' [Birth Mother] First Mother Forum: How money rules infant adoption

Sunday, December 1, 2013

How money rules infant adoption

Lorraine and I gave up our newborn daughters because we believed we would be our child's disgrace and they would be ours. Today, though, with 40 percent of children born to single mothers, politicians and celebrities having love children a-plenty, adoption as prime time TV entertainment, shame is not part of the equation. Adoption practitioners have new ammunition in their arsenals. We'll be writing about these over the next several weeks. 

First up is the influence of money although that term is never used. Rather, Catelynn and Tyler of 16 and Pregnant fame and thousands of other parents give up their children in order to give their children and themselves "the life they deserve."

Adoption facilitator American Adoptions tells pregnant women "adoption benefits birth mothers because it grants her a second chance at receiving an education, fulfilling other goals or raising other children." It cites a 1988 study of adolescent mothers purporting to show that women who choose adoption "had higher educational aspirations, were less likely to live in poverty and receive public assistance, and were more likely to be employed. Unemployment, of course is typically a temporary conditions and does not determine a life's course. American Adoptions goes on to tell us that adopted children too will reap the financial benefits of adoption. They will "have opportunities and resources that you might not be able to provide at your stage in life, perhaps including the chance to attend college."

On its website, the Gladney Center for Adoption encourages mothers-to-be to ask themselves, "Do you feel like your baby would have a better life if he/she were raised by a married couple who could offer him/her more than you can give right now? Do you think your chances of accomplishing your personal goals would be greater if you were not a parent at this time in your life?"

The Mormon Church couples financial argument to its theological ones: "The economic facts are harsh for unwed mothers who choose to keep their babies. Three-fifths of all illegitimate children and their mothers depend on welfare assistance for a minimal subsistence....Unwed mothers who place their baby for adoption generally obtain a higher education and better employment....Children of adoptive couples, even when compared to the general population, have better economic environments and have parents who are better educated and more mature than the parents of the general population." (The later could be an argument for the wholesale redistribution of all children from the have-nots to the haves.)

Focus on the Family, a self-described "global Christian ministry dedicated to helping families thrive" similarly advocates for the separation of single moms and their children. It cautions single pregnant women that most single mothers and their babies have "a poverty-level existence" while most adoptive parents come from a middle-class to upper-middle-class socioeconomic background and therefore, can provide your baby with the security and advantages that children raised by a two-parent family offers."

The message of monetary benefits to adoption isn't restricted to conservative Christians. Adam Pertman, Executive Director of the Donaldson Adoption Institution and author of the 2011 book Adoption Nation, approves of adoption in cases where mothers lack “financial…resources to raise a child.” He lauds a woman named Charlene for giving up her son to a couple who “could give him the moon and the stars, which is what I wanted him to have but what I knew I couldn't give him at this stage of my life.”

Ironically, in his book Pertman also chides mothers for selecting adoptive parents based on their financial resources. “One of the most disquieting, rarely discussed truths of the new world of American adoption is that pregnant women who consider placing their babies are systematically widening the economic gap between themselves, as a group, and the people who adopt their children and are contributing significantly to the creation of a privileged class of well-to-do adoptive families. They’re doing that, quite simply, by choosing what they perceive as the best possible homes for their children.”

The myth of giving a child a better life is just that--a myth.  The child will have a different life certainly but greater material benefits early in life goes not guarantee a better life for either child or mother. A 2006 white paper from the Donaldson Adoption Institute reports that the studies frequently cited for the happy outcome of giving up your baby are inherently flawed. According to Safeguarding the Rights and Well-Being of Birthparents, "these studies...found that many of these differences disappeared when controlling for background variables; that is some differences were associated with other life circumstances rather than with the choice of parenting or adoption." In other words, if you were working class and struggling financially when you chose to "give your child a better life," you would probably end up that way afterwards; and if you were comfortably middle class, you would most likely stay comfortably middle class afterwards, and go on and get that degree that you were on track for before you became pregnant.

The industry not only promises a better life in the future, it offers financial help to women before birth, paid, of course, by prospective adoptive parents. American Adoptions notes: "pregnancy-related expenses, otherwise known as living expenses, can be a deciding factor in a woman's decision to pursue adoption and are often even among her first worries when she learns she is pregnant....Support for living expenses include rent, utilities, food, transportation, maternity clothing and phone service, and you will be able to receive financial assistance during your pregnancy and four to six weeks later." And the icing on the cake: American Adoptions also promises that "every birth mother who goes through with the adoption process with American Adoptions will receive a scholarship application and be considered for a financial scholarship to assist with the costs of education." So now, if you give up your baby, you might even be rewarded with a scholarship, kinda like someone who wins a beauty pageant. 

Gladney also offers "housing and living expenses." Adoption Network Law Center sweetens the pot by  further promising mothers-to-be housing which includes: "a spacious living area, large swimming pool, and an extensive exercise facility with the latest equipment available." Among other services, A (sic) Act of Love offers "relocation and living accommodations" and "assistance with transportation." Of course these facilities do more than provide comfort, according to the Adoption Network, they "allow mothers to be discreet and avoid conflicts with friends and family about their decision." A benefit the Donaldson rightly describes in Safeguarding as a way "to increase the odds that a woman will place her child for adoption." A facilitator's email lays it out:: "'We are most concerned in getting the birthmother [Donaldson word] in a situation where she is most likely to place....One of the things we have found is that birthmothers that are willing to relocate for the purpose of adoption have a 95%+ likelihood of placing. Therefor we use maternity housing as much as possible. It does increase the cost of adoption significantly--at least $5 to $10K, but they almost always place." One certain benefit of paying relocation fees is to move a mother to a state like Utah with its adoption-friendly laws.

In other words, get those potential "birth mothers" away from their friends and family who might support their decision to a) not abort; and b) keep their babies. Put them in a situation where they feel isolated and alone, and then offer them the kind of help and friendship that will serve to make them feel they have no choice but to relinquish, and to those very nice people who will give their baby material comforts they cannot. This is the most insidious type of brain-washing for a human product, one's baby.

Housing, medical care, and the like come with a poison pill tucked inside. "Unscrupulous facilitators can use the payment of expenses as a coercive tactic to pressure prospective parents to place even if they are reluctant to do so....For example, an expectant mother may be persuaded to accept inflated living expenses--which can be tempting at the moment, but can create a sense of obligation down the line," according to the Donaldson Institute. I've heard of mothers who are threatened with law suits to recover the money if they don't give up their babies which, of course, they are unable to do. One of the more outrageous practices we have heard of was occurring in Vietnam before their second "baby lift" was curtailed, if not shut down. Mothers were told they had to pay the hospital bills of $10,000 before they could leave with their babies. Since the average monthly wage in Vietnam in 2012 was $185 a month--which was nearly a 20 percent increase over the previous year--these mothers were not faced with any real choice. They were simply not allowed to take their babies home because the possibility of coming up with $10,000 was never a reality.

Practitioners, adoptive parents--often fine people but who willingly suspend disbelief in their quest to acquire a baby--and even some first mothers insist that birth parents choose adoption of their own free will, or free agency. In Beggars and Choosers, historian Rickie Solinger, counters that that the disparity in economic power often drives the adoption "decision. "Adoption is rarely about mother's choices; it is, instead, about the abject choicelessness of some resourcelessness women." While that few pregnant mothers are literally in the street not knowing where their next meal will come from, those who give up their babies perceive themselves as lacking the financial ability to give their children the life they can imagine for them. They discount the value to the child of being raised by his natural parents. They are unaware of the numerous emotional ramifications of being adopted.
Pope Francis

Some adoptive parents justify their decision to take the child of another by equating their superior financial condition with a superior moral one, conveniently ignoring the fact that over the past 30 years political decisions have resulted in the rich getting richer, the poor getting poorer, and the middle just barely hanging on. In his recent Evangeli Gaudium Pope Francis denounced the "idolatry of money"and called on rich people to share their wealth. Perhaps that could include helping mothers nurture their children.
American Adoptions
Gladney Center for Adoption
LDS: Guidance for Unwed Parents
Focus on the Family: Choosing the Best for Your Baby
Adoption Network Law Center
A Act of Love Adoptions (We assume the A Act error is for coming up in alphabetical listings for adoption agencies; not that the individual who dreamt up this grammatically incorrect name is a nincompoop.)
Safeguarding the Rights and Well-Being of Birthparents
Pope Francis calls unfettered capitalism 'tyranny' and urges rich to share wealth

Response to the Adoption Option
Catelynn and Tyler--still grieving over the loss of their daughter
Illinois cracks down on sleazy adoption practitioner
Raising Hell and Awareness at a Gladney Fund Raiser in Dallas
Choice is largely a myth when it comes to relinquishing a child

Beggars and Choosers: How the Politics of Choice Shapes Adoption, Abortion, and Welfare in the United States  by Rickie Solinger  
"Solinger shows how historical distinctions between women of color and white women, between poor and middle-class women, were used in new ways during the era of 'choice.' Politicians and policy makers began to exclude certain women from the class of "deserving mothers" by using the language of choice to create new public policies concerning everything from Medicaid funding for abortions to family tax credits, infertility treatments, international adoption, teen pregnancy, and welfare. Solinger argues that the class-and-race-inflected guarantee of "choice" is a shaky foundation on which to build our notions of reproductive freedom. Her impassioned argument is for reproductive rights as human rights--as a basis for full citizenship status for women."--Amazon

Adoption Nation: How the Adoption Revolution is Transforming Our Families -- and America  by Adam Pertman
This book, written for those considering adoption, lays out clearly the changes which are occurring in adoption, most particularly openness which the author and FMF strongly support. FMF is critical of this book, however, because it is unabashedly pro-adoption and superficial in its treatment of first mothers. On the plus side, it is superior to other books marketed to those considering adopting which are simply "how to" books on gaming the system and conning vulnerable mothers-to-be. 

ANY BOOK OR PRODUCT ORDERED AT AMAZON THROUGH CLICKING ON THE BOOK JACKET OR TITLE ABOVE WILL BE CREDITED TO FMF. Your support is most appreciated. Please think of us as you order your holiday gifts. 


  1. I was reading posts on a Facebook page for mothers who have placed their babies. I was shocked at how much love most of the women expressed for the adopters. Money was not mentioned but I would not be surprised if it wasn't a factor. At least four women swore that Open adoption would stay open and could be legally enforced. We all know that is not true. I was truly dismayed by what I read.

  2. Yes, yes, yes, yes and yes.

    GREAT post!

  3. I lost my son nine years ago. Money and you're doing such a wonderful thing for these wonderful people are the coercion tactics of the day.

    I work in domestic violence and sexual assault programs. The adoption industry and the not ethical adopters are exactly like abusers.

    The reason mothers go on about how much they love their children's adopters is because they are scared to death if they don't they will lose all contact with their child. It is taught to us by the agencies. It is our job to reaffirm their parenthood and kiss their butts and they know it. Things went south for me when I quit playing the ggame. My child's adopter doesn't like me. I don't much care anymore though. The truth will come out soon enough.

  4. Thanks for being such a smart voice for all of us. This is a post I will refer back to in my limited family preservation advocacy.
    I'd also love to hear about how temporary all of this is - which you touched on. How many of our children were raised by single mothers as the adopters divorced? Or how many slip into poverty because of hard econaomic times? I'd like to think Adam Pertman's stance isn't as much waffeling as a man that is learning and changing his stance. Can you speak to that?

  5. Steffi - I am so glad I relinquested when the internet wasn't around to record my blattering. I would have been the best little bmommy around. Until the open adoption became closed, that is, becasue we know that's almost always inevitable. there are very few lovely adopters like 2nd Mother that posts here. I would have just had to keep telling myself what a &*^*& saint I was for giving my child her Disney family. I can just see the fingers in my ears yelling lalala, I am the hero to my child. It wasn't until reunion that I realized what a line of bull I was fed and ate up like candy. Shame on me. But I can't believe the place in hell saved for these baby hijackers of today.

  6. Maja: My daughter's adoptive mother liked me well enough--until she didn't! We knew each other over the course of more than a quarter of a century, but near the end of my daughter's life, her hatred came out in spades--as I heard. So it goes. But we were together at her funeral. In a way, in some cases, our positions are antithetical and only some will be able to generously bridge the gap. I could say, it's not personal, when of course--it is!

  7. Barbara,
    The two quotes from Adam Pertman are from the same book, the revised edition of Adoption Nation. For a review of the book, see my post Adoption Nation is No Country for Birth Mothers.

    The reason for the inconsistency, I think, is not that his thoughts are evolving. Pertman is writing for middle class people who are considering adopting. These people believe they have much to offer a child and want to believe mothers give their babies up willingly so they can have a better life. At the same time, his audience may be resentful that those with more money may get ahead of the line. He also wants to make sure the reader understands that he believes that adoption should not be just about money.

  8. First off, I appreciate your forum. I work in the domestic violence field and work with women that have (temporarily or permanently) lost children to an abuser or the state. This gives me a small glimpse into their grief and the traumas they carry with them.

    The adoptions I've experienced in my work has have been foster parents or family adopting kids in care. Given that the financial benefits are greatly reduced after adoption, it's much less financially motivated. It's harder to tell if the foster parents of infants or toddlers harbored secret hopes of adoption or are just experiencing the natural effects of bonding over time.

    I want to be clear that I believe in keeping families together when possible. I've seen mothers (and fathers) come from incredibly different circumstances including domestic violence, poverty, drug addiction, traumatic backgrounds and more recover and become amazing parents- if they weren't already. The same kinds of parents that would be targeted and perhaps written off by agencies et all.

    What is hard for me is seeing the automatic assumption that everyone can and should parent that wants to and adoption (with it's risks) is bad. There are plenty of people that want to parent, but either don't have the ability (mental illness, etc.) or willingness to put their children first. They don't question whether they are the best thing for their children and these children suffer horribly.

    I've seen too much of this to think the adoption of infants is always bad, selfish or unwise. If you cannot parent (you can -want- to and not be able to) it is much kinder that you don't keep your child and put them through hell. Parents that love their children dearly can still neglect them through drug use and more.

    My hope would be that mothers having doubts or concerns would see an independent counselor. After reading this forum and others, I more than agree adoption agencies can't and shouldn't be involved here. There's too much risk of them coercing a scared, but loving and functional mother into making decision she doesn't believe in. In my experience, the mothers and fathers at most risk don't question themselves or look at adoption, but my hope would be the same- someone capable of helping them if there are serious problems.

  9. atienne: What I hear you saying is that even though some parents with problems get their act together and become, as you put it, "amazing parents," any pregnant woman with any issues whatsoever should just give her baby up rather than take the chance that she would ever be a bad parent.

    I hope I am hearing you wrong.

    Children go through an amazing assortment of experiences from birth to maturity and some of those experiences are traumatic. And you would be very surprised what traumatizes a child versus what the child shrugs off. It varies widely from person to person according to genetics, temperament, social context and other issues.

    Everything I've read and experienced so far in my life (and I'm almost 40) tells me that how we respond to bad situations is so much more important than whether we can prevent them all. The latter is never going to happen, and we seem to cause more trauma and damage by attempting damage prevention than we do by encouraging resiliency in the face of adversity.

    I'm sure there are exceptions to that general rule but you're not going to find very many and they will tend to be extreme.

    And most kids living in a less than optimal home situation are NOT dealing with the extreme.

    So do you really want to go there? Do you really want to be the person that says "never give any less than perfect pregnant woman a chance at all, period, because God forbid she decide she's not up for parenting later"?

    I wouldn't, if I were you.

    P.S. My son was adopted by his paternal grandmother and step-grandfather because I, a suddenly impoverished liberal Neopagan woman, didn't fit their middle-class conservative Christian sensibilities. In other words, I might have influenced him in what they felt was a detrimental manner.

    But he was raised by a poorly-controlled mentally ill diabetic and an alcoholic who has been arrested at least once in front of my son after going on a rampage.

    Be careful of just what you think you are "preventing."

  10. It is too bad birth mothers are coerced and intimidated into relinquishing their children to selfish, manipulative adopters. It is especially disconcerting when they are further bullied by the adoptive parents into lying in court about the birth father's identity so he doesn't stand a chance in getting to raise his child. Such is a case currently pending in Tennessee. There's more information on it at: justiceforgabi.org



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