' [Birth Mother] First Mother Forum: Hillary wrong on adoption, but Trump/Pence ticket threatens women's rights

Monday, October 10, 2016

Hillary wrong on adoption, but Trump/Pence ticket threatens women's rights

                            --Courtesy of Lisa Roberts
Adoption came up last night in the second debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump as she spoke of her 30 years in public life. After noting that eight million kids every year have health insurance because of her work to create the Children’s Health Insurance Program, she said:  "Hundreds of thousands of kids now have a chance to be adopted because I worked to change our adoption and foster care system."

Ouch, we collectively sighed. The law that she helped push through Congress in 1997, the so-called Adoption and Safe Families Act (ASFA), was passed to address what child welfare experts claimed were the failings of an approach that kept families together. The claims were that children were kept in, or returned to, precarious family situations where the children were in actual danger of being injured or killed. The new law urged a get-tough approach to parents. 

The overall effect was to sometimes take children from mothers and families when unnecessary, and make it impossible for
them to get the children back. They disappeared into the system. Some were adopted; many were not but simply aged out of the system with no family, no resources, no place to go. They sometimes end up knocking on your door selling magazine subscriptions in a scam that gives them little money, as one did recently at Lorraine's house. 

You won't read about this at the Wikipedia page about ASFA, which appears to have been written by advocates of foster care, child welfare workers and adoption agencies, and is biased towards promoting adoption. 

Yet according to the National Coalition for Child Protection Reform, backers of ASFA claimed that it made exceptions (i.e. child removal and permanent foster care) only for "extreme cases" of child endangerment, but, in fact, "the law is filled with broad, vague 'catch-all' clauses that effectively make reasonable efforts" on family reunification optional. With few exceptions, the law also orders states to "seek termination of parental rights whenever a child has been in foster care for 15 of the previous 22 months--even if the child should not have been taken away in the first place. The overarching message to states was to stop doing much to keep families--largely mothers and their children--together. 

The law assumed that foster homes would empty and the children would go to loving adoptive homes. Federal financing played a huge role since funds to help families in need was capped--while foster-care funds and subsidies to adoptive families were unlimited. Little is spent on family preservation.

The result has been tragic. Children were placed in foster care who could have stayed in their own homes, resulting in children placed with bad foster parents because there was a shortage of foster homes, period. Children remained in foster homes as legal orphans after they were "freed for adoption" because no one wanted them. Small increases in adoptions occur until 2000, but overall, the average annual increase in adoptions attributable to ASFA equals less than 2.5 percent of the number of children in foster care. But this is a faulty positive because that number is outweighed the increasing number of children coming into foster care because so many more children are taken from their families in the first place. 

Any death attributable to an unsafe family situation and "known to the system" is attributed to a family-preservation bent on the part of some supposedly lax social worker and an overtaxed child-welfare system. But what is ignored is the fact that real family preservation programs actually have a better track record for safety than foster care. 

Certainly the rise in drug use of the 70s and 80s contributed to the push to remove children from unsafe homes. Yet we also note note that making more more children available for adoption happened at the same time as a precipitous drop in the number of infants available to be adopted. Changes of social attitudes toward single mothers and legal abortion was coupled with a huge rise of the number of people who want to adopt. But not just any child would do. Infants, preferably a white infants, are the desired commodity, not a child or adolescent of color who comes with a troubled past, and who may have been bouncing around the foster-care system for a while. So children languish in foster care and age out, even if their own families have gotten their act together and could have happily absorbed them back into the family well before that happens. It's a noxious system, different but not unlike the social engineering policy of closed-adoption that ensnared millions of women and their babies from the forties to the eighties. Closed adoption today and altered birth certificates continue the damage to this day. 

Adoption always will be necessary in some situations for some children. But their birth certificates should never be altered, which is why we favor a policy of permanent custody, a policy that would ensure an individual's place in the family, but not rewrite his history or make it impossible for him to find his original family one day. Yet such a fine tuning of the system is no more than a wisp on the horizon. Today adoption is firmly implanted in the public mind as the answer for a host of problems, from untimely pregnancies to homes that may be unsafe only temporarily. Yes, children need to be removed from dangerous home situations. Adoption is a blessing for some children, but should not be the foundation of child-welfare policy. Hillary is uninformed about the enormous and true impact of adoption on both mothers and children. She is wrong for promoting adoption as a primary remedy for child abuse and neglect. We are well aware of the lifelong devastating effect of losing a child to adoption, no matter how that happens. 

While we criticize Hillary for not considering the overarching effect of the Adoption and Safe Families Act, we still chose her over Donald Trump and his vice presidential candidate, Mike Pence. Not only are they almost certainly not interested in altering the course of ASFA, Pence himself has bragged that his home state, Indiana, is the most pro-adoption state in the country. He sees "adoption not abortion" as the answer to any untimely pregnancy. He signed a controversial anti-abortion law that banned abortions if sought for a host of reasons, including diagnosis of a genetic disorder. The law criminalized fetal-tissue transfer, vital to research for understanding the Zika virus, as well as other diseases. The law also demanded that women view their fetal ultrasound shortly before having an abortion--a requirement that should be spelled: punishment. A federal judge blocked this law and its myriad restrictions and punishments, but Pence's position on any of it appears not to have changed. Has the man never heard of separation of church and state, an underpinning of our Constitution?  

As a member of Congress, and later as Indiana governor, Pence gutted Planned Parenthood funding in his state, which caused several clinics to close. According to Media Matters, this caused an outbreak of HIV in one town because the lack of funding to the only HIV testing center available to many residents. 

What I'm reading now
Donald Trump has pledged to appoint judges to the Supreme Court that will do their best to roll back Roe v. Wade, which is already effectively happening in some states as clinics are forced to comply with a continuing rise in absurd regulations, such as the width of their hallways. He once said to Chris Matthews of MSNBC that he, Trump, believed women as well as their doctors ought to be punished for abortion. Like many of his positions, that one has flown, but it further indicates how a woman's right to choose under a Trump/Prence presidency would be under attack.

Since Rove v. Wade made abortion legal  in 1973, whole generations of women and men have been born who do not remember a time before one could get a legal abortion. They do not have friends who almost died trying to terminate a pregnancy, or were raped by the doctors just before they performed one. They do not understand the fear of pregnancy without recourse. Consequently abortion as an issue has hardly risen above lukewarm in this campaign. That is a pity, because choice for women--or the availability of a clinic that provides abortion--could be taken away. Of a Trump/Pence administration, Pence has stated, "We’ll see Roe v. Wade consigned to the ash heap of history where it belongs."

Despite Hillary's uninformed support of the Adoption and Safe Families Act, and its unintended consequence of taking children from too many mothers, there is no real contest between who would be better for the health and wellbeing of women and children. We know she believes in insuring men, women and children with health care. 

The Trump/Pence ticket would promote and encourage infant adoption, and take us back to the era when abortion was illegal. With their plans of cutting taxes, it is absurd to think that there would be talk of funds for helping indigent and young women keep their babies. Hillary may be wrong on family preservation versus adoption, but she does not threaten on a woman's right to chose and promote "adoption not abortion." It is our prerogative to educate her. We start here.--lorraine and jane

The Wikipedia page on ASFA appears to have been written by  Who's surprised? Not us. 

The Primal Wound: Understanding the Adopted Child
by Nancy Verrier
One of the long time bibles of many adopted individuals, though controversial to some for its claim that adoption imprints a primal, lasting stamp on an individual.

An Affair with My Mother: A Story of Adoption, Secrecy and Love
by Caitriona Palmer
Reunited with her birth mother, Palmer writes of their relationship, which her mother keeps secret from the rest of the family. LD promises to review this soon!

Homegoing: A novel
by Yaa Gyasi
Three hundred years in Ghana and the slave trade. Two sisters, born of the same mother but born in different villages, in vastly different situations. One thread of the novel traces one sister's descendants in Ghana, the other traces the lives of the descendants who end up in the slave trade in America. That these children are separated from their mothers and fathers is a matter of course.


  1. I was reading along happily until I got to the statement " that adoption will always be needed ".The institution of " adoption " the legal passing of a child from one family to another is not needed at all. We as a caring community, can care for kids without that particular institution. You cannot graft children. Spend all that money on fixing the graft instead of growing a healthy child.

  2. Well done post, and I agree completely. Thank you.

  3. Single issue voting is always problematic and limiting no matter what your issue is. The is clearly illustrated by fanatical right to life voters who will vote for a candidate that harms women and children in every other way if they think he is for saving the unborn.

    It would be very hard to find a candidate for any office who does not think "adoption will always be needed" for some children in specific untenable family situations. Foster care and the system are a terrible mess, and mistakes are made both because they put into bad foster homes or left in bad biological families. Never removing children from biological relatives would not make the problems go away. There is not one all-good solution. Abolishing all adoption is not the answer; reforming how the few needed adoptions are done is.

    As to presidential candidates, I am afraid this year for me it is picking the lesser evil which would be Hillary, because Trump is a sick clown and egotistical woman-hating monster. I am not enthused about voting for Hillary, wish the Dems had a stronger candidate, and do not see women in general as leaders any less prone to cruelty and stupidity than men. Remember Margaret Thatcher? I think Hillary will be an OK president, I will vote for her, but her views of adoption have little to do with that choice. We qave money to the Dems, but it is because we are terrified of Trump winning. I was excited about Obama. This time I am just worried and disgusted.

  4. I am voting for Hillary because she is a strong individual who is for health insurance for all, will give us a reasonable immigration policy while helping with the world refugee crisis, will further women's rights in many areas, including pay inequity like no man ever has, and will carry out policies that are for the good of the country, and understands global issues, such as the Middle East as well as climate change science. Hillary has withstood the slings and arrows of the GOP for DECADES and that is why so many feel lukewarm about her.

  5. I think Hillary gets a bad rap, undeservedly. She has led a life of public service and for that i commend her. She has made mistakes but they have not been mistakes of omission and i commend her for that, too. It is difficult to be in a position to wield as much power as she did as a Senator and Secretary of State without making mistakes but i'm glad that they are of taking the wrong action instead of taking no action at all, or of turning a blind eye.

    I agree that women can be just as cruel as men. I have no illusions that Hillary is not a politician, of course she is. But if she were a man i think her approval rating would be higher than Obama's is right now. Women are held to a different standard. I'm guilty of having held her to a different standard but after watching the Democratic National Convention i was motivated to look into her track record more closely and i realize that I was wrong for doing so. She has been under more scrutiny than most and has held up to that scrutiny, and continues to serve the public no matter the personal attacks. I may not agree with everything she does but i see that she holds herself accountable in the ways that i see as important; I can't imagine that i'd require anything more of myself if i had the inclination or gumption to be a political leader.

    I feel a palpable empathy for Hillary for taking the hits she does including the thankless resignation of those whose only compliment to her is that she is "better than the alternative" - every time one of my family members chooses to focus their wrath for Hillary onto me simply because i am a woman, and more liberal than they are (despite my lifestyle and actions in practice proving to be much more conservative!)

    1. Kaisa, I too feel incredibly emotional about Hillary, for all the hits she has taken in her life. As someone who broke into the men's room in journalism (covering hard news, now women's new--lord that sounds so last century!) I feel the attacks on her somewhat personally. I remember trying to get a similar job after I had Jane, trying to explain my career interruptus. It was hell and kept me from at least one job I might have gotten otherwise.

      For reasons like that, and for the criticisms I've taken myself, I feel a special empathy to her and proudly wear my Hillary pin. See smiley emoji here.

  6. I do not identify with Hillary, not having a life remotely similar to hers in any way, so while I will vote for her, I do not feel her pain the way those of you who have worked in male-dominated fields have. I understand it, I believe in equality, but I do not feel any special bond with Hillary. I do hope and pray she wins.

  7. The children that need adoption aren't adopted. Seriously why do people need a healthy white newborn? What about the 15 yo in a group home praying for a family? That's the child that should get adopted. And family preservation should always be first. Always. Many kids can do fine at home with services instead of being in the system. A lot of foster parents of the littles ones really want to adopt and will do anything to get what they want. Including lying and hiring lawyers.

  8. I don't think voting for the candidate you consider the least worst is "thankless resignation". It is common sense.

    1. Yes, as one who is voting for the least worst candidate, what I think is worse is not voting at all which I have heard some people say is their choice since they do not really like either one. That is just throwing away your vote and perhaps helping to elect the one you consider the worst.

    2. I am voting for Hillary, but not because she is the least worst candidate but because she is the BEST candidate. I disagree with her on some issues (like adoption) and I'm disappointed with her for some of the things she's done (like take $$$ from Wall Street) but there is nobody who threw their hat in the ring who is anywhere close to her in integrity, experience, intelligence, ability to grasp the issues, and get things done.

      I defy anyone to suggest that Rubio, Cruz, Christie, etc had anywhere close to Hillary's competence. I supported Bernie in the primary, not because I thought he had the experience or ability to get things done to be president but because I wanted to nudge Hillary to the left. That has been accomplished. That's why Bernie is campaigning for her.

      I think that a lot of anti-Hillary stuff comes from misogynists, both men and women. Hillary is not Michelle Obama, Laura Bush, Jackie Kennedy, etc, attractive and competent but always willing to play a secondary role. Hillary has gotten into the ring, has taken repeated blows below the belt, and still stands strong.

    3. To say Hillary is the least worst candidate suggests that she is just one step above The Donald. This is absurd. Hillary has not denigrated Mexicans, Muslims, Jews, African-Americans, mid-easterners, women or people with disabilities. She has not condoned torture. She has never filed for bankruptcy or failed to pay workers. She has never sexually assaulted anyone. She has never encouraged violence by her supporters or by anyone else. She does not view the world as a big casino where you lie and cheat to accumulate wealth.

      To call Hillary the least worst candidate is like saying democracy is the least worst form of government or broccoli is the least worst food.

  9. "To say Hillary is the least worst candidate suggests that she is just one step above The Donald. That's absurd." You might very well think that. I would disagree.

    If you dislike the taste of both cabbage (Trump) and broccoli (Hillary), but prefer broccoli to cabbage, then broccoli is your least worst. The extent to which you prefer broccoli is not the point. There *are* other vegetables, including other cruciferous ones. But long as they aren't on the menu you can't have them.

    1. Trump is arsenic. Hillary is broccoli (or cabbage or Brussel sprouts). You may not like the taste but beyond not killing you, it's good for you.

  10. For the record, i did not say that voting for the least worst candidate is "thankless resignation." Additionally i'm cool with everyone voting or not as they see fit - it's not for me to judge.
    I confess that i think that voting for vegetables IS absurd !! :)

    I don't identify with Hillary, other in that she seems a reasonable human to me; but other than that, my life is nothing like hers.

    Jane I agree with you, in my opinion Hillary seems the best candidate. I also agree with your statement, "To say Hillary is the least worst candidate suggests that she is just one step above The Donald." That resignation itself seems thankless and that was my point. Doesn't matter, really, Hillary isn't hearing my thoughts for or against her one way or the other. I don't equate my vote with my voice; for instance, my vote for a candidate is not a blank check for that candidate to do whatever. I just do the best that i can to my understanding. I dunno what more can be asked of a vote.



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