' [Birth Mother] First Mother Forum: A Joyous New Year---Some good news in adoption reform

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

A Joyous New Year---Some good news in adoption reform

I'm feeling really upbeat today, the last day of 2013. It's my 45th wedding anniversary, 45 years with a wonderful patient, kind man. We may just go out for Chinese tonight as we did when our three daughters were young and we had little time or money. Last night we and a couple of friends had a great dinner and went to a fantastic concert by the Oregon Symphony. It culminated with Beethoven's Ninth and its rousing finale Ode to Joy.

I feel joyous and optimistic for 2014: my family is doing well, I've got great friends, and there's progress on adoption reform.

Ludwig Van Beethoven
Three states, Washington, Rhode Island, and Ohio, opened original birth certificates to adult adoptees this year. True, Washington included a first mother veto expiring only on the death of the mother but otherwise it's good legislation. With the other ten states* which have opened records and Pennsylvania which is expected to pass open records legislation soon, over 20 percent of the population will live in states with open records.

Twenty percent is usually considered the tipping point for anything; once it's reached, there's no going back. It will be impossible to argue that first mothers in New York, for example, need more protection than mothers in Alabama or Oregon. Once birth records are opened, we anticipate that states will pass laws allowing adoptees and first parents access to court records without a court order. Oregon enacted a law this year allowing adoptees to inspect and copy court records without a court order and making it easier for first mothers to obtain a court order.

The next challenge in adoption reform is preventing unnecessary adoptions through assuring that mothers make informed decisions and protecting fathers' rights. We need laws that require mothers considering adoption receive counseling from an independent source, and have time--the Donaldson Institute recommends at least week after birth and a substantial revocation period--to decide on adoption. Legislation is needed to protect fathers rights. No child who has a mother or a father willing and able to care for him should ever be adopted.

Jane & Jay
We are thankful that intercountry adoptions have declined from a high of 22,991 in 2004 to 8,668 in 2012. With Russia cutting off adoptions, China backing away from the strict one child policy, and South Korea becoming more accepting of single mothers, I'm, hopeful we'll see further decline. Sadly, misguided Congresspeople are trying to reverse this positive trend. The Children in Families First Act of 2013 (S. 1530) sponsored by Sen. Mary Landrieu (D. La.) and a companion bill in the House (HR 3323) sponsored by Rep. Kay Granger (R. Tx.) would condition aid to countries on allowing Americans to take their children. We are extremely disappointed to see that Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts is a co-sponsor of the Senate bill. My husband and I were strong supporters of Sen. Warren and one of my daughters worked on her campaign in 2012. I have to think she is just naive about the exploitation and downright cruelty which occurs in intercountry adoption.

Poverty, both here and abroad, remains a cause of parents losing their children to adoption. Pope Francis has put eliminating poverty front and center; that it is the obligation, not only of Christians, but all righteous people to end poverty. In spite of the fact that Congress has cancelled unemployment benefits for millions of Americans, I am optimistic that it will reverse this mean-spirited action. Thinking Republicans must realize it's going to be difficult to campaign for re-election when thousands of their constituents have lost their homes. They may even join Democrats in legislation to raise the minimum wage.
Pope Francis

Although there's a lot of work yet to be done, we're making progress and that is cause for joy. As we raise a cup of kindness tonight, FMF asks our readers to include in their New Years resolutions helping preserve natural families through reforming adoption.

O Freunde, nicht diese Tone!
sondern lasst uns angenehmere anstimmen
und freundenvollere!

O friends, no more these sounds!
Let us sing more cheerful songs
more full of joy!
Ode to Joy
*Kansas, Alaska, Delaware, Tennessee, Oregon, Alabama, New Hampshire, Maine, and Illinois. Some of these states have first mother vetoes. Other states like Colorado's records allow adoptees born within a specific time period. to access their records.

Oregon to allow first mothers easier access to adoption records
Senate bill encourages more international adoption


  1. I'm so happy that you are optimistic, Jane. You have been at this game much longer than me and your optimism makes me very happy. With the new year starting I am thinking about what I can do in my limited time. I think it will be to try and get revocation periods allowed in Illinois. By the end of my life I would love to see a ban on adoption plans with the mother until she is six weeks postpartum. But we are not there yet so I will just start with revocation periods.
    Thanks for giving us a place to come to sooth our weary souls. And thanks for giving us hope that things are changing, bit by bit!

  2. Happy Anniversary, Jane. Congratulations on 45 years with a good man. The concert sounds wonderful and uplifting. Thanks for reminding us there has been some progress in adoption reform, however slow. Happy and Healthy New Year to all.

  3. Jane I am glad you are doing so well but I definitely had to reply to this letter.

    The decline in international adoptions has some very tragic consequences for children who will live in third world poverty conditions with no family to care for them.

    Putin closed down adoptions to US for purely political reasons, reasons that had absolutely nothing to do with the welfare of children. Many thousands of children are languishing in Russian orphanages, many having been removed due to extreme abuse and neglect in the family. The Russian system is not like ours, when a child is removed there circumstances have to be really really horrific.

    Many Russian orphanages don't have heat. Imagine a Russian winter without heat. Many children are abused sexually by workers and older orphans. Most children do not get enough adult care and end up emotionally damaged and failure to thrive. Many have fetal alcohol related issues. Many don't get enough to eat; in some places, the children are not allowed outside to play! There are few toys. Life is dire and hard. We would not wish it upon our enemy.

    To age out of a Russian orphanage means a life in the streets and probably in prostitution.

    And in China, the recent change in the one child policy is a minimal change, though a welcome one. Millions of Chinese children languish in poor conditions in orphanages, with similar circumstances as described above.

    To celebrate fewer international adoptions is premature. It is not because fewer children need homes or are in better conditions.

    Your political sensibilities might be offended by IA adoption but talk to some of the children who left dire circumstances and now have enough food to eat and a family to care of them, love them, give them medical treatment, an education. Would you prefer that they would go back to an orphanage so you are not offended by IA????

    The juxtaposition of you at a fancy dinner with your family celebrating that fewer children in orphanages are being allowed to find families just left me actually physically ill. Naïve at best, as in "adoption is bad so the less of it the better" without thinking of WHY children need to be adopted, or even actually evil at worst as in "I suffered due to relinquishing my daughter so now I don't want any one to get adopted."

    I highly doubt Sen. Warren is misguided; she might have the cold hard facts.

    IA is not perfect. The world is not perfect. But if it can help a child leave a lonely orphanage and get a family, would you really want to be counted among the ones who said sorry kiddo you gotta stay in the orphanage because I don't like IA?

    I just had to speak out to be a voice for the voiceless. To celebrate children remaining orphans is no celebration.

  4. Anon at 12:00 pm.
    I'm sure you mean well but you're misinformed about intercountry adoptions. Most of the children in orphanages are not orphans. They are placed temporarily while their parents look for work or deal with illness. If the money spent on adoptions were spent instead on helping families, there would be far fewer children in orphanages.

    Most of the children being adopted from abroad are infants, not the children you see in pictures of orphanages. Adoption actually increase the number of children in orphanages because it draws in money that would otherwise be spend helping children in their own families.

    Take a look at the many posts we've written about the dark side of intercountry adoption and the authorities we've cited. Here's a couple. Foreign Adoptions aren't plunging fast enough
    Russians say "nyet" to US adoptions

    I encourage you to read Kathryn Joyce's "The Child Catchers", which details the many abuses in intercountry adoption. Also take a look at the books and blogs written by foreign adoptees. They are biggest critics of foreign adoption.

  5. Jane,
    You are also somewhat misinformed about Russian adoption. I'm not trying to be confrontational, but some of the things you wrote in your comment are wrong. You cannot adopt an infant from Russia. A toddler yes; an infant, no. There are waiting periods during which time the child is only available to Russians for adoption. Also, they have to have had no family visitors for a set period of time. I agree most are not true orphans, but if no family members are coming to visit them, there isn't much difference. Most of the kids are sick, hungry, developmentally delayed and neglected (at best).

    I am not saying that there is nothing wrong with international adoption. There is plenty wrong with it. But I'm not sure I agree that most of the kids (at least in Russia) are there because of international adoption money. There is a huge addiction/neglect problem in Russia that has nothing to do with international adoption.

    Anon is right. It is not as if Putin stopped international adoptions for the children's sake, he did it purely for political purposes. Go visit one Russian orphanage and you will see that Mr. Putin doesn't care much about the children. The conditions are deplorable.

    While I do support adoption reform and agree there are many aspects that need to be changed, I think it is naive to think that stopping international adoption is somehow some kind of wonderful victory for everyone.

  6. Michele,
    I understand the plight of Russian children can tug at your heart strings but bringing a few thousand to the US each year did nothing to alleviate the problem of dependent Russian children.

    You are too trusting of adoption providers. Of course they tell you these children have no family that cares for them; you have not verified that. It's likely that the adoption providers bribed Russian officials (with American money) to falsify documents to make these children available for adoption. This has happened in many countries. Governments manufacture orphans for the western adoption market.

    My comments about infants being the largest group of children adopted from abroad was in reference to total adoptees not just Russian adoptees. Here's a link to the US State Department site with statistics on intercountry adoptions. http://adoption.state.gov/about_us/statistics.php As you can see, the overwhelming number of children were under one year of age; the next largest group was between one and two years of age. Children over two constituted a minute number of foreign adoptees.

    From 1999 to 2012 45,862 children were adopted from Russia, an average of 3,276 children per year, a drop in the bucket compared to the claimed 100,000 or so children in Russian orphanages. We know that some of these adopted children did not fare well in the US: some were murdered and many were abused, "re-homed" or sent to treatment centers.

    The many thousands of dollars spent bringing Russian children to the US and providing treatment for them is an inefficient way to help needy Russian children. American money actually does more harm than good because it helps support orphanages and discourages the Russian government from helping families through alcohol treatment and other programs. The millions of dollars that has gone into bringing a few Russian children to the US and providing treatment services here could be much better spent on helping Russian families.

    Putin may have been motivated out of spite rather than the welfare of Russian children. Regardless, he made the right decision.

  7. I don't pretend to understand a lot of what is said here as I am not smart BUT, I kind of get most what is said. I need help and I wanted to ask you. I have a daughter whom was adopted by what I thought was a good family, and have learned otherwise through the years. It is a lob=ng story but I am more then willing to talk and tell my side. My main thing is I don't have the papers I signed and I don't know how to get a copy of them to prove to y daughter that I DID NOT GIVE HER UP AT BIRTH, as the adopted family says. Can you please direct me in the right direction to get a copy of the papers I signed? It was in the state of Maryland and through DSS. I will give you any ifno needed, I just need a copy at least of what I signed. Please I beg you as I am going through a VERY hard time with the family that adopted her and with myself.

  8. Anonymous: since a great many people aren't reading this post anymore, I will answer this in a post later today, or privately. You can write us at forumfirstmother@gmail.com.

    However, let me start by saying that most of us do not have copies of our papers,and they are nearly impossible to get many years later. But I will try to answer you more fully in a post.

  9. Anon the only way you can get copies of the papers you signed is from the court or from the adoption agency, DSS. Contact DSS and ask for copies and anything else they can give your from your file. DSS may refuse because Maryland law might prohibit them from giving you anything.

    Then your only option is to ask a judge in the county which handled the adoption for an order allowing you to see the file at the courthouse. You will have to have a good reason to want to see the file. I suggest you ask an attorney to help you. You may be eligible for legal aid. A starting place to find an attorney is www.findlegalhelp.org.

  10. While I can't speak for every Russian orphan, obviously, I did in fact verify that what the adoption agency told us about our daughter was correct. They told us we were "not allowed" to contact the birth family. We did it anyway because I inherently did not trust them. I hired a searcher, gave him limited info and held back some of the info given to us (bc I didn't inherently trust him either). He verified everything that was told to us, even the info held back, and sent videotape of my daughter's family. She had, in fact been abandoned (in a hospital, so her mother's identity was known), for reasons I will not go into on a public forum. However, the main reason was not poverty. So no, she is not a true orphan. However, her mother was visited by a social worker and encouraged to come get her baby. The baby was put on a waitlist during which time had she been visited, she would not have been available for adoption and then on a second waitlist during which time she was only available for Russians to adopt. That is why there are so many children in orphanages; most are not available for adoption. They are left there by their families and visited at least occasionally.

    I get what you are saying about adoption money continuing the cycle and believe me I have stated elsewhere I wish I could go back and NOT adopt. I hate that our money fed into this broken system and I know that my daughter may one day hate me for it.

    I also know next to nothing about adoptions from countries other than Russia. You certainly know more than I. However, having said all that, I still have a hard time feeling happy that adoptions are stopped after seeing what I saw over there. No amount of statistics will change that. I also get that many are mistreated once adopted. No excuse for that. The kids are damaged from their treatment in the orphanage and APs are not adequately prepared for it. Believe me, I wasn't. I had to go to some sessions with a therapist after adopting because my daughter was so difficult and I had no idea what to do. I was not a first time parent; I have bio kids. This was completely different. She was like a wild animal and I am not saying that to be disrespectful; she had no socialization skills. Did not know how to eat or walk or express herself in any way other than scream, smash her head against the floor and hit me in the chest and face.

    Again, I follow your blog to get another perspective and am an AP that would go back and do things differently (ie: not adopt) if I could and I don't want to appear confrontational. I just think that sometimes adoption, even international adoption, is the best alternative. Thanks for reading. I will continue to read your blog because I have learned a lot.

  11. Anon said: To age out of a Russian orphanage means a life in the streets and probably in prostitution.
    So I guess aging out of foster care in the US allows children to become CEO's and Pilots? How about charity beginning at home!!

  12. Thanks for the correction, Michelle

    I appreciate that you did attempt to verify the information given to you about your daughter. And I admire you for sticking with your daughter. I hope that she is doing better now.



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