' [Birth Mother] First Mother Forum: How to arrange an ethical adoption

Monday, October 26, 2015

How to arrange an ethical adoption

Dear First Mother Forum:

My spouse and I are moving forward with plans to adopt in the U.S. We are hoping for an infant adoption, using a non-profit agency with many years of experience. The agency only does open adoptions, which is what we want. The open adoption agreement would be legally enforceable, and we have no intention of betraying it in any event.

I am looking for resources/information that will help us ensure, to the fullest extent possible, that we (and our agency) are respecting the rights, concerns, perspectives, and needs of the birthparents and adopted children. And I want to make sure we solicit those resources not just from people who are cheerleaders for adoption, but also from people who are critics of the adoption system. That's why I'm writing you.

Also I noticed that you used the word "real" in the tagline for First Mother Forum.  Does that necessarily mean, in your view,
that adoptive parents are not "real" parents? Or can they be "real" as well? And if they are not the "real" parents, is that something you think they should tell their adopted children? It seems like it could be hurtful to adopted children for adoptive parents to take the position that they are not the "real" parents. But I welcome contrary perspectives!
--Hoping to Adopt

I delayed answering this email for several days because not only do we want to stop unethical adoptions (which would include all closed adoptions, all changing of the names on the "original birth certificate") we would like to see adoptions in general decline to the point where they are extremely rare. We would like to see a new open kind of adoption for children who really need homes, not for people who want children to "complete" their families, which unfortunately is the focus of many today. 

Alas, this is a losing battle. Yet reality may meet somewhere in the middle, and your email indicates you are sensitive to the issues surrounding adoption and willing to learn more.  

First, we first urge you to look into older children in foster care. That is where you will find the most need. However, we are not adoption facilitators in any way and cannot offer more information about that. 

If that option is not your choice--and I'm guessing it is not from your email--do establish a means of direct contact with the woman or teenager who is considering adoption for her unborn child. And that does mean direct--no going through a third party, such as the agency or a lawyer as the one who will handle the correspondence between you and the mother of any child. Those avenues are always iffy and can end in an instant to the detriment of all parties, foremost the child. 

To insure that you two know the whereabouts of each other and can stay in direct contact, use only an agency that only does fully open adoptions. Not some open, some semi-open, some closed (unless there are extenuating circumstances), but only fully open adoptions. Again, as we are not adoption facilitators, we do not maintain such a list. A quick Google search did come up with Independent Adoption Center that is registered in several states. Abrazo Adoption Services in San Antonio only does open adoption and we would recommend them. Fellow blogger Jane says that she is familiar with Catholic Charities and Open Adoption and Family Services in Portland, Oregon. We discourage adoptions from Bethany Christian Services, Gladney Center for Adoption,  or any agencies connected to the LDS church or based in Utah, as there have been many there with scurrilous practices that have lead to law suits.   

However, before you go ahead with any agency, check with the state to see if complaints or law suits have been filed. Check to see that they provide counseling to the women considering adoption--this includes working with the women to see if there is a way they might keep their child--as well as post-relinquishment services for them. Do the best of your ability to see that this is not lip-service advertised on the web to entice women to give up their babies. While we are on the subject, stay away from the flossy for-profit agencies with websites clearly designed to encourage women to give up their babies. 

We've heard of one case where indigent women--and a great many of the women giving up their babies would keep them if they could afford to--were presented with a list of everything they might need to provide for their child, and of course, these women and teens generally come up wanting. The list of questions are designed to make them insecure and highlight the advantages of a child being raised in a wealthier family. How could a not-well-fixed single woman compare? Yes, wealth does endow advantages, but they must be stacked up against the feelings of abandonment and dislocation that a great many adoptees talk and write about, even as they are integrated into a new family. Most agencies will focus on the positive of adoption for the child, but ignore the disadvantage of not growing up among blood relatives and who look and act like you--as well as a mother who did not relinquish you. 

Do not write a letter that begins "Dear birthmother." You are already implanting the idea that she is already a mother who gave up a child. She is not even a mother. She is a pregnant woman or teenager. Any agency that doesn't realize a "Dear Birthmother" letter is offensive should be off your list. 

Do look for an agency in the state where you are living and at least plan to be, and urge them to find you a match with someone in that state, or otherwise nearby. Too often "semi-open" adoptions end up being between adoptive parents and a natural mother a thousand miles apart, and thus visiting is a financial hardship on her, making visits a burden and infrequent. We often feel that agencies purposefully "match" people who are not geographically compatible, so watch for this. 

Stay away from agencies that ask you for support for the mother during the pregnancy. Do not provide her with financial support with the idea that you are only supporting "your birth mother." Thus for everyone's sanity including your own, and to give the new mother a freer mind when she makes the most monumental decision she will ever have, keep your distance before the birth. This is the cause of much undue pressure to turn over her baby afterwards, and to my mind, a form of baby selling. The money you are giving her now is always with the understanding you will gain a baby, so do not do under any circumstances. 

Consequently, stay away from agencies that provide a country-club atmosphere for the pregnant teen/women. The spa-like trappings of such places imply that the woman "owes" the agency and you, the prospective adopter, her baby. These agencies are notoriously unforgiving if a mother does not meet expectations after the birth and decide to keep her baby. She most likely will be charged for her stay at the posh residence with pool and sauna--at resort prices--and told to get out immediately. I know this sounds incredibly harsh, but we have heard from women that this is what happens. Gladney in Texas is notoriously bad. 

Do see that the biological mother has her own lawyer to guide her through the process of arranging an open-adoption agreement, and recognize that you will have to pay for that lawyer. Find an ethical lawyer that will truly represent her, not be there merely to convince her to sign an agreement that the agency presented. 

Agencies most likely have boiler-plate contracts, and the mother may not feel she can ask for more or negotiate terms. The ones we have seen are all skewed in favor of the adoptive parents. If she doesn't ask for it, or it is not in the contract, you should bring up the issue of grandparents. Will visitation be allowed for them? At the grandparents' house? Remember, the contract is not being written solely for the advantage of the mother--but the child--and as he grows she may wish to spend time with his biological grandparents to give him a sense of grounding and belonging by kinship. Make a contingency plan with grandparents or another relative in case the mother becomes infirm or otherwise unable to keep up the visits and writing. What happens if you move across the country or to another country? How will the mother be able to afford visiting if that happens? 

In a sense, you are adopting not only a child, but her mother and family as well, and you will have a relationship with them for the next thirty or forty years. Any good agency will insist that you and the prospective mother meet at least once or twice and have some sense of the other. However, do not become her good friend as that will put undue pressure on her to go ahead with the adoption in order to NOT disappoint you. We hear from many women after they have relinquished that the bond they had developed with the prospective adoptive parents was the reason the went ahead with the planned relinquishment, even though they had grave misgivings after the birth but felt unable to change their minds because the prospective parents would be so sad. Someday she may tell this is the child, and it will not put you in a positive light. He may resent you for pressuring his mother to relinquish him, even as he loves you and your spouse. Besides, is that the way you want to bring a child into your life? 

Stay out of the hospital unless specifically invited, and insist that the social worker involved does not put undue pressure on her to "invite" you. Understand some sleazy agencies pay nurses in obstetrics wards to tip them off to women who might be candidates to give up their babies, and social workers will show up uninvited to point out why the child is better off adopted. I know this sounds like a bunch a scare tactics, but we have heard about all of these instances mentioned here.

Do not cut the cord. If you do go to hospital, even after all that, take only a few pictures if you must but do not post them on social media. Do not hire a photographer to record "the happy event" at the hospital. IT IS NOT A HAPPY EVENT FOR A WOMAN WHO HAS JUST GIVEN BIRTH, even if she manages a weak smile.  

Do not call her a "birth mother," or even worse, "your birth mother" to anyone, including each other. She is not a mother until she has a baby and she is not yours in any sense of the word. She is carrying a baby. She will be her child's mother. She is not your brood mare. As a matter of course, language is evolving, and many women who relinquished children do not wish to be tagged with "birth mother" at all, anymore than you, should you adopt, wish to always be called your child's "adoptive father" or "adoptive mother." First mother is a choice some prefer; many of us still prefer the original phrase, natural mother, which was the medical term before it became negatively politicized by the adoption industry. 

Best choice of all would be for the child in the long term: mother. No qualifiers. It will allow the child to grow up in an environment where he does not feel the woman whose DNA he or she shares, who nurtured him in the womb, who then gave birth to him is more than a person who was there for only: the birth. You may find this difficult at first, but the child who becomes a teenager who becomes an adult will one day grasp the depth of your understanding about what it means to be adopted: it means that someone gave you up first, but she is still your mother. Mother. Not just "birth" mother. 

This does not in any way diminish your monumental role in the adoptee's life. You are a "real" parent also; you are the one who raised him because someone else could not. Your child will understand too too. If you use language like this, you don't need to ever discuss who's real and who's not because trust me, he fully will understand the different roles the two sets of parents play in his life as soon as he understands were babies come from. He may, at times, ask you questions that are uncomfortable to answer. Simply answer to the best of his understanding without in any way denigrating his natural/biological mother. If you have an open adoption, which you indicate you want, he should know her from the beginning and come to understand who she is as he grows, without ever needing a big sit down conversation. Well, wait, that probably will happen anyway, but if she's been in his life as much as possible and the situation is comfortable for all, it will not be such a difficult conversation.

The adopted child may use the word "real" in reference to his natural mother. Don't let that sting you, or react in an visible way. Just go on and continue the conversation as if nothing unusual has happened. He is using language the best knows how, and anything you say to the contrary will diminish the woman and send a message that he must learn to control his language as well as his thoughts surrounding adoption as far as you are concerned. It also sends the message that he is less than worthy as you diminish his natural mother. This only succeeds in setting up a wall between the two of you, and is likely to make the adoptee's relationship with her clouded. While this may seem to work in your favor, it is likely to backfire one day, and in the process, you are making life more difficult for him. 

One last word: Some women who enter into open adoptions find that they are too emotionally difficult for them to continue. They see their child growing and find that visiting tears them apart, and they move away from visiting or communicating. I don't know what can be done about that, but trying to prevent it beforehand is the best medicine. The mother needs to be fully aware that the open adoption is not solely for her benefit, but for the child's as well. It would be best to drop this into any conversations you have with her as your negotiate the contract. A good social worker also should stress this to the women giving up her child, but alas, we fear too few do.

Of course all this is a tall order, but it may not be difficult if you work with a reputable and ethical agency. With the right intentions in your heart--as you have indicated you have--it just might be possible to have that ethical adoption you long for.--lorraine

The promise of 'openness' lures vulnerable mothers-to-be
Are Open Adoptions a Boon for Birth Mothers or a Scam? 
Considering an open adoption? What you should know


The Open-Hearted Way to Open Adoption: Helping Your Child Grow Up Whole
by Lori Holden with Crystal Hass
"...opens with a simple yet poignant snippet of conversation with her young daughter in the car. It's about her daughter's loving feelings toward her birth parents. Holden generously invites us into her mental tai chi process ("Don't take this personally…") leading to her wise responses. If this book were just a series of such glimpses it would be a treasure. But it's so much more: a tapestry of instructive real-life insights together with the latest research and philosophy, all aiming to "de-freakify" open adoption. ...covers what this adoptee wishes my parents had known, and beyond."--Marcy Axness, PhD, parent coach and author of Parenting for Peace

Hole In My Heart: memoir and report from the fault lines of adoption
by Lorraine Dusky
"...an intricately-crafted, tender and honest reminder of the damages suffered by parents and children amidst even the best-intentioned of adoption decisions. Hole in my Heart should be required reading for all who are contemplating placing a child or adopting for this precautionary tale offers poignant lessons about the importance of adoption being an option of last resort; the inadequacy of openness and/or reunion as a salve for lifelong adoption losses; and the need for adoptee rights legislation in America."--Elizabeth Jurenovich, director of Abrazo Adoption Services, San Antonio
"Dusky eloquently evokes the painful circumstances and social pressures that led to the loss of her child to adoption, and the multi-layered complexities of reunion and relationship with her daughter. ...a compelling manifesto for why our culture and legal system must re-think and reform adoption down to its roots.--David  Smolin, adoptive father, Professor of Law and Director, Center for Children, Law, and Ethics, Cumberland Law School, Samford University

The Kid: What Happened After My Boyfriend and I Decided to Go Get Pregnant
by Dan Savage
"Known for his nationally syndicated sex advice columns (collected in Savage Love) and as a regular contributor to NPR's This American Life, Savage recounts what he and his boyfriend of two years went through to adopt a child. After investigating the possibility of becoming biological parents with lesbian friends, Savage and his partner, Terry, pursued an open adoption through an agency. They met Melissa, a homeless "gutter punk," whom they liked, although they worried that she drank and took drugs recreationally at the beginning of her pregnancy. In the end, though, everything worked out for everyone involved. Savage is best when detailing the emotional ups and downs that came with revealing that he was even considering gay parenting, including his anxiety about the possible disapproval of both gay and straight friends, about the ways his sex life would change and about buying the right "baby things." ...His forthrightness is brave and daring in the face of social opposition to gay parenting. However, though Savage's chatty, mercilessly satiric style is effective in his columns and may be intended here to balance the optimistic underpinnings of his journey into parenthood, in this sustained narrative it wears a bit thin."--Publisher's Weekly


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  2. I would say that ethical adoptions cannot be adoptions in which:
    a) the adopter is causing the break-up of the original family,
    b) the original parents are NOT both encouraged to keep the legal family relations,
    c) the adoptee is not robbed of his or her birth identity without his or her own wish or fully informed consent.

    1. It *does* sound daunting...but then again, if you're adopting ethically, it should. Clearly there is always going to be a need for adoption...understood. We're not going to stop people from wanting to adopt, nor are we going to stop ALL women from giving up their babies. So what to do?? This blog post answers that. But I think to myself "I was pushed by my parents into giving up my daughter. Had I met the adoptive parents before she was born, would I have had the courage to tell them that I really didn't want to do it? That I was being more or less blackmailed? Could they have read my facial expressions/body language/unspoken thoughts to KNOW I wasn't a willing participant?" I can't know. Maybe there needs to be counseling sessions with the expectant mom and pre-adoptive parents with a therapist OUTSIDE the agency...a therapist who stands to gain NOTHING based on whether the baby is given up, or not. In those sessions, visitation, roles, the above things you mentioned could be discussed and planned out. Books which might not be recommended through the agency could be given to both parties to read. Problem is, and this has been brought up several times on Lori's (lavendarluz) blog lately...where do we find these therapists?? Are there enough of them?? Fact of the matter is, even with open adoption, therapy may need to be on-going though the years. As I can attest to after living in an open adoption for many years, problems and situations arise all the time. Professional guidance, imo, is a MUST. Adoptive parents need to be fully aware of that, and commit to it if it becomes necessary. It would have gone a long way in helping my daughter.

      In the not-so-distant past, "adoption" was taken pretty lightly. "Birth"moms would put it all behind them and go on to have other children "when you're ready." Adoptive parents would have the family they'd been wanting, and the child was simply a blank slate who just needed the love of two parents...any parents would do. (and back in 1985, a stay-at-home Mom was crucial and used against someone like me, who obviously would have had to work full time) If I'd only known then what I know now...none of it was true. In my case anyway.

      Kudos to those pre/adoptive parents who are trying to do better, and have their eyes open. We need more of you.

  3. Good post. I would go one step further and say that there is no such thing as an ethical adoption because the one person it concerns the most -- the relinquished child -- gets no legal representation, cannot agree to or sign any consent forms, and -- most importantly -- can never get out of, dissolve, or terminate the adoption. Yes, obviously a baby cannot consent to anything. But until adoption is made reversible/dissolvable for the adoptee once he or she becomes an adult, adoption will never be ethical. This should especially be true in cases where the adoptee was abandoned by the adoptive parents as a minor, as I was, and I don't think it's particularly ethical to be permanently grafted onto a family that isn't mine, with no way to get out of it.

    1. True, but all that says is that the ethical adoption is to be gotten outside the USA.

      Maybe we should ask: Do you have ethical problems with enslavement? With forced weddings of child brides? If not, I would say that your neighbors do need their 2nd amendment rights, if so, how can you be blind to ethical problems intrinsically bound to adoption?

    2. I completely agree with everything here and, in fact, have tried to legally cancel my own "adoption contract" -- so far without success. Until and unless the person most affected by adoption -- the adoptee -- has final say in the decision, then no adoption can truly be considered "ethical."

    3. Ethical open adoptions (which legally do not hold up in court to remain open) seem highly improbable for the first and adopting parents to complete since there are so few ethical agencies and/or facilitators/agents/lawyers. To give the adoptee legal rights as the infant/child at the center, both the first mother and the second mother would have to be in agreement for the best interests of the infant/child but legally this is also not enforceable. Even for first mothers from the early 1960s and 1970s closed adoptions which became open after reunion, those reunions are so very hard for everyone especially since no prior education about the aftermath was given by the agencies to the mothers or child but especially no considerations were given to the first mothers. The adoptee has to choose a side or remain in a tug of war. Either way, open or closed, there is no winner.

  4. I would like to add to the list of dos and don'ts please DO Asend the pregnant woman to the Saving Our Sisters organization. It is the best way to ensure the child will have an ethical and NECESSARY adoption. You see, I am a mother living the aftermath of the UNnecessary adoption of my son. All someone needed to do was sit down and be HONEST with me.. Tell me my son could possibly suffer lifelong abandonment issues, would scream for me until he gave up in defeat, broken, that he would not have a 'better' life, just a different one. That his birth certificate would be altered and it would be falsified with people other than his father and I's, and then sealed away where not even he would be able to obtain it.

    Saving Our Sisters works with mothers who are considering adoption and can help ensure that all the dos and don'ts are followed here.
    I started this grassroots organization, because all of these things were not done for me. I reached for Gladney's help, and they only helped themselves to my son, and left us, the natural family in the dust as soon as my pen left the paper.
    We get to the bottom of the reasons the mother is considering giving her child to strangers. We support her. We remove all the obstacles that she feels she must give her child away. We allow her to make a true CHOICE when she feels the only option is to give her child away.
    One option is no choice.
    If you want a truly ethical adoption, then tell her to contact us.
    We have nothing to lose, or gain by her keeping or parenting her child.
    We are all volunteers.


    1. Excellent resource!! I admire what you guys are doing. Wish someone like you had been around 31 years ago to help me.

      Keep up the good work :)

  5. This is a very nice piece, thank you for addressing the issues of ethical adoption, and saying that while difficult, it can be done. It is being done now, and will be in the future. To say that all adoption is unethical or evil is to give up and remove oneself from the dialogue on how a difficult and complicated situation can be made better for all. Deciding that all adoption is wrong will not make it go away. There has always been and will always be some form of adoption.

    Those of us who stay in the game as you are doing with this blog post have a chance to make some changes for the better. There will always been pain and loss in adoption, and it will never be perfect; there is no "adoption without tears" as one broker advertised, but there can be adoption that is humane, and respects the needs of all parties.There will always be mothers who cannot, or chose not to raise a child for their own reasons, not someone else's, and there needs to be an ethical structure to support necessary adoptions that can be healthy and life-affirming for all. Again, thanks for addressing this.

  6. When is an adoption ethical? When the ethical problems with it are acknowledged, but the ethical problems with it are correctly judged as greater.

    - A very great factor are the wishes of the adoptee, in the case of neonate adoption I would assume that the exchange of the mother for some stranger has yet to be shown to be the desire of the adoptee.
    - Exploiting somebody's illness is highly unethical, so the mother should be at least checked for and declared free from post-natal depression before ethical adoption is even considered.

    1. Infants and young children cannot make any decisions about their lives. Adults decide many things for children, and they are more honest in admitting that their choices are based on their best guess at what is good for children, not on some mystical "knowing" of what the child will want in the future. So no, the adopted infant cannot be party to the decision to surrender nor to stay with the biological mother. Nobody can know the desire of the adoptee at birth, so adults have to make choices as best they can, which will sometimes result in adoption, in which case one hopes that adoption is made as ethical as possible. We do not live in a perfect world. and mind reading does not really work, so everyone tries to make the best of a difficult situation. We know some people here want adoption abolished and nothing else will do, but for the rest of us, we do need to consider how to make it as ethical as possible.

    2. Well said, Maryanne.

    3. As ethical as possible: Not adopting newborns or unconsenting little children, not adopting the children with at least one minor parent, not with seduction by the fiction of "legally enforceable" adoption, not without telling mothers that among adopted people with great adoptive families disagreements exist about whether it is better to have been aborted or adopted, not without telling about the increased incidence of suicide and above all: NOT WITHOUT EITHER CONSENT OR AN INBUILT REVOCATION OPTION FOR THE ADOPTEE.

      We do know that the probability is greater that a newborn human being desires its needs to be met by the person who was already doing so, than by some unknown baby buyer, what we do not know is what that baby will desire later, but by then it won't be a baby anymore and we can ask him or her. If there is a baby in need of a home, give a home and raise that citizen before you start about adoption, that is doing adoption as ethical as possible. Granted, this is in part about the laws concerned, if one is bound by highly unethical laws, one's most ethical course of action could easily be seen as most unethical without such bondage, but there is no way in which stealing the legal recognition of an innocent, unconsenting, defenseless person's true ancestry and binding that person to a stranger's ancestry is ethical in itself.

      Of course, I think that people who do not want to have the custody UNLESS they can get their names on the birth certificate, should not get either. People who just go through the motions is another story, but really, would "Here's an almost womb wet baby, for no extra charges, raise her and when she hits puberty you can come back for the adoption formalities," seem a bad thing to them?

      Oh, I made some editing errors in two previous posts:

      It should be "When the ethical problems with it are acknowledged, but the ethical problems with NOT DOING it are correctly judged as greater."


      "c) the adoptee is robbed of his or her birth identity without his or her own wish or fully informed consent."

    4. @maryanne -- I was "rehomed" at the age of 10 when my first adoptive mother died and my adoptive father decided he couldn't/wouldn't/didn't want to take care of me on his own. I objected to the re-adoption, but because I hadn't yet reached the legal age of consent (12), my objections were ignored. No one from DFC or the courts ever interviewed me to even ask what I wanted, and no one bothered to really examine the would-be adoptive family. If they had, it would have been impossible to miss all the red flags (alcoholism, abuse, severe psychiatric problems) that clearly showed how terrible the situation was.

      I had no voice in my first adoption, but deserved to have my wishes acknowledged the second time around. Given that they weren't, I should have the absolute right NOW -- as an adult of (well past) the age of majority -- to decide that I no longer want to be part of, or even associated with, the adoptive family and to have those legal ties severed.


    5. @'Kaye. It seems like you are taking something of a leap here. I don't see Maryanne saying, or even implying, that you or any other adult other adoptee should be denied the right to annul their adoption.

    6. As a reaction to "adopted infant cannot be party to the decision to surrender nor to stay with the biological mother." it makes perfect sense. Maryanne does not shatre the idea that the wishes and opinions of the adoptee are a factor of great importance in determining whether an adoption is ethically justified or not, she does imply that disregarding the adoptee as a party to the adoption "contract" is fine with her, provided the adoptee is a young child.

  7. If someone pays for a child, it is human trafficking, not ethical adoption. Until we change our laws to remove the profit motive from adoption, I really don't think adoptions can be ethical.

    The second part of this is that if an adoption happens because a couple wants a child rather than because a child needs a home, it is not an ethical adoption. Notice that I say "rather than". If a child needs a home and a couple wants a child, it's possible the adoption can be ethical. But creating orphans because there is a great demand for babies is unethical. We need to change the "you can always adopt" thinking. Someone in my immediate family adopted an infant domestically, and at no point were they ever told that they might not get a child. If you want a baby, someone will find one for you.

    Add in the fact that most laws favor the adoptive parents and the general belief is that adoptive parents are better than any parent who ever considered adoption and you have an environment that is toxic to ethical adoption in my opinion.

    1. I agree we need to change the "You can always adopt" attitude, just as somehow we need to change the "saviour" mindset of the religious right. However, it costs very little to adopt through social services, and the children who are available for adoption through social services almost invariably need a home and to feel part of a family who will love and care for them. And sometimes mothers really are unable to look after their children safely, both at the time and into the future, however much they might want to (See Dan Savage's family situation for that). They may also be without the kind of support from extended family that would enable them to raise their children themselves.
      In cases like these, I believe adoption, ideally open, can be ethical. Open records for *all* adopted people too. That goes without saying.

      Lorraine wrote a good post here. I am sorry so many seem to to disagree. Not that they aren't entitled too, of course.

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    3. Those mothers who surrender in order to pursue personal goals, IF they are fully informed and have a real choice after being offered all options are probably better off with that choice, as are their children in the long run. There does need to be real uncoerced choice, without heaping guilt on those you may feel made the wrong decision. Being raised by a biological mother who feels she was forced to keep a child against her will and give up her dreams can end up with the mother deeply resenting that child. Children sense this, and sometimes the resentment is not even subtle. This is not an ideal circumstance for a child either, any more than being surrendered is. Some situations have no easy, one size fits all solution, and not all adoptees are damaged by being adopted, although many are.

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    6. I have met people who wished they were raised by anyone other than their bio parents, because those parents were abusive or otherwise lousy. I have also heard of situations where the raised children of a birthmother considered the one surrendered to be the lucky one, again because of terribly dysfunctional mother and family. Many people are unhappy with their lot in life, whatever it is.
      The fact is nobody gets to choose their parents, adoptive or bio, and we all had to live with whatever we got. Of course adoptees have the extra heartache of an alternate family and reality that actually could have been and that makes it all the harder.

      Men opt out of the responsibilities of fatherhood all the time, it is not up to me to decide if that is right or not; it happens. Mom has to go to court for child support, but you can't get blood from a stone so sometimes it is futile.

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    8. Kaisa, I am not sure what kind of response you are trying to elicit from me but will try to answer some of your concerns even if my answers are not what you anticipate:
      You wrote: " is it ok for women to abandon their responsibility to raise their babies?"
      Put another way, is it ever ok for a mother to make her own free uncoerced choice to surrender? I have to say that if it is her own choice, not somebody else's, yes, it is ok. I do not believe in an absolute responsibility either for mothers or fathers to raise their children in all cases, if they make other safe arrangements for others to raise a child they cannot or will not raise. No, they should not be pushed in this direction by the adoption industry or anyone else, but it should be one of the choices that is there if it is the best choice for them.

      Is it something I did or would do? No. I had no career plans and in fact never had a career, and I very much wanted to keep my child. But I do not feel I have the right to make that choice for other women nor to stigmatized mothers who surrender of their own free will because they have other priorities in life. I feel the same way about abortion, I would never have one, and am personally uncomfortable with the subject, but do not feel it is up to me to make that choice for other women. I do not think it morally wrong for a woman to choose to surrender her child for adoption, if she has been really given and considered all the alternatives in an honest and not coercive fashion and still chooses to surrender. It is not what I would do, but I do not feel it is my place to condemn her either as some do. I do not think there is one "right" choice for every woman faced with a crisis pregnancy. I think either pressure to surrender or pressure to raise the child if that is not what the mother truly wants, if she is,as you say, "unwilling" is not a good thing. I do not think my experience gives me the right to tell others what they should do. I can only tell my individual story and let others draw their own conclusions from that story, apply what fits to their lives, and leave the rest.

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  8. Please go to this survey at Costco Magazine and vote yes for adoptee rights to their OBC. Evidently this is widely read, although I never heard of it.everywhere we get the word out helps.

  9. Dear Adoptive Parents and The Rest of the World - Please, please, PLEASE get OVER your issues with the word 'real'! You all are over thinking it.

    I was adopted in the 60s, and I clearly remember as a child thinking and talking about my 'real mom'. Throughout my life and still to this day, people ask about my 'real mom' and 'real family.' No biggie.

    Most kids and people naturally use the word 'real mom' unless they've been schooled in 'positive adoption language' (ugh!!). Heck, even I have accidentally used 'real' when talking to different adoptive moms when referring to their kid's birth/first/biological families. And I've been in the adoption reform world for 20+ yrs!

    Here's the truth - my adoptive family is just as 'real' to me as my birth family. They're all 'real' people, and they all have and continue to have a 'real' impact on who I am.

    So can we please move past the debate about 'real parents'? And while we're at it, can we also get rid of all the other stupid 'positive adoption language' and just talk like 'real' people? :)



    1. Joe Mama--I LOVE YOUR RANT. I feel exactly the same way. I keep writing bout this and use as little as possible of the unreal but preferred positive adoption language...which is Pap.

    2. I like your rant too, Joe Mama :-) Speaking as an adoptive parent, "real mother" has never bothered me. Not one iota.

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    4. Spot on, Joe Mama. My daughter has two moms and two dads, and we are all "real." I don't use birth mom, instead preferring either names or just "mom and dad." I use "other" only if trying to be clear that I'm not talking about me. No adoptee should ever have to defend how they view their family dynamics. My daughter's mom and dad are part of her, part of who is she, where she came from, who she will someday become.... such an intimate and absolutely REAL part of her.

  10. So Thedore, about your "no adopting newborns or children who can't consent" view, I should have stayed with social services until I was 16 or so? Even though the birth mother was not seduced by some adopting family, and the birth mother was incapable of taking care of me? (FYI I actually met with one of my half sisters... birth mother was as incapable of taking care of me as she was them, if anyone is interested just ask). Every parent, adopting and birth, they all do things to and for their children without the children's consent. Vaccinations, surgeries, school, even picking out a babysitter. Please explain how it would have been better for me to be with social services?

    1. So you were raised by people who were not interested in raising you unless they could wipe out the legal recognition of your true ancestry and insisted on the legal fiction that they had given birth to you? Sure that is not all of adoption, but it are the things that set adoption apart from the nearest forms of non-adoption foster care: The legal fiction that one is the offspring of the adopter is as far as I know that which sets adoption apart from fostering. Which means that fostering at the best it can be, is a more loving, more truthful and more ethical option, than adoption of an innocent, non-consenting, defenseless person without giving him or her the option to restore the birthright identity. I don't say that the adoption is bad for you, I say that it is highly unethical not to give you the right to have the adoption revoked whenever you feel that serves your interests much better than keeping your adoptive identity, if you never feel that to be the case, fine, I am just talking about you having the right to do so. PLEASE stop promoting the fiction that adoptees never grow up, everybody, and thus any adoptee too should have the option to die with the same identity he or she had at birth.
      I am glad that you seem to think that the custody transfer was a good thing for you, I mean it's one thing to argue that adoption is only rarely ethically justified, that does not imply it does not have its uses, and that people hit by it should be unhappy.

  11. Adoptees should be able to annul their relationship with their adoptive parents.
    Many comments.

    1. ^^I'm the author of that article, and I stand by it. Every adult adoptee should have the right to decide whether or not to continue the legal relationship determined for them by others, typically without his/her input or consent.

  12. I was surprised at the amount of insensitive comments to the author's article.

    However, if the commenter CaledonianSmokeball is correct, the UK has a much more humane and reasonable law:

    "In the UK adopted 'children' have the right to see their original birth certificate and any papers relating to the adoption once they are 18 years of age." (There is more, which I haven't included.)

    So perhaps there they just don't understand the ramifications as we do in the US, of having a birth certificate sealed for life, and an adoptee's "next of kin," who have the automatic power of attorney to make medical decisions for them if the adoptee is incapacitated, etc., along with the other obvious powers that legal adoptive parents have. Should those be life-lasting? Or should the adoptee choose to sever those powers after he or she is an adult, shouldn't the law allow it?

    I think that every adoptee, well every person, has the right to know their origins and who their parents are. It seem like one of the most elemental human rights, doesn't it?

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  13. Such a great post, Lorraine! While I support adoptee rights and major changes to how adoption currently works, it is what it is at the moment. So education is really key when it comes to the public and people looking to adopt.

    The the person who wrote you the question, I would add this as my greatest advice (as an adoptive parent): don't depend upon others to do the right thing, but instead choose to make sure that you do the right thing yourself. At the end of the day, as the person adopting, it is on you to make ethical choices, such as maintaining an open adoption even when they aren't legally enforceable. You owe it to any child you adopt to educate yourself (which it sounds like you are doing) and make ethical decisions even if an agency is telling you otherwise (like encouraging you to minimize contact after birth, for example, or to use them as an intermediary instead of having direct contact). It will take a long time to make changes in the adoption industry, but in the meantime, people involved can still make ethical choices and thus have an ethical adoption in regards to the aspects within their control (sealed records are not a choice adoptive parents can not make- I tried and there is no option).

  14. Dear Hoping to Adopt, as an adoptee, I thank you for doing your research. I would say that if the adoption process costs more then a few thousand dollars, that this is not a true " non profit agency" reasonable court expenses, fees for background checks, homestudies, etc don't cost tens of thousands of dollars. If your agency has a different price for the adoption of Caucasian babies vs other races, it is not a true non profit agency. Find out what they mean by open adoption. Discuss what you want and discuss it with the prospective mothers you speak to. Speak to adoptees, read books by adoptees and first families, not just adoptive parents or adoption professionals. Look outside of your agency for adoptees and parents to speak to. The agency will only introduce women and adoptees who are adoption cheerleaders. Know that raising an adopted child is not the same as raising a natural child. One is not better then the other, but it is different.
    Also, I don't recall seeing this addressed, but the reason Lorraine includes REAL in the tag line, is because the included words are ones that are often used in search engine searches and they wanted to capture more of those searches to be directed to the forum. That's why Birth Mother is included, etc. For the record, I am not anti-adoption, I am pro- family preservation and change to the current adoption industry. No one should be profiting from adoption. It should be a social service situation, not a multimillion dollar industry. babies are not business. Severing a family should be a last resort. make sure that the prospective mom you work with does not sign surrender documents until at least a week after giving birth, and is well aware of her right to change her mind. Ensure that the father has been notified of his rights and plans to also sign a surrender - any question of this should be considered a red flag-RUN!! If the agency requires that you pay for medical costs, ask lots of questions. Today there should be no reason why a woman would not be covered for pregnancy if she is provided her full options and resources. The agency should not be paying or directing her medical care but coordinating her benefits for her own insurance, parents' insurance or public assistance/ Medicaid. Too often women who waver on their decision to surrender are coerced with the daunting future of debts for medical care that would have been covered if managed correctly. You can direct as ethical an adoption as the current conditions allow, and your child will benefit the most. After all, adoption should be about the best interest of the child.

    1. Good point, Leigh. But I did add "real" because I can't help it: once you give birth you are someone's real mother. And that is the language a lot of people use. EVERYone should get used to the idea and not wince when they hear the word. the Positive Adoption People (PAPs) did a number of everyone with their milked down language that obfuscates reality.

  15. Leigh, you have it all right. Any agency that charges tens of thousands of dollars for a healthy white newborn is suspect, especially if they promise they can get one to order right away if the price is right. No matter how much they protest that they operate ethically, the big price tag is the proof that they do not. My son and his wife are adopting two siblings from foster care, and rather than costing a fortune they are getting a subsidy which will go into a college fund for the kids. They wanted nothing to do with the domestic newborn market nor with international adoption as it now exists. If you really want ethical adoption, you need to expand your vision of what kind of child you could love and provide a stable home for. If you will only accept a white newborn, your avenues for ethical adoption today are sorely limited.

  16. This article is spot on! Find a private situation or adopt from foster care. Adoptions agencies don't make money if an adoption doesn't take place. That right there is unethical. I run Support for Expectant Mothers, Single Mothers and Struggling Families and can't tell you how horrible these adoption agencies are. I have seen them canceling rent checks because the expectant mother questions if she is doing the right thing. I advocate that expectant mothers who are leaning more towards adoptions to consider respite, power of attorney and/or temporary guardianship first. There is no reason to rush an adoption. The prospective adoptive parents go into it agreeing to help these mothers and knowing the baby/child/children may go back to their mother. Some of these couples don't even want to adopt, they just want to help. It's like private foster care without the corrupt CPS. This type of situation gives all adults time to make the right decision and develop a relationship/family. If you don't trust the first mother to be a part of your family, why should she trust you with her child? Adoption doesn't need to take place immediately, it can take place if/when all parties are ready. I am helping a family now. The expectant mother was kicked out of her parents home. A family who has several children took her into their home, helping her through the pregnancy and will help her once the baby is born. The expectant mother has asked them to be grandparents to her child. This family gets to expand their family by adding a daughter and grandchild and mom gets to raise her baby and have a family and support system. Adoption agencies are only out to make money and make sure an adoption takes place. But many expectant mothers go to adoption agencies because they think it is their only way to get any help. There are many people and organizations that are able to help but don't have the marketing budget that corrupt adoption agencies have.

  17. Thank you thank you thank you for this post and all of these responses. I am not the person who asked the original question, but I could have written most of it. I *had* decided to adopt, but after reading and reading and reading, I'm reconsidering.

    I've learned so much from blogs like these so far -- for example, I had no idea that BCs get changed in open adoptions. Call me naive, but I'm dumbfounded. I can't imagine why I would want to change a BC.

    I will not belabor this group with all my questions, but since folks seem open to share, I'll put these out there:

    Lorraine, I saw some bright red flags on the Abrazos site and am curious why you recommend them (recognizing that you did so with a grain of salt).

    MD Herbal, do you know of anything like this private foster care concept in the DC area? This is the first I've seen mention of any coordinated way to do this. I'd like to learn more.

    To the woman who submitted the original question, I'd love to get in touch somehow. You're the first person I've found who is looking to adopt and thinking about these questions seriously enough to reach out for answers you might not want to hear. It might help us both to share what we learn along the way.

    Again, thank you to everyone here.

    1. Abrazo only does fully open adoptions, and from what I can tell is a major advocate for the prospective mother. Some prospective adoptive parents may get their nose out of joint because of this. A comment from the Abrazo site:
      Just A Thought

      When I first contacted Abrazo, I was VERY leery about what "openness" meant. My husband and I were not comfortable at all with giving intimate information about ourselves to a complete stranger. After speaking with some of the employees at Abrazo, we agreed to learn more about the open adoption process and tried to keep an open mind. I have to say that we grew so much through their orientation weekend, and the extra reading that we did ourselves. I think the biggest factor was actually hearing from some mothers who had placed. We eventually got to a place where we did feel more comfortable with openness and it ended up being the best decision we ever made, because we still have wonderful contact with our son's mother to this day! Whatever your preferences are, you have to find an agency that you are comfortable working with, and I think the agency has to know they can expect the same from their adoptive parents. I'm deeply sorry if you felt offended by how you were greeted, but maybe it was best that you were both honest about your expectations from the beginning?

    2. I wrote more about Abrazo and ethical adoptions in a recent book, Hole in My Heart: a memoir and report from the fault lines of adoption.

    3. Thank you for responding. I don't personally qualify for Abrazo but am interested in learning more because of your comments. Your book is high on my ballooning to-read list. Thanks again.



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