' [Birth Mother] First Mother Forum: Will this "birth mother's" attorney really look out for her interests?

Sunday, June 2, 2019

Will this "birth mother's" attorney really look out for her interests?

In Roseburg, Oregon, a small town 175 miles south of Portland, a woman I do not know will deliver a baby within the next 30 days and give her infant to the clients of Portland attorney, Scott Adams. An adoptee himself, he is a long time adoption practitioner.

Perhaps she responded to a "Dear Birth Mother" ad, perhaps she knows the prospective adoptive parents, friends of relatives, a couple she met while waiting tables, or a couple referred by her pastor. I do know that unless a miracle happens, she will leave the hospital with a flat stomach and searing lifelong pain.

An attorney she has met only recently perhaps for only an hour, hired by Adams and paid by the prospective adoptive parents, will within a day of the birth present her with a consent form prepared by Adams. Once she signs, the attorney will send the paper immediately through electronic means to Adams who will file it as soon as possible at the courthouse. Once filed, the consent is irrevocable.

An adoptive mother on the
real cost of adoption--to the

Oregon law like the laws of all states provides two paths for "voluntary" infant adoptions. Best known are adoptions through state-licensed adoption agencies. Separate social workers work with expectant parents and prospective adoptive parents. Parents surrender their baby to the agency for adoption by signing a consent form presented by their social worker. The agency then processes the adoption.

More common, though, is the path being taken by the expectant mother in Roseburg, often referred to as a "private adoption," that is, without agency involvement These adoptions are promoted through such books as "Fast Track Adoptions" and "Adopt the Baby You Want." Attorneys, like Adams, connect prospective adoptive parents with expectant mothers, typically by running ads for "birth mothers," working with doctors, or by advising those wishing to adopt how to locate "birth mothers" through contacts, Facebook, Penny Ads, local  newspapers, even paper placemats in casual restaurants. The attorney's staff may coach them on writing "Dear Birth Mother" letters. Unlike agency adoptions, the child is relinquished directly to the adoptive parents.

Once the attorney lines up the mother-to-be and the prospective adoptive parents, the attorney prepares the consent and the open-adoption agreement, if any. In states like California, the attorney represents both the prospective adoptive parents and the natural parents, at least until something goes wrong. Then the attorney represents only the adoptive parents.

A birth mother on the
personal devastation
of giving up a child
In states like Oregon, mothers in private adoptions must have their own attorney when they sign the consent. Her attorney, however, is selected by the prospective adoptive parents' attorney and paid by the prospective adoptive parents. The mother's attorney may take the baby from the hospital and deliver the baby to the prospective adoptive parents or their attorney. So while it may appear that the mother has her own representation, in actuality, the prospective adoptive parents' attorney orchestrates the whole event. It is not much of a stretch to liken this to a situation where a prosecutor pays an attorney for the accused to get his confession.

A few days ago, Adams posted a request on the Oregon Family Law list soliciting an attorney for the expectant mother in Roseburg. His post is set forth below. It makes me angry just to read it. To Adams, the mother's consent is not a life-altering event, but a mere legal formality. The mother's attorney is not obligated to help the mother find resources to keep her baby. The attorney is not obligated to tell the mother she can negotiate the terms of the open-adoption agreement, allowing her to believe, for example, that a picture and a letter once a year is standard. The attorney is not obligated to tell the mother that the open adoption can close at the desire of the adoptive parents, and she will have no legal recourse in most states.

And, later, if the mother wants to contest the adoption for misrepresentation, or assert her rights under the open adoption agreement, the attorney will tell her he/she doesn't represent her.

These appalling events happen every day all over the country. ---jane

Scott C. Adams' 5/23/19 post on the Oregon Family Law list: "I am looking for a referral to a Roseburg attorney to explain adoption consents to a birthmom (woman placing her child for adoption) and potentially birthdad expected to give birth in Roseburg within the next 30 days. I represent the adoptive parents and will prepare all the paperwork.

You would generally meet with her/them once prior to her giving birth to go over the papers--this meeting is often in a more casual place than your office depending on her needs. Then when she does give birth you will take the papers to her/them in the hospital, explain them, get them signed and get them back to me electronically. Working with birth parents requires a lot of out of the box lawyering; you have to be available to take or respond to a birth parent's phone call/questions within a few minutes (they may be standing there with a nurse or doctor needing your input) and you may have to be available for an evening or weekend trip to the hospital (with a day's notice usually), and then be able to immediately send those consents to me. Experience in other adoptions/paternity helpful but not a must. It usually takes 2-3 hours which the adoptive parents will pay for. (emphasis added)

Self-referrals are welcome."

Are Laws Tilted Towards Adopting Parents? Well, yes, even in Oregon
Finding babies through Facebook. And your manicurist. And ...

Scott Adams
US Dept of Health and Human Services, State Laws on Domestic Adoption

The Primal Wound: Understanding the Adopted Child
June 26, 2017
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
I knew I had some subconscious or unconscious "issues" from having been adopted, but I didn't truly understand them until I read this book. If you are adopted, get this book. If you have adopted children - or are even thinking about doing so - get this book. I learned a lot about myself while reading this - it explained a lot of my behavior as a child, and even as an adult. Being adopted IS traumatic, no matter what age it happens at - I was adopted as a baby, but still had issues because of it. My parents used to tell me that I was "chosen," and while they were trying to make me feel good and "special," it always made me sad to hear. Not because I didn't like my adoptive parents, but because - even as a child - I knew inside somewhere that to be "chosen," I first had to be given away. I didn't understand those sad feelings as a child, but thanks to this book, I understand them now.

Hole In My Heart: memoir and report from the fault lines of adoption
April 6, 2016
Format: Kindle EditionVerified Purchase
I recently read this book and want to say that it left me with many emotions - some I could deal with & some that were a bit harder. That's because I'm an adoptee. Lorraine Dusky's Hole in my Heart is about a first mother who gave up her baby to adoption and the consequences of that decision. Not only that - but it goes way beyond just that portion of her life. This memoir goes on for decades. Which I liked.

I like the fact that Lorraine has shared with us in this book all the various parts of the reunion years....'The rest of the story' so to speak. Because often times there are many ups and downs over the years following reunion and the important thing for people to understand are these years. You might watch some TV show about people finding their families - and they are all tears and hugs and wonderfulness. However, what happens next is what matters most. What happens 5 yrs down the road - 10 yrs - 20 yrs? That's where the story is.

My first mother has been dying for awhile now. I have all sorts of emotions about this ending. Reading this book helped me in many ways while I'm going through this process of letting go of the woman who gave birth to me 62 yrs ago. I'm glad I had already bought it several months before and had it ready on my Kindle to start when I needed something like this to help me get through.

One last thing: Lorraine has been part of the adoptee rights movement for years. She is well known in the adoption world that consists of so many of us inside the so called 'triad' and outside. Her book is not just about her own personal story - but it's full of facts and information about adoption laws in various states and all the various groups that are out there. She's a speaker as well as an author and is still active to this day. Check out her FB page if you want.

If adoption has been in your life in any possible way, this book can help you examine your own personal situation. Kudos for Lorraine's honesty and courage to share her story with the rest of the world.


  1. Jane, as you know where there is profit there is corruption. Does it ever get close to ending? Thank you for sharing. Keep going with Lorraine. We appreciate you.

  2. I really think it should be required to have independent counsel for mothers placing their babies for adoption. I did offer this to our daughter's parents. We were kinda a private adoption, sorta, but ended up using an agency because she said she would prefer that to lawyers. I was really upset that the agency did not tell her things I thought they should have, and even more upset when I later realized there were things I didn't know so couldn't have told her (example is that I did not realize we would have to get a new birth certificate). I told them about the open adoption agreement and asked them to decide what they wanted in it, and I also sent them information about how it is not really enforceable even though it's a court approved document. I also was the one who let them know they could change their minds. Even the social services person the hospital sent to her didn't tell her all this info.

    It's insanity.

    BTW, I tried really hard to be as ethical as I could because I have to look myself in the mirror at night, and also, if they went through with it, I needed to look my daughter in the face. However, let's just be straight up about the fact that the PAP is ALWAYS going to be biased, even when we try really hard not to be- we just are. And we are ALWAYS going to be the ones holding power over the other parents and cannot be a real source of support for them- too much involvement would lead to an even greater power imbalance in the relationship. So my situation and how I tried to do the right thing should be all the more example that how we currently do things in adoptions is not ok and is not ethical.

    1. Tiffany, I'd love to meet you some day/You are the example of what a good adoptive parent should be, understanding all along what the ethical components of adoption are--to both the first mother and adoptees.

    2. Parents considering adoption should have their own counselor or attorney. The program could be administered by the courts and funded by a fee on adoption petitions. I had legislation to do this introduced in Oregon in 2011. The adoption industry, mainly the the Mormon adoption agency, gathered up a bunch of birth mothers who opposed the bill saying they didn't want anyone interfering with their decision.

      Adoptive mothers like you need to continue speaking.

    3. I’d love to meet you too! And I will continue to speak out, especially with my representatives. We can make a difference (as shown in NY!) if we just keep making noise.

      I totally agree Jane. There are so many conflicts of interests. In anything but adoption, using the same attorney and agency would not be allowed. That’s such a shame that didn’t pass. But we need to keep pushing! I am thankful for your efforts.

  3. What horrifies me is the amount of money these parents receive, particularly in medical and tax benefits, for the rest of the adoptees first 18 years of life! Not only are the attorneys bordering on and often crossing ethical lines, but our governments (state and federal) are funding the mess.... a friend, using the term loosely, adopted two children from foster care. The attorney involved was paid by the state to represent the state and the adoptive parents - oh wait - and the best interests of the foster child/birth mother of the girls.... The grounds for severance and adoption was that the children had an autoimmune disorder that allowed for easily broken bones, etc. None of which is the actual fosterchild/mother's fault. Talk about using the system... Then the adoptive mother bragged about the $13K she got back on her taxes because of the "special needs" of the children and their "adopted" status.

  4. I spent $4000 of my own money getting guardianship (NOT adoption) of a 16 year-old who had been neglected and abused (physically, emotionally, sexually) by several natural family members. We sugar-coated the whole arrangement to the birth father (mother was out of the picture), making it seem like he could have access to the kid whenever he wanted, but our attorney drafted a parenting plan that pretty much stripped him of all rights. I don't know think he knew what he was signing, but our attorney did insist that he read the document carefully so there would be no coercion. He had a right to request an attorney but did not. The child was a 16 year-old who voluntarily chose to stay with us. We were as nice to the father as possible during the whole legal process. In this particular case, I don't feel guilty because the child was old enough to express what he wanted, and because the past abuse had been severe. DCFS had been involved with the family on a few occasions but their investigations never resulted in any actions. Later, when the father had a mood swing and became physically abusive to younger siblings, we invoked our parenting plan and refused him non-supervised access to the son living with us. These circumstances are generally not the case where adoption of a womb-fresh infant is concerned. The whole thing has been ugly, but the right thing to do in this circumstance. The emotional cost to our Guardian Son of not attaching to his family of origin has been enormous.

    Unless adoptive parents are dealing with circumstances similar to ours, there should be no reason to do things the way we did. An infant has no voice, and the a newborn's parents haven't proven themselves unfit.

    Anyways, I did qualify for a $3000 benefit through my employer. However, half of it was swallowed up in taxes. The cost to my family for services to try help this teen become a functioning adult has probably reached $10,000 3 years later. The tax deduction, Medicaid, free school lunches and school activity fee waiver have helped me to feel, in small part, like the Village offers support, helps me to not feel alone and overwhelmed.



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