' [Birth Mother] First Mother Forum: Can the media get adoption right?

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Can the media get adoption right?

"US could face a critical adoption shortage" wails the headline in the Salem, Oregon Statesman Journal over a January 11 USA Today article.

What's the cause of this claimed calamity?  "A cataclysmic implosion of intercountry adoption (emphasis added)" according to Tom DiFilpo of the  Joint Council on International Children's Services. In addition to Russia closing its doors, adoptions from China, Ethiopia, and South Korea have declined. Domestic production cannot make up for the shortage because, according to Jenny Pope of the adoption agency Buckner International, "as single parenthood becomes more acceptable, 'there are just not as many women placing their children for adoption.'"

The author of the article Wendy Koch doesn't seem to be aware--or at least doesn't report--that a decline in adoptions is a positive trend, signifying that fewer mothers are losing their children due to financial circumstances, cultural mores, and corruption.

Media bias in favor of adoption is nothing new. The fourth estate ran non-stop pity parties for those oh-so-deserving prospective adoptive parents thwarted when the Russian government called a halt to U.S. adoptions. The media regularly trashes natural parents like the parents of Baby Richard and Baby Jessica when they fight to prevent the illegal adoption of their children. Even The New Yorker spewed errors about the Baby Jessica case in an highly skewed article by Lucinda Franks, an adoptive mother (a fact she failed to disclose in the piece). Among other things, she blamed Concerned United Birthparents for riling up the parent to fight for their child. We suppose any support for a natural mother who wants her child back would be considered "riling up." Lorraine wrote a piece about the biased coverage in the Jessica Deboer/Anna Schmidt baby for a feminist magazine, On the Issues, that itself got a huge amount of mail, mostly from adoptive parents complaining.

Thus it was with delight that I read Michael Corcoran's criticism of the media coverage of (hysteria over) the Dusten Brown case in Truthout (Media Failures Lead Flawed Understandings in Cherokee Adoption Case**). Brown, a decorated Iraqi war veteran and a member of the Cherokee tribe, sued to overturn the adoption of his daughter, "Baby Veronica." The trial judge ruled in Brown's favor and awarded custody of the girl to Brown, finding that he did not knowingly waive his paternal rights under the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA). The South Carolina Supreme Court upheld the decision. The U. S. Supreme Court has granted review.

Not surprisingly, the media reported from the point of view of the would-be adopters, Melanie and Matt Capobianco, focusing on their heart-break. The media claimed that Brown knowingly gave up his rights, that the prospective adoptive parents did not know that Veronica was an Indian child, and that Brown was a bad father, all of which were untrue. Adoption advocate and television personality Dr. Phil took up the story, as did Anderson Cooper of CNN who has a look of perpetual bewilderment on his face, and Andrea Poe of the Huffington Post. The trio trashing not only Brown but the ICWA, which requires that Indian children be placed with Indian families when possible, portraying the law as out-dated and cruel. The ICWA, enacted in 1978, was based on overwhelming evidence that Indian children generally fared better raised within the Indian community.

I was feeling good about Corcoran's article when I opened the January 21 Time and read the headline "The Baby Deficit: How changing attitudes about international adoption are creating heartbreak for American families."*** I thought, oh no, another pity party for would-be adopters thwarted by chauvinist dimwits.

I was pleasantly surprised. The author Kayla Webley did a fair job of detailing the reasons for the decline in foreign adoptions, a crack-down on wide-spread corruption and improved economic conditions. She quoted UNICEF and other child welfare authorities on the importance of helping children stay with their families. She played only one sympathy card, that of a couple trying to adopt a child who had a cleft palate from Kyrgyzstan, a child who had not received necessary medical care and truly needed a home..

So a mixed result--while much of the media is stuck on the idea of adoption as an entitlement, there are others becoming aware that there's another side to adoption.
*Adoption options as Russia closes its doors
**Media Failures Lead to Flawed Understandings in Cherokee Adoption Case
***The Baby Deficit 
For an update on Anna Schmidt (Baby Jessica):
Anna Jacqueline Schmidt aka Baby Jessica wonder how she feels about the Deboers?
From FMF
May the Richest Parents Win--the DeBoer Case
Adoptive Parents Decry UNICEF's Position About Adopting Overseas
Adoption, It Seems, Is Everywhere, coming to a screen near you

Favorite Film
The Lost Child: A story about Rebecca, a woman who goes in search of her natural parents and in the process finds her long lost family and her rich cultural heritage. In response to her search, she is contacted by a woman on a Navajo reservation who is looking for her twin siblings who were stolen from their mother soon after they were born. The women soon realize that they are sisters and Rebecca is welcomed with open arms on a visit to the reservation. But when her husband, Jack, comes to see them, the differences between the two cultures rise to the surface, and Rebecca must integrate the old and the new so that her whole family can be together happily. Made for television.

Suggested Reading
Baby Richard: A Four-Year-Old Comes Home  "This heartwarming narrative--about the mid-nineties case that became the most controversial custody battle in history--answers that question. Written by the child’s psychologist, it discloses the untold, intimate, and private side of the story about the baby who became the symbol of adoption gone tragically awry. How the four-year-old and his birth parents bonded and became a family—in spite of fierce opposition--will make you cry, laugh, get angry, and share the joy of their personal triumphs.

This landmark case for adoption and for fathers’ rights was debated across the country and in Europe, Canada, and Australia. With her clients’ permission, Dr. Karen Moriarty--who donated her services to the child and his family--reveals this rare, behind-the-scenes view of the real people and their passions, struggles, defeats, and victories. Her book provides the exclusive update on all of the major players in the bitter conflict and on the child himself, his parents and sisters, including photographs."--Amazon 


  1. I know this is off target but I do want to say that (regarding Downton
    Abbey) if Ethel now turns over her son to those horrible rich people, his awful grandparents, I will be very upset. They will turn him against her.

    Anyway, this year of DA is going ... downhill.

  2. For to long it has always been about the adoptive parents feelings and never about ours, which is proof adoptees are USED. And since when is being used, being loved?

  3. qu 620
    Thanks, Jane for your thoughtful post. I so appreciate you and Lo for reporting on all things adoption.
    Some of us first moms are using social media to find mothers at risk of coercion and helping them find resources to parent. So what do the PAP's call it? Coercion to parent. Somehow I don't think it's coercion to explain the aftermath of adoption and offer to help find resources.

  4. Thanks, Barbara, "Coercion to parent" -- that's a new one on me. I've seen ploys close that. Adoption agencies tell young women to "think for yourself", i.e. don't listen to your mom or anyone else when they talk to you about keeping your baby. "Only smart and ambitious women can make an adoption plan," i. e. only low class losers keep their babies.

  5. Coercion to parent? Barbara, where have you seen that? Do tell. That is a phrase I have not seen anywhere. Yet.

  6. A child needing possibly life saving surgery his/her Foreign govnerment is unable to perform characterized as a ploy or "sympathy card"? A tool for that author or for your own purposes?

    Cleft Palate can be fatal as often those children cannot take in enough nutrients/food to sustain them. Given the poor care giver to child ratio, little attention will come to this child. If he/she survives only to age out of the system at age 15 they will be a social outcast/pariah, such is the shame/stigma of birth defects in many countries.

    I found uour thoughts well written until that point, for you see I was that adopted child who needed cleft palate surgery and was adopted to a family in Canada. I was not and am not a "sympathy card" and my need was real. No one stepped up in my country.

    No media bias, just plain hard facts as it were.

    Please remember that one person's characterization of another's plight is just that: their own. Not necessarily valid or appropriate.

    Thank you,


  7. Just saw the terms "rental womb" and "womb to rent" on AOL and Yahoo. That is what adoptive parents are calling first mothers in the comment sections.

  8. There can never be any such thing as a "shortage" of adoptable babies. Even thinking along those lines implies that everyone has some kind of inalieble right to raise a child born of someone else. Speaking of a "shortage" makes it clear that adoption is a business and the child is the commodity. I really think that the mindset in this country is getting scary, adoption has become so chic, and the sense of entitlement to someone else's child has become the norm.

    @Barbara T,
    It is wonderful to read about what you are doing to help vulnerable mothers keep their babies.

  9. I think some of you first mothers should go over to Yahoo and read the typical disgusting remarks in relation to the reunion story they are featuring now. Some are really bad.
    I don't have the stomach to say anything right now or a Yahoo account!

  10. Bekrem, I mean to be respectful and obviously you got the help you needed, but when stories start out about the poor couple waiting for a child, it turns all the attention away from the underlying issue and puts the focus on the poor disappointed people waiting for a child. The "pity card" is then the story of this poor benighted couple, waiting for somebody's child, not the child him or herself.

    But did you not read the rest of the sentence: ..."a child who had not received necessary medical care and truly needed a home...." Jane's point is clear there--she understands this child needs a home and medical care.

  11. http://www.sltrib.com/sltrib/news/55423634-78/adoption-birth-agency-ceches.html.csp

    Have you read this article in the Tribune yet?

  12. @Annonymous 3:57 PM

    I read some of those comments, there was a woman who left a comment that her brother lost his daughter to adoption, many years ago. (Didn't know his girlfriend was pregnant, placed daughter for adoption behind his back, a lot like the Utah cases.) She found her lost niece on facebook. Turns out she doesn't want anything to do with her, or her natural father. A lot of people replied to her in the yahoo comment, accusing her of being a stalker, for finding her niece on facebook.

    A lot of people who comment on yahoo, are very conservative republican. They believe adoption saves tax money, because it keeps a single mother from raising a child on welfare. Many of them are very ignorant of the adoption tax credit. And the fact that foster parents receive close to 1,000 dollars or more, for each child in their care. That's more than what a single mom who keeps her child who is on welfare receives. But these people on yahoo are ignorant and thinks adopters are saints and are incapable of making mistakes.

    I could have sworn I saw statistics on RAINN (rape abuse and incest national network) that abuse was more common in homes where BOTH parents, were NOT biologically related to the child. But I cant find that link.

  13. A young women saw some of my posts on facebook and contacted me, asking why I felt the way I did. She was going to give her daughter up for adoption. When she heard abut the pain adoptees suffer, she decided to raise her little girl!! I referred her to a woman on face book who I know helps women in her situation.

    Someone on a pro adoption site accused ME of "playing God"!!!

    Playing God by helping a young woman keep her newborn. That stuff just takes the cake. I write to President Obama regularly, asking him to stop the sale of infants. Maybe someday someone will listen.

  14. @Moonstar,
    I know a lot of Republicans support adoption, closed adoption, but so do a lot of Democrats. Lehman himself who started the whole closed adoption nightmare as the Governor of NY was a Democrat to. We can't forget either that gays are now involved in adoption and most of them are also registered Democrats.

  15. @ Michele,
    I read an article posted on Yahoo months ago that stated that most infertile women are schizophrenic and alcoholics because of what infertility puts them through. It was stated by many people in the comment section that infertile women are to unstable to raise a child. The remarks you received are evident of this as most infertile women believe illogical trash because they are unstable and will believe any BS to get what they want and not feel guilty about it, ie: someone else's coerced baby. I think you should put this on your Facebook page!

  16. Infertility does not cause schizophrenia or alcoholism any more than being an unwed mother does. That is a ridiculous statement. Some infertile women and some adoptive mothers suffer from various forms of mental illness and substance abuse, just as some fertile women do. This is a real concern, but infertility is not the cause of either condition.
    Nor are all adoptive parents infertile.

  17. "So a mixed result--while much of the media is stuck on the idea of adoption as an entitlement, there are others becoming aware that there's another side to adoption."

    Perfect way to wrap it up. That is what we're trying to accomplish and it's happening slowly but surely. It was only a few months ago that I fully believed that adoption was "wonderful" and that "birthmothers" made a selfless "choice". Your site helped me understand that these "birthmothers" I so admired and felt empathy for are actually victims. I have helped other people learn as well thanks to this site. Keep doing a great job!

  18. @Anonymous 11:16 AM

    I wasn't saying it was a republican or democrat thing, as they both support adoption for different reasons. Democrats love it because they believe everyone has a right to a child, even if they can't have on of their own. Republicans love it because they believe it keeps a single woman off welfare, thus saving tax money. I was simply stating why people on yahoo, are making the comments they're making. They will do anything to save a dollar of their tax money, even if it means breaking up a family. And they are completely unaware of the adoption tax credit and money that foster parents receive.

    I to am tired of everyone saying things like "Look at that trailer trash woman popping out a baby and can't afford it, if she can't afford birth control she should keep her legs closed why should the hard working tax payers pay! While I know so many hard working people who have plenty of money, and can't have any children."

    Yep I see those comments on yahoo all the time, even on an article of a woman who had a live in boyfriend and was struggling to care for their child financially. Those were the type of comments I saw. But regardless of what the tax payers are paying, and no matter how many people who can afford a child, can't have one. It still doesn't excuse breaking up a family, to create a new one.

    Sorry yahoo.

  19. @ Anon,
    Hey, don't get all mad at me. I am just quoting what a Yahoo article said. Read it for yourself.

  20. Lorraine, you called it on Downton Abbey. Yuck. Even with Mrs. Crawley and others telling Ethel she didn't have to. I wonder if Julian Fellowes was buried in a deluge of nasty letters from PAPs and APs after last season, and he had to "correct" the story. What tripe.



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