' [Birth Mother] First Mother Forum: Shining the light on 'forced' adoption at home and elsewhere

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Shining the light on 'forced' adoption at home and elsewhere

Adoption or Abduction May 1
Spurred by recent events in Australia, Canada, and Spain, Dan Rather Reports produced a documentary, “Adopted or Abducted,” about forced adoption. Rather, a former CBS news anchor, and his staff interviewed first mothers women from around the world including Americans Claudia Corrigan D’Arcy (Faux Claud), Carol Schaefer, Karen Wilson Butterbaugh, and mothers featured in Ann Fessler’s The Girls Who Went Away.

“Adopted or Abducted” airs Tuesday, May 1 at 8 p.m. ET on HDnet. Readers can find their local channel by going to Dan Rather Reports, hitting subscribe and entering their zip code and selecting their cable provider.

The inspiration for this program began with the work of first mother and author Evelyn Robinson and her fellow Aussies to obtain apologies from government and religious authorities responsible for mothers losing their children. The South Australian premier, Jay Weatherill, announced that he will officially apologize on behalf of the South Australian government to those who have been affected by past adoption practices in June 13. This follows apologies by the Western Australian Parliament and Catholic Health, the largest non-goverment hospital operator in Australia.

Evelyn Robinson
Activists in Canada are pushing for an apology as well. A prominent Canadian law firm announced it would file a class action against Quebec’s Catholic Church for using fraud, and coercion to get mothers to give up their babies. The Presbyterian Church in Canada is conducting a review of its historic maternity home practices. A Spanish nun, Sister Maria Gomez, has been charged with trafficking over 1,500 newborns over four decades.

Although Karen Wilson Butterbaugh and other mothers of the Baby Scoop Era are demanding  recognition for the millions of American women systematically denied the right to raise their infants, it's unlikely that apologies will be forthcoming. Adoption critic and writer Jessica Delbalzo points out that unlike Australia, infant adoption in US is a big business, bringing in an estimated $1.4 billion a year. She writes in the Daily Kos:
“Admitting that mothers and their children were wrongly separated in the decades preceding Roe v. Wade could, conceivably, open up modern adoption practices for criticism.

...In addition to false promises [of open adoption] other coericive tactics are alive as well. ...Young women are still told that if they love their babies they will give them away. Prospective adopters advertise for babies in magazines and online and expectant mothers are encouraged to “make an adoption plan” and meet the would-be adopters before the baby is born. In some cases the adopters even join them in the delivery room. None of this is done in Australia.

...If Americans admit that adoptions were conducted unethically or illegally in the 1950’s to the 1970’s, they may just have to admit that the industry is still as rife with corruption as it ever was. The numbers may be lower but if anti-choice, anti-contraception politicians have their way, they will be on the rise again soon. An apology for past practices is warranted, but what we need even more than that are safeguards for the future.”
We at FMF whole-heartedly agree. We would add, though, that it is not only the “anti-choice, anti-contraception politicians”, we need to be wary of, but liberals as well like the Center for American Progress which promote adoption as an option along with abortion and “parenting.”

“Adoption or Abduction” promises to bring adoption corruption—and by extension the need for reform--into the public consciousness. We can expect the adoption industry to respond with something like this: since most adoptions are open, it a different situation today than when you [old, irrelevant first mothers] relinquished--decisions to give up one's baby are made freely. Because this is the message we hear now, it is important that post-Roe v. Wade mothers (1973) tell their stories. One way to do this is to post them on Origins-USA.

Beyond that, first mothers need to join together and work with their legislators for laws which assure mothers have the time and information to make informed decisions. 

See also, a later post by Lorraine:  In the Sixties: Was I 'forced' to give up my baby?

Adopted or abducted?
Presbyterians to probe maternity homes
Jessica Delbalzo
Adoption Apologies Expected in Australia -- Why not in America?
Justice for Mother and Child
Claudia Corrigan D'Arcy: Interviewing with Dan Rather Reports
What the #!%* Is anybody investigating the allegations of forced adoption across Canada?
The Baby Scoop Era: Research, Education and Inquiry

From FMF:
Catholic church apologies for forced adoptions in Australia
Australia Apologies for Adoption Polices, sort of
Response to the Adoption Option

Coming soon: A former Bethany reveals more about the process of encouraging other mothers to relinquish their children.


  1. Not only that but there is ZERO protection for mothers in other situations where they are vulnerable to would-be adopters. All the judge wants to see is your signature on the relinquishment form, and a notary seal. That's it. He doesn't want to talk to you, hear your side of the story, or entertain the notion that the signature might have been coerced in a manner invisible to the witnessing notary public.

    Adoption advocates raise the specter of children languishing in abusive homes because it is too difficult to sever a parent's rights. The opposite is more often true: it is too easy to remove parental rights from a person who has never been ruled unfit as a parent.

    Similarly it is possible to lose custody without being ruled unfit and without ever having been interviewed by the judge or by social services. This must also change; once custody has been lost, the case is stronger for adoption.

    Basically it's far, far too easy to take someone's kids in the United States, and you need only covet them and have more money than their parents. That's it. Nothing more.

  2. I don't think it is as easy to take someone' skids as the previous poster suggests. It's certainly not sufficient to "covet them" and have more money than their parents. The parents have to at least get in contact with an adoption agency or lawyer and then chose those rich greedy PAPs and finally sign a document surrendering their parentally rights. In most states there is some sort of revocation period.

    What a Judge will want to see will depend on that Judge and the laws of the state the court is in.

  3. I hope Dan Rather does a follow up episode on Birth Father Rights as well.

  4. Well, even though domestic adoption in the Netherlands is no bussiness, the latest scandal there concerns children adopted from Colombia, without approval of their parents.

    The 8 year old Steven's parents finally had kicked their addiction, just to discover their child was no longer living on the same mega continent. At least they have contact again...

  5. Jessica De Balzo is hardly an adoption expert of any sort, although she is a fanatically anti-adoption critic and spokesperson who has no personal or professional connection to adoption. A long quote from her detracts rather than adds to this otherwise good post. If you do not wish to be seen as anti-adoption, as has been stated numerous times here, then do not quote DeBalzo as an authority.

    Pro-Reform Mom

  6. Anonymous, sadly, you are mistaken. It is just that easy and money is the key. Most judges do not even know if the documents that are presented are real. They simply see a signature and go with it. My story is exactly like that - a judge saw what he wanted to see, and a social worker withheld what would have stopped it.

    I think you really need to be open to a lot more research and a lot less bologna.

  7. pheeSorry Anonymous #1, but it is pretty close to that easy to take someone's kid, especially if that someone is completely unsupported. At least it was in 1988. I never went to an adoption agency or a lawyer or selected rich greedy PAPs. The doctor who delivered my baby set the whole thing up while I was in labor. I did sign the document though a week and a half later so there's that I guess. I'm pretty sure I had no idea about the revocation period. The only thing I can remember about signing was asking the judge if I could have some type of open adoption and him telling me no. If you have no one who will help you and no money, it's pretty easy to end up in this situation in the US.

  8. anonymous,

    Sometines its easier the the proadoption at any cost, for anyone who wants a baby for any reason people to understand that just because a mother "signed the papaers" does not mean that adoption is best for this child/huMAN BEING. BABIES/CHILDREN/HUMANS BELONG with their natural mothers unless their is a compelling reason NOT to...just because papers are signed, lawyers have done their jobs, and the judge has signed off does NOT always make it right for the child. yes, the new mommy and daddy got ewhat they wanted and the child may or may not adjust and the new mommy and daddy dreams have come true...does NOT make it right for the child. oh wait...adoption is for children right or is it for fulfilling someones dreams?

  9. In the 60's I never saw a lawyer much less going before a judge. Seems the seedy social workers can handle adoptions in back rooms. Of course I was 17 and with the social worker working against me. I was not told of support services although they were available. Social worker was working for adopter not for me and my baby.

    Was not told my baby was placed in foster care to be nurtured by a stranger then onto another stranger after six weeks. I wasn't given any legal papers although I assume it was done through a court. Why?

    To this day I do not have paperwork although I have requested it. In reunion since 93.

  10. @anon 7:54 p.m. My experience was much like yours with the seedy social worker, the backroom operation, zero paperwork, and no information about support services. I was unaware of foster care and didn’t even know my child had foster care until she told me when I found her. The only time I saw a lawyer and a judge was when the aparents tried to have me arrested and thrown in jail for contacting them following a 15 year search for my child. I was threatened and told I had “raped” their family. So yeah, the terms coercion and abduction work for me and probably countless others as well.

  11. Lori, did the adoption agency falsify your consent?

    Eileen, it sounds like your child was privately adopted, did you not have an independent attorney. That is required in many states. Also it seems you appeared in front of a Judge. Did he not advise you of your rights?

  12. To the last Anonymous - no I did not have an independent attorney. I had no one in my corner at all. I do not remember the judge advising me of my rights, although he might have. It wouldn't have mattered in my situation anyway as I had no support for keeping my baby.

    My point was that often, pregnant women are sought out by adoption agencies and PAPs. It seemed to me like you were saying that mothers had to initiate adoption proceedings before a baby is adopted and that was not true in my case.

  13. Anonymous, you are just being cruel and provocative. You have to live through what we did when we did, when we relinquished our children to understand. You sound like an adoptive parent just lashing out.

  14. Oh yes adoptions can happen with no parent except the adopting parent present in court, no lawyer representing the child and no social workers involved. I know of recent cases. Once the judge approves an adoption petition (and when don't they?) that's it. No one is going to notify the parent of their rights, revocation periods or anything else.

  15. To anonymous regarding De Balzo:

    Why is “pro-reform mom” so uncomfortable with an alternative view (De Balzo’s)? I’m quite sick of being told who the “experts” in adoption are. It’s much like being told, “this opinion or that opinion is the only one you should have.” Maybe this is how adoptees feel about being told you should feel this or you should feel that. Why, as a first mother, should I not listen to something that resonates with me? Why would I need an expert to tell me how to feel? Does losing my son to adoption make me an expert? There are plenty of people who would tell me that I don’t know what I’m talking about because “adoption isn’t like that any more.”

    I don’t know Jessica De Balzo personally, but ran across some of her writings early on after my reunion in 2005 and they resounded with me. My brother is not an “adoption expert” either – he ONLY understands infant adoption from his perspective as an uncle who lost a nephew to adoption and he clearly understands many of the negative impacts in infant adoption from the experience of having a sister who lost her son to adoption.

    There are still so many myths to overcome thanks to lobbyists like NCFA, pro-adoptive parents who want to dominate terminology and discussion, and the “birth”mothers who become mouthpieces for the agencies they lost their children to. None are experts, just spin-doctors.

    It is extremely validating when people outside of the immediate pain or gain of any dominant culture express an understanding – it’s called empathy. It gives me hope that the industry spin is seen for what it is. I think De Balzo’s perspective is important, thank you for sharing her words.

  16. I responded the comment the first poster made which was "Basically it's far, far too easy to take someone's kids in the United States, and you need only covet them and have more money than their parents. That's it. Nothing more."

    I don't believe that statement to be true and said so in my original post. I was told by Lori and Eileen I was mistaken. They brought up their own experiences to support their argument, I did not.

    It's certainly true that PAPs and Adoption agencies advertise for pregnant women who are interested in putting their children up for adoption. It's also probably true that most adoption agency employees are not going to give unbiased advice. However, normal practice is for the natural parent to contact the agency or PAPs or for someone at the hospital to contact an agency at the request of the parents.

    Anyone contemplating surrendering a child for adoption or adopting a child should do their own research and ensure they understand the adoption laws in their State and the State the other party resides in. Lack of an independent attorney is sufficient grounds for the nullification of an adoption consent in some states.

  17. Lack of an attorney should nullify ANY adoption period.
    No one should ever lose a baby because they are not legally represented!!!
    I had an adoption social worker no attorney, no lawyer no papers and soon after no baby!!!

    This was a NOT an agency.

    Even criminals get their day on court with lawyers and judges. Not backroom social workers. Working for adopters!!!

    Oh, Gail you raped the adopter's when you found your daughter. What ignorance coming from a couple that took your newborn. Guess they figured you would never find her due to sealed records.

    I found my son too. He got to know the truth and even after I told him he was told by his adopter I didn't want him.


  18. Anon said:"Lack of an independent attorney is sufficient grounds for the nullification of an adoption consent in some states."

    Well I guess we can all go nullify our consents, then! I do not know of one single mother who surrendered to an agency who had her own attorney, or even the opportunity to talk to one not employed by the agency. Most of us never saw any attorney at all. In private adoption, one attorney hired by the adoptive parents "represented" both parties. But his clients were the adoptive parents.

    Most of us got no copies of what we signed, and some could not get copies years later, even after reunion. Some signed in the hospital, some at the Home, some in a social worker's office and some before a judge, but it made no difference. At that point the mom was beaten down and it was a done deal.

    For the most part mothers with a crisis pregnancy are nor sophisticated consumers of legal advice or the intricacies of adoption law. We relied on agencies and adoption facilitators to know what they were doing, and in many cases got screwed. Nobody was on our side, or on the side of our children except as a commodity.

    Perhaps today a fortunate few surrendering mothers have their own attorney who is actually looking out for their interestest, but I would guess it is still rare and not the norm. In the past such representation was non-existent, hence the many horror stories you read here and anywhere that surrendering moms tell their tale.

  19. Anon 1:47 p.m. - you asked if they falsified consent..... no, they did not present consent. They told the judge a lie, and because it was pre-internet and pre-electronic access to other courts records, the lie stood. They allowed my child to be removed from the U.S. over 6 months prior to the finalization of the adoption. And, most of all, they did not do deep background on the adopters - who were and are unfit to adopt puppies, much less a toddler that was well bonded, healthy and happy.

    A judge in one county ordered the social worker to step out of the case and close it - returning all custody to me.

    A judge in another county allowed an adoption that was based on a lie.

    How hard is that to understand?

    Lorraine is right, you simply want to hurt people. How pathetic are you?

  20. Maryanne wrote, "perhaps today a fortunate few surrendering mothers have their own attorney who is actually looking out for their interest, but I would guess it is still rare and not the norm."

    The only way to get an attorney who is truly looking out for your interest is to have the big-bucks required to pay for high quality legal advice. I suspect most women who get legal advice during an adoption proceeding are getting it from a lawyer who is connected in some way with the adopters or the agency, or they might get a public defender or legal aid attorney assigned to verify that the papers were signed without someone pointing a gun to the mothers's head (literally). I can't imagine an attorney having anything more than a perfunctory role in representing the natural mother. Are they really going to reseach adoption law and spend a great deal of time on a mother who likely has little money? Doubtful.

  21. In New York, adoption consents have been nullified because the mother did not have the independent representation required for private adoptions. New York law requires a copy of the surrender documents to be provided to the mother. There is also a 45 day revocation period for extra-judical private adoptions (provided the consent is not given in court). The rules for Agency adoption are less generous. The revocation period is 30 days and an independent attorney is not required.

    That is unfortunate since though an Agency may be neutral in theory, in practice they exist to facilitate adoptions. That's a significant conflict of interest. A mother cannot expect unbiased advice from an agency

    In New York at least, it may be better to avoid adoption agencies. I would also advocate avoiding any agency in any state that has any ties to a religious organization or the word Christian in their name.

  22. Who are you, anon who knows so much about NY adoption law? A private adoption attorney? Among people I know who surrendered in NY, the rock-bottom worst abuses were not by agencies, bad as they were, but by private adoption lawyers, including the infamous Joel Steinberg, who illegally kept two children he was supposed to place with adoptive parents, abused both alone with his cocaine addicted wife, and killed the little girl, Lisa Launders. Her birthmother had no idea what had happened to her daughter until after the murder, because she surrendered her to her trusted lawyer Steinberg, but had no idea he just kept the child. The little boy who was found abused but alive was later returned to his birthmother, who also had no idea what kind of monster she was dealing with or what had become of her child until birthmother activist Mirah Riben contacted her and helped her get her son back.

    Black market facilitated by private lawyers has always been big in the NY metropolitan area, including links to babies born in Canada and Florida, and most of these have so many falsified documents and lies it is impossible to find family or know the truth.

    So no, I would NOT recommend private adoption over agencies, and in fact would like to see it outlawed. With agencies there is at least the ghost of a chance of oversight, accountability, and policing them if some better laws were in place that really protect mothers and babies as well as adoptive parents. With private adoption there are just too many loopholes and opportunities for profit and abuse. Agencies are bad, but private adoption is worse.

  23. Anon,
    Lack of an independent attorney is not grounds to set aside a consent if the adoption is handled by an agency, because state laws presume the agency acts in the best interests of all parties.

    Lack of an independent attorney is not grounds to set aside a consent in states like California where the law allows the same attorney to represent both mothers and PAPS.

    In states like Oregon where courts frown on attorneys representing both parties, lack of an independent attorney MAY be cause to set aside a consent. To avoid this possibility, the PAPS attorney refers the mother to another attorney who is paid by the PAPS and may be more interested in subsequent referrals than advocating for the mother.

    Mothers cannot be expected to know the laws of consent in their state. These laws are often complicated and buried in lengthy statues governing adoption.

    Mothers don't always initiate adoption discussions. It's not uncommon for attorneys, clergymen, Mormon bishops, and others to approach expectant mothers and begin the adoption conversation.

    It is also common for mothers to go to "pregnancy help" programs thinking they will receive financial assistance and counseling to allow them to raise their child. These programs are often fronts for adoption agencies. They have skilled counselors who are able to convince vulnerable young women that the best they can do is make "an adoption plan."

  24. Re: Adoption Attorneys

    # 1: Just because an attorney is involved in an adoption does NOT MEAN he/she will be ethical or do the right thing. The adoption attorney we worked with is a big deal in the USA. Very well known in adoption. She was so unethical in her practices--hence, why I am telling my story in the first place.
    #2: My state does not even require a natural mother to have an attorney. But our attorney acted like she was her legal counsel. Private adoption through a domestic attorney poses huge conflict of interest.
    #3: If anyone thinks that the attorney will help get them a more sound judicial process--good luck. There is too much corruption and deals between lawyers/judges, etc.
    #4: The sheer power that private attorneys have in domestic adoption is insane. They hold all the cards; truly, it should be illegal for domestic adoptions to be handled in this manner.
    # 5: The adoption attorney I used is well networked with many many other high profile adoption attorneys in the USA. This makes me wonder how good the rest of them could be.
    #6: If I, a PAP could not find a manner to hold this attorney accountable for her unethical behavior, how could a natural mother, who most likely has fewer resources?
    #7: I will never pursue adoption again bc of the serious problems in the industry. It was a real mind opening experience. But people who have already adopted, or who plan to adopt, should be informed and moved to action on behalf of all adoption parties. It is in the best interest of the adoptees afterall.

  25. Presuming an adoption agency is not an interested party in an adoption is clearly flawed logic as is allowing the same attorney or anyone to represent both parties in an adoption or anything else require attorneys (such as a real estate transaction).

    Also, in New York, when an agency consent is signed, legal custody transfers to the agency, not the adoptive parents (until finalization). In the event that the consent is challenged or revoked this may affect the outcome since the PAPs would have fewer rights and the agency probably has less incentive to oppose but more money.

    Even if a lawyer receives a referral from the adoptive parents attorney, he is still required to represent his client's (the natural parents) best interests. In New York, he would not be doing the adoptive parents any favors if he did not since lack of independent counsel could invalidate the consent should the quality of the representation be challenged. The attorney would suffer repetitional damage and possibly other sanctions should the court determine that he/she did not act in his clients best interests.

    It is of course possible for the natural mother to find her own attorney and insist the PAPS pay. I am sure they could do this even in States that did not require it. In the States that do, no PAP would object since this would protect them.

    Its not that hard to discover what the consent laws of a state are, at least in summary. A short and inexpensive consultation with an adoption attorney would be sufficient.

    My personal opinion is that clergymen and Mormon Bishops are best avoided though not everyone in my family would agree with avoiding the clergy.

  26. Re Anon: "Its not that hard to discover what the consent laws of a state are, at least in summary. A short and inexpensive consultation with an adoption attorney would be sufficient."

    When a woman is caught up in the adoption mill legal matters are not her primary concern. She is most likely consumed with fear, wanting the best for her child (which everyone will tell her is adoption, ad nauseam), worries about the future, etc. Just look at Catelynn and Tyler of MTV fame...they didn't know that they would not be given their child's last name or that the adoptive parents would be so closed to them (they used fake names and no address was given - what kind of open adoption is that?). And this happened ON TV in front of a national audience. If a mother can get duped by an adoption agency while the TV cameras are rolling, how can we expect a mom in anywhere USA to get better treatment?

  27. "Its not that hard to discover what the consent laws of a state are, at least in summary. A short and inexpensive consultation with an adoption attorney would be sufficient."

    You can have all the legal knowledge on your side and still loose a child!

  28. "Its not that hard to discover what the consent laws of a state are, at least in summary. A short and inexpensive consultation with an adoption attorney would be sufficient."

    How many teenagers are really saavy enough to make an appointment with an attorney on their own? Or who would have the money to pay for a consultation? Can an attorney even take on such a young client? And since the attorney would get paid if the baby is placed then there is a huge conflict of interest. He or she would certainly be able to take advantage of a vulnerable and naive young expectant mother.

  29. Front page of Yahoo news. Lots of naysayers in the comments claiming that Dan Rather is lying. Even more comments from people saying that these adoptees should be thankful that they weren't aborted. Even MORE adoptees saying that they just know their lives were ten million times better with their adoptive parents and of course they are spouting the typical rhetoric.

  30. Thanks Samantha P, I made your comment a sidebar.



COMMENTS ARE MODERATED. Our blog, our decision whether to publish.

We cannot edit or change the comment in any way. Entire comment published is in full as written. If you wish to change a comment afterward, you must rewrite the entire comment.

We DO NOT post comments that consist of nothing more than a link and the admonition to go there.