' [Birth Mother] First Mother Forum: Utah's laws designed to thwart birth fathers

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Utah's laws designed to thwart birth fathers

The Salt Lake Tribune is continuing their revealing series on how natural/ birth fathers are regularly screwed by the system in Utah. Today's installment by Brooke Adams tells the story of Jake Strickland and how he lost his son through outright violation of the law in Colorado, and despite that, the law in Utah to designed only to serve the adoptive process. The Tribune did not name the agency involved but thanks to one of our readers, First Mother Forum learned it was LDS  Family Services, the adoption arm of the Mormon Church.

Strickland's story involves a lying women--the mother of his son--who strung him along, letting him and his family believe that she was going to allow him to raise their son, or that they would do so together. In many respects, he did everything right: support her, pay for her medical bills, and continue to check up on her as the pregnancy progressed. A few days before they baby was born, the couple strolled through Temple Square in Salt Lake City.

What Strickland did not know was that his former girl friend, Whitney Pettersson, was not divorced as she told him she was, and so--unless he filed a paternity suit before the birth--he would have no say as to what happened to the child. Legally, the child would be the issue of her husband. Pettersson lied to Strickland not only about not being divorced, but she also kept up a charade that she was going along with his plan to raise the child. While Strickland was expecting the child to be born by Cesarean on Jan. 5, she had already given birth on Dec. 29 and placed the baby with an adoptive couple a day later. Her legal husband signed away his claim to the child, but later felt guilty about it and sent all the documents to Strickland. Under Utah law, the birth father in cases like this has no recourse. However, 3rd District Court Judge Terry Christiansen did at least find the deception "troubling." According to the Tribune:
"Assuming the text messages are accurate, there is a deliberate attempt by Ms. Pettersson to deceive Mr. Strickland as it relates to the birth of this child," the judge said. "There were obvious fraud and misrepresentations occurring."

But, after noting Utah’s strict requirements, the judge said, "No matter what I do, I’m either sanctioning a fraud toward Mr. Strickland or I’m depriving adoptive parents of a child I’m sure they’ve grown to love and appreciate." [Emphasis added]

Despite Strickland's best efforts to gain custody of his son, he and his mother were informed on this Thanksgiving Day that the adoption had been completed. He is devastated.

Yesterday we quoted attorney David M. McConkie who defended Utah's unforgiving policy towards single fathers. He went further in today's Tribune installment, explaining that Utah’s law puts the onus squarely on fathers to figure out how to protect their own rights. It is hard to determine what else Strickland could have done except hold Pettersson hostage until she was ready to give birth, for under Utah law fraud on the mother’s part--as clearly in this case--does not excuse a father’s failure to protect himself, said McConkie. He helped draft the law that is so flagrantly biased against birth fathers. From the Tribune:
"Don’t expect the mother to be the one that’s looking after your interests, to protect your interests, because you’ve got to know that mother may not have the same interests that you do," said McConkie, who formerly worked with Pettersson's attorney David J. Hardy, but now is a manager at LDS Family Services. "You don’t have a legal relationship here. You proceed at your risk."
To judge from quotes at the Salt Lake site, the risk of not being able to raise your own child is assumed when you have sex outside of marriage. There is so much here that is wrong. We discussed the corrupt  legal system yesterday, but today I want to talk about the mental state of the adopters in these cases. What in the hell do they think they are doing? They are no better than common criminals who kidnap children on the street or from hospital nurseries, only they have the patina of justice on their side. 

But in the canon of true justice, they are baby thieves without hearts and no matter how they raise these children, their parentage is morally reprehensible and worthy of jail time.--lorraine

John Wyatt [see above blog] has filed with the U. S. Supreme Court. It is not a given that the conservative justices will rule in favor of Utah. Often conservatives understand the right of an individual to be raised by the person whose DNA he or she carries.

For more about Jake Strickland's fight for his son, see Get Baby Jack Back.


  1. Bravo! Well said. Yes, that is exactly what it is when an adopter takes a child, particularly when they take a child from a place, such as Utah, China, India and other places no matter where those places are, where the child's rights are not protected and where family is not protected.

    Amazingly, part of the logic behind some of the people that look the other way regarding Utah's clearly unconstitutional laws is that Mormon's have strong "family" values. This may be so, I grew up Mormon and know that we are taught that family is the center, but they also teach a lot of other things. It doesn't justify the outright thievery that occurs in adoptions in that State.

    It is nuts. And no one seems to think there is something wrong with it... which makes it even worse.

  2. "I’m depriving adoptive parents of a child I’m sure they’ve grown to love and appreciate."

    So now loving a child justifies kidnapping? I love my niece. If she spends the weekend, does that mean I get to keep her?

  3. I believe the adoption was handled through LDSFS - I will go back and track down the source for you, Lorraine. No surprise there though.

  4. Yes, here it is: http://www.getbabyjackback.com/2011/12/letter-two-lds-family-services.html

    The adoption was handled through the Sandy UT office of LDSFS.


    David Hardy was acting counsel for LDSFS and as such, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

  5. Ah, David M. McConkie, that self-proclaimed defender of the right of birth mothers to hide from their children.

    McConkie filed an amicus brief on behalf of the the National Council for Adoption, arguing that Oregon's law which allowed adult adoptees to receive their original birth certificates was an unconstitutional violation of birth mothers right to privacy. Fortunately, the Oregon Court of Appeals didn't agree and let the Oregon law stand. Since the law became effective in 2000, over 10,000 Oregon born adoptees have received their original birth certificates with nary a problem.

    Methinks McConkie's true interest was to protect the adoption industry, particularly LDSFS, and adoptive parents whom the industry had misled into believing that their adopted children would never reunite with their birth parents.

  6. I think all adoptions are designed to protect adopters from ever being reunited.

    Evilness pure evil!!

  7. John Wyatt has appealed to the US Supreme Court. I hope they take the case to settle the issue of whether Utah's laws are constitutional. To me it seems impossible that an ordinary citizen could manage to protect his rights the way the law is written. Perhaps until then, fathers from all other the country should flood Utah with filings.

  8. Thanks Rebecca, I will add your latest info to the post itself.

  9. Thank you Letters to Mrs. Feverfew for clearing that up.

    LDSFS may have a written policy of "protecting" fathers, but obviously it means nothing to the actual practitioners and purveyors of adoption in Utah.

    All interested in LDSFS involvement please read the letter written by Jake Strickland's mother to LDSFS, concerning her grandchild:

    Letter two: LDS Family Services

  10. Lorraine if you want to see his filing and the issues he raised there is a link on their website http://www.babyemmawyatt.com

  11. December 27, 2011

    Hi! I noticed the name of Mormon church lawyer/lobbyist DAVID MCCONKIE in the footnotes of Lorraine Dusky's article about Utah's natural fathers losing out in practically every potential adoption matter in the Bee Hive state. This is very true. Added to this list should be the name LARRY JENKINS because he is another lawyer in Utah who works alongside David McConkie in many of the adoptions that are transacted in Utah.

    David McConkie also tracks natural mothers from whom he and agencies he represents as legal counsel take children and adopt them out under concealed/sealed adoption. Evidence of this does exist.

    Kathy Caudle
    Salt Lake City, UT

  12. It's high time birth certificates become birth certificates. We have DNA today and it should be used for every baby. The biological mother and biological father should be listed. No longer does marriage or birth prove parentage. People deserve to know where they come from, not just who raised them. If we started there, fathers would automatically get more protection under the law.
    We need so much reform!

  13. I like the grandmother's second letter. Especially how she went into detail about the negative effects of being adopted on the child. Interesting that she seems to know more about the subject than the so-called experts. hmmm.

    Any expectant mother who cares one smidgen about her child should steer clear. I would be concerned for my child's safety and well-being. Would any first parent really be able to know the character of the APs and the quality of their parenting? Many of these PAPs seem to have no qualms about taking a child from a bio-parent and family who wants him. This shows that they are selfish rather than concerned about the child.

  14. What ever happened to "In the best interest of the child"?
    The judge referred to the AP's feelings and the fathers legal rights. If they could know the ramifications adoption poses on the child, judges would place children where they would have less harm, with their biological relatives.

  15. I was deathly afraid of my daughter's father going for custody. I didn't know she needed me or that bio relatives were necessary. And if I wasn't good enough (married) to raise her than I surely didn't want her fathers family to raise her.

  16. The best interest of the child is a double-edged sword. It is often used at least in the U.S. to justify placing or keeping a child with PAPs (as in the PAPs are the only parents the child has ever known).

    @Anon 9:46,
    I'm just curious. Why do you think you never got the message that a child needs his or her natural mother and biological relatives?

  17. @Robin
    It was back in 1980. I thought my daughter was a blank slate. I thought her new and improved family would be all she needed or cared about. Not one person told me that she would miss me in the least. I knew nothing about mirroring. I knew nothing about loss.
    The only reason I placed was because I was coerced into believing that a child, my child, DESERVED a mother and father along with all the material things a couple with money could provide.
    I didn't know that all she needed for the first six months was my brest. I didn't know that by the time she was eight her parents would divorce and she would be raised by a single mother. And I had absolutely didn't know that she would ever miss me.

  18. In addition to pursuing their parental rights, I believe that these fathers should be pursuing civil remedies against the mothers who have deceived them and relinquished their children without their knowledge or consent. If women know that they may have to defend themselves in court and pay civil damages for intentional infliction of emotional distress, interfering with a parental relationship, fraud, or whatever the available cause of action is, then they make think twice or three times before they relinquish without the father's knowledge. There needs to be some consequence for their fraud. Adoption agencies should be included as a defendant in these lawsuits if there is a cause of action against them as well.

    I hope that the U.S. Supreme Court grants certiorari to hear the case. I believe that Utah needs to have its hand slapped, and hard. I support a National Putative Father Registry. Which organization do you believe would be best to get a movement for such a Registry started?

  19. "I'm just curious. Why do you think you never got the message that a child needs his or her natural mother and biological relatives?"

    I don't think many of us got this message at the time of surrender. I know I did not. It was all about having a two parent stable family rather than a single mother as anon said.

    Also, there can be many reasons why a mother who is giving up a child does not want her child raised by the father and his family, and sometimes these reasons can be good ones. Sometimes of course they are terrible reasons, as in some of these Utah cases. These things should be decided on a case by case basis with laws that try to be fair to all parties.

    All adoptees should be able to know and connect with biological family if they wish to, but it is not at all clear that all adoptees need or want this, although many do and should be able to do it.

  20. "It was all about having a two parent stable family rather than a single mother as anon said."

    According to the NSW Origins website it has been known beyond a shadow of a doubt since 1952 that many adoptees suffer significant emotional and psychological damage as a result of being given up and raised apart from their original families.

    Yet according to Anon's 10:34 comment even as late as 30 years later the blank slate theory is alive and well. As for the two parent stable family, most people are aware that 50% of couples divorce and this obviously would also include a large number of families with adopted children. I can see how adoption keeps rolling along if 30 years ago and even today expectant single parents are still not being told the truth.

  21. Men that get women pregnant and then when told the news decided they could not commit to a the woman, much less the baby that was theirs. In the 60's when I got pregnant my boyfriend and I were not allowed to marry by our parents. We would have had to go before a judge even if they had consented to our marrying.
    My own divorced dad paid minimal support to my mom for 5 kids. Men even married men were not held to the standards of support.
    Nowadays, court ordered support if not paid accumulates, taxes refunds are taken, And driver licenses held in lieu of payment owed for support of even kids born within a marriage.

  22. The blank slate theory has little to do with adoptees needing to be with biological relatives or with "mirroring" of people who look like them. As a theory it applied to all infants, not just those adopted, proposing that nothing was inborn, and that parents and society, natural or adoptive, could shape a child to be anything they wanted. It was a simplistic, mechanistic and mistaken view of child development has that has largely been proven false. We now know that heredity matters a great deal, but environment matters too in developing the child's inborn talents.

    What mothers considering surrender need to be told is not horror stories about how badly all adoptees fare in adoptive homes, How all adoptees are damaged by adoption, or adults with an agenda telling them what infants supposedly want, either to be surrendered and have two adoptive parents or to be raised by biological mom.

    These absolute statements are just the other side of the horrors we were told about the fate of children raised by single mothers. Nobody can say what an infant really will grow up to want, so adults have to make informed choices for that infant, and try to be compassionate, realistic and fair. The adoption establishment has been very unfair in the past. We do not need to follow in their footsteps with our own absolutist ideology.

    Mothers in crisis need to be told, the truth, yes, but the truth is complex and many-sided. It is not black and white. If you are going back to the 50s for your absolute truths, there were just as many expert opinions and studies that proved "beyond a shadow of doubt" that the children of single mothers
    "suffered significant emotional and psychological damage" from that lifestyle as the theory that being adopted was in itself damaging. Pick your poison and ignore what does not support your pre-conceived view from either side! These things have been debated for much of the last century and have been fluid, not universally accepted and known .

    What mothers need to know is that adoption is no guarantee of a good or better life for their child, that adoptive parents divorce, become mentally ill, become substance abusers, just as often as biological parents. All humans, all parents, are imperfect. Some single mothers are much more fit to be parents than some adoptive parents, and circumstances can change for better or worse on both sides. A long-term lifetime view is needed.

    They also need to know that many adoptees have psychological problems related to adoption, that secrecy and sealed records make all things worse, and that many do need to connect with biological relatives at some point. They need to understand that they have to be accountable to their children for all their lives. Not all adopted people have great lives or are grateful to either set of parents, and some adoptive homes are real horrors. Mothers need real help to parent if that is their choice, and to be encouraged that in many cases keeping the baby IS in the best interest of the child.

    But they also need to know the truth that some adoptees are fine with being adopted, that many adoptive parents are decent parents, that how anyone deals with the challenges in their lives varies a great deal. Neither adoption nor being raised by biological mothers or relatives guarantees anyone a great life, just different kinds of challenges and problems.

    Mothers considering surrender should hear a wide variety of stories about how adoption has affected other mothers who surrendered and how it has affected adult adoptees, the good, the bad, and the ugly. They need to see both sides to make an informed choice, that deals with their unique situation, not broad generalizations about what "every adoptee" wants or what "every mother" should do, whether that be surrender or keep the child.

  23. Aargh, I can't even go to the doctor's office without having to read about adoption. I picked up WebMD which had Edie Falco on the cover. Ruh roh. I didn't know she was a single adoptive mother. Her message to all of us is that "once that baby is placed in your arms it doesn't matter what body s/he came from." My first thought was I wonder if it matters to the child or the first mother. Then she went on to compare adopting kids with adopting a dog and at that point I'd had enough of this WebMD article.

    While I appreciate many of the points you made in your 3:54 comment I feel that you sometimes speak too much for adoptees when you in fact are not adopted.

  24. Maryanne wrote:
    They (mothers) need to understand that they have to be accountable to their children for all their lives.

    This comment seems to contradict everything else you wrote.
    It isnt as murky as ypu proclaim. Mothers need to raise their children unless they are unable or unwilling. Mothers need to figure our a way to take care of the child they brought into this world. Adoption, regardless of how well some people adapt to it, starts with loss.
    Society needs to quite giving mothers that relinquish a pat on the back for "doing what's best for the child". If all families had to be perfect no one would be raising their own kids. Every family has disfunction. Mothers need to step up, Mother Up. Yes it's really pretty black and white. Just like murder is pretty black and white. Children are not interchangeable.

  25. Robin:

    I did not mean to speak FOR any adoptees. You are capable of speaking for yourself, but no one adoptee or group of adoptees can speak for ALL adoptees either, no more than any one first mother can speak for all.

    I have heard adoptees themselves express all sorts of opinions about being adopted, from anger, sadness, indifference "no big deal" to the kind of distress, sorrow, grief and life-long pain you and others have expressed many times. All these feeling are genuine and sincere. This not conjecture or assumption or something I dreamed up, but what I have heard adoptees say.

    For some it colors every aspect of their life. For others it is just a small part. I take all of those opinions as valid and true for the person speaking, but not for the whole group. I am reporting the various opinions I have heard from adoptees, not speaking "for" them.

    If you told me different points of view and opinions you had heard from first mothers, I would not accuse you of speaking for them, nor claim you had no right to an opinion about them or their views.

    Barbara, no, I can't view adoption as black and white like murder. And even murder has degrees. Under some circumstances adoption is the better choice for some mothers and some adoptees. What I meant by "being responsible" was that surrendering parents are responsible to provide the adoptee with any information they need, family history, medical history, and with identity and access to other family members. The fact that some people cannot or will not raise their children does not make children "interchangeable".

    Some women can't "mother up", some do not want to. Forced parenting is no better than forced surrender, for anyone, including the child if they are resented and truly unwanted. Most mothers can and should raise their children, but not all.

  26. "to the kind of distress, sorrow, grief and life-long pain you and others have expressed many times."

    Yes, that is true. I was also the victim of an unnecessary adoption and would like to do what I can to eliminate this from happening to others.

  27. Ummm, Robin, My son and I were also the victims of an unnecessary adoption as were most of us here. I am right there with you on wishing to prevent adoptions like that, that were not necessary, that were coerced, that were dishonest and full of secrets and lies. There are still too many adoptions like that and changing that is a good goal that I share with you.

    Where we differ is that I feel some adoptions will always be needed, and I do not view adopting as in and of itself evil. There should be many less adoptions than happened in the past, or are happening now, and they should be as open as possible and stay that way.

    Not all adoptions can or should be prevented, although those like ours should. Adoption should be the last resort in a bad situation, not the first in a case where a little help could go a long way in keeping mother and child safely together. There is always loss in adoption but there are also worse things in the world for some children.

  28. What the NSW Origins website actually says is "There were reports from Britain and the USA, from 1952 onwards, that a large number of children seen in child guidance clinics were adopted", which is rather different from saying "it has been known beyond a shadow of a doubt since 1952" that their problems are solely the result of adoption.

    I do not think the experts mentioned in the NSW Origins article mean that. What is apparent is that there is a general consensus among them that closed records and lack of knowledge of the natural family is a crucially important contributing factor to the problems experienced by many adoptees.

    According to the University of Oregon Adoption Website "the rapid spread of post-adoption services, non-existent in 1950, indicates that many parents and professionals now accept the need for long-term, perhaps permanent, help in order to avoid or manage adoption-related problems."

  29. Maryanne wrote:
    Forced parenting is no better than forced surrender, for anyone, including the child if they are resented and truly unwanted.

    My sister brokered the adoption of her child through a lawyer. It was closed except for sharing pictures of her daughter every year. The mother could have sent letters and gifts through the lawyer but she never did.
    My sister was a good aparent. She was single. Our extended family loves her two adopted children completely.
    My niece has emotional problems. She is pregnant with her fourth child at 22 years old. She's living with an abusive man and has cut off communication with my sister.
    But if you talked to her I bet she would say she was much better off being adopted.
    Yes, I think society should be hard on surrendering mothers. My niece should never have been separated from her parents and brother. Living with a resentful mother would have been be a walk in the park compared to the trauma she experienced being abandoned by her mother. And she got a loving, accepting, family.

  30. "I think society should be hard on surrendering
    My goodness. What do you mean by "hard", exactly? Not meting out extralegal punishments, I hope.

    If you meant that open records and original OBCs should be restored to adopted persons, regardless of the feelings of closeted natural parents, then I agree with you.

    But if not that, what?

  31. Society IS hard on surrendering mothers, and that only increases the secrets, lies, suffering and shame for many of us. It is not a good thing.

    Much as mothers considering adoption were and are told what a wonderful unselfish thing they are doing, once the deed is done, society looks askance at us. We become pariahs in many situations if we do not hide the fact that we surrendered.

    The answer is not to be "hard on surrendering mothers" but to be understanding and supportive of mothers in crisis, to give them a real choice, and to continue to respect and support them whether they choose informed surrender or raising their child. Most would choose to raise the child, given a real fair choice, but those who can't or won't should not be demonized either.

    We have had enough shame, scorn and punishment and certainly do not need more.

  32. I think we are either in or are headed towards another BSE. Adoption is chic these days. The negative sentiments about abortion are growing and every time I turn around I read another "heartwarming" story about a celebrity adopting a child.

    I should mention, however, that I do not think that adoption is always evil and never the right course of action. I recall the case blogged about here about Benjamin Mills, Jr. and Stacey and Vanessa Doss. I thought in that situation the child was much better off being adopted by Ms. Voss.

    Maryanne is correct. I have made my point many times and in many ways. And I will continue to do so as long as I am welcome by the blog administrators.

  33. In my opinion, it should be socially unexceptable to relinquish a child. The only feeling towards the mother should be one of pity that she was so far gone she couldn't or wouldn't raise her own child. Of course their wouldn't be punitive measures. Loosing a child is punitive enough.

  34. "Forced parenting is no better than forced surrender, for anyone, including the child if they are resented and truly unwanted."

    Interesting comments, Barbara T. It should also be mentioned that not all APs want the child either. It is not unheard of that one person in a couple wants to adopt while the other does not. Often the reluctant partner goes along to keep the peace or to make the other person happy while not really desiring to parent a non-blood related child anyway. And we all know that there is plenty of abuse in adoptive families.

    Maryanne does have a point though that not all adoptees have an issue with being adopted. However, it is not possible to know in advance where a child will fall in the spectrum between being devastated by adoption and hardly being affected by it at all.

    Btw, Barbara T, did your sister adopt before or after you surrendered your daughter? I'm just wondering if having adopted family members affected your decision about your daughter.

  35. Thanks for clarifying. However, being "hard" on a group of people is not even close to the same as pitying (feeling sorrow and compassion for their suffering) them.
    I do not believe that women who relinquish, even from 'choice' (whatever that is) deserve to be scapegoated. Surely family and society have heaped more than enough stigma and shame on these women, many of whom had little, if any, 'choice' in the matter.
    It is greedy adoption agencies and mindless (at best) unscrupulous (at worst) potential adoptive parents who should be feeling the sting of social disapproval.

    Last night I watched the movie "Milk" for the second time round, and once again was moved by the scene where he stands before a crowd and shouts "Secrecy is the enemy!"

    Making relinquishment for adoption totally socially unacceptable is NOT the answer. It would only provide more fertile soil for greater secrecy and dysfunction. Working to remove secrecy and corruption (which of course includes coercion and financial profit) from adoption, IS.
    Not forgetting taking adoption out of the hands of the religious establishments. That one is a biggie.

  36. "Making relinquishment for adoption totally socially unacceptable is NOT the answer. It would only provide more fertile soil for greater secrecy and dysfunction."

    Amen to that! I find it hard to understand how a mother who had relinquished a child would think that stigmatizing other mothers who surrender now or in the future by choice is any kind of answer. Stigmatizing and scapegoating will not prevent surrender, it will just drive it further underground where things fester.

  37. quote from Robin's post... respectfully snipped...
    However, it is not possible to know in advance where a child will fall in the spectrum between being devastated by adoption and hardly being affected by it at all.

    Btw, Barbara T, did your sister adopt before or after you surrendered your daughter? I'm just wondering if having adopted family members affected your decision about your daughter.

    I would have to say my bdaughter was NOT affected by her adoption... she seems quite happy with her life!
    I'm not Barbara, but wanted to add that my sister and bro-in-law adopted 2 boys quite after I relinquished my daughter. I gave her up in '69, and they adopted in '83 and '91, where both boys know they adopted and were/are in an open adoption.

  38. My understanding of Barbara T's comment is that she feels society should be biased toward family preservation rather than relinquishment and that support systems should be put in place to enable n-mothers to raise their child. I believe this is the way it is currently in Australia.

    Whether or not this attitude would create an underground culture of adoption is unknown. It is certainly possible and would be more dangerous to both the mother and child. Kind of like when abortion was illegal, they happened regardless but were much more dangerous.

  39. @ Robin. "My understanding . . . is that she feels society should be biased toward family preservation rather than relinquishment."
    Then why not say so? It's not a difficult concept.

    She also bets her niece would say she was better off adopted. Then adds that it would have been better for the niece to grow up with a resentful mother compared to the trauma of being abandoned.
    If that isn't talking on behalf of an adoptee, I don't know what is.

  40. "Whether or not this attitude would create an underground culture of adoption is unknown. "

    If by that you mean making relinquishment totally socially unacceptable, no, it isn't unknown at all, as was demonstrated during the so-called BSE.
    It is a vital part of the reason why there are still sealed records in many states, why many adoptees are still denied their OBCs, why there are still closeted birth mothers (and fathers), etc, etc.

  41. Exactly, Betsy. Getting pregnant, having the baby, surrendering the baby, were all part of the same awful thing that had to be covered up. Surrendering wasn't acceptable. Nothing about the situation was.

    Robin, when you said we were headed towards another BSE, I wondered what you meant. Could you explain? Only about 2% of pregnancies ever lead to adoption. The figure is small enough that right to life groups regularly bitch about it.

  42. Relinquishment was not socially unacceptable during the BSE. It was hush hush but it was the only socially approved way of dealing with an out-of-wedlock pregnancy. Society demanded that expectant unwed mothers surrender their children.

    I have concerns about a return to large numbers of single mothers being pressured/coerced to give up their children because I think that adoption is becoming very much in vogue these days. If first mothers and adoptees who feel damaged don't speak up I do believe that the percentage of relinquished children could go up.

  43. Actually, what is needed is REAL sex education, free effective contraceptives, available abortion without religious and insane requirements/coercion, Plan B for all who need it, decent and available health care, and keeping government out of female health care and values. Then we might have low rates of unwanted\inconvenient pregnancy such as are found where the above is available.

    Add to that the kind of nutty baby craziness that leads to questionable health practices to force a pregnancy and barring that, pushes adoption.

    Don't waste your energy on fixing the horrendous afterwards. Try preventing the horrendous in the first place.

  44. You ladies make excelent points. I guess "making it hard" on relinquishing mothers isn't a well thought out agenda.
    I have never felt a stigma about choosing adoption for my daughter. Perhaps it's because it was after Roe VS Wade. Everyone I tell seems sympathetic and the first words out of their mouth (with their heads wagging up and down) is "Her family was great, right?". She may not agree, but hands down I would have been a better parent. By the time she was 10 she was being raised by a single parent.
    I'm the one, if given enough time, to educate friends and acquaintances on how unneccesary and debilitating adoption is for many mothers and their children.
    @Robin My sisters adoption of my niece and nephew came nine years after my relinquishment. My mother was against it because my sister was single, but since my sister was over 30 my mother didn't get a vote. I was still numb and didn't have a clue that adoption wasn't all rainbows. My eyes were not opened until reunion.
    I am not speaking for my niece, I'm reporting as an observer that adoption has messed her up. My point is some adopted people can exhibit every sign of adoption loss yet not be able to articulate the negative effects.

  45. I had a college level sex education class and still got pregnant. Maybe plan B would have been an option. But I'm glad I choose to have my daughter, she is an asset to society. I sure wish I raised her.
    I was pro life until reunion. Even though I'm glad I followed through with my pregnancy I don't want other women to be required to go through the grief I have experienced in reunion. I'm not suicidal but I understand how women could get to that level of devastation. And some mothers would be grateful for the amount of contact I have. But it's never enough. They are our kids.

  46. Heavens to Betsy: I had the same reaction to Milk. If we could get that kind of activism, we would open the records!

    Secrecy is the enemy/

  47. Robin, I beg to differ that relinquishment was "socially acceptable" during the BSE. It was no more acceptable that getting pregnant under "unacceptable circumstances".
    As OceanBreez has explained, it was all part of the same package.
    Unless you were there, you are not in a position to speak for those who were.

  48. "Secrecy is the enemy."
    Right on, Lorraine.

  49. Yikes! Socially acceptable? To be pregnant? To relinquish? We were there in number, yes, but each of us in our own private hell, hidden as much as possible from the rest of society. Shipped off to homes for "those kinds of girls," or to an aunt in a faraway town, and even there, not allowed outside and rushed to the doctor in a big coat. It is hard to imagine today what the shame and scandal was like. I hid in my apartment in 1966 (after I quit my job because of the shame) and though I was far away from "home," I ran the other way the one time I saw someone from the newspaper where I had been working in a grocery store. I wanted to die. I thought about suicide, in fact.

    We were pariahs, no matter what we did. It was so very scandalous to be known to have gone "all the way," even if your boy friend married you before you showed! And the pressure to not raise your child--he/she is a bastard!--was overpowering for most of us. Trying to avoid it was like a stalk of wheat standing straight in a windstorm.

  50. No, Robin--you *really* don't get it. I am the sister of someone who relinquished in 1959 and can assure you that relinquishment was about as acceptable as having an abortion. Back then. Just because a bunch of nuns crowded around you during those 9 months and women made it through and were invited to go back to their lives doesn't mean that society approved of you. Society only approved because nobody knew what happened to you. I don't think you understand the level of secrecy involved. In my case, one of my parents never knew anything.

  51. Some people just don't get this era at all. There was no "acceptable" because the entire event was unacceptable: sex, pregnancy, and whatever. Didn't really matter how pregnancy was resolved as long as it was resolved and abortion and adoption wouldn't have been vastly different outcomes in practice. The point was to make it all go away.

  52. "I have concerns about a return to large numbers of single mothers being pressured/coerced to give up their children because I think that adoption is becoming very much in vogue these days."

    Based on what? Adoption may be in vogue because more couples are infertile and are more open to adoption than they used to be, more celebrities are adopting, and we hear more about adoption through the Internet and the adoption community. That doesn't actually translate into skyrocketing numbers of women relinquishing. What is your evidence√Č

    The adoption blogosphere gives a horribly skewed picture of what is actually happening in adoption. Something to keep remembering when you want to tear your hair out. About the only trend that seriously disturbs me is the Christian adoption movement. That is something that could definitely lead to baldness. But my concern for women in the developed world is less and if a couple decides they want to place after deeply considering their own lives, resources, and needs, I have no objection and do not think anyone else should either.

  53. Yes, Secrecy is the enemy. Secrecy was the whole reason the BSE happened as it did. It had nothing to do with acceptance of the act of surrendering a child. It had everything to do with shame, denial, and lies.

    What people say now, 40 or more years later to us when told we have reunited with a relinquished child has very little to do with how totally unacceptable the whole thing was when we surrendered. The whole point was that nobody should know that you had sex, got pregnant, had an abortion or gave up a child. Sex was dirty and had to be denied and buried in silence.
    There was no acceptance. We were told never to tell anyone, to act as if we never had a child. That is hardly "acceptance."

    I think it is pretty normal for people to ask if your relinquished son or daughter had a good home when you tell them your story. I just say, "no, he did not, but is all right now in spite of that". And the conversation goes on from there.

    I agree with those who said there is not really a chance of another BSE, because the world has changed so greatly. What some Fundamentalist religious and for profit agencies are doing is scary, but it really only touches a fraction of the young women who were sucked in during the BSE, and the whole culture of secrecy is crumbling.

  54. I had thought that the only option society offered to unmarried pregnant girls and women at that time was to give the child up for adoption. Maybe referring to that as "socially acceptable" is the wrong term to use.

  55. OceanBreez wrote:"No, Robin--you *really* don't get it."

    You are right. I don't get it. I have just had to live the consequences of it my whole life through no fault of my own.

  56. I think that the general public has pretty much always been biased in favor of family preservation as far as their opinion of mothers who surrender. Yes, adoption and adoptive parents are often sentimentalized and glorified, but that is strictly from the adoptive parent end of it. The public assumes that celebrities and others are adopting children who are already unwanted and homeless because of unfit or uncaring parents, or they just think that adoptees come from the cabbage patch. First mothers are ignored, not accepted.

    Back in the day, nobody's parents, when asked where little Debbie was, proudly told the neighbors "she's in the Florence Critendon Home, about to give up her child for adoption. Isn't that wonderful?" It was a shame, and if you never talked about it, it never happened.

    Even today, young mothers who surrendered recently are often shocked at what society really thinks of them, after having been counseled what a noble thing they are doing in surrendering. This includes moms in open adoptions who want to talk about their child but are met with disdain and cruelty.

    Today and yesterday, how many of us have been told by members of society "I could never do that".

  57. I was surprised this morning when I came onto FMF to find a barrage of comments berating me for using the term "socially acceptable". Anyone could have tactfully pointed out that this was not the correct term that the issue was that you had only one choice. This is not the first time something like this has happened to me at FMF. There are even a few people who it seems no matter what I write come back with a rebuttal telling me I am wrong.

    A while back I had decided to stop posting comments at FMF since this is a place for first mothers rather than adoptees. Then unexpectedly, Lorraine wrote a comment saying how much she appreciates my commentary and feels that many other readers do likewise.

  58. There is another way for discourse than to put others down. Your thoughts are not the one true thought. We all get it in our own way. And sometimes with the help of another our opinions take on new structure.
    What I truly want is for a young mother to know all the potential damage she is doing to herself and her child with relinquishment. And if knowing the harm to all, she still chooses adoption, I would hope she is treated with respect. So I was wrong to say she should be treated harshly by society.
    I didn't have to live in the BSE to know that pregnancy before marriage was socially unexceptable. But AFTER the pregnancy occurred it was socially acceptable to send your daughter off in secrecy and shame to place her baby for adoption. That was the only thing accepted once the pregnancy occurred.
    And things were no different in my family in 1980. Yes, secrecy is the true enemy. I had the same reaction to "Milk" when I saw it.
    And Robin, don't let know it alls try to silence you. We need your prospective often!!

  59. I can understand how difficult it might be to imagine life as a pregnant teen in the BSE. It’s difficult for me sometimes to think about the fact that my grandmother couldn’t vote because she was female and a dear friend of mine couldn’t get health insurance coverage for the birth of her child because she wasn’t married and additionally had to leave her teaching position before she appeared pregnant. I lived the BSE and I know exactly what life was like and Maryanne and Lorraine have done an excellent job with their descriptions. Lorraine, you made me laugh at your mention of having “gone all the way.” It brought back memories. Remember the bases – first, second, and third? Yes, sex was a dirty word back in the day. In addition to the shame, denial, secrecy and lies other barriers existed and maybe those who’ve lived the life can help me out here to help those who really don’t get it. Poverty was a huge factor. The only way I could buy anything was with real money (cold cash). Credit cards didn’t exist and banks didn’t give loans to pregnant teens. Housing was a problem. Again, cold cash was needed along with two months rent. Day care didn’t exist in my area and even if it did cold cash was needed to pay for it. The only way to get the cold cash was to get a job and the only jobs available to uneducated teens were minimum wage jobs that wouldn’t pay enough to pay for day care even if it had existed. So those of us who lacked a family support structure were trapped by adoption.

  60. We all have different writing styles and sometimes misunderstand what others are saying. We are not mind readers to know that when you say "x" what you really mean is "y". None of us really "know it all", least of all me, but we all know something and should keep the dialogue going. Disagreeing is not silencing, it is just another opinion and everyone has one.

    Say what you mean, mean what you say, and choose your words carefully to best express what it is you really want others to hear. Statements like:"I think society should be hard on surrendering mothers" or "Relinquishment was not socially unacceptable during the BSE." are hard to interpret differently from what they say at face value and in context. This is why such a flurry of disagreement with these statements followed.

    I think we all have something to learn from each other if we keep listening and clarifying.

  61. Robin....Words here are so often jumped on, as Jane and I have so acutely and at times painfully, learned.

    Don't let this minor skirmish make you leave; we welcome all perspectives and the commentary would be a lot less informative if adoptees like yourself didn't add to the discussion. You are very honest about your feelings, without being unnecessarly accusatory. So while I know some of this must have stung a bit, hang in there. And stay. And Happy New Year! My very best wishes to you.

  62. Robin,

    I always read your posts here and I too do not want you to stop. I learn alot from you and you have every right to give your opinion. By saying "socially acceptable" I don't think you were entirely wrong. If society had cared about us they wouldn't have sent us away.

    It appears that many of us did try to forget and keep the secret. I know if I hadn't been reunited with my daughter I would have never gone searching for a place like FMF.

    My question is, "What do we do now?" It has to go way beyond blogging. I want to know what I can do today to inform people about adoption. How do we in numbers get the message out. We need to let everyone know about our own private hell.

    Secrecy is our enemy!!

  63. By society expecting us to surrender our childrn they did indeed accept it as a way to shame and silence us.

  64. Robin, I have always found your comments to be informative and of much value here...same for the other adoptees who post from their point of view, as well.

  65. Barbara T wrote: "But AFTER the pregnancy occurred it was socially acceptable to send your daughter off in secrecy and shame to place her baby for adoption. That was the only thing accepted once the pregnancy occurred. "

    I agree with this and that is what I was saying in my comment. My wording was just a bit different.

    I mentioned that I had a recent doctor's appointment. Well, I was being checked for a potentially life-threatening medical condition that I inherited from my mother. If I had never found her I wouldn't even know that I was predisposed to this condition. Don't you just love closed adoption and sealed records {insert sarcasm}?

    Anyhoo, I intend to have a fabulous 2012 and wish FMF writers and readers the same.

  66. I think it very hard for those who did not grow up in the 50s and early 60s to even imagine what life was like then. There was a long list of things not socially acceptable to talk about to anyone, but that went on anyhow with great harm to many.

    Unwed sex and adoption was just one; others were pedophilia, and we all know now how that flourished under cover of secrecy, spousal abuse, alcoholism, divorce, infidelity, insanity, homosexuality...the list goes on and on.

    It was somehow worse to talk about these things than to actually do them. As long as nobody mentioned it, it was not happening. If anyone did talk, it was "kill the messenger." Gossip was whispered all over, but God help you if you said to anyone that Mom hid liquor bottles in the closet, or that Aunt Carrie was always bruised because her husband beat her, or that cousin Clare was not really away visiting a sick aunt the last semester of high school.

    People knew there were homes for unwed mothers, but nobody thought they knew anyone who sent a daughter there, just as everyone knew a bachelor uncle and his roommate, but nobody knew any gay men in their social circle. If you do not name it or see it, it is not there, and had to do with some lower class of "other people", not your family or friends.

    This is how it was in my family, and most of my friend's families as well. The silence was corrosive and deafening. Nostalgia for that era misses this, but there was a lot of darkness and pain along with the American Dream after the War.

  67. Think you've gotten much closer to the core of it, Maryanne, and it's very hard to explain if you weren't actually

    a) there and that person
    b) attached to the family where the event took place

    Robin and Barbara, I'm sorry to disagree with your clarification that what families did after learning about their daughter's pregnancy was socially acceptable. Not really. It was a secret prison sentence, not a remedy. You served the sentence and you got your life back. Your child supposedly went to highly suitable people, something you were supposed to be grateful for. As for you and your family, your actions were so vile, they had to be covered up forever. As I hinted in one of my previous comments, one of my parents actually engineered to keep the other parent from knowing anything about the situation and the grandchild. Forever.

    Socially acceptable means you showed or displayed what you did in some fashion and that society approved. This was a pact with your keepers to hide everything and to eventually be released for your shame and the shame brought on your family.

  68. Morally acceptable.

    It just dawned on me that this might be the phrase you are looking for. Yes, it was, but only because it was punishment.

  69. In trying to understand the BSE era it is important to know that getting women under control was a major issue. The dears got very uppity during the war and after. The largest per capita divorce rate was in 1946. Read Marilyn French for a visceral feel for the era. I gave my mother her book, The Woman's Room. She cried and told me I'd never know. And I didn't.

    All of the girls who got pg simply got caught. It wasn't as if others weren't doing it. Abortion was a hell of a lot easier. It could be done quickly and was easier to cover up. A few days in hell and some emotional/hormonal upset. Delivering a baby is forever and all those women knew it. Even the nuns. That's why it was a punishment and still is. For everyone.

  70. I like "morally acceptable". I was thinking along the lines of "socially mandated", but "morally" acceptable" is closer to the mark.
    Lots of interesting comments here. Like Gail I can understand why younger people might have difficulty grasping the social mores of the fifties and sixties, especially as they affected pregnant teens. It is hard to imagine a time when so much was taboo and yet there was so much surface glitz and titillation, the conflict of profoundly puritanical attitudes and increasing wealth. The social and family world was ruled by conformity, consumerism and traditional 'family values'. Sex, particularly sex outside of marriage was taboo, as was
    mental illness and anything else that was considered to
    deviate from the norm. Of course there was a lot going on
    under the surface - the civl rights movement began in the
    fifties, "Lolita" created it's own stir and the 'Beat Generation' heralded in the sexual revolution of the sixties. Unfortunately mummies and daddies and social and religious institutions either wouldn't or couldn't catch up with the zeitgeist.

  71. I am not sure if I am different than other adoptees or not. My parents were the age of my non-adopted peers, grandparents. If I am in the norm then many of us were brought up by parents close in age to our mothers parents - same era - same societal mores.

    Adoption was the last options and only after many years of trying did they turn to adoption. Both of my parents were born well before the 1929 crash that started the depression...we were raised by the same societal mentality. Thankfully I had reality based parents do did not believe following societal rules blindly was the be all end all and challenged whether things were right or not, but they were definitely NOT the norm in their peer group.

    So ending - perhaps adoptees from the BSE have a view of what life was like being a teenager/young adult in the 50's and 60's, that is closer to your reality than you think, as to our understanding of how society operated.

  72. theadoptedones - The couple who adopted my daughter are almost the exact same ages as my parents. That realization didn't hit me until about three years ago. I guess I blocked it...or something like that.


  73. While my daughter's adoptive parents were only a few years older than me, my granddaughter's parents are just a few years younger than me. And her adoptive mother, from roughly the era I surrendered my daughter, understands me, and I her, quite well.

  74. My parents were born near the beginning of the last century, before World War I.
    I grew up hearing many of their stories and was able to get glimpses of their early lives which I understood in an intellectual way, and which engaged my sympathy, but the visceral nature of their experiences remained theirs alone. As L. P. Hartley wrote, "The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there."

    My child's adoptive mother is eight years older than me.

  75. "I did not mean to speak FOR any adoptees. You are capable of speaking for yourself, but no one adoptee or group of adoptees can speak for ALL adoptees either, no more than any one first mother can speak for all"

    I think that there is one way I can speak for all adoptees.

    ALL adoptees are born into one family, are then legally separated from that family and are then become a memberof an another family, legally "as if" born to that family.

    Thus each adoptee is born to one family and "as if" born to another family.

    Each adoptee then has to work out the contradictions of being "born to one family" and "as if born to another family". It is hardly surprising that a large number of closed adoption adoptees want nothing to do with that original family because it is much easier to just deal with one. These latter type of adoptees are the ones considered ideal by the world. Thus, the ideal adoptee is often one who, in effect, wishes adoption was never in their life. Also, my observation is that the less one thinks about their adoption, the more they love it lol.

    Part of the problem is that what we might not praise in the general world is often praised in an adopted person so it can be hard to know what is a succesful adoption or not. I believe a lot more research needs to be done. Adoption is sold to expectant mothers as if it is a simple trade up for a child and even in the most content adoptee, I don't think that is the case.

    Also, I've been on adption forums and one can see from reading AP posts that even in their good open adoptions, it is not that simple for the child.



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