' [Birth Mother] First Mother Forum: Annie Lane's damaging advice: When one child has an open adoption, and the other doesn't

Friday, September 15, 2017

Annie Lane's damaging advice: When one child has an open adoption, and the other doesn't

Annie Lane
Annie Lane, a columnist with Creators Syndicate, offered up some noxious advice recently to "Anxious Adopter," who has two adopted children, a girl, 6, and a boy, 4. The boy's adoption is open and he visits his first/birth mother twice a year. The girl's natural mother, however, requested a completely closed adoption. There's the rub. The girl wonders why she does not have another family like her brother has. Lane tells the adoptive mother: "You might want to consider whether these visits would be good to continue in the long run. Are they good for your son? Do they confuse him?" Clearly a not-subtle recommendation that Anxious cut off contact with the boy's mother to spare the girl any disappointment, as well as to make life easier for "Anxious Adopter."

Lane continues: "Open adoption works for some families but others find it overwhelming for the kids. Do not let feelings of sympathy or guilt cloud your judgment. Your children's best interests must come first." Lane is distressingly unaware that openness in adoption is in children's best interests. It grew out of the increasing awareness that closed adoption was harmful to many adoptees, and a growing demand from both adoptees and birth mothers that sealed records be unsealed. The industry moved into open adoption not only to ward off the damage to adoptees from not knowing their identity and history, but also because it was getting harder to find enough babies to fill the demand for them at the same time the number of babies available for adoption began to decline. Openness--with birth mothers having contact--would seem to encourage more women to give up their children.

But Lane's advice could prove damaging, if not disastrous to the boy, his mother, as well as Anxious Adopter. If she ends her son's visits, he won't understand why he can't see his other mother, and may think he did something wrong. He may become angry and act out. He will be abandoned again, once he understands everything. The boy's natural mother will be devastated when the promise that she could have visits with her son is broken. In time, the little girl may eventually understand what happened, and see herself to blame herself for her brother's loss of his other mother and family. A whole chain reaction of issues will be unleashed because of a careless piece of advice by someone who is anything but an adoption specialist.  Anxious Adopter will have to deal with the fall out, and the children are likely to become anxious and distrustful.

Lane should have advised Anxious to search out the daughter's first  mother--the agency or lawyer knows who she is--and ask if she is now amenable to contact. (That anyone would do this to a child in recent years is mind-boggling, given what we know, but that is another post.) The mother may have thought (or been led to believe by adoption practitioner) that a closed adoption would allow her to go on with her life with nary a backward glance. She had no way of knowing how she would feel after her daughter was gone, or that her daughter would want contact with her. The baby was likely whisked away before she could change her mind. Or maybe she just stubbornly wanted to cut off any contact, despite any urgings to the opposite.
The  birth mother's story

If the daughter's mother won't budge from her "out of sight, out of mind" delusion, Anxious should deal with the truth to her daughter as best she can. Yes, that's not a conversation anyone will enjoy having, but this does demonstrate the unthinking adoption attorney or agency that facilitated her second adoption--an open one in contrast to the earlier one in that family.  Anxious might also encourage the boy's first mother to include the girl in some of their activities. I know of a case where this happened. Sort of like a grandmother including a step grandchild in outings with her bio-grandchild. Of course, having the boy's first mother step in is not a substitute for the girls's first mother but may ease her pain.

We commend Anxious for keeping her promises to the birth mother for continuing the visits, but someone should have pointed out that this was going to create a huge problem for her eldest down the line and this second child should have gone to someone else. All we see here is an industry focused on business-as-usual, the emotional implications to the first child be damned!

We have had a mother commenting here before who was dealing with a similar issue; I hope she comes back and tells her story.

and the adoptive mother's
Though incredibly difficult, Anxious should deal with the issue head first, and in as gentle way as possible, tell the girl the truth, if Anxious cannot reach or change the mind of the girl's biological mother. Truth here sucks, but depriving the boy of contact with his birth mother--as well as breaking the promise to her--will be much more damaging in the long run. Can you imagine the conversation 15 years hence? Oh yes, I cut off contact with your mother because it was too hard for me to handle, what with your sister's birth mother....

There's no educational requirements to be an advice columnist, no state licensing agency to assure that columnists have even a scintilla of information on adoption and human relationships. They gain their fans by parroting popular views on social issues. Lane is a law school graduate whose career includes working in a bookstore and teaching yoga. Her predecessor at Creators Syndicate was Ann Landers who, during the last half of the past century, urged unwed mothers to save their children from the ignominy of bastardy and themselves from a life of working in a dime store by--well, you know--giving up those children to adoption. Furthermore, Landers chastised adoptees searching for their original families, and opposed legislation unsealing original birth certificates. During this time, her twin sister, Abagail Van Buren, spewed out the same misinformation as Dear Abby; so did pop psychologist Dr. Joyce Brothers. In one reference I found, Brothers even claimed the adopted did better than the non-adopted because they "had a more positive world view and had a higher level of self-confidence than the non-adopted."

Whew! What a load of poppycock!

Today, a large chorus sings the same refrain. In addition to Lane, there's Dr. Laura, a staunch opponent of adoptees searching (would you have preferred to be tossed in the abortionist's bucket? is her chorus line) and Marguerite Kelly (accepting the primacy of the adoptive family is the price adoptees must pay for being loved). Carolyn Hax urges women seeking to become pregnant through sperm donation to insist that the donor remain anonymous, and praises a grandmother who wishes her daughter's child had been given up for adoption. Amy Dickinson casts a jaundiced eye on a daughter who wants her first parents to adopt her. Dear Prudence perpetuates the myth that mothers who give up their infants never wanted them and that the child's mother is the woman who raised her. Last but not least are TV personalities the affable Dr. Phil and the more stern Dr. Drew, who repeatedly assures MTV's sympathetic but unhappy Teen Mom Catelynn Lowell, now Baltierra, that she made the "right decision" in giving up her daughter Carly.

We first mothers cannot shut up these self-appointed experts who seem to be mouthpieces for continuing adoption as usual, despite what we know about how it affects the psyche of the adopted, as well as the mother. But we can counter their message. Speak out publicly if you can--and many of us can. Let your friends and family know what it is like to give up a child. Adoptees can speak out too when possible, about the need to know, to connect to people who share their DNA and heritage, people who look and act in ways large and small like them. Find a platform and get on it. Silence hurts us all, and lets the next adoption be encouraged because everyone knows a happy adoptee who is perfectly content and not interested in her natural family! Start with emailing Annie Lane and--the places where the column runs--to say that she's just plain wrong about open adoption and is going more damage than good. Always servicing the adoptive parents and giving them the easy out is not in the best interests of the child.
Adopted Daughter Has Questions
About Annie Lane

When Your Adopted Child Wants to Visit Her Birthmother
On grieving for a grandchild NOT placed for adoption
The Daughter I Never Wanted and other lies about adoption in the media
(Pro) Adoption Special: Dr. Drew encourages teen mom to give up their babies
Joyce Brothers touted the advantages of being adopted
Birth mothers think of their children lost to adoption

Because I Loved You: A Birthmother's View of Open Adoption
By Patricia Dischler
on September 9, 2017
Format: Paperback|Verified Purchase

The Open-Hearted Way to Open Adoption: Helping Your Child Grow Up Whole
By Lori Holden 
on July 8, 2014


  1. Damaging poppycock, for all the reasons you state.

    When adoptive parents ask me about situations like this, I try to get them to take away the adoption charge and see the situation without it. The way forward then becomes clear.

    For example, what if one of your kids was accepted into gifted math and the other wasn't. Would you hold back the one to make things easier for the other? Would you push the other so the one could have her needs met? No! You'd help each of them get their needs met and accept their What Is. You'd support and you'd abide with them. Aiming for equality would seem ridiculous to you.

    More on How to Explain to Children Differing Levels of Openness in Adoption:" https://lavenderluz.com/2015/06/one-child-has-birthmom-around-other-doesnt.html

    Annie Lane and John Rosemond and the others you mention must live in a more black & white world than I do. Time and again they fail to understand the complexities of adoption with their pat, simplified answers that would wreak havoc on people actually involved in adoption, including adoptees, first parents, and Annie Lane's letter writer.

  2. P.S. Thanks for including my book as part of your post.

  3. To deny one adoptee the benefits of open adoption because their sibling has no access by another birthmother's choice is like refusing to give either of your children vegetables because Crisco prefers that consumers eat only fried food. (Ridiculous, right? Exactly our point.) And for anyone to rely on the advice of paid columnists is just as stupid.

    Even an adoptee whose birthfamily refuses contact can benefit from the loving attention of his or her sibling's birthparents who are receptive and who are willing to serve as "surrogate birthparents" for the adoptee being denied openness. We have found many instances in which this turned out to be enormously advantageous for our adoptees and adoptive families, and for the birthfamilies, too.

    Never, ever expect two (or more) adoptions to be exactly alike... and always use the advantages of open adoption to whatever extent possible, to enhance the health and welfare of all your children.

    1. Better still, keep your child and run a mile from anyone involved in facilitating adoptions.

  4. Thanks for giving such a great comparison--about the gifted classes. Makes it crystal clear.

  5. In the news- 'Missouri Daycare Worker Charged With Attempted Kidnapping'.

    It just doesn't stop. The desire for infants and children to adopt / the money to be made off the sale of a human being. Sick!

  6. My daughter is nine years old. It is sadly a closed adoption. She seems to comprehend the multi families idea just fine probably because we have talked about it since homecoming. Maybe it helps that almost all of her friends have blended families of half siblings, step siblings, cousins living with them, etc. Nobody is devastated when two of three children visit daddy v. on the weekends and one child stays behind because he is daddy t.'s child. The children often name their fathers or moms as such. It becomes even more interesting when daddy t.'s first marriage children come to visit him and family - three sets of children in one place. None of the children seem to be confused, hurt, or disturbed by any of it(divorce drama aside). If adoption is part of a family's life, seeing a birth parent should not be a significantly different type of visitation. Cutting that off creates more damage for all people including the children that the birth parents may now have. Adults seem to make a bigger deal of things than the children do.
    Thank you for your site. You have helped make me a better (adopted) parent.
    C to X

  7. Lori Lavender Luz, that is a great analogy--and one that I have lived and am still living.

    FMF kindly allows me to drop in my two cents' worth though I'm not an AP, just someone with an adoption in my extended family that's still making waves. That said, of the three sons Mr. B and I have raised, the eldest was/is unbelievably precocious. We treated that as "normal for him." He got what he needed, without being unduly fussed-over or held up as an example. This also helped keep him from being more of an unbearable snot than he might have been.

    Our second son had one potentially life-threatening health issue after another, one of which almost always was coupled with major-league learning disabilities. We came to handle all that as "normal for him." He got what he needed, without being treated as a fragile little prince.

    Once when someone on a play date started to rip open the envelope containing his report card while riding in my carpool, another kid (not even one of mine!) reproached him in shock. "We NEVER do that in Mrs. B's carpool!" he said. He stuffed the mangled envelope into his backpack, chastened.

    My sons always opened their report cards and things like test scores in a one-on-two situation: just one son, two parents, brothers out of earshot. That was "normal for us."

    And that's just a family whose parents raised their own kids... throw in two different types of adoption and things get unbearably complicated. But "normal for [whomever]" involves making a clear-eyed assessment of the situation. People seeking help, with the best of intentions, will throw themselves at the mercies of advice columnists: hooray for Jane for pointing out that THEY are credentialed by NOBODY!

    I have a pair of professional advice-givers in my family-of-origin who hosted a local television show and published articles in my home city. What a joke this double act was. And I'm acquainted with the offspring of a writer who often ghost-wrote articles for Dr. Joyce Brothers. As scholarly source material (/snark off), Brothers sometimes offered her ghost clippings from Coronet magazine.

    But I digress. "Normal for..." is a good yardstick for measuring family issues of many kinds.

  8. ,, Brothers sometimes offered her ghost clippings from Coronet magazine.

    this means what, Mrs.TB?

    1. That Dr Brothers tried to pass off her ghost written articles in Coronet Magazine as scholarly references for her own points. If I remember right, Coronet was a cross between Readers Digest and Tiger Beat lol

  9. That Brothers' "research material" comprised clippings from Coronet, rather than, say, JAMA or other scholarly journals.

  10. Following this poison is symptomatic of, sadly,the consequence of our loss of animal instincts, once expressed naturally like the "birth" mother;" the one who is the "natural mother"actually. The adoption jargon which uses word like confused, not good for him, "...self appointed experts..." are in reality responsible for contributing to the destruction of lives for pay. I pity anyone seeking "advice" from this ilk. Talk to birth mothers/first mothers groups like this one. We need support to search our own hearts for the answers, not from those performing psycho babblers. I learned too late. Love to all my sisters and brothers for whom the torment of wrongful adoption persists.

    1. ...and to you Whirling.

      Yes, all this guff about 'confused' and 'not good for him' is an unforgivable attempt to close down an adoption whilst simultaneously pretending to be a good and caring mother. It's nothing of the sort. It's done for entirely self-serving reasons. The child's welfare doesn't even feature in this sort of babble.

  11. The correct answer is that the girl's adoption never should of been closed. Ah, duh...isn't it just heartwarming to see idiots who are not adopted, including adoptive parents think they have some right to speak for any of us. Also, Jane, the real reason adoption became open is because of the new child abuse laws in the 80's and agencies decided to cover their sleazy asses because they know damn well closed adoption is abuse. To further prove my point, if they really cared about adoptees at all they would of ensured laws to prevent adopters from having the freedom to break promises and just take off after they got the baby. But of course they never did.

  12. She doesn't deserve her job considering she did no homework on the subject matter.

  13. Her predecessor at Creators Syndicate was Ann Landers who, during the last half of the past century, urged unwed mothers to save their children from the ignominy of bastardy and themselves from a life of working in a dime store by--well, you know--giving up those children to adoption. Furthermore, Landers chastised adoptees searching for their original families, and opposed legislation unsealing original birth certificates.

    Sounds like someone had a baby they were made to put into adoption.
    "I think thou doth protest too much."



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