC requesting them to circulate my letter to their members. I asked for attorneys who would be willing to consult with parents for a nominal fee of $35. Representation and fees beyond that would be negotiated between the attorney the parents. I received ZERO responses.

To Kill a Mockingbird (slipcased edition)Contesting adoptions doesn’t appeal to idealistic attorneys in the same way that, say representing a communist or a Nazi or a Southern black man accused of raping a white woman does. A would-be Atticus Finch or William Kunstler is more likely to be hounded out of practice than make a name for himself as a champion of unpopular causes by representing a parent in a contested adoption.

Next: What can be done to assure that mothers contesting adoptions get their day in court?
_______________________
NOTE: Link to stories about Baby Anna Schmidt/Jessica De Boer have been corrected.

53 comments :

  1. Jane,

    Thanks for this article and for mentioning Stephanie. I want to keep her name alive in the adoption realm, as a reminder so that when Baby Evelyn turns 18 she will know that her mother did what she could when the deck was stacked against her.

    I cannot understand, when people read stories like this one, and there are many, how they believe that even Open Adoption in the handful of states where mothers have legal recourse will be effective. It is almost impossible to find an attorney, as you discovered, and then they must be paid before an ounce of justice is dispensed.

    Where is the outrage? Why are women seen as disposable, replaceable, or their rights less than the rights of someone who buys a car? How can this NOT be seen as a violation of Civil and Human rights? Where is the anger on behalf of women whose rights are violated over and over and over in the name of adoption?

    Perhaps it is because the adopters whine better than natural mothers of loss, or it isn't important enough if it doesn't involve money. I am outraged on behalf of ALL mothers who were coerced, pressured and forced to lose their infants....from the BSE to today.
    Shame on a society that puts so little value on the sanctity of the mother and child.

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  2. Ah!America! Some things don't change fast do they?
    Good work and good luck to those who try.

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  3. The time to talk to lawyers is before the adoption not after. There is too much blind trust in people like Pastors, social workers and doctors.

    The laws surrounding adoption do not have the natural mother's best interests at heart.

    Open adoption agreements are not legally binding.

    I found out too late that I should have trusted less and asked questions more. That was 25 years ago, what has changed since then?

    I feel really sorry for these people, my heart goes out to them.

    If you are looking for help and not adoption then do not go to an adoption agency, do not meet with people who want to adopt your baby and do not sign adoption papers. Go to a place that supports young mothers, find out what facilities are available, see what assistance is provided by the state and let your family know that you want to keep your baby and will need help with that.

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  4. Ok - now you make me wish I had gone to law school. But I wonder if it would have jaded me as it has so many others.

    I thought law was about doing the right thing and, if you are truly ambitious, doing the right thing and possibly getting recognition for it - or not.

    Sigh, have you considered Al Sharpton and his crew? They love headlines and a winning case would be a headline.

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  5. As an adoptive mother-to-be, I have to ask, what would be the point of going through the legalities of an adoption if the birthparent could just overturn it when they change their mind? I would be devastated if we received our child, made it through the waiting period, and one day the birthmom decided to go to court. That obviously is not putting the child first. I'm not sure about Oregon, but in TN, you have to wait 72 hours after birth to sign the papers, and then birthmoms are given 10 days to change their minds. I think that's more than fair. But, that's just me.

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  6. Reading something like this makes me wish I had continued my education past my Bachelor's degree in Social Science and actually gone to law school.

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  7. Cat here.

    A point I like to make is to frame the question taking the word adoption out.

    For example, ask someone if it would be legal or moral to let someone sign their house away when they are drugged up and hurting in hospital. You could even ask if that were OK right after a mother giving birth. The majority of people would say no.

    Then ask them why it is OK to do that with a child.

    It is amazing how many people then try to back track on that without sounding hypocritical or downright stupid.

    If it is not OK to lose your house that way, then why should it be OK to lose your child that way.

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  8. In the UK, pre-birth adoption agreements are illegal.

    It is the law that if anything is signed before the child is born, that agreement is automatically null and void.

    It is also the law in the UK that adoption cannot be agreed to before the child is 6 *weeks* old.

    Kelly - have you ever given birth?
    Suffered any serious complications that can take weeks, never mind days to heal or sort out?

    Have you almost died after giving birth?

    I had blood poisoning known as puerperal fever. It was misdiagnosed as flu and they sent me home from hospital after I had my daughter.

    I got worse - I almost died just over a week after giving birth.
    I didn't know what planet I was on as I drifted in and out of consciousness.

    And you think that would be OK for anyone to sign anything in that state? Do you?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Puerperal_fever

    Not only do I think that you are being unfair with the time scale, but the Law Society in the UK would agree with me on that.

    In the United States, puerperal infection is believed to occur in between 1 and 8 percent of all deliveries. About 3 die from puerperal sepsis for every 100,000 deliveries.

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  9. Cat here.

    Let me tell you what puerpuel fever does as I suffered this and know first-hand what it can do.

    No mother should ever be considered fit to make any judgement when they are suffering from this terrible aggressive infection which is often not diagnosed until after 72 hours after birth - it can be misdiagnosed as flu
    (which is what happened to me).

    Puerpuel fever knocks a mother sideways in ways you can't even begin to imagine. The only part of my body that didn't hurt were my eyes which I could barely kept open. My blood was rapidly turning yellow as I suffered an extremely agressive form of this. My temperature was 104 and rising. The shivers would not stop.

    When the doctor visited me and realised that I had this and not the flu, he took my blood, ran down the stairs of my home, jumped into his car and sped to the hospital, sirens wailing and lights flashing (a lot of doctor's cars have those here in the UK).

    My doctor ran to the hospital lab, put my sample on the counter and shouted at them to "do it NOW!".
    He waited for the result - the lab tech quickly got the result and told my doctor to run to get the anti-biotics. He also told my doctor to drive back with his sirens and lights and "to put the pedal to the metal". My doctor drove like a maniac to get back to me. Just as I was about to black out completely, the doctor shoved the pills down my throat and he waited.

    I regained consciousness. My doctor made a huge sigh of relief and he thanked God loudly that the anti-biotics had worked.

    I was a bit puzzled about his proclamation on the anti-biotics and said that if the hospital had got them wrong, he could have a second chance to get the right ones.

    His words send chills down my spine even now.

    He said "there would have been no second chances". The penny dropped.

    If those pills had been a lesser antibiotic, I would not be typing this now. Apparently I had contracted an antibiotic-resistant version and only 2 antibiotics in the world can kill this strain off completely.

    My daughter was only 10 days old at the time but at no time was there any suggestion that she should be taken from me under those circumstances.

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  10. Kelly, putting the child first would be for the mother to keep her child. Putting the child first would be giving that little family a helping hand in order to stay together. Putting the child first would be doing the right thing when there is firm evidence of obvious duress and coercion and returning that child to the family who loves and want it rather than running to another state, as the people did who took Stephanie Bennett's child.

    If you are concerned about the well-being of a child, then adopt an older child with special needs and no one who really wants him or her. That would be more child-centered than taking a baby from a frightened, vulnerable young mother who has fallen into the grasp of adoption facilitators.

    I think that people need to realize that, in the vast majority of US infant adoptions, no one is rescuing a baby who would otherwise be abandoned or abused. They are taking advantage of a mother who has been offered only a permanent solution to a temporary problem.

    Infant adoption in the present day is not about a home for a child but all about a child for a home.

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  11. Couldn't have said it better than Robin, I think that is what really is fair. Thankfully it's not only just me that thinks that.

    Putting the child first is all about making sure the family stays intact. Adoption needs to be about finding families for children who truly need them. It's not about giving babies to infertile couples.

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  13. Kelly's comments show that adoption is ALL about the wants of the PAPs, and nothing about the baby or the baby's mother. Their rights mean nothing when there are customers waiting to pay $30,000 or more to buy a baby.

    Kelly, 72 hours is not enough time. 72 hours is exploitation and is designed to ensure that you will be able to get your baby, from the arms of a mother who cannot give informed consent, as early as possible so that YOU will profit and SHE will lose.

    A mother should have at least 6 weeks to recover from birth first, and only then, after much counseling, should she be signing papers, with a revokation period long enough for her to change her mind if she needs more time. Only once that revocation period has ended should she be interviewing PAPs. This is so that none of them can use emotional coercion on her to sway her decision regarding adoption.

    Kelly, if you get involved with an expectant mother regarding adoption, then the fact is that you are hoping to use your influence to persuade her to surrender her baby, and specifically to surrender it to you. "Courting the birthmother" it's called. This is whitewashing for "coercing, manupulating, and swaying an expectant mother."

    And it is sickening that you and other people hoping to adopt would do this without even a thought to ethics. Are you also hunting down a vulnerable mother in order to obtain her baby? This is reproductive exploitation. Look it up.

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  14. @Robin - BRAVO- ENCORE

    @Kelly - first off that is not your child. Get that idea out of your head. Children are not possessions and the facts are that you will probably be one of those adopters that makes us cringe.

    You come here to stir up crap but you don't know anything at all. You are about to commit a crime against another woman. You are about to commit a crime against humanity.

    If you think that children are so "yours" get a dog. Dogs don't mind adopting the behaviors of their owners - any child you adopt will.

    If you want to do what's best for a child. Adopt one that has been in foster care a while and has already been taken from their parents - not a baby from some girl that doesn't know that you are going to P* in her face if she even wants to know how HER baby is.

    Good grief - why do adopters even come here!

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  15. Hi Everybody, Great discussion. I have to agree that the best place for the baby is with its natural mother or family before an adoption should even be considered a viable resource for the child. I can understand that it is very stressful to wait for and wish for a baby. However, to acquire the baby with no concern for the wellbeing of the natural mother is counter to doing what is best for the baby. I love that the UK has taken strides to protect and preserve the mother and child bond. Many states do allow signing away a child before birth and do not have any way to revoke contract even in cases of fraud. Many states do not have any waiting period at all post birth. Not allowing a recovery period for mother is barbaric. I believe our country could learn much from such dignified and compassionate behavior that the UK has adopted such as not allowing anything to be signed prior to birth and allowing a recovery period of six weeks post birthing experience. Protecting women and children are one and the same! By removing the mother from the picture and trying to convince everybody that she is somehow bad for not feeling supported enough to raise her child is an indication of how sad our general opinion of women is. This is about doing the right thing for the baby and the mother who made the baby in her belly. The baby and mother should be together first; if the baby has no one to care for it then another loving family becomes a blessing. To assign hero-worship to adoptive parents even in cases of fraud, coercion, and undue pressure is simply unacceptable and uncivilized. Adoptive parents are not all wonderful; birth parents are not always wonderful. The opposite is also true; some natural parents are wonderful and some adoptive parents are wonderful. By pretending that the best thing for the baby is to be separated from its natural mother is a state of denial which has been propagated by the not always pure intentions of adoption agencies. Many adoptive parents are kind, loving people and I am sure if they knew about this dirty business behind the scenes they would put aside their own needs and truly do what is best for the baby or child, whatever the cost to them. Love and protection for a mother and her child should come before any other personal agenda.

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  16. Wow, comments like what Kelly wrote are exactly why adoptees like myself are finding out our first mothers didn't actually want to give us away but had no choice after the PAPs got their greedy little hands on us. Especially back in the 70s when our first mothers' MOTHERS were in the room doing a good chunk of the coercion! Vile... just Vile!

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  17. Kelly,
    You are not a mother to be unless you are pregnant. You are a prospective adoptive mother. The adoptive mother to be label sounds like you've been planning on how you can get a newborn without going through the actual pregnancy. Something about that label just doesn't sound right to me. As a mother who lost her first son sight unseen to an illegal coerced adoption, I am at least glad that you are brave enough to comment on this sight and hope you can take away some insight that the real needs of an infant can only be met by the real, natural mother the best. This is what is really the best for the infant.

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  18. A) I appreciate that many adoptive mothers come here, so let's not tell them not to.

    b) I clicked onto Kelly's page and blog and yes she is hoping to adopt and struggling with infertility. We may not like the way she phrased her thoughts, but she doesn't need to be crucified and scared away from ever reading again how first mother feel.

    Okay?

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  19. Unless the mother is unfit by being abusive or neglectful or for some reason is being given support and TRULY doesn't give a damn about the child, then the child's best interest is to remain with its mother.

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  20. From Kelly's Blog..

    http://brandonandkellysadoption.blogspot.com/

    Thursday, July 22, 2010
    New fundraiser!

    Check out our new adoption fundraiser! We're selling some adorable t-shirts through Adoption Bug! We get a great commission on each one sold, so hop on over to our site and purchase yours! And your mom's. And sister's. And your kids'. Well, you get the idea. :) Thank you in advance!

    www.adoptionbug.com/brandonandkelly

    ""Lately, I've really struggled with my faith. So has Brandon. We've had so many questions, a lot of them being "why" questions. Why can't we have a baby? Why does He allow people to have babies that don't deserve them and don't even want them? What about the lady who left her 3-month-old in the car for 6 hours in 100 degree heat while she went into a bar? Or the lady whose 4 kids were taken away because they were covered in feces and living in a house with 3 dead dogs? Or the lady who just flat-out didn't feed her child, and starved him to death? When is it going to be MY turn? I would take much better care of those babies! Why is it so easy for some? Why does it seem like everyone EXCEPT me is pregnant? Why, God? WHY WHY WHY?""

    Kelly perceives herself a 'victim'(even of her God) and a possible 'savior' of some poor unfortunate newborn/child. Kelly has only been married 2 years (as she says in her blog). Women like Kelly will not be a 'savior' to any child she gets her hands on. Rather the poor child will have to live up to Kelly's expectations and carry the burden of her infertility, that she has not resolved. Kelly has no compassion for other women...she only drowns herself in her own infertility self-pity. Kelly needs to do a whole lot of self-reflection, before embarking on the path of buying a mother's newborn/child. No mother owes her newborn/child to any other woman/women, simply because the 'other' woman cannot conceive. I can have compassion for women like Kelly, but no expectant/newly delivered mother owes her a baby to fill a room in her home.

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  21. Lorraine, My apologies, it was as you say, brave.

    But I have read her blogs and they scare me. I guess for me that when you write something so filled with self entitlement, it becomes an issue.

    @Kelly, I hear your plea for a child and feel for you. I had one and never again...

    The thing is this, you are young, you have only been trying a couple of years and if your doctors are being honest, then you know that the harder you try, the less likely you will get pregnant. If you let go, relax and know that it will happen when it is supposed to, you may find yourself pregnant very quickly or maybe a few years.

    If you truly want a child now, please, consider a child from foster care. One that's parents rights have been severed and they child truly needs a home. Not a woman's newborn that probably should stay with their mother.

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  22. Dear Kelly

    I don't want you to take this the wrong way but I had a look at your picture. You have a weight problem.

    It is more difficult for heavy women to get pregnant.

    Also, giving birth is like doing the Olympics - you really do have to be fit to cope properly. Being heavy puts the unborn baby at risk both while pregnant and while giving birth. You come across as being very naive about the subject of giving birth - it is more strenuous than you realise.

    Here is an article about how weight can increase infertility.
    (just trying to help here).

    http://www.womenfitness.net/obesity_fertility.htm

    It is something to consider if you are serious about having a baby, especially if you are not in your teens or early 20's.

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  23. Great bunch of comments! Agreeing with Kim Kim that the time to see a lawyer is before surrender, and never go to anyone, agency, entrepreneur, doctor, or pastor who puts adoption out there as the preferred choice. They are not going to help you make your own choice and get the help you need to make it a reality unless that choice is surrender.

    Once the papers are signed it is too late for most mothers, and cases that drag on for years as most are made to do hurt everyone involved. I feel very bad for these mothers but the reality is ugly and the outcome not great no matter who wins.

    Kelly, 72 hours is NOT ENOUGH TIME to sing a permanent surrender. ^ weeks is more like it, give the mother time to recover and really consider her options. Don't you want the mother of your child to be really sure surrender is the right choice for her, rather than someone who is coerced and railroaded into a choice she cannot live with? Those short time periods created these ugly custody cases. Informed choice and real legal advice to the mother before surrender is better for everyone involved, at least if they care about ethics.

    Cat...what you had used to be called "childbed fever" and was the leading cause of death of new mothers in the 19th century before physicians finally figured out germ theory and that washing your hands between operations and deliveries was a good idea. No idea it was still around and glad you survived. It is things like this awful disease, C sections, other childbirth and postpartum complications that make signing a few days after birth wrong.

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  24. When new mothers are STILL being diagnosed (an medicated) with Post Partum Depression for up to 6 months following delivery, how can anyone suggest that a woman, less than a week following life threatening labor and delivery (maternal death rates up 8% in the US over the past 20 years) is able to make an educated,informed and lucid decision for the most important choice she will EVER have to ever make for her newborn child?

    It defies belief that women like Kelly begrudge that time to a new mother, when she is asking the new mother to make a decision that she, as a PAP (let's not put any more euphemistic spin on things, please!) will have forever to benefit from! It is simply NOT your decision, Kelly, nor your place to rush her!

    As a PAP, I would think that you would want to be sure that the woman who gave life to the child you wish to have be treated with the utmost respect and honor. If you love the child, how can you disrespect the source?

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  25. We don't need to mock women who are infertile nor give uneducated advice.

    By all means mock someone for not caring two hoots about a mother who will lose her child, mock her for being totally self centred. In that area we have expertise and experience to share with the world. We can educate other women about why it's not cool to be predatory and selfish.

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  26. Hi Jane, I can't get the link to the Baby Jessica story to open. Have you got another link? I'd love to read it...

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  27. Lorraine, thank you for that. It's definitely hurtful to hear some of those comments, but I realize that most of you here are on the other side of the spectrum than I am. Most of you have NEVER struggled with infertility, and don't understand the pain and the complex emotional stress that comes with it. (Mandy...do the math. I've been married for 4 years. Not 2.) If you've never had to count days, take up to 10 pills a day, get injections, have ultrasounds, etc etc etc, then you have no idea. None.

    I came here BECAUSE I want a better understanding of my child's future birthmother...I want to have as much understanding as I can have about what she is/will be feeling.

    I do not consider myself selfish. I already have more love than you know for the woman who will decide to place her baby in our home. I cannot fathom being faced with that decision. That being said, I'm sure there are agencies out there who ARE out to find babies for families. Ours is not one of those. We have an agency who is centered around the birthmother...she calls ALL the shots. And that's the way we want it. The birthmoms come to the agency, not the other way around. When they come to the agency, they are given the facts about adoption, as well as parenting. If the mom wants to try parenting, our agency helps her and gives her the resources to do so. Our agency is a birthmother ministry...and whatever she decides is best for her and her child is what goes. We like it that way. I would never try to convince a woman to "give me her baby." Also, I am desiring an open adoption. We've been going through a lot of training, including talking to many birthmoms (personal friends as well as people through the agency) who do NOT regret their decision. I do not simply want to yank our child (because he or she will be ours, whether they have our blood or not) out of his mother's arms and walk away. I recognize that bond, and I want our child to always know his or her story. I want the birthmom to have as much involvement as possible....she is already a part of our family.

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  28. Baby Anna/Jessica linked fixed, along with a story that Lorraine wrote during the time of the commotion for a feminist magazine called On the Issues. It got more mail than another story they had done in recent memory, mostly from angry adoptive parents. I urge you to read it.

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  29. Here's an article about the Baby Jessica case. http://law.gsu.edu/ccunningham/PR/JessicaUpdates.htm

    Scroll down to the third story which tells how well Jessica is doing, "more bemused than haunted by her extraordinary history".

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  30. Kelly, I have had fertility problems. I was also adopted because my parents tried for 9 years and could not conceive.

    I do not understand what one has to do with the other.

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  31. Kelly,

    While I never struggled with infertility, I have friends who have and I am sympathetic. I really appreciate your interest in learning more about the birthmother experience.

    A few things you said about your agency give me pause, though. It refers to pregnant women incorrectly as "birthmothers." These women haven't given birth, let alone given up their babies. Referring to them as birthmothers marginalizes them from the getgo and starts the process of making them thinks of themselves as carrying a baby for another woman.

    You refer to your agency as a "birthmother" ministry which strongly suggests that the help given is tilted towards adoption.

    Although as you say women come to the agency and not the other way around, I suspect many come because family members or clergy referred them and they really do not know what else to do. The fact that they come does not mean that they are interested in adoption.

    How old are the women you've met who have given up their babies without regret? Many young birthmothers talk up adoption as a way of surpressing their pain.

    Having said,this, there are certainly women who cannot or do not want to nurture their children and open adoption is best for them and their child. Many of these children are not those desired by those seeking to adopt, however. These are children whose parents may use drugs, have an unstable lifestyle, or may be mentally slow.

    I really encourage you to take your time and work towards finding a woman who really needs the love and nurturing you can provide her child. Keep an open mind (as you are doing).

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  32. "Kelly has no compassion for other women...she only drowns herself in her own infertility self-pity."

    This was a personal attack. Unnecessary. Frankly, if she's read this (which she probably has), I wouldn't blame her for fleeing. Making a statement about how someone has no compassion is likely to make them want to retort right back. It's not education.

    "Kelly needs to do a whole lot of self-reflection, before embarking on the path of buying a mother's newborn/child."

    If there was any truth to this, it would have been completely disregarded by the attack ferocity of the first statement.

    "No mother owes her newborn/child to any other woman/women, simply because the 'other' woman cannot conceive."

    I don't think prospective adoptive parent see it this way. I'm in the middle of reading "Secret Daughter", and while the "saviour theme" apparent in it irks me to no end, the woman who is dealing with infertility says:

    "Why me? What did I do to deserve this punishment? This is what I am supposed to do, isn't it? This is what society dictates I do - give birth to a child and become a mommy. What is wrong with that?"

    @Kelly:

    "I already have more love than you know for the woman who will decide to place her baby in our home."

    I think you love the idea of being a mother more than the idea of being friends with the mother of the child you are planning to adopt. That's what adoption is about - loving the idea of being a parent. Not loving the birth-parent.

    If that birth-parent isn't going to pick you, then you wouldn't say you "love" her, right? It's all the idea that you love the *idea* of becoming a parent and raising a child to raise.

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  33. The tiger loves its prey.

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  34. Cat here.

    Kelly - I do understand your fertility issues. After my first born who was taken against my wishes, it took 8 years to have another child and then almost another 5 to have my last one.

    Not once during that time did I think about adopting. I couldn't bring myself to do it.

    What I did do is sponsor families in some of the poorest parts of the world. I even sponsor villages - that is how poor some places are.

    In return, I get letters and pictures from families who are so glad that I helped to keep their family together. My money has helped girls in particular to be educated and this has raised their stature in society. One girl told me that the village elders now respect her because they cannot read and bring her all of the government papers for her to read out loud to them.

    For me, I would rather keep a family together. I feel that the rich have no right to puck children from poor families just because they can. The West has exploited these places so badly, it is time we put something back and help them to reach their potential.

    Did you know that there are villages in Russia that don't have any children left in them? The West has wiped out a whole generation in places - that can't be right.

    Children are the future of those countries. If we remove those children, we remove that country's future too.

    I have just received a letter. It is from a widow. She is thanking me for helping her to start up a weaving business which is employing other women as well. She is now earning enough money to keep her children from being adopted out.
    In fact, she is even able to send them to school. A mother is keeping her children just because I sent a few dollars her way. Why can't others do the same? The money spent on adoptions would help so many more than just one child. I feel I am part of their families as they give me updates on their lives - they even send me Christmas cards.

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  35. Cat here.

    Many young women go to these agencies for help, not to surrender their children.

    In Canada, they are called
    "Children's Aid Societies". The title does not indicate that they will take your children from you.
    Aid implies that they will help.
    Many mothers fall into the trap of being misled about how they are actually being helped. Many do not realise that triggers the chain of events that lead to an adoption they may not really want but feel pressurised into. I personally know mothers that wished that they had gone anywhere but there for help.

    You are offering an open adoption but that is not legally binding. Many adoptive parents close these agreements. Mothers have no legal protection. How can you guarantee that you will not do the same? There is nothing to stop you and if you fall out with the other mother for any reason, she has nothing to protect her rights at all. It is a very one-sided proposition.

    Have you personally pushed your state to make open adoption agreements legally binding?
    It is a fair question if you are going to benefit from an agreement you are not legally obliged to uphold.

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  36. Cat wrote:
    "Did you know that there are villages in Russia that don't have any children left in them? The West has wiped out a whole generation in places - that can't be right. "

    I find it hard to believe this is true. Source?

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  37. I does irritate me that on a post about a young mother being coerced and losing her child forever we are having to give attention and sympathy to a woman who wants to adopt a child and is telling us how painful it is to be infertile....

    I don't find it appropriate that she comes here firstly with an insulting comment about what she considers fair and then what followed.

    This is a first mother forum I think it's asking way too much from mothers who have and continue to suffer enourmous loss and grief to be expected to hold the hand of a woman who wants to adopt.

    No offence intended. I was never able to have children again, after trying for eight years I have resigned myself to being infertile, the thought of taking someone else's child is not attractive to me.

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  38. I did not think our readers and commentators were that "kind" to Kelly, as a quick reading of the comments show. What happens on any blog is that the comments immediately turn quite nasty and I could see that happening. The warning above that such comments will not be posted has not stopped anyone. I've taken down comments when on reflection I realize they are too snarky to want to leave here.

    This happens on all blogs, not just ones about adoption. My stepson is a newspaper reporter in a small town where everybody is supposed to get along, right? At his paper's blog things got so heated over a school board issue it appeared that an actual physical fight was imminent in a public park. The paper started to monitor all comments.

    Why does it get so snarky? Because it is more or less anonymous even if you post a moniker, we can not find you in the phone book or on line. Very few people are like Jane and I use our full names and so take responsibility for our words. But given anonymity, disagreement frequently turns ugly.

    We have adoptive parents who read here, some comment, some come to learn, some disagree but at least they are reading, and learning how we feel. We can express ourselves without being so personally vile we turn them off and away.

    I found Kelly's attitudes reflecting exactly what is wrong with most adoptions today, and her not aware of the implications of satisfying her needs with another woman's child. First mothers do not have babies to fulfill the needs of another woman.

    But if we simply scream invectives, she will not learn from us. When we get too nasty, people think, I'm not coming back there. So we try to walk a fine line between letting it rip here and maintaining civility.

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  39. Thank you KimKim.

    Your last 'comment' was very much appreciated.

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  40. Re: Russia

    I read a news article about 10 years ago about this situation.

    I am trying to find it but it is hard to find archived material that is that old.

    I shall check out some archive sites and come back to you on that. I was shocked when I read that but I can't remember which news source it is from - but I am looking and will post it when I find it.

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  41. St. Paul Pioneer Press (MN) - November 13, 1992 - 4A Main

    ADOPTIONS BY FOREIGNERS DECRIED
    Too many healthy Russian children are being adopted illegally by foreigners, mostly Americans who pay officials to skirt the law, newspapers said Thursday. Under Russian law, foreigners can adopt only physically or mentally handicapped children, but both Komsomolskaya Pravda and Trud said Russian officials regularly violate the law for payment. ...
    >> Purchase complete article, of 51 words

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  42. I was not at all questioning that Russian adoptions involve a lot of corruption. That is a known fact. I was only questioning the quote about whole villages that have lost all their children to foreign adoption. That hardly sounds feasible, if only because Russia is a huge country and the numbers of kids adopted out are comparatively small. Is it possible whole villages have large numbers of children in some kind of state care due to poverty, alcoholism, and other problems? That is tragic but not the same thing.

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  43. Cat here.

    Re: Russia

    There were claims in the Moscow Times that this was happening but you have to subscribe to the paper and then work through thousands of pages to find it.

    Maryanne, I do take your point about other factors being involved. I did some research into this as well. Here is what I have found. Although illegal adoptions were not the only reason for villages disappearing, they certainly did not help either and in many cases, they aggravated an already bad situation.

    Back in the 1990's, after the fall of communist rule, a lot of people lost their jobs. Many were desperate and could not support their children, hence the selling spree of babies and younger children at that time.

    Americans in particular were paying big bucks for healthy Russian babies. The official rules were that only handicapped babies should be adopted by foreigners but there are not many adoptive parents who want severely handicapped babies.

    The black market for healthy Russian babies spiralled out of control because Russian people were desperately poor, rich Americans were desperate for *healthy* Russian babies and poorly paid officials got kick-backs for turning a blind eye to all of this.

    In some smaller villages, this had a devastating effort by removing the youngest generation.

    It had a knock-on effect. Many Russian couples decided that they could not afford children at all.

    The second youngest generation had problems getting jobs in the village areas and they have moved away.

    This in turn has left many Russia villages with only elderly people in them. When they die, so will the village.

    Here is an article on that last bit.

    http://www.csmonitor.com/2002/1024/p07s02-woeu.html

    Even now, the birth rate in Russia is dropping,
    http://geography.about.com/od/obtainpopulationdata/a/russiapop.htm

    even when you take into account those left at orhanages - it is a cultural thing to leave handicapped babies at these places. Also, many migrant workers are doing the same thing except that in those cases, the mother is constantly on the move, unsupported and would be rejected by her family (sound familiar?) The majority of these babies end up in the cities.
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-10634466

    Putin himself has publicly said that he is worried about the low birth rate and its consequences on the future of Russia.
    (I shrunk the link as it was rather long).
    http://tinyurl.com/34ut62x

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  44. PLEASE DELETE MY FIRST POST ON THIS SUBJECT.

    I redid it because of an error message but sometimes they get through.

    There are about 750,000 Russian kids in care and only a very small number are adopted. Sadly, alcohol, poverty, and other issues (disability) are some of the reasons. Russia, like other Eastern European nations, went with the state care model and there is very little support for families in trouble to stay together, i.e., no home care services. If you can't take care of your child, he or she goes into care. The social welfare institute model is also important economically because it is seen to provide lots of jobs.

    However, there are whole communities in Eastern Europe that have been denuded of handicapped children. But they are not adopted; they are locked away, out of sight and mind. Totally different situation.

    Somewhat similar situation in China, where Chinese families reabsorbed the vast majority of girls abandoned since the start of the one child policy. That figure is probably in the millions, as in one year, the census revealed 400,000 unregistered births. ('Infant Abandonment and Adoption in China,' Johnson, Banghan, and Liyao) In other words, way more Chinese families have unofficially adopted abandoned girls than Westerners have. Total number of international adoptions from China for all time and to all countries stands at under 150,000.

    It would be very difficult for international adoption to be the sole “denuder” of children in communities. Of course, that does not prevent countries from decrying any adoptions because children adopted out of their country are a reminder that the nation (government, parents, infrastructure) has somehow failed them. Fair enough. And any country that sticks with an institutional model of care and doesn't help families stick together is also failing them IMO, but that is not something that “Westerners” would have much bearing on, no more than they would on the one child policy.

    Once again, eagerness to crucify adoption overlooks what is actually wrong with it.

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  45. "Once again, eagerness to crucify adoption overlooks what is actually wrong with it."

    Ahh...so true. Jane and I try really hard not to fall into that trap here. There is so much hurt and anger involved on our side of the equation that sometimes it is difficult to stand back and see what is really wrong, instead of simply criticizing everything carte blanche.

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  46. As I try to see the positive side of reading these posts, I guess it just reminds me that narrow-minded, thoughtless comments are held by many. There are extremes in every situation. For those birth mothers that were tricked or coerced into surrending, I am sorry. For the adoptive parents, who were lied to, and taken advantage of, I understand.

    SandyO

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  47. No one gives a rats rear about birthmothers. Let just be honest. We could have been the best citizens, students, daughters, scouts, etc....but the instant we became pregnant out of wedlock...and then considered adoption...we became secondhand. Be grateful, they say. For what? That you made a selfless decision but perhaps did not have all of the details of your choices if you wanted to continue on that selfless path? Shame on those who mistreat those who choose to nuture...regardless of outcome. Unfortunately...state laws are state laws. I knew I only had 'x' days in my county/state. When I went to counseling and my backwards counselor said I should take my child back...it was FAR beyond the days I was allowed and I knew it was best for her...no matter what.

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  48. CPS Reform AdvocateFebruary 16, 2011 at 6:49 PM

    Part 1

    I would like to respond to Lori's advice, "If you truly want a child now, please, consider a child from foster care. One that's parents rights have been severed and they child truly needs a home." Lori, I agree that foster care is no place for anyone to spend an entire childhood. However, I'd like to use your words as a springboard to address something that troubles me deeply.

    Perhaps some of you assume that the children in foster care are all crack babies or victims of parental violence. Not so. Many of them were never abused, but were taken away from their parents merely on charges of neglect. "Neglect," in CPS terms, is an extremely nebulous charge. It can mean something as trivial as living in a house in need of repair. It can even include suspicion of potential future neglect, such as a parent who has had an episode or two of mild depression at some time in the past. Whatever else is included in the charge of "neglect", it almost invariably includes parental poverty. CPS workers almost invariably assume that a low income is a willful, permanent, debilitating condition that permanently disqualifies a loving mom and dad from effective parenting.

    So how do these children end up in foster care? That's partly the result of something called the Adoption and Safe Families Act of 1997. This bill provides generous financial bonuses to states for each child placed into foster care, with additional bonuses if the child is eventually adopted. By contrast, there is relatively little support to fix the "parental neglect" that led to CPS involvement. The state has every financial incentive to remove children from their biological parents, and almost no incentive to preserve the family.

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  49. CPS Reform AdvocateFebruary 16, 2011 at 6:53 PM

    Part 2

    Allow me to briefly describe what it's like to lose a child to foster care. Imagine that not only is your child taken away from you against your will, but all your medical records and your personal history are finely sifted for evidence of your "unfitness." If your child is a newborn, the nurses in the hospital will all know that you're about to be sent home without your baby, but no one will dare to warn you. Soon, everything CPS can find out about you will be twisted, distorted, and cherry-picked in an official report submitted to juvenile court. This report "proves" that your newborn will be in grave peril if he's allowed to come home from the hospital with you. Your baby goes to foster care, and you go home alone. (Sadly, I'm sure many of you can identify with that part, and my heart goes out to you.) But then, on top of losing your baby, imagine that you have to pay child support to the future adopters for the next year or so until the adoption is finalized.
    .

    These awful imaginings are the the real life experiences behind the foster care system. Sound farfetched? That's what I would have thought, too, until I witnessed CPS harass, lie about, and abuse a young couple I know. They were looking forward with so much love to the birth of their baby. Now they're so emotionally traumatized and so financially devastated by CPS that they're on the verge of signing away their rights forever. What's more, they know that CPS will be right there at the hospital if they ever have another baby. You see, once you lose a child to the system, you're officially designated a "child abuser." Even if you never committed a crime against a child. Even if you were never even accused of committing a crime.

    I've just scratched the surface of the horror known as the "child protective system." I hope you can understand that many, many children in foster care have parents who truly loved and wanted them. They just didn't have the money to fight the CPS juggernaut.

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  50. I was shocked to hear that 72 hours could be considered standard or even long for a mother to sign relinquishment papers. I gave up my first son from the hospital 4 days after his birth (in those days, 4 days' hospital stay after birth was standard); he grew up in his adoptive family--grew up well and wonderfully, in fact--and later reunited with me. When he was a child, and I was still a fairly young single woman, I had another relationship and a second son--and thought to give him too in adoption. I found a lovely couple, but neither open nor even private adoptions were yet very common, and no adoption agency would help with counseling when, from the moment of this child's birth, I began realizing I could not give him up. The couple waited, pressuring but struggling not to, and after a few weeks I let them take him, but without signing papers. After another couple of weeks, I found the strength or courage or sureness to ask to bring him home. Neither I nor the couple wanted to hurt him emotionally by a drawn-out court fight, and so we carefully transitioned him back to me. I am saying this tonight to say that not all birth mother/adoptive parents conflicts of longings need to be antagonistic; not all adoptive parents or birth parents are bad people---in fact, most are very good people, struggling in a beautiful but sometimes hard situation. I think we maybe should keep this in mind.

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  51. Anonymous:

    You are right that most adoptive parents have the interests of the child at heart and are good people; and the resolution to your own story that you describe is heartening to hear. Unfortunately, not all people are so sensible and understanding and therein lies the problem.

    Thank you for finding us and commenting here. I am sure your words may eventually find those who need t read them.

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  52. I know quite a few adoptive parents who are not rich, are not wealthy, who took out a home equity line on their home, or borrowed from their retirement or 401K to afford an adoption..... only to have the birth mother change their mind. Now, there is NOTHING wrong with a birth mother changing her mind, but if she does she should be required to return ALL the money that the adoptive family put out to support her during her pregnancy. How come no one wants to talk about this? All I read on here is talk about adoptive parents having all the money in the world to "buy" a baby. It is indeed very very sad if that is what many birth mothers think of adoptive parents. I know three families who had babies returned to their birth mothers but not one penny of the (anywhere from $3000 to $10,000) money they put out solely on the birth mother to help with rent, medical expenses, etc., returned to them. Why is that not considered fair?

    Also, I think much of this would be solved if the birth mother was required to go home with the baby and have 30-90 days of bonding time. Then if she chooses to relinquish her rights she does it with full knowledge and not under the influence of delivery drugs. BUT it also saves the adoptive parents the pain of bonding with a baby and then having that baby torn out of their hands. I do not understand sometimes why I read from a birth mother's perspective the pain of that event, who then do not ever understand that an adoptive parent also feels pain when that baby is returned to you.

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  53. I agree, Molly, that it's unfair to prospective adoptive parents to put out lots of money and get their hopes up only to be dashed by a mother changing her mind. The fault is not with the mother, however, but with the adoption practitioner (agency or attorney).

    Practitioners, making $100,000+ per year, have strong incentives to cut corners. In all likelihood, the practitioner knew this was a risky adoption, that the mother was not sold on giving her baby away. The practitioner, however, went ahead allowing the prospective adoptive parents (PAPs) to spend money on the mother-to-be and encouraging the mother-to-be to accept the funds in hopes that this and other pressures would induce her to give up her baby.

    Practitioners have expectant mothers sign agreements to re-pay these funds if they keep their baby adding financial pressure on them to give the baby up. As a practical matter, these funds are probably not collectable because mothers giving up their babies are often poor but mother do not know this. They fear lawyers and the legal system and may give up their babies to avoid being hounded for this debt.

    We absolutely agree that allowing mothers to take their babies home before they make a decision on adoption would be an improvement on adoption practice. Many powerful segments of the adoption industry OPPOSE giving mothers any time after birth to make decisions.

    Because of the political influence of the industry, states have reduced the time for mothers to make decisions and many do not allow mothers to revoke consents. See FMF's summary of state laws at http://www.firstmotherforum.com/p/state-by-state-adoption-laws.html.

    One way PAPs can be sure mothers cannot change their minds is to adopt children from foster care. These children need families. Not only do the PAPs avoid paying thousands of dollars, they may get subsidies from the state to help them support the child.

    Molly, I hope you will join with others in your state to reform adoption laws in order to protect both vulnerable mothers and PAPs.

    ReplyDelete

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