' [Birth Mother] First Mother Forum: Is Scott Simon Angry with us?

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Is Scott Simon Angry with us?

Scott Simon, author of Baby We Were Meant for Each Other: In Praise of Adoption is upset over three posts* critiquing his memoirs and media appearances.

The gist of our posts was that while Simon found adoption to be “a miracle, the work of divine agency,” it is catastrophe in someone else’s life that led to the child being available to be adopted, and that this aspect of adoption is once again ignored by pleased-as-punch parents, which he and his wife claim to be.

We also took Simon to task for failing to recognize the pain children suffer when deprived of knowledge about their original families, and discussed how insensitive the title was to all mothers who surrender children under any circumstances. We will say upfront that neither of us have read his memoir, not being inclined to reading paeans to adoption.

Simon, the silver-haired and silken-voiced National Public Radio weekend host and his wife, Caroline Richard, adopted two girls from China, Elsie in 2004 and Lina in 2007. He appeared on various NPR programs promoting his book, including Oregon Public Broadcasting’s Think Out Loud (TOL).

We heard nothing from Simon and assumed our blog, First Mother Forum, did not merit his attention. However, that was not the case. Simon wrote a nearly 2,000-word response to our commentary, and that of those who left comments, containing a lengthy passage from his book. However, it was not sent to us; we only learned about Simon’s letter on May 13, when it was posted on Think Out Loud’s website. According to TOL host, Emily Harris, Simon sent it to her in February, but she chose not to publish it until recently.  She also stated that she asked him if she might publish it, and he agreed.

According to Simon, neither he nor his assistant was able to post it on FMF. We are surprised that they did not realize that something that long could not have been published, just as something that long could not have been published on the NPR website, or his own website for his book.

We are also somewhat puzzled at Simon's inability to reach us, considering that he has an assistant to do such things for him, as he stated in an email after we reached him through NPR. He added that his assistant was famously good at finding people.”  Yet many people have located us without the aid of an assistant.

Others who have wished to post long comments at First Mother Forum have done so in stages, after receiving an automated message that their comment was too lengthy. Others have left messages via the comment function at the blog, noting their communication was not for publication, and included their email address. Since nothing is published without being "moderated," i.e., read by one of us, the only logical conclusion can be that we can be reached that way.

Furthermore, apparently neither Simon nor his assistant delved into the matter deeply enough to notice "Networked Blogs" (displayed on our sidebar), which is a function of Facebook, indicating that at least one of us is on Facebook. Also, it prominently states at the blog: “Facebook Friends…and more.” Actually both of us are on Facebook, as well as Simon himself; thus he, or his assistant, could have sent either of us a private message there indicting they wished to respond to our posts. (Oddly enough, Lorraine and Simon have three mutual Facebook "friends.") If Simon had Googled “Jane Edwards adoption” a link to Jane’s Facebook page would have come right up. He states in his email they figured out where Lorraine lived, but “the US mail option just did not occur to us.” As a last resort, Simon, or his trusted assistant, could have looked us up in the telephone directories of our respective cities (listed at the blog), but perhaps that, like using the U.S. Post Office, is too "old" media for Simon and his assistant.

We note all this in such detail because after receiving no communication from Simon, he ends his letter with a pejorative remark impugning our character: “I hope you have the integrity to post this.” He did say in his email that sentiment was written when he made his unsuccessful attempt to reach us. However, it was not removed when it appeared elsewhere and remains there today. His letter appears in total at the end of this post.

Simon accuses us and our readers of vilifying him. "That is your right,” he assures us. “I know you live with a lot of pain, and I won’t pretend that I can assuage that." We certainly did not expect —or even ask— him to assuage our pain. Our purpose in writing was to counter his exultant depiction of adoption with a dose of reality.

Simon tells us that he has “heard from quite a few birth mothers who say that once they read my book, they understood the romance of the title and discovered that I respect the pain, sacrifice, and injustice many birth mothers feel.”

We are sadly aware that there are mothers who believe that giving their children to strangers is somehow ordained--or at least blessed--by God. We’ve found, however, that many of these mothers lose their zeal for adoption once they find that the pain does not abate and that their child struggles with feelings of abandonment. Many of these women question whether a just God would have caused them so much suffering when He could simply have allowed the adoptive couple to have their own children. Hence our objection to the title, which we continue to find offensive.

Simon criticizes us for posting a comment by “one of our members,” Torrejon. (We don’t have "members" and only rarely know the identities of those who post comments; nor are we responsible for fact-checking their comments, as neither are the folks who run other websites or blogs.)

Torrejon wrote that she was not allowed to ask Simon at a book signing at a Washington, DC bookstore about whether Simon would be “willing to dedicate as much time and effort to helping his daughters find their first families … as he and his wife dedicated to securing their adoptions.” Torrejon said that the bookstore owner began the question and answer period by stating that “she did not want the conversation to degenerate into an argument about open versus closed records.”

Simon, backed by the bookstore owner, says this did not occur. Torrejon, if you’re out there, please shed some light on this. ( Update 6/3: Torrejon did respond to his charge in a detailed comment; she stands by what she said about the event; Se also Simon's reaction in Comments.) 

To his credit, Simon is in favor of open records. He states that he and his wife “will move heaven and earth to find the mothers who gave them [his daughters’] life.” However, even he must be aware that the reality of this occurring is miniscule, and we wonder what they are doing in this regard, as he has not enlightened us on that score.

His follow-up statement leaves us cold, however:

 “We want to know and thank their birth mothers, too, for giving us our lives. I want to thank them for the sacrifice they made. So we want them to know how much we admire the young Chinese mothers who chose to bear their babies, even as they knew they couldn’t keep them. My wife and I hope to give our daughters lives that are worthy of that sacrifice.”

Thanking the girls’ birth mothers may make Simon and his wife feel better. In our experience, and that of many of our readers, however, thank yous from adoptive parents are patronizing and offensive. Thank you for all your grief and misery that allows us to raise a child? Thank you for being unable to raise your own child? Thank you for this “gift” of a baby, instead of crystal candlesticks? Thank you for not aborting?  As for sacrifice ….

Most women who give up children do not do so out of some demented sense of making a "sacrifice" so that another with a greater claim might benefit from obtaining that child. The concept of making a "sacrifice" indicates the forfeiture of some valued object or friendship because someone else has a greater claim. A parent "sacrifices" a trip to Europe in order to save for a college education for her child; a mother does not leave her child by the roadside out of a sense of sacrificial obligation to those who will benefit from gaining that child.

We see this word crop up in much language from the adoption industry, and we understand he probably meant it in good faith. However, as we do not see giving up children as a "sacrifice" but instead as a last resort, and wish the public could be more mindful about what they are actually saying when they throw around high-minded language in a misguided effort to assuage us. A realistic appraisal of what adoption means to a first mother would be a good starting point. 

One last note about sacrifice: if Simon were somehow able to find his daughters' mothers, and discover that they had been coerced into relinquishing their children, or that they had been stolen, and then decided to return them to their families, that would be a true "sacrifice" on Simon's part. Or if their mothers then decided to let Simon and his wife keep the children because it would be best for them, that also would be a real "sacrifice." Sacrifice implies choice; most women in China do not have choices. They become pregnant; the possibility of a sonogram and a selective abortion is not within their grasp; they have a baby; it's a girl; the culture does not honor females and the official state policy is one-child-only per family. Is it a choice they make? It is an act of desperation to abandon a child.  

Although Simon has “vowed to live in cosmopolitan communities where our girls can see Chinese people as part of their everyday lives [and] they will be able to learn the language,” he does not seem to grasp that his daughters’ needs for a connection to their culture go far beyond interaction with neighbors who look like them and language instruction. As we presume they already live in a cosmopolitan community, Simon and his wife will not be making any sacrifice to continue to do so.

Simon ignores the very real possibility that his daughters’ mothers carried them to term because they wanted to nurture them. Furthermore, their children may not have been abandoned, but kidnapped and sold to meet the voracious demand by westerners for healthy infants. Demand for infants has indeed led to abuses of this vile sort. (For recent media reports on corruption in Chinese adoptions, see Parents for Ethical Adoption Reform.)

The Baby Thief: The Untold Story of Georgia Tann, the Baby Seller Who Corrupted AdoptionAlthough Simon acknowledges that there have been “solid reports of corruption,” he discounts any cause and effect relationship between the demand for babies and that very corruption. “It is ludicrous to suppose that the small … number of foreign adoptions creates some kind of market incentive to abandon children when there are 15 million children already languishing in orphanages….” (emphasis added)

We do not know where Simon gets this number, but let us just talk about China. According to a study sponsored by the Chinese Ministry of Civil Affairs, there are about 573,000 orphaned children under the age of 18 in China. Seventy-nine percent of these children, about 450,000, are living with relatives and 69,000 are living in orphanages. Of these fifty percent have medical needs. The balance of the children, about 54,000, are considered abandoned.

Simon notes that the waiting list for adoptions from China is at least six years long. However, because abandoned and orphaned children from any country are generally older or have special needs, they are not desired by most adopters

In the interview, Simon said that he and Richard adopted from China because they fell in love in New York City’s Chinatown. We remarked that “it’s a real shame he and his wife hadn’t fallen in love in Harlem. An American child languishing in foster care might have found a home.”

Simon responds that as an “’over-the-hill white guy’ … our odds of receiving a child through the foster care system in our area were small.” It’s unimaginable that with over 100,000 American children waiting for families, most of them white, that Simon would not have been allowed to adopt a child in foster care. Simon and his wife are solid citizens with ample financial resources. At the time they adopted their first child, Simon was in his early fifties, and his wife was still in her thirties. The rights of the mothers of children in foster care available for adoption have been terminated through a court process. Unlike the Chinese mothers, these mothers had some opportunity to nurture their children.

Simon adds disingenuously, "besides, don't children in foster care have First Mothers too? Do your members think the rights of First Mothers in Harlem are less vital than First Mothers in Portland?" We had trouble understanding what he meant, as we have never said that we are against all adoptions. We have explained What We Think About Adoption, which is clearly posted on our sidebar. Perhaps Simon is not being entirely forthcoming about his reasons for wanting to adopt an infant in China, rather than a four-year-old from foster care. We cannot help but recognize that most white parents in America want infants, and the United States is no longer a good source of them.

Finally Simon takes us to task for stating that his wife is “probably now well into her 40s.” Simon writes “My wife is still not in her 40’s.” According to the New York Times, Simon married his wife in 2000 when she was 33 which would make her 42 or 43 when Simon wrote his letter to us. Perhaps the paper of record had the facts wrong.

Simon concludes by stating:

“Our daughters were left by roadsides and were living in orphanages. Their mothers could not keep them. Even an over-the-hill ass douche of a father (which is how I’ve been assailed on your website), and a wonderful mother, has to be better than growing up in an orphanage without the love of parents.”

Setting aside the question of whether the daughters were abandoned on a roadside, or kidnapped and sold to an adoption agency for profit--and it  is truly impossible to know which is true, despite any "official" documents--we agree that growing up with good adoptive parents is better than growing up in orphanages. The best home environment for children, however, is with their birth families if possible. As long as Simon and other adopters glorify adoption, casting it as a divine event, others will seek to adopt and mothers and children will continue to be separated needlessly.

Despite Simon's disclaimers in the letter that follows, which we find to be self-righteous and condescending, his title, and the letter itself, encapsulates the essence of his message: somebody else's baby was meant for him. His book is a perfect example of the American sense of entitlement. Can't have a child by natural means? Get somebody else's, wrap it in romantic language, and you're morally home free.

Scott Simon's letter:

Dear Jane Edwards and Lorraine Dusky

Every now and then, I receive a link from someone that reminds me how vilified I am on your website, and other places that you have suggested your members to post. That is your right. I know that you live with a lot of pain, and I won’t pretend that I can assuage that. I am glad that I have heard from quite a few birth mothers who say that once they read my book, they understood the romance of the title, and discovered that I respect the pain, sacrifice, and injustice many birth mothers feel. But reading my book would entail buying it. I understand why you might not want to do that. So please let me correct a few things.

~One of your members, Torrejon, says:

“I attended Mr. Simon's reading and book signing at Politics and Prose Bookstore in Washington, DC on October 2. I intended to ask him if he will be willing to dedicate as much time and effort to helping his daughters find their first families if they choose to do so as he and his wife dedicated to securing their adoptions. However, the bookstore owner closed questions after a mere 5 questions (mine would have been question #6)...having opened the q/a by stating that she did not want the conversation to degenerate into an argument about open versus closed records. With that sort of supportive censorship, I fear that Mr. Simon will continue to publicize his one-sided version of adoption.

Lorraine Dusky added:
“The fact that the q&a was introduced by saying "she did not want the conversation to degenerate into an argument about open versus closed records" means that at other readings, it had! My guess is that Simon is not getting off "scott" free on this one and while his book is doing well among the adopting class, other voices are being heard and he is asking the book store owners to derail that discussion.”

That did not happen. It is either a fantasy or a lie. Barbara Meade, the owner of Politics and Prose, said no such thing (she didn’t even open the Q &A—I did). The time for questions was limited (though I thought there were more than five) because another author was appearing shortly thereafter.

I have asked five people who were at the reading for their recollection. They all attest that Barbara did not say what Torrejon says she did.

Besides: I am in favor of open records. And I say in the book that you haven’t read that as our daughters “ . . . grow older, and scientific advances might make it possible, we will move heaven and earth to find the mothers who gave them life.” I answer those kind of questions all the time, and have never asked anyone to spare me any kind of question.

Torrejon’s story is demonstrably false. I wonder why it is on your website.

~Someone who heard me on Emily Harris’ show said:

"Then Harris asked more directly if he wanted to find the girls' birth mothers. "Oh, yes," he said. "I want to thank them!"How noble of him..."hey ladies, thanks for being trapped in a life of utter despair and desperation such that your only option was to give up your children."

What a douche.”

This imprecise recollection leaves out a critically important part of my response. “I want to thank them for the sacrifice they made.” In China—as I should not have to tell people who consider themselves so well informed—young women often have to defy officials to bear their babies in secret.

Please let me quote a section from my book:

“ . . it is impossible—it is irresponsible—to forget that our daughters are blessings that began with a crime when frightened mothers gave up the babies they loved because of Chinese policies that cause young girls to be cast away.
“It is hard for us not to imagine young mothers who, in what should be a moment of sublime delight, sneak out to leave their infants (clean, warm, and well-fed) someplace where they know they will be quickly found. They hide across the street to inconspicuously wait and watch for strangers to take their child. When their baby cries, they must hold themselves back from rushing to them. Imagine the torture—really, no other word applies--of mothers who must watch their babies being swept out of their lives.
“When you adopt a child from China, you face the fact that “a woman’s right to choose” means abortion rights in North America and Western Europe. For a billion and a half people in China, there is no right for a woman to choose to have her baby. My wife and I didn’t adopt daughters from China to make any kind of point. But the two people we cherish most are survivors of China’s mass crime. That obliges us to speak out . . .

“Yet I don’t want mere hopefulness to let me neglect our daughters’ need for identity. My wife and know that we have responsibilities. Wherever we land in the world, we have vowed to live in cosmopolitan communities where our girls can see Chinese people as part of their everyday lives. They will be able to learn the language. They will know that they are girls from the Jiangxi province (famous for delicate porcelain and beautiful women), and as they grow older, and scientific advances might make it possible, we will move heaven and earth to find the mothers who gave them life. We want to know and thank their birth mothers, too, for giving us our lives.
                 “So we want them to know how much we admire the young Chinese mothers who chose to bear their babies, even as they knew the couldn’t keep them. My wife and I hope to give our daughters lives that are worthy of that sacrifice.”

There are a lot of other bits of misinformation posted in your comments. For example:

~“Mr. Simon conveniently overlooks . . . (that) China is not a Third World country with primitive recordkeeping; rather, the Chinese invented bureaucracy, public records and even the paper to keep them on! His daughters have records; the important thing is to start the search now, not when the trail is decades old!”

People who adopt in China know what accomplished bureaucrats the Chinese are. But our daughters were most likely born to women at home, in secret, because they were in defiance of China’s state family planning laws. They don’t have true birth certificates. Then, the mothers left their babies (again, against the law) in places where they would be found.

The first record of our daughters’ lives is the police reports filed when they were picked up from the streets. We have copies and someday, they might provide some kind of clue. But part of the delay in Chinese adoptions is because police and investigators try to find members of the baby’s extended family who might take them. Young mothers often travel a long distance so they can leave their children in a place that they will not be recognized and arrested. People should remember that China is a police state, not Portland. Young mothers leave no trail to protect themselves.    

~ “. . . China has vast corruption especially in international adoptions. There is a good possibility that the Simons' fees went to reward officials for kidnapping infants. Like controlling the 'blood diamond' trade, boycot is the only effective way to shutting down the abuses.”

I do not go easy on Chinas adoption machinery. There have certainly been solid reports of many kinds of corruption. But it is ludicrous to suppose that the small (and getting smaller) number of foreign adoptions creates some kind of market incentive to abandon children when there are 15 million children already languishing in orphanages, and new babies are brought in every day. It certainly seems especially ridiculous now, when the waiting list for adoptions from China is at least 6 years long. 

~"It’s a real shame he and wife hadn’t fallen in love in Harlem. An American child languishing in foster care might have found a home."

As an “over-the-hill white guy” (as I was described in a post), our odds of receiving a child through the foster care system in our area were small. Preference is understandably given to younger couples of the same ethnicity. We would have been at the back of the list, with a long and uncertain wait. Besides, don’t children in foster care have First Mothers too? Do your members think the rights of First Mothers in Harlem are less vital than First Mothers in Portland?

~“Adoption is a natural order of things. Adoption is not a trauma; it's a blessing.

I thought it has been pretty obvious when I say this that I am trying to get people to realize that people who are adopted do not have to be damaged for life because of it, but can be stronger and wiser.

As Jeff Sellers, the Broadway producer, who was adopted and has now adopted two children with his partner, says in my book:

“We know that our children came to us out of a loss. Their birth mothers lost them. They lost their biological mothers. But, they gained two parents who have the love and the inclination and psychological means to take care of them and help them grow up. It’s loss and gain.
“And you know what?” he continues. “That’s life. We lose our teeth. We step out of our diapers. Our hearts get broken. We lose things all the time, and we gain things all the time. The first loss we suffer is one more to add to the pile. There will be more. But there will also be gains. If you never want to get over the first one, I guess you’ll never recover. Whether or not it’s a wound or not depends on the person. But why deny life?”

~And finally, a correction that I cannot resist:

“Simon, gray-haired and with a receding hairline, and his wife, who is probably now well into her 40s--most likely did not try to have children until they were past the age when it came easy.”

Well I prefer to say “silver” to gray. My wife is still not in her 40’s. I do wish that I had met her earlier. But who knows that we would be able to conceive a child even if we had? (We have met plenty of couples in their 20’s who have not been able to conceive.) We do know that we are blessed to have the daughters we do, and that our four lives have intersected.

Our daughters were left by roadsides and were living in orphanages. Their mothers could not keep them. Even an over-the-hill ass douche of a father (which is how I’ve been assailed on your website), and a wonderful mother, has to be better than growing up in an orphanage without the love of parents.

I’ve never suffered the kind of pain that you have. But I doubt that insulting me or my wife will make your members feel better, help others, or promote understanding of your loss.     

I think that people should be able to see the errors of fact on your website, and judge from my own words if I respect the pain and sacrifice of birth mothers. I hope that you have the integrity to post this.

With thanks,

Scott Simon


  1. "if Simon were somehow able to find his daughters' mothers, and discover that they had been coerced into relinquishing their children, or that they had been stolen, and then decided to return them to their families, that would be a true "sacrifice" on Simon's part" Not a sacrifice but an ethical and morally sound judgement which any decent person would make.I'll say no more other than that when I first saw reviews of this book it made me gag.

  2. Oh he is absolutely insufferable. I can not suffer him. NPR loses a lot of credibility with me for letting him self-promote his ridiculous teenage-novel about adopting his daughters.

    I know Torrejon and have never known her to lie about a thing.

    Mr.Simon is lucky my amom didn't adopt him, she would have slapped that self-serving hyperbole right out of his mouth. Of course she would be way too young for that. I really find his response terribly silly.

    Moving heaven and earth eh? Somehow I doubt that, if he is so loving and powerful, why did he not instead move heaven and earth so his girls could say with their own families instead of being transplanted to America with Mr.Entitlement?

    I find his book and his attitude exploitive.

  3. Why does Simon describe the UNKNOWN mothers of his adopted girls as "young" so much?

    Von, an ethical and sound judgement can still be a sacrifice.
    Doing the right thing is not always easy.

  4. Addendum this am:

    Sacrifice implies choice; most women in China do not have choices. They become pregnant; the possibility of a sonogram and a selective abortion is not within their grasp; they have a baby; it's a girl; the culture does not honor females and the official state policy is one-child-only per family. Is it a choice they make? It is an act of desperation to abandon a child.

  5. ~“Adoption is a natural order of things. Adoption is not a trauma; it's a blessing."

    There is nothing natural about adoption. It is about an unnatural as you can get. Adoption is not a "trauma"? I beg to differ. I would suffice to say a great many natural mothers feel the same. I have lived with adopiton "trauma" my entire adult life after losing my first born to adoption. That statement is yet another slap in the face to all of us who have lived with that trauma.

    Blessing? For the people who gain, the adopters. Not so much for natural mothers AND their children, of ALL walks of life.

  6. All those stories of the baby abandoned in the gutter...

    are cover ups for the truth that many of these babies were stolen by corrupt government officials and sold for profit.

    Eat. That. Angry. Simon.


  7. Regarding choice, an alternative scenario. Woman becomes pregnant with second child. She doesn't have an abortion because she wants the child, dreams of raising a little girl, a princess. Baby is born and taken by fertility police who sell it an orphanage which sells it to wealthy Americans.

  8. Yeah, Simon did something similar at my blog, leaving a quite defensive comment to a critical post months after I posted it.


    Rather an interesting thing, huh, that someone so famous and secure in his adoption feels compelled to rove the internet and respond to crimital comments?!

  9. I'm an AP of a little girl from China and have a few connections in China.

    I’m not here to defend Mr Simon or his words. Haven't read his book. I do, however, want to give some needed insight into China and in China adoption.

    At one end of the spectrum is the Hunan Scandal. Here’s an interesting article that gets a lot more in depth than the “Baby is born and taken by fertility police…” speculation: http://www.allgirlsallowed.org/mom-and-pop-baby-trafficking-ring-provided-chinese-girls-adoption.

    Since this incident, the adoption program in China has slowed significantly and now about 60-70% of the kids adopted from China are kids with special needs.

    On the other end of the spectrum I know a lady who runs a foster care home in China. Just this year two babies were left on her doorstep. All she knows is that in both cases the mother arrived in a cab, ran out with the child, then ran back to the cab to get away. So so sad.

    This foster home is known to accept special needs kids and place the kids into the international adoption program. By leaving the babies at this door the mothers were essentially expressing their wish that the babies would be adopted internationally.

    I participate on an international web forum for a particular special need that my daughter has. One day a woman from China began posting about her unborn child with this special need, and she was very worried about acceptance in China. She made it clear that we, as mostly westerners, just didn't understand the magnitude of the problem and that her child would without question be shunned by Chinese society. She stopped posting, and I think she likely chose abortion.

    Her posts really made me think about how my daughter’s mother must have felt and what she feared, when she left her infant at the doorstep of an internationally owned foster home.

    I will also say that there are definitely sketchy people in the system. We sent an investigator to our daughter’s orphanage to get contact info for her foster mom and the orphanage director threatened our investigator in a very scary mobster kind of way.

    Foster parenting is seen as a regular paid job in China, and the director didn't want us giving money to the foster family (instead of him).

    There are ways to find out if the child is legitimate, but you have to scratch below the surface and not be content to embrace the unknown. We weren't able to find out our daughter's foster family, but we have spoken and met with people who visited her in the foster home and were at the hospital during her surgery at one month old.

    One last story, I have had the privilege of meeting one of the very few China adoption families who miraculously found their child's natural mom. And when I say miraculously, I mean it is quite a story. Even though they knew in meeting her who she was by her looks and how she spoke and acted, the mother never once admitted she was the mother. She was not married to the natural father, but is married to another man now. Maybe that had something to do with it.

    The official story the mother gave is that she found the baby on her doorstep and she turned the child into the officials herself. Currently, she also works as a foster mom, and gets paid to foster a child who looks an awful lot like both her and the adopted daughter. Another baby she says was found on her doorstep. Oh the tangled web...

    The one child policy is only one of many reasons children wind up an orphan in China. There are many cultural and political things we, as westerners, will probably never understand. Reading the article above about the Hunan Scandal shows that even baby selling is complicated. Its easy to sit back and judge the actions of others, and create stories of how these children come to the orphanages, but looking at China through our western eyes will never do it justice.


  10. Thanks for sharing the information, Vivian.

  11. OOOOOH - Okay - too much to say here - so, may I do a posting - borrowing from here? Worry not, credit given where credit is due....

    Definitely too much to say here.....

  12. Okay, so I'm sure many folks won't like my comment, but here goes...

    I read Scott Simon's book, and while I do think he is overly simplistic at times in approaching the complexities of adoption, I don't think he is completely thoughtless or oblivious when it comes to these issues. I do think he was unprepared for the wave of anger directed at him upon publication of this book, which perhaps does reveal a certain cluelessness. While I can understand that many potential readers would feel from the title etc that this book in not for them and opt to skip it, I can't understand putting so much energy into attacking a book that you have not actually read. As an adoptive parent and writer, I want and like to read perspectives on adoption from many different sources. You may think you already know what someone has to say -- and it's true, sometimes you may -- but how can you be certain without engaging?

  13. Lori:

    Please include a link back to our posting, ok?

  14. Sharon: Simon's book, title, excerpts read elsewhere, his NPR interviews... all exude an attitude that is deeply offensive and telling about the attitude of society today regarding adoption. Why write about Simon? Because he represents the romantic notion of saving a child left on a doorstep and seems to be somewhat oblivious to some of the harsher realities of what adoption means to anyone but the adopters.

    There are three people in any adoption; he only sees through the crack of a door of one: himself.

  15. We located our daughter's birth family in China and it certainly did not require us to move heaven and earth. I am careful about the details I share publicly about my daughter's family, but I can say it is complicated. They made the choices they made based on difficult circumstances (which were definitely constricted by family planning laws), but they were not powerless. Had they chosen to keep our daughter, they could have paid a fine, but have no more children. They did know her sex before birth and based on that information, they knew they would not raise her in their family. We were prepared to discover she was kidnapped or taken, but instead we found a family that made the best adoption plan available in their situation. It was a difficult choice which left them heartbroken.

    I have found that many adoptive parents talk about "honoring their child's birth family" with superficial words that bring their child no closer to answers. It was no sacrifice for me to search for our daughter's family or to share her with them now. It is an privilege to be trusted with facilitating this relationship on her behalf (she is only 5). It is a sacred thing to share her childhood with the parents who thought she would be lost to them forever.

    It hasn't been easy to open this adoption (and I think ours is a best case scenario), but it is absolutely the right thing for my daughter. That is no sacrifice. That is what parenting is about -- doing the right thing for our kids. Empty platitudes do nothing.

    Should anyone like more information about searching in China, I would be happy to provide information about the process and resources that are available. It isn't easy, but it certainly isn't impossible as many adoption agencies would have us believe. The world is a much smaller place than it used to be.

  16. "Had they chosen to keep our daughter, they could have paid a fine, but have no more children."

    I was under the impression that the birth fines were so enormous it didn't leave any money left for having extra children unless they were born as sons.

    Baby girl + pay birth fine = give up the girl and risk giving her up anyway if you pay the fee or end up producing another girl, which means paying the fee a moot point as you have a 50/50 chance of NOT having a son in the end.

    Baby girl + don't pay birth fine = give up the girl and lose your family/end up in a poverty.

    What's the point of paying for a fee for extra children if you end up having no money left for that desired son?

    Seems like a lose-lose situation.

  17. We as a society are always saying we cannot imagine the torment a mother goes through when she loses her child.

    Clearly it's not enough torment to try and work for international reform.

    How bad must the pain be before we improve things so that "birthmothers" don't *have* to sacrifice, hm?

  18. Lorraine, most definitely there will be a back link. I will be doing some cut and paste borrowing, but for the most part I will be writing my thoughts on what he wrote....

    Some days you have to wonder.... today was not one of them...

  19. Amounts of fines and the enforcement/collection of fines is totally up to local officials and unequally enforced.

    The fine our daughter's family would have had to pay for her birth/hukou would have been 3,000 RMB. They had also paid a similar fine for their first daughter because they were too young when she was born. While for some families this would be a lot of money it isn't significant for this family.

    The reason they didn't keep her wasn't because of the fine, it was because the opportunity cost was too high. For personal, cultural and long-term financial reasons, they felt they needed a son. If they kept our daughter as their legal second child (because the policy in this area is one son or two children) they would not have been permitted to go on trying to have a son. They had no financial problem paying the fine when it was for a boy. If there was no family planning policy, I think they would likely have kept our daughter and her sister and tried again for a boy.

    When we were recently in China, I was told the family planning policies are worst for people in the middle of society. Rich people play the fines, no problem. Very poor people ignore the fines because they have no money to pay them (or for school fees that require hukous, etc) and they have no possessions the government can distroy or confiscate. I was told it is the people trying to improve their situation who are bearing more of the burden.

  20. "Why put energy into attacking a book we haven't read?" Sharon asks. Simon's book and similar books do great damage. They convince people to adopt without learning the issues that await them causing suffering to themselves and their children. They increase demand resulting in corruption and pressure on vulnerable pregnant women. They encourage legislators to make their states "adoption-friendly" through passing laws which deprive mothers and children of their rights and encourage the State Department to ignore corruption.

    We who have a different perspective need to speak out to prevent the unnecessary separation of mothers and children.

  21. Thanks, AmericanFamily for providing this information.

  22. Thanks, AmericanFamily, for cooling down the issue of abandonment in China and showing it to be neither a syrupy folk tale nor the story of desperately wanted children snatched by the OCP police. While child confiscation has occurred and is likely more widespread than we know, neither stereotype fits most situations. Tough choices, yes. Utterly powerless, often not.

    Also, about this comment: "They become pregnant; the possibility of a sonogram and a selective abortion is not within their grasp;" Um, sex-selective abortion following ultrasound is one of the reasons the population of infant girls has gone down in China. It is not true that Chinese women do not have access to this technology. Of course, some do not.

    If Simon is still reading, he might also take note of the suggestion that it is not as difficult as it once was to find original parents in China. His daughters will undoubtedly be thinking of them whether or not he raises the topic.

  23. The whole concept of sex selection abortion is repugnant to me. I'm beginning to wonder if I should devote my energies to women's rights rather than adoption at this point (although I realize the two are linked).

  24. Hi All--

    Wrote a post about how I disagree that debate with adoptive parents is the right way to achieve reform. I linked to this post. If it's a problem, please let me know and I will edit my own post accordingly.

  25. CPS Reform AdvocateJune 2, 2011 at 4:16 PM

    I haven't read Scott Simon yet, but if he has a rose-colored view of adoption, he's not the only one. Rob Schwarzwalder of The Family Research Council (an agency which I, as a political conservative, find much to agree with) published a blog entry that states, "Adoption would be so much more streamlined, less agonizing, less of a desperate quest, if there were more babies to adopt..."

    One wonders: less agonizing and less desperate for whom?

    I attempted to post a comment which pointed out that an increased supply of adoptable infants means an increased number of women whose lives are disrupted by an unplanned pregnancy. It means an increased number of extended families grieving the loss of their newest tiny kinsman before they ever even get to meet him. It means more babies who were placed into foster care after being abused or neglected by their parents. It even means an increased number of loving parents who lost their babies simply because a middle-class social worker confused poverty with neglect, and convinced a court that the baby would be better off with "people like us" (i.e, wealthier and better educated).

    In short, a ready supply of adoptable infants for infertile adopters requires a corresponding amount of heartbreak and suffering for other people.

    Ironically, the article on which I commented was a plea for adopters to remember the birthmothers with gratitude. How can the writer say, on one hand, "Thank you for making such a painful sacrifice," and on the other imply, "Alas, that there are so few women out there willing to go through so much pain so they can make the sacrifice." Do they truly not make the connection?

    It's been a while since I left my comment. It was never published.

    I'm not giving up. I'll continue to try to open the eyes of my fellow conservatives to the exploitation of natural parents. A few of them really are starting to get it.

  26. Yes, ladies, let's be very careful we don't "disgust" anyone by vilifying adoptive parents, because we all know they never vilify or degrade any first mothers at all, now do they.

    It is not an us against them battle. It is the right to feel the way we please about our experiences and express that; without someone telling us to go back to the corner and be quiet.

    There is truly nowhere to speak openly about our experiences about what has happened to us, our truths, without being "corrected", and put "in our place" and told not to "vilify" adoptive parents, is there? How DARE we.

    Quite frankly, that "disgusts" me.

    So sick of it... no more adoption blogs for me.

  27. "It is the right to feel the way we please about our experiences and express that; without someone telling us to go back to the corner and be quiet."

    The way we feel tends bring up feelings of guilt.

  28. Why can't people ever just thank others for honest feedback, rather than debating your opinions based on an experience you had but they didn't?

    "I'm sorry, I don't know what it is like to be adopted or a first mother, thank you for sharing your thoughts."

    His letter was rather pretentious if not downright sophomoric.

    I wonder when a story is already told on behalf of an adoptee as a child, when they grow older, will they have the permission to re-tell it?

    "Those who do not have power
    over the story that dominates their lives,
    power to retell it,
    deconstruct it,
    joke about it,
    and change it as time changes,
    truly are powerless,
    because they cannot think new thoughts."
    --Solomon Rushdie

    And he wonders why Adult Adoptees do not like this book he is trying to sell.

  29. I firmly stand by my original post.

    First, I am not a "member" of firstmotherforum.com. I am simply a random person with access to the internet. I wish to make absolutely clear that this site should--in no way--be held accountable for my opinions and/or assertions.

    I submitted my comment about my experience of the October 2010 book signing a day and a half after attending. The memory was fresh in my mind. At the book signing, I remember thinking that I wanted to ask a question about whether or not the difficulty that an adopted child would encounter searching in a foreign country had influenced Mr. and Mrs. Simon's choice to adopt internationally. However, based on the comments of the bookstore owner (I think she was the owner...she initially introduced Mr. Simon, opened the q/a and finally closed the q/a), I had to mentally revise my question since it did indeed address the debate of open and closed records. I wanted my question to be respectful so that it would be taken seriously and answered in kind. I am sure that the comment about wanting to avoid a debate about open versus closed records was made.

    Who are the five people that Mr. Simon asked to confirm his memory of that event? Maybe his wife? I was sitting directly behind her. Or was it the lady in the front row who burst into tears at Mr. Simon's explanation that the wait-time for adoption from China is now years longer than when he adopted? Or maybe it was the gentleman who used the q/a to publicly reminisce about the trip to China to adopt that he and his wife shared with Mr. and Mrs. Simon? And, Mr. Simon says the (presumed) owner of bookstore, with a business to protect, denies the words that I credit to her? To my previous charge of "supportive censorship," I now add "selective memory."

    I have no one to ask to support my version of events; I attended alone. I was not surrounded by my family nor my friends who support me, my actions, nor my career. I have no business interests to protect. I am just little ol' anonymous me with absolutely nothing to gain nor lose by simply telling the truth. I did not film nor record the book signing; if someone did film or record the event, I don't have access to that documentation. Although Mr. Simon alluded to the then-proposed strike of NPR employees in a light-hearted bow to comic relief, in this instance I really do wish that NPR had covered the event thereby irrefutably documenting events now in question. Although this has entered into the distasteful realm of he said/she said, a clear conscious is a soft pillow; I am going to sleep like a baby tonight.

    Finally, as I have said many times before about various famous people in sundry situations: I can’t wait to read the book that the kid will write someday. So, I shall end with my sincere wish that Mr. Simon’s children some day follow in his journalistic footsteps.

  30. Lorraine and Jane,

    Thanks for responding to my comment so graciously. Let me fine tune what I had to say a little bit.

    I fully understand why you'd want to critique a book like this. I do think that having read the material you wish to critique would provide an advantage in offering feedback, in that it makes more difficult for folks to dismiss your concerns.

    Scott Simon has a huge platform to share his views, which is understanably frustrating to those who think he's got adoption wrong. The sharing of that frustration has left him feeling attacked. He's human. So much discussion around adoption moves quickly to this polarized place where we cease to listen to and respect one another. Scott Simon doesn't seem like an evil person. I can't help but wonder if he had been engaged in a different way, might he have been turned into an ally with a big platform.

    I know this may sound like a call for protecting the feelings of adoptive parents, which it is not...it's hard to communicate the nuance of what I'm saying in a short comment! I'm trying to speak pragmatically here. Change comes when build bridges between people, learn from one another, and work together from common understanding. It's hard to achieve this ideal, but I think we need to try harder in the adoption community, and in every community.

  31. Torrejon wrote:" Or was it the lady in the front row who burst into tears at Mr. Simon's explanation that the wait-time for adoption from China is now years longer than when he adopted?"

    CPS Reform Advocate wrote:" "Adoption would be so much more streamlined, less agonizing, less of a desperate quest, if there were more babies to adopt..."

    These attitudes baffle me. No one is entitled to someone else's child. No one has the RIGHT to become an Adoptive Parent and certainly not within some limited time frame. It is heartening to know that there are less babies to adopt... hopefully, our family preservation message is getting across.

  32. Thanks Torejon for coming back and telling your recollection of the event in question in detail. I will refer readers to it in the original post.

  33. About the Dutch Treat: The name is Wereldkinderen.

    "Kind" is Dutch for child.
    "Kinder" is used only in composite words like Kinderspel, (child's game, kinderkleding, kinderspeelgoed and the like.
    "Kinderen" is Dutch for "Children", rather like English actually.

    I guess a lot of their members can understand Simon a lot better than the regulars here.

  34. Sharon,

    I don't believe Simon could ever turn into an advocate for adoption reform. He's got way too much invested in his sappy views of adoption.

    As we say on our home page, FMF is a place for first mothers to share ideas and vent. FMF is an advocate, not a bridge builder. If there were no advocates, there would be no pillars on which bridge builders could construct a bridge.

  35. Just a quickie to address the always familiar "how can you criticize if you haven't read the book?" I got that on my critical posts regarding Simon, too. In reading here, and in my posts, it's clear that we are criticizing:

    1. The book title, which we all read!

    2. Simon's interviews, which we all read/heard.

    3. Simon's posted comments, which we all read.

    You're right, if I want to criticize WHAT HE SAID IN THE BOOK, I should read it. But I've read other things, and therefore critique those other things. What's wrong with that?

  36. "if there were more babies to adopt..."

    But why *should* there be?

    I know there will always be babies to adopt, but you make it sound like it should be that way. Why?

    You're basically women should be oppressed more so that more babies will be available for adoption.

    That's an example of class and economic privilege.

  37. I am afraid Mister Simon seems to have been channelling Billy Fury
    I think too many people who write about adoption are less than careful about what they say and how it affects others, especially when it comes to choosing titles for their books.

  38. Those poor adoptlings... Sigh...

    Yeah, they wanted a baby (and wouldn't qualify here - for good reason) so they went to the easiest place to exploit a mother and did a 'gotcha'. So, big deal, the adoptling loses their natural mother, family, culture, but hey they have a few bucks, so it's ALL worth IT!!! Look how wonderful they are -- they'd even give their adoptling away if someone with more means came along -- RIGHT??? And now, they can make more bucks by writing all about about it... There are many ways to make money off adopting.. It's all a business and we're just commodities...

    I think I'm going to barf...

  39. I agree with Linda- What.A.Tool.

    Get a grip and do some research and learning.

  40. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  41. I left the following comment at the Adoption Conversation page:

    I too follow the First Mother Forum blog, and I have nothing but admiration for Lorraine Dusky and Jane Edwards. Lorraine Dusky's book "Birthmark" was one of the first books I read after my adult son searched for me and found me. When my parents relinquished my son for adoption (I was a minor), we were motivated by shame and religious condemnation of an out of wedlock pregnancy. I chose to carry a pregnancy I could have legally aborted, knowing that I would likely never be able to keep my child. My religious family was guided by the misguided tenants of their faith and a society which dishonors and seeks to destroy a mother and child that do not meet its standards of morality. What is horrifying is that this did not happen in China, a country who shamelessly devalues women, but instead happened in the United States just 30 years ago. It still happens here today, EVERY DAY. I lost the only child I would ever conceive to strangers who I have discovered were no more important, knowledgeable, smart, gifted or “sainted” than I was. They had NOTHING of true value to offer my son that I could not have provided to him. He was deprived of being raised in the loving arms of his mother and his family. He was deprived of his heritage, of everything a natural family can provide, and cast into the arms of strangers who used him to wallpaper over the deficiencies in their own lives and in their marriage. It put an unbearable burden on him, and he has been clearly harmed by it.

    The ONLY people that my son was meant for – my only baby was meant for – were his father and I. God never intended my child be coveted by, taken by and raised by strangers. My son is a stranger to me now, wrapped in familiar skin. The title of your book is beyond offensive to those of us who have suffered the true reality of what adoption means. It isn’t some wonderful fairytale or a miracle. Adoption to the parents who are condemned, abandoned and ignored by society means betrayal, loss, and irrevocable harm. There is no joy, no miracle, and no “meant to be” in adoption, except in the misguided minds of adoptive parents who need to justify themselves and their actions.

    I am beyond tired of living with adoption and adoption loss. Adoption means never ending loss and grief. It is NOT something you can get over or move beyond. It is a gaping wound as large as the death of that child would be in the life of a non-relinquishing parent. Adoption is a con game, and it takes advantage of vulnerable, pregnant women. My son’s adoptive parents once cruelly wrote me, “Your loss is our gain.” They might as well have told me, “Your baby was meant for us” or “Baby, we were meant for each other …” Romance in the title? Scott Simon, who exactly are you trying to kid????


  42. Here's a response from Scott Simon which he sent in an email and asked us to post:

    I am just catching up with this and, having had my say at length, will not attempt to reply to everything. I will say in reply to Torrejon that nothing she says confirms her recollection. The people that I asked include: a man who is the head of the Atlantic Council and his wife, a couple named the Silbersteins, and the bookstore owner, Barbara Mead (I suppose you can add my wife, and my assistant, but they would be discounted). I don't see that any of the people I asked had a vested interest in any reply. After many years of being asked to to respond to what people think they heard me or someone else on our show say, I agree with Torrejon's assesment that people can have "selective memory." But I would suggest it's more likely in this case to be her memory that's selective.

    I don't duck questions. But besides, I am in favor of open adoption records. I would have welcomed this one.

    Btw, the joke about NPR going on-strike had nothing to do with anyone recording the session. I appeared on the afternoon that the deadline for a new contract between NPR and AFTRA was expiring--the story was in the papers--and I joked simply that I might get a call in the middle of my appearance to tell me that I was on strike. Happily, a new agreement was reached. But if anyone was recording my appearance at Politics and Prose, I'd invite them to step forward. It is very important to me that people understand that I do not duck any questions. I may say, "I don't know" (and I don't know a lot), but I don't duck questions.

    ---Scott Simon

  43. "Simon criticizes us for posting a comment by “one of our members,” Torrejon."
    Can we have a link to that comment, please?
    I've tried search, but nothing for that name comes up.

  44. Anon: It's all on the blog; above these very comments and at the previous posts about Scott Simon, where Torrejon left a comment.

  45. Isabo:

    Could you send e the link to the page where your posted your kind comment? I've been feeling totally down in the dumps and comments like yours keep me going.


  46. Jane, given your reminder to me that your site is dedicated as a safe place for first mothers to vent, I don't want to make any further comments on the Simon flap here, as I wish to respect your mission. Thanks for understanding the friendly intent of earlier comments even if we may not agree on all points.

    Lorraine, sorry to see you're having carpal tunnel problems. I've dealt with that in the past, and it is no fun. Hope you feel better.

  47. He's obviously not proud of the book - and doesn't list it on his facebook profile.


  48. Well, maybe he realized FINALLY that the title sounds more like something you would expect a sleazoid runaway semen donor to say rather than a loving A-parent in a book about adoption.
    Adressed to a child it sounds scary,...

  49. http://www.againstchildtrafficking.org/2011/06/profit-not-care-the-ugly-side-of-overseas-adoptions/

    No matter how faithful, well-meaning or loving the prospective parents, there can be no doubt that parts of the international adoption industry can play fast and loose with the human rights of children. Those at risk are not only those who are traded, but those who remain. In some countries, international adoption is beginning to replace less profitable systems of child support.

  50. "Adressed to a child it sounds scary,..."

    I bet it wouldn't for younger children who need that type of emotional assurance.

  51. Lorraine,

    Here is the link you asked for: http://www.opb.org/thinkoutloud/blog/adoption-conversation/ There are only two comments there, but we are both fans of yours. :-)

    I admire your and Jane's courage in posting your position to the world publicly. You are my hero for writing your book, especially at a time when it was clearly groundbreaking and not well received by the pro-adoption crowd. My son wavers between hating and loving adoption - adoptee loyalty is huge in his life - and he gets very angry at me for speaking my truth. Therefore, I will not post publicly because I do not want to cause him further pain. However, I cannot stay silent because that perpetuates the injustice that is adoption.

    Keep writing and putting yourself out there Lorraine! You are doing important work! I called you one of the voices of your generation (in my now deleted comment on the "Julie's Scibbles" blog), and I meant it.


  52. Isabo:

    Writing about adoption from my POV is still unpopular! I'm having a hard time getting my follow-up memoir published because I think I am sailing into a headwind. Your comment and connection gives me the push I need to keep on trying.

    thanks so very much!

  53. I worked for a well known Christian international agency in the 90s. The director told me that desperate Chinese mothers (under the 1 child policy)would bring their infants to a train (or bus, I don't recall which) station where they knew adoption workers would be. They would then spot the worker (who had become known to the locals, etc.), place their swaddled child on the bench, and watch from across the station to see the child was picked up by the worker. The mothers would typically be spotted sobbing, peeking from behind a corner. This is the sort of roadside abandonment which is often referred to.

    On a related note, while I worked there and for years after, I received the agency's monthly "waiting children" listing. Without exception, they were all older children or children with special needs. These were the children languishing in orphanages, month after month, year after year,the same children.

    The demand was almost without exception for a "healthy newborn." Older children or those with health issues typically would not be considered by those applying.

    One of the saddest things I noted during my time with this agency was the fact that, very often, the "parenting plan" amounted to 6 weeks with the new caretaking parent, after which the infant would be placed in full-time daycare.

    These were families making $200,000 and up. To imagine a child, and infant mind you, who had already been abandoned (even if by forced circumstance)wind up in full time daycare six weeks after suffering such a trauma.

    I could not longer work for the agency once I began to discover this and other things.

  54. @Lorraine,
    You are speaking the TRUTH! It may be a truth that many people do not want to hear but nevertheless it is the TRUTH. Your book and Carol Schaefer's "The Other Mother" changed my life. They were just the impetus I needed to search for my first mother. Her response to giving me up for adoption was very similar to both of yours. I am sorry that you are having so much trouble finding a publisher because myself and I'm sure many others are already in line to buy it.

    Thank you for your comment at 1:52 pm. You told it like it is and as clearly, succinctly and powerfully as possible.

    @Mei Ling,
    I agree with you that Scott Simon's title, as objectionable as it is, might provide a sense of security to a young adopted child.

  55. I am sort of new to this site. Came across you by accident, bookmarked, and came back today to digest. This seams like the appropriate article to comment on. What I have to say is not really profound but when I was young I once asked my mother (I am not adopted) to explain something I could not figure out. I wanted to know, "Why, if God made a couple not able to have children how come everyone thinks they are supposed to be parents and they get the babies that need parents and we can't have them?"

    As I moved from a young child to the teen years, I reworded the question as it still bothered me, "If God says someone is not to be a parent why do we override that and place babies who are not happy with life not being fair?"

    As an adult, I ask why, when a child needs adopting why not turn to those that have experience? Yet, it makes me uncomfortable asking that because is sounds so judgemental and "religious".

    A woman who adopts when she already has had children, naturally, is more likely, it seems to be adopting for the sake of the child and not because she "has to be fulfilled" and can't be happy unless she gets to be a mother, which is not selfless love, is it?

    Those are some questions and thoughts that reoccur over the years and were brought back when I read through this discussion.

    It is not my intention to offend anyone.



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