' [Birth Mother] First Mother Forum: Adoption in the news: Let the media know our side of the story

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Adoption in the news: Let the media know our side of the story

"'We strongly believe every child belongs to a family,'" Amy Gilson of Dallas, Oregon told the reporter for the Salem Statesman-Journal "Helping Hands", 11/8/14). Amy and her husband Tom are raising funds to adopt a seven-month-old boy from Ethiopia, inspired by the Biblical commandment "to look after widows and orphans in their distress." (James 1:27.) They have put up $27,000 towards the $35,000 they will need to bring little "Callen James" to their home. They have taken second jobs to raise money and are soliciting donations.

I fired off a letter to the S-J pointing out corruption was rampant in Ethiopian adoptions and the child may be a victim of kidnapping, not an orphan. (The complete letter is below). I pointed out that children adopted intercountry and transracially often have problems adjusting and
that $35,000 would go a long way to help his original family keep him, Finally I noted  that 200 children awaited adoptive families in Oregon.

I don't know if the S-J will print my letter. Perhaps I am just spitting in the wind. On the other hand,
if I don't try to set them straight, who will?  And if the S-J receives more letters perhaps someone on the editorial staff will realize that intercountry adoption is not all that it is cracked up to be, and that there is opposition to its unquestioning acceptance of it.

The adoption industry has far more resources than those of us who know the dark side of adoption. Writing letters to the editor or commenting on online media is a cheap but effective way to raise our voices.

It does little good, however, if only a few of  us write; we're discounted: she's a sore loser, a neurotic birth mother, she can't get on with her life. But if more of use speak up, we have a chance. We encourage you to look for opportunities to send letters or comments. If you see a heart-warming story about a reunion, congratulate the parties, and then point out the laws need to be changed to unseal records and give more adoptees and first parents the opportunity for reunion. If an article extols adoption (common during Adoption Awareness month each November) point out the loss inherent in adoption.

A few thoughts on what you might include in a letter: Let them know your personal experience if it's relevant. Broaden the message beyond your situation and add some authority. (FMF has some quotations on its Favorite Adoption Quotes page which may be helpful.)  Avoid inflammatory language but don't be wishy-washy. Always be polite (one my challenges). Compliment the subjects of the article and the reporter. Assume they are ignorant, not malevolent.

Be sure to stay with in the word limit the media requires. Ask someone to read your letter or comment to see if it makes sense to them. Check it for spelling and grammatical errors. Include your name, address, telephone number if requested. Above all, write and post at every opportunity. Your letter or comment may not be perfect (who's are?) but getting the word out is what's important. A final word: Gird yourself for a backlash. Keep in mind that words which don't ruffle some feathers probably aren't worth writing --jane 

Amen from--lorraine 
If people don't hear from us, who are they going to hear from? FMF's next post will be a look at what grown-up adoptees, adopted internationally, have to say about the experience. It's not pretty.

Here's the link to send a letter to the Statesman-Journal.
Note: Here's my (Jane's) letter to the Statesman-Journal.

"I commend the desire of Tom and Amy Gilson who are raising funds to adopt a 7-month-old Ethiopian boy to help a needy child. (“Helping with Both Hands” 11/8/14). Little Callen James, however, may well be a kidnapping victim, not an orphan. The rampant corruption in adoption in Ethiopia, fueled by the money of well-meaning Americans, is well- documented by investigative reporter Kathryn Joyce in The Child Catchers: Rescue, Trafficking, and the New Gospel of Adoption

Children adopted intercountry and especially those adopted transracially often have difficulty adjusting to their new families. Child welfare experts agree that children are best raised by their own parents. If that is not possible, they should remain with kin. The $35,000 the Gilsons will pay to bring Callen James to the United States could be far better spent helping his Ethiopian family where incomes may be as little as $500 a year.

The Gilson’s might consider turning their sights closer to home. Two hundred children under the care of Oregon’s Department of Human Services are waiting for adoptive families. DHS adoption fees are minimal. DHS also provides post-adoption services which many agencies arranging intercountry adoptions do not provide."

Harvesting Children from Ethiopia for Families in America
Favorite Adoption Quotes
One Woman's Struggle with Adopting from EthiopiaMore Stench Coming from Ethiopian Adoptions through Christian World Adoptions
The Child Catchers exposes the stench of international adoption--and domestic adoption too


The Child Catchers: Rescue, Trafficking, and the New Gospel of Adoption
"The Child Catchers has its critics, of course, accusing Joyce of being "anti-adoption" and promoting a pro-abortion agenda, as we at First Mother Forum have been accused of. But it is an important voice for adoption reform and should be read by those who shape adoption policy and those considering adopting from abroad or donating to an international adoption agency or foreign orphanage. It's laden with facts and figures, but is never dull. FMF highly recommends The Child Catchers.--jane



  1. As always, Jane, you hit the nail on the head. I find the whole notion of fund-raising for adoption truly obscene. Money is changing hands for the purchase of a child. "Adoption," "purchase." In the case of international adoption I see no difference. Money from rich countries is flowing to poor ones: money for children. My grandmother, now long dead, was a dear, good, Christian woman, but she believed African-Americans were better off when they were slaves. She believed they actually preferred slavery. This sounds mind-boggling today, but I remember her saying such things to me when I was a child. We've seen many historical examples of "good" people doing despicable things: Democratic Athens depended on slave labor; virtually the whole of German society participated or colludied in the Holocaust; American pioneers displaced Native Americans from their ancestral lands and later adopted their children by force, and the list goes on. Contemporary adoption practices belong in this list as well. Selling children; erasing their identities; depriving them of their biological families, cultures, languages, and breaking their genealogical chain--how can these acts be noble, beautiful, generous, indeed Christian? It is my fervent hope that sooner rather than later, Americans (and Europeans and Australians) will wake up to the terrible exploitation and outright abuse that is international adoption. This evening my husband and I are going to a friend's for wine and cheese. This friend has an adopted son from Russia. The boy must be about 12 by now. The father is a good man, a very decent man, and a loving father. I remember when this boy came to the States as an infant. At the time I was still in the adoption fog myself, and I thought it was a wonderful, happy thing for this family to have a child and for this baby to have such nice parents. I have completely changed my mind about international adoption (I am the adoptive mother of a 41 year old son from Vietnam), and insofar as it is in my power to raise awareness about the "peculiar institution" of adoption, I will do it. Take the money from those fundraisers and help a whole village. It is no blessing to a child to be selected for a life of privilege when his entire family is left destitute.

    1. Pam,
      Your writing style is beautiful and understanding adoption from two sides of the fence, so to speak, would make you a perfect person to send a letter such as Jane suggests. Your personal story and your passion for the subject could really make a difference. I am so glad you post comments here at FMF. I always look forward to reading what you have to say.

    2. Pam: thank you for writing here. I am just finishing readying essays by people adopted internationally, and what they have to say is so sad. Personally, I feel surrounded by couples and single women who adopted. Many of them are my friends. I wasn't in a "fog" but even those I could talk to could not hear what I said.

    3. Pam, I've only just discovered your blog and I'm so thankful you write as you do. It is an absolutely wonderful series of articles you've written, so lucid and thoughtful.

      I couldn't find a way to comment as I don't yet fit any of the commenting options, but I just wanted to say a huge thank you for putting your viewpoint into the world.

  2. Amen! Everything in the post and in Pam's comment is so true and it is so vital that this truth is finally heard and understood.

    1. Julia Emily, sorry to jump in here off topic, but I saw the title of this TED talk and its reference to synaesthesia and creativity, and wanted to send you the link. I haven't had the time to watch it but the comments seem to indicate its worth it: http://www.ted.com/talks/vilayanur_ramachandran_on_your_mind?language=en

    2. Thanks Cherry! I printed this out so I can read it later.

      It's a condition that has an effect on every aspect of my life. I have to wonder if my first mother had it.

  3. Great job Jane! I’ll write the SJ after this quick note. Keep up the work as the adoption industry is like the little Dutch Boy having a hard time keeping it’s fingers from plugging all the leaking holes adoption activists are creating in their dam.

  4. Here is a shameless plug for a fundraiser to unite Ethiopian families and their children adopted abroad.


  5. http://parenting.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/11/13/adoptees-like-me-flip-the-script-on-the-pro-adoption-narrative/?emc=edit_ml_20141113&nl=style&nlid=63608734

    Here is an excellent article by an adoptee in the NY Times Parenting Blog that lets the media know her side for that dreaded Month. Good work!

  6. Have you seen this, Jane? http://atlantablackstar.com/2014/11/05/international-adoption-international-traficking/
    I mentioned it in my blog a few days ago. What an articulate and beautiful counterpoint to all the rah, rah, rah about orphans being rescued.

    1. Here is CNN's report on Lemma's story.


    2. Thanks, Denise. I just went a message via Facebook to the author of the S-J article, Geoff Parks of Salem, and included the link to this article. I also sent him a Friend's request. I'll let folks know if he responds.

  7. This article (see link below) made me think about a lot of things. The questionable adoption practices in South Korea, the pain of the first mother, the overriding importance of nature and, finally, some consolation that the sisters have found each other.


    1. I just read this story about the twins this morning. It seems as if they are coping well with having been separated, and seem very glad to have found one another. It's such a shame that they missed out on spending their childhood years together, because twins enjoy such a unique experience.

      Very similar to the triplets here in NY that were reunited years ago. They were not able to cope with what happened to them and one of them committed suicide. The whole thing was such a shame, and it was so unnecessary.

      Yet, the media wants us to believe, especially during November, that adoption is a wonderful, win-win situation and all the adorable little adoptees are so lucky. And people eat this up, especially when celebs adopt whether domestically or from another country. No one ever wants to hear the down side of adoption, and some refuse to admit there IS a down side. I'm looking forward to the upcoming post about adult adoptees who were adopted internationally. I know of three such cases, and not one of them worked out. All three families are estranged.

    2. What do you do if you discover your whole life was a lie? That you had a twin sister and you cannot reunite because you don't want to hurt anyone. Do you continue to live a lie? or do you continue to search for the truth? What if the truth was you, and your existence makes it real. Perhaps "in knowing" is an adoptees plight. The future, adoptees will no longer live a lie. I know I cant. Truth is my heart, and it is all that I have. Knowing the truth, hurts, but it makes it real, makes it true. I exist and I am proud of it.

  8. I don't know if I can take any more of the wonderful month of November, and the media shoving warm, fuzzy, happy adoption stories and photos down my throat! This year it has been more difficult than in previous years.

    A-dad was hospitalized this past week, so I ended up spending a tremendous amount of time with A-mom. Being together from morning until night was very difficult, especially because dad was so ill. But, it was difficult because I realize that she does not know me at all, and never really did. There is a huge disconnect between us, which I can see but she can not. It was always there, but never acknowledged. At least now I know why I always felt like an outsider. I was basically a guest in what was supposed to be my own home.

    Now I will go read a transcript, sent to me by Cherry, about synesthesia. And I will continue to wonder if anyone in my first family shared this trait with me!

  9. Jane? I don't know much, but I know this much: Editors DO read "letters to the...", especially if the writers are respectful, informative, and to-the-point, as you describe.

    At every one of the half-dozen or so publications in the pre-Internet days for which I wielded a letter opener, the "letters to" were read by most of the editors, if not by all of them. Sometimes we read the letters to avoid doing more hands-on work, it's true. But LTE were considered among the best barometers of what our readers think, and what, perhaps, the editorial staff should be thinking about as well.

    So even if it feels futile when you stick on a stamp, or hit "send," write that letter! And send it!

  10. Not quite sure why it takes $35,000 to adopt a child? Who is getting the money and why?

    1. Excellent questions, K. You might address them to the adoption agencies. Let FMF know what you find out.

  11. I believe that everyone has been effected by adoption in some way in their lives. They hear stories, they know friends, family who have been effected by adoption. I am excited that more adoptees are telling their true stories, and coming forward with no more fear. This is more than anyone can ask for in helping to form the moral fabric of adoption in change and bringing to light how complex and important the adoption triad is. Each member equal and worth hearing.



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