Demons in Adoption

Last day to vote: Eighth Annual Demons of Adoption Awards Click on link to vote! and see previous post for our choice.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Utah to Birth Fathers: Go Back to the Grave!


Until 1972, laws governing fathers were simple: “unless you’re wed, you’re dead.” Utah like other states, would like to keep fathers entombed. Twenty-one year old single father John Wyatt is very much alive, however, and wants to raise his baby daughter, Emma. With help from his mother, Jeri, and Emma’s mother, Emily Colleen Fahland, he should have no problem. Wyatt deserves accolades for stepping up to the plate when other unmarried fathers would have hidden in the dugout. Instead the State of Utah threw him a curve ball and called him out.

Wyatt’s story is just one in a string of cases that began when the US Supreme Court held in 1972 that state laws could not obliterate fathers. Back to that in a minute. First a recap of Wyatt’s struggle.

When Fahland of Woodbridge, Virginia learned she was pregnant, she began discussions with A (sic) Act of Love, a Utah adoption agency. According to Wyatt, however, she told him they would raise the baby together. When Wyatt learned of Emma’s birth, he rushed to the hospital where the officials lied to him, telling him Fahland and the baby were not there. Shortly after the birth, an employee of A (sic) Act of Love took Fahland and Emma to a nearby hotel where Fahland signed a consent to adoption. The prospective adoptive parents, Chandra and Thomas Zarembinski, who were at the hotel as well, took Emma to Utah two days later and filed a petition to adopt her.

Wyatt filed for custody in Virginia, six days after Emma’s birth and three days before the Zarembinski’s filed their petition for the adoption. The Virginia trial court ruled that the adoption could not proceed without Wyatt’s consent. A Utah trial court refused to honor the Virginia decision, ruling that Wyatt had waited too long to file his Virginia action under Utah law. Wyatt has appealed to the Utah Court of Appeals. Since Wyatt, Fahland, and Emma were all residents of Virgina, the Utah trial court should have honored the Virginia decision. If the Utah Court of Appeals upholds the adoption, as is likely, in spite of constitutional provisions requiring states to give credit to the judgments of other states, the case could be headed to the federal courts to resolve the conflict.

Meanwhile, the Zarembinski‘s attorney chants the tired mantra that “they’re the only parents this child has ever known” ignoring the nine months Emma spent with her natural mother, Fahland. In cases where children have been returned to their natural and rightful parents after time spent with impostors, the children have not been shown to have suffered psychological damage. For a court to accept “the only parents she has ever known” argument would be to condone kidnapping. (I always wonder how adoptive parents in these contested cases reconcile themselves to keeping a child away from loving parents, particularly when so many children do need homes.

Adoption-friendly Utah

The adoption business in Utah is thriving, thanks to laws influenced by the Mormon Church which favors breaking up natural families in the name of family values. According to the Washington Post, “Baby Emma case puts state adoption laws between father, child,” there have been “at least 10 recent cases in which babies were taken to or born in Utah and adopted without an out-of-state father's consent.”

I have to admit, though, that my own state, liberal unchurched Oregon, is no better when it comes to father-friendliness, requiring single fathers to initiate paternity proceedings before their child is placed with the prospective adoptive parents. As a practical matter fathers must start paternity actions prior to the child’s birth because mothers sign irrevocable surrenders and children are placed with the adoptive parents within a day of birth.

Far from valuing families, Utah and Oregon are pimping for the adoption industry.

Ironically, if Fahland had kept Emma and Wyatt had pulled a John Edwards, denying paternity and refusing to support his child, the State of Utah would have been all over him, threatening to throw his butt in jail if he did not pay up.

Now, here’s the legal stuff. Prior to 1972, state laws declared that the guy who provided bastards half their DNA was dead, mort, nada, non-existent. Oregon’s statute, for example, read:
“The consent [to adoption] of the mother of the child is sufficient … and for all purposes relating to the adoption of the child, the father of the child shall be disregarded just as if he were dead, when it is shown … that the mother of the child was unmarried at the time of conception of the child to be adopted and remained unmarried at the time of the birth of the child.”
Birth Father Rights

These laws served the adoption industry well until Thomas Stanley threw a wrench into the works. Stanley lived with Joan Stanley intermittently for 18 years during which time they had three children. When Joan died, the State of Illinois made the children wards of the state, declaring that they had no living parents. Stanley sued and in 1972 the US Supreme Court ruled for him, holding that fathers had the same right as mothers to nurture their children, Stanley v. Illinois. In a truly inspirational opinion, Justice Byron White wrote:
“The Court has frequently emphasized the importance of the family. The rights to conceive and to raise one's children have been deemed 'essential, 'basic civil rights of man, and rights far more precious than property rights. 'It is cardinal with us that the custody, care and nurture of the child reside first in the parents, whose primary function and freedom include preparation for obligations the state can neither supply nor hinder.' The integrity of the family unit has found protection in the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, and the Ninth Amendment.” (Citations omitted.)
Chief Justice Warren Burger dissented:
“Furthermore, I believe that a State is fully justified in concluding, on the basis of common human experience, that the biological role of the mother in carrying and nursing an infant creates stronger bonds between her and the child than the bonds resulting from the male's often casual encounter. This view is reinforced by the observable fact that most unwed mothers exhibit a concern for their offspring either permanently or at least until they are safely placed for adoption, while unwed fathers rarely burden either the mother or the child with their attentions or loyalties. Centuries of human experience buttress this view of the realities of human conditions and suggest that unwed mothers of illegitimate children are generally more dependable protectors of their children than are unwed fathers. While these, like most generalizations, are not without exceptions, they nevertheless provide a sufficient basis to sustain a statutory classification whose objective is not to penalize unwed parents but to further the welfare of illegitimate children in fulfillment of the State's obligations as parens patriae.”
While Justice White won the battle, it seems that Justice Burger won the war. States scrambled to amend their laws to meet the twin goals of complying with Stanley in theory while preventing unmarried fathers from nurturing their children in fact. States enacted laws with arcane provisions that assured that pesky poppas would not be more than minor inconveniences to the adoption business. These laws included “putative father registries” requiring men to file a notice with their state that they might have fathered a child and ridiculously short time periods for fathers to assert their rights.

We can only hope that the courts recognize the cruelty and injustice done to Wyatt, Emma, and Fahland and allow Emma to re-join her parents. For updates on the case, see Baby Emma.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

BUYER BEWARE: Bethany 'Christian' Services scams customers and steals identities from the (adopted) infants

Want to know how much adoption agencies reveal about the children they "offer"? The New York Times has a not very nice story about Bethany Christian Services: In Lawsuit on Adoption, Focus Is on Disclosure.

Yes, it's another Russain adoptee story with a child with serious alcohol fetal syndrome. The parents were assured he was a normal "on target" child and did not reveal all that they knew, until years later when someone at this "Christian" organization came up with a ten-page (ten page!) medical and psychological report on the boy. 
Georges de al Tour, 'The New-born' (1640s)
Georges de la Tour (1593-1652), The Newborn, 1640s

I do not want to rail against these poor children, what I want to point out is that Bethany "Christian" Services is anything but Christian in the sense the word implies. The agency sucks big time. Let us not forget while this slimeball of an agency--perhaps the largest in the country, with outlets everywhere--is also among the leaders against giving adopted people their unamended, original birth records, no matter when, no matter how. I hope more lawsuits bankrupt this awful agency, one of the biggest supporters of the National Council for Adoption [check out the list of member agencies if you doubt, at NCFA's website], also adamantly against giving adopted people any rights. It's all about the adoptive parents and their ability to bankroll the agency, and NCFA. 

And do take a look at the story up on the sidebar from Atlanta, about non-profit adoption agencies: Nonprofit adoption agencies often profit someone other than children, families. Yeah, I'm feeling pissed off today at the adoption racket.--lorraine 
___________________
Without a Map (at right) is one of the best birthmother/first mother memoirs I've ever read. Highly recommended. See also: Swimming Up the Sun: A Memoir of Adoption, Love Child: A Memoir of Adoption, Reunion, Loss and Love, Lucky Girl: A Memoir and, er, my own memoir: Birthmark.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Russian Adoptees Get a Respite on the Range and assorted ramblings about anti-open-records legislators, Rosie O'Donnell and her brother, and the awful 'open-records' bill in Michigan

Is there life after adoption for troubled kids, alcohol-fetal syndrome kids, too-long-in-a-terrible-orphanage kids? Maybe. While stories of adoption disruptions have been leaking into the press in dribs and drabs, and Jane's previous post discussed the overall problems/corruption in international adoption, today's New York Times today highlights a place where problem adoptees can chill while their adoptive families figure out what to do: Joyce Sterkel's Ranch for Kids in Montana. See Russian Adoptees Get a Respite on the Range.

The story had some figures on how many adoptions from Eastern Europe have been "disrupted," that is, terminated. No more forever family, kids sayeth the Times:
"Dr. Federici has tracked international adoptions since 1992 and estimates that about 4,000 from Eastern Europe alone have foundered — with children being sent into state care or to places like the Ranch for Kids or back to their home countries. He said that while he respected the impulse behind the ranch, permanent improvement could not happen without a spine of rigorous medical and therapeutic treatment.

"'It’s like a vacation at the beach — we’re always better when at the beach,' he said.

"Ms. Sterkel and her staff do not fully disagree....

“'We can’t fix the fundamental damage,' she said.'Generally, our parents have reached a place where they need to restore sanity.'

"About 70 percent of the roughly 300 children who have come here, Ms. Sterkel said, do go back to their adoptive families — though she admits she often loses track after that. Of the remaining 30 percent, the younger ones are often readopted, while adolescents typically go into the federal Job Corps program. And now there is even a second-generation to work with — a 10-month-old girl named Lilia. Lilia’s mother was adopted from Russia and came through the program herself a few years ago — fiercely unmanageable and claiming, in full embrace of the Goth lifestyle, to be a vampire. The young woman’s life did not much get better: She ended up on methamphetamine, tattooed, pierced and pregnant at age 19.
"But she came back to the ranch last year, Ms. Sterkel said, for the final months of her pregnancy, and then agreed to let the infant stay on in the Sterkel family’s care. Ms. Sterkel, now the baby’s legal guardian, said she assumed Lilia had prenatal exposure to alcohol, so she is trying everything she has learned over the years — especially physical contact, usually with the baby on her hip or lap — as an effort at early intervention therapy."
But wait, there's more: In another adoption story in today's Times, we learn that adoptionack Rosie O'Donnell, our least favorite celebrity adoptive mother (who is adamantly against open records, along with her rude and obnoxious brother, Daniel O'Donnell of the New York Senate and who will never never never vote for an open-records bill to give adoptees the right to know their birth parents, as he told us, but I digress); anyway, one of Rosie's kids is having a problem--that is, listening to her apparently, and so we get a sympathetic story about Ms. O'Donnell. All right, I'm being flip about this, I'm sure "auditory processing disorder" is a serious problem, but Daniel or Danny, you choose, O'Donnell told one of our lobbyists that he and Rosie feared that her children's birth mothers, if they ever found them, would ask O'Donnell for money, and that was a reason he would never support giving those kids, even as adults, the chance to make a decision for themselves. Rosie bought them, and they were gonna stay her property, in other words. Unfortunately that is the feeling of a lot of adoptive families who shell out $25,000 up for a kid today.

Unfortunate, yes, but true. Parents sympathetic to our cause have told me that this is the feeling of a lot of wealthy adoptive parents.

Back to O'Donnell. Just hearing his or her name makes me angry. If he is the kind of legislator we have in New York, from the uber-liberal West Side of Manhattan, in supposedly liberal New York State, it is no surprise that getting legislation passed anywhere is like walking against a thick tide of sludge. As in Michigan, where I just returned from after visiting family and friends. The supposedly "open-records" bill there now has an amendment that would criminalize contact with your birth mother/father/parents once you got your original birth certificate--if you did not go through their confidential intermediary system. And pay money that, you know, no other person, non-adopted person, that is, has to pay. Fair? Unequal under the law? Cruel and unusual?

All of the above.--lorraine
_______________________
For more about the Michigan mess, see on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/home.php?ref=home#!/topic.php?uid=47705527209&topic=14700. I'll try to come up with a site/link later today that doesn't require you to be on FB. I'm not shilling for FB, but it does have a lot of adoption-related stuff that is worthwhile. Here's the official Michigan site detailing the bad bill: http://legislature.mi.gov/doc.aspx?2009-HB-4015 but it does not explain a lot. The FB site details what happened.


In the meantime, I'm trying to come up with a more recent photo--took some pix while I was home visiting--that I can live with. The one above, in truth, gives me a nifty facelift that my brother and photoshop achieved...but vanity sits deep in my heart, 'tis true. Now off to the doctor, and my husband says his computer is dying, at last, and he needs a new one.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Can International Adoption Be Fixed? As well as the drug trade.

The case of seven year old Artyom Savelyev (Justin Hansen) whose adoptive mother, Torry Hansen, sent him back to Russia is only the latest example of intercountry adoption gone horribly wrong. According to Marley Greiner's blog, The Daily Bastardette, fourteen Russian children have been murdered by their American adoptive parents. Disruptions in foreign adoptions are not uncommon, and as we have reported here, corruption is widespread.

While these parents must be held accountable for their horrific acts, another villain, lurking behind the scene, is the demand for foreign kids fueled by aggressive marketing on the part of the adoption industry. These children are attractive to those seeking to adopt because they are thought to come with less baggage (such as mothers) than American children. Glossy ads on the web perpetuate what David Smolin of Cumberland Law School describes as “the adoption myth in the United States [that] sends the message that the love and care found in any normal American home is enough to heal any child.”

Experts have recommended actions which might prevent these tragedies -- better screening of prospective adoptive parents and providing them with accurate information about the child, preparing them for the difficulties that they and the child will encounter; and offering on-going support. (How to Prevent Adoption Disasters, NT Times, 4/15/10). However, there does not appear to be any authority with the power or inclination to force the industry to change.

Intercountry adoptions are regulated by the US Departments of State and Homeland Security, state child welfare agencies, and the governments of the countries which supply the kids. The laws are weak and enforcement sketchy.

This seems unlikely to change. Congress is having difficulty clamping down on the Wall Street practices which brought the economy to its knees. Reining in an industry which “saves children” would be a herculean task. According to The Daily Bastardette, the industry trade group, the Joint Council on International Children's Services has already begun flooding the market with “positive adoption stories” and lining up supporters. When the government has made even feeble efforts to control abuses in adoption in the past, adoption agencies, many operating under the banner of Christ, unleashed an army of prospective adoptive parents to bang on Congressional doors and yammer about bureaucratic red tape preventing their child from joining his American family (albeit they may never have laid eyes on “their child”).

Federal and state officials have shown little ability to respond to even the worst cases of corruption and abuse. The United States Attorney in Salt Lake City allowed Scott and Karen Banks to plead guilty to misdemeanors and receive probation for a massive fraud involving Samoan children which we wrote about here. The Pennsylvania adoption agency Reaching Out Thru International Adoption which placed Masha Allen with pedophile Mathew Mancusco is still in business.

As long as demand exceeds supply, increasing regulation, even if politically possible, is unlikely to have a significant impact. We need only to look at the drug trade where tough laws and billions spent on enforcement has not made a dent. Attempting to impose more regulation over the adoption industry will simply result in a moving cascade of countries using adoption to fill their coffers and empty their orphanages. Where Angelina and Madonna tread, others are sure to follow. As long as there is a buck to be made, someone is there to make it. Congress could take a bite out of that buck, however, by limiting the $12,150 Adoption Tax Credit to adoptions from American foster homes but that’s as unlikely as Congress restoring the estate tax to its pre-Bush level.

The best approach for those wishing to curtail abuse in intercountry adoptions would be an “Adopt America” campaign, encouraging those wanting to “form their family through adoption” to look to their state’s child welfare agency.

An encouraging note is that the demand for foreign children may be waning. International adoptions have declined from a high of 22,990 in 2004 to 12,753 in 2009. Of course, some of this may be fallout from the poor economy. It may also be that as cases of corruption are reported and adoptive parents admit publicly that they cannot handle their kids, fewer people are willing to adopt children from overseas. The Artyom Savelyev case has caused more adoptive parents to speak up, dispelling fantasies about international adoption.

The other side is as Harvard Law Professor Elizabeth Bartholet argues, that reducing foreign adoptions “punishes more children, denying them their best chance to escape institutions into the adoptive homes that are generally available only internationally.” Restricting adoptions because of the Artyom Savelyev case would “ignore the larger story about child tragedy and related policy lessons. That story has to do with the systemic abuse that victimizes the millions of children in institutions worldwide.”

While we at FMF do not want to see children abused or languishing in institutions, we recognize that adopting a few thousand of these children each year does nothing for the millions who are not chosen. In fact these happy adoption stories damage children who are too old, too disabled, or too dark by diverting attention from them. Systemic abuse requires systemic solutions. Money spent on bringing children to the US is better spent on relief organizations like those we’ve written about in India and Ecuador. Finally, of course, foreign governments need to step up and protect their children.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Adoption from India: 'Second' mother now runs orphange there

Our story from an American woman's quest to find the truth of her children, adopted from Ethiopia, resonated with a friend of ours, Dr. Michelle Harrison, an American woman who runs an orphanage in Kolkata, India. Before she did that, she adopted a child herself from India. We first became acquainted many years ago over the issue of using progesterone for PMS. I was a magazine editor and writer, and as PMDD (the designation for severe PMS) was the bane of my life, I was more than a little interested in finding out how to control the worst symptoms, and letting other women know. Michelle wrote Self-Help for Premenstrual Syndrome: Third Edition and I ended up interviewing her and quoting her. She was in Boston, I was in New York. 

Fast forward many years. We connected through Facebook and the blog; Michelle was involved in the Baby M case, befriending the surrogate mother, Mary Beth Whitehead, in 1986, and she posted here before: More on Baby M from a psychiatrist who defended her mother, MaryBeth Whitehead. We have never met face to face, but I feel as if I know Michelle. Here is her story, and her reaction to the previous posts about a family going back to Ethiopia to find the truth about the two children they adopted:

By Michelle Harrison

I have so much respect for the family who has adopted from Ethiopia, whose story has been told here over the last few days. (For the whole story, click on all three above links.) All I say for "this family" because I include the 17-year-old who went in search of truth for the children in her family. Yes, this story resonates for me in so many ways. 

I am the mother of a 25-year-old whom I adopted [from India] when she was two months old, from IMH in Kolkata. When I was in the process of adopting, I admit I was relieved I wouldn't have to worry about her mother showing up to reclaim her. But when my daughter arrived, that changed. I remember when she was a year old, on her birthday, wishing I could find her first/birth mother for her to know how her daughter's life was. The only information I had was that she was born to an unwed teenage mother and abandoned at birth in a nursing home. Twenty-five years later all we know is that we don't really know anything, because so many papers were faked, so many babies were switched around, so much money changed hands, and so many lies were told to us.

In 2000 when my daughter was 16, we went to Kolkata to visit the orphanage and allow her to get to know more about her Indian culture. She was keen to understand; I was eager for her to meet people in India who were working to improve lives. Through my work as a physician, I had contact with women doctors who ran a hospital in Kolkata. In retrospect, the next few years became a nightmare as we were victims to a scam perpetrated by the orphanage people, including their US representatives. 

We were told by the head of the orphanage that they had found her birth family. What joy! How amazing! You can understand our elation. I had just been through a year of surgery, chemo and radiation for breast cancer, and at the time thought I might be dying. I was more vulnerable then than I might have been, I wanted answers for her.

We believed we were getting the truth. The head of the agency told us they had found her family, and they concocted a tale of faked documents supposedly written when she was adopted to hide her real family. To make the story more believable, the woman who said she was her mother had been one of her caretakers, and we always had a picture of her. She had nursed my daughter. In time, the woman even produced her own child as a twin. So for a period of time we believed that she had found her first family--a mother, a twin sister, younger siblings, aunt, grandmother...and I bought a house for them to move to more suitable quarters, and paid for the education of the other children. We wanted to believe.  The whole story was a big scam and many people conspired to continue it, like the staff at the orphanage saying to my daughter, "Are you going to visit your mother today?" After nearly a year of believing this woman was my daughter's mother, as my daughter was learning Bengali, and she began to overhear things that didn't make sense. The story simply unraveled.

We came to realize that everything we had been told were lies. I later learned the staff had been threatened with firing if they did not perpetuate the scam. Several motivations were at work:  the orphanage had a reason to get these people [the fake family] off their payroll, including pensions due; their lawyer later told me they wanted to "get the old lady [the aunt] off their hands."  This same lawyer had taken part in the scam, as I gave him money to care for the family. Years later he would have the audacity to say, "I could have told you the truth, but you didn't ask me." But why would I  have asked for the real truth? He was the lawyer for the orphanage and I assumed he was telling me the truth. 

When the falsehoods were revealed, we confronted the agency, and we made several trips back to India. DNA testing proved there was no relationship between this family and my daughter. She has survived the emotional turmoil all this caused, but not without scars. Our relationship has survived, though I worry about a day when she will confront me as to how I could have been so stupid as to believe the lies. I wanted answers for her, yes, but I feel as if I truly failed her.

As I became aware of the lies told to us, I thought there must be other lies too. I investigated on my own, learning what I could about adoption in Kolkata. I now believe that--with only a few exceptions--adoption from and in India is a dirty, corrupt and lucrative business, behind a facade of humanitarianism.

Ten years later I live in Kolkata where I am mother to 12 girls who had been rejected for adoption. My home is called: Childlife Preserve Shishur Sevay, which is Bengali for "in the interests of the children."
 
Michelle Harrison and her family in Kolkata

I am still haunted by the question of the children who have not been adopted, for their lives are not good ones. "Orphan" is a term of shame. Marriage prospects would have been almost nil, especially with no dowry, and no family. They would not have been able to read. And while it is easy to romanticize "culture," for the abandoned children on the street, or those institutionalized, there is no "culture" as we think of it. Our girls had never even been inside a Puja pandal (a place of worship during the holidays). Orphans are outsiders, period. No one claims them. Nothing good awaits a young woman with no education, no family and no place to go.

I have also been haunted by the question of whether I had done the right thing in adopting from India. (My daughter thinks I'm nuts as this is NOT a question in her mind, especially after being hit with the reality of what her life in India would have been.)

Eventually, I came to live in Kolkata to open an orphanage for children who were too old, or too dark, or too handicapped for adoption. I wanted to see what I could do for them, without their losing their homeland, and culture. If they had been adopted into the US, the adjustment would have been horrible. And their futures here? They had none. The children have been with me for three years, orphans to whom I have become " Mummy." I have taught them how to read and write, something that would almost certainly have not been possible if they had not come to live with me. I am clear that I while I "mother" them, they have/had mothers before me, and they are to be honored always.

My girls with disabilities?  They would have NO chance here in India. Children in their situation would be far better in a country that is serious about rehabilitation. The resources simply are not available here. The professionals are not here in any significant numbers. For Kolkata, rated internationally as 17th among 17 cities in which to do business, everyone who can get out, does. I dream of being able to bring interns/teachers from the US, and I am educating the girls in English so this might be possible. Here with me, they know they are loved and cared for.

The story of the courageous family of the Ethiopian children told in the last couple of blog posts is really how it should be. We should know why our children have come to us. And they should know. The Second Family has the responsibility to get the information about the First Family at the time of the adoption, because often too much time passes to pick up the trail. And children need to know before "age of maturity" where they come from, why they are here, who are/were their people, their first families. 

As a mother I feel it is/was my responsibility to help my child understand who she is and why she is here--and to give her a true story about her life rather than allow her to have the fantasy that every adoptee has otherwise. Adopted people don't stop wondering who they are, or where they came from, just because the Second Family does not talk about it and does nothing. There is no "neutral" about searching, or asking questions, because saying one is "neutral" but doing nothing is simply keeping the door shut--and giving that message to the adoptee. That is not being neutral; that is actively saying: I can not deal with the truth of your life.

I cannot think of any other area of raising a child where we say: they will deal with this alone when they are grown.  That IS the rent-a-child mode. We adopt a child with a history, and that becomes part of OUR family history. Personally, I love the terms First Mother and Second Mother because they describe reality. I would truly love to be first mother for my child, but am not. She would love to be First Child, but she is not. She has an older sister who came before her. This is reality. Facing truth, speaking in real terms, has kept us close as a family.

Courage and integrity, the words that come to me over and over as I think about that family who went to great lengths to find the truth of their children's First Family, and their journey. 
_________________
Michelle's website is: http://www.travelingcloud.typepad.com/shishur_sevay/ and here is a book that is a collection of essays that examines the ramifications of trans-cultural adoptions.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Answers Found in Ethiopia

The end of one woman's story learning the truth of the lives of the children she adopted from Ethiopia. This was written while her 17-year-old daughter was in country trying to learn whether the children were free to be adopted:
"I have struggled with the possibility of sending our children back for several reasons. One being safety...two, their future and ...three, living conditions. Two of them, I feel I will have peace about if they go back because we will help their families support them and give them a good education...safety, I know that we will have peace about this before we would even send them back. But the living conditions has been more of a struggle because they have tasted our American life of comfort and convenience. 
"The past couple of weeks, our 8-year-old biological son has been reading about what life was like for Jesus when he lived on this earth. About the culture he lived in, food he ate, etc. It has been so fascinating to me to realize how similar people in Africa (and other areas of the world too) still live in a culture almost identical to the one Jesus lived over 2,000 years ago. When I woke up this morning, I felt like God told me that "If it was good enough for Jesus, then it's good enough for anybody to live in that culture." And the fact that, it doesn't seem to matter to this little girl we adopted what her culture is around her, she just wants to be with her mother and father, I don't blame her I would too.

'God is revealing so many things to me right now and for some reason, I feel led to share with you and not many others. So, I hope you don't mind my ramblings."
And then this is what she learned:
"My daughter was able to meet with the families of the child while in Ethiopia. The story I heard about the little girl--the one I was most concerned about--was true and what we were told when we began the process of adopting her. Her parents died when she was very young, and she was living with her aunt and uncle--and she has only known them--so she assumed they were her mother and father. They do not call their parents 'mom' and 'dad' in Ethiopia; they always call everybody by their first names. Consequently, Amber assumed that they were her 'parents' after being here, and figuring out our culture.

"When my daughter gave the aunt pictures of Amber, she kissed them and was very happy. She understood fully that Amber was being adopted and is happy for her to have this opportunity. From other things I have learned, it seems that when extended family take in a child after loss of parents, the child is not always fully accepted by the relatives. An example, there is a girl in the sponsorship program who is 12, and her aunt sold her for marriage; the program bought her back and she is going to live the with the lady who cooks for the program now. I am just so excited that we now have this contact and everything (that we know of) has been handled with truth and that Amber can stay connected with her birth family and hopefully travel back at some point to visit them. Who knows what God has planned for her, she may go back and do many good things for her country and people. This has helped Amber so much, she seems much happier now although she still has some grieving to deal with.

"The little boy's family is a different story. His parents died also, but his grandmother was trying to care for him. and she told our duaghter that she felt like this adoption was his only hope. After they put him up for adoption, he had an older brother that died. He also has an older sister that our daughter met who did not look very healthy. We are hoping to pull her into this sponsorship organization so she will get three meals a day, medical care, clothes, schooling, etc. The grandmother was so thankful to see pictures of the boy, and hear how well he is doing, and she also told us she fully understood that he was being adopted and might not ever see him again. It breaks my heart because I know it has been so hard for her. She is very old, so I don't know if he will see her in person again.

"Our daughter is hoping to go back every year (she has left half of her heart there) and who knows, maybe I will go at some point too. I would love to see them again, which is crazy because after I got back from getting the children, I didn't think I would ever want to go back.

"I didn't realize the seriousness of adoption until I stepped into it. About how much the child would need, especially to know truth and to be connected with birth family if at all possible. It is not always possible. But if the opportunity is there, it is definitely worth seeking it out. I was apprehensive at the beginning, but I now feel that I have extended family in Ethiopia and I truly care for them. We will be staying in contact and helping them as much as we can.
"When we picked up the children, I thought I would have this joyful feeling, but instead I felt grief for the families who felt they had to give up their children because they couldn't care for them.  I guess having biological children, I could relate with a mother's heart.  Reuniting with the birth families and knowing that we can stay connected with them has not only given the families and the children peace, but has brought me a great peace as well.  It definitely has helped us all to move on and help the children to deal with the loss they have experienced.  Even though they have a good life here and are loved, they miss their birth families and country and I do hope and pray that through the organization my daughter went over with (Elpis International) they will be able to travel back and visit at some point.  I knew God had us meet the founders of this organization when we picked up the children for a reason, didn't know it would be to stay connected with their families, but I am so thankful for this opportunity.
"We have an adoption in the works in China (been five years now) and I know that this will be another hard issue. Knowing that the birth mother felt forced to give up her child because of the government, breaks my heart and I pray that God will give me wisdom in helping this little girl through all of this.  We could possibly get her the end of this year (haven't had a referral yet, but could be soon).  I think that walking through the Ethiopia adoption with the older children and how they have been affected has opened my eyes to much more to the children's needs.  
"Even though we may never be able to locate this child's birth mother because children are abandoned, I realize that she will need to have a connection to her birth country.  When we first set out to adopt from China, I honestly didn't think it would matter, we would just raise her here and she would be happy, didn't matter if we taught her about China's culture or anything, but all of this has changed.  I am much more sensitive to what she might need and the connections she might need to have with China.  I am praying that if she needs to connect with her birth mother, that God will allow it to happen.  We already have some connections in China through Steven Curtis Chapman (Christian singer), so this might be helpful in the future."
My hope is that this woman's story will be read by other people adopting from around the world, and they will learn from it. We know some adoptive parents even have a problem filling out a census form when asked if their children are adopted, so far are they willing to travel in their minds to deny their children's true heritage and parentage. We know other adoptive parents who have traveled as far as Siberia to get children who will never be able to find their original birth families and true heritage. Those are the adoptions that make us angry, and sad.

Adoption should not be about the need to "complete a family" or "build a family" for a couple in a Western country, but about filling a need for a hungry and homeless child. We have come to know that many adoptive parents read here, and some of them get upset with what they learn from our experience with adoption--the other side of the coin, the one largely swept away when people wish to adopt--but there are others who teach us that it is not black and white, that adoption can be filled with shades of gray, and from then we have learned to be sympathetic to their desire to provide homes, and love, to children who truly need them. International adoption is so fraught with complexities and problems, and corruption, that we find it hard to see the upside of the mass migration of children from one culture to another; but it has happened and will continue.

We can not close that door anymore; we can only become a voice crying out to stop the abuses. I admit I was taken aback when I learned she was trying to adopt from China, but I am not going to question her motives. Yes, I wish adoptions were not necessary; but sometimes they are, and have always been, and this woman and her family shows compassion and understanding for the children they have brought into their homes, for their children's first families they were born into, for all of humankind--lorraine

Thursday, April 15, 2010

One Woman's Struggle with Adopting from Ethiopia

Continued from yesterday, Adoptive Mom Here Searches for Birth Mother in Ethiopia and written by a woman who desires to know if the children she adopted from Ethiopia were truly free to be adopted, and without parents. She prefers to remain anonymous:
Once we know the desires of the birth mother and father, we can move forward either way. I feel in my heart that she (the girl they adopted, who is between six and nine) should be with her birth family. Being in America is not the answer to a better life or happiness. Sure she is having fun...it's like she is in Disneyworld, but she doesn't have her family, so she is not really happy. Even though we live with modern conveniences, she misses her life the way it was there, she was happy with it because what makes a home is "where your family is". This is what I told my biological eight-year-old son to help him understand.
"These people are being deceived and their ignorance, culture and poverty are being taken advantage of. The Lord has showed me more and more that the best life for her is to be with her birth parents. I will soon find out.

At the same time we adopted the little girl, we also adopted a little boy who is four. He is not related to the girl. His situation is a bit different, but my daughter will also be checking with his grandmother to find out what she was told. When we met her, we gave her a framed picture of him and she took it and kissed it and hugged it. I don't know what she thought at the time, if she thought he would come back???? If he is to go back too, this will be even more difficult because he has bonded with our family more so than the girl.

If his story is the truth, his birth parents died and his grandmother was trying to raise him, and he was not in good shape physically due to malnutrition. Once we brought him home and put him on a healthy diet, he grew 7 inches and gained 12 lbs in less than a year. I do feel I have to give her the opportunity also of being reunited with him, just in case she was deceived so that she can have peace and understand that if he stays here, she might not ever see him again. We would like to have the luxury of flying back and forth, but it is a difficult and expensive journey to Ethiopia that our family cannot handle right now. We really didn't have the money to adopt and it set us back financially. Our daughter raised money for her mission trip, she is in the air right now on her way there.

I would like to help others if we go through this process, I just don't know what it involves right now. I have heard of a family from Australia who returned their child and they even go back to visit the child in Ethiopia, but this is a story I have heard second-hand, and don't know who they are. It scares me to think of what might happen, I am sure we will be attacked personally, but I don't really care. I just hope it doesn't turn into a big legal battle and cause our family more stress.

If this had happened to me as a mother, I would hope that somebody would show me mercy and grace and return my child. This is assuming that the birth family of this little girl has regret. If not, then we will have peace that we have to move on and help her deal with this emotionally.
To be continued. Tomorrow we will post the conclusion of what her daughter found, and how the family is dealing with it.

Then I found this story on another blog: Human Traffic 2: Ethiopia's Baby Trade written by an adoptee herself who spent ten months in Ethiopia. It is dated from 2007, but considering what we have learned about international adoption from poor countries, it is largely still relevant. The writer, Kate Jongbloed, then a student at the University of Toronto, begins:
The going rate for a baby in Ethiopia is $10,000 USD, through legal channels. I’m not sure what a black market baby will run you. It’s sometimes hard for me to wrap my head around a baby with a price tag....

Here in Addis Ababa, a new flock of mostly American adopters takes over the Hilton and Sheraton hotels every 6 months, staying a week before exporting their new children back to the West...Perhaps I sound overly harsh, and as an adoptee myself, I can’t be completely critical of the adoption industry....But it’s important to think about the overall impact of massive adoption from developing countries from a wider perspective.

Take, for example, Ethiopia. One of the five poorest nations in the world, Ethiopia faces brain drain of its wealthy and educated, creating hubs of diaspora in places like Washington, D.C. or Edmonton, and undermining the country’s potential for growth. I see mass adoptions to the West in a similar light. By exporting a chunk of the future generation of Ethiopians, we are only addressing the symptoms of the problem and perhaps mining the youth that will carry Ethiopia out of poverty. I also question why the children have to be taken away to the West, when it is entirely possible to successfully sponsor a child (and its community) without taking it away from its society and culture.
Then there's this: Media: Ethiopia revokes licences of nine charitable organizations from the Parents for Ethical Adoption Reform, dated only a few weeks ago:
Ethiopia revoked the license of nine orphanages (charity organizations) who they claim to be involved in ‘illegal’ activities of child rights abuse, APA learns here on Wednesday.

The nine charity organizations have been working to adopt children for the past few years to Europe and America. However, the office, which is in charge of registering charity organizations at the Ethiopian Ministry of Justice refused to give details as to what kind of illegal activities the organizations were involved with regards to child rights abuse. Child trafficking is high in Ethiopia where a good number of children are reported to be adopted illegally annually.The decision to revoke the license of the nine organizations was made while the government was undertaking re-registration of charity organizations and other NGOs that are operating in Ethiopia.
 As long as there are people who are desperate to adopt, in today's culture of adoptamania, there will be corruption, there will be child trafficking, there will be abuse. I frankly do not know how to stop it. But reading one woman's journey to find out the truth of the children she adopted--and open her mind to the possibility of returning them--gives us all hope. There must be more like her. There must be.--lorraine

Russia halts all adoptions to U.S.

This just in from The Los Angeles Times: 

Russia froze all adoptions to the United States on Thursday, satisfying simmering national outrage over a towheaded 7-year-old's rejection by his adoptive Tennessee mother who put him back on a plane to Moscow.

A U.S. delegation is due in Moscow in coming days to discuss the crisis with Russian officials. Russia is pressing the United States to sign an agreement that would lay out new conditions for the screening of would-be parents, and would also bind adoptive parents to a strict set of agreements on the treatment of the children.

First Mom and activist Linda Burns and pals in Austin at the capitol

If only other countries where so much corruption in the adoption system has been uncovered would do the same. Sometimes it takes a weird, desperate act to force a change in bad policy. Sometimes I dream about birth/first mothers and adopted people storming into the records vaults of state birth registries and freeing thousands and thousands of original birth certificates, so adoptees can know their true heritage and find their natural parents, and adoption records, so birth mothers can meet their children. I picture the original birth certificates available for the asking, I see blood on the steps (,aybe red paint but it will make the point) police with night sticks, screaming demonstrators by the thousands, and freedom for us enchained by the archaic, inhumane, cruel and unusual laws surrounding adoption in America.--lorraine

Protesters in Jakarta on 15 April 2010


A few links from Amazon for books about reunion:

Adoption Reunion: Ecstasy or Agony?The Adoption Reunion Survival Guide: Preparing Yourself for the Search, Reunion, and BeyondRape Adoption Reunion (Audio Cassette - Lee Ezell - Life Story) -

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Adoptive Mom Here Searches for Birth Mother in Ethiopia

News of the seven-year-old Russian boy, Artyom [Justin] Hansen returned via one-way ticket back to Russia by her American adoptive mother, Torry Ann Hansen, and her mother, Nancy Hansen, has been filling the news hole on adoption lately. I refrained from talking about it because I did not feel like slamming the Hansen women, or adoptions from Russia, or discussing alcohol-fetal syndrome, which may be at play here. A letter in today's New York Times (4/14/10), however, points out what's been on my mind:
...the dirty little secret in New York State is that the placement of a child in foster care or an expensive residential treatment center after adoption (either domestic or international) is a fairly common occurrence.

While most children who are adopted do very well, some who have endured abuse or neglect behave in very challenging ways that bring their adoptive parents to their breaking point.

The tragedy is that good services and support can keep families together. But, unfortunately, New York State continues to hide its head in the sand while these families fall apart. And its taxpayers carry the far more expensive burden of government “parenting” of these children.
Sarah Gerstenzang
The writer is a foster and adoptive parent and the executive director of the New York State Citizens’ Coalition for Children.
But instead of focusing on the little Artyom, once called Justin here in America where he is a citizen, by the way, I have a good adoption story to report. And it's about one of the troubled hotspots in adoption, Ethiopia. Through FaceBook, a women contacted me about the queasy feelings she has about the little girl she and her husband adopted from Ethiopia. She wrote: 
"I am trying to locate information on reuniting our adopted Ethiopian child with her birth family. We have located the family and my oldest daughter is traveling there tomorrow on a mission trip and will be meeting with them. I don't know at this point if we will help her to return, a lot is based on the meeting and whether or not her birth family was deceived in this whole situation.

"We have had her here a little over a year, she is 6, probably more like 8 or 9, and she is a precious child. She has not given us any problems, she has been very brave with what she has gone through. But, she loves her birth family and desires to be with them. From what she tells me, her life was pretty good and she was perfectly happy. I suspect that her family was maybe lied to about what was really happening.

"We will only return her if her birth family has deep regret and was deceived. If we do return her, we will continue to support her and her family. But, I didn't know how this process would work, or even if it would. I have not contacted our agency yet because I don't have a high trust level with them, especially on the ET (Ethiopian) end and I am waiting to see how the birth parents feel. We should know in a week which way to start going with this. The easiest thing for us would be to just keep her here, but in our hearts, we feel we have to do everything we can to reunite her. She feels like she has been abducted because nobody told her what was happening. We set out to give an orphan a family and home and was given a child who has two healthy parents whom I think love her very much, but this meeting will tell. Anyway, this is basically why I am trying to connect with you. All in all, we want what is best for the child and this is what we are seeking. Blessings!
Wow, what a story, I thought, and what a good woman and good family. I couldn't wait to hear what her daughter learned in Ethiopia. 
To be continued....

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Again: Should children be identified as adopted on the Census?

The below came last night as a comment from someone but it certainly is worth posting here rather than just as a "comment" to a previous blog, Census Controversy Over Query: Are the children adopted?  The writer makes several points about why telling the truth on a census form is the right thing to do, and how far back the adoption question on a census goes. This discussion began as it appears that numerous adoptive parents are not answering the question of their children's status as adopted or biological on the Census form, or find it offensive. Yet finding it offensive is offensive since it denies the truth of a child's origins, which colors and reflects the truth of their relationship with those children.

I repeat my point: those who would deny their children's true heritage--their adopted children's true heritage--will need a change of heart before they accept their adopted children as they are: born of someone else, with a history and culture that belong solely to them and is "other" than that of the adoptive family. Accepting one's children in honesty would be the way to begin a relationship based on truth and love of who that person really is, not whom the adoptive parent wishes him or her to be. And later, those adoptive parents dealing with this census question--are the children adopted?--as an "intrusion" will deny their children's need to know the truth of their origins. A truly loving parent would not deny a child's true heritage or "pretend" that it did not matter. To the child/adult about whom it concerns, it does matter. All else is false. --lorraine

From a reader, Virginia:
As someone who has done extensive genealogical research on my family (which I am able to do because I was not adopted, and therefore no institution or person is actively concealing my birth surname, country of origin, or ethnic history from me), I want to note that the Federal Censuses have differentiated adopted children from biological children from stepchildren for more than 100 years. In the 1900 Census alone, more than 101,000 adopted sons and daughters are identified as such (adopted), which is valuable information for genealogists and family researchers, particularly those who would seek membership in a patriarchal or matriarchal lineage-based organization, such as Daughters of the American Revolution. (Think there aren't many such heredity-based groups out there? Check out this list: http://www.hereditary.us/chrono.htm ), or those hoping to establish direct descent/blood-quantum for a Native Peoples' tribal affiliation.

Furthermore, older censuses collected even more data, such as place of birth of one's father, place of birth of one's mother, citizenship, year of immigration, year of naturalization. Without such data, I would never have been able to locate my paternal great-grandmother's Ellis Island documents, or be able to trace her back to her country of origin and reconnect with cousins there.

I wonder what importance, if any, adoptive parents place on the ability to do such a thing for themselves... or for their adopted children to be able to do so at some later point in their lives? Time and time again, I encounter adoptive parents who react negatively to any focus on the adopted status of their children, except that which is voiced and controlled by the adoptive parents themselves.
In my opinion, this speaks to a conscious, or perhaps subconscious, insecurity about what does and doesn't constitute a "legitimate" family ("legitimate" in the sense of "recognized" or "accepted," although there is a reason why that term persists). Such an insecurity seems to be reflected in the surrogacy scenarios of upstatemom's comment.

Census data which identifies specific individuals by name and physical location is not released until 72 years after the data is collected, which is why the latest data available is from 1930! Until 72 years have passed, only statistical/numerical data is available and that information is used not only in the election process but also for the establishment of public services. Many individuals who fear or distrust the census, seem to know precious little about its history, purpose, importance or mechanics, but seem more than willing to make claims about what it is or isn't, and what it should or shouldn't do.

I am trying to stick to the actual, initial topic, which addressed whether or not to identify an adopted child as such on the census. Several sound arguments for doing so were made, both in the original blogpost  (Random Thoughts on Adoption at the Easter Table)  and subsequent post concerning upstatemom's comment (Census Controversy Over Query: Are the children adopted?), but I do not find equally sound, supported arguments for NOT doing so in upstatemom's comment, other than her aversion to disclosing the data to the government because she, personally, does not see a purpose for providing it.
____________________
Note: In reviewing the comments here, I see that I inadvertently added a line from another individual to UpstateMomof3's (Edna Cohen) comment, and in the editing failed to note that it was from another person, who chose "anonymous" and identified herself as an adoptive mother in her comment. I simply had copied what the person said at the bottom of the blogger post, and then it merged with Upstate's comment and I failed to remember at that point (since it seemed to go with her thinking) that it was another person altogether. Her comment was submitted after Upstate's, and in support of her objection to the question about adoption on the census form.

I sincerely apologize to Mrs. Cohen for the error, and any grief it has caused her. But I will add that that comment was not by itself what sparked the initial topic, which was that some adoptive parents find offensive the question: are the children adopted or biological? on the census form, and that last comment that has caused so much drama was not the basis for the blog post. --lorraine

Monday, April 12, 2010

A commentor objects to my objection to her comment

 Upstate Mom of 3 very offended by last blog; considered it a personal attack; upset that I used the "moniker" she uses at her blog. Hard to understand why since I was pretty gentle. I think she was partly upset I used (sic) where necessary when I repeated her comment. Read her offended response:

Please accept my apologies

No comment.--lorraine 

NOTE: Both UpstateMomof3 and an anonymous other adoptive mother have removed their comments about lying on the census form. 

Friday, April 9, 2010

Census Controversy Over Query: Are the children adopted?

The controversy over the question--are any of the children adopted?--on the 2010 census continues. The previous blog, Random Thoughts on Adoption at the Easter Table first discussed this issue as it was one of the adoption matters spoken of  last Sunday at my table, that is, how some adoptive parents object to the question, and why. Today's blog is prompted by the comment an adoptive mother--Upstate Mom of 3--left at that post last night. She finds the question offensive and invasive.

For anyone interested in adoption reform, gathering data is crucial. We need to know how many people do not have access to their original identities and information. If adopted people are asking for a change in the law that prevents them from knowing their original identity, it certainly is a useful to know how many there are of them will be affected by a change in the law. The census is a great way to identify the adoptee constituency, because there is no other way.  How many people are without health insurance?  How many people are Hispanic? Caucasian? Bi-racial? How many people are adopted? From this country or that one? Guatemala? Where the child was very likely to have been stolen, see Guatemalan Army Stole Kids for Adoption. Ethiopia? Different but similar problem, see Harvesting Children from Ethiopia for Families in America.

The answers tell us about ourselves. The answer to that question--are any of the children adopted?--could help move the legislation forward. Of course, in the case of children adopted from overseas, they will probably never be able to locate their original parents; but it is sometimes possible. (Someone who adopted from Ethiopia and became aware of that country's corrupt baby-grab business has been in touch, and I will be telling her story in a day or two.

But here at home, anyone who objects to the identity question is in clear denial about that fact that there is a difference between having a biological child by conception, pregnancy and birth, and having a child by paper work and adoption decree. And one has to assume that if and when the adopted person (born in America) decides to search for his or her natural, biological parents, the adoptive parent who had no trouble with the question will also more easily accept his or her decision, to say nothing of offering understanding and support. I have a great deal of admiration for such people. I have less respect for the parents who want to deny that an adoption took place. From what I've seen, they deny the adoption...until there is trouble. Then it's, Well, he's not really my child. We adopted him. Not my blood...is the thinking.

Maybe not so weirdly, I included the reference to Guatemalan adoptions before I checked out the blog of UpstateMomof3. While her blog says she always only wanted to be a mother--and there is nothing wrong with that--her two adopted children are from, yep, Guatemala and Ethiopia. No comment. Necessary.

Her blog is a collection of product reviews of stuff that companies can send them, which she actively seeks. She has quite a few followers. Happy busy Upstate Mom writes about stuff. You'll note she also objected to the questions about race on the census. Her children aren't going to be confused when they grow up.

Here is her comment:
As a mom of two children who I adopted I want to explain a little my problem with the fact that the census asked me to separate out which of my children were adopted and which ones were biologically mine.
First - simply asking that question does not actually give you any information about the adoption itself. I do not see what purpose there is in it if it is just to separate the two categories. (Ed: She does have a point  here; for reform purposes, it would be good to know how many were born in the United States.)

Second - there are simply not enough categories - what if I have a surrogate? Would that child qualify as "biologically" mine - even if we used donor sperm and donor eggs? Would that child qualify as adopted? What if that child we use donor sperm and my egg? Is that child now my husband's "step" child? (Ed: She does point out the various ways by which children are constructed today.)

Third - While I am not delluding (sic) myself into believing that my children will never have issues about being adopted I simply do not see why it matters to the government. I mean what does it really tell them about society? I do not get it (sic)

Fourth - I do not think of it so much as well (sic) adopted kids have issues and biological kids do not. I look at it as each child is an individual capable of having an array of issues. So, it is not so much that being adopted makes someone different it is that each person is an individual. (Ed: For an interesting take on the question: Are Adoptees Different? do read Faux Claud's excellent essay.)


And from another commenter, who has since removed her comment:

But hey I had an issue with the race classifications on the census too. I got all hyped up about it and left a bunch of blanks - filled in only, name and age and that's it.
I wouldn't worry about being honest on a census form..(Ed: lovely)
--lorraine

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Random Thoughts on Adoption at the Easter Table

At my table on Easter Sunday (4/4/10):

Told a male friend, Ken, about both my amazing connection with someone who could be my daughter, a Confidential Intermediary in a Midwestern state (We'll call her Ceil), and my newly-found granddaughter, Lisa, and how they have enriched my life.

Ken relates how a friend in grade school who was adopted was taunted by other kids, how they were mean--Oh, you're adopted! etc. I say that I hope that particular nastiness was more of a thing of the past than today, but it probably still pops up. Kids can be unbelievably cruel.

Ken, who is sixty-something, says that his friend was told the "Chosen Baby" story and we talk about how the image of a roomful of bassinets with babies for the taking is totally unreal. (I emailed Ceil about the conversation, and here is our back-and-forth discussion:

Ceil: That really is a ridiculous spin, isn't it? How on earth did it manage to play so well in Peoria...and the rest of the country?

Siting next to Ken was Joanne, who knew that Lisa had previously said: Not interested. Joanne is thrilled for me...and then adds:

I have a lot of friends who have adopted....(She does, more than me. She has more friends with more money who are somewhat younger than me--and thus in the pool of adoptive parents which grew by their demand--and therefore, more adopted kids. I know some of them only peripherally.) And Joanne adds: They are all having so many problems with their kids, and they say: 
Why didn't somebody tell me when I was adopting?
Ceil: If "somebody" means someone from the agency: Because then you might not have forked over those tens of thousands of dollars.

If "somebody" means another adoptive parent or an adoptee: Because you didn't bother to reach out to them in order to fully educate yourself  beforehand. Surely you wouldn't expect a used car dealer to tell you the truth about any issues with the "merchandise," so couldn't possibly think that agency personnel would tell you anything that might kill the deal.

At that point, we are talking, hmmm 15-20  years ago, when there was already a body of literature...and I'm thinking, you mean the baby brokers are supposed to tell you that there are unforseen problems...you will have trouble dealing with?

Ceil: Exactly....
                                                                                                   
One of Joanne's close friends adopted an child from Alaska or the far North of Canada and he was, or is still, a heroin addict. The amother was able to find his First Father...same story, apparently. Admittedly, I don't know much about this case. 

Ceil: There is some evidence to suggest that there may be an inheritable genetic predisposition to addiction....

Me: I tend to stay away from Joanne's adoptive-parent pals when she and her husband have big parties, even though Joanne tells me that want to talk to me...but at the party they, in fact, do not seek me out. I would be receptive, but suggest we not have a serious talk there and then. However, I'm not looking for adopt-talk at a social event! I want to party too! I want an adoption-free evening! I want simply to enjoy myself, talk about movies, books, politics, Survivor, gossip, whatever.  

Ceil: But of course!  Sure, they'll tell Joanne that they would love to be able to talk with a knowledgeable, insightful FirstMother, to get her perspective...when there's no immediate risk of that occurring. Put them in a situation where an honest and enlightening conversation might actually take place, and suddenly they are not so interested. The truth is... they are voicing a polite social lie.

Plenty of people secretly buy into the "less than" stereotype of a birthmother: less moral, less responsible,
less intelligent, less educated, less capable.... of anything... even while they mouth the agency line of the "loving, sacrificing birthmother."  Inwardly holding onto the negative birthmother stereotype is preferable in that it makes the adopter [her word, and just used here for email shorthand,so everybody relax] so much "more than" in comparison. Not only does such an position help to assuage any anxieties about their actions or motivations, it also allows them to think that they are more moral, more responsible, more intelligent, more educated and more capable... in every way. And "more than," in this sense, means better than, too.  Why would you seek the counsel of someone who is so obviously inferior to you? The myths and stereotypes in adoption are so ingrained, and too many prospective and actual adoptive parents are all too willing to drink the adoption-is-all-wonderful-and-aren't-I-even-more-wonderful-for-rescuing-a-child-in-need Kool-Aid.

Me: I mentioned that some adoptive parents are having trouble/are pissed off with the census form because it asks if any of the children are adopted....

Joanne and we all agree that the parents do not want to think about that or deal with that, because, as Joanne jumps in with, "to have a child then becomes such a relief after all the trouble of  'trying' the other way....and so they want to pretend that he's their child, biologically and the past...is pfft. Gone."

More Kool-Aid, please....

Me: Thank you Joanne, I was thinking, I did not have to say that.

Then she says that at the school for troubled and troubling kids that she and husband sent their son Micheal to for a year, and he was odd man out: He was neither from a broken home or adopted. The kids would say:  
You mean you're not from a broken home or adopted? What are you doing here?  
Me: I once looked up the school on the internet and saw that the school emphasized their work with adoptees..... 

Ceil: And yet, adoption attorneys are perfectly willing to stand before a legislative committee and say, with a straight face and an "I-know-of-what-I-speak" tone of voice, that research shows that adopted kids actually fare better than their non-adopted peers. cough.>

If the adoption industry was any further in denial about the harm they do, Egyptian babies would be the new hot sellers. They can't possibly admit the truth to the outside world, let alone themselves, because that might bring about the demise of their cash cow, and an end to their comfortable, profitable, niche employment.

This particular adoption myth makes me so fucking crabby. Not that you could tell....--lorraine
___________________
And on an unsettling note, here is a story from The New York Times about an inter-racial shooting in Cooperstown, NY that relates to both the previous post about recruiting minority women to supply babies to fill the demand, and particularly Maryanne's comment there, and the above post. Sad, and tragic. Unfortunately, racism is alive and well in America.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Recruting Minority Women to be Baby Suppliers

l stayed in the maternity ward for five days at San Francisco General Hospital where my daughter Megan was born in 1966. A friendly African-American woman, who had had her second child, occupied the next bed. While happy about the baby, she was disappointed in her gender. “Boys are much easier to raise when you’re single,” she told me without a grain of shame over her unwed status. Later her relatives and friends came to visit, bringing presents, excited over the new arrival.

A few days later, I had a new ward mate, a Latina. I believe she too was single. We did not talk because she did not speak English and I did not speak Spanish but I did not see any visitor that looked like a husband or boyfriend. She departed with her baby about the time I left. I, a middle class white woman, saw no way to keep my baby. Poor African American and Hispanic women had the luxury of motherhood denied to me.

I stayed alone at an apartment hotel, away from family and friends during “my confinement.” A Peruvian neighbor, who had driven me to the hospital where Megan was born, was appalled that I would give my baby to strangers. “You don’t understand,” I kept telling him. I realize now that I was the one who didn’t understand.

According to Rickie Solinger (Wake Up Little Susie: Single Pregnancy and Race Before Roe v. Wade,1992), policy-makers promoted adoption to white mothers but not to black mothers because there was no demand for black babies. Adoption social worker Linda Cannon Burgess noted that the only black children she placed had white mothers (Adoption: How It Works, 1989).

Things have changed in the past 20 years. The adoption industry is now recruiting “minority” mothers. One of our readers sent me an email with ad for an “Adoption Consultant” listed under “Sales Professionals” placed by Adoption Network Law Center of Lake Forest, California on the Yahoo hot jobs web site. The ability to speak Spanish was among the desired qualifications.

Oregon’s largest domestic adoption agency, Open Adoption and Family Services, proclaimed in its 2008-09 Annual Report that it is “reaching out to the Latino community” through hiring a Spanish-speaking counselor, producing Spanish-language materials, and establishing a toll-free Spanish phone line.

Our reader also sent me links to the websites of adoption facilitators. Many of the babies marketed on these sites have Latino or African-American mothers. Here are a few examples:

From Adopt-Now.com of Walnut Creek, California

Jayne
1/4 Caucasian//3/4 Hispanic baby due 8-3-10
Jayne is of Caucasian/Hispanic descent, 24 years old, 5' 5" tall and weighs 170 lbs. She has brown eyes and curly blonde/brown hair. She smokes about eight cigarettes a day, does not drink alcohol and has used some meth during the pregnancy. She is a single mom with three young children who are living with a relative. Jayne's medical expenses are fully covered by MediCal.

Andy is Hispanic, in his 20's, 5'8" tall and weighs about 175 lbs. He has brown eyes and black hair. Jayne is unsure of his whereabouts right now, but Andy knows that Jayne is pregnant and that she is placing the baby for adoption. He says he doesn't care what she does, and he doesn't want to be involved.

Tammy
African-American//Hispanic/Filipino girl due 7-23-10
Tammy is of African-American descent, 34 years old, 5' 4" tall and weighs 280 lbs. She has brown eyes, black hair and does not smoke cigarettes, drink alcohol or use illegal drugs. She is a single mom with four children and knows that she is not able to raise a baby at this time. Tammy has full medical coverage for the pregnancy and the delivery.

Miguel is of Hispanic/Filipino descent, 5' 9" tall and weighs about 200 lbs. He has green eyes and light brown hair. He did not smoke cigarettes, drink alcohol or use illegal drugs the one night that he and Tammy were together. Miguel was a one-night stand, and Tammy does not know anything about him except his physical description. The adoption attorney will need to terminate his rights.


From A Path to the Heart in Utah:

Hispanic baby unknown gender due in May in AZ. Agency fees of 28K plus 5K in assistance to mom.

African American baby unknown gender due in April in AZ. Agency fees of 19K for out of state residents and17K for AZ residents plus 2K in assistance to mom.

African American baby girl due April 20 in UT Agency fees are 16K plus medical

African American/Caucasian baby boy due May 11 in UT Agency fees are 22,500 plus medical

Hispanic baby boy due May 14 in UT Agency fees are 30K plus medical of 5-7K - they are working on a medicaid application, so it may be less. (mom is reporting some meth use during pregnancy)

African American baby unknown gender due April 25 in UT Agency fees of 16K plus medical of 5-7K

African American baby unknown gender due April 17 in VA Agency fees of 16K plus 5K legal

African American baby unknown gender due in MS (UT laws will govern) in May agency fees of 17K plus 2K in assistance


One can surmise that this new interest in the offspring of African American and Hispanic mothers stems from the lack of availability of white Gerber babies. Recruiting African American and Hispanic mothers allows the domestic industry to compete with agencies bringing in kids from South Korea, China, Guatemala, Ethiopia, Haiti, or where ever families can be bribed, coerced, or tricked into giving up their babies.

Many of these new mothers are older than the birthmothers of my generation and have other children. Cuts in welfare beginning with “welfare reform’ in 1996 (remember Newt Gingrich’s plan to reduce welfare rolls by placing poor children in orphanages?) and the current recession may drive their “adoption plans.” Many Latinas are Catholics and oppose abortion. Today white couples accept babies of other races more readily and more African American and Hispanic families may be adopting.

In promoting adoption to “minority” mothers, the adoption industry undermines the commitment to family which has been one of the strengths of the African American and Hispanic communities. In their zeal to become parents, white Americans may be exploiting poor African Americans and Hispanics as surely as they exploit their labor to clean buildings and tend the fields.