' [Birth Mother] First Mother Forum: Gift of Adoption. Really?

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Gift of Adoption. Really?

Just as I completed my post about the positive response from Oregon attorneys, Speaking Out Makes A Difference to our post Are Law Titled to Adoptive Parents? Well yes, even in Oregon, I was taken aback by a post on the Oregon Women Lawyers (OWLS) list urging OWLS members to attend a fund-raiser for the local branch of Gift of Adoption.

Gift of Adoption (GOA) sounded like an oxymoron. GOA’s slick website, filled with pictures of adorable toddlers, gave me the harsh facts:
"Sadly, 140 million children in this world are orphaned – living without parents in overburdened orphanages or worse on the streets. Even for those you might count as lucky enough to be in some type of foster care, this is usually just temporary.

"500,000 children in the U.S. foster care system have no permanent family to call their own.

Adoption is The Solution

"Research shows – moving a child from an orphanage or foster care into a loving home permanently improves the child’s prospects for the future. Adopted children are more likely to pursue an education and go on to live productive, successful lives."
GOA, however, does not use the money it raises to move children from foster care.
"Nearly half of the grants awarded by Gift of Adoption support domestic adoptions – with priority given to uniting or preserving biological siblings and preventing a child from entering the foster care system.”
This didn’t make sense to me. State Child Welfare agencies pay people to adopt these kids as well as providing monthly stipends, training, and medical care. Kids languish in foster care because they are not available for adoption or because no one wants them.

GOA tells us that more than half the money it raises goes to helping people adopt kids out of foreign orphanages. GOA “grants range from $1,000 to $7,500 while the average grant award is $3,500.” GOA doesn’t say who gets the money but it’s a fair bet that it goes into the coffers of adoption agencies, not that $3,500 would come close to paying agency fees.(Adoptive parents also get an $12,150 federal income tax credit allowing agency to increase their fees by that amount.)

I couldn’t keep still and responded to OWLS pointing out that pain comes with losing a child lost to adoption and recommending the public option:
"A wiser use of OWLS members' money would be to help low income women nurture their own babies. If OWLS members wish to form a family through adoption, they can contact DHS [Department of Human Services] about adopting a child who needs a family.”
Other than an attorney who noted that she had adopted two wonderful children from DHS in a wonderful open adoption, OWLS who responded reflected common misconceptions about birthmothers, that they choose adoption out of love for their children and spend the rest of their lives fearful their child will contact them.
"…[I]in some situations, adoption placement is the best thing that could happen for the mother AND child. Not every mother has any interest in “finding” their long lost child (and efforts to make contact years later could have a detrimental affect [sic] on the mother and her other children/spouses, etc).
"Not every adopted child feels a need to find their biological parents. My older sister was adopted [at] birth. She is now a 43-year-old mother of four children and has zero interest in locating her biological family, even though the current law would allow her to do so.

"A message that discourages adoption or infers that it is not a great option for many families is a dangerous message.” (emphasis added)
Another OWL:
"I want to give you a short response, on behalf of my husband, who may have a longer. My husband was adopted in-country, as an infant. He has recently located his birth family, and is in the process of getting to meet them. … He is happy for the reunion, but/and grateful for the loving start he got in his adoptive family, and is also grateful that his birth mother made such a difficult choice for his benefit.”
Several writers pointed out that there are millions of infants and children in orphanages around the world who deserve a better life. True enough. In fact, the problem is direr. According to UNICEF’s November, 2009 report on the 20th Anniversary of the Convention of the Rights of the Child, The State of the World's Children “one billion children are deprived of one of more services essential to survival and development.” The U.S., by the way, is only one of two countries which have not ratified the Convention; the other is Somalia.

Donating to GOA may help a particular child but does nothing for the other 999,999,999 children or their mothers. Americans wishing to help needy children abroad should support organizations which help poor women improve their economic condition. Women for Women International, Lorraine’s favorite, featured in Half the Sky by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn, gives women in Afghanistan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Congo, Iraq, Kosovo, Nigeria, Rwanda, and Sudan tools to become entrepreneurs.

Other organizations deserving support include BeadforLife, a nonprofit that sells beaded jewelry made by impoverished women in Uganda and Mercy Corps which educates young women to help them out of poverty and keep them from being trafficked into prostitution.


  1. Jane, wow! That was a mouthful to say the least. However, I have to say something with regard to the whole "adopt them out of foster care" deal.

    Yes, they pay people to adopt kids out of foster care. Yes, they give them stipends and medical care, etc.

    What they don't tell you is the truth. There is a huge difference in what is in the files on most of the kids than what they tell foster parents.

    I know. I was not adoptable. Period. I was also not willing to allow my daughter to be adopted. Period.

    The files on both of us vanished after we were released from care - me from aging out and her through a forced adoption and again when her wonderful, loving, oh so kind - ok, now I am gonna puke - adoptive parents were so abusive she chose to be locked up and in foster homes to escape the abuse.

    I have had a long time to think about all this nonsense about adopting out of foster care, even wanted it as a youth, but then I really started seeing things.

    First, everyone thought I was a sex fiend - would sleep with any man - yeah right! I was raped and acting out.

    Second, the records told the adoptive parents that I was an abusive mother - yeah right! I was not! They even had to take the adoption to a county on the other end of the state because the judge in our home county ORDERED CPS to return my child and close the case. They did not.

    Before we start talking about kids in foster care needing homes - maybe we should read "Memoirs of a Baby Stealer" it is an interesting view point from an educated, intelligent woman that found out what foster care really was about.

    Ok, of the soap box. I honestly wonder if these supposed people really thought about what adoption is. It scares me that a legal mind could use the party line to justify something that, if I understand the legal definition correctly, is a homogenous, watered down form of slavery. Are we all sheep?

  2. Lori,

    I absolutely agree with you that far too many children are placed in foster care who could live safely in their homes and that state child welfare agencies are too quick to terminate parental rights. I'm sure you're familiar with the research by the National Coalition for Child Protection Reform (www.nccpr.org)which documents these abuses on the part of state officials.

    There are some children as you know who can't go home and do not have relatives able to care for them. Adoption (or as I prefer, a permanent guardianship) provides some measure of security for these children. I believe the adoption should be open to allow contact between the child and family members. I encourage those wanting to adopt to look to these children.

    I also believe that use of the term "special needs" by child welfare officials needlessly discourages potential adoptive parents. "Special needs" is often used to justify higher rates to recruiit foster parents. The children are in fact no more difficult than other children their age and may be less difficult than children who have lived in an orphanage in a foregin country. Those children may suffer from extreme neglect and must deal with strange adults in a strange country and a strange language.

    I think you would agree that adoption ought to be about helping a child. Sadly, today it is all about finding healthy infants for those who cannot or prefer not to have children naturally.

  3. Yes, you are correct, there are children that can't go home. Sigh....but then, those are the ones that really do need extra help, emotionally and intellectually. You see, children are resilient, to a certain point, but once past that point, it is nothing but pain.

    I just wish that there were better controls on all of it - money=ability to have a child=adoption=bull!



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