Adoption as a Feminist Issue

There is some really excellent discussion happening in the comments of my last post, “Pregnancy: a Public Affair,” in which I wrote about how society allows and encourages people to make pregnant bodies their business, and how that has affected my thoughts on whether or not to ever become pregnant.

One topic that has come up in comments is the ethics and justice of adoption and adoption as a feminist issue. People seem pretty interested in discussing this topic, but it’s not directly related to the original post. So I thought I’d go ahead and open up a new post dedicated to adoption issues.

To start the discussion, I have some questions:

    How can or should we view adoption as a feminist issue? As a class, race, or disability issue? Whose rights stand to be compromised when adoption is or is not an available option?

    Does every child have a right to be raised by the people whose genetic material helped create them?

    Does every genetic parent have a right to raise their genetic children?

    Do people who are unable (though biology or circumstance), or do not desire, to conceive children have a right to raise children?

    If you believe adoption is problematic, what circumstances would make it less so?

Since this is a feminist blog, let’s try to make this a critical discussion, rather than simply an airing of personal grievances. (Personal experiences are the foundation of feminism, so I encourage sharing them. But I ask that in this thread we use them to engage with others, build understanding, and provide insight.) And as always, please be respectful!

ETA: Links and resources are greatly appreciated. However, your comment will get mistaken for spam (by the spam filter, which is not human) if it contains 5 or more links. I may eventually fish it out of the spam filter and make sure it gets published, but you might want to limit yourself to 4 or fewer links per comment, just to be safe.

382 comments for “Adoption as a Feminist Issue

  1. sc
    July 27, 2011 at 9:50 am

    as someone who was adopted, it’s something i wonder about fairly often. i was adopted quite a while ago in the bad-old-days manner of adoption (closed adoption, straight from birth, the lawyer brought me home to my parents) and it’s difficult to get into discussions about this subject without getting a strong “i shouldn’t be here” feeling.

  2. Lolagirl
    July 27, 2011 at 10:06 am

    I agree with you that in so many ways adoption really is a feminist issue. In my experience, this is also one of those topics that sees a lot of canned, knee jerk reactions that I believe aren’t always well thought out.

    I was only able to conceive my 3 kids through IVF, and throughout that process I heard time and time again, why don’t you just adopt? I started calling those people the “just adopters.” Just adopters always lead with the erroneous assumption that there are legions of babies just waiting for adoption, and that anyone who is infertile has a duty to adopt instead of resorting to ART. And my husband and I did consider adoption, we looked into it in good faith and did hours and hours or research before deciding that we wanted to try IVF first.

    Here’s the thing, adoption is not the simple, straight forward process that so many people seem to assume it to be. Adoption involves real, live parents giving their child over to the care and permanent custody of another person. Of course that is going to be an emotionally fraught and complicated process that should never, ever be diminished or underestimated, yet too often our society does exactly that. As I did more research, I became increasingly uncomfortable with the institutionalized aspects of private adoption in the U.S., where so often the agencies who broker those adoptions are religious organizations with agendas that made me personally uncomfortable. International adoption also has many ethical concerns, and both domestic and international adoption are outrageously expensive. There are some limited options for getting children through foster care and through the state, but those are also very limited and share some of the ethical issues as private adoption.

    My ethical concerns with adoption always go back to the parents who are giving up that child, and the societal issues that brought them to that point in the first place. So often, these parents are very young, living in poverty, and have received very little in the way of emotional or economic support throughout the adotion process. I also had concerns with whether I would be able to my personal best at doing right by both those parents and the child that I would be bringing into my family. Too often our society treats birth parents as disposable entities who owe it to society and adoptive parents to give up their children for adoption, and that attitude disturbs me beyond words.

  3. anonadoptee
    July 27, 2011 at 10:07 am

    Thank you, thank you, thank you.

    I need to get my thoughts together, as adoption for me is a painful, difficult, confusing subject, and it often leaves me very emotional. I will share my story at some point.

    Right now, since I happen to currently be reading a specific blog post that discusses this, I’ll bring up socioeconomic status and adoption. Three things changed my opinion of adoption (and abortion too, oddly) forever, and both were found out in my first contact with my biological mom at the age of 21. One, that my mother was raped. Second, her family was religiously against abortion. Third, she had not wanted to give me up. Her parents told her she couldn’t come home with me, and she had no money.

    She was raped. Denied an abortion by religious family beliefs. Then was poor, so did not get to keep me.

    The rape is for another post. The abortion issue is also for another post…(I am very pro-choice and wish she had not been denied that choice)…it’s a whole other story.

    Right now, I’d like to talk about money. What did my biological mom NOT have that would have allowed her to keep me? What did my adoptive parents have that allowed them to adopt?

    Money. And the “right” type of family for a child: aka married, Christian, employed, of a certain age.

    This was the turning point. I had always believed that adoption was simply God’s plan, blah blah blah…my mom couldn’t have me and so God planned for my adoptive parents to take care of me. End of story. (I’m no longer religious either…A-parents don’t know though…that’s ANOTHER story…see how many other stories there are in adoption?)

    Now I know that wasn’t “end of story”. There was more to it. Now I had more questions, but not the type of question you can pose to family, as they tell you you are thinking about it too much, and “what would I rather have been poor?”…

    Well what if I had been? That’s my question. What if I had been raised by a single, poor mother. I’m sure my life would be different. It might have sucked. BUT…I don’t know that. I never will. But society says that if it’s a competition between two types of “environments” for a child, the married, Christian, upper-middle class household wins. The unwed, poor mother loses.

    Why? And why does being poor mean that adoption can rarely be an un-coerced choice? Because when you are told that you are not “good enough” because you can’t give your child everything they need (money and a “stable” home) then you should give your child to someone better.

    Society attacks mothers who aren’t “good enough”, and adoption is one way of punishing those mothers.

    For now, I’d like to end with a quote from a paper by Janette Logan called “Birth Mothers and their Mental Health: Uncharted Territory” that seems to sum up the idea of adoption as punishment for social delinquency. I remember it from a paper I did for an Intro to Sociology class, and I may use some info that I used for future posts.

    “Adoption is a violent act, a political act of aggression towards a woman who has supposedly offended the sexual mores by committing the unforgivable act of not suppressing her sexuality, and therefore not keeping it for trading purposes through traditional marriage . . . the crime is a grave one, for she threatens the very fabric of our society. The penalty is severe. She is stripped of her child by a variety of subtle and not so subtle manoeuvres and then brutally abandoned. . . . How many are set free? How many (birth mothers) remain trapped inside an emotional nightmare with unresolved death as a lonely companion?
    (Shawyer, 1979).

  4. anonadoptee
    July 27, 2011 at 10:09 am

    sc:
    as someone who was adopted, it’s something i wonder about fairly often.i was adopted quite a while ago in the bad-old-days manner of adoption (closed adoption, straight from birth, the lawyer brought me home to my parents) and it’s difficult to get into discussions about this subject without getting a strong “i shouldn’t be here” feeling.

    You are not alone. I too get the “I shouldn’t be here” feeling. I am very careful to keep these posts private. I would be terrified for my adoptive parents to find out I feel this way. They would not understand, and I don’t want to hurt them. I grew up being told that I should only be grateful since “I could have been aborted”. We adoptees are only supposed to be grateful and never criticize, which is why we feel so secretive.

  5. KJ
    July 27, 2011 at 10:28 am

    My thought is that no one has a ‘right’ to a child. Children do, however, have the right to a home where their physical and emotional needs are met. Society has a duty to enable parents who want to parent with the tools they need to need to be effective (i.e. women should not be mommy-tracked, the government should subsidize childcare, etc).

    However, I do believe that some people who give birth may not be able to care for their child physically and emotionally. If society is doing its job (which it isn’t in the US) then those cases should be rare. If a person can’t care for their child, that child has a right to be placed in a home where his or her needs will be met. Efforts should be help the genetic parents get back on track, but if they fail, the child should be adopted by someone who can care for him or her. A family member should be the first choice.

    In talking about this, it is important to remember that society has to do its part to enable parents to be good providers and loving parents. It is also important to not I am only talking about domestic adoption here; there are too many issues with international adoption for me to address that here.

  6. wasabi
    July 27, 2011 at 10:30 am

    I want to thank those who have posted so far for the very thoughtful comments they have made. I find myself nodding along vigorously. I am a birthmom in a closed adoption (though I am reuniting with my 18 year old daughter on Friday! Yay!) and I absolutely think adoption or the pressure for a woman to place a child for adoption is a feminist issue. The adoptive parents in my situation are fortunately wonderful people who have allowed my daughter the freedom to freely express her desire to meet me for years now and have done their best to not marginalize my place in her life despite the adoption being closed. I could not have asked for better in an inherently unbalanced relationship. They have done well by me.

    But the industry as a whole and adoption as a whole? Wow the things I could say. The people who give up babies are almost all young, uneducated and poor. The people who adopt babies are almost all older, educated and well off. There is an inherent socio-economic imbalance at play. And the slut-shaming as well. We made a bad choice so we don’t get to have our cake and eat it too not while their is this wonderful couple who should be able to have a baby but can’t who would love to do a much better job of parenting our child than we would. And then we spend years unable to express the pain and shame that haunts us because society doesn’t want to hear it. You’re only a good birthmother as long as you go away and let society feel good about adoption. If you do anything to raise the ethical concerns then you become a bad birthmother who deserves whatever pain you might feel because you couldn’t keep your legs together.

    To go through the questions posed:

    1. Yes I think it’s a feminist issue that adoption is still seen by many as the optimal choice in the case of an unplanned pregnancy. I know far too many “pro-choice” people who still refer to abortion as a necessary evil that should be chosen only in the absolute worst case scenario. I think it is primarily a class issue and I think it’s the rights of the birthparents and the adoptee that are compromised.

    2. Yes I think every child has a right to be raised by their genetic parents. There may be cases where that would not be the best solution but when we’re talking about adoption (as in voluntary relinquishment vs. the state seizing the child) we are not usually talking about issues of child safety.

    3. I think every genetic parent has the right to at least try to parent their children. I don’t view that as a right that is unloseable. If you abuse or neglect your children I think you lose that right. But every genetic parent who has in no way demonstrated unfitness other than by getting pregnant (as so many seem to feel does show unfitness) has a right to parent their child.

    4. No I do not believe that infertile people have a right to raise other people’s children. Do they have a right to try as hard as they can to have genetic children? Absolutely. And I would not say that I think adoption should be illegal. But does anyone ever have a _right_ to someone else’s child? No I do not believe that they do, no matter how wonderful of a parent they would be.

    5. I do believe that the movement to open adoption is a step in the right direction. However I am aware that in many states openness contracts are not legally enforceable. I know birthmoms who entered into open adoptions that were closed against their will by the adoptive parents. So I would say open adoption agreements should be legally enforceable. I would say better steps to making sure pregnant women are giving counseling before and _after_ the birth. Longer waiting periods before mothers can surrender their rights and even a brief period in which they can rescind their surrendering (in most states the second your pen is off the paper you can’t undo it). And making sure that women know what resources are available to them. I remember sitting in my hospital bed holding my daughter and wanting to walk out with her but knowing there was no way I could pay my hospital bill if I did. No one came to talk to me about medicaid or WIC because the adoption agency had already arranged to pay the bill. There should be someone who does not have a stake in the adoption going through talk to the mother and make sure she knows the resources that are available if she chose to parent and make sure that she is freely choosing to give the child up.

    I know that is extremely wrong, but I’ve had 19.5 years to think about this stuff.

  7. IrishUp
    July 27, 2011 at 10:32 am

    An ABSOLUTELY MUST READ on adoption. She covers US laws, ethics, process, and delves into the issues surrounding international adoptions. The discussion is pretty damn good, too.

    http://fugitivus.wordpress.com/2010/04/20/adoption-sometimes-gets-all-fucked-up-101/

  8. July 27, 2011 at 10:33 am

    1) Adoption is also a feminist issue because of child abuse, which is a feminist issue (not just because more is perpetrated against girls but because it’s fed by so many aspects of patriarchy).

    The myth that there are legions of babies waiting to be adopted, covered by lolagirl, is a myth. There are much larger numbers of older children who have escaped from abusive parents. Because they’re older, and because many of them have problems caused by the trauma of abuse, they are much less likely to get fostered or adopted.

    2) Adoption is a feminist issue because it is a space in which parents, and particularly mothers, are policed in a much more absolute way than in general norms, comments etc. I.e. the barriers to adoption are sometimes unjust along feminist lines. I’m thinking of cases I’ve read where parents have been barred from adopting because they were:
    – too fat
    – too mentally ill, or had a history of mental illness, including very gendered ones like anorexia and depression
    – deemed unfit because of myths about other kinds of disabilities
    – had been sexually abused as a child (due to the myth of the cycle of abuse)
    – not normative enough in sexuality and gender (e.g. same-gender couples, trans parents)

  9. Azalea
    July 27, 2011 at 10:35 am

    Does every child have a right to be raised by the people whose genetic material helped create them?

    No. Children begin life as fetuses and they do not have a right to be born. Parenting is a choice. That choice can not and should not be forced upon someone by biology or circumstance. Sometimes people adopt because they honestly feel that though they do not ever want to have an abortion OR they simply feel the fetus and then child has a right to live they do NOT want or trust themselves to raise the child. Sometimes you simply can’t, you can’t afford it, you have children and are already at your wits’ end witht he ones you have, etc etc.. NONE of these are selfish reasons.

    It is unfortunate that there are situations whe a person bears a child they do not or can not raise but that child does not have a right to be a part of their biological parent’s life.

    However, I think as humans we all deserve the right to know our genetic history and if we have siblings and who those siblings are. It goes beyond being unfair to know you have a long family history of heart disease and your child is being adopted by perfectly healthy people who do not know this.

  10. wasabi
    July 27, 2011 at 10:36 am

    That should have said “extremely long” not “extremely wrong.” Oops.

    I also wanted to note that in my case I had the choice to either keep the child and raise her by myself with no help from my disapproving parents, let them adopt her and raise her as my sibling (which I would not agree to because lying to her would be horrible and they are awful parents I would not wish on anyone) or place her for adoption. Abortion was temporarily illegal in my state at the time and my parents were completely anti-choice. So my choices were extremely limited as was my consent.

  11. wasabi
    July 27, 2011 at 10:40 am

    Just to clarify my right to be raised by genetic parents comment in light of Azalea’s response. I do not think a fetus has a right to be born. But I do believe a _child_ once born does have a right to their biological family. I don’t want my answer to be at all read as anti-choice because it definitely is not.

  12. anonadoptee
    July 27, 2011 at 10:44 am

    KJ,

    “However, I do believe that some people who give birth may not be able to care for their child physically and emotionally.”

    Here is an interesting blog post, it’s not extensive but it’s something to go on:
    http://austinholistic.blogspot.com/2011/04/ablism-and-poverty-in-infant-adoption.html

    What makes someone unable to care for their child physically and emotionally? Is it mental illness? Being in severe poverty? Having a physical disability?

    I suffer depression, (I do link many of my psychological problems to being adopted though), I have some serious self-esteem issues, I am overly clingy, and I have some other things I work with. Does this mean I’m unfit to parent?

    At the moment I don’t want children, if I got pregnant my husband and I have agreed abortion is what we would choose. But in ten years or so, I want kids. If I still suffer depression should I not have children? If I am still poor should I just resign myself to not having kids? If I am in a car accident and suffer a physical disability should I be denied the right to parent?

    You may not be implying these things but thats what I hear when people say that there are “some people” who just shouldn’t have kids.

    When I discuss adoption, I am primarily discussing infant adoption, where the mother surrendered her child as an infant. My own mother only had three days with me in the hospital, not really enough time to see if she was a “fit” parent…whatever that is.

  13. Julie P.
    July 27, 2011 at 10:44 am

    I not think people who are unable to conceive have a right to raise children, particularly if they wanted to limit themselves to adopting babies (as opposed to older children). Considering it a right would require some sort of societal changes to make sure there are enough children available for adoption for all of these people. The societal changes necessary to ensure this would likely necessitate even worse moral and social issues than those that already exist around the adoption process and women’s reproductive rights. For example, I had a boss in college who seriously believed that abortion should be illegal because him and his wife could not conceive and wanted easier access to babies for adoption (they ended up adopting a baby girl from Russia rather than adopt an older child or wait for a baby in the US).

  14. Kristen J.
    July 27, 2011 at 10:44 am

    I would add two points that pretty much add to the complexity:

    1) IME (with older children who are typically abused or neglected), even where a birth parent is *unwilling* not unable to care for a child, there is often a close family member (even if not by blood) who would but for resouces care for the child. So I think in addition to supporting parents we should support familial/group care.

    2) Children with disabilities and their parents experience some of the worst privations under the system. We have to suck less at supporting people with disabilities and seriously allocate resource for their care beyond the medical needs (transportation, alternative home care, education, etc. etc.)

  15. theothermother
    July 27, 2011 at 10:47 am

    If anything I’d see it as more of a class issue. My son was born into a 2 parent family. But a family with a long history of foster care, addiction, poverty, and domestic violence. He entered foster care at 6 and was adopted at 9. We’re a stable, middle class, two parent family.

    His family was provided with services to assist them to provide a safe environment, they were unable to do so. With more services could they have forged through as a family? Maybe? Does my son experience a huge loss by not being raised by his family of origin. Yes, yes, a thousand times yes! Would he have been better off being raised by his deeply flawed, but deeply loving birth family vs. us? I don’t know. But in the absence of change, would we have been helping fix the issue or adding to the problem by choosing not to adopt and letting him linger in foster care limbo.

    For me, the answer is: Yes, his parents had a right to raise him and yes, he had a right to be raised by them. But he, the child, had an over-reaching right to be raised in a safe, healthy and permanent family.

    My son has 2 mothers and 2 fathers, he loves them all. I’m just the one with the privilege of raising him from childhood to adulthood. Maybe my contribution to the solution is breaking the cycle of foster care, addiction and violence and giving my son the tools he needs to be a good parent to the children he may choose to have.

    (Note: my perspective is obviously foster care adoption, not private infant adoption. I can’t speak to that at all.)

  16. Azalea
    July 27, 2011 at 10:48 am

    wasabi:
    Just to clarify my right to be raised by genetic parents comment in light of Azalea’s response.I do not think a fetus has a right to be born.But I do believe a _child_ once born does have a right to their biological family.I don’t want my answer to be at all read as anti-choice because it definitely is not.

    I am curious, why does a child have a right to their biological family if that family has no wish/desire to raise them?

  17. anonadoptee
    July 27, 2011 at 10:49 am

    Oh and I think that when people say adoption is a choice because they could have had an abortion…they are wrong. Some people were raised so pro-life that abortion is not a choice. Perhaps if we lived in a society where the stigma on abortion were not so horrible, then yes, choosing to not have an abortion would be a choice…but when adoption is considered by society to be the “good, selfless choice” and abortion is “bad and selfish”…we can’t assume people make these “choices” in a vacuum.

    And on the same token, when a woman chooses either abortion or adoption because they have no resources, that’s not a “choice” either.

    Destigmatize abortion, provide resources for those to parent who want to, and I imagine infant adoption rates would plummet.

  18. anonadoptee
    July 27, 2011 at 10:56 am

    “Azalea: I am curious, why does a child have a right to their biological family if that family has no wish/desire to raise them?”

    While I will come back later after fishing through my computer for the studies I know are on here as PDFs, I will say that from my reading, MOST biological mothers do not surrender their children because they simply “have no wish/desire” to raise them. It is usually outside pressure (family) or finances.

    Again, I am speaking of INFANT adoption. There is a difference. I’m completely going on memory from writing my paper but there are aproximately 40 adoptive parents waiting for every white infant up for adoption. There are many older children in foster care waiting for parents, whose parents have already terminated parental rights. The dynamics of infant adoption are very different, and I think are primarily what we are discussing here.

  19. anonadoptee
    July 27, 2011 at 11:00 am

    …many biological parents (69% of the sample) claimed that “external factors, including family opposition, pressure from physicians or social workers, and financial constraints” had been the primary reason for placing the child for adoption—these motives are far from being purely voluntary on the part of the biological parent (Deykin et al. 273)… (from a paper I wrote for school)

    Deykin, Eva Y., Lee Campbell, and Patricia Patti. “The Postadoption Experience of Surrendering Parents.” American Journal of Orthopsychiatry 54.2 (1984): 271-80.Wilson OmniFile Full Text Mega Edition. Web. 11 Mar. 2011.

    There are few studies in this area, and this is part of the reason I am changing my entire after college career plan and going back to study sociology so that I may try and conduct studies myself someday.

    • July 27, 2011 at 11:06 am

      What makes someone unable to care for their child physically and emotionally? Is it mental illness? Being in severe poverty? Having a physical disability?

      I can’t speak for the person who made the original comment, but I read her as saying that women should be able to decide for themselves if they are unable to care for a child physically and emotionally. I think a lot of women go through times in their lives (or perhaps live entire lives) where they feel that they would not be able to provide for a child (I’ve been there for sure). Obviously that’s a very different scenario than the one described in the link, where adoption counselors push the idea that while you may want to keep your child, there is someone better out there who can be a more effective parent. But some women know themselves that they either don’t want a child at that moment, or maybe under other circumstances they would want a child but there’s no changing the circumstances at hand. I don’t think it’s a problem to recognize that reality.

  20. Azalea
    July 27, 2011 at 11:03 am

    anonadoptee:
    Oh and I think that when people say adoption is a choice because they could have had an abortion…they are wrong. Some people were raised so pro-life that abortion is not a choice.

    THIS! Also there are people who are VERY much so POLITICALLY pro-choice but do not EVER EVER EVER EVER want to EVER have an abortion themselves. Each person’s moral compass is different, each person’s feelings about abortion are different. If the pregnant perosn genuinely feels that the fetus deserves to live but does not want to be a parent, why should that person be forced to either destroy the fetus or parent the child they do not want? That isn’t real choice either.

  21. rox
    July 27, 2011 at 11:04 am

    WOW. In my particular story I was given the impression by professionals and EVEN FEMINIST women I knew (my midwife) that adoption was the morally correct thing to do and would be better for the child.

    The reasons:
    I was too young.
    I had ADD.
    I had experienced an abusive relationship which was clearly a sign that I was as bad as the abuser.
    I was making 10.50 an hour.
    I was single.
    I lived in an apartment.
    Using government services would be a burden on society.

    Well what’s interesting is that after being completely barraged wtih messages about how unworthy I was; it turned out the adoptive mother was on the verge of a divorce and knew this and didn’t tell me. She got divorced when my daugther was two. The adoptive father behaved violently. She was then a single mother who made 12 dollars an hour and used WIC, foodstamps and government insurance. They lived in an apartment. She was a smoker. She liked to go out and get drunk quite frequently. She took my daughter to spend the night in the house of a man she had never met before who she had been talking to on the internet. He stole her car.

    You know what? Dammit she doesn’t deserve to be judged any more than I did. The point is that I never should have been made to feel I was unworthy, that seeking help would make me bad, that I was inherently bad for having been in an abusive relationship, that you can’t be a good parent even if you are nonneurotypical.

    The professionals involved in offering me support were not offering me support. They offered nothing but the government aid forms and then a request that I “think about what’s best”.

    The premise of unplanned pregnancy counseling when considering adoption should NOT be:
    Do you have enough to parent well? Consider how much the adoptive parents have. Can you offer as much? What will better for the child?

    The question professionals use should be:
    What are the obstacles that are in the way of you being the mother you want to be? We are experienced in working with issues that make parenting hard for women, let us help you work through those issues so that you can succesfully parent; and if we can’t address the big issues that put your child at risk, adoption will always be on the table.

    Professionals should be connecting women to domestic violence services, should be given out pamphlets about how to identify abuse in a relationship and where to go for help; should be addressing womens self esteem issues about parenting in an empowering rather than disempowering way; should be seeking to identify needed resources and connecting women in need with community resources; should be working with a woman to help her believe in herself and be the woman she wants to be for her child rather than trying to break her down and convince her to “sacrifice herself for her child.”

    Meanwhile the adoptive parents are paying 20,000 and up for a newborn? Why does that money not generate services to help women succesfully parent through research based initiatives to meet the obstacles they face?

  22. wasabi
    July 27, 2011 at 11:07 am

    Yes I will ditto anonadoptee. Surveys of women who have placed through “voluntary” infant adoption show an incredibly high rate of regret. The majority report having been pressured by one or more people to place. And the vast majority stated that if they had known exactly how much they would feel this loss they would not have placed and they note having been assured that the pain would be short-lived. I can only state this is true for myself and the birthmoms I have known. So I think there are few genetic families who truly don’t want the child. And if I as the mother don’t want to raise them, maybe my mom does or my aunt or someone else. I think the child has a right to those ties and know that family. I will note that on the adoption registry paperwork to be reunited with birthfamilies my parented children have a right to register as did my placed children have a right to be matched to their sibling even if I had no interest in reunion. Adoptees don’t just lose a relationship with the birthmother but with an entire family.

    Now if it came down to it and truly no one in the genetic family was willing to parent the child, then I would say the infant’s right to that genetic heritage is a lesser right. No one should be forced to parent. In that case I would support an abortion rather than adoption. But ok let’s say for some reason this woman is in the extreme minority who doesn’t choose abortion and wants nothing to do with this child. I think the child still has a right to know their heritage.

    This link does a round-up of studies on the impact of adoption on birthparents and adoptees and I think it is useful in particular because so many act as thought adoption is a zero sum game where everyone wins and no one loses. Somehow the idea that abortion causes significant trauma has gained so much traction in popular culture despite zero evidence, while numerous studies have documented the emotional harm in placing a child for adoption and yet so many act as though women like me are the exception.

    http://www.adoptionhealing.com/ginni.html

  23. rox
    July 27, 2011 at 11:14 am

    Just to say I have spent the last 8 years of my life online and in real life connecting with women who have lost children to adoption. The reasons women offer that they chose adoption are rarely “I didn’t want to parent.”

    The reasons are usually, “I didn’t have enough money. The child’s father was abusive. I was scared I wouldn’t be good enough. I was too young. I couldn’t provide an enriching environment. I couldn’t provide a two parent home.”

    For the % of women who place children or adoption because they are truly wanting to get rid of the child and truly want that child to be out of their life and are relieved at not having resposnability- I think adoption is a valid option because their attitude will put their child at risk of a neglected and unloved childhood. I don’t, however, believe this will go over without affects on the child.

    The majority (nearlly all) of women I know who placed desperately wished they could keep their children and didn’t believe their internal or external circumstances allowed it.

    that does not sound like empowered choice to me.

  24. rox
    July 27, 2011 at 11:18 am

    “But some women know themselves that they either don’t want a child at that moment, or maybe under other circumstances they would want a child but there’s no changing the circumstances at hand.”

    What kind of counselor hears a woman say, ” I wish I could change my circumstances but it just can’t be done” and leaves that unexamined? A successful counselor would bring up that self esteem issues and self doubt and feelings of powerlessness are common in unplanned pregnancy. There may be things that can not be changed. But in counseling– That should be the place where someone with experience in the suports available can provide options for change that the person didn’t previously know existed.

    What responsabile counselor would hear a woman say, “I wish I could leave this abuse guy, but the situation can’t be changed, it’s hopeless…”

    And AGREE? Under the guise of being “empowering”?

  25. anonadoptee
    July 27, 2011 at 11:21 am

    This.

    rox:

    The question professionals use should be:
    What are the obstacles that are in the way of you being the mother you want to be? We are experienced in working with issues that make parenting hard for women, let us help you work through those issues so that you can succesfully parent; and if we can’t address the big issues that put your child at risk, adoption will always be on the table.

    Professionals should be connecting women to domestic violence services, should be given out pamphlets about how to identify abuse in a relationship and where to go for help; should be addressing womens self esteem issues about parenting in an empowering rather than disempowering way; should be seeking to identify needed resources and connecting women in need with community resources; should be working with a woman to help her believe in herself and be the woman she wants to be for her child rather than trying to break her down and convince her to “sacrifice herself for her child.”

    Meanwhile the adoptive parents are paying 20,000 and up for a newborn? Why does that money not generate services to help women succesfully parent through research based initiatives to meet the obstacles they face?

  26. anonadoptee
    July 27, 2011 at 11:30 am

    Adoption is painful and confusing.

    I have serious attachment issues, I am very clingy, fear rejection to the point that it affects my relationships. I didn’t ever realize how bad I was until my husband pointed it out…and I knew I needed help. I can’t afford counseling right now but when I start school again I can use their services.

    Right now I focus a lot on pleasing my (adoptive) parents. I keep my life hidden from them because they won’t understand. I was raised very religious and conservative, in a controlling atmosphere (spare the rod, spoil the child mentality)…and now that I’m an adult and have been married and out of the house for years I still can’t talk to them. They do not know that I am a proud pro-choice activist who marches for women’s reproductive rights, they don’t know I feel so f***ed up with my adoption issues, they definitely don’t know that I no longer identify as Christian. I can’t tell them. How can I be an adult and fear my parents knowing that I’m not exactly what they wanted in a child? I know they won’t accept me.

    As for the pro-choice angle…I was a “pro-life” poster-child as a kid. Because I am adopted I was brought to anti-abortion rallies and passed around like “ooh look at our sweet child, if her birthmother had aborted her she wouldn’t be here with our family…blah blah blah.” I ate it up too. Felt so special to have been rescued from either abortion or simply “not as good of a life” as I had with my a-parents. Now I realize that I was NOT the only one in the picture…my mom was too. If abortion was right for her, I wouldn’t know or care…and maybe she wouldn’t have been miserable until I finally contacted her. And even now I don’t have a damn clue how to have a relationship with her even though I want one.

    I’m just so confused. Moneywise, I had a great life. I had everything a kid “should” want. Vacations, good schools, etc. But I never lived up to expectations. They wanted a good Christian daughter who would go to college in a respectable major and have a good career then do the right thing and stay home with kids. I ended up a socialist and feminist activist who majored in humanities, women’s studies, and sociology and wants to use these tools to study adoption trauma and fight for women’s rights. I also married a liberal “foreigner” and am not “all american” patriotic like they are. Did they mess up? Did I?

    Reunion only is more complicated. I don’t regret finding my mom. I regret not knowing what to do with our relationship. We are facebook friends but not more, even though I know both of us want more. We just don’t have a clue how to do this. How do I have a relationship with my mom (and grandma and others) when I didn’t even know them before? They missed out on so much, can I make it up to them? It’s really really hard.

    So many people out there have no idea that adoption is so confusing to some of us. It’s not simple. It’s really complicated and is definitely a feminist issue. I am glad to see so many comments here already. It’s nice to know there are some that care.

    I am very curious as to how religion and adoption are connected as well…I would imagine they are quite connected.

  27. anonadoptee
    July 27, 2011 at 11:32 am

    @Rox.

    I just realized it’s your blog I’ve been reading all morning. Thanks for writing. I love it.

  28. Azalea
    July 27, 2011 at 11:33 am

    There are SO many women who want to remain anonymous when they give a child up for adoption because they do not want the adult child to come looking for them later in life. They do not want to have ties to this child and who is to say if an aunt or uncle raises the child they wont get overwhelmed and remind the child they are ADOPTED and they shouldnt be the one raising this child? I have worked with countless children in many programs who are being raised by resentful relatives who felt morally bullied into raising someone else’s child. Parenting is an ENORMOUS sacrifice, even if you dont want your niece, nephew, grandchild, etc in “they system” its quite a bit to place on a person in that position “RAISE MY CHILD OR THEY’RE GOING IN THE SYSTEM!!!” Reproductive and parenting choices are highly personal, unless the relative knew of the pregnancy and volunteered to take custody I don’t agree with putting pressure on them to “rescue” their relative from the system.

  29. Lolagirl
    July 27, 2011 at 11:38 am

    Julie P.: I not think people who are unable to conceive have a right to raise children, particularly if they wanted to limit themselves to adopting babies (as opposed to older children). Considering it a right would require some sort of societal changes to make sure there are enough children available for adoption for all of these people. The societal changes necessary to ensure this would likely necessitate even worse moral and social issues than those that already exist around the adoption process and women’s reproductive rights.

    I’m puzzled by this response, because it seems to assume a dichotomy that doesn’t necessarily exist. One can be infertile and become a parent by resorting to ART, the issue I was trying to address in my earlier post was the widespread assumption in U.S. society that an infertile person has an affirmative duty to adopt a child instead of pursuing technologies like IUI or IVF.

    I prefer to frame the issue of ART as one extending from a women’s right to her own bodily autonomy, and I think this is the only intellectually honest way to do so as a feminist. Just as women have the right to decide what to do with our bodies to avoid pregnancy and parenthood so should we have the right to decide what we want to do with our bodies in pursuit of conceiving a child.

    Adoption should be a completely separate issue, and I think the feminism movement has a bit of a ways to go in challenging a lot of the nonsense that our society has built up around the subject of adoption. Adoption should be a decision that parents make of their own free will, not under social, economic or familial pressure as is so often still the case even today. Too often, women especially have their rights to their own bodily autonomy trampled on by the society and the adoption industry in order to pressure them into continuing an unwanted pregnancy and then giving that child up for adoption, and that absolutely must change.

  30. anonadoptee
    July 27, 2011 at 11:39 am

    AZALEA,

    …findings on searching for their child speak volumes. 96% of respondents claimed they had considered looking for their child, and 65% had, in fact, already begun searching (Deykin et al. 274). If they had been able to simply give the child up and go on with their lives—which seems to be the public assumption—then I imagine so many parents would not be interested in finding their child.

    I almost bought into the “they don’t want to be contacted thing”. I was told, “they are fine, they’ve gotten over it, don’t find them”. Funny enough it was watching the movie Juno that made me call. The movie sucks and is pretty anti-choice, but seeing her cry at giving the baby up just changed my entire point of view. I saw the MOTHER as a real person who hurt. I located my mom on facebook and found she’d been waiting for me to call since I turned 18.

    I am sure there are some who never want to be contacted, but I do not believe that is even close to the majority.

    (Deykin, Eva Y., Lee Campbell, and Patricia Patti. “The Postadoption Experience of Surrendering Parents.” American Journal of Orthopsychiatry 54.2 (1984): 271-80.Wilson OmniFile Full Text Mega Edition. Web. 11 Mar. 2011.)

  31. rational_male
    July 27, 2011 at 11:43 am

    I tend to agree that finances/living circumstances probably play a large role in having many women give up their children for adoption. The basic sentiment I get from this post and comments is that women are entitled to have their children and even themselve’s taken care of by other people’s money.

    Supporting the children with WIC, Medicaid etc. is already an expense on taxpayers, BUT one that I and most other conservatives see as justified. However, supporting the mother is not societies job (now as for child support from the father I would tend to agree with).

    I’m in a hurry to finish this comment so I apologize if my complete comment is not perfectly composed, but my overarhing questions to the women (mainly) on this blog is don’t woman and mothers have a responsibility to be able to financially and enviromentally (stable home, whether single or not, no drug use, addictions etc.) support a child before they have one? I’m not asking legally, I’m asking morally? I would greatly love to hear perspectives on this because everyone seems to argue that these women are victims of circumstances and have no responsibility to be capable for raising children. I just have a hard time stomaching that.

  32. anonadoptee
    July 27, 2011 at 11:56 am

    Let’s ignore the troll please.

  33. rox
    July 27, 2011 at 12:05 pm

    Just a hypothetical– what if the child is concieved in rape? Does that change things rational_male?

  34. rox
    July 27, 2011 at 12:08 pm

    Just a hypothetical– what if the child is concieved in rape? Does that change things rational_male? And if you doubt there is a significant percentage of women who are placing as a result of rape, sexual coercion, or sexual abuse— then I have some statistics for you to consider.

  35. anonadoptee
    July 27, 2011 at 12:16 pm

    I am an adoptee conceived in rape.

    What we mean by support is not just money. It’s family support. It’s job support. It’s many things. But our society as a whole makes it hard to have kids, such as not providing paid maternity leave, or providing inexpensive childcare. These things all can help reduce the need for adoption.

    I’m not going to elaborate because after a long time of reading feminist blogs I can spot a troll from miles away.

  36. Faith
    July 27, 2011 at 12:26 pm

    I think a lot of the problems with adoption as it exists in today’s society come from the intersections of other oppressive forces and that of the commenters who are have anti-adoption sentiments are throwing the baby (whose needs aren’t being met) out with the bathwater. I also think that there are a lot of a issues with they way our society conceptualizes what it is to be a parent. No, Seriously, What about Teh Menz has a great post on the natural of biological parenting and social parenting.
    http://noseriouslywhatabouttehmenz.wordpress.com/2011/07/22/maternity-fraud-paternity-fraud-and-parenthood/

  37. theothermother
    July 27, 2011 at 12:27 pm

    I’m not an academic, but it would be interesting to see the difference in infant adoption rate in Canada vs. USA. Here we have up to 52 weeks of subsidized maternal/parental leave. And more specifically Quebec, where they also have $7/day daycare.

  38. rox
    July 27, 2011 at 12:31 pm

    This idea of financially readiness as a precurser for parenting also pressuposes that we should have a society in which only the middle and upper classes should be able to have children.

    Many people think “good riddance, let those poor/mentally ill/uneducated/unskilled people delete themselves from existance”

    I find this attitude problematic. The attitude that the poor should be eradicated from the population doesn’t make sense because “poverty” is itself a social construct wherin those with the least ability to climb the education and job ladders are blocked from resources.

    Meaning there will always be a portion of the population who is assigned this block even if you prevent thrm from breeding. We are always going to have shit jobs that no one wants to do and they will always fall on the people least able to avoid being stuck with them.

    That will happen even if you block the poor from breeding.

  39. Azalea
    July 27, 2011 at 12:33 pm

    anonadoptee:

    I almost bought into the “they don’t want to be contacted thing”. I was told, “they are fine, they’ve gotten over it, don’t find them”. Funny enough it was watching the movie Juno that made me call. The movie sucks and is pretty anti-choice, but seeing her cry at giving the baby up just changed my entire point of view. I saw the MOTHER as a real person who hurt. I located my mom on facebook and found she’d been waiting for me to call since I turned 18.

    Would it safe to say she didn’t want contact from the child you but the adult you? That she still did not want to raise you but wanted to know who you grew up to be?

    There are plenty of fathers who want nothing to do with being a daddy but when the child is no longer a child they want to get to know their son or daughter. Women have and can be the same way when they do not want to raise a child. I think just because *SOME* regret does not mean that ALL regret or that the regret gives children rights to their biological fmaily. Parenting is and always should be a choice.

  40. anonadoptee
    July 27, 2011 at 12:38 pm

    Faith,

    “Commenters who have anti-adoption sentiments”?

    Really? Adoptees and first parents who have been hurt by the system and who experience pain are not simply showing anti-adoption sentiment. We simply wish to examine the adoption industry and show that it is flawed. Oh, and we’re hurt. As an adoptee I (as my post above shows) am confused, depressed, hurt, angry, and a million other emotions. It’s hard to explain how being adopted can be so complicated to people who don’t understand.

    And we are trying to look out for the baby! Not
    throwing them out with the bathwater. We WANT the baby’s AND the mother’s needs to be met! But right now society isn’t at that place, so we need to get it there!

    @theothermother,

    That’s something I’d like to work on. Adoption and research is something I want to dedicate my life to. Hopefully once we know more and it becomes less taboo to criticise adoption, we can make changes. Now how my research will ever be funded, or even if I’ll get into school for this…no clue. But I will try as hard as I can.

  41. Esti
    July 27, 2011 at 12:47 pm

    I’m not sure that the language of “rights” as used in the OP’s questions is really getting at the issues she wanted to discuss, and I think it might be muddying the waters to some extent.

    Rights are things that you are entitled to vis-a-vis the government. Uusually, rights are negative entitlements [the government can’t do X], not positive entitlements [the government must do Y]. Obviously no one has a positive right to adopt a child in the sense that if they walk into the nearest social services office and say “give me a baby!” the government has to provide one. But I think almost everyone would agree that there is a negative right to adoption in that the government should not stop people from placing their child up for adoption or from adopting a child that another person has willingly (however we define that) chosen to give up.

    Because rights aren’t things that private parties can give or take away, whether you have a right to adopt (because the government can’t stop you) may do very little to resolve the question whether you will actually be able to do so (because you found someone willing to give their child to you). Similarly, whether a child has the right to be raised by his or her biological parents doesn’t tell us much about whether those parents have an obligation to raise the child — it just means that the government shouldn’t stop them from doing so if they want to.

    Rights are also not absolute. People definitely have a right to conceive, give birth to, and raise biological children. Procreation and parenting are incredibly fundamental rights. That doesn’t mean, however, that those rights can’t be restricted or even entirely removed if the government can show good reason for it (if, for example, you have abused or neglected your child). I think the right to procreate should include the right to access fertility treatments, but I’d agree that it’s okay to limit that right in certain ways (for example, by the government passing regulations restricting the number of embryos that can be implanted at one time).

    I think what the OP was really asking wasn’t whether you have a right to adopt/parent/be parented, but rather whether you are ENTITLED (in a moral sense, and perhaps a legal one) to those things. If a couple can’t conceive a biological child naturally, do we think that they are entitled to obtain a child in another way (whether through IVF, surogacy, or adoption)? Is a child entitled to be raised by their biological parents, even if those parents don’t want to raise them? Should we as a society be facilitating adoption because we think infertile and same-sex couples are entitled to become parents, or should we be encouraging birth parents to keep and raise their children (whether by providing more resources to them, or by making it more difficult to enter into quick, binding adoptions) because we think those children are entitled to be raised by their biological family?

  42. anonadoptee
    July 27, 2011 at 12:48 pm

    Azalea: Would it safe to say she didn’t want contact from the child you but the adult you? That she still did not want to raise you but wanted to know who you grew up to be?

    There are plenty of fathers who want nothing to do with being a daddy but when the child is no longer a child they want to get to know their son or daughter. Women have and can be the same way when they do not want to raise a child. I think just because *SOME* regret does not mean that ALL regret or that the regret gives children rights to their biological fmaily. Parenting is and always should be a choice.

    Actually, I found out she told her husband and family around the time I was three that she wished she could have me back. But she knew she couldn’t. My family thought of me every day. I found out they had pictures of me on their walls, and that (as my bio family is religious) they prayed for me daily. There was very real regret and sadness.

    Juno is not real. She won’t have to deal with years of regret. You are still assuming that women primarily give up for adoption because they simply “want to”. This is wrong. Most do because they are pressured to for MANY reasons. Look at some of the comments above to see that.

    You say parenting is and should be a choice. You are partially wrong. Yes, it SHOULD be a choice. But in current society it is NOT. Abortion is stigmatized. Birth control is stigmatized. Both are hard to obtain. Motherhood is both forced upon people as well as it is taken away because they are not the “right” kind of mother. It is not a choice yet, for many people.

    And you are right, just because SOME regret, that doesn’t mean all regret. But the few studies that exist show that MOST regret. MOST are affected in their lives by surrendering a child. The study I’ve quoted before also shows that 21 percent of those surveyed (bio moms) had made attempts on their life, and 7 percent had considered suicide. And 97% had a desire to find their child. I think that those who simply do not “want” their child and don’t want to see them are in the minority.

    And yes, there are those who were both forced into pregnancy (could not obtain abortion) and then forced to give their baby up.

    When people say that someone who wanted to abort but couldn’t (social, other reasons) then adoption is no different, they forget that ADOPTION is NOT a substitute for ABORTION. Adoption is an alternative to parenting. Abortion is an alternative to carrying the pregnancy to term.

  43. rox
    July 27, 2011 at 12:53 pm

    “There are plenty of fathers who want nothing to do with being a daddy but when the child is no longer a child they want to get to know their son or daughter. Women have and can be the same way when they do not want to raise a child. I think just because *SOME* regret does not mean that ALL regret or that the regret gives children rights to their biological fmaily. Parenting is and always should be a choice.”

    Okay. Deep breath. I want to ask you this in all sincerety. If I can present you with some statistics that make what you just said not have any application to the norm in infant domestic adoption— will you actually reconsider that what you just said demonstrates an absolute and complete lack of education about what adoption is and what is actually happening in our country with regard to infant adoption?

    Are you interested in learning or would you rather cling to a hypothetical woman, a few of which DO exist but are not significantly represented by any statistical research to date? In the hypothetical situation you present the woman wants nothing to do with the child until the child is grown and then wants to “Get to know each other”. By default of the amount of people who exist on the planet I am CERTAIN this happens.

    As an adoptee, I would not be interested personally in “getting to know” a woman who viewed my existance so casually, but sure it can and does happen.

    What is your point, exactly? Such women exist and so… what? No one here has said adoption should not be an option (unless I have read something wrong.) So what are you arguing exactly?

    I’m about to Blam some statistics up in this thread since it’s apparent some edumacation is in order— I will keep it to four links, one of them will be on my blog where I will expand the research people here who are concerned feminists and want to create an educated view of adoption issues would I HOPE be willing to read and consider.

  44. July 27, 2011 at 12:56 pm

    Rational male, my question to you is: do you believe Betty Ford was an immoral person? (Surely you’ve been reminded of her story with her recent death, no?) She certainly believed she was, and hid her addiction for years because of the stigma and shame. The fact that she came out of the shadows despite that stigms and shame led thousands, perhaps millions of other people, including those of her status, admit their addictions and seek help.

    One of my (many) beefs with conservatives is their (your) irrational desire to separate “good, deserving” people from “bad, undeserving of anything good in life” people. The fact is: if you are a human being, you have made some bad decisions in your life. Or, not so bad decisions, but ones that have impacted your life in a negative way regardless because of other circumstances. Whoever you are, life is never totally within your control. We all operate under contingencies–and how often that happens, and to what extent we can mitigate the negative circumstances in our lives, depends most strongly on the size of our safety net.

    Betty Ford is seen as a hero because she cleared the path to sobriety for a lot of folks. And that is heroic, don’t get me wrong. But others with more meager circumstances, who faced the same demons she did—they don’t have clinics named after them, and they had more obstacles in their path. Others—right now, as we speak—aren’t able to clear those obstacles yet. They’re still trying to weave a safety net out of whatever they can scrape up.

    We have this myth in the US of rugged individualism and “personal responsibility”….but no corresponding myths of community responsibility. Corporations pollute our air, water, soil and food supply, but aren’t really held morally (or even legally, physically) responsible. Corporations abandon the communities that made their profits, leaving behind dust in their wake, renege on pensions—and aren’t held responsible. Why not? Why is “responsibility” seen a a burden *only* to be borne on the narrow shoulders of those with the fewest resources?

    Most often, when I hear self-identified conservatives mention “responsibility”, it’s usually in terms of avoiding it, while pointing the finger at someone else to deflect any blame from themselves.

  45. anonadoptee
    July 27, 2011 at 12:58 pm

    Oh and AZALEA,

    Fathers who leave their children are VERY different in that they CAN contact their children earlier. They are not kept from them. Parents who give their children for adoption are not allowed to see their children unless the adoptive parents give permission. That’s not common. Open adoptions are not even enforceable in many states.

    This is very frustrating. Rox, thanks for hanging in here and trying to educate.

  46. wasabi
    July 27, 2011 at 1:00 pm

    [quote]Would it safe to say she didn’t want contact from the child you but the adult you? That she still did not want to raise you but wanted to know who you grew up to be?[/quote]
    Answering for myself no that is not what it means for me. My adoption was closed but the adoptive mother and I remained in contact with the agency acting as an intermediary all this time. I did not know their first names for years and we only just learned each others’ last names and geographic location, but I absolutely always wanted to know my child as a child and I wanted to know about her childhood. I was fortunate that the mother chose to continue contact _far_ longer than was required of her.

    And while I get the distinction you are making between wanting reunion with an adult adoptee and wishing you had not placed them, the studies show that the majority of birthmothers do regret the placement. The numbers are not as strong as those who want reunion that’s true. But it is between 2/3 and 3/4 depending on which study you’re looking at. Those who feel peachy keen about the choice to give up their child are the minority, not the majority as it seems like your posts assume. Certainly the statement that “so many” birthmoms don’t want contact seems very untrue if 96% of birthmoms DO.

    I would also argue that the reason many of that small subset who don’t want contact don’t want it is because of the shame that was put on them at the time of placement so they haven’t told anyone and no one knows. It’s a hard thing to tell people when they have no idea. I know my life got much easier when I made it to grad school and started regularly telling people instead of hiding it as my mother had urged me to do so that everyone wouldn’t know what a slut I was. Facing reunion/contact would be much harder now if I hadn’t started being open about it 14 years ago. Women who placed children 40 years ago probably never got to that stage.

  47. July 27, 2011 at 1:01 pm

    The basic sentiment I get from this post and comments is that women are entitled to have their children and even themselve’s taken care of by other people’s money.

    Offering support does not always entail “carrying” someone from cradle-to-grave… it may be as simple as assisting someone in finding resources that will assist them instead of simply saying “You’re right, it’s hopeless. We better give your baby to someone who CAN take care of it.” Support can mean resources that offer a leg-up to those whose situation may only need a nudge in the right direction. It can be as little as saying “Well, here are the names of subsidized daycare centers if you need to work out of home.. here are schools with daycare centers so you can complete your education… here are government programs for new/young/single parents.”

    One’s situation as far as ability to parent does not stay static. Many of those who are ‘unable’ to parent can, with help, become able to parent… just as circumstances can result in some of these so-called ‘fit’ parents to become unable to care for children.

    This article kind of hit that home for me:

    Why Was I Deemed Not Good Enough?

    There’s a huge difference between someone who chooses adoption because they honestly DON’T WANT TO raise a kid (and for whatever reason, will not abort) and those who have recieved any number of messages telling them they are not fit to parent and have thus internalized that message and handed otherwise wanted children over for adoption.

    Coercion in adoption doesn’t have to mean a kid being snatched from the birthing room and spirited away.. I imagine there can be a lot of emotional manipulation involved.

  48. wasabi
    July 27, 2011 at 1:03 pm

    anonadoptee: You say parenting is and should be a choice. You are partially wrong. Yes, it SHOULD be a choice. But in current society it is NOT. Abortion is stigmatized. Birth control is stigmatized. Both are hard to obtain. Motherhood is both forced upon people as well as it is taken away because they are not the “right” kind of mother. It is not a choice yet, for many people.
    ….
    When people say that someone who wanted to abort but couldn’t (social, other reasons) then adoption is no different, they forget that ADOPTION is NOT a substitute for ABORTION. Adoption is an alternative to parenting. Abortion is an alternative to carrying the pregnancy to term.

    Yes absolutely agree on all counts.

  49. Brigid
    July 27, 2011 at 1:09 pm

    Esti: I think what the OP was really asking wasn’t whether you have a right to adopt/parent/be parented, but rather whether you are ENTITLED (in a moral sense, and perhaps a legal one) to those things. If a couple can’t conceive a biological child naturally, do we think that they are entitled to obtain a child in another way (whether through IVF, surogacy, or adoption)? Is a child entitled to be raised by their biological parents, even if those parents don’t want to raise them? Should we as a society be facilitating adoption because we think infertile and same-sex couples are entitled to become parents, or should we be encouraging birth parents to keep and raise their children (whether by providing more resources to them, or by making it more difficult to enter into quick, binding adoptions) because we think those children are entitled to be raised by their biological family?

    You may be correct that “entitlement” is a better way of framing my original questions than “rights,” though I think either term is subject to some disagreement on meaning. In any case, yes, I agree with (and appreciate!) your rephrasing of my questions.

    I would add: If you come to the conclusion that people should be able to have children without conception AND that some or all “alternate” methods of having children are problematic, what can we — as individuals or as a society — do to reconcile these conclusions? Can social justice frameworks help us figure out how to make alternative methods of having children less problematic?

  50. konkonsn
    July 27, 2011 at 1:22 pm

    I hope I’m not derailing, and if I am, you can totally ignore this.

    The last time I discussed adoption was when my sister brought up something about one of her co-workers who had an adopted child. The adoption was open, and the reason my sister brought it up was because the birthmom wanted her child to call her some variation of mother (but I believe something different than the adopted mom’s version because it would be confusing, like how some families have a “grandma” and a “nana”). And this was just unacceptable to both my sister and mother. Because you can only have one mother, and since all the birthmom did was birth you, it’s the mother that raised you (and did all the “work”) who is the true mother.

    I tried to argue that people have enough room in their hearts for multiple mothers, but there just seemed to be an insistence that, no, you have one mother (and we didn’t get into QUILTBAG issues because I’ve only recently come out to my parents and those conversations get awkward in a hurry, especially since I’m not planning on having children but my mom is still very, very hopeful).

    I also watched a documentary about a Vietnam woman who found and visited her birth family, and I remember her adoptive mom just being so against it. And maybe I’m just projecting (because adoptive mom reminded me a lot of my own mother), but it seemed like part of that was, “No, I’m your mother.”

    So…I’m wondering how, even if an open adoption is what people prefer, you even get around things like this. Is it just the nuclear family bias? If we promoted the idea of a community raising children, or included our extended families more into our idea of family, would this bias change?

  51. rox
    July 27, 2011 at 1:27 pm

    “Is a child entitled to be raised by their biological parents, even if those parents don’t want to raise them?”

    According to the law, without adoption the answer is yes. Child abandonment is illegal. The parents responsible are the parents who concieved and birthed the child. The child has the right to be parented even if the parents don’t want to.

    If the parents can arrange alternate care through adoption, and another family agrees to carry the responsability, then responsibility can be shifted.

    Were there to be a shortage of adoptive parents– (hypothetically speaking)– children would still have an inherant right to be cared for by the parents who brought them into the world, even if said parents didn’t want to.

  52. Brigid
    July 27, 2011 at 1:32 pm

    One more thing, which I’m putting into a separate comment because it’s adding my personal two cents to the discussion, rather than clarifying the original post:

    How might our biases towards biological relationships come into play in understanding and critiquing adoption? Same-sex parents, one or more of whom are not biologically related to the children they raise, face stigma for not conforming to the socially-acceptable model of two opposite-sex parents who are both biologically related to their children. Regardless of whether the children are adopted or if one of the parents gave birth to them, the non-biological parent(s) are often not treated as full parents by law and/or society. For this reason, same-sex parents often struggle with decisions to include or exclude biological parents — including pre-adoption parents, surrogate parents, and sperm donors — in their children’s lives.

    As a queer person considering parenthood, I want to critique our assumptions about the importance of biological relationships. I would challenge the notion that biological families are necessarily “better” or more important than the kind of family I can create.

    This is not to say that the process of adoption should be sustained solely to serve our purposes; I certainly do not want to create a family in a way that is unjust. But I am uncomfortable with a blanket assertion that children are entitled to be raised by their biological families, because that line of reasoning can be used as a weapon against my [potential future] family. (Do children have a right to be raised by their sperm or egg donors, or do sperm/egg donors have a right to raise their genetic offspring? Is the line between genetics and gestation/childbirth a meaningful one, and why? How do you draw the line?)

  53. Esteleth
    July 27, 2011 at 1:32 pm

    I’ve always had a complicated view of adoption.
    When I was young, I noticed that there was a large gap in age between myself and my next eldest sibling. This was explained to me that “mommy had had trouble getting babies to grow in her tummy” (later this explanation was clarified as “severe PCOS”) but that eventually they were able to have me. Okay, whatever.
    Then – I was maybe eight – I was helping with some cleaning and found a box that that contained paperwork for prospective adoptive parents (contact info for agencies, social worker reports, handwritten notes in my parents’ handwriting on adoption, etc). The dates on them indicated that they were collected in the years before I was born and the last was dated just over eight months (!) before my birthday. My parents, had I not come along, were planning on adopting (the paperwork indicates that they were actually pretty far along in the process when they backed out due to my mother’s pregnancy).
    I remain torn about this.
    On the one hand, I had a fairly happy childhood and have no specific insults to complain of. I think that my parents, had they adopted, would have done a good job as parents for said child(ren).
    On the other, the town I grew up in was >95% white and very insular. I am hesitant about how well an “outsider” child (especially a POC) would have been treated. There was also a noticeable undercurrent of “adopted children, especially transracial adoptees from “bad” places, should always be grateful,” an attitude that is (1) racist as hell and (2) ridiculously offensive.
    There’s also a nagging “a child who could have had a good home with my parents didn’t because I got born!” hanging out in the back of my brain fighting with the part that says that (1) I don’t know if that’s true and (2) I have no business feeling guilty over being born.

    So, uh. Confusion. Guilt together with feeling that this guilt is unreasonable. A feeling that as a non-adoptee with no adopted siblings (or adopted children of my own) I don’t have a place in this discussion. I also know that adoption is not just about the children and their families, but about all of society that supports – or requires – the transfer of children and regulates how everyone involved should feel about it.

  54. chingona
    July 27, 2011 at 1:41 pm

    rox: According to the law, without adoption the answer is yes. Child abandonment is illegal.

    Most states (wikipedia says it’s all of them, now) have made it legal in certain circumstances and certain places, with the so-called “Baby Moses” or “safe haven” laws. People (almost always mothers) can leave a child at a fire station or hospital up to a certain point – no questions asked. And these laws have been passed in reaction to people who left their newborns in trashcans and restrooms and on the side of the road to die.

    There is a lot to critique about the way adoption has been historically practiced and continues to be practiced and a lot that can be improved, but I don’t understand in what meaningful way we can say that children have either a right or a moral entitlement to be raised by the parents who conceived them or the women who bore them.

  55. aag
    July 27, 2011 at 1:44 pm

    I adopted 2/3 of my children. After being trained *very* well by the agency I went through, I accepted the fact that no one owed me a child, regardless of how infertile I was or how badly I wanted another child.

    When presented with a young woman who wanted to find parents for her soon-to-be-born child, I resolved to be a friend to her first, before focusing on her baby. As it turned out she was in far more need of a mother than a friend, and that’s the relationship we’ve been building over the almost seven years that she’s been part of my family — and through her four subsequent pregnancies, during which I have been her most steady support-person.

    I’ve written extensively about how adoption and pro-choice intersect with feminism: http://aagblog.com/category/aagentries/adoption/ in my life.

    Adoption is not a perfect or even a good solution for everyone. Even in the best of circumstances (when adoption is chosen by the mother, and when it can be open long-term), it is not even a little bit pain free. There will always be pain involved: for the adoptive mother, for the children, and (especially) for the biological mother.

  56. July 27, 2011 at 1:48 pm

    Just to throw another log into the fire and fuel some more discussion.. how do the issues that have been covered affect or not affect children that are adopted as a result of being orphaned?

    (keeping in mind that I imagine this is actually a pretty rare occurence nowadays but that doesn’t mean it should be erased)

    Do these issues stand.. or does a whole other set of issues come into play?

  57. Azalea
    July 27, 2011 at 1:51 pm

    rox:
    “There are plenty of fathers who want nothing to do with being a daddy but when the child is no longer a child they want to get to know their son or daughter. Women have and can be the same way when they do not want to raise a child. I think just because *SOME* regret does not mean that ALL regret or that the regret gives children rights to their biological fmaily. Parenting is and always should be a choice.”

    Okay. Deep breath. I want to ask you this in all sincerety. If I can present you with some statistics that make what you just said not have any application to the norm in infant domestic adoption— will you actually reconsider that what you just said demonstrates an absolute and complete lack of education about what adoption is and what is actually happening in our country with regard to infant adoption?

    .

    Adoption is NOT one size fits all, culture and context matters. How many of those women who regret it were raped or assaulted? How many of those women who regret it wanted an abortion and culdn’t have one? I am speaking from an urban modern context where an abortion is VERY much so accesible, where government assistance is a norm in the case of poverty , especially for those who are not yet 18. Each case is different. When you are talking about something as PERSONAL as FEELINGS on parenting, studies are not going to be that helpful. How many people NEW she was pregnant? How many people ask her about what happened? Just as there are many women who regret that they “had” to have an abortion (because they regretted being pregnant) yet do not regret the abortion itself, same goes for adoption. Many women simply regret being pregnant at a time when they didnt want to be and having to choose the lesser of 3 “evils”.

    This is the thing, the thinking that women cant bare a child and not want to be a mommy plays into the anti-choice sentiment that “as soon as you see your baby you’ll fall in love.” Doubly so in the inference that even IF the woman wanted an abortion and couldn’t get one, adoption hurts her and is full of regret. That makes the argument that if she gave birth, she’d live happily ever after with a child she “thought” she didn’t want to have. It gives them a REASON to press harder against abortion.

    I have not given a child up but I have been there for several people who have and they did not want to raise the child. They loved the child enough to carry to term but simply had no interest in being a mother. They had no interest in the late night feedings, taking care of a sick child, finding child care, needing a babyitter before going anywhere, being a primary caretaker. I know very few women who actually had pressure to give a child up but DOZENS more who had pressure to NOT go for adoption (relatives pushing for the mother to “take responsibility” and other BS). These aren’t “straw women” I am talking about REAL people who are fertile but have no interest in being a parent.

  58. annalouise
    July 27, 2011 at 1:55 pm

    However we talk about adoption as a feminist issue, I am not okay with any analysis of adoption and feminism that doesn’t center the reality that first mothers are drawn overwhelmingly from the ranks of the poor and that adoptive mothers are drawn from the ranks of the wealthy. Any conversation about queering the family or getting beyond the biological definition of family sounds like a lot of derailing if we are not going to talk primarily about how adoption is a system in which marginalized women’s reproductive capabilities become a commodity. Women with few resources or supports do the physical work of bearing a child and women with a great deal of financial resources pay a great deal of money for the right to raise that child. We need to acknowledge the extraordinary amount of power that adoptive mothers have over first mothers, first and foremost.

  59. rox
    July 27, 2011 at 1:57 pm

    Brigid- I get what you are saying, but inherant in your challenging of “people’s view of biological relationships”–

    You are also challenging adoptees rights to determine what their feel their biological family means to them. To YOU it might mean nothing and be some meaningless thing.

    To me, being carried in the womb of a woman whose entire heart/mind/body/genes– whose entire experience of existance and ancestral heritage went into the creation of my being— it’s a big deal. It’s a huge deal.

    It’s nota question of noramative two parent homes being morally better. that has nothing to do with it. It’s the extinction of an EXISTING RELATIONSHIP– one that is not often broken between mothers and their offspring. The hormones involved in bonding begin well before birth (although manifested differently for every woman)— and the sharing of common ancestry, epigenetic alterations, biological changes that have happened to genes as a result of environmental factors that shape who we are now— these are all things that exist and mean different things to different people.

    As a parent you can challenge that a child you adopt will be affected by losing that connection— but a child you adopt may feel differently and have a totally different view of all of it. They may feel that it’s a great loss and they may have biologically been affected by the removal from their mother. In challenging “normative family views” we are also challenging human beings rights to feel however they feel about their connections with their own family members.

    You might not feel that I have and always have had a deep and meaningful biological and spirituatl connection to my first mother, but I feel quite differently. I hope anyone considering adopting could consider that adoptees have no obligation to conform to such views of the biological parents as meaningless and unnecessary.

  60. July 27, 2011 at 2:01 pm

    I am an adult adoptee and adoption blogger.

    Adoption is a feminist isssue. It treats one mother as being less worthy to parent than another because of her marital status or her income. Most unmarried, pregnant women in the 50’s-70’s were scolded, belittled, penalized, and ushered into maternity homes where their babies were taken from them. See “Wake up Little Susie” by Ricki Solinger and “The Girls Who Went Away” by Anne Fessler. Even now lower-income mothers are encouraged and praised to surrender their children to middle and upper class couples.

    We can’t forget that adoptees are female too and their rights are overlooked and ignored. We are comodified in adoption, our “adoption fees” charged based on our age and other characteristics. We are institutionally discriminated againts in 43 out of 50 states in adulthood.

    Adoption is a class issue. Children are generally surrendered by impoverished families and adopted by wealthier families. What lower-income mothers are able to provide to their children is undervalued when compared to what can be provided through adoption, largely based on the societal notion that lower income families are irresponsible for reproducing. Adoption is too often favored above providing mothers with the resources and help to parent their children.

    Adoption is also a race issue. Adopted children are often times raised in families that are post-racial, have not themselves exeperienced racism, and are not equipt to raise them to deal with racism or be leaders in their communities. Children of inter-country adoption lose not only their original home and family (many children in orphanages have living relatives who are too poor to take them home), but they lose their culture and original language too. 50% of inter-country adoptions are brought to the United States, a country that has huge race issues. See: http://yoonsblur.blogspot.com/2010/12/why-i-need-breaks-first-footage-of-my.html and http://johnraible.wordpress.com/

    Ableism, sexism, adultism, classism, racism, the list goes on, these are huge issues in adoption. I would keep elaborating but this is precisely why I blog on adoption: because there’s too much to say.

    Yes, every single child has a basic human right to be raised by his or her own natural (meaning biological) family, according to UNICEF and the UN’s “Rights of the Child.”

    “Every child has the right to know and be cared for by his or her own parents, whenever possible. UNICEF believes that families needing support to care for their children should receive it.” — UNICEF

    Yes, every parent has the basic human and constitutional right to parent their own child.

    This does not mean that children should grow up in abusive households. This means that the right of families to stay together should be respected when and if at all possible. Situations of abuse being an obvious reason why staying together would not be possible.

    Prospective adoptive parents have the right to be treated equally in the adoption process. Children who do not have parents and a family that can care for them have a right to receive a home and a family care/givers who can. But no, no one has a “right” to adopt.

    Adoption is incredibly problematic. What would make it less so? The billions that are spent on adoptions being put towards family preservation instead. Adequate social welfare programs being put in place so that orphanages are not used to manage dependency. Domestic adoptions being promoted as a way to provide truly needy children with homes. People should be encouraged to adopt one of the 120,000 children legally cleared for adoption in the U.S. foster care system who cost little to nothing to adopt. Amending and sealing of birth records needs to end. The money needs to be removed from adoption.

    “Regrettably, in many cases, the emphasis [in adoption] has changed from the desire to provide a needy child with a home, to that of providing a needy parent with a child. As a result, a whole industry has grown, generating millions of dollars of revenues each year . . .” United Nations, Commission on Human Rights, 2003.

  61. wasabi
    July 27, 2011 at 2:02 pm

    annalouise:
    However we talk about adoption as a feminist issue, I am not okay with any analysis of adoption and feminism that doesn’t center the reality that first mothers are drawn overwhelmingly from the ranks of the poor and that adoptive mothers are drawn from the ranks of the wealthy. Any conversation about queering the family or getting beyond the biological definition of family sounds like a lot of derailing if we are not going to talk primarily about how adoption is a system in which marginalized women’s reproductive capabilities become a commodity. Women with few resources or supports do the physical work of bearing a child and women with a great deal of financial resources pay a great deal of money for the right to raise that child.We need to acknowledge the extraordinary amount of power that adoptive mothers have over first mothers,first and foremost.

    Thank you for putting this so succinctly.

  62. anonadoptee
    July 27, 2011 at 2:06 pm

    Azalea,

    Where exactly do you live where getting an abortion is easy peasy? You honestly think that it is rare for women today to wish abortion was an option but it isn’t due to their religion, fear of punishment, parents, social issues, small town, no close abortion provider, no money, etc? Being able to consider abortion a choice does not just mean it has to be legal. I was raised in an incredibly anti-choice family and only recently completely escaped that conservative, religious mindset. Had I become pregnant in high school I would not have considered abortion a choice, but I sure as hell would have wanted to “not be pregnant”. You underestimate the power of ignorance, religion, and stigma in the anti-choice/conservative section. So in many cases, abortion is NOT a choice.

    And really WTF with this… Regretting an abortion is NOT the same as regretting surrendering a child. In an abortion, a pregnancy was terminated. A child never lived. In adoption, your fucking child is out there somewhere! You LOSE a child! A living, breathing child! You cannot compare the two.

    This reminds me of where I posted somewhere around Jill Stanek that had my mother chosen abortion and been happy with it, and not suffered because of adoption, I’d be ok with that because I wouldn’t be here to care! She actually said I should go to a hospital because I was obviously suicidal. Actual person does not equal fetus.

  63. July 27, 2011 at 2:10 pm

    Regrettably, in many cases, the emphasis [in adoption] has changed from the desire to provide a needy child with a home, to that of providing a needy parent with a child.

    Yes.

  64. anonadoptee
    July 27, 2011 at 2:10 pm

    Annalouise and Amanda,

    Both your posts were wonderful. I really enjoyed reading them and think you are both spot on.

    And yes, someone mentioned the book “The Girls Who Went Away” by Ann Fessler. Read it. I cried through the whole thing. I truly had eaten up the lies told to me by family and friends that adoption hurt no one, helped everyone, and was the perfect solution. It was unheard of to think of the mother in the situation (growing up in my community I mean)…so the book opened my eyes and my heart. I truly had no clue. And most people still don’t.

  65. Azalea
    July 27, 2011 at 2:17 pm

    anonadoptee:
    Azalea,

    Where exactly do you live where getting an abortion is easy peasy? You honestly think that it is rare for women today to wish abortion was an option but it isn’t due to their religion, fear of punishment, parents, social issues, small town, no close abortion provider, no money, etc? Being able to consider abortion a choice does not just mean it has to be legal. I was raised in an incredibly anti-choice family and only recently completely escaped that conservative, religious mindset. Had I become pregnant in high school I would not have considered abortion a choice, but I sure as hell would have wanted to “not be pregnant”. You underestimate the power of ignorance, religion, and stigma in the anti-choice/conservative section. So in many cases, abortion is NOT a choice.

    And really WTF with this… Regretting an abortion is NOT the same as regretting surrendering a child. In an abortion, a pregnancy was terminated. A child never lived. In adoption, your fucking child is out there somewhere! You LOSE a child! A living, breathing child! You cannot compare the two.

    This reminds me of where I posted somewhere around Jill Stanek that had my mother chosen abortion and been happy with it, and not suffered because of adoption, I’d be ok with that because I wouldn’t be here to care! She actually said I should go to a hospital because I was obviously suicidal. Actual person does not equal fetus.

    My point was MANY mothers do not feel the loss of a child they never wanted that stemmed from a pregnancy they never wanted and never intended to happen. SOME mothers do regret it, some mothers are pressured. I think in ANY case where a mother WANTS to raise her child, she should be supported but if she doesn’t then nobody, not even the child in question should be a means to pressure her into parenting.

    Children do NOT have a right to be parented by their biological parents as parenting is a choice. If abortion can not be obtained, adoption is STILL an option and if she doesn’t want the child, just ebcause she couldn’t or wouldn’t abort doesnt mean that she shouldnt place the child up for adoption. Adoption should be a CHOICE and if children had a right to their biological parents it would cease to be one.

  66. rox
    July 27, 2011 at 2:21 pm

    Chingona–“There is a lot to critique about the way adoption has been historically practiced and continues to be practiced and a lot that can be improved, but I don’t understand in what meaningful way we can say that children have either a right or a moral entitlement to be raised by the parents who conceived them or the women who bore them.”

    Let me try this a different way. Children have an inherant right to not be abused. right? But let’s look at reality. they DO get abused. I would say this does not mean “Oh they don’t have such a right because it’s not realistic”. I would say it’s a case of their rights being violated. The parents may have had mental or other issues that made it impossible to prevent the abuse from happening; and I feel quite compassionate about the fact that this happens. Also it happens that women are unable to love their children or to want them. This might not be the woman’s fault.

    I do believe that despite there may be no “bad guy” the child’s right to not be abandoned are being violated when they are abandoned— NOT that the fact that abandonment happens means children don’t have such rights.

    Azalea: “These aren’t “straw women” I am talking about REAL people who are fertile but have no interest in being a parent.” Alright, then they can place their children for adoption. Again, what does their existance prove about the responsibility we have to the women who ARE hurt by losing children they didn’t want to lose? Improving services for struggling women who want to parent and need empowering counseling does not prevent other women from placing. Empowered counseling means listen to the womans EXPRESSED DESIRED OUTCOME.

    If she is saying, “I wish I could parent but: I am not good enough, the child’s father is scary, I’m afraid, I don’t have enough money” It would mean addressing the obstacles in the way of here stated desired outcome NOT planting a desried outcome.

    If the woman walks in and says, “My desired outcome is adoption because I just don’t want this baby at all and I want it out and to not have to deal with it.” then counseling would be very different, although it would still be ethical to explore her feelings more in depth in order to make sure she is aware of all supports available and she has given birth and been given time to weigh her feelings after the birth.

    annalouise- thank you.

    • July 27, 2011 at 2:25 pm

      Chingona–”There is a lot to critique about the way adoption has been historically practiced and continues to be practiced and a lot that can be improved, but I don’t understand in what meaningful way we can say that children have either a right or a moral entitlement to be raised by the parents who conceived them or the women who bore them.”

      Let me try this a different way. Children have an inherant right to not be abused. right? But let’s look at reality. they DO get abused. I would say this does not mean “Oh they don’t have such a right because it’s not realistic”. I would say it’s a case of their rights being violated. The parents may have had mental or other issues that made it impossible to prevent the abuse from happening; and I feel quite compassionate about the fact that this happens. Also it happens that women are unable to love their children or to want them. This might not be the woman’s fault.

      But the difference between abuse and adoption (among others, obviously) is that there are competing rights involved. Few people would seriously argue that there is a compelling right to abuse your child. I would argue, though, that there is a compelling right to not be a parent. And I personally think that right outweighs a child’s right to be raised by his or her biological parents.

  67. July 27, 2011 at 2:26 pm

    Brigid:
    As a queer person considering parenthood, I want to critique our assumptions about the importance of biological relationships. I would challenge the notion that biological families are necessarily “better”or more important than the kind of family I can create.

    Biological families are not necessarily “better” (in fact, those of us in the adoption community can tell you, it is adoptive families that are always qualified as being “better”–that is a huge and interesting discussion for another day). Avoiding loss when and if at all possible, especially when it comes to children, however, is what is best. Adoption involves loss. Being adopted involves living within the context of loss. Growing up surrounded by people who do not look like you with no access to your original roots and heritage and no validation that you are different is extremely hard. Coming to terms with being separated from your first mother, your first nurturer, is extremely hard.

    I was not raised by my biological family; I was loved, raised well, and have a happy life. Though I do not want to be used as “proof” that non-biological parent-child relationships work, I know from first-hand experience that they do! :-) Wanting to preserve biological family relationships is not about valuing biology as much as it is about the desire to reduce the losses on families and children whenever and if at all possible.

  68. anonadoptee
    July 27, 2011 at 2:26 pm

    Azalea,

    No one is saying that anyone should be forced to keep a child. But you keep saying that it is many that want to give their children up and only some who regret. Studies show the opposite is true.

    I don’t want to force anyone to parent. BUT, unlike abortion, adoption DOES include two people. In the (fairly rare) case that a woman truly wants nothing to do with an existing child and that child grows up and wants contact/information…I think the child has a right to at least some information from their parent.

    We aren’t really talking about the minority that gives up children because they just “want” to anyways, so can we stop ignoring the many voices of those who do hurt?

    Our goal isn’t to stop women from having choices, it’s to create a society where if a woman doesn’t want a child, abortion is an option (not stigmatized, not judged, completely and absolutely a choice…because if abortion were in no way considered morally wrong, and was free, I doubt we’d even be talking about women who don’t want children but won’t have an abortion), and if a woman wants a child, she is given the resources and social support to do so.

    The voices of adoptees and first parents have been shut up for too long. The only ones who get heard are the ones who say what they are “supposed” to say, which is that adoption is great.

  69. rox
    July 27, 2011 at 2:34 pm

    This is one of the best compilations of research combined with some new research on the effects of adoption on women who place. Unfortunately, it’s extremely scary for feminists to consider that adoption may have DIFFERENT mental/emotion/physical affects on women than abortion, and because so much false research has been put for by anti-choice advocates people are afraid to look at research on how abortion or adoption affects women because “It’s all biased.”

    It extremely important to be critical of all studies, everywhere: however women deserve to have quality research done on the effects of abortion/adoption/and parenting. Both the effects to them and to their children. Just about ever individual study and even entire bodies of research can be outright false because critical issues can be missed or the wrong interpereation of cause/correlation can be assigned. But that doesn’t mean we should entirely avoid the research.
    In any case:
    “””There were no significant results; that is, there were no significant differences between birthmothers with low satisfaction with adoption and birthmothers with high satisfaction with adoption and: current levels of depression/anxiety, current intrusive thoughts and avoidant behaviours about the relinquishment, children since the relinquishment or the amount of years that had elapsed since the relinquishment.”
    Study here

    Another interesting finding from another study mentioned in that link (though as usual with studies be aware of problems with research)
    “However, birthmothers involved in open adoption also reported feeling more socially isolated, experienced more physical problems, felt more despair and more dependence on others, than those mothers in the closed group, as measured by The Grief Experience Inventory. That is, while the birthmothers reported feeling positive about the adoption they were experiencing a significant number of grief symptoms, suggesting that there may be an intensification of felt grief when face-to-face contact takes place.”

    And also this:
    “Blanton and Deschner (1990) went on to compare their findings to normative data for parents whose child had died and they found that the relinquishing mothers had a higher incidence of grief symptoms than those whose child had died.”

    http://eprints.vu.edu.au/15982/1/Phillipa_Castle_thesis.pdf

    These results should NOT make us pressume they are correct. They SHOULD make us concerned and want to see more and better research to see if such conclusions have validity.

  70. July 27, 2011 at 2:35 pm

    Children do have a basic human right to be raised by natural (meaning biological) family members.

    What this means is, that this option is always explored FIRST, even if it isn’t what always happens. This means that the parents have the right to parent their child if they choose. This means that aunts, uncles, grandparents, and extended family should also be given an option to raise the child if they choose.

    It isn’t always what happens. There are families out there who truly have no desire to parent. However, these options are explored FIRST which is what we mean when we say it is a child’s right to remain with his or her biological family when and if at all possible.

    When people put the rights and welfare of children first, no one’s right’s “conflict.”

    Comparing abortion and adoption is a false dichotomy. Abortion is a pregnancy and health care issue. Adoption is a decision about whether or not to parent.

    Anonadoptee, if you’d ever like to chat about adoption stuffs, please email me. It sounds like we have some things in common :-) declassifiedadoptee@gmail.com

    • July 27, 2011 at 2:41 pm

      When people put the rights and welfare of children first, no one’s right’s “conflict.”

      I’m honestly unclear on what you mean by this. Of course there’s no conflict of rights if we say that one party’s rights always trump another’s (here, if the child’s rights trump the parent’s). I’m objecting to the idea that we should put the right of the child to be raised by its biological family before the right of the woman to not raise a child she does not want to raise. If we agree that both sets of rights exist — a child’s right to a bio family, a woman’s right to not parent — I don’t see how we can argue that there isn’t some sort of conflict there. Of course there’s a conflict. That conflict might be resolved by putting one set of rights first, or negotiating some middle ground, but that doesn’t mean no conflict exists.

  71. anonadoptee
    July 27, 2011 at 2:38 pm

    Amanda,

    Will do. I think we both know how important it is to talk to people who understand adoption from our perspective. It’s hard when everyone expects adoptees to be grateful and be quiet.

  72. rox
    July 27, 2011 at 2:41 pm

    “Few people would seriously argue that there is a compelling right to abuse your child. I would argue, though, that there is a compelling right to not be a parent. And I personally think that right outweighs a child’s right to be raised by his or her biological parents.”

    So if a mother decides she doesn’t feel like caring for her child and doesn’t feel like caring for the child, by your logic, if there is no available adoptive parent to take over, she would be justified in not caring for the child?

    Because adoptive parents are available, I completely respect a womans decision to put her child in a family where the child will be cared for when the mother doesn’t care about the child.

    However, in the event that there were no adoptive parent available to take over– would you think the bioligical mother has responsability to feed/cloth/house her child to the best of her ability? Or is the child’s right to be cared for, in conflict of the mothers right to not want to provide care and therefore child neglect would be justified?

    • July 27, 2011 at 2:48 pm

      “Few people would seriously argue that there is a compelling right to abuse your child. I would argue, though, that there is a compelling right to not be a parent. And I personally think that right outweighs a child’s right to be raised by his or her biological parents.”

      So if a mother decides she doesn’t feel like caring for her child and doesn’t feel like caring for the child, by your logic, if there is no available adoptive parent to take over, she would be justified in not caring for the child?

      Because adoptive parents are available, I completely respect a womans decision to put her child in a family where the child will be cared for when the mother doesn’t care about the child.

      However, in the event that there were no adoptive parent available to take over– would you think the bioligical mother has responsability to feed/cloth/house her child to the best of her ability? Or is the child’s right to be cared for, in conflict of the mothers right to not want to provide care and therefore child neglect would be justified?

      In the event that there were no adoptive parents to take over, and no other option for someone to take care of the child, then I agree that the parent has an obligation to provide care to the best of his or her ability. But that’s a balance of rights issue again — a child’s right to survive trumps a parent’s right to not want to parent.

      To be clear, I’m not saying that children don’t have rights, or that the right to bio parents doesn’t/shouldn’t exist. I am saying that most rights are not unimpeachable; most rights have limits, and rights often conflict with other peoples’ rights. I don’t think recognizing where these rights conflict and that there are competing interests at stake challenges the existence of the right itself. It just recognizes that ideology gets messy when it’s thrown up against real life.

  73. verucaamish
    July 27, 2011 at 2:41 pm

    My partner and I are in the midst of doing a public adoption and every effing day we feel hella grateful we are going with a public adoption as opposed to private (international or domestic). There has been a profound shift (at least in California) on adoption towards focusing on the best interests of the child. A core piece of this is doing everything to maintain contact with the birth family even if the child is not placed with the birth family. We are told to prepare for having regular visits with the birth family if at all possible. We were told up front, things will emotionally suck for you as potential adoptive parents so they suck less for the potential adoptive child.

  74. annalouise
    July 27, 2011 at 2:42 pm

    Why Jill, is it important to emphasize the “right” of a first mother to have her child adopted when the reality is that the vast majority of first mothers not only are freely allowed that right they are pressured and coerced into doing so?
    The “right” of a women living in poverty, or a very young woman, or a woman in the developing world to *not* be a mother to her child is not in any danger. What is in danger is the right of those women to be mothers to their children instead of being the providers of a service for wealthier women.

    • July 27, 2011 at 2:54 pm

      Why Jill, is it important to emphasize the “right” of a first mother to have her child adopted when the reality is that the vast majority of first mothers not only are freely allowed that right they are pressured and coerced into doing so?

      … because just because some group is in the minority doesn’t mean we get to ignore their rights?

      The “right” of a women living in poverty, or a very young woman, or a woman in the developing world to *not* be a mother to her child is not in any danger. What is in danger is the right of those women to be mothers to their children instead of being the providers of a service for wealthier women.

      Are you kidding? Of course those rights are in danger. See, e.g., lack of access to contraception, sexual health education, abortion, etc. There are women who get to the point of choosing adoption precisely because they didn’t have access to all of those other things. So please, let’s not pretend that those women don’t exist.

      Look, I am on board with you that the right to be a mother is challenged, especially for more marginalized women. I am on board with the fact that most women who choose adoption are not making that choice entirely freely, and I am on board that we should give all women more resources to be able to make the fullest range of reproductive decisions possible. I am on board that the first question we should be asking is, “If circumstances were different, would you want to raise this child? How can we help make your circumstances better to allow that to happen?” But I don’t see why we can’t talk about this in a more nuanced way. We can recognize that different sets of rights may be threatened under different circumstances.

  75. NeuroGirl
    July 27, 2011 at 2:47 pm

    A lot of the narrative surrounding adoption in the UK at least, where government support and easy availability of abortion (at the moment anyway) make infant adoption, I think, more of a rarity, there’s a lot of criticism of people who want to adopt only a baby, because ‘there are LOADS of older children looking for a loving home!’. I have to say, I find this line of reasoning troubling.

    True, some older children may be better of with adoptive parents than in the care system, but many will have scars from their experiences, even if their parents weren’t abusive or neglectful – a family collapsing around you is a horrendous thing. For someone to step up and try and offer a substitute to that child is a huge thing to take on, and you *have* to get it right – no-one wants to inflict an adoption breakdown on a child who’s already lost one family. So I don’t think there’s anything morally wrong with saying ‘I want to parent, but I’m not going to volunteer myself for a challenge I might not be up to’.

    Sure, your own kids can provide just as difficult challenges, but I can’t help but wonder for children whose journey into state care has een difficult if high-quality care by long-term, well-trained professionals might not offer a better option? (of course, the availability of said care is another thing entirely – I imagine it’s much cheaper for the state to be able to offload parental responsibility onto a private citizen)

  76. rox
    July 27, 2011 at 2:50 pm

    Do children have the right to care at all? If no one wants to care for them, and their needs are in conflict with adults needs to not have to deal with them— whose needs should be compromised?

  77. rox
    July 27, 2011 at 2:52 pm

    Jill- yes it is indeed messy.

  78. July 27, 2011 at 2:57 pm

    I think who it was that said ‘Parenting is a choice’ may have been better to word it as ‘Raising Children is a choice’. If you birth a child (or provide genetic material towards that child), then you are a mother/father, regardless of whether or not you choose to raise that child.

    I don’t believe the child’s right to be RAISED by their biological parents trumps all (speaking only in cases where the parent honestly does not WANT to raise a child).. but I do believe they should have the right to at least KNOW those they share a biological link with, including members of the first mother (and father’s) families should they so choose.

    I think another issue is the privileging of the two parent mom/dad model. Along with implying that a single-parent upbringing is undesirable, it also, on the flipside, marginalizes the idea of multiple parents (a problem that people in blended and LGBQT families face as well) having a healthy involvement in a child’s life. It’s the problem I face with the idea of a kid having a ‘Real Mom’ or ‘Real Dad’.. This term, depending on it’s use, is capable of erasing both the experience of the person who raises a child, OR the significance of the people responsible for their biological existence.

    Why can’t all these roles have their importance validated? Because the Two-Parent model says “Nope. One Mom. One Dad.”

    Which is bullshit.

  79. licious
    July 27, 2011 at 2:59 pm

    I only have my own experiences to share in this instance. I was raised by my biological mother, and an adoptive father. I never met the man who is my biological father, and I have only ever known my adoptive father. My parents divorced when I was 11, and I lived with my mother. My relationship with my dad is still the same, he’s my dad.
    While my situation is different then others who have two adoptive parents, I honestly can say that my experience has never left me with longing or negative feelings. The man who is my biological father was violently abusive with my mother, a fact which I am sure influences any desire to know him.
    I think that issues of rights are so so so tricky here. I believe I do have a right to know my biological father if I want to. Given his violent nature, I am not sure he has a right to know me however.
    The openness in my family about how we were constructed, and the love that we have, even as a now ‘broken’ family, I believe has made it very easy for me to not care about my biological father. That said, I wholly respect and partially understand the feelings of other adopted children. Furthermore, when I was born my mother was working as a sex worker, and she suffers from mental illness, and I am aware of the pressure that was on her to either terminate or place me adoption, and I have to say that because I love my mom and think she is awesome, I’m glad that she had enough support and strength to keep me.

  80. igglanova
    July 27, 2011 at 3:00 pm

    I don’t usually comment before reading the entire thread (I read about half), but here goes. I’m not of the opinion that parents have a right to have children or that children have an inherent right to their bio parents. However. I do believe in society’s responsibility to look out for the best interests of its members, and to prevent unnecessary harm. This translates into keeping kids and bio parents together as often as is feasible, but putting kids into care when the parents’ care has deteriorated to the point where putting kids through the trauma of seizure and fostering is actually the better option. Framing this as a discussion of ‘rights’ is inappropriate in a scenario with as many conflicting wants / needs as parenting has.

    Obviously societies are not perfect, and a lot of the circumstances that lead to kids ending up in foster care could be prevented if we could rid ourselves of issues like poverty and provide adequate support for disabled parents. But institutions like Family & Children’s Services do not have unlimited power, and their policies are written around what is best for children *right now* in the system we’ve got. That means taking kids away from people who are too wasted, depressed, or ‘low-functioning’ to provide minimal standards of care like brushing kids’ teeth, bathing them, or sending them to school.

    (I’m not touching international adoption with a 10-foot pole; I have zero expertise in that area)

  81. Sarah
    July 27, 2011 at 3:06 pm

    I have not read all the comments and don’t feel that I have the experience or the knowledge to contribute to this discussion, but I have to third the recommendation of Annie Fessler’s “The Girls Who Went Away.” It is an incredible book, and one of the reasons I identify as a feminist today.

  82. Safiya Outlines
    July 27, 2011 at 3:07 pm

    Just a question, how many commenting here are from the US?

    I’m asking because I think adoption ‘culture’ differs very much from country to country.

    I’m in the UK. Here there is reasonable levels of support for young/single/poor mothers (for now anyway). Hence babies being voluntarily given up for adoption is rare, most cases are where the child has been removed for child protection reasons.

    The only time babies generally enter the system is when the mother has had previous children removed for child protection reasons, and there is evidence that any further children will also be in danger.

    There is a strong preference for children to remain within the family, and this often happens offically or unofficially. However, while it often is the best option, sometimes it is not, for child protection reasons, so I’m leery of stating it as something that should alwayus happen.

    I’m a bit uncomfortable with the whiff of bio is best, so tough luck LGBT folks from some of the anti adoption/anti donor conception folks.

    Also, I think it is deeply a feminist issue they way that women with infertility issues are so easily painted as greedy, grasping and self-centred, the way that women’s needs so often are.

  83. Kel Munger
    July 27, 2011 at 3:07 pm

    Wow. Just popping in to thank you for this incredibly thoughtful and thought-provoking conversation.

    As an active pro-choice writer, it had never—and I mean NEVER—occurred to me to make the succinct separation between the nature of adoption (choosing not to parent a child) and abortion (choosing not to complete a pregnancy). That alone was an amazing leap forward in my thinking.

    You all are amazing, and I am grateful for this post/comments.

  84. NeuroGirl
    July 27, 2011 at 3:11 pm

    Safiya Outlines:

    Also, I think it is deeply a feminist issue they way that women with infertility issues are so easily painted as greedy, grasping and self-centred, the way that women’s needs so often are.

    This. And what it’s followed up with is often ‘…there are so many unwanted children in the world who’d love a home!’ and often now clouded with the ‘eco’ issue of population control. It’s never considered that people who choose IVF first over adoption might very well have the best interests of any potentially adopted kids in mind – just because you know you could parent your own child from birth, doesn’t mean you know you could provide the right environment for an adopted child. And that doesn’t make you bad and selfish, it makes you mature.

  85. lt
    July 27, 2011 at 3:20 pm

    Brigid –

    I don’t think there are any easy answers to the questions you’re posing. On the off chance that my experience might be helpful, here it is:

    I am 36 year old single, straight woman who has always wanted to have a child, and a few years ago I began to think about what it might mean to do this on my own rather than continuing to wait for partner, knowing this might not happen. Most of the messages from the culture and my family was that, in my situation, adoption would be the ‘noble’ choice and trying to have a child on my own with a donor would be ‘selfish.” After doing some research, I came to disagree. As others have noted, pursuing a truly ethical adoption is a difficult, uncertain process. I was lucky enough to have a good friend volunteer to be a known donor, and who will be in my child’s life. I realize that the involvement of a donor may be more complicated for women with a partner, and that surrogacy raises more complicated issues still. It seems to me that you have your ethical priorities straight: that the desire to parent should be honored whether or not a person needs assistance to conceive, but that the rights and needs of those whose assistance we ask much also be considered.

  86. annalouise
    July 27, 2011 at 3:23 pm

    Because it’s very convenient to start talking about nuance and how there is this theoretically endangered right of poor women to give their children to rich women. It removes any notion of power and privilege.

    Economically privileged 20 somethings who don’t want kids may be a minority in the world (thank god!) but they are they obsessively centered in feminist discourse and the emphasis on the all important (and theoretical) right not to parent your child is a way to make sure that this demographic continues to be centered in a discussion about an industry that benefits from the labor (in both senses of the word) of women in poverty in order to produce the commodity of a child.

    The fact that you insist on making sure that the real issue is the inalienable right of the childfree despite the many commentators showing you consistent evidence that for nearly all first mothers, it was the right to raise and keep their child that is what they are being denied.

    And really, I think it’s fucked for people to start talking about queer issues in this context as well. Just because I’m gay doesn’t mean I don’t have advantages of economic status and race over many first mothers, nor does it give me the moral justification to exploit another woman. It also erases the women who are queer who were traumatized by a coerced adoption and the queer adoptees who are critical of the industry (especially because the adoption world is so dominated by conservative Christians).

  87. K
    July 27, 2011 at 3:30 pm

    Most comments here have focused on infant adoption, or even taken the position that the issue we should be discussing here is infant adoption, such that a discussion of the adoption of older children is out of place. Why? And how does the equation change if we expand the discussion to include the adoption of older children?

  88. Roxy
    July 27, 2011 at 3:36 pm

    I suspect that this will get lost in this already bulging discussion, but I would like to point out that every one of your questions interprets society as a collection of families rather than a series of people living together.

    The family does not have to be the building block of society. Indeed, I would argue that biological families and families built to imitate biological families undermine our ability as a society to care for each other. The Not my “family”? Not my “problem” attitude.

    I think that families perpetuate patriarchal ideals in our society and that feminists should consider rebuilding communities made out of choice, dependence, and emotion rather than biological or imitative biological structures.

  89. Safiya Outlines
    July 27, 2011 at 3:40 pm

    K – Good point. In many countries, like the UK, adoption of older children is the norm compared to infants. There is also the other issue of children with special needs being very, very overepresented in the care system.

    Talking about nuance, is not wishing to erase anyone. It’s stating that there is more then one adoption narrative.

  90. Azalea
    July 27, 2011 at 3:52 pm

    rox:

    Azalea: “These aren’t “straw women” I am talking about REAL people who are fertile but have no interest in being a parent.” Alright, then they can place their children for adoption. Again, what does their existance prove about the responsibility we have to the women who ARE hurt by losing children they didn’t want to lose? Improving services for struggling women who want to parent and need empowering counseling does not prevent other women from placing. Empowered counseling means listen to the womans EXPRESSED DESIRED OUTCOME.

    If she is saying, “I wish I could parent but: I am not good enough, the child’s father is scary, I’m afraid, I don’t have enough money” It would mean addressing the obstacles in the way of here stated desired outcome NOT planting a desried outcome.

    If the woman walks in and says, “My desired outcome is adoption because I just don’t want this baby at all and I want it out and to not have to deal with it.” then counseling would be very different, although it would still be ethical to explore her feelings more in depth in order to make sure she is aware of all supports available and she has given birth and been given time to weigh her feelings after the birth.

    annalouise- thank you.

    I have said COUNTLESS times PARENTING HOULD BE A CHOICE meaning if she WANTS to parent her biological child she SHOULD do so. HOWEVER I have personally met MANY women who have absolutely NO desire to parent a child from a particular pregnancy. Does her child have a right to have her in their lvies, to know her to be raised by her? Absolutely not.

    anonadoptee:
    Azalea,

    Where exactly do you live where getting an abortion is easy peasy? You honestly think that it is rare for women today to wish abortion was an option but it isn’t due to their religion, fear of punishment, parents, social issues, small town, no close abortion provider, no money, etc? Being able to consider abortion a choice does not just mean it has to be legal. I was raised in an incredibly anti-choice family and only recently completely escaped that conservative, religious mindset. Had I become pregnant in high school I would not have considered abortion a choice, but I sure as hell would have wanted to “not be pregnant”. You underestimate the power of ignorance, religion, and stigma in the anti-choice/conservative section. So in many cases, abortion is NOT a choice.

    And really WTF with this… Regretting an abortion is NOT the same as regretting surrendering a child. In an abortion, a pregnancy was terminated. A child never lived. In adoption, your fucking child is out there somewhere! You LOSE a child! A living, breathing child! You cannot compare the two.

    This reminds me of where I posted somewhere around Jill Stanek that had my mother chosen abortion and been happy with it, and not suffered because of adoption, I’d be ok with that because I wouldn’t be here to care! She actually said I should go to a hospital because I was obviously suicidal. Actual person does not equal fetus.

    My point was MANY mothers do not feel the loss of a child they never wanted that stemmed from a pregnancy they never wanted and never intended to happen. SOME mothers do regret it, some mothers are pressured. I think in ANY case where a mother WANTS to raise her child, she should be supported but if she doesn’t then nobody, not even the child in question should be a means to pressure her into parenting.

    Children do NOT have a right to be parented by their biological parents as parenting is a choice. If abortion can not be obtained, adoption is STILL an option and if she doesn’t want the child, just ebcause she couldn’t or wouldn’t abort doesnt mean that she shouldnt place the child up for adoption. Adoption should be a CHOICE and if children had a right to their biological parents it would cease to be one.

  91. chingona
    July 27, 2011 at 3:52 pm

    Safiya Outlines: I’m in the UK. Here there is reasonable levels of support for young/single/poor mothers (for now anyway). Hence babies being voluntarily given up for adoption is rare, most cases are where the child has been removed for child protection reasons.

    The thing is that even in the U.S., with pretty crappy levels of support, it’s rare for a baby to be voluntarily placed for adoption. It’s around 1 percent. Before 1973, it was 19 percent for white women. To a very significant degree, we are not living in the world of the “girls who went away.” That doesn’t mean there isn’t emotional coercion from family, care providers, adoption agencies, etc. But the vast majority of single women who want to parent their children, do.

  92. rox
    July 27, 2011 at 4:00 pm

    The discussion does change when discussing adoption of older children. It should be considered that those who are making the removal decisions are often white and have an education that is based in middle class/white values of parenting.

    Children who get removed are often children of color and I have the same concerns about that as I do about people of color being over-represented in the prison system. When people with privaledge that they don’t realize are removing children of disadvantaged people WITHOUT addressing the underlying causes of that disadvantage which might be interrelated with the neglect/abuse present in the family system– we have an issue of power/class/and race… and more.

    We in America really DON’T have a lot of programs to increase family health and wellbeing, to increase support to lower income mothers, to increase research based knowledge that incroporate the expressed experiences of THOSE THAT ARE STRUGGLING THEMSELVES outside of analyzing and pathologizing their existance. We don’t have a lot of programs to increase access to family enrichment and qaulity parenting assistance to lower income families.

    And we expect abortion access to simply fix that because poor families should just “not reproduce” until they get money. Some people will never get money or get out of their lower income existance. People living in families with many generations of poverty and lack of access to education have different family values and a different perception on their own rights to reproduce when they don’t have money or haven’t achieved an education that will enable them to be the parents that white/middle class values would hope they would be.

    In fact some research has indicated that for women who are poor and lack access/ability to get a higher education– their economic contributions to society are in fact improved by giving birth and parenting young. They use welfare but then contribute more when they return to work because they take LESS time off from work than women who wait until they are older and take long periods of part time, or no work to focus on parenting.

    The system is steeped in white middle class values whether we are talking about infant or older child adoption. And lack of access to family enrichment, and family services, addiction recovery services, and mental health care and health care, and on and on, are relavant issues in both of these spheres. Once a child is experiencing a violent or dangerous home environment than removal is often necessary. But the REASONS that removal have become necessary are very complicated and are indeed class/poverty/power/race issues.

  93. rox
    July 27, 2011 at 4:11 pm

    We are not living in Ann Fesslers book. But my friend who stayed in gladney maternity home 8 years ago and the girls were told to “see their moment of truth” in which they were encouraged to realize there was no hope of being able to parent effectively and completely give up their dream of parenting? Who were encouraged to NOT WORK so they would have NO INCOME, NO HOME, NO CAR– no where to take their children once they gave birth? They were set up to fail.

    And it was done by people who wanted to set them up to accept adoption as the only possibility. And these homes STILL EXIST. These womens experiences are STILL REAL. And they SHOULD matter. Just beause a small percentage of LBGT women commits suicide as a direct result of bullying, does that not matter because the number is small? These are still women whose experiences are real.

  94. Azalea
    July 27, 2011 at 4:35 pm

    chingona: Most states (wikipedia says it’s all of them, now) have made it legal in certain circumstances and certain places, with the so-called “Baby Moses” or “safe haven” laws. People (almost always mothers) can leave a child at a fire station or hospital up to a certain point – no questions asked. And these laws have been passed in reaction to people who left their newborns in trashcans and restrooms and on the side of the road to die.

    There is a lot to critique about the way adoption has been historically practiced and continues to be practiced and a lot that can be improved, but I don’t understand in what meaningful way we can say that children have either a right or a moral entitlement to be raised by the parents who conceived them or the women who bore them.

    Exactly, I really really did not want to go there but there are women and young girls who would kill their infants if they are forced to raise a child. Some are just that scared at the aspect of being a parent, some are poor, some are being abused, some are abusers and fear they would abuse many variations.

  95. Kathleen
    July 27, 2011 at 4:40 pm

    annalouise, anonadoptee, rox, and especially Amanda — your commentary is amazing and informative and obviously, really necessary in this space. Thank you for your patience and generosity with your knowledge and experience.

    I am a little uncomfortable that the mods keep jumping in with commentary that seems pretty biased (esp. of the “but this might threaten MY desire to parent someday!” variety: done properly, adoption is for children, not for parents); the voices of adult adoptees (and birthmothers who gave up children under duress) are *so* *so* *so* underheard in discussions of adoption, I really think people whose first inclination is to argue with them just need to do a bit more listening.

    Azalea, this *REALLY* means you.

  96. rox
    July 27, 2011 at 4:45 pm

    Azalea– again, unless I have read this wrong– no one here has said women should be forced to parent. Parents who don’t want/are a danger to their children would be doing right by choosing to find a safe environment for their children.

    the moral question of whether children deserve to be loved by the parents who create them? Morally? Yes. It’s not always possible. Forcing parents to parent when they dont want to, does not make that possible and I am not suggesting (nor do I believe anyone here is, though I could be reading others wrong.)

    Some men might be doing the right thing by abandoning their family because if they stayed they knew they would not care/be violent/make their kids lives awful.

    I still believe MORALLY children deserve to be loved by their fathers, but if it’s NOT POSSIBLE than it isn’t. And I still believe that somewhere at the root, most human beings, even who are abusive or dangerous, or uncaring, or don’t feel like they can access any sort of emotion for children they created—- I believe there are usually issues at the root of that. This is just a personal belief and no one has to share it, but I think with human beings who express they don’t care about others there is usually more to their emotional self than they let on or maybe than they are able to access or see, themselves.

  97. Jackie
    July 27, 2011 at 4:46 pm

    This has been a fascinating discussion. I thank everyone here for sharing.

    One thing I that hasn’t been talked about is stigmatizing women and families who voluntarily place their biological children in adoption even when they have amble resources to care for them. This is so stigmatized that I wonder how often it even happens. There are many many people who do not want kids, but end up with them because abortion wasn’t available to them and the prospect of living as a publicly pregnant person (because as we all know, society treats pregnancy as a public topic) and then not coming home with a child would lead them to be stigmatized and attacked by their communities.

    Many of the sad situations in this discussion come back to society pushes poor people to raise fewer children and middle class and wealthy people to raise more children. And it harms families on both sides of the coin.

  98. Kathleen
    July 27, 2011 at 4:46 pm

    Brigid — if you are seriously considering using donor genetic material to have a child, it would be well worth your while to look into what adult donor-conceived children have to say about it. Their opinions are far from universally positive.

  99. DammitJanet
    July 27, 2011 at 4:46 pm

    If you have any evidence at all to support the claim that legalizing infant abandonment prevents infanticide, I would like to see it.

  100. rox
    July 27, 2011 at 4:53 pm

    And I am not claiming that we can cure emotionlessness or uncaring in humans but in fact there are a lot of studies about how it develops and it may in fact at some point be possible to help people who want to connect to their emotions better be able to access those emotions. We are learning a lot about cognition, mood,epigenetics, experience, trauma, stress, early childhood adversity and neurobiology right now, and I think we will have even better ability to help people open and develop emotions and deal with past trauma/adversity and it’s physiological and emotional consequences.

    I hope that in the near future, those who are dealing with blocked/numbed mood, and dampened feelings of empathy toward others and more can in fact be helped if they want it.

  101. Azalea
    July 27, 2011 at 5:03 pm

    Kathleen:
    annalouise, anonadoptee, rox, and especially Amanda — your commentary is amazing and informative and obviously, really necessary in this space.Thank you for your patience and generosity with your knowledge and experience.

    I am a little uncomfortable that the mods keep jumping in with commentary that seems pretty biased (esp. of the “but this might threaten MY desire to parent someday!” variety:done properly, adoption is for children, not for parents); the voices of adult adoptees (and birthmothers who gave up children under duress) are *so* *so* *so* underheard in discussions of adoption, I really think people whose first inclination is to argue with them just need to do a bit more listening.

    Azalea, this *REALLY* means you.

    What I post was a DIRECT reflection of what I have heard said unto to me in a safe place by birth mothers themselves. I am not claiming to speak for them I am merely retelling their side.

    I have said, countless times beating a dead horse even, that those who WANT to parent their child SHOULD parent their child. That includes those women who were pressured and at the time and even now still feel regret for their decision. As important as the voices of those who are or were placed up for adoption are, the birth mothers have the final say for a reason. If you stigmatize the decision to place a child up for adoption, shame and morally/emotionally bully those who do it while there is still the horrible stigma on abortion then you are punishing any and every pregnant person who does not wish or desire to parent a child. Parenting no longer stands as a choice but as a sentence. If there really were so few who would rather raise the child we would have NO need for safe haven laws, we would not still hear about women and girls who threw newborns in the trash.

  102. Theaz
    July 27, 2011 at 5:12 pm

    Azalea: I have said, countless times beating a dead horse even, that those who WANT to parent their child SHOULD parent their child.

    And it’s been said countless times that people who don’t want to parent their child shouldn’t be forced to. It’s also been outlined that the right of adoptive children to be raised by their biological parents means exploring that option first not that it means exploring that option exclusively/i> or prohibiting adoption – that it means providing support in the forms that are required to a mother, offering resources to mothers/families who want to stay intact, and with adoption as an alternative if the mother doesn’t want to parent her child, can’t parent her child etc. I’m really not clear what you’re arguing here.

  103. rox
    July 27, 2011 at 5:16 pm

    Azalea– many of my close friends who were there when I placed would not be able to accurately describe my experience. I respect you sharing your perception of your friends experiences, but we have first parents who are here speaking for themselves.

    If there is no conflict– why are you yelling? I don’t think there is any problem here. Your friends did what they wanted according to what they told you, and what you witnessed them experience. We who didn’t want that are sharing out experience.

    Those who say as if over our heads, “Yeah guys don’t worry about it, it’s a small minority of women who this happens to so it’s really no biggy”– that’s pretty lame. Yet we who are suffering with this loss are ALL OVER THE INTERNET. People love saying that we are the exception. According to all studies that have been done we are NOT THE EXCEPTION.

    And anytime we show up and suggest that MIGHT be the case– people who know someone who was adopted, or whose sister was adopted, or who had two friends who gave up children who are find with it–

    SPEAK FOR US to diminish our stories. (Hey nothing to see here guys, I know adoptees and first parents who are just fine and unaffected so just don’t pay attention to those dramatic people exaggerating their experiences.)

    What if the studies are right? What if we who are in a huge amount of pain or who have PTSD as a result of this are NOT the minority? What if, we have been trying to tell the world that for a long time and everyone is actively working to ignore? I’m not saying that’s the case- but WHAT IF? It should surely at least be considered that better research on the effects of adoption on women who place children and on adoptees should be important.

    What if our pain is real, and no one is listening?

  104. July 27, 2011 at 5:21 pm

    I’m an international adoptive parent. I believe children should definitely be with their biological parents if at all possible. If not, I believe adoption is a good thing as long as adoptive parents are willing to understand the many issues that come with it. You have to be willing to look at yourself, your belief systems and be willing to grow and stretch in the process. Adoption is definitely not for everyone so be thoughtful in making such an important decision for your family.

  105. Brigid
    July 27, 2011 at 5:22 pm

    annalouise: And really, I think it’s fucked for people to start talking about queer issues in this context as well. Just because I’m gay doesn’t mean I don’t have advantages of economic status and race over many first mothers, nor does it give me the moral justification to exploit another woman. It also erases the women who are queer who were traumatized by a coerced adoption and the queer adoptees who are critical of the industry (especially because the adoption world is so dominated by conservative Christians).

    Kathleen: I am a little uncomfortable that the mods keep jumping in with commentary that seems pretty biased (esp. of the “but this might threaten MY desire to parent someday!” variety:done properly, adoption is for children, not for parents); the voices of adult adoptees (and birthmothers who gave up children under duress) are *so* *so* *so* underheard in discussions of adoption, I really think people whose first inclination is to argue with them just need to do a bit more listening.

    I brought up queer issues initially because queer parenting is a primary way (though not the only one) in which I have been introduced to the politics and social justice issues surrounding adoption, and because that context brings up questions for me that aren’t already being addressed in the thread. I recognize that other people have a stake in adoption — and that some of those people may have a greater need than I to have their voices heard and needs addressed. I ask the questions not to silence others or to center myself, but because I want to understand how to address the concerns and needs being voiced here when they intersect with the concerns and needs of people in other marginalized groups — including queer people.

    Adoption affects the ability of queer people, especially gay men and trans people (who may be biologically incapable of conceiving) to have children. How we recognize or do not recognize biological parents directly impacts the ability of queer people to self-determine their families. For example, I know of gay parents who adamantly DO NOT want open adoptions, because they wish to be able to define their families as their own — a wish that is challenged by normative notions of family, and that queer people have to work hard to defend.

    What I’m hearing from this discussion is that closed adoptions are unjust, which creates a conflict with some queer parents’ desires to self-determine their families. In bringing this up, I am not saying that queer parents’ experiences trump anyone else’s; pointing out a conflict is not the same as choosing a side. The point is that queer family issues (as well as infertility issues) intersect with adoption issues, so we can’t conclusively address one without bringing up the other.

    Finally, just because someone desires to adopt or create a family by “alternate” means does not necessarily mean they have class or race advantages over those who give children up for adoption or have them taken away. The fact is that for some people, alternate methods are the only options — and they may nevertheless be prevented from pursuing even those options by the same systems of oppression (class, race, etc.) that make our current adoption system so exploitative.

  106. Paraxeni
    July 27, 2011 at 5:38 pm

    @lolagirl:

    One can be infertile and become a parent by resorting to ART

    As long as you have plenty of money, are healthy, and live somewhere where access to ART isn’t restricted to heterosexual TAB couples.

  107. Westwood
    July 27, 2011 at 5:51 pm

    I gave up my child for adoption. I was raped, and I was going to get an abortion and changed my mind – I am thankful that I had that option though, and am very pro-choice.

    I have an open adoption – I would not have had it any other way. My problem is that I had no idea about open adoptions. I had no idea that they’re way more popular these days than closed adoptions. Young people (I was 19 and still in High School) NEED to have access to more information about these things.

    I love my child very much and wanted him to have two stable parents. He has an older brother who was also adopted with an open adoption. I get to see my child whenever I want, take him on trips if I want, and he knows he grew in my belly. We share a bond that I cherish, but I would never ever try to take away any of the power of his adopted parents as his TRUE parents. I have to respect their rules whether I agree with them or not, and hopefully be an outlet for my child when he goes through hard times.

    Open adoptions are great. It hurts like hell every day, but at least I know he’s safe and loved – and he will never think that I gave him up because I didn’t want him.

  108. Lolagirl
    July 27, 2011 at 6:01 pm

    Or, if one lives in states like New York or Illinois, which mandate infertility coverage for most employer-sponsored group health plans, one simply hands their insurance card over to the billing department at the Infertility Clinic.

    But thanks for trying to peg me as some sort of classist, let them eat cake type.

    Look, it is true that infertility treatments can be expensive, but it is still less expensive than most forms of private (domestic and foreign) adoption. One month’s supply of Clomid costs less than $100 (US) and even when one gets into IUI with injectible drugs the cost of one cycle will likely run around $1,000 to $3,000. One cycle of IVF can be anywhere around $8,000 to $15,000 per cycle.

    Meanwhile, most private adoptions cost upwards of $25,000, and foreign adoptions can often cost closer to $50,000. And let’s not pretend that private adoption doesn’t also require that the adoptive parents have an ample bank account, proof of good health, and even prove “upstanding moral character” in order to be considered good adoptive parent material.

    Any way you work the numbers, ART is still less expensive than most forms of adoption. It is also far less personally intrusive of a process than adoption, and that is before one even begins to consider all of the other emotional and social issues involved in adoption that have been raised by myself and plenty of others in these comments.

  109. Safiya Outlines
    July 27, 2011 at 6:04 pm

    Paraxeni:
    @lolagirl:

    As long as you have plenty of money, are healthy, and live somewhere where access to ART isn’t restricted to heterosexual TAB couples.

    In addition to this, if by ART, you mean is also known as IVF, it’s a pretty gruelling process with a 40% success rate (or rather 60% failure rate) at best.

  110. rox
    July 27, 2011 at 6:22 pm

    Westwood, I am so sorry for your hurt. You say a lot of conflicting things (and you could be quoted in birthmother support forums from all over so you are saying the same things everyone does, including what I did, so don’t worry.)

    I want to point out that from a female empowerment perspective, I find it problematic that you say you wanted your child and also that you would never burden the adoptive parents with such feelings.

    I find it problematic that you say adoption is wonderful and it leaves you in pain every day. I find it problematic that you sound like you share a maternal bond with your child but you don’t feel you have a right to be considered a True Mother. that your love is less than.

    I do not believe your love is less than, or that your role is less than. And if you truly wanted your child from the beginning, I wish that the obstacles that were in the way of providing your child an enriching environment, with you, could have been addressed. I know we are in an imperfect world and that is not always possible. But I hope we can strive to learn what the obstacles single parents face actually are and how to ensure that positive enriching childhoods can happen for children of women who want to parent their children and are single. I deeply respect your sacrafice in doing whatever possible to make sure your child has a good life. That is beautiful. I hope that we can make it less necessary for women to make such a heartbreaking sacrafice in order to ensure their child has a good life.

    Perhaps it is impossible, but I will continue to work toward that goal every day of my life.

  111. Lolagirl
    July 27, 2011 at 6:23 pm

    ART refers to Artificial Reproductive Technology, which encompasses a wide range of fertility drugs, IUI and IVF.

    Yes, it can be a grueling process, but again, so can the adoption process (at least from an emotional and economic standpoint.) And nobody is any more guaranteed a baby through adoption than one is through ART.

  112. rox
    July 27, 2011 at 6:34 pm

    Also here is an interesting research project submitted by a friend of mine at Adoption Critique:
    In this literature review, 98 articles were identified, and 91 of them obtained. The author did a thematic analysis of the articles, using grounded theory to identify the themes present in these articles. Nine themes were identified, including search and reunion, the surrender experience, open adoption relationships, and advice for professionals. But there were two main themes in this literature that were found to be above and beyond all others in terms of frequency. I am going to quote directly from the thesis:

    ” There were found to be two main themes in literature on natural mothers. These can be viewed as two “streams” of research, as the articles within a stream mainly refer to other work and prior research within that one stream. The first stream (43 articles) examines the consequences of surrender on the mother. The second stream (32 articles) examines factors that may predict and/or influence rates of surrender, often stating with concern that surrender rates have declined significantly and should be increased. The latter stream contains three main sub-themes: factors (socio-demographic, educational, attitudinal, familial, or economic) that distinguish mothers who surrender their babies from mothers who keep their babies, surveys to determine what would encourage expectant mothers to consider adoption, and comparisons of differing agency practices and their effects on surrender rates.”

    Let’s come to the point and put it into more concrete terms: THESE 32 ARTICLES ARE ON HOW TO TAKE BABIES

    The author of this thesis provides a list of some of these articles (below, reprinted with permission). So, seeing these, how can anyone believe that a “decision” about adoption is free from influence, coercion, or manipulation? When agencies have 30 years worth of research on how to increase the likelihood a mother will surrender her child, is she really making an informed decision completely of her own free will?”

    http://adoptioncritic.com/2010/11/17/adoption-studies-on-taking-babies/

  113. Lolagirl
    July 27, 2011 at 6:35 pm

    I think that our societal narratives here in the U.S. wrt adoption are so deeply ingrained that it still often forces even the otherwise most open minded feminists to reevaluate how they perceive adoption in some pretty fundamental ways. I think this is especially true when it comes to the notions that adoption is an act of saving needy children and a socially responsible thing to do.

    But none of that really delves into all of the POVs being raised by original parents and the children they surrendered for adoption. Of course no women should be forced to keep a pregnancy she doesn’t want, and she should never be forced to raise that child if she does not want to. But that doesn’t negate the possibility that the resulting child will experience some seriously intense emotions as she grows to adulthood and comes to terms with her adoption. And that doesn’t mean that adoption can’t still give that adopted child loving parents (whether they be hetero or queer,) a happy life, and that elusive thing called stability.

    The bottom line is that it is all very complicated, and we as a society need to acknowledge it and not diminish how complicated it can become in order to still support the institution of adoption.

  114. lucy
    July 27, 2011 at 6:40 pm

    It’s hard to reconcile the fact that in a utopian world there would be no need for adoption with the happiness that adoption brings to many people. Even that statement is hard to make because we’re not happy about what brought our child to us (abuse) but we are happy to have her and she us.

    I would really encourage feminism to get behind adoption reform- particularly that of the U.S. foster system- and make it a priority. While not all women chose to become mothers, the majority do, and therefore this is definitely a feminist issue.

  115. Kris
    July 27, 2011 at 7:09 pm

    The class aspect of this is one thing that really bothers me. There are many, many older children in foster care who need stable homes and love and support. Most upper-class couples who can’t conceive will go to great lengths to find an infant to adopt, rather than become foster parents to older children. I’m sure some of it is that they don’t want the baggage associated with foster children’s families, the fact that most foster care is not permanent, etc. but I also think there is an element of “harvesting” going on.

    They want a child to be *theirs* and they want it as an infant before it has been corrupted by what they assume to be neglectful, drug-addled parents. They want to experience every milestone with the child. There is definitely an element of selfishness to it, that they think they’ll be “better” parents than a younger, poorer woman.

    My husband and I decided several years ago that if we couldn’t have children, we would become foster parents rather than attempt adoption. After having my son, I feel even more strongly about it. The second he was born, nothing on earth would have induced me to part with him. There is no possible way that giving away a living child you have carried for nine months is less emotionally damaging than aborting.

  116. wasabi
    July 27, 2011 at 7:31 pm

    Brigid:
    What I’m hearing from this discussion is that closed adoptions are unjust, which creates a conflict with some queer parents’ desires to self-determine their families. In bringing this up, I am not saying that queer parents’ experiences trump anyone else’s; pointing out a conflict is not the same as choosing a side. The point is that queer family issues (as well as infertility issues) intersect with adoption issues, so we can’t conclusively address one without bringing up the other.

    The problem here is that is how hetero adoptive parents felt too. They didn’t want to have to acknowledge the birthfamily. They wanted to be able to determine their own families too. And we found out that was bad for adoptees. It was bad for birthmoms too but that’s not why the adoption industry changed. The adoption industry changed because the studies showed adoptees did better in open adoptions.

    I’m bisexual. I am pro-gay marriage and pro-gay rights. I would not object to a gay couple adopting any more than I would object to a straight couple adopting. But I don’t believe a queer couple has a right to/deserves/is entitled to someone else’s baby any more than an infertile couple is. Not being able to biologically produce a child (regardless of the reason) does not mean that you have a right to have someone else’s child.

  117. wasabi
    July 27, 2011 at 7:44 pm

    rox:
    The second stream (32 articles) examines factors that may predict and/or influence rates of surrender, often stating with concern that surrender rates have declined significantly and should be increased.The latter stream contains three main sub-themes: factors (socio-demographic, educational, attitudinal, familial, or economic) that distinguish mothers who surrender their babies from mothers who keep their babies, surveys to determine what would encourage expectant mothers to consider adoption, and comparisons of differing agency practices and their effects on surrender rates.”

    Let’s come to the point and put it into more concrete terms:THESE 32 ARTICLES ARE ON HOW TO TAKE BABIES

    The author of this thesis provides a list of some of these articles (below, reprinted withpermission). So, seeing these, how can anyone believe that a “decision” about adoption is free from influence, coercion, or manipulation? When agencies have 30 years worth of research on how to increase the likelihood a mother will surrender her child, is she really making an informed decision completely of her own free will?”
    http://adoptioncritic.com/2010/11/17/adoption-studies-on-taking-babies/

    Wow. Even having lived in the Gladney residential home in the early 90s, to see it all codified and set out as strategies creeps me out in ways that I can’t even put into words. And yet there are people who refuse to believe me when I say I feel I was coerced. After all no one put a gun to my head and made me sign. They told me I was being selfish if I kept my child. That her life and mine would be ruined etc etc etc. But no one made me so obviously I wasn’t coerced. To realize that there is actual strategy planned out? It sickens me.

  118. KJ
    July 27, 2011 at 8:01 pm

    anonadoptee:
    KJ,

    “However, I do believe that some people who give birth may not be able to care for their child physically and emotionally.”

    Here is an interesting blog post, it’s not extensive but it’s something to go on:
    http://austinholistic.blogspot.com/2011/04/ablism-and-poverty-in-infant-adoption.html

    What makes someone unable to care for their child physically and emotionally? Is it mental illness? Being in severe poverty? Having a physical disability?

    I suffer depression, (I do link many of my psychological problems to being adopted though), I have some serious self-esteem issues, I am overly clingy, and I have some other things I work with. Does this mean I’m unfit to parent?

    At the moment I don’t want children, if I got pregnant my husband and I have agreed abortion is what we would choose. But in ten years or so, I want kids. If I still suffer depression should I not have children? If I am still poor should I just resign myself to not having kids? If I am in a car accident and suffer a physical disability should I be denied the right to parent?

    You may not be implying these things but thats what I hear when people say that there are “some people” who just shouldn’t have kids.

    When I discuss adoption, I am primarily discussing infant adoption, where the mother surrendered her child as an infant. My own mother only had three days with me in the hospital, not really enough time to see if she was a “fit” parent…whatever that is.

    No, that is not what I am getting at. I also have disabilities and know many great parents with disabilities. But there are some people who, for a variety of reasons are not able to handle having kids. I’m thinking more of abuse. I’d say people cannot handle being parents with they abuse their kids. Because kids should never, ever have to live with abuse of any sort. Now, some people may abuse there kids in part because of an uncontrolled mental illness; however mental illness is no reason to say someone can’t be a great parent. And plenty of TAB abuse their kids; we hear those stories on the news every day. I basically have no tolerance for abuse and believe kids should be removed from the home if they are being abused, no matter the reason. I also believe that mental illness should not enter into the decision to remove the child unless it is causing the parent to abuse the child.

  119. dawn
    July 27, 2011 at 8:08 pm

    Brigid:
    Adoption affects the ability of queer people, especially gay men and trans people (who may be biologically incapable of conceiving) to have children. How we recognize or do not recognize biological parents directly impacts the ability of queer people to self-determine their families. For example, I know of gay parents who adamantly DO NOT want open adoptions, because they wish to be able to define their families as their own — a wish that is challenged by normative notions of family, and that queer people have to work hard to defend.

    What I’m hearing from this discussion is that closed adoptions are unjust, which creates a conflict with some queer parents’ desires to self-determine their families. In bringing this up, I am not saying that queer parents’ experiences trump anyone else’s; pointing out a conflict is not the same as choosing a side. The point is that queer family issues (as well as infertility issues) intersect with adoption issues, so we can’t conclusively address one without bringing up the other.

    Finally, just because someone desires to adopt or create a family by “alternate” means does not necessarily mean they have class or race advantages over those who give children up for adoption or have them taken away. The fact is that for some people, alternate methods are the only options — and they may nevertheless be prevented from pursuing even those options by the same systems of oppression (class, race, etc.) that make our current adoption system so exploitative.

    I agree with annalouise’s post that to try to position even acknowledging adoptee and birth parent issues (let alone work towards a more just system for adoptees and birth parents) as anti-queer is really inappropriate and as a queer adoptee, I do not find it at all amusing, to say the least.

    Not wanting to acknowledge that one’s adopted children have another set of a parents is in no way a specifically queer issue. Plenty of heterosexual adoptive couples similarly want to define themselves as the only parents of their adopted children (some even to the point of never telling their children that they were adopted). Even if adoptive parents have a lack of privilege in some other areas, they still exist in a privileged relationship to their adopted children as non-adoptees (or the non-adopted family member if they themselves were adopted into a different family). It is privilege that allows any adoptive parents to decide that it is more important to define their family in a way that pleases them but erases the adoptee’s reality.

    Adoptees have another family regardless of adoptive parents’ willingness to acknowledge; we don’t materialize from the ether into an orphanage or foster bed as ahistorical, adoptable children. Biological heritage does matter to many adoptees but even if it doesn’t matter to a particular adoptee, it is not the place of a non-adopted adoptive parent – who never had to grow up completely without such knowledge/relationships and thus has no lived understanding of what that means – to decide for the adoptee, which is what insisting on a closed adoption does.

  120. July 27, 2011 at 8:36 pm

    anonadoptee:
    Amanda,

    Will do. I think we both know how important it is to talk to people who understand adoption from our perspective. It’s hard when everyone expects adoptees to be grateful and be quiet.

    You are so right! ((hugs))

    • July 27, 2011 at 9:32 pm

      The fact that you insist on making sure that the real issue is the inalienable right of the childfree despite the many commentators showing you consistent evidence that for nearly all first mothers, it was the right to raise and keep their child that is what they are being denied.

      …except I didn’t “insist” on anything. I responded to a series of other comments. Look, I know you want your One True Narrative, but life is more complicated than that, and when it comes to adoption there are competing rights and interests, and there is no one simple ideological stance. I’m sorry that’s inconvenient, but there is really no reason to get so personal and nasty (and for the record, I am not “child-free,” and I’m not raising this issue because of my personal status as someone who does not have kids. Yeesh). My point is that all of us here are intelligent enough to recognize that when it comes to issues of reproduction, there is almost never a silver bullet, or one perfect ideology — that holds true for abortion or adoption or parenthood or whatever. There are tenants that we can all basically agree on — here, children have rights, biological parents should be the first choice, we should make parenthood accessible and easier — but pointing out that a lot of folks live on the margins and their experiences may not fit so easily into ideology isn’t centering rich white 20-something experience.

  121. July 27, 2011 at 9:10 pm

    Brigid:
    Adoption affects the ability of queer people, especially gay men and trans people (who may be biologically incapable of conceiving) to have children. How we recognize or do not recognize biological parents directly impacts the ability of queer people to self-determine their families. For example, I know of gay parents who adamantly DO NOT want open adoptions, because they wish to be able to define their families as their own — a wish that is challenged by normative notions of family, and that queer people have to work hard to defend.

    What I’m hearing from this discussion is that closed adoptions are unjust, which creates a conflict with some queer parents’ desires to self-determine their families. In bringing this up, I am not saying that queer parents’ experiences trump anyone else’s; pointing out a conflict is not the same as choosing a side. The point is that queer family issues (as well as infertility issues) intersect with adoption issues, so we can’t conclusively address one without bringing up the other.

    Closed adoptions began as a way for heterosexual couples to be able to define their families. Adoption has traditionally been seen as the answer to infertility. Legally, the relationship between the adoptee and their original family is cut off and the law says that the adoptee is “as if born to” their adoptive parents. Our records that connect us to our original families are sealed and new records are issued that claim our adoptive parents gave birth to us. This is the “adultism” I was referring to when I first posted about the “isms” in adoption. Adoption policy and practice has traditionally exuded the concept that it is acceptable to pick and choose what parts of their original identities adopted children may or may not keep, based on the preferences of their adoptive parents.

    Because of these policies and practices, it has become unacceptable for the adoptee to point out that they do have another family and they do have other roots. People call us “disloyal” to our families. We are labeled “mal-adjusted” for being unable to conform with the program when we want to claim our roots and reunite: “your adoptive parents are your real parents, they are the only family you have.” We are called “ungrateful” for maintaining contact with our original families because of how it must “hurt” our adoptive parents. When I went to reunite, an adoptive aunt nearly scolded me because she feared the act of announcing my impending search would remind my parents that they couldn’t have kids.

    Being adopted made it my “job” to enable them to have the type of family they wanted as they saw fit. My reality in the closed adoption model as having two families, was completely ignored. My name was changed, my birth certificate amended and sealed, and my ability xhoose whether or not to identify with my original family was taken away. Not by my choice. But by choices made on my behalf when I was too young to voice my own opinion.

    To have to be what someone else wants you to be because of what is important to them. It’s disempowering.

    The reality is, the adoptee has two families and a different heritage and different roots. To close the adoptee off from that and to choose what the adoptee is and is not allowed to embrace because of one’s own personal preferences is to deny the reality of the adoptee (see Kirk’s book “Shared Fate”).

    Parenting is about putting what is best for our children before what is best for ourselves. Whether an adoption is open or closed, it should be about what is in the best interest of the child. There’s plenty of information to be found about closed adoptions, how they impact identity formation, and what we’ve learned seems to say that the more information and access to the original family the adoptee has, the better.

    See “Being Adopted the Lifelong Search for Self” by Brodzinsky, Schechter, and Henig. Also see works by B.J. Lifton, Marlou Russell, Nancy Newton Verrier, Baran/Panor/Sorosky, and more (my bookshelf has more recommendations: http://www.declassifiedadoptee.com/p/amandas-bookshelf.html).

    Also, my blog rolls have over 100 adult adoptee blog links for anyone interested in learning about the adoptee experience to read. As far as I recall, all of them are closed adoption adoptees.

  122. July 27, 2011 at 9:37 pm

    Azalea: Exactly, I really really did not want to go there but there are women and young girls who would kill their infants if they are forced to raise a child. Some are just that scared at the aspect of being a parent, some are poor, some are being abused, some are abusers and fear they would abuse many variations.

    Despite “Safe Haven” laws being in effect in 48 states (as far as I am aware, Wikipedia would be incorrect saying that it is all 50 states), unsafe abandonments still happen. These laws are fueled by steretypes against women which are being challenged in a state near to my own, where mothers are leaving their names and names for their baby with the baby. What happens when mothers surrender babies under these laws, is that no one has to offer them counseling, resources, or support and it is extremely difficult for them to get their babies back if they change their minds.

    And as I said, meanwhile, unsafe abandonments still happen despite these legalized abandonment laws all-the-while mothers who bring their babies to a safe place to be surrendered are automatically labeled as “would be” child harmers.

  123. annalouise
    July 27, 2011 at 9:40 pm

    I think we should, if we are talking about alternative models of relationships and families that don’t fit into the 20th century western nuclear family model, we should talk about how the profitability of international adoption has had a devastating effect on the ability for people in those countries to construct families in a way that is non-Western. For example, in Cambodia, the profitability of international adoption led to a change in policy: while the children of incarcerated or drug addicted women or women who died, were normally taken care of by the woman’s extended family, it then became policy to make those children eligible for international adoption, even when the grandmothers or aunts wanted to care for the children. They no longer could.
    In Malawi, and many other southern African countries, it is normal for parents to put their children in “orphanages” run either by the state or by religious groups during economically hard times. They haven’t abandoned their children. They are just making use of a social service. But now many children in those situations run the risk of being stolen and adopted internationally. In Samoa (and many other places), adoption agencies deliberately misled parents who though their children would be placed with American families as a way to get a better education, keeping in the tradition of apprenticing and fostering. Parents were horrified to discover months later that their children were never coming back. The adoption industry still profits on the stigma against unmarried mothers and young mothers.

    Beyond that, I think it’s unconscionable for people to argue for a postmodern reinterpretation of the family to happen on the backs of marginalized women.

    Adoption affects the ability of queer people, especially gay men and trans people (who may be biologically incapable of conceiving) to have children. How we recognize or do not recognize biological parents directly impacts the ability of queer people to self-determine their families. For example, I know of gay parents who adamantly DO NOT want open adoptions, because they wish to be able to define their families as their own — a wish that is challenged by normative notions of family, and that queer people have to work hard to defend

    To this I say, frankly, (and too undiplomatically for a civil discussion, I apologize) TOO FUCKING BAD. If there are queer people that want to define their family as their own, they don’t get to exploit the reproductive abilities of a marginalized woman to do so.

  124. wasabi
    July 27, 2011 at 9:41 pm

    Jill: (and for the record, I am not “child-free,” and I’m not raising this issue because of my personal status as someone who does not have kids. Yeesh).

    I believe you completely misread that quote. She was not saying you are childfree. She was saying some are (and by some I believe she means Azalea not you) positioning the key issue of allowing women to remain childfree through adoption when most birthmoms do not place children out of a desire to be childfree. I believe that was the issue she was referring to, not an assumption that you were childfree and that your childfree status was impacting your pov.

  125. Kathleen
    July 27, 2011 at 10:56 pm

    Amanda and annalouise — so right on. It is not the job of any child to give any adult the family to which they feel they have a right.

  126. Azalea
    July 27, 2011 at 11:33 pm

    rox:
    Azalea– many of my close friends who were there when I placed would not be able to accurately describe my experience. I respect you sharing your perception of your friends experiences, but we have first parents who are here speaking for themselves.

    If there is no conflict– why are you yelling? I don’t think there is any problem here. Your friends did what they wanted according to what they told you, and what you witnessed them experience. We who didn’t want that are sharing out experience.

    Those who say as if over our heads, “Yeah guys don’t worry about it, it’s a small minority of women who this happens to so it’s really no biggy”– that’s pretty lame. Yet we who are suffering with this loss are ALL OVER THE INTERNET. People love saying that we are the exception. According to all studies that have been done we are NOT THE EXCEPTION.

    And anytime we show up and suggest that MIGHT be the case– people who know someone who was adopted, or whose sister was adopted, or who had two friends who gave up children who are find with it–

    SPEAK FOR US to diminish our stories. (Hey nothing to see here guys, I know adoptees and first parents who are just fine and unaffected so just don’t pay attention to those dramatic people exaggerating their experiences.)

    What if the studies are right? What if we who are in a huge amount of pain or who have PTSD as a result of this are NOT the minority? What if, we have been trying to tell the world that for a long time and everyone is actively working to ignore? I’m not saying that’s the case- but WHAT IF? It should surely at least be considered that better research on the effects of adoption on women who place children and on adoptees should be important.

    What if our pain is real, and no one is listening?

    I am not diminishing anyone;s experience. I am simply saying *your* experience isn;t the sum of *all* experience. These studies don’t research millions of women who gave up their children, they study on a small number and if you want your numbers to show that adoption is horrible (and many of these studies are beign done by people who have that agenda) its easy to get the numbers you want. I don’t know what *every* woman feels, I only know what I have been told and these women didnt start out as my friends, they started out as clients in various non profits I do legal and social justice work for. Some of these women feel more stigma and anguish from people who expect them to be hurting than those who just don’t like adoption at all. They have been called soulless by people who didn’t realize they were birth mothers but in the same space seeking help. Your experience is real, it is *your own* and there are people who share it but there are *still* those who totally do not feel the way you did. Most adoptees have felt the same way as everyone else in here, abandoned etc. But not all birth mothers felt a sense of loss because they didn’t feel as though they had lost anything. In fact, some felt like adoption enabled them to regain control of their lives. No single person has a right to the love of another person. It hurts to be rejected but you don’t have a right to be forcefully accepted in a relationship, whether it be mother-child or friend-friend.

  127. anonadoptee
    July 27, 2011 at 11:44 pm

    I’m not going to say much since I’ve had a long day, and to be honest this comment thread stresses me out. I’m used to having adoptees and first mothers ignored but it gets to you, especially on a feminist blog. Amanda, Rox, annalouise, you guys rock and thank you for posting here. Sometimes we adoptees get lonely, we think we are the only ones who feel this way, and it was nice to realize we aren’t.

    And to those (AZALEA) who feel that these studies have an “agenda” and are all anti-adoption…you’d be surprised. When doing research for a paper I found practically nothing. There were very few studies that were actually critical of adoption. It is taboo to speak badly of adoption.

    And really, some of these arguments follow the same path I’ve seen so many times before. People who’ve been passed over by the system talk about their experiences, and it’s not long before those with privilege start to say things like “well I know so and so and they are fine so that’s it” and then all is supposed to be over. Adoptive parents have the power. Adoptees and first mothers do not.

    And PLEASE try to use other words than birthmother. To me it reminds me of the way my parents explained adoption to me as a kid, that “god formed me in some other lady’s uterus for US”. My first mom is more than a uterus. More than a “birth” mother. She was and is still my mother. It’s just disrespectful. You would think that on a feminist blog we had come to see women as more than uteruses and giving birth.

    And maybe tomorrow we can explore some of the issues adoptees deal with…fear of rejection, clinginess, inability to form relationships, depression, etc. I feel that these are real needs that are completely ignored by society. People assume infant adoptees do not feel loss. We do, we just don’t know how to describe it.

  128. rox
    July 27, 2011 at 11:56 pm

    Azalea- No one here is advocating forcing a mother who wants to be rid of her child to parent when adoption is an accessible option.

  129. rox
    July 28, 2011 at 12:08 am

    I will say that there DOES tend to be stigma attached to neglecting, abusing, or abandoning children. The stigma exists because these things hurt children. There may be mental illness/trauma/poor childhood conditions/chaotic circumstances that caused the parent to be incapable of preventing abuse/neglect/or abandonment. And I believe that deep compassion is in order when this happens. But that doesn’t make it any less harmful to the child. And in general people who callously would cause that kind of harm to a child WITHOUT some sort of mitigating factor, are the sort of people who would callously harm a child for their own interests.

    I believe that just as I have a right to choose not to hang out with abuser or people who lack values about compassion and social duties to others— I also would not want to hang out with women or men who believe their personal interests are more important than that of a child they created. so the old “no one has the right to a relationship with anyone” goes both ways. When people demonstrate a willingness to hurt others for their own interests, they might find that other people don’t want relationships with them and don’t see them the same. It happens.

    Just out of curiosity, how does your “no-one has the right to a parent child relationship with their parent” fit into older children situations where there will be no subsitute parent? Are you into moms saying, “Hey kid, you don’t have a right to relationship with me, just get out of my house?” to their 7 year olds? Sending them out on the streets? I’ve got some ethical problems with that. Yes.

  130. Nicole
    July 28, 2011 at 12:29 am

    Hi,

    First off: I am a mother who relinquished a child for adoption.
    Second: I’ve skimmed the comments, but not read all word-for-word, so forgive me if this has already been stated.

    That said…

    Because of my personal experience, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking, reading, and studying domestic infant adoption. One issue that I’ve not seen addressed adequately is relinquishment/adoption from a feminist perspective. So it’s encouraging to see this conversation even taking place.

    That said, it seems to me that one of the core issues in adoption, and a large part of the reason the adoption “industry” is able to get away with some pretty exploitative practices, is that women end up pitted against each other. We’ve seen it in this very thread: women considering or open to adoption (for whatever reason) sympathetic to the idea that people should be able to self-determine their concept and make-up of family, vs female adoptees and women who’ve relinquished protesting that our feelings about our biological relatives (mothers, children) should be taken into consideration, too.

    And this is how it is in adoption. And it is, IMO, why feminism has failed women on this issue–and why it will continue to fail women until we can stop fighting amongst ourselves. Because as far as I’m concerned, until people are willing to take a deep breath and say “Okay. Women are being exploited by the current adoption system. That’s not okay, and it is time we do whatever’s needed to fix it”–until that happens, feminism will continue to fail on this issue.

    Because make no mistake, there is absolutely exploitation happening in adoption. But as long as women are ambivalent about changing that (for whatever reason–whether it’s because it endangers their chances of adopting, or of having a closed adoption, or of getting an infant; or for biological mothers, whether it’s fear of shattering their secret of having once relinquished; or for adoptees, whether it’s fear of hurting others’ feelings; or for pro-lifers, whether it’s fear of increasing abortion rates…. you get the point…) –as long as we’re ambivalent about making the needed reforms, the reforms won’t get made.

    And as far as I can tell, there is still an awful lot of ambivalence out there. And that’s best-case scenario. In many conversations and many settings, it’s not really even ambivalence–it’s downright hostility towards making the needed reforms.

    So, as a mother who once-upon-a-time relinquished her daughter… what I will say is that I feel feminism failed us, continues to fail us, and from what I see at this juncture in time will continue to fail us. Because frankly, there are just too many women who do not want to see or just do not see the exploitation of women as the central issue in domestic infant adoption.

    Meanwhile, there are thousands of us screaming for someone to please listen. To please hear our stories, to please believe us when we tell you that how we were treated by the adoption industry is NOT okay.

    Some few people do listen, and that gives me hope.

    To those who don’t listen… I hope someday you will.

  131. rational_male
    July 28, 2011 at 1:10 am

    anonadoptee: I am an adoptee conceived in rape. What we mean by support is not just money. It’s family support. It’s job support. It’s many things. But our society as a whole makes it hard to have kids, such as not providing paid maternity leave, or providing inexpensive childcare. These things all can help reduce the need for adoption.I’m not going to elaborate because after a long time of reading feminist blogs I can spot a troll from miles away.

    anonadoptee and others,

    certainly NOT a troll.. but with the name and an unconventional viewpoint to say the least (at least for this blog) I guess it is fair to expect being called one.

    And @Rox I would love to see your statistics as to the % of adoptions that are due to rape. As a wild guess I’d be shocked if they would be greater than 20-25% of cases.. but I love data and would greatly appreciate linking to any studies.

    To my original point, I am NOT saying that only rich, or upper-class people should have kids. However, I do think it is fair to say that a high schooler who has a kid before graduating, or someone who is single and has a kid a 21 is making a decision that EXPONENTIALLY increases the chance that both her and her kid will experience poverty. If those same women waited until they were 24-28 (or w/e) and were married… their kids would be amazingly better statistically (from a financial and I would argue emotional standpoint). The fact that they (AND the male) made the decision to have sex and possibly intend to get pregnant is a POOR choice (even for middle and upper class young, unwed individuals). I am NOT advocating no help or acceptance once they are here, but shouldn’t feminists be concerned that by merely not waiting 4-8 years and being married (even if they were still lower income that point) the mother and child have DRASTICALLY worst financial and socioeconomic outcomes. I just feel it is important to try to communicate that. Whether it is to these youth (through school, church, community organizers) or to these youth’s parents.

    A few stats to back up my points. http://www.fathers.com/content/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=391

    This link is from a site trying to emphasize the importance of fatherhood (the young men who enable these pregnancies are also responsible no doubt). Here are two of the most important facts:
    Children in father-absent homes are five times more likely to be poor. In
    2002, 7.8% of children in married-couple families were living in poverty,
    compared to 38.4% of children in female-householder families.

    Source: U.S. Census Bureau, Children’s Living Arrangements and Characteristics: March
    2002, P20-547, Table C8. Washington, D.C.: GPO 2003.

    Children in father-absent homes are five times more likely to be poor. In
    2002, 7.8% of children in married-couple families were living in poverty,
    compared to 38.4% of children in female-householder families.

    Source: U.S. Census Bureau, Children’s Living Arrangements and Characteristics: March
    2002, P20-547, Table C8. Washington, D.C.: GPO 2003.

    The best study that I have read which links both age AND married status is evading me right now (was performed by someone in the clinton administration in the 90’s.. haven’t read it in a few years.. I am trying to find the article and will post when i can).

    I could write a maddeningly long post on this subject, and surprisingly large other number of other issues on this site from a slightly critical but highly scholarly (at least that is my attempt) point of view, and hope I can engage in robust debate in the future. Take it easy on me ladies :)

  132. rational_male
    July 28, 2011 at 1:26 am

    Sigh. Unfortunately I can’t find the link I want, and need to get some sleep, but will post when I find it. Suffice to say I think MOST people will agree unwed, teenage births, particularly for those who have not graduated high school is one of, if not the LARGEST contributors to grinding and terrible intergenerational poverty (an issue I DEEPLY hope can be reduced.)

    One other quick question/observation. While looking for the study I came to the Wikipedia article on teen pregnancy which showed the U.S. with a teen pregnancy rate 3x the rate of othe OECD countries. The explanation there was mainly that others have better sex education. That does make sense and many conservatives stance on sex education is particularly ignorant in my opinion and one area where I differ from social conservatives. I would be interested if you have talked much about sex education, particularly related to reducing teen pregnancies. If we were like Europe there would be about ~300,000 less teen pregnancies in the U.S, an AMAZINGLY good thing for those mothers and their kids in most cases in my opinion. Your views on both the sex education and if the lower number of births would be a good thing would be very interesting.

  133. rox
    July 28, 2011 at 1:32 am

    OK– then as a non-troll– are you arguing that resources should be allocated to women who were raped only? You are talking to adoptees and women who have placed children that were the product of rape.

    So I can gaurantee you that we exist. Further if you add abusive and exploitive situations, or the use of reproductive coercion there’s an even higher correlation with unplanned pregnancy. But let’s assume that it’s at or under your twenty percent. That could be a lot of people. How do we support them? And if you propose we allocate MORE resources to children who are the product of rape, you realize that you are quite literally PUNISHING CHILDREN WHO ARE NOT THE PRODUCT OF RAPE BUT ARE KEPT BY THEIR MOTHERS.

    First address that for me. I’m working on a post for tomorrow.

  134. rational_male
    July 28, 2011 at 1:56 am

    Not trying to be a smartass… but I don’t totally get your question. Are you asking how do we support the under 20% (or w/e the number is, I am highly interested in finding out) of adoptees who are a result of rape? Because the fact that they are adopted almost certainly means the adopted parents will have the resources to support them.. (which was one of the issues many people had, the fact that the adopted parents have greater financial resources). So in that case, not too many public resources are needed to take care of the children who are results or rapes who are adopted.

    A valid question, and maybe the one you were either directly or tangentially asking, is what resources should be afforded for those parents of lower-socioeconomic status who have a child as a result of rape and keep the child. In that case perhaps a special allowance should be offered in terms of greater benefits to their children. Don’t have a perfect answer their. However, again my overarching point is we should want to discourage any single woman, particularly poor women from having unwed kids, PARTICULARLY when they don’t have the financial resources and are under age 25 or so (no exact cutoff). I’m not even arguing necessarily on policy grounds, but on morality grounds don’t those women have a responsibiilty to those childrend and society to work on their education, work careers/trades/jobs, and try to establish relationships before brining kids into this world? I truly believe if that were to happen more (whether from better sex education, to more social efforts to champion the cuase of getting married, having a career and being over 25 etc.) the country, the mom, (hopefully the dad too) and the child would all have better economic, social, and emotional lives.

  135. rational_male
    July 28, 2011 at 2:13 am

    Statistics the best I can find on rape and adoption.

    Total of 32,000 rape related pregnancies, 5.9% resulting in adoption. (~2000 rape related adoptions per year)

    http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0002937896701412

    Total amount of adoptions in U.S. ~ about 120,000

    http://www.childwelfare.gov/pubs/s_adoptedhighlights.cfm

    IF these numbers are right (and I tried to check), then this means rape-related adoptions are less than 1.5% of adoptions.

    THIS IS NO WAY NEGATES THE TRAUMA FOR THESE INDIVIDUALS, but as a policy standpoint 1.5% of cases should not be a major factor.

    If you have different data I am certainly am open to it.

  136. knufflebunny
    July 28, 2011 at 2:31 am

    I just finished reading this thread, and now I am trying to examine the feelings that are burbling up.

    I have experience with adoption from a number of angles: I was raised in a family with adopted and foster siblings, I am raising another woman’s child, my aunt was one of “the girls that went away” and her parents later adopted that child. A cousin successfully adopted from foster care and a sibling adopted internationally.

    Other than my sibling and grandparents, in every case the children arrived at their second home through foster care. There are challenges, but aren’t all children challenging, in the end?

    I love all my brothers equally, the one who is adopted, the one who was fostered and the one who is genetically related to me. Some people don’t understand that they are all “really” family or how thanksgiving can include my brother and his brother and sister-in-law. I am grateful for this huge group of people who are family because when it became clear that I wasn’t ever going to be pregnant, it was easy to welcome a teenager who needed extra care into my home.

    My girl calls me by my name but refers to me as her mom or foster mom to others. She goes home on holidays but knows she always has a safe place with us. I am white and middle class, her family is poor and foreign; she is determined to have a career so she has enough money to never be hungry again and to and send her sisters to school.

    I understand that foster to adoption is not the same as infant adoption, and kids end up in the foster system for all sorts of reasons. It always rubs me the wrong way when the assumption is that adoption equals infant adoption, and those kids in foster care are so broken that it makes sense that adopting them would be the last choice.

  137. Emily
    July 28, 2011 at 6:47 am

    I watched Catelyn’s 16 & Pregnant while nursing my newborn daughter and cried and cried and cried.

    I think one interesting thing to note about open adoption is that it can mean anything from knowing where your kid is bit not having contact to having a relationship akin to an aunt, babysitter or close family friend. And those kinds of relationships also exist outside of adoption in some families. The work of parenting can be shared many different ways. Some kids live with their mothers and grandparents, and the grandparents take on a lot of parenting responsibility. Some families drop kids off for a weekend, or a couple months, or a couple years while the parent has something else they must attend to. And those situations also require negotiation and dealing with feelings about who is the “real” parent and how all the adults relate to the child.

    I think we are learning that adoption has to function more like those “extended family” situations and less like cutting off one set of parents and replacing them with another. Accepting an adopted child means accepting their past and having to deal with their other family members. That doesn’t mean the first family will have any particular relationship to the adoptee — it’s going to be different for each family. But the US has a history of giving all the power to decide that relationship to the adoptive parents, and that’s not right. It was justified as being “best” for the kid originally but it seems pretty clear now that that’s not true – it was best for the adoptive parents.

  138. Eli
    July 28, 2011 at 7:14 am

    I’m neither gay nor a member of the adoption community, but I don’t understand why it’s inappropriate to discuss the ethical concerns of queer prospective adoptive parents — for e.g., “My partner and I are queer, and we’re interested in expanding our family unit and raising a child/children together. Is there a morally and ethically acceptable way for us to do this? If so, which path that we could potentially pursue would be in the best interest of the child? Infant adoption/older child adoption/fostering (assuming that a queer couple would be allowed to foster parent — I don’t know. Might vary?)/known donor/traditional anonymous donor/etc.? None of the above?”

    Substitute “infertile” for queer. All of the above is still relevant, except that the infertile heterosexual couple may run up against less systemic pushback (or possibly not, depending on where they fall on the privilege grid).

    How will they know the answers if they don’t ask the questions and do research before jumping in? If we’ree concerned about the rights of and long-term impact on the children, I would think that these are conversations we’d WANT to be having with prospective parents.

  139. Nicole
    July 28, 2011 at 7:15 am

    Rational_male,

    I am not sure what stats on poverty and rape have to do with this discussion, frankly.

    Absolutely waiting to have kids until you are an adult is a good idea. Absolutely having two incomes or one higher income (as opposed to one low income) in a household translates to less poverty for the children in that house.

    What does that have to do with adoption?

    Are you trying to say more women who get pregnant while single and in poverty should give up their children?

    If that’s the argument, that is just more of the same rhetoric that puts pressure on women to relinquish their children / exploits those women.

  140. rox
    July 28, 2011 at 7:19 am

    rational_male– I assume you start from a pressumption as a conservative that providing social resources to families and children is not good.

    We disagree right there. I believe we have a responsability to children. The well being of the families children are living in is essential to their well being. What you are describing is decidedly anti-choice.

    You realize that whether a child’s mother was raped or not should have no bearing on societies willingnes to allocate needed resources? Punishing children for the actions of mothers is not a sustainable social policy to stop women from giving birth. Punishing children is not a valid method of controlling women’s decisions about creating families.

    Morally each person has a responsability to do the best they best they can by themselves, their family, and their society. Improve sex education is RIDICULOUSLY important. But unplanned pregnancies happen. The statistic you gave us was about reported rape and pregnancy. Let’s explore some other ways that male coercion and abuse might play more of role in this happening:

    “A sample of 356 females aged 14-20 who attended adolescent health clinics in Greater Boston between April and December 2006 were assessed for physical and sexual violence perpetrated by male partners and for exposure to sexual risk factors. Adjusted logistic regression models were used to examine the associations between intimate partner violence and standard sexual risk behaviors (e.g., multiple partnerships) and coercive or deceptive sexual risk factors (e.g., coerced condom nonuse).

    RESULTS: More than two-fifths of the sample had experienced intimate partner violence. In adjusted analyses, adolescents reporting intimate partner violence were more likely than others to report standard sexual risk behaviors–multiple partners, anal sex and unprotected anal sex (odds ratios, 1.7-2.2). They also were more likely to report coercive or deceptive sexual risk factors–partner sexual infidelity, fear of requesting condom use, negative consequences of condom request, and coerced condom nonuse (2.9-5.3).”

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21388506

    “Fifty-three percent of respondents reported physical or sexual partner violence, 19% reported experiencing pregnancy coercion and 15% reported birth control sabotage. One third of respondents reporting partner violence (35%) also reported reproductive control. Both pregnancy coercion and birth control sabotage were associated with unintended pregnancy (AOR 1.83, 95% CI 1.36-2.46, and AOR 1.58, 95% CI 1.14-2.20, respectively). In analyses stratified by partner violence exposure, associations of reproductive control with unintended pregnancy persisted only among women with a history of partner violence.

    CONCLUSIONS: Pregnancy coercion and birth control sabotage are common among young women utilizing family planning clinics, and in the context of partner violence, are associated with increased risk for unintended pregnancy.”

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20227548

    Fortunately an abuse and reproductive coercion prevention program carried out revently had a 70% increase compared to controls.

    Here’s the thing, unplanned pregnancies happen. We should and DO fight out butts off to try to get some better sex/relationship education and abuse prevention available for young people. We should, and DO fight our butts off as feminists or womans right activists to maintain access and education about abortion. But many of these girls who wind up pregnant find that even if they are pro-choice, abortion is not for them. In the fight to obtain better access to abortion, we have completely failed the women for whom abortion doesn’t fit with their emotions, who have already begun to bond with the embryo/fetus, who feel that the connection just happens and abortion doesn’t seem to be possible.

    Being pro-choice, means…. being PRO CHOICE. It does NOT mean fretting that adoption rates are too low and we need to research the best policies/advertising/counseling types that increase women’s choice for adoption. It does not mean that we need to tell women whether or NOT abortion is the right or wrong choice for them.

    And let’s face it, we have a lot of young and poor and underserved mothers who COULD USE OUR MOVEMENT TO ADVOCATE FOR THEM. People are terrified to stand up for young poor mothers because it might mean we are advocating immoral behavior (dammit shouldn’t they have just gotten abortions or chosen adoption?).

    Pro-choice, doesn’t mean much when it doesn’t actually involve fighting passionately for access to ALL choices. We absolutely should fight passionately to curb unplanned pregnancy through sex education, abuse prevention, and programs that enhance peer support and access to a sense of community for young girls.

    The fight against unplanned pregnancy must find a humane way to realise that an unplanned pregnancy is not always unwanted. I absolutely did NOT feel I had the support from strong educated women when I wanted to keep my daughter at 18. I had every one from everywhere around me trying to run me down.

    That is NOT empowering women. that is NOT supporting women. It is absolutely not the ideal that a women will face and unplanned pregnancy and want to parent before she is entirely prepared.

    It’s also unspeakably human. Our war on adolescent/teen parenting should not happen through attacking the well beings of the women and children affected by it. Our desire to help women make decisions that are beneficial for society and themselves should not happen by making teen pregnancy so PURPOSEFULLY terrible for children it will terrify women out of getting pregnant. Part of better sex education should include discussions of ethical issues in family planning.

    Punishing children and families for the choices of women is NOT an ethical solution to make future women scared of teen/young parenting.

  141. rational_male
    July 28, 2011 at 8:04 am

    rox,

    Interesting studies. I will have to look at them more to understand their detailed methods and take my own conclusions.

    I do start from the premise that providing resources to children is often justified and in fact desirable both economically and morally. For someone who is an adult (and maybe even near adult) they should as CLOSE TO POSSIBLE support themselves. Obviously that brings up the issue that if a child is in a poor finanial situation how does society deal with that. No easy answers here.

    However, the one thing that again strikes me throughout your response is almost NO desire to put ANY responsibility on the mother. Girls 14-20 (just as boys) should receive better sex education training, but they ALSO HAVE A CHOICE NOT TO HAVE SEX. RIGHT? This is maddening to me when usually liberals, and often feminists push fervently for better sex education about how to have safe sex, but then seem to never/rarely EMPHASIZE how inherently risky teen sex is to the kids and the ramifications are to 15 year olds and how their future prospects are SO MUCH WORSE FINANICALLY, SOCIALLY, ECONOMICALLY, for them and ANY of their children if they get pregnant.

    If I am mistaken and you advocate that a fervent part about their responsibilites and dangers of teen pregnancy is part of your message then I take back what I said, but I suspect you will object at me putting any judgement on the women for having SOME responsibility for their sex lifes.

    I chose (indeed chose, and not from a religious stance either) to have sex until my last year of college… how is that not personal responsibility that I displayed? A few relatives of mine have a daughter nearing the end of high school and they have stressed to her that if she gets pregnant they will NOT support her going to one of the great colleges she will likely go to and will have to go to a community college or what she can afford. While if she were to actually get pregnant I think that they might change their stance, it doesn’t change the fact that they included putting responsibiility on her when they sexually educated her. Is that not a good, desirable thing? If you agree that would be great, but I fear the response will be something of the effect that you are trying to “control women and young girls” and tell them what to do.

    I am not. But, if they do those things, they are responsible, and not victims. That just seems common sense, until we create a society where no responsibility is the norm.

    One of the orginal comments which was pretty negative (unfair I mind you in light of what I’m about to say) about me insinuating that “conservatives” only advocate responsibiliity and rugged individualism to others is ridiculous. I have been more than rational and acknowledged that abstinence only education does not work (something 80%+ of social conservatives would villify me for saying) and that governmental programs for poor children are needed etc. But it just breeds a cycle of a multitude of issues when NO or VERY LITTLE responsibility is put on the person.

    Last statement, and I’m curious if you agree from a feminist perspective. By indicating that these girls/young women seem to be a victim so often aren’t you almost telling them that they are weak and not strong enough to stand up for themselves? (I get that SOME are truly taken advantage of and those who abuse/rape young women should rot in jail.. BUT THAT IS NOT MOST young woman’s situation)

  142. Nicole
    July 28, 2011 at 8:04 am

    Punishing children for the actions of mothers is not a sustainable social policy to stop women from giving birth. Punishing children is not a valid method of controlling women’s decisions about creating families.

    Bingo.

    The fight against unplanned pregnancy must find a humane way to realise that an unplanned pregnancy is not always unwanted. I absolutely did NOT feel I had the support from strong educated women when I wanted to keep my daughter at 18.

    Yes, yes, and yes.

  143. rational_male
    July 28, 2011 at 8:25 am

    Rox,

    From the last comment in seems to imply that you said while your pregnancy was unintended when you were 18… it was not unwanted.. I do not know the circumstances of the event (and this may be some of the reason for your strong feelings on this issue, and I can’t know what it was/is like to be 18 and pregnant) but assuming (and I hope I am right) that you were not abused or raped or molested (I mention them as qualifiers that negate what I’m about to say) aren’t you responsible for getting pregnant at 18?

    And isn’t that a less than ideal thing which teenagers should be told they have responsibility in? I AM NOT trying to inflame the issue, and if I got too personal I apologize, but its really a culture where we don’t give people enough responsibility that really scares me.

    And I did agree we should help children (I dont believe 2 year olds should pull themselves up by their bootstraps as you seemed ton insinuate), and in many situations children are helped (statistically for sure at least) if they are raised by a wealthier, upper-middle class family than by a single teen mom. Those may not be nice things to here, but they are factually correct based on future economic and socioeconomic outcomes.

    There are amazing examples of single mothers who raise their kids (and my mom raised us when my father tragically died before my teen years) so I ahve RIDICULOUS respect for those outliers, but there is no reason to also not tell things how they are and put responsibility on people.

  144. Brigid
    July 28, 2011 at 8:37 am

    Kathleen: Brigid — if you are seriously considering using donor genetic material to have a child, it would be well worth your while to look into what adult donor-conceived children have to say about it. Their opinions are far from universally positive.

    Were you thinking of any in particular, or is this a general suggestion? (Either is fine, obvs, but if you do have suggestions and want to share, I’m happy to take notes, is what I’m saying.)

  145. Brigid
    July 28, 2011 at 8:50 am

    rational_male,

    Up until now, I’ve had a very loose moderation style (which is to say, no real moderation), and I would like to keep it that way. I would prefer not to shut anyone down or start deleting comments. However, at this point I do want to step in and say that your recent comments are beginning to stray into territory that is a) off-topic for this post and b) comes dangerously close to I consider slut-shaming and concern trolling. To be clear, I’m neither making a decision to delete any of your comments at this point nor threatening to delete future comments. But I ask that you take your concerns about teen sexual activity elsewhere. Thanks!

  146. rox
    July 28, 2011 at 8:51 am

    Yes people have responsability. You would assume wrong. I mention victimization because when girls are young they are much more easily bullied or coerced into sex they don’t even want to be having, or coerced/bullied/forced into sex without condoms. Rape statistics about CONVICTED rape miss out on a huge amount of sexual exploitation that happens to women and that is highly correlated with unplanned pregnancy.

    Women and young girls who are vulnerable to unplanned pregnancy- STATISTICALLY are facing life greater life adversity. Life adversity that we are already failing to help young girls with because policies designed to “make parents take responsability” nearly universally are in fact just removing resources from families and not- what could in fact work better– creating programs that improve discussion and encouragement with ethics and responsible behavior and include a willingness to hear what sorts of factors might make the ideal YOU and the EDUCATED CLASSES have determined is best for others not make sense to them, or not fit with their ideals.

    In china do you think it worked to implement a forced one birth per family policy? Well it did in fact work. But, is it ethical? Would it be ethical to implement here? Policies that ignore individual human beings in order to unilaterally enforce the “greater good” without compassion for the individuals involved cause a lot of suffering.

    Bombarding women with logic like this (you ethically must place and it is wrong to need resources!) in order to get their child into the upper class results in trauma and pain. It is not a HUMANE way to get resources to the mothers child. It might look good on paper (to you), but the real goal of it is to punish the mother. To completely destroy her for having gotten pregnant.

  147. rox
    July 28, 2011 at 9:01 am
  148. Nicole
    July 28, 2011 at 9:03 am

    Brigid, thank you for your comments. Unfortunately this is typical in discussions of adoption… instead of actually being about adoption ethics, they become about women trying to defend themselves for having gotten pregnant in the first place.

  149. Kathleen
    July 28, 2011 at 9:11 am

    Brigid — thanks for the intervention; I’ve just been scrolling through r_m’s comments rather than reading them but they are causing an otherwise-interesting discussion to lose steam!

    Well, the donor stuff is tricky because (and I’m working from memory here), I believe some kind of right wing organization did a study that set out to be negative, so the politics of getting good, unbiased information is difficult. Nevertheless, the responses of (I believe it was mostly now-adults conceived with donor sperm) people who really felt robbed of a connection and of necessary information about their background was real. Much of it was very similar to what adults who underwent closed adoptions as children have to say. I am pretty certain reading about it would be a couple of google searches away.

    Just to be clear — I don’t want to come across as somebody who is hostile to non-traditional family formation. A friend of mine who is gay is father to the daughter of a lesbian couple; they all live in the same city, he has his daughter once a week and would be glad to have her more often; she has gone to his family gatherings and met all her cousins and aunts and uncles and what-not on his side of the family. She’s a lucky kid, with three loving parents and extended families. That kind of outcome is not always possible in any kind of family; but it really is the job of parents to go the extra emotional mile on behalf of children, not the reverse.

  150. anonadoptee
    July 28, 2011 at 9:19 am

    Exactly. This discussion isn’t really about preventing teen pregnancy…that has been discussed elsewhere and can always be discussed. We are talking about what happens after someone is already pregnant and the decisions women are often coerced to make…whether they are coerced out of an abortion for religious reasons or family pressure, coerced into abortion or adoption for financial or other reasons, or forced into keeping a child. These are all bad. Women should be free to choose abortion, adoption, or parenting without any social stigma or pressure. WE AREN’T THERE YET. By any means.

    And for the record, I do think that if abortion stigma was done away with and was no longer a “morality war”, if birth control and sex-education was open and destigmatized as well, that infant adoption rates would be even lower.

    Lets stop making this about other things.

    Nicole:
    Brigid, thank you for your comments. Unfortunately this is typical in discussions of adoption… instead of actually being about adoption ethics, they become about women trying to defend themselves for having gotten pregnant in the first place.

  151. July 28, 2011 at 9:19 am

    Adoption is absolutely a feminist issue as well as a human rights issue. The majority of INFANT adoption transactions in the US occur when an infant born to a young mother of lower socio-economic status is literally sold to people whom society deem to be more “fit” simply because they have more money or social status. However, the money does not go the expectant mother, but is used to line the pockets of the adoption agencies.

    If you are in doubt, look no further than websites for infant adoption agencies such as this one: http://www.christianadoptionconsultants.com/index.php?page=available-situations. There they list “situations” – be sure to note the pricing variance between a full Caucasian child ($30.5K) and a full African American child ($11.5K). This pricing is very typical of all adoption agencies: White babies cost more.

    Infant adoption as currently practiced in the United States is tantamount to baby-selling, except it isn’t the person doing all the work who gets rich (the mother), it is the adoption brokers and agencies.

    Please also note the agencies “reassurance” to potential adoptive parents this agency gives:

    We typically work in states that are considered “safe states” for adoptive parents in which laws are in favor of the adoptive couple. The birth mother usually signs consent within 24-48 hours after birth and she can not revoke her consent after she signs. This is a wonderful comfort to adoptive families because you do not have to be concerned with a waiting period in which she could change her mind and decide to parent.

    God forbid a mother decide she wants to parent HER OWN CHILD after she has carried it for nine months and then delivered that baby into this world. I personally know of several young mothers who were unduly pressured and coerced by their social workers at the agency to terminate their parental rights 24 hours after a difficult delivery, even when they were desperate to keep their child. Instead of helping these young mothers find a way to be successful parents (which many of them have gone on to do within a year or two after relinquishing), these social workers worked many long hours to procure the prize in the adoption industry: healthy white male infants whose mothers did not drink or smoke.

    One of these mothers is celebrating her son’s 1st birthday today with rivers of tears and great sorrow instead of the joy that should come with reaching such an important milestone.

    I am heartened by some of the women who have posted here about their experiences when they began to look into domestic infant adoption and how knowing the truth changed their views on adoption. When wealthy, privileged women begin set aside the strong desire to mother and critically examine the injustices heaped on the poor, the young, and the fertile then things will begin to improve for mothers and their children every where. Until then, one only need follow the money to uncover the stench of marginalization and commodification of human beings.

  152. July 28, 2011 at 9:21 am

    Dang it – forgot to close that blockquote tag. I guess trying to kid wrangle my wee ones and posting a response don’t mix as well as I thought it did!

    Melynda

  153. Brigid
    July 28, 2011 at 9:27 am

    Kathleen: Just to be clear — I don’t want to come across as somebody who is hostile to non-traditional family formation. […] That kind of outcome is not always possible in any kind of family; but it really is the job of parents to go the extra emotional mile on behalf of children, not the reverse.

    Thank you for elaborating. I really do appreciate the information — I started this thread, and am asking questions in it, in good faith. I’m not here because I want to push one way of viewing family or to seek justification for serving my own needs to the exclusion of others; rather, as Eli put it, I’m genuinely interested in how I can create a family in a way that is morally and ethically acceptable and socially just.

    I’d also like to thank everyone here who is discussing these issues in good faith and with respect, and to thank anonadoptee, wasabi, rox, and Amanda for sharing your perspectives and the perspectives of those who are often ignored or silenced. I am listening, and I believe others are, too.

  154. Kathleen
    July 28, 2011 at 9:48 am

    Melynda — that is really appalling.

    btw, Amanda Marcotte has a post up today at Pandagon related to these issues. I agree with everything she has to say, except that she suggests it’s a mistake to view abortion as related to adoption. I think it absolutely is. First, the fact that giving up a child for adoption causes *vastly* more long-term trauma to women than does abortion but that this well-documented fact is invisible in the public dialogue; second, the fact that many women choose abortion *not* because they are so invested in their carefree lifestyle or whatever but *exactly* because they take parenting really seriously. They know how they want to parent; they know they can’t do it at that juncture in their lives; and they don’t trust strangers to do it for them.

    The entire discourse around abortion and domestic adoption is so full of lies, it’s completely maddening.

    (leaving aside international adoption, which as people here have pointed out is its own injustice-filled kettle of fish)

  155. Kathleen
    July 28, 2011 at 9:56 am

    anonadoptee: And for the record, I do think that if abortion stigma was done away with and was no longer a “morality war”, if birth control and sex-education was open and destigmatized as well, that infant adoption rates would be even lower.

    It already is, I mean, we already can see this clearly in trends over the past few decades.

    Several years ago I got into an on-line argument with Ethicist at the NYer because a couple wrote in asking if it would be wrong to check the box “Christian” when they were agnostics on a prospective-parent form for an adoption agency where mothers-to-be got to choose the adoptive family. The Ethicist said it would be just fine, because god forbid anyone should discriminate against them. His answer completely ignored the reality that pretty much the only women giving up those “gold-standard” white infants these days are religious women, who either out of conviction or intimidation don’t believe in abortion. The idea that the mother of the child had any right to *basic honesty* from prospective adoptive parents on an issue likely to be very important to her… gah, I kind of lost it. And then the Ethicist (!) in his answer made it clear that based on my Irish first name name he assumed I was a religious Catholic.

    (hee hee)
    (out of the whole enraging thing, that last bit was actually pretty funny to me)

  156. anonadoptee
    July 28, 2011 at 10:02 am

    Yeah, I’d agree that abortion and adoption both need to be discussed. Many people see adoption as the “good” solution to abortion. Adoption is always seen by the general public (especially religious conservatives) as the “correct” answer to unplanned pregnancy. To these people, keeping the child is wrong AND aborting is wrong because neither option fits into their conservative narrative of nuclear family.

    I myself, as an adoptee, was used as an anti-abortion poster child. In my community abortion was “very bad”. And so at anti-abortion poster holdings (roadside)…people would come up and comment at how grateful my parents must be that I was saved from abortion. I remember being told my bio-mom almost had an abortion but didn’t because she realized it was wrong and gave me up to my parents. I found out years later that was probably a lie, as my bio-mom’s family was against abortion, were religious, and my bio-mom wanted me. Other lies I was told were that my bio-mom did drugs throughout the pregnancy. When we talked I learned she had done drugs but stopped when she found out she was pregnant. (Even if she hadn’t it wouldn’t make her a bad person, obviously) My adoptive parents seemed to want me to view her as a bad person, which I don’t understand. Were they afraid I would want to go to her? Why lie?

    Now that I know her, they seem to almost relish in the fact that she is a (insert supposedly “lower-class” type job here) and that her family is poor. They have “reminded” me how lucky I was to have the life I did, the vacations, the school, the nice house and clothes, etc. Why would they do that? Were they jealous that I had so much in common with her, that we shared interests? I don’t know. But they reinforced the idea that society obviously feels that class and money make a difference in who deserves to parent.

    But yeah, back to abortion. As long as adoption is seen as a “good” alternative to the “bad” abortion, we have a problem. One of the signs I remember from my childhood (and have seen again) that anti-choicers hold at anti-abortion rallies says “Adoption is the best option”. It is not a coincidence that Crisis Pregnancy Centers that exist to talk women out of abortion are also strongly connected to adoption centers. In fact, they even tried to talk my sister (when she had an unplanned pregnancy and went there) into an adoption even though she had the monetary support of my parents. The anti-abortion movement doesn’t seem to really be about the women (duh)…it’s about the babies they can get into the hands of the “right” parents. So many people we hear arguing against abortion say things like “I can’t have children and there aren’t enough INFANTS to adopt so abortion should be illegal since there are families who need kids”. These Christians need to get an infant so they can indoctrinate the babies to become exactly what they want.

    http://www.thenation.com/article/160096/evangelical-adoption-crusade

    This is an interesting article. Technically it is mostly concerning international infant adoption, but it’s still interesting.

  157. anonadoptee
    July 28, 2011 at 10:10 am

    This is an interesting read from Pandagon, about apologies for forced adoptions in Australia.

    http://pandagon.net/index.php/site/comments/one_more_reason_the_term_is_anti_choice

    http://www.abc.net.au/news/2011-07-25/catholic-church-apologises-over-forced-adoptions/2808672

    From the News Article: “The Catholic Church in Australia has issued a national apology over past adoption practices that have been described as a “national disgrace”.

    The apology was prompted by an ABC investigation into claims of abuse and trauma in Newcastle.

    It is believed at least 150,000 Australian women had their babies taken against their will by some churches and adoption agencies between the 1950s and 1970s.”

  158. anonadoptee
    July 28, 2011 at 10:13 am

    Sorry for another post but this quote from Amanda at Pandagon is awesome:

    “Additionally, people cannot form fully informed opinions on reproductive rights without this history. Once you realize that anti-choicers have historically not just worked to suppress abortion rights but also to compel non-consenting adoptions, you really see how the movement isn’t “pro-life” at all, but just about controlling female sexuality, using childbirth as punishment for fornicators and reducing babies to tokens that are taken from the “undeserving” and handed to those who appear to be following the rules by being straight and married.”

  159. Azalea
    July 28, 2011 at 10:22 am

    rox:
    I will say that there DOES tend to be stigma attached to neglecting, abusing, or abandoning children. The stigma exists because these things hurt children. There may be mental illness/trauma/poor childhood conditions/chaotic circumstances that caused the parent to be incapable of preventing abuse/neglect/or abandonment. And I believe that deep compassion is in order when this happens. But that doesn’t make it any less harmful to the child. And in general people who callously would cause that kind of harm to a child WITHOUT some sort of mitigating factor, are the sort of people who would callously harm a child for their own interests.

    I believe that just as I have a right to choose not to hang out with abuser or people who lack values about compassion and social duties to others— I also would not want to hang out with women or men who believe their personal interests are more important than that of a child they created. so the old “no one has the right to a relationship with anyone” goes both ways. When people demonstrate a willingness to hurt others for their own interests, they might find that other people don’t want relationships with them and don’t see them the same. It happens.

    Just out of curiosity, how does your “no-one has the right to a parent child relationship with their parent” fit into older children situations where there will be no subsitute parent? Are you into moms saying, “Hey kid, you don’t have a right to relationship with me, just get out of my house?” to their 7 year olds? Sending them out on the streets? I’ve got some ethical problems with that. Yes.

    No. I have a far “stricter” view of what parenting means. Parenting means *sacrifice*, unapologetic, unreciprocated, sacrifice with little to no thanks. Your children, once you decide to become a parent, are *entitled* to *your* sacrifice until they are adults on their own two feet. Your children come *first* and if you tell a person who is *not* yet ready to make those inds of sacrifices that not doing so will hurt someone else’s feelings so just do it or you’ll be a callous bitch society will hate and abandon then you can pretty much bet on her resentment towards that child showing. Parenting comes from love, you just can not force the love to be there. Adoption may hurt the adoptive child’s feelings but how much more would it hurt to KNOW your mom and KNOW she resents you? To know she is only raising you because everyone pressured her into not giving you up? That she can’t stand to be around you because you’re her punishment for not having an abortion? Parenting is a lifelong choice. Being a parent to someone would make you a grandparent to someone else if they ever had a child, you can’t stop being someone’ parent because they turned out to be someone you don’t approve of.

    I was addressing adoption at infancy. There are women and I have met well over 100 in the DC metro area who surrendered newborns because they did NOT want to be a mother but did NOT want to kill the child either. Yes, there are pro-choice women who would feel as though they killed a child if they had an abortion, again the connection between the fetus and the child are hardcore. I know women who cried when they surrendered the child because they feared the child would grow up to hate them. Or they cried thinking about the pain they would cause the child but knew it was what was best for them.

  160. anonadoptee
    July 28, 2011 at 10:30 am

    Azalea,

    Can we stop pretending that any of us has said women should be pressured into keeping a child they don’t want?

    How exactly do you get from “Women should be offered all resources necessary to make a non-coerced decision” to “we want all women to be forced to raise their babies”?

    And you keep ignoring the fact that non-coerced adoptions (as in no coercion whatsoever) are the MINORITY.

    Oh and “adoption may hurt the adopted child’s feelings”???? I don’t even know where to begin except I want to cry. You sound like an MRA saying “ooh sexism hurts women’s feelings sorry…”. Our “feelings” are more than hurt. Once people start accepting that there is a whole lot more to being an adoptee and first mother than “hurt feelings” we will calm down a bit.

    And really, if you feel that abortion is killing an actual child, I don’t think you are pro-choice. And to be honest, if a woman chooses adoption because she’s been raised to believe abortion is killing and “bad”, then I’d consider that a form of coercion. Society and religion plays a factor in all of this.

  161. Sandy
    July 28, 2011 at 10:42 am

    rational_male:
    in many situations children are helped (statistically for sure at least) if they are raised by a wealthier, upper-middle class family than by a single teen mom. Those may not be nice things to here, but they are factually correct based on future economic and socioeconomic outcomes.

    ….

    there is no reason to also not tell things how they are and put responsibility on people.

    Rational_male, it sounds like you’re crowning future economic and socioeconomic outcomes with way too much importance here. Sure it’s better to be wealthy than poor, but we’re hearing about the emotional fallout felt by first mothers and adoptees, the subsequent brutal feelings of having lost a child, or feeling uncomfortably out of place. Financial situation obviously plays a huge role in the decision to relinquish a child, but by saying “it’s better economically to be raised by a wealthy woman than a poor one” I think you’re sorta missing the point. Money isn’t the be-all end-all when it comes to who should be raising a baby–that’s what the firstmothers and adoptees we’re hearing from seem to by and large be saying.

    I’m pretty sure the vast majority of people in this forum are all for free or low cost contraception and better sex education. But the huge number of unplanned pregnancies in this country clearly shows that our society isn’t doing a very good job helping young women avoid pregnancy. So putting the responsibility for becoming pregnant 100% on the young pregnant woman seems like a fallacy. (Is that the right word?) If we gave young people the tools to avoid unplanned pregnancy, the way European nations do, maybe we’d be doing better in this area. But since we as a society are failing many of our young women this way, I don’t think we can be like, “Well, you got pregnant, it’s your own fault, it’s 100% on you. Figure it out.” Our culture talks up personal responsibility, but it takes a village, and if you don’t give a person the right tools for a job (in this case, better sex ed, access to abortion, etc) , they’re not going to be able to achieve the desired outcome (delaying pregnancy until a desirable time, with financial security and stability and all). Besides, what does saying “put responsibility on people” actually accomplish? Are you suggesting that “putting responsibility” be a deterrent to potential teenaged mothers? Because it sounds to me like blame, and nothing more.

    I come to this discussion as a person raised by her bio parents in the ole traditional two-parent household. I am close to an adult who was one of “the girls who went away,” but that’s the extent of it. If my privilege starts to show in this discussion please call me on it, I know I have a lot of learning to do.

  162. Sandy
    July 28, 2011 at 10:52 am

    “(in this case, better sex ed, access to abortion, etc) ”

    Err, I meant contraception, not abortion, although they’re both 100% essential.

  163. Nicole
    July 28, 2011 at 10:55 am

    So, now that we’re back on topic…

    The bottom line is that adoption as it currently exists needs a complete overhaul. That includes all three types of adoption (domestic infant, international and foster adopt). And there are changes that need to happen in ART too.

    That being said, it’s hard to talk about all these kinds of adoption plus ART all at once. They all have their own issues. At the heart of all of it, though… the children HAVE to matter. The adults they grow up to become HAVE to matter. Adoption and ART can’t be about what makes adults who want children happy… they have to be about the children.

    We are long, long way from there.

    And in order for it to be about the children, it also has to be about their genetic parents–about ensuring that they are actually able to make informed choices, and that those choices aren’t made out of fear, discrimination, or institutional classism or racism or sexism or religious fanaticism or any other -ism.

    It’s interesting that this post came about as a spring-off from the pregnancy-as-public-affair post, because I think that idea does tie in with adoption. Women get pressured into choices in large part because pregnancy and child-bearing is seen as a public issue. And if you’re someone who “shouldn’t” be pregnant by cultural or societal standards, not only is your pregnancy fair game for discussion, but so are your choices about whether to abort, relinquish, or parent.

    I was one of those “good girls” from a two-parent, conservative, Christian, middle-class, white family. I got pregnant junior year of college. At the time I got pregnant, I was already starting to break from much of my upbringing, but I was firmly personally pro-life.

    From the outside looking in, it seems unimagineable to a lot of people that a 21-year-old white woman within a year of getting her bachelor’s degree from an educated, middle-class family could be subject to exploitation or discrimination. And yes, I had many many privileges. Of course what happens in infant adoption is that it’s exactly those things that society values, those things that are privileges, that become commodities. As a healthy white female who did not smoke, drink, or do drugs and had a decent IQ and came from nuclear family… the white, healthy baby girl I was carrying was a priceless commodity in the adoption world.

    Wait, I take that back–my baby was able to be priced–she was worth $30-$50K in the adoption market.

    She was such a commodity, and the fact that she was being carried by an unmarried mother was so repugnant in my subculture, that my feelings about whether to parent or place were practically irrelevant in the eyes of many. Certainly the large Christian adoption agency I used had a bias in the outcome of my decision–multiple biases, in fact. At 21 and only just emerging into my own worldviews, I didn’t see the bias–not even when they told me, after I got in the door, they would not help me find parenting resources (a service they advertised and one I specifically asked about before entering their door for the first time, having told them before ever coming to them I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do yet.)

    We are asked to make pros and cons lists about parenting vs placing. When you stare a piece of paper that says “Pros for placing” and in that column you have “two parents, both have master’s degrees, financially stable, own their house” etc etc and then you stare at the “Pros for parenting” list and it says basically “I really love my baby…” it’s not a slanted deck. Now the rhetoric comes in: “Adoption, THE loving option.” “Adoption is a selfless choice.” “You should think about what’s best for your baby.” There’s no discussion about whether what society deems BEST for your baby is, in actuality, what’s best for YOUR baby. There’s no discussion about whether your love for your child should maybe (or could possibly) carry more weight than the fact that the adoptive parents have masters’ degrees and you don’t. In other words, there’s no challenging or thinking through whether the values that society holds are really your own values.

    Pressure on women to relinquish still exists. We definitely have come a ways from the Baby Scoop Era (1950s-1970s), when abortion was illegal, large percentages of unmarried women were forced into adoption, women were sent en masse to maternity homes, women’s signatures were forged on termination papers, women were tied down to tables in the delivery room and denied pain medication, babies were whisked away and women weren’t even allowed to see the children they’d birthed. Thank goodness we’ve come a ways from that.

    But that doesn’t mean it’s okay now. In many ways, the institution of adoption is just as sinister as it ever was, it’s just changed tactics. OUtright force still exists, but it’s more rare.. now it’s manipulation, subtle coercion, guilt trips, lies by ommision, indoctrination.

    I’m one of the lucky ones… I have a fully open adoption with my ten-year-old daughter. She has good parents who love her and are open with her about her adoption and who I am. My parented daughter gets to have a relationship with her sister. And ten years after relinquishing, I can say that I am in a good place in life and pretty happy in life. From the outside looking in, it appears as if adoption worked out beautifully for all of us.

    But I’m also changed forever by the experience. And for those who are willing to dig beneath the surface, and for those willing to look at what it took to get me here… they’ll start to realize that I’m okay and happy DESPITE adoption, not because of it. Relinquishing didn’t lead to a carefree life or even allow me to continue life (even one WITH cares) as it was pre-pregnancy. It fundamentally changed me. Relinquishment led to PTSD symptoms, nightmares, depression, insomnia, a lack of will to eat, a suicide attempt. It led to a realization that my original life goals weren’t so important now that I’d become a mother and lost a daughter, and that I’d have to forge a new life path, anyway.

    But we’re not told these things when we’re single and trying to decide what to do about our pregnancies. We’re not told the effects of relinquishing can be and for many women are just as life-altering as parenting. We’re not told that there’s evidence that women who relinquish fare worse than our counterparts who parent or abort. And we’re certainly not told that adoptees–our children– can experience loss and abandonment as a result of being relinquished.

    And so whatever choices we make are rarely fully informed. They don’t want us fully informed, after all–why would they? Our babies are commodities.

  164. Azalea
    July 28, 2011 at 11:01 am

    Re: Open vs Closed Adoption

    I think that should be up to the person who is placing the child up for adoption. There needs to be reform in the laws reinforcing the decision for open adoptions. If the bio mom wants to maintain contact, it should be done on her terms. Hopefully she can find a good family that will agree to her terms but it should be non negotiable and it should be legally enforced.

    This would clear up a lot of “what ifs” and wondering. If the adoption was open and it’s legally enforced then the biomom’s relationship to the child is done on her terms. If it is closed, it is still done on her terms (no contact, she has anonymity) and there would be paperwork showing that it was HER decision if the adoptee ever had doubt.

  165. Kathleen
    July 28, 2011 at 11:21 am

    anonadoptee — that Nation article, oh god, so upsetting. It’s unbelievable what goes on even today.

    Nicole — I just wanted to say how much I admire the way you narrated your own really difficult story here; stories like yours deserve so much more coverage than they get. Thank you.

    Azalea — I’m at the point where I’m going to scroll through your comments just as I do with r_m’s. You are not listening or trying to learn in any way.

  166. July 28, 2011 at 11:23 am

    There have been a couple people wondering if they’re being heard, if their stories here are making a difference. I just wanted to let you know that, as a woman who’s facing potential infertility, I am listening. Since I was diagnosed with PCOS and realized that I may not be able to have a biological child, many people have pushed me to adopt. I’ve been told that I’m selfish for considering fertility treatments and that “there are so many unwanted children.” So thank you so much for telling your stories. The linked fugitivus article at comment 7 is also amazing.

    This in particular really resonated with me:

    “For our modern, legal concept of adoption to exist, families must be broken. Adoption is not, and can never be, a best-case scenario. It relies upon the worst-case scenario having already come to fruition. From there, you’re working with what is instead of what should be. That should be will never go away. For the entire lifetime of everybody involved in adoption, that should be exists, and it hurts. What is can still turn out to be wonderful, beautiful, incredible, but what is will never be what should be.”

    There needs to be so much more support for women. Fertility needs to be viewed as a legitimate medical problem, with accompanying research and insurance-covered treatment. Women who become pregnant need to be supported in whatever decision they make. If they decide to have an abortion, that should be acceptable. If they decide to keep the baby, they should be provided with the resources they need to raise that child in a safe and secure environment. And, as Harriet Jacobs puts it, if the worst-case-scenario occurs, and there is a child with parents who do not want hir, then adoption should be pursued, keeping the needs of the child at the forefront of the conversation. This thread has really clarified these issues for me, so, again, thank you to adult adoptees and first mothers for speaking up here.

  167. Kathleen
    July 28, 2011 at 11:24 am

    okay, I can’t resist — Azalea, your answer (coming from a place of “here’s this thing I just thought of, not having read any of the huge literature available and ignoring every source of information people here have offered to me”) completely ignores the rights of children to knowledge about their backgrounds.

    (I know, I shouldn’t feed the troll. I know. Not that you’re always a troll, Azalea, but you really are being one in this discussion).

  168. rox
    July 28, 2011 at 11:27 am

    “I know women who cried when they surrendered the child because they feared the child would grow up to hate them. Or they cried thinking about the pain they would cause the child but knew it was what was best for them.”

    Interesting, you claimed that these women had no feelings about it and felt completely great about it originally. Did you notice how a woman above said that adoption was awesome and it hurts everday, in the same sentence? Is it at all possible, that you don’t know all the ins and outs of what they were crying about? That you don’t actually know everything that went into these women’s experiences?

    From your “baby killing” comment– I really wonder exactly how YOUR role and perception of what was going on affected these women’s experiences or what they were willing to tell you about their feelings. Or how your responses influenced their perception of their own situation.

    I have known many many many, first mothers who have said “I just want to get back to my life. I just want to be done with this. I’m scared. I just want back to my normal life. This will be such a relief, the adoption will be so much better. This is such a great decision. It’s the right thing, I just don’t want to parent, I don’t even feel a connection, it’s too much.”

    If you stay in contact with women who say such things during and after their experiences with adoption you will find that it’s usually much more complex than that. I have spent a lot of time in “considering adoption” pregnancy forums, and have found that no such women who are as one dimensional as you describe actually exist– EVEN AMONG women who adamantly claim adoption was their prefered choice and they just didn’t want the baby.

    I’m honestly not sure that your perception of these women is accurate and I’m a little concerned about what your role in their lives and decision making process has actually been.

    From a “risk to the woman’s emotional and physical health” perspective, it sounds like they may have been helped far greater by abortion if they knew for sure they weren’t going to want to/be able to parent— what was your role in their decision not to “kill their babies”?

    But no, when people are unable to love their children, the cure is NOT to force them to parent. Were they unable BUT WANTED to love their children? If so as a professional working with them, I wonder if you explored trauma/issues/mental illness that may have been interfering with their ability to connect? It’s very common that women who WANT a pregnancy are having a hard time trying to connect and it’s very possible to help a woman who wants to feel that, but feels like it’s just not happening work through it.

    Or did they just feel that everything was so hopeles and helpless that they just wanted to escape? Another common way to feel during an unplanned pregnancy. Again did you address that these feelings should NOT be used to determine whether a woman loves her child, or the potential to connect with that love? the decision not to parent should be made out of “I do not want to parent”, not out of, “I am overwhelmed and terrified and this is too overwhelming”. When we are scared, it’s hard to even connect to our own hearts or find out what we want.

    Adoption should absolutely be a legal option for women who are unable to parent, or who vehemenently wish to be rid of a child. In general, when people want to be rid of their living children there is some serious crisis going on, and it happens that even with extensive resources this cannot be fully addressed in time to parent, or that the parent will still genuinely wish to be free of the parental responsability. It happens and usually women WANT to be able to connect, meaning usually there is almost universally a mitigating circumstance affecting their ability to love. Adoption is certainly a much better solution for the child in this situation.

    I sincerely wonder how well the needs of these women were actually being met in your professional relationships with them. The fact that you believe research is useless makes me wonder how knowledgable you actually are about pregnancy, trauma, crisis, adverse childhoods, cognition, the effects of poverty, the development of numb and emotionless states, and outcomes for women who choose different options to deal with these things; and why you were given a professional role in helping these women face issues you refuse to research or become more knowledgeable about.

  169. Kathleen
    July 28, 2011 at 11:29 am

    Shoshie — I am sorry to hear about your health issues. That sounds hard.

    I am uncomfortable with the narratives of mothers and adult adoptees being turned toward the end of “and thus, health insurance should cover infertility treatment”, though. That’s really not what should be at the center of this conversation.

  170. anonadoptee
    July 28, 2011 at 11:30 am

    Azalea,

    I think I can’t even respond to you anymore. You aren’t listening. It’s painful to read your comments so I’m going to scroll down too. I imagine you are of the belief that adoptees don’t have the right to know who their bio-parents are too. That makes me sick. In most states we are NOT even allowed to see our original birth certificate. I didn’t even know I HAD another one (naive me)…until I met my mom. They make a new birth certificate with the parents listed as the bio parents are the adoptive parents! Then the original with the actual mother (or parents) is sealed away and we are NEVER allowed to see it. How is that human rights? Some states have opened these records to adults, but most still keep them forever sealed. This is a violation of rights.

  171. Theaz
    July 28, 2011 at 11:34 am

    I’d like to add to the thank yous to the people sharing their first-person narratives about their adoption experiences. I’ve recently become friends with an adult adoptee and discovered I’m absolutely clueless about these issues and, moreso, most of what I have been told and learned to think about adoption is untrue and harmful. The research and the information in the threads is absolutely valued as I try to reform my thinking about this, be a better friend and work these issues into my feminism.

    Also, Kathleen, I’m with you on the scrolling at this point.

  172. anonadoptee
    July 28, 2011 at 11:38 am

    I’d like to say thanks to those of you (you know who you are) who have taken the time to listen to all of us and are open to learning about adoption and how it’s not really as easy and simple as we’ve been led to believe. It makes me hopeful for a future where our voices are heard to the point of major change.

    Thanks. :)

  173. July 28, 2011 at 11:39 am

    Adoption is very much a feminist issue and a much overlooked one, or one viewed by some feminists only from the perspective of a rep[roductive “right” which is it not. Adoption cannot occur until after a child is born and, while there is a 14th amendment right to parent one’s own child, no one has a right or entitlement to a another’s child.

    It is very much a feminist issue as it pits the haves against the have nots and what we have is perilously close to Margaret Atwood’s chilling Handmaid’s Tale. Adoption is a market-driven multi billion dollar industry that is far too often corrupt and involves kidnapping, coercion, deception and child trafficking…with children then “laundered” or filtered from orphanages through “reputable” agencies in the US who claim no knowledge other than that they were “abandoned.” Adoption all too often exploits the poor and commodifies their children to fill a demand under the guide of “rescuing” “unwanted” children from Asia (including China), Eastern Europe, South and Central America as well as Africa.

    “Regrettably, in many cases, the emphasis has changed from the desire to provide a needy child with a home, to that of providing a needy parent with a child. As a result, a whole industry has grown, generating millions of dollars of revenues each year . . .” The Special Rapporteur, United Nations, Commission on Human Rights, 2003.

    “Over the past 30 years, the number of families from wealthy countries wanting to adopt children from other countries has grown substantially. At the same time, lack of regulation and oversight, particularly in the countries of origin, coupled with the potential for financial gain, has spurred the growth of an industry around adoption, where profit, rather than the best interests of children, takes centre stage. Abuses include the sale and abduction of children, coercion of parents, and bribery.” UNICEF’s position on Inter-country adoption.

    Some exceptions, and interesting feminist perspectives on adoptions are these books:

    – Wake up Little Suzie by Ricki Solinger
    – Beggars and Choosers by Ricki Solinger
    – The Girls who Went Away by Ann Fessler
    – THE STORK MARKET: America’s multi-Billion Dollar Unregulated Adoption Industry by Mirah Riben

    And these articles:

    – Feminist Lens on Adopption by Katie Leo http://www.womenspress.com/main.asp?SectionID=1&SubSectionID=1&ArticleID=3238

    – Reverse Robinhoodism: Pitting Poor Against Affluent Women in the Adoption Industry, Riben and Wright http://grannyscupboard.posterous.com/reverse-robinhoodism-pitting-poor-against-aff

    – The Lie we Love by E.J. Graff http://www.utne.com/Politics/International-Adoption-Lies-Orphans-Myths.aspx

    – Lies, Damned Lies, Statistics and Baby Selling? Bartholet’s Pro-Adoption Extremism is Anti Child and Family by M. Riben

  174. chingona
    July 28, 2011 at 11:45 am

    anonadoptee: How exactly do you get from “Women should be offered all resources necessary to make a non-coerced decision” to “we want all women to be forced to raise their babies”?

    A question was raised way upthread about whether framing this discussion as one of “rights” was distorting the discussion, but I think one of the reasons you and rox are getting some push back around this issue is because rox has stated that children have a *right* to their biological parents. If you truly believe that they have a right to their biological parents, then it follows that parents should be forced to raise their child.

    I overwhelmingly agree with most of the criticisms of adoption as currently practiced, and I also recognize that the people raising those criticisms from the inside feel like they have to push back strongly against the popular conceptions around adoptions (many of which are harmful and even odious). I also recognize, as the adult child of a teenage mother, that a lot of mainstream feminists are pretty big on the “having a child will ruin your life” thing.

    But when someone frames the issue as one of a child’s right to their biological parent, that is going to sometimes conflict with a woman’s right to not be forced to parent. That being relinquished represents a significant loss for some adoptees doesn’t actually trump a woman’s right to not be a parent. There is no *right* to not experience significant loss in life.

    And saying that does not in any way represent support for exploitative and manipulative practices by adoption agencies or support for a mainstream adoption narrative that lacks nuance or lacks the voices of first mothers and adult adoptees.

  175. July 28, 2011 at 11:48 am

    Azalea… I said it up-thread and I’ll say it again.

    Being a parent is not always a choice (I say ‘not always’ because adoptive parents, and step-parents and anyone raising children that may not be biologically *theirs* is ALSO a legitimate type of parent). RAISING A CHILD however, IS a choice.

    But if you carry a child to term, you are a parent, whether you have involvement in that child’s life or not.

    And that child has a right to know that. We ALL have a right to know where we came from, and neither adoptive parents, relinquishing parents, or government interference should get to take that away.

  176. Sandy
    July 28, 2011 at 11:58 am

    I really hope the people saying we should have changes to ART are referring strictly to things like issues of surrogacy, DC, and implanting eight embryos at a time. I.e., where the rights of the prospective parents end and the rights of other people begin.

    I wish more people had access to the most basic forms of ART. I know a bit about the issues involved in surrogacy and less about donor conception, but imo your basic Clomid/Follostim/IVF stuff ought to be available to those who can’t conceive naturally and want to, regardless of having either 1) thousands of dollars for it or 2) health insurance. Although assisted reproduction, or any reproduction at all, is “optional,” wider availability of ART is one of the things I’d most like to see come about with health care reform. I am very lucky to have been able to conceive my daughter with some shots to the stomach and a few IUI’s,at not-tremendous expense to myself. I wish more infertile women had that option. I have a friend who does not, and my heart breaks for her.

    Anyway, I’m happy to say I’m seeing the experiences of first mothers and adoptees show up more and more around the interwebz, I think this in and of itself is a huge step in the right direction. One statement I’ve seen here and elsewhere is that to make the system less exploitative, we have to take the money out of infant adoption. What I find myself wondering is, how do we go about doing that? In the USA at the moment, the antichoice movement is making a really hard push for single pregnant women to embrace adoption. Crisis pregnancy centers all over the place have been impersonating genuine abortion clinics for quite some time, but never more so then now. South Dakota recently passed a bill (currently on hold due to a lawsuit iirc) requiring that a pregnant woman wishing to abort must first visit one of these CPC’s (where, no doubt, she will be subtly or not-so-subtly guilted or manipulated into thinking abortion is wrong and a wealthier married woman who can pay $30-$50k for the baby would be more deserving of it… to be fair, I’ve heard secondhand that the people in CPC’s are by and large really nice and warm and “supportive”, whatever that happens to mean). With this exploitative infant adoption culture so entrenched and so many conservative lawmakers believing this is the way it should be, or even that the Baby Scoop Era was superior to the way today more single women are raising their babies themselves… how DO you take the money out of infant adoption? How do we do this?

  177. July 28, 2011 at 11:58 am

    Kathleen- For sure, and I definitely didn’t mean to try to move the conversation away from talking about adoptees and first mothers or co-opt anyone’s experiences. I’m truly sorry if my post came off that way and I’ll try to keep my privilege in check.

  178. Siobhan
    July 28, 2011 at 12:02 pm

    I am a birth mother who gave my daughter up at 18 to adoption. I thought about her every single day. I used to get drunk and cry myself to sleep every year on her birthday.

    I had a second unplanned pregnancy at 22. That one ended in abortion. Once I got past the post-partum depression I did not have single regret. People who advocate adoption as a “better” alternative to abortion infuriate me. I would never put another person through that kind of trauma.

    My daughter looked me up at the age of 22. That has to have been the happiest day of my life. She is awesome! Her family has always completely supportive of her desire to look up her birth parents and the bought her books about Irish history and culture so she could get a sense of “where she came from”. It was such a huge weight off of my shoulders to find out that she had grown up in such a supportive environment, that she had been well-loved and well-cared for, that she had been safe.

    My choice to give her away was not because of poverty (although I was poor), was not because I was young, was not because I was afraid I didn’t know how to care for her (although I didn’t) and was definitely not because I didn’t want her. I sent her away to protect her from her father. He was manipulative, abusive, controlling asshole. He beat one of our cats to death in one of his out-of-control rages. I had hoped that he would bolt when he found out I was pregnant, but no such luck. He stuck around, telling me what a great guy he was for not abandoning me. But continuing to beat and rape me the whole time of course.

    I fought to put my baby up for adoption. I fought my partner. I fought all the people who told me I was a monster for wanting to give away my own child. I fought the family members who pressured me to keep her. I fought my own desire to keep my child with me because I knew that there was no way I could posibly protect her. My only hope was to send her out her out into the world in the hands of strangers. I actually got a physical chill when I read the proposal that adoption maintain connections with birth families – the complete severance of any connection with birth family was the very thing I was relying on the ensure that her genetic father would never be able to find her.

    I honestly don’t even know where to start thinking about things that would have enabled me able to keep her. I felt I had no other choice. Financial support would have made no difference. I don’t think access to shelters or other kinds of support would have made any difference because they could not have guaranteed that her father had no rights, no access and no way of tracking her down. Changing my situation would have had to start when I was still a child myself, when the police were coming to my house every weekend and teaching me that my mother had no rights when her husband abused her.

    I apologize that this post is so disjointed. I it’s still a massively difficult subject for me to talk about.

  179. anonadoptee
    July 28, 2011 at 12:05 pm

    Since some people have mentioned abuse, just to remind people that although obviously abuse is really horrible and children should be removed from abusive situations…in infant adoption it can not be assumed that adoptive parents will not abuse.

    I have not generally considered myself to have been an abused child, although the spanking thread from awhile ago here on feministe made me think about it a bit more. I was raised very conservatively, you must think exactly how your parents want you to think, very religious, etc. I was “spanked” often, for minor discretions such as talking back or “having an attitude”. Spanking to me means throwing me on the floor at times, kicking, hitting, spanking with a long belt, spanking so hard with wooden objects that they break, etc. This was done because it is what my parents were supposed to do as good Christian parents…to get your children to obey you. I used to assume I was a really bad kid because I was punished so much…but now I look back and am like…I never did drugs, I didn’t really do anything except “talk back”, sometimes have a sarcastic attitude, and often forget to do my homework. I think not doing homework was my biggest. Do I think I deserved all that punishment now? No. Ask me a year ago and I would have said “Of course, I was spanked and I turned out fine”. After learning more and being honest with myself I don’t believe that anymore.

    Sorry for the minor derail. But many on here will see the “spanking” as abuse. I don’t know what I feel yet, it would affect how I see my parents. But it DOES show that adoptive parents are not exactly going to be perfect parents, even though to the church and community I grew up in, the controlling and punishing atmosphere I grew up in was the RIGHT way to raise a “good” “obedient” child.

    Somehow I turned into a pro-choice, pro-gay rights, anti-adoption, agnostic, socialist feminist…but that was a long journey and it’s really all still a secret from my Adoptive Parents. I don’t believe they would accept me if they knew I wasn’t the good Christian girl they raised.

    Which brings me to another issue I think adoptees have (among many) is feeling moreso than other children like you have to be exactly what your parents want. After all, they “saved” you so you better be grateful dammit! I won’t continue though. There is too much to say on this to write in a comment.

  180. anonadoptee
    July 28, 2011 at 12:09 pm

    Siobhan,

    I didn’t see your post till after I posted my last one. Don’t worry about disjointed posts…adoption is too complicated for nice, laid out posts. Your post made me cry. It reminded me of calling my mom when I was around 21, 22. Some of her first words were “I’ve been waiting for years for this call”. I am glad I found her. I’m glad your daughter found you. I hope someday this gets easier for all of us. Or at least gets to the point where we are taken seriously by society.

    Thank you for posting.

  181. Nicole
    July 28, 2011 at 12:10 pm

    I am uncomfortable with the narratives of mothers and adult adoptees being turned toward the end of “and thus, health insurance should cover infertility treatment”, though. That’s really not what should be at the center of this conversation.

    Thank you for this… yes, it’s a different discussion… But I will say… While I agree this is a different discussion from adoption ethics, reform, and sexism in adoption… I will say that it’s a needed conversation, and IMO does impact on adoption.

    The simple fact of the matter is that demand outstrips supply in the infant adoption world. This creates pressure to increase supply. So, as a fertile woman and as a woman who once relinquished a child, I do agree that fertility treatments need to be covered by insurance and that women pursuing those options should be more supported.

    (That said, there are still huge ethical implications in certain reproductive technologies… surrogacy, donor sperm and eggs, and so on all also have potential–and too often do–ignore the well-being and rights of the resulting children and their genetic parents. So those things need to be looked at in the discussion, too.)

    But yes, I think the fertility industry is relevant. I also think it exploits women in nontraditional families and women battling infertility. And then, if fertility treatments fail or are too expensive or women just decide they’ve had enough… a number of them get in line to adopt infants. That does impact adoption, because when there are 40 people wanting to adopt a healthy white infant (and willing to pay for it) for every one infant who is relinquished, guess what? Adoption agencies have a strong motivation to procure infants for the hopeful adoptive parents.

    And what’s sad is that often these are people coming to adoption after having been through pain and trauma and loss themselves, because of their fertility battles, and they aren’t supported through those things either in the ways they deserve. So no wonder a number of them can’t or don’t want to see the ethical implications of adopting a baby who’s being relinquished surrounded by various -isms. They’ve been exploited themselves by a ridiculously expensive fertility industry.

    This is what I mean about pitting women against each other. The adoption industry takes women who’ve already been through some kind of difficulty in building their own families, basically tells them they are entitled to a child and that adoption, unlike fertility treatments, is a sure thing… with very little education or encouragement to think through the ethics in adoption… and viola! You have a perfect storm, where one group of women gets pitted against another.

    It’s really common to hear comments from people just starting the adoption journey that… well, to be frank, completely dehumanize the relinquishing mothers. These people pass homestudies and get in line to adopt. Then we walk into an agency and start looking at parent profiles and it’s pointed out to us how much better off these people are than us, and what wonderful parents they would make, and… well, you get the point.

    Hear me though: I don’t blame the prospective adoptive parents–I blame the agencies, society, the laws….

    As a side note: I realize this is, after all, Feministe we’re all posting on. However, any discussion of adoption, including adoption as a feminist issue, can’t neglect the role of biological fathers in all this. As much as women are subjected to pressure to relinquish… fathers may endure more. There are some really heinous attitudes and laws out there. If the biological mothers are inhuman, the biological fathers are monsters.

  182. Nicole
    July 28, 2011 at 12:19 pm

    Oh, just read Siobhan’s comment and now feel a bit shitty about that aside regarding biological fathers… So…

    ON that topic–certainly there are biological fathers who do behave in monstrous ways. And Siobhan’s comment about relinquishing to ger her child away from the father is one that is heard often. My comment was not meant to excuse those kinds of behaviors from men.

    There are also biological fathers who do not behave monstrously are denied the chance to raise their own children just because that is how the adoption industry operates.

    I think both narratives, both situations, provide excellent discussion from a feminist perspective. In the case of fathers who are abusive…. well, we can talk endlessly about abuse towards women. In the case of fathers who are basically upright people and nonabusive but are denied the chance to parent their children… I’ve always thought there’s room there for a discussion about how society views the roles of women and men in relation to child-rearing.

  183. anonadoptee
    July 28, 2011 at 12:19 pm

    Nicole,

    Fathers are important too. They too can be pressured into feeling they can’t support/raise a child. Especially when we live in a society that still puts pressure on men to be “breadwinners”, I can see where one could manipulate men into adoption.

    Also, women have been manipulated by the system to not tell the fathers they are pregnant. Especially in the “good old (aka bad old) days” girls were pressured not to tell anyone, even the father, in order to make the adoption process smoother.

    It all intersects with sexism, class, racism, and so many other isms it’s hard to find a place to start.

    I think most of the pressure is still on the women, but there are obviously some men that are hurt by adoption as well, who are probably keeping it just as secret as the women.

    I do think that adoption should make room for fathers who would like to parent, I think the industry shuts them out as just “one more person to interfere with us getting a baby for the market”, but I must say once more, to be clear, that adoption isn’t even close to being abortion. To the men who think you have a right to abortion decisions…fuck that shit. That is a whole other ball game.

    That last point was just to kind of make myself clear. Some (most) people involved in the Fathers Rights movement are mostly just sexist men who think feminism ruined the world…so I needed to differentiate myself there. :)

  184. anonadoptee
    July 28, 2011 at 12:21 pm

    Adding to what I said, after reading Nicole’s point,

    What I said comes from the point of view of an adoptee who’s bio-mom was raped. So I obviously see that there are so many sides to everything. Nothing is simple.

  185. Nicole
    July 28, 2011 at 12:31 pm

    …adoption isn’t even close to being abortion. To the men who think you have a right to abortion decisions…fuck that shit. That is a whole other ball game.

    Absolutely agreed.

    Perhaps I should say, for the record… in an earlier post I mentioned being firmly personally pro-life at the time of relinquishing. That view has since changed, and I am now firmly politically pro-choice, and would hella sooner have an abortion myself than ever relinquish another child.

  186. rox
    July 28, 2011 at 12:31 pm

    Siobhon— I wish I could give you a hug. Thank you for sharing your story. I look at the domestic violence shelter website now and they have pictures of women with their children. All over, women with their children hugging and smiling.

    I wish I had known that that IS WHAT domestic violence shelters were there for. I wish I had known that they would have helped me create a healthy environment for myself and work through the issues that got me in an abusive relationship and help me be a good parent to my child. I wish I had known that adoption– though it was the only way I could find AT THE TIME to keep my daughter safe– wasn’t the only way to protect her.

    We have more to do to fully support women in the situation you were in, I believe. Domestic violence shelters face funding limitations and we need more research on how to work in depths with the issues children who need to stay in them face and how better help women who are trying to protect themselvs and their children be able to re-integrate into society without living in fear.

    And I believe part of this is also doing research on and implementing more programs to help men and women identify what healthy relationships look like and what signs might mean they need to leave, and address the adverse life conditions (like the things you faced in childhood) that might make it feel like an abusive partner is the ONLY support that a man or woman has (which are many and varied and often very complex.)

    I don’t want any more of us to go through this. You are not a monster. You are a mother who who did everything possible including horrible sacrafice to keep your child safe, even when it meant the most unbearable thing. I can tell you, as an adoptee, as a woman who was in a similar situation, but even more as a human being— you are witnessed in your love and your courage and your suffering.

    Don’t worry about making sense, this stuff is so difficult on us.

  187. Sandy
    July 28, 2011 at 12:33 pm

    Shoshie:
    Kathleen- For sure, and I definitely didn’t mean to try to move the conversation away from talking about adoptees and first mothers or co-opt anyone’s experiences.I’m truly sorry if my post came off that way and I’ll try to keep my privilege in check.

    Ack, this. I did this too. So sorry.

  188. July 28, 2011 at 12:38 pm

    For those who might be considering creating a family through anonymous gamete donation, please take the time to read the stories of those people created through this technology, written in their own voices. An interesting and compelling blog written by one such individual can be found at http://donatedgeneration.blogspot.com/ .

  189. Nicole
    July 28, 2011 at 12:46 pm

    Good resource Melynda, thanks.

    Another source I don’t think anyone has posted yet, in regards to adoptoin research: http://www.adoptioninstitute.org/index.php

  190. Nicole
    July 28, 2011 at 12:48 pm

    And here’s one specifically regarding applying lessons learned from adoption and adoptees to ART:

    http://www.adoptioninstitute.org/publications/2009_02_OldLessons_Executive_Summary.pdf

  191. Sharon
    July 28, 2011 at 1:21 pm

    Adoption is problematic because it is the most unnatural thing in the world. Parents belong with their children, and children belong with their parents, that’s the way the world goes. Does a chick become a puppy? No!

  192. Paraxeni
    July 28, 2011 at 1:38 pm

    @lolagirl – I’m going to have to address this in bits, because I need to pause to get my breath back, from laughing.

    Here’s your original quote, and mine:

    One can be infertile and become a parent by resorting to ART

    As long as you have plenty of money, are healthy, and live somewhere where access to ART isn’t restricted to heterosexual TAB couples.

    To which you replied:

    Or, if one lives in states like New York or Illinois, which mandate infertility coverage for most employer-sponsored group health plans, one simply hands their insurance card over to the billing department at the Infertility Clinic.

    You are aware that the vast majority of the world’s citizens are a) not American and b) don’t live in NYS or Illinois, aren’t you? Alongside that, I’m sure you’re also aware that not everyone in those places has insurance.

    But thanks for trying to peg me as some sort of classist, let them eat cake type.

    That wan’t my intent, but…

    Look, it is true that infertility treatments can be expensive, but it is still less expensive than most forms of private (domestic and foreign) adoption. One month’s supply of Clomid costs less than $100 (US) and even when one gets into IUI with injectible drugs the cost of one cycle will likely run around $1,000 to $3,000. One cycle of IVF can be anywhere around $8,000 to $15,000 per cycle.

    HA! This is the bit that has me laughing. $15k is not an impulse buy, or a day-trip to the beach. If we convert it to £15k it’s two year’s income. The majority of IVF users I know conceived on the third cycle. As my reproductive endocrinologist said, “If any other procedure had ‘success’ rates as bad as IVF, NICE would ban it”

    Also, like I said above (the bit that you clearly didn’t take in because you were huffing about being perceived as classist) what are you supposed to do if you cannot carry a pregnancy, or live in a place that will not allow non-straight, non-cis, disabled people access to ART?

    That’s why I originally took issue with your breezily tossed-off “Hey, just get IVF or IUI!”. Not because of the cost, but because your privilege has apparently prevented you from seeing that not everyone can carry/support a pregnancy, or lives somewhere where straight, binary, cis couples aren’t considered the only suitable candidates.

    Meanwhile, most private adoptions cost upwards of $25,000, and foreign adoptions can often cost closer to $50,000. And let’s not pretend that private adoption doesn’t also require that the adoptive parents have an ample bank account, proof of good health, and even prove “upstanding moral character” in order to be considered good adoptive parent material.

    I’m not American, I’m not American, I’m not American, I’m not American.

    Any way you work the numbers, ART is still less expensive than most forms of adoption. It is also far less personally intrusive of a process than adoption, and that is before one even begins to consider all of the other emotional and social issues involved in adoption that have been raised by myself and plenty of others in these comments.

    Again, my main objection wasn’t about the money involved. It’s possible to get free IVF here, but not if your body cannot support a pregnancy, or if you’re not a suitably ‘traditional’ couple, or if someone takes issue with your physical disabilities.

    FTR – I believe the american adoption system is disgusting. I’m not a fan of international adoption either, especially not where £30k could support a lot of children in their original community. All I was pointing out is that it is not as easy as walking into a hospital with a fistful of money and saying “Inseminate me”. If my partner and I had all the money in the world, we still would not be able to physically support a pregnancy.

    We cannot foster or adopt either (we would not ever adopt due to ethical issues, only foster children until they were ready to return to their homes or be adopted. Our foster system is not like the US system either, so don’t bring it up ) which exhausts our options, but we accept that we do not have an absolute right to be parents, and to get whatever we want in life. Instead we’ll support as many existing families/children as we can, in other ways.

    Like I said in an earlier post, the inability to have/get children has turned out to be a blessing, ultimately. However, that doesn’t mean other people in similar situations want to hear how ‘easy’ it is to access ART, when it is a relative privilege.

  193. Paraxeni
    July 28, 2011 at 1:45 pm

    Also, first mothers and adoptees – thank you for sharing your stories. I’m sorry the trolls and the perpetually unobservant are painting first mothers as people who just never wanted/didn’t care about their children.

    Sadly some will never listen, because doing so would mean that they’d have to face the truth about how many first mothers are out there suffering. Far easier to paint you all with one broad brush, and tag you as ‘selfish’ or ‘uncaring’.

    It’s magical thinking, the likes of which we see against other victims of oppression or violence. By saying “Well if she hadn’t done X then Y wouldn’t have happened”, they’re thinking “I don’t do X, so I’ll always be safe from Y”. Instead of listening to, and learning from, the experiences of others – they automatically think they know better.

    I hope you can get some measure of catharsis from airing this.

  194. anonadoptee
    July 28, 2011 at 3:10 pm

    But when someone frames the issue as one of a child’s right to their biological parent, that is going to sometimes conflict with a woman’s right to not be forced to parent. That being relinquished represents a significant loss for some adoptees doesn’t actually trump a woman’s right to not be a parent. There is no *right* to not experience significant loss in life.

    Woah. Sorry that we’ve been misunderstood. First, let me preface (as I should be doing all the time) this with saying this is coming from a USian whose experience as an adoptee is domestic US infant adoption.

    When we say we have a right to our biological parents (I am speaking from my own perspective as an adoptee) I do not mean I have the right to be parented by my mother. I recognize that she has the right to not parent. In my case my mother DID want to parent, but assuming she did NOT want to parent, I believe I still have the right to:

    a. have access to my original birth certificate. In MOST states I have absolutely no right to obtain my original birth certificate (only the secondary one with the names of my adoptive parents as the people who gave birth to me on it). Even as an adult I do not have the right to see and obtain this. If it were not for meeting my mom I wouldn’t even know I HAD another birth certificate…and that I even had another NAME! What a shocker to me…I felt cheated and lied to over the years.

    b. to know WHO they are. To at least know their names (which technically would come from having the birth certificate).

    c. to attempt contact. Whether or not that contact is reciprocated is up to the mother, but I believe adoptees have the right to at least attempt contact with their parent once they are an adult. Even in closed adoptions.

    Obviously all this could be helped by giving us the simple right to our own birth certificate. Why is it right for my mother to be ERASED like that? I actually just believed that the hospital created one birth certificate and put my adoptive parents on it, even though it was a bit odd as it put them as the people who gave birth to me…effectively erasing the fact that someone else did. Now that I know I feel strongly that we should have our original bc’s available legally to us.

    Any other adoptees found they had a different name? Did you feel cheated at all? I’m not sure how I feel.

    So basic point I guess…no I don’t think anyone should be forced to parent. BUT I still believe that an adoptee has the rights to their bio-parents in the sense that they should be able to find out who they are and see their original birth certificate, as well as attempt contact.

  195. July 28, 2011 at 3:23 pm

    chingona: A question was raised way upthread about whether framing this discussion as one of “rights” was distorting the discussion, but I think one of the reasons you and rox are getting some push back around this issue is because rox has stated that children have a *right* to their biological parents. If you truly believe that they have a right to their biological parents, then it follows that parents should be forced to raise their child.

    I disagree that saying a child has a right to be parented by his or her own biological parents indicates that therefore these parents must be forced to parent.

    As I clarified before, what this means is that the biological parents should be the first option to raise a child, next, the biological extended family. This means respecting a mother or father’s right to raise their own child if they choose and granting aunts, uncles, and grandparents rights (which more and more states are enacting legislation to support nowadays) next, if being parented by one’s own parents is not possible. Next is domestic adoption within the child’s own original culture, language, country, and heritage when kinship adoption is not available.

    Respecting a child’s right to be within their original family does not mean it always happens, it simply means being adopted out of the family should be seen as a last resort–not a first resort. Unfortunately in adoption, adopting a child out of the family is often seen as a first resort. My first mother and family went to the agency to explore all of their options and received heavy bias toward adoption in counselling to the point where they thought that keeping me would be wrong. Though I was not adopted in what is known as the Era of Mass Surrender (post war to pre roe v wade), this was still during a time where a child’s right to his or her own biological family was not widely acknowledged.

    Historically when it has not been seen as a child’s right to stay within his or her own original family. It was in fact seen as worse for a child to be raised by an “unwed” mother (birth records of adoptees are sealed to hide the fact that their mothers were not married) and worse for the mother’s family to be raising a “bastard” child. An adoption that focuses on a child’s right to stay with his or her own family when and if at all possible (a family unwilling to raise a child obviously being a “not possible) takes the bias away from adopting a child out and puts it on focusing on what options are available that would enflict less loss on all involved.

  196. July 28, 2011 at 3:28 pm

    And I’ll echo what anonadoptee said too. Our right to our natural family also means we have the right to our adoption records, our original birth certificate, information about our heritage, the opportunity to request updated health history information and the right to be free from priori restraining orders reserved especially for the adopted that automatically prohibit us from speaking to anyone in our natural family. Yes, 43 out of 50 states hinder adoptee access to information and many of them make it a punishable crime for adoptees to attempt to speak to their natural families without express government clearance.

  197. dawn
    July 28, 2011 at 3:34 pm

    anonadoptee: Any other adoptees found they had a different name? Did you feel cheated at all? I’m not sure how I feel.

    Dawn is actually my birth, not adoptive, name. I grew up knowing that it was what my first mother named me, but since my adoptive parents changed it, I have a kind of weird relationship to it, as a signifier that is both me and not me. Also, not thrilled with my adoptive parents knowing my name but changing it anyway, but I know they were partially influenced by an industry that presented adoptees as blank slates onto which adoptive parents write their dreams of family, so I don’t entirely blame them, either.

  198. Brigid
    July 28, 2011 at 3:42 pm

    anonadoptee: When we say we have a right to our biological parents (I am speaking from my own perspective as an adoptee) I do not mean I have the right to be parented by my mother. I recognize that she has the right to not parent.

    Amanda: Respecting a child’s right to be within their original family does not mean it always happens, it simply means being adopted out of the family should be seen as a last resort–not a first resort.

    Thank you both for making this clarification. I was eventually able to figure out that you probably meant these things by reading this comment thread and from checking out Amanda’s blog and some of the other resources that have been linked here, but it wasn’t immediately apparent how the rights of people to choose whether to parent and the rights of people to access to and/or be parented by their biological parents and/or family could be reconciled. It’s not your fault that some of us biologically-raised people reading this thread didn’t have the background to understand what you might mean, but I do appreciate the explanation.

  199. Theaz
    July 28, 2011 at 4:02 pm

    anonadoptee: In my case my mother DID want to parent, but assuming she did NOT want to parent, I believe I still have the right to:a. have access to my original birth certificate. In MOST states I have absolutely no right to obtain my original birth certificate (only the secondary one with the names of my adoptive parents as the people who gave birth to me on it). Even as an adult I do not have the right to see and obtain this. If it were not for meeting my mom I wouldn’t even know I HAD another birth certificate…and that I even had another NAME! What a shocker to me…I felt cheated and lied to over the years. b. to know WHO they are. To at least know their names (which technically would come from having the birth certificate). c. to attempt contact. Whether or not that contact is reciprocated is up to the mother, but I believe adoptees have the right to at least attempt contact with their parent once they are an adult. Even in closed adoptions.

    This might be a stupid question, and it probably differs depending where people are from (where I am, in this particular part of Canada no one’s name is on my birth certificate but mine) but if your adoptive parents are on the secondary version does that mean your mom’s name is on the original? Or, I guess, does access to the original birth certificate include access to a first mother’s name? I guess my more general wonder is how issues of a woman who has given a child up for adoption’s right to privacy are balanced with these rights – or are there competing rights there at all?

  200. dawn
    July 28, 2011 at 4:09 pm

    I just wanted to add my agreement with both Amanda and anonadoptee, here.

    In my case, yes, my mother did choose not to parent me and she shouldn’t have been forced to do so, but that choice was made in a context where the only acceptable family was a middle class family with a stay-at-home mother, where I was born with a birth defect and she didn’t have access or knowledge of health care and state aid, where she was heavily Catholic, and where her parents had some control over her decision, if only emotionally. To focus only on her right not to parent is not only to miss the effect adoption had on me, but to miss the tangled mess of inequalities that influenced her decision. Yes, even in a perfect world, she very well could have simply not wanted me, but part of reforming adoption is never leaving that to chance by creating a more humane and just system and society.

  201. dawn
    July 28, 2011 at 4:20 pm

    Theaz: This might be a stupid question, and it probably differs depending where people are from (where I am, in this particular part of Canada no one’s name is on my birth certificate but mine) but if your adoptive parents are on the secondary version does that mean your mom’s name is on the original? Or, I guess, does access to the original birth certificate include access to a first mother’s name? I guess my more general wonder is how issues of a woman who has given a child up for adoption’s right to privacy are balanced with these rights – or are there competing rights there at all?

    I’m not sure about Canada, but in the US, original birth certificates generally contain the first mother’s name (if she gave her real name), the child’s name (if the first mother was allowed to name the child; if not, the first name is Baby Girl or Baby Boy), and maybe the father’s name (often listed as Unknown even if he was known – this was especially true in the Era of Mass Surrender).

    I have to leave, so I can’t give a really in depth answer, but I do not think access to accurate, non-falsified personal information (Original Birth certificates) should be contigent on the first parents’ wishes. They were largely never promised confidentiality. The state has no business regulating personal relationships based on nasty stereotypes of who adoptees are as a class of people and the havoc we might cause if we were allowed to know our first parents’ names. There’s more, obviously, but I really need to go…

  202. July 28, 2011 at 4:52 pm

    Holy crap, what a discussion.

    And of course, as I’ve scrolled down through the comments in the past half hour or so (some of which are making me scratch my head, and others which make me head-desk), I see we are still facing an attempt at resistance – a thinly veiled defense at breaking down the social concept of what adoption “is” by saying:

    “What about those who don’t want to parent?”

    Oddly enough, I thought one of the main points about this commentary is that we were talking about the rights of those who did want to parent.

  203. Kathleen
    July 28, 2011 at 5:00 pm

    Nicole and many others here — I think this comment thread (*overall*) might win for kindness and wisdom. I am blown away.

  204. Lika
    July 28, 2011 at 5:14 pm

    Azalea,

    No. I have a far “stricter” view of what parenting means. Parenting means *sacrifice*, unapologetic, unreciprocated, sacrifice with little to no thanks. Your children, once you decide to become a parent, are *entitled* to *your* sacrifice until they are adults on their own two feet.

    I hope you uphold those standards with adoptive parents, because my experience has been people think adoptive parents are saint for simply taking a kid in. (“Your adoptive parents gave you three square meals. You must be so grateful!”)

    I agree with you that children are entitled to their parents’ sacrifice, but that adoption doesn’t guarantee that. There are children are worse off in their adoptive families than they would have been in their biological families. Abuse also happens in adoptive families. In fact, I believe it was first mother Lori (who’s was also a foster care child) that said she met children in foster care who were left there because it was their adoptive families, not biological families, who gave them up.

    In in which I have to ask, how do you feel about adoptive parents who decide that they don’t want to parent their kids anymore and give them up? Obviously I don’t advocate making adoptive parents continue to care for children that they resent/don’t want to raise anymore, but if a child doesn’t have the right for be cared for by its biological parents, why should it have the right to be cared for by non-biological parents?

    Does a child have the right to be cared for by anyone then? I’m not talking fetuses here. (I’m pro-choice btw. Severely so. I don’t want kids and if I ever get pregnant I will abort.) Adoptees aren’t out-of-wombs fetuses, they’re people, living, breathing people, not an inconvenience that needs to dismissed and hushed up. They’ve been silenced long enough.

    I admit, I care very little for the rights of parents, biological, adoptive, foster, whatever. I’m about the rights of children. I don’t believe forcing biological to parent and love their children either. That’s impossible, so it make no sense to even consider that. But it is possible to give children other rights, like knowing who their families are, access to their original birth certificate, allowing them to grieve their loss if they feel loss, (and of course, doing away with unethical adoption practice, like pre-birth matching which I think is unethical as hell), and I stand up for those rights.

  205. Lolagirl
    July 28, 2011 at 5:17 pm

    Paraxeni: @lolagirl – I’m going to have to address this in bits, because I need to pause to get my breath back, from laughing, just get IVF or IUI!”.

    Like I said in an earlier post, the inability to have/get children has turned out to be a blessing, ultimately. However, that doesn’t mean other people in similar situations want to hear how ‘easy’ it is to access ART, when it is a relative privilege.

    I’m not really sure what your point is then in this string of comments. Initially you seemed to take issue with my questioning the institution of adoption and my explanation as to why I and other people who are infertile disagree with the notion that we should adopt instead of seeking infertility treatments like IVF. That is what I was responding to in my comments.

    I also don’t understand you taking such umbrage at my discussion of insurance covering IVF and the like here in the U.S., since the bulk of this conversation has been had in the context of how the adoption and infertility industries works here in the U.S. For you to then turn around and mention that you still can get coverage for your IVF through the NHS is even more puzzling, because you by your own admission have that option available. So, what? What exactly is your point again?

    And laughing at my comment? Seriously? You yourself refer to being infertile but then laugh at another women who struggled herself with infertility? Wow, talk about callous and shockingly cruel.

    All of those figures I quoted for ART treatment v. adoption are factual, and were used to explain how people like me make the calculus every day as to whether they will pursue ART or adoption. Add in all of the serious ethical concerns that exist with the adoption system here in the U.S. and with the emotional aspects for original families and adopted children and there you have a straight forward explanation for why so many infertile people here in the U.S. opt to seek treatments like infertility drugs, IUI and IVF instead of adopting.

  206. Azalea
    July 28, 2011 at 5:23 pm

    anonadoptee:
    Azalea,

    Can we stop pretending that any of us has said women should be pressured into keeping a child they don’t want?

    How exactly do you get from “Women should be offered all resources necessary to make a non-coerced decision” to “we want all women to be forced to raise their babies”?

    And you keep ignoring the fact that non-coerced adoptions (as in no coercion whatsoever) are the MINORITY.

    Oh and “adoption may hurt the adopted child’s feelings”???? I don’t even know where to begin except I want to cry. You sound like an MRA saying “ooh sexism hurts women’s feelings sorry…”. Our “feelings” are more than hurt. Once people start accepting that there is a whole lot more to being an adoptee and first mother than “hurt feelings” we will calm down a bit.

    And really, if you feel that abortion is killing an actual child, I don’t think you are pro-choice. And to be honest, if a woman chooses adoption because she’s been raised to believe abortion is killing and “bad”, then I’d consider that a form of coercion. Society and religion plays a factor in all of this.

    I didn’t say I felt that way about other people’s decision. I am tellig you they view the fetus inside them as a CHILD from the moment they found out they were pregnant. Gestating said “child” and raising it are totally different things. Really wtf are you to tell someone how they should feel about the fetus growing inside of their own bodies? If they feel it is a child they do not want to kill why is that YOUR area to judge them on? How do they become anti-choice because they choose not to have an abortion? If they aren’t stigmitizing another woman who chooses abortion or trying to fight against abortion rights just how the fuck are they not pro-choice?

    Yes, it is a minority, I never said there wasn’t. But what you all are asking is that people making legislation on adoption consider the feelings of the child being adopted how does that NOT mean you wouldn’t force a woman to raise a child she doesn’t want? She’d pressure the hell out of her, you’d put her through tons of “counseling” and asking her is she sure the way anti-choicers do women who want to abort. Whatever happened to trusting women? Coercion exists in getting an abortion OR giving the child up for adoption. The adoption DECISION needs to focus on the one making the choice to place the affects it has on her and how she feels first and foremost.

  207. Azalea
    July 28, 2011 at 5:29 pm

    Amanda:
    And I’ll echo what anonadoptee said too.Our right to our natural family also means we have the right to our adoption records, our original birth certificate, information about our heritage, the opportunity to request updated health history information and the right to be free from priori restraining orders reserved especially for the adopted that automatically prohibit us from speaking to anyone in our natural family.Yes, 43 out of 50 states hinder adoptee access to information and many of them make it a punishable crime for adoptees to attempt to speak to their natural families without express government clearance.

    Who puts these restraning orders in place?

  208. Lolagirl
    July 28, 2011 at 5:30 pm

    Another thought upon which I wanted to elaborate is regarding my mention of having insurance coverage for IVF. Sure, having insurance is something of a privilege here in the U.S. In fact, we no longer have that insurance coverage and had to go self-pay for our last 3 FET cycles (and we saved up for 3 years to be able to afford them.) But having insurance coverage does mean that people who may not otherwise have been able to afford infertility treatments out of pocket get that opportunity when it only costs a few hundred dollars in copays instead of several thousand dollars.

    I know many, many women and men (straight and hetero) who are solidly middle class who were able to become parents because they had insurance coverage for it. The argument should then logically follow that all insurance policies should likewise cover infertility treatments. Why you would feel the need to twist the argument into an opportunity to beat people over the head with the privilege stick is really pretty distressing, Paraxeni. Again, at least in your country there is the option to go through the NHS for IVF treatment. (And yes, I know that it requires a lot of bureaucracy and takes time to get approved, etc., but that is still superior to what most people here in the U.S. have.)

  209. Azalea
    July 28, 2011 at 5:44 pm

    rox:
    “I know women who cried when they surrendered the child because they feared the child would grow up to hate them. Or they cried thinking about the pain they would cause the child but knew it was what was best for them.”

    Interesting, you claimed that these women had no feelings about it and felt completely great about it originally. Did you notice how a woman above said that adoption was awesome and it hurts everday, in the same sentence? Is it at all possible, that you don’t know all the ins and outs of what they were crying about? That you don’t actually know everything that went into these women’s experiences?

    From your “baby killing” comment– I really wonder exactly how YOUR role and perception of what was going on affected these women’s experiences or what they were willing to tell you about their feelings. Or how your responses influenced their perception of their own situation.

    I have known many many many, first mothers who have said “I just want to get back to my life. I just want to be done with this. I’m scared. I just want back to my normal life. This will be such a relief, the adoption will be so much better. This is such a great decision. It’s the right thing, I just don’t want to parent, I don’t even feel a connection, it’s too much.”

    If you stay in contact with women who say such things during and after their experiences with adoption you will find that it’s usually much more complex than that. I have spent a lot of time in “considering adoption” pregnancy forums, and have found that no such women who are as one dimensional as you describe actually exist– EVEN AMONG women who adamantly claim adoption was their prefered choice and they just didn’t want the baby.

    I’m honestly not sure that your perception of these women is accurate and I’m a little concerned about what your role in their lives and decision making process has actually been.

    From a “risk to the woman’s emotional and physical health” perspective, it sounds like they may have been helped far greater by abortion if they knew for sure they weren’t going to want to/be able to parent— what was your role in their decision not to “kill their babies”?

    But no, when people are unable to love their children, the cure is NOT to force them to parent. Were they unable BUT WANTED to love their children? If so as a professional working with them, I wonder if you explored trauma/issues/mental illness that may have been interfering with their ability to connect? It’s very common that women who WANT a pregnancy are having a hard time trying to connect and it’s very possible to help a woman who wants to feel that, but feels like it’s just not happening work through it.

    Or did they just feel that everything was so hopeles and helpless that they just wanted to escape? Another common way to feel during an unplanned pregnancy. Again did you address that these feelings should NOT be used to determine whether a woman loves her child, or the potential to connect with that love? the decision not to parent should be made out of “I do not want to parent”, not out of, “I am overwhelmed and terrified and this is too overwhelming”. When we are scared, it’s hard to even connect to our own hearts or find out what we want.

    Adoption should absolutely be a legal option for women who are unable to parent, or who vehemenently wish to be rid of a child. In general, when people want to be rid of their living children there is some serious crisis going on, and it happens that even with extensive resources this cannot be fully addressed in time to parent, or that the parent will still genuinely wish to be free of the parental responsability. It happens and usually women WANT to be able to connect, meaning usually there is almost universally a mitigating circumstance affecting their ability to love. Adoption is certainly a much better solution for the child in this situation.

    I sincerely wonder how well the needs of these women were actually being met in your professional relationships with them. The fact that you believe research is useless makes me wonder how knowledgable you actually are about pregnancy, trauma, crisis, adverse childhoods, cognition, the effects of poverty, the development of numb and emotionless states, and outcomes for women who choose different options to deal with these things; and why you were given a professional role in helping these women face issues you refuse to research or become more knowledgeable about.

    Ugh for clarification THESE WOMEN FELT LIKE THE ETUS AND THE CHILD WAS THE SAME PERSON. This wasn’t my doing, this is a common explaination for why they continued a pregnancy when they did not want to parent. I typically help black women and in my area (DC) when a woman says she’s pregnant the thing inside her belly is incessantly referred to as a baby, her child even if she aborts. There are stories of how the mother loved her “baby” from the womb, how the bod between mother and child started in utero. I am now beginning to think this is a cultural difference.

    Anyhow, THEY tell me the fetus and the child = same thing just different development stages. I don’t tell them shit. It is primarily my job to listen and then find the best legal route to accomplish their goals and or put them in the right direction of the support services they need. So the assumption that I am somehow antichoice because I believe in the MOTHER’S RIGHT TO NOT PARENT (whether that be abortion or adoption) is laughable.

    Reread what I wrote she cried because she feared being villified, why in hell does that read to you like she wants the child? She just doesnt want to be judged, what is so hard to understand about that difference? In this same place there are women who regret abortion or adoption and they see someone else about counseling services or trying to undo the adoption. It is primarily my job to listen to women tell their side without being judged and if there is a way to help them legally I do. Sometimes they have meant putting clauses in adoptions that ensures their anonymity. There are women who placed a child over a decade ago, have moved on and is ready to parent but fears the older child finding out who the younger child is and telling the younger child about the adoption. Do you see the pattern here? It has NOTHING to do with some love or connection to the placed child as they don’t consider themselves the mother of that child.

    But this is probably why these women don’t ever speak out because just judging based on the responses here, they’d be called all kinds of names and shunned and shamed.

  210. Eli
    July 28, 2011 at 5:49 pm

    Now that I know her, they seem to almost relish in the fact that she is a (insert supposedly “lower-class” type job here) and that her family is poor. They have “reminded” me how lucky I was to have the life I did, the vacations, the school, the nice house and clothes, etc. Why would they do that? Were they jealous that I had so much in common with her, that we shared interests?

    I’m just guessing, but — maybe they were/are worried that you won’t love them as much anymore now that you know her, or that now she’ll be “mom” and come first with you, or that you’ll be angry at them for having taken you away from her for all those years, etc. — and they’re just expressing it really poorly?

    I know someone who recently found his bio-family, and it’s been great, but his adoptive parents were really weirded out and nervous at first when he told them he was searching. (It was a “bad old days” closed adoption — I’d think there would be less of this with the rise of the open adoptions, but I don’t know for sure.)

  211. Siobhan
    July 28, 2011 at 6:03 pm

    Theaz: (where I am, in this particular part of Canada no one’s name is on my birth certificate but mine)

    I guess then it comes down to which of your names is on the certificate. The name my daughter had when she was born is completely different than the name she was given once adopted. (Although they did keep the first name I gave her as a middle name and told her she was free to go by that one if she prefered it.)

  212. July 28, 2011 at 6:41 pm

    The debate about adoption as a feminist issue goes back decades. Feminism is concerned about the exploitation and oppression of women. It speaks out against the violence and abuses which are perpetrated against women because they are women. Reproductive exploitation is thus a feminist issue. And reproductive exploitation is the basis of the adoption industry.

    In her landmark book “Death by Adoption” (Cicada Press, 1979) feminist policy analyst Joss Shawyer states:

    “”Adoption is a violent act, a political act of aggression towards a woman who has supposedly offended the sexual mores by committing the unforgivable act of not suppressing her sexuality, and therefore not keeping it for trading purposes through traditional marriage. The crime is a grave one, for she threatens the very fabric of our society. The penalty is severe. She is stripped of her child by a variety of subtle and not so subtle manoeuvres and then brutally abandoned.”

    I would also like to recommend Shawyer’s article “Adoption ‘Choice’ is a Feminist Issue”.

    And, in 1986, Celeste Newbough wrote the landmark article “Adoption, Surrogate Motherhood and Reproductive Exploitation” in the feminist quarterly “Matrix: for She of the New Aeon.” Contact me via my blog if you wish a copy of this article, as it is relatively difficult to obtain.

    Shawyer’s quote, to me, sums up adoption. Along with the statistics that show that the majority of women who surrender babies to adoption do so against their will. These are babies they love and want to keep, but there is a thriving industry that currently sells newborns for $25,000 and more (see sample price list at http://www.christianadoptionconsultants.com/index.php?page=available-situations“>. In most other nations, it is illegal to sell children, it is considered to be human trafficking. In Canada and the U.S., however, it is just considered to be business. See Gerow’s article Adoption is Big Business in America (PDF).

    How is it not a feminist issue when women are being harvested for their babies, due to lack of laws that protect them, and a stigma against “un-manned mothers”?

    A friend of mine, however, who lost her baby to coerced surrender during the Baby Scoop Era, approached N.O.W. for their support. They refused to talk to her, and the secretary at the office stated that it was because so many N.O.W. executives have adopted. So, mothers who have lost children to adoption have no advocates to speak for them and no support from the feminist community. I would like to call out to all feminists to help change this.

  213. July 28, 2011 at 6:47 pm

    Correction on one link: The link to Darlene Gerow’s article “Adoption is Big Business in America” is http://www.originscanada.org/infant.pdf

  214. Lika
    July 28, 2011 at 6:59 pm

    Gah. Something about my last comment bugged me, and I think it was that I took on the question, “Does every child have a right to be raised by the people whose genetic material helped create them?” at face value, when it’s actually a really problematic question.

    To me, the question makes no sense and sets up a bunch of false premises, like if you say “yes”, then biological mothers have to raise their kids, whether they want to or not. It’s also problematic because if the answer is that the child has no right to be taken care by its biological family, then it could be said that the child has no right to be taken care of by anyone, and THAT I totally disagree with.

    If a child comes into this world and the biological mother doesn’t want to care for it, and no one else wants to do either, does the child still have a right to be raised by a caregiver? Does it have a right to “impose” itself on someone, if everyone says it doesn’t want it? In that hypothetical situation of no one wanting to be its parent, does the choice to not want to parent trump the need of a child to be raised?

    I guess the reason why I do think first mothers should be held to some responsibility to their children that they birth. At the very least, to try to ensure they are taken care of, if not by them, then to make sure the adoptive families are good people who are putting their kids first. Their children had no choice in being born, and had no choice in needing to be taken care of. The mother did have a choice to bring the child into the world, and if she made that decision, I think at the very least, she should do what she can to make sure her child is taken care of.

    I won’t judge a woman who wanted to place but tried to do her part in seeing that her child was taken care, but I can’t help but judge a woman who so wants nothing to do with her child that she couldn’t care less if it was abuse or neglected or not taken care of.

  215. Azalea
    July 28, 2011 at 7:24 pm

    Siobhan:
    I am a birth mother who gave my daughter up at 18 to adoption. I thought about her every single day. I used to get drunk and cry myself to sleep every year on her birthday.

    I had a second unplanned pregnancy at 22. That one ended in abortion. Once I got past the post-partum depression I did not have single regret. People who advocate adoption as a “better” alternative to abortion infuriate me. I would never put another person through that kind of trauma.


    My daughter looked me up at the age of 22. That has to have been the happiest day of my life. She is

    awesome! Her family has always completely supportive of her desire to look up her birth parents and the bought her books about Irish history and culture so she could get a sense of “where she came from”. It was such a huge weight off of my shoulders to find out that she had grown up in such a supportive environment, that she had been well-loved and well-cared for, that she had been safe.

    My choice to give her away was not because of poverty (although I was poor), was not because I was young, was not because I was afraid I didn’t know how to care for her (although I didn’t) and was definitely not because I didn’t want her. I sent her away to protect her from her father. He was manipulative, abusive, controlling asshole. He beat one of our cats to death in one of his out-of-control rages. I had hoped that he would bolt when he found out I was pregnant, but no such luck. He stuck around, telling me what a great guy he was for not abandoning me. But continuing to beat and rape me the whole time of course.

    I fought to put my baby up for adoption. I fought my partner. I fought all the people who told me I was a monster for wanting to give away my own child. I fought the family members who pressured me to keep her. I fought my own desire to keep my child with me because I knew that there was no way I could posibly protect her. My only hope was to send her out her out into the world in the hands of strangers. I actually got a physical chill when I read the proposal that adoption maintain connections with birth families – the complete severance of any connection with birth family was the very thing I was relying on the ensure that her genetic father would never be able to find her.

    I honestly don’t even know where to start thinking about things that would have enabled me able to keep her. I felt I had no other choice. Financial support would have made no difference. I don’t think access to shelters or other kinds of support would have made any difference because they could not have guaranteed that her father had no rights, no access and no way of tracking her down. Changing my situation would have had to start when I was still a child myself, when the police were coming to my house every weekend and teaching me that my mother had no rights when her husband abused her.

    I apologize that this post is so disjointed. I it’s still a massively difficult subject for me to talk about.

    There was a way that you could have safely kept yur child but that there is no gurantee things would have went that way had you tried. I’m sorry you had to go through that.

  216. Kathleen
    July 28, 2011 at 7:43 pm

    Lika, have you really read this whole thread? The hypothetical scenarios you are creating that allow you to condemn heartless mothers — yeah, they are not at issue. People are talking about mothers who desperately *wanted to parent*.

    Eli — sure, the adoptive family probably does feel anxious. But an adoptee should not feel obliged to make assuaging that anxiety a priority after a *lifetime* of explicitly or implicitly being asked not to express or address their anxieties about having been adopted. In families, grownups have a lot more power than children to define what kinds of anxieties get expressed and dealt with; once the children grow up, that dynamic can and often does change.

    Adoption Critic — thanks for your contribution. My mom is the first person who made me aware of these issues, and she was born in 1940 and didn’t get her knowledge from the internet. I figured therefore there had to be a previous legacy of consciousness-raising about adoption as a feminist issue! But I didn’t know the sources.

  217. July 28, 2011 at 8:23 pm

    @ Kathleen:

    You wrote: “People are talking about mothers who desperately *wanted to parent*.”

    That’s what the thread is *supposed* to be.

    But Azalea keeps saying, what about those who don’t want to parent? What about those who don’t want to carry to term? What about those who don’t want to be mothers, period? If a child’s needs to be raised trumps that of its biological parents, then would you *force* a mother to parent who doesn’t want to parent?

    And really, that’s not what the original subject was about, at least that is not what I gathered from reading all the comments. Because it had to be said, again and again, we are not talking about those that can’t wait to get rid of their children! We are not talking about those who got pregnant and want to abort!

    What we’ve been trying to discuss is women who *DO* want to keep their children but are made to feel they can’t or shouldn’t be able to parent because someone else out there is “better” in some way, shape or form.

  218. chingona
    July 28, 2011 at 8:24 pm

    Thanks to those who clarified what they mean by a right to their biological or genetic parents. I am not entirely in agreement that women who truly desire anonymity (even if they are a small minority of women who give up their children) shouldn’t be able to have it. I certainly agree that the state shouldn’t be making those decisions for women.

    And thank you to everyone who shared their personal stories. I’m sorry for all the pain.

    Just to lay my own cards on the table, my mother is an adoptee from a closed adoption in the 1950s who does not feel significant loss or emptiness from being an adoptee. I bring this up not to invalidate anyone else’s experience. Indeed, my uncle had a lot more pain around being adopted, so I know that how people feel about it is varied and individual. I bring it up just to ask everyone to please remember that adoption is diverse and individual, and no one narrative describes everyone.

  219. July 28, 2011 at 8:26 pm

    “But an adoptee should not feel obliged to make assuaging that anxiety a priority after a *lifetime* of explicitly or implicitly being asked not to express or address their anxieties about having been adopted.”

    I’m an adult. And I was adopted.

    And I still do not receive the freedom to say what I want about adoption because it makes people uncomfortable and because I get these responses:

    “You can’t change the past”
    “You can’t make someone parent if they don’t want to be a parent!” (we’re talking about cases where it’s “assumed” the mother didn’t want to parent)
    “You can’t force societal/cultural change”
    “What, so what about those who cannot conceive? Should they have to remain childless?”

    etc…

  220. Lika
    July 28, 2011 at 8:59 pm

    Kathleen,

    People are talking about mothers who desperately *wanted to parent*.

    There is a mothers who wants to parent versus mothers who don’t want to parent debate going on, and that’s what I was referring to. My hypothetical situation probably was pointless, but I did think the question, “does a child have a right to be raised by its biological relatives?” was a problematic because either answers can’t help but deny rights to one group of people, either the mother or the child. Either the mother has no rights and has to parent the child even if she doesn’t want to, or the child has no rights and has to shut up and accept the life that someone else decided for it. That feels like a false dictomy to me.

    Wow, my hypothetical scenario really was out there. I hope the above explains why I found the question problematic. It’s also why I think the debate between Azalea and Rox & co. may be little muddy and off-focused. It’s like it’s turning into a “whose rights trumps whose?”, with implications that children can’t have rights because if they do, that means women can’t, and vice versa, and I find that problematic.

    Well, I added fuel to that fire with my last post, so I’m guilty too. I wanted to explore the issue of why adoption talk seem to pit woman’s rights against children’s right, but bungled it up in the execution. (well, I didn’t know that was the specific issue I wanted to address. I just knew something about the question bugged me and it had something to do with “rights”.) Hope that’s clearer!

  221. July 28, 2011 at 9:13 pm

    Azalea: Who puts these restraning orders in place?

    Each state law has its own provisions and regulations in regards to the sealing of original birth records and contact post-placement, even into adulthood. Access to factual and accurate government records regarding one’s birth is a right that is regularly and systematically denied adult adoptees by state governments across the nation. Like the original post said, some states even make it illegal for natural family members and adoptees to communicate with each other, punishable by jail time and up to a $10,000 fine (Illinois, I believe ~ some one correct me if I am remembering wrong). On the upside, seven states provide free and unfettered access to original birth records; Rhode Island is the most recent state to completely open up access to original birth records, which is how it should be.

    If you are interested in learning more about the sordid history of how sealed adoption records and amended birth certificates came into being, google “Georgia Tann” and read up on one of the darkest episodes in adoption practices in the US. Sealed records, laws preventing contact, and amended birth records are her vile legacy.

  222. July 28, 2011 at 9:29 pm

    I am a mother who lost her oldest daughter to adoption in the early 1990’s. I won’t bore you with details here, but my story is very much like Nicole’s. I grew up in an extremely conservative and religious home in Utah. When I got pregnant at 19, my choices were to marry the man or place my daughter for adoption.

    Adoption was a permanent solution to the very temporary situations of me being young, under-employed, uneducated, and unmarried. It has affected every facet of my life, and not in a “miracle and blessing” kind of way either. I have accomplished what I have in my life IN SPITE of relinquishing my daughter for adoption, not because of it.

    You can read more of my story here: http://letterstomsfeverfew.wordpress.com/

  223. Nicole
    July 28, 2011 at 9:38 pm

    But what you all are asking is that people making legislation on adoption consider the feelings of the child being adopted how does that NOT mean you wouldn’t force a woman to raise a child she doesn’t want? She’d pressure the hell out of her, you’d put her through tons of “counseling” and asking her is she sure the way anti-choicers do women who want to abort. Whatever happened to trusting women? Coercion exists in getting an abortion OR giving the child up for adoption. The adoption DECISION needs to focus on the one making the choice to place the affects it has on her and how she feels first and foremost.

    Okay I’m going to try to tackle this one.

    First off, taking the impact of relinquishment on the children doesn’t mean forcing women to parent. I certainly don’t advocate that, and don’t believe any of the other commenters have advocated that. So then what does it mean, in a very practical, concrete way, in terms of reforms? That is a fair question.

    The usual answers are: (1) Open records for adoptees (stop sealing original birth certificates and stop denying them indentifying info about their genetic parents). (2) Make open adoption agreements legally binding. (3) Change the culture so that when a woman is contemplating parenting vs. placing, she is not subjected to rhetoric equating money, education, and two parents to being what is “best” for her baby and adoption being the “unselfish” decision. (4) Change the culture so there’s some acknowledgment that children aren’t blank slates. (5) Encourage more research into the effects of relinquishment on newborns. (6) Acknowledge biological fathers as an option for raising their children (when appropriate to do so)–if a mother doesn’t want to parent, the father should (assuming he’s not unfit) have the opportunity to raise the child–instead what’s typical is that he’s cut out of the loop completely, obscure newspaper publishing practices or putative father registries are used to terminate his rights usually without his knowledge because–how many people here know the ins and outs of putative father registries? exactly), or women are actually encouraged to lie and list a father as unknown even if he’s known, or he’s guilted into going along with the adoption. (7) Start having conversations about in-family adoption as an alternative to parenting and stranger adoption.

    I may have missed some, but there you go. I’ve never met anyone who wants to make it completely illegal for a woman to relinquish her child.

    As for the rest of your quote…

    I’m not in favor of mandated counseling for women before they relinquish. At one time I flirted with the idea but frankly, now working in the mental health / social services world myself, my confidence in that system is pretty shaken, also. (Whole other discussion.) That being said, I reject the premise that asking a woman for more information about why she is making the decision to place is pressuring her to parent. I also have to point out that there’s a difference between pressuring, coercing, or forcing someone to permanently terminate their rights (a life-changing act that cannot be undone) and strongly encouraging someone to take their time before signing termination papers and to consider giving parenting a try before signing. (Obviously that suggestion isn’t appropriate for all women, but for those who express any ambivalence about whether to place and have the means to do so, this is a really practical suggestion. So often women feel a time pressure to relinquish, when in actuality, there is no deadline.)

    As far as the privacy issues go… First, a right to privacy is not the same as right to anonymity. But I’ll assume that what people are really asking about is the right to anonymity.

    So, assuming that people are really talking about right to anonymity… I’ll try to find a citation tomorrow maybe but the percentage of women relinquishing who desire anonymity is very low (if my memory serves, estimates say single digit percentages?) Now personally I do not think in these scenarios that a woman’s or man’s desire for anonymity trumps an adoptee’s desires to know who their genetic parents are. Flat-out, that is my stance. I think the sealing of records is what’s much more mistrustful of the genetic parents and much more infantilizing of us as a group. From my perspective, closed records were never about protecting or honoring us, the women who relinquish–they were much more about protecting the parents of the first mothers (many of whom felt deep shame that their daughters got pregnant) and protecting the adoptive parents and frankly, in my belief, about protecting the adoption industry itself.

    There’s a lot more that could be said but that’ll do for now.

  224. Nicole
    July 28, 2011 at 9:47 pm

    On a personal note on open records…

    This is just an aside and personal anecdote, but when I say closed records are infantilizing of women who relinquish, may I offer my own state (Pennsylvania) and situation as an example? From the outset I chose a fully open adoption and would not even consider placing with adoptive parents who would do any less. (Open adoption in my definition being–full and complete exchange of identifying info, phone calls, pictures, and in-person visits at each others homes.) Despite my ten-plus years of consistent desire for a fully open/fully disclosed adoption, despite the fact that my daughter knows my full name, where I live, etc etc, she will never be allowed access to her orginal birth certificate. Even if I say she should have access, she can’t get it.

    Now in her case, maybe she won’t care a hoot about that, because she knows who I am anyway. But maybe she’ll want a copy for whatever reason. Maybe she’ll just dislike the idea that the state tells her she can’t have it and find the very idea discriminatory. Who knows? Regardless though, she can’t have it, and even if I give my consent, she can’t have it.

  225. Nicole
    July 28, 2011 at 9:58 pm

    All right I lied, one more point on open records…

    In support of my point that closed records aren’t really about honoring women who desire anonymity, I offer this legality:

    The sealing of the original birth certificate is not done when a mother terminates her parental rights. It is done when the child is adopted and the adoption is finalized. (These are separate legal processes in the US.) So if a parent’s rights are terminated but the child is never adopted, there is no anonymity. There is no sealing of the records. Just chew on that.

  226. Azalea
    July 28, 2011 at 10:22 pm

    Lika:
    Azalea,

    No. I have a far “stricter” view of what parenting means. Parenting means *sacrifice*, unapologetic, unreciprocated, sacrifice with little to no thanks. Your children, once you decide to become a parent, are *entitled* to *your* sacrifice until they are adults on their own two feet.

    I hope you uphold those standards with adoptive parents, because my experience has been people think adoptive parents are saint for simply taking a kid in.(“Your adoptive parents gave you three square meals.You must be so grateful!”)

    I agree with you that children are entitled to their parents’ sacrifice, but that adoption doesn’t guarantee that.

    ANYONE who chooses to parent, whether that be the “old fashioned way”, any variation of ART adoption, foster care guradian whatever. The child you CHOOSE to parent deserves and has a right to your sacrifice. The decision to parent should never be made lightly as it is a permanent choice, you’re on the hook once you jump in and jumping out afterwards is wrong as all hell. NOT having a abortion is NOT the same as choosing to be a parent, it is simply not going through with an abortion. Without the women who place adoption is a moot point. So every angle of the women who place have to be considered first and foremost above and beyond any other cosiderations. Without them there are no adoptees just aborted fetuses and this thread would be much shorter because those of you speaking from first person experience would have either had an abortion instead or been aborted.

    How many women carry to term BECAUSE they know adoption is an option? How many would not have let it gotten that far if it werent?

    Your question about surrending an adopted child I have two different answers for. If you adopt in infancy you’re pretty much in an all or nothing situation. You should not be able to “return” a child so just as bio parents would have to accept their child as is if or when they choose to parent so must adoptive parents. However for older children there ought to be a foster parent stage and it serves as a two sided “test drive” of the family environment where both parent and child have to click for the family to work. An older child already has a personality and ideas and experiences and because they know of a different family could reject that family altogether. An older child is about “matching” safe loving stable parent(s) to child whereas an infant is just about placement into a safe living stable home. The personality of the infant is not yet developed for their to be a need for “matching.”

  227. Kathleen
    July 28, 2011 at 10:22 pm

    Lika — it’s not a debate. It’s a multiparty conversation in which a few of those present are simply not listening to anyone else.

    To add to what Nicole has said, the permanent closure of adoption records creates a situation in which a legal decision made by one person, often when she is quite young, is made binding for at least two people forever (the mother, and the child). In the atmosphere of shaming that surrounds a lot of these initial situations, a decision that seems correct (or at least inevitable) to that woman might seem less so later on in her life (but she is not allowed to revisit it). It also creates a permanent situation for a person who was never party to the initial deliberation (the child). These laws are slowly being overturned, and rightly so. They are not fair.

  228. Kathleen
    July 28, 2011 at 10:26 pm

    CHILDREN ARE NOT VEHICLES. ONE DOES NOT “TEST-DRIVE” THEM. ADOPTION IS NOT THE PURCHASE OF A PRODUCT.

    Brigid, I think Azalea needs to be prevented from commenting further in this thread. Is there a way this can happen?

  229. Azalea
    July 28, 2011 at 10:36 pm

    Kathleen:
    okay, I can’t resist — Azalea, your answer (coming from a place of “here’s this thing I just thought of, not having read any of the huge literature available and ignoring every source of information people here have offered to me”) completely ignores the rights of children to knowledge about their backgrounds.

    (I know, I shouldn’t feed the troll.I know.Not that you’re always a troll, Azalea, but you really are being one in this discussion).

    I am not being a troll, I am disagreeing. I stand firmly behind the women I help and I wont leave their side of this discussion because someone else’s situation was different.

    I didn’t read the literature because I KNOW there are people who feel immense loss on both sides from adoption. That for those people, adoption in infancy was horrible. I am not saying it isn’t. The very first question I addressed in this discussion was whether or not an adoptee has a right to their biological parent in which I said no. To say they do means you’d be forcing women into parenting and as a pro-choice woman who believes parenting should always be a choice due to the sacrifices it demands, I will NEVER EVER agree with anything that forces parenting on a person who made a decision not to do it.

    I have said they deserve to know where they came from, their family’s health history etc. But they do not have a right to strip the person who placed them of that individual’s anonymity. They do not have a right to a relationship with that person against that person’s will. I think in cases where there is the restraining order where you can know who they are but are forbodden by law to contact them and their immediate relatives, then knowing who they are can sate the desire to know who your biological mother and or father is.

    I am not argueing for any rights on behalf of the people who adopt these children, my push is for the people who place. THAT is where I stand behind the women who do not ever wish to parent the child(ren) they place. That is where my viewpoint comes from. ANY bio parent who WANTS to parent should never be denied that right , likewise any bio parent who does NOT want to parent should not be denied the right to forgo parenthood.

  230. Eli
    July 28, 2011 at 10:43 pm

    Kathleen:
    Eli — sure, the adoptive family probably does feel anxious. But an adoptee should not feel obliged to make assuaging that anxiety a priority after a *lifetime* of explicitly or implicitly being asked not to express or address their anxieties about having been adopted.

    I never said that they should. I simply responded to @anonadoptee’s post asking — perhaps rhetorically — why her adoptive family was acting X way now that she’d met her first mother, and suggested one possible motive. I also noted that I thought that if that was the reason, they were expressing themselves very poorly.

  231. Azalea
    July 28, 2011 at 10:48 pm

    Kathleen:
    CHILDREN ARE NOT VEHICLES. ONE DOES NOT “TEST-DRIVE” THEM. ADOPTION IS NOT THE PURCHASE OF A PRODUCT.

    Brigid, I think Azalea needs to be prevented from commenting further in this thread.Is there a way this can happen?

    So you totally skipped the part where I said BOTH ADOPTEE AND PARENT need to test drive that FAMILY to see if it will work? What do you propose, adoptive parents come and pick an older child and the child has no say they just go? Getting to know someone in the confines of people watching over you in a group home or orphanage setting is complete and utter bullshit. You take two words and go to Russia with it crying out loud. An infant can’t get to know someone or determine if they really like someone and think they would make good parents for them the way an older child could, I’m making that distinction and ugh. Fuck it. I will not respond to you anymore because everything I type upsets you.

  232. rox
    July 28, 2011 at 10:49 pm

    On reducing stigma against women who want to callously get rid of their children simply because it meets their needs and without caring how that affects the child?

    That’s really not what feminism is for. Feminism is about empowering women to believe in themselves, learn about what it means to be a woman, expand their knowledge of their choices, expand what those choices themselves are, and if possible improve access to resources to make the lives of women better. It also involves thinking critically about issues of ethics and about the well being of all humans (not just females).

    It should be about reducing stigma, sexism, prejudice about BEING A WOMAN. It’s not really supposed to be a magic wand that we wave every time we make a decision without caring about others and then shout, “But don’t judge me!”

    When you do things that hurt others— and you do them without any reason other than that it felt good to you and that the well being of others simply didn’t matter to you– People will question what kind of person you are and whether they want to accept you in their lives.

    It’s not one of those things where you say, “I spank my kids every day because I feel like it and I don’t care what the research says, the decision should be about me and how I feel and not about how it affects my kids.”

    Most people will want to understand if you believe that spanking is healthy for your kids. they might disagree, and they might be concerned for the kids, but as it is legal, they will probably not shun you from the community. If you’re exibiting the same behavior but because YOU DON’T CARE about your kids?

    Yeah, people will probably believe you are a harmful and self centered person and if that goes against their values, they are well within their rights to choose not to interact with, or offer support to you. Feeling loneliness because no one wants to accept you because you are harmful to other people is really beyond the scope of feminism to fix.

    UNLESS you’re willing to look at harmful behavior as originating in deep rooted issues itself. In which case we CAN do research on how to prevent and treat people with conditions of low empathy who would like to be better people and become better connected in the community and safe and desirable to be around. And I am all for advocating for that.

    But simply saying, “Women should just do whatever they feel with regard to children they birth and those kids should just get over however that effects their lives” is probably not an attitude many compassionate people are going to want to hold on to as a model.

    Having compassion for HOW a woman might wind up pregnant and unable to connect or feel love or be able to parent? Sure. There are reasons beyond our control that this can happen. And I have stated many times that when it happens and the woman does not want help, or help that is offered is not enough to work through the issues at hand, adoption is certainly better than being raised by an abusive unloving mother who wishes she could get rid of you.

    But I do want to make it very clear that even when women have problems connecting or who don’t feel drenched in bonding hormones should be given information on the fact that this happens for many women EVEN WHO PLANNED pregnancies—- and that for some women the bonding process happens slowly after birth and may not happen in a spontaneous intense way. This is especially true if the mother has had an abusive/neglectful/adverse childhood, faced trauma or has other biological or emotional issues.

    If the mother is concerned that the emotions she is feelings mean she will not be a good mother, she should be given resources about working through such issues and given information about how it worked for other women who were able to develop a healthy bond with their children despite a different bonding process than what many expect.

  233. Azalea
    July 28, 2011 at 11:03 pm

    Nicole:
    All right I lied, one more point on open records…

    In support of my point that closed records aren’t really about honoring women who desire anonymity, I offer this legality:

    The sealing of the original birth certificate is not done when a mother terminates her parental rights. It is done when the child is adopted and the adoption is finalized. (These are separate legal processes in the US.) So if a parent’s rights are terminated but the child is never adopted, there is no anonymity. There is no sealing of the records. Just chew on that.

    Here is where I clarify my experience with this: they sought out families for the infant before the infant was born. The prospective parents were there and supportive throughout the pregnancy for some and for others it was mostly formal meetings, background checks including interviewing friends, neighbors, employers of the prospective parents. I don’t think children should just be abandoned and oh well for them. So if a woman decides on adoption and does nothing to ensure an adoption takes place for that infant she has done something irresponsible. There are people who argue for and places that enforce adoption laws that leave bio parents respoonsible for the infant until the infant has been adopted UNLESS the infant would be in danger if left in the care of the bio parent.

    So the unsealed birth certificate for adoptees who were never placed should be something the bio parents know and may serve as an incentive for those who wish to remain anonymous to get the ball rolling on finding a family for the child.

  234. rox
    July 28, 2011 at 11:04 pm

    All of the information that I believe women should have access to assumes a woman is SEEKING information and support about issues she fears makes her unable to parent.

    I’m not talking mandatory counseling that would be another can o worms.

  235. anonadoptee
    July 28, 2011 at 11:12 pm

    Azalea: Without them there are no adoptees just aborted fetuses and this thread would be much shorter because those of you speaking from first person experience would have either had an abortion instead or been aborted.

    How many women carry to term BECAUSE they know adoption is an option? How many would not have let it gotten that far if it werent?

    If I were aborted I wouldn’t be here. Whoop-dee-doo. I’ve been listening to the “OMG adoption is great because without it you wouldn’t be here” for my whole life. I’m really tired of it. A fetus is not a child. A fetus’s rights do not trump the woman’s. But a child’s right must be considered.

    I am an adoptee. I am a woman. I think that my right to know who I am trumps the right to anonymity. AND despite the fact that MANY of us have said over and over and over…I’ll say it again. THIS DOES NOT MEAN FORCED PARENTING. Jesus. Do I need to repeat this over and over again? I want the legal right to my damn birth certificate. How is that not right?

    And I agree at this point with those who feel Azalea is trolling. It really sounds too much like the typical “ooh ooh look I have TONS of friends who feel x way so obviously they need to be considered more and your experience with y is only a minority”…grrr. Time for bed.

  236. Azalea
    July 28, 2011 at 11:40 pm

    Nicole: Okay I’m going to try to tackle this one.

    First off, taking the impact of relinquishment on the children doesn’t mean forcing women to parent. I certainly don’t advocate that, and don’t believe any of the other commenters have advocated that. So then what does it mean, in a very practical, concrete way, in terms of reforms? That is a fair question.

    The usual answers are: (1) Open records for adoptees (stop sealing original birth certificates and stop denying them indentifying info about their genetic parents). (2) Make open adoption agreements legally binding. (3) Change the culture so that when a woman is contemplating parenting vs. placing, she is not subjected to rhetoric equating money, education, and two parents to being what is “best” for her baby and adoption being the “unselfish” decision. (4) Change the culture so there’s some acknowledgment that children aren’t blank slates. (5) Encourage more research into the effects of relinquishment on newborns. (6) Acknowledge biological fathers as an option for raising their children (when appropriate to do so)–if a mother doesn’t want to parent, the father should (assuming he’s not unfit) have the opportunity to raise the child–instead what’s typical is that he’s cut out of the loop completely, obscure newspaper publishing practices or putative father registries are used to terminate his rights usually without his knowledge because–how many people here know the ins and outs of putative father registries? exactly), or women are actually encouraged to lie and list a father as unknown even if he’s known, or he’s guilted into going along with the adoption. (7) Start having conversations about in-family adoption as an alternative to parenting and stranger adoption.

    I may have missed some, but there you go. I’ve never met anyone who wants to make it completely illegal for a woman to relinquish her child.

    As for the rest of your quote…

    I’m not in favor of mandated counseling for women before they relinquish. At one time I flirted with the idea but frankly, now working in the mental health / social services world myself, my confidence in that system is pretty shaken, also. (Whole other discussion.) That being said, I reject the premise that asking a woman for more information about why she is making the decision to place is pressuring her to parent. I also have to point out that there’s a difference between pressuring, coercing, or forcing someone to permanently terminate their rights (a life-changing act that cannot be undone) and strongly encouraging someone to take their time before signing termination papers and to consider giving parenting a try before signing. (Obviously that suggestion isn’t appropriate for all women, but for those who express any ambivalence about whether to place and have the means to do so, this is a really practical suggestion. So often women feel a time pressure to relinquish, when in actuality, there is no deadline.)

    As far as the privacy issues go… First, a right to privacy is not the same as right to anonymity. But I’ll assume that what people are really asking about is the right to anonymity.

    So, assuming that people are really talking about right to anonymity…I’ll try to find a citation tomorrow maybe but the percentage of women relinquishing who desire anonymity is very low (if my memory serves, estimates say single digit percentages?) Now personally I do not think in these scenarios that a woman’s or man’s desire for anonymity trumps an adoptee’s desires to know who their genetic parents are. Flat-out, that is my stance. I think the sealing of records is what’s much more mistrustful of the genetic parents and much more infantilizing of us as a group. From my perspective, closed records were never about protecting or honoring us, the women who relinquish–they were muchmore about protecting the parents of the first mothers (many of whom felt deep shame that their daughters got pregnant) and protecting the adoptive parents and frankly, in my belief, about protecting the adoption industry itself.

    There’s a lot more that could be said but that’ll do for now.

    First, thank you thank you thank you for taking the time to actually address what I posted.

    I agree with you on points 2-7. I grew up with friends who were raised by their grandparents or aunts and “unofficially” adopted by them. My nephew (in law) is now technically my brother in law as my mother in law has adopted him. At times she gets overwhelmed at having to raise her grandson and the demands of parenting a young child but she does it. The stress surrounding *why* she had to do it and the sacrifices she has had to make, has her seeking professional help for her mental and emotional health. My husband and I have been offering to help relieve her of some of the stress of parenting (babysitting, spending more time with him etc) but it all just makes her feel guilty that she isn’t wonderwoman.

    I think the system exploits the anonymity of the father. In many places a woman needs only to tell the bio father that she is in labor and where she is giving birth as a form of letting him know she chose adoption (even if she is married) and he and his child are then permanently screwed out fo a relationship with each other, so are the childs grandparents, siblings (if they have any) aunts, uncles, etc.

    I think the system exploits young ,poor and/or abused mothers. As somene mentioned above, making it seem as though they *cant* be good parents. When we are talking about an infant and without any concrete proof no one else but the bio parents are qualified to determine what kind of parent they will be.

    Now on point 1, I think there ought to be a middle ground where critical information like family health history is made available regardless of whether or not there is a closed adoption as I think everyone has a right to know that. How soon would be soon enough to give an adoptee identifying information on their bio parents? What happens in the event that they find their bio parent and they have younger children, is the adoptee allowed as an adult to approach the minor child and tell them who they are? Basically at what point does the adoptees rights to know where they came from ends and the rights of bio parents begins?

  237. Azalea
    July 28, 2011 at 11:57 pm

    anonadoptee: If I were aborted I wouldn’t be here. Whoop-dee-doo. I’ve been listening to the “OMG adoption is great because without it you wouldn’t be here” for my whole life. I’m really tired of it. A fetus is not a child. A fetus’s rights do not trump the woman’s. But a child’s right must be considered.

    I am an adoptee. I am a woman. I think that my right to know who I am trumps the right to anonymity. AND despite the fact that MANY of us have said over and over and over…I’ll say it again. THIS DOES NOT MEAN FORCED PARENTING. Jesus. Do I need to repeat this over and over again? I want the legal right to my damn birth certificate. How is that not right?

    And I agree at this point with those who feel Azalea is trolling. It really sounds too much like the typical “ooh ooh look I have TONS of friends who feel x way so obviously they need to be considered more and your experience with y is only a minority”…grrr. Time for bed.

    What do you do with the birth certificate once you get it? Once you know who the bio prent is, if they wished not to be contacted (because my initial responses here was about THAT VERY SUBJECT because the question was asked in the OP about a child’s right to their bio parents) what do you do next?

    I’m not trolling, have you been here very long? Let me introduce myself : I am an extremely outspoken WOC who doesn’t back down from shit. I have an opinion I give it. If you challenge my opinion, I defend it if I honestly feel that it is alright. If I think there is wiggle room to change my stance, I ask questions and go from there. When I have asked questions here I have been called a fucking troll. It’s beginning to really really annoy me that as soon as I disagree with someone on a thread, “troll” gets thrown around. Am I not allowed to have an original thought and who decided that I couldn’t?

    I didnt say adoption was great because otherwise you would have been aborted. My point in saying that was to bring the focus back onto bio parents. The children MATTER, yes they certainly do but the bio parents matter a little more because of the role they play in all of this. I think if adoption is so horrible that most women who place suffer because of that decision then that is something that needs to be said while she’s still pregnant and can get an abortion because it would probably be what’s best for her if raising a child isn’t what she wants.

    I have said ad nauseum, that IF a bio parent WANTS to raise their child they SHOULD raise their child. That includes bio parents who consider adoption because they cant offer a two parent household, or are poor, or disabled or whatever other reason NOT being that they simply wish not to be a parent.

  238. Polka
    July 29, 2011 at 12:20 am

    I’m adopted. Hell, I’m even a different color than my adoptive parents are. And you know what? I couldn’t have asked for better ones. I have exactly… zero issues from the whole experience. I’ve talked to my birth mother on and off, and the decision really boiled down to her not thinking that she could actually afford to have me, or give me the life that I deserved (a combination of pretty horrific family issues and poverty), and even though she did eventually want to be a parent, it wasn’t a good time. So she gave me to some people who didn’t have those issues, and did a wonderful job raising me into a productive little member of society.

    I don’t feel like I have a ‘right’ to be raised by my bio parents. If I had, my life probably would have been pretty crappy from both a material and an emotional standpoint. Sometimes your bio parents just can’t do enough even though they’re not abusive or neglectful, and in some cases, it really *is* better to have other people do the baby-raising.

    I also think that the need to place adopted children with a member of their ‘community’ is crap. If you have a parent/family that will provide a stable and loving home for the kid, that’s all that should figure into it. I honestly feel like being brought up in a post-racial household/environment has only helped me. I never had to deal with racism until I was ‘out in the world’ and mature enough to not let it bother me. I don’t feel any sense of cultural ‘loss’. Skin is skin.

  239. rox
    July 29, 2011 at 12:28 am

    “I think if adoption is so horrible that most women who place suffer because of that decision then that is something that needs to be said while she’s still pregnant and can get an abortion because it would probably be what’s best for her if raising a child isn’t what she wants.”

    I agree. Now if, as you argued earlier, we are to disregard and advocate against more and better research “because it can prove whatever people want it to prove” how can we come closer to determining an accurate picture of what the actual affects of adoption are on women who place?

    Another ethical consideration is this: if it’s common for adoptees to grapple with difficult emotions and if adoption might in fact affect new borns at the time of placement and through out life– that is something we need to get accurate research on as well and that should be available to women who are deciding what is best for their children.

    While some women will place no matter what because they don’t care about the child, many women are weighing complex and difficult circumstances and are basing their decision on the well being of their children. Having accurate information about outcomes to the best of our ability is valuable for women who want to seek the best option for their child.

    Adoption agencies tend to gloss over affects of adoption on the child in favor of pumping up stastics on the poor outcomes of single parent/low income homes. The reality is that single parent/low income isn’t the CAUSE of the poor outcomes. High income single parents who are emotional healthy and well connected to resources and demonstrate healthy parenting techniques and maintain a consistant environment for their children (reducing dates/step parent turnover, abuse in the home etc)— don’t show signs of the terrible outcomes single parents are often credited for.

    If the ACTUAL factors that cause poor outcomes are things like: eating TV dinners and take out every night, being stressed, not having knowledge of parenting techniques or how to create stable envionments, not doing daily activities with the child, not having access to enriching cmomunity activites, being too stressed overwhelmed to impliment the techniques, having dates move in regularly and the affects of that turnover on the child, not being as assertive about requiring dates be committed to healthy parenting techniques–

    These are all things that education and support programs can assist with. Further more as low income and single parent homes can occur even when married people with money have kids (shit happens)– one wonders why we don’t have a dedication to the children in our community to address these problems that all children in low income/single parent homes face.

    No matter HOW a low income family came to be– the children deserve access to an enriching environment if at all possible.

  240. July 29, 2011 at 2:22 am

    rox: Further more as low income and single parent homes can occur even when married people with money have kids (shit happens)– one wonders why we don’t have a dedication to the children in our community to address these problems that all children in low income/single parent homes face.

    No matter HOW a low income family came to be– the children deserve access to an enriching environment if at all possible.

    Word. And furthermore, middle-class status doesn’t make you immune to family dysfunction, although it may make you somewhat less likely to be scrutinized.

    Thank you to everyone who has shared their stories in this thread.

  241. July 29, 2011 at 4:21 am

    I’ve actually been blogging about adoption from a feminist/humanrights/pro-reproductive autonomy perspective for a number of years now. There’s no question in my mind how it must be considered intrinsic to the broader feminist framework.

    Additionally, it must be understood from a “class” perspective both in terms of the classes of women children are (often nonconsentually) taken from and those they are granted to. Bastards likewise face legal discrimination as a class, not merely as individuals.

    “Class” must also be understood in relation to adoption in terms of economic class. As I said on my about page, my blog

    “…has roots in exploring adoption and how it is deeply entwined with many social factors, particularly poverty. Many real life “love children” who are later adopted, are not ‘given up’ for lack of love, but for lack of resources. Many of those mislabeled “orphans” are in fact made available to the adoption process as a byproduct of grinding poverty, both domestic and global.”

    Post after post I’ve written chronicle the global adoption marketplace and the human rights abuses and crimes that are an inherent aspect of such. I invite readers to explore some of my posts tags such as “Ethiopia.”

    I write as a Bastard and a feminist who has longtime involvement in the struggle for reproductive autonomy.

    I’ve spent years documenting those who advocate the compulsory pregnancy stance and the ways in which anti-abortion movement and the religiously based (and at times forcible) adoption movement are more often than not often one and the same. Certainly the major adoption industry umbrella lobbying organizations in the DC area are rooted in such, just as most of their individual member agencies are.

    Here’s a post I wrote back in 2009 about how the adoption industry’s co-optation of genuine reproductive privacy in relation to sealed records and the myth of adoption as a “reproductive right” were being used by the industry to falsely pit feminists against Bastards (adoptee rights advocates) and Mothers (“of origin”) as a means of protecting its own interests-

    Adoption as a modern Feminist institutional blindspot

    Here is another post from just over a year ago about the adoption industry’s intentional infiltration into women’s health clinics that provide abortion services (Made all the more relevant now in relation to Dr. Carhart’s desire to position adoption counseling front and center in his Maryland clinic in the course of providing late term procedures)-

    Adoption in relation to Abortion provision, notes on clinics that embrace adoption marketing

    For those who care about women and our lives, adoption ultimately must be viewed as a feminist issue, as it is so deeply entwined with questions of agency and autonomy both economic and biological.

    Those distinctions become all the more clear when a careful study of adoption practices by American entities abroad is undertaken: from Australia to Ireland, Russia to Vietnam, Guatemala to Ethiopia pregnant women globally have been systematically strip mined for their offspring.

    (Furthermore, with the rise of repro-tech, the virtually unregulated American marketplace offers the hope of offspring to anyone with enough cash in hand. )

  242. Eli
    July 29, 2011 at 5:35 am

    Having been through it, what do you guys suggest as a starting point to fix a broken system? I think that what I’m hearing is that the placement/relinquishment process should be overhauled, not that adoption should be taken off the table as an option. Is this where the additional support/counseling/resources for mothers, on a system-wide basis, would come in? (And I assume that would probably have to be legislated in order to make a meaningful difference?)

  243. Anonadoptee
    July 29, 2011 at 7:32 am

    Azalea.

    I cannot interact with you anymore. Yes the op asked these questions but I do not believe the op is an adoptee and so perhaps all the questions are not as relevant. I have said over and over and over that I don’t want to force anyone to parent.

    You say the womens rights trump the Childs? Well I’m not a fucking child anymore I am a woman too. My mom and I are both adults. I have the right to know who the person is who gave birth to me and as two adults, I should have the right to attempt contact. If she does not want contact then she can hang up the phone and ignore an email if she really wants too.

    I’ve been reading feministe for years. I’m not a newbie to the world of blogging, and I did not write you off as a troll immediately, nor do I think you are always one on this site. But you repeatedly ignore the fact that every single adoptee or first mom blogging here disagrees with you. That is usually a sign that you just might have a wrong opinion and should listen to the people here telling you how it is. We aren’t pulling this shit out of nowhere.

    No one has a right to anonymity. Or at least they shouldn’t. This is not the case of woman vs child. In the states where original birth certificates are available it is after age 18. So that could be woman vs woman. One womans right to anonymity doesn’t trump another womans (or mans) right to know who zir mother is.

  244. Nicole
    July 29, 2011 at 7:52 am

    Eli, there are a lot of changes that need to be made, some cultural, some legislative.

    One of the first steps in the US is standardizing relinquishment laws across US (and ensuring that those laws are mother-friendly rather than “adoption-friendly”–a term used in the adoption world that really means anti-mother rights). And I know Azalea disagrees and that’s okay, but the other first step in my opinion is open records. (This one’s actually happening in some states.)

  245. Brigid
    July 29, 2011 at 8:48 am

    Alright, Azalea, look.

    I want to give you the benefit of the doubt that you are just trying to understand the issues and to present possibly-unheard viewpoints. But I think a) you’ve made your points and b) your continued insistence on those points is straying toward silencing those who disagree with you. You are now dominating a thread in which those who are usually silenced — people who have placed children for adoption, and adult adoptees — should be able to be heard. Please take a step back.

    Anonadoptee: Yes the op asked these questions but I do not believe the op is an adoptee and so perhaps all the questions are not as relevant.

    Anonadoptee is right. I started this thread the only way I know how, which is to ask the questions I know how to ask. That doesn’t mean they’re the right questions, and any appeal to the “authority” of my original post would be inappropriate, because I have no authority on this issue.

    anonadoptee, rox, others: I know you’re in a tough place here, but please just. stop. responding.

  246. anonadoptee
    July 29, 2011 at 9:07 am

    Alright Brigid. Agreed and I will stop responding, it doesn’t help anyways.

    So, new subject for me. Adoptee psychological trauma. Until recently I didn’t know I wasn’t the only one experiencing these things (thank you adoptee/first mom blogs)…

    I’ll be back in counseling soon, thank god. Can’t afford it now but once I’m back in Uni I get free counseling.

    My attachment issues are so strong I’m afraid my marriage will fail if I can’t fix it. Sometimes I get so bad…I just can’t believe that he won’t leave me. I fear it so much even though I know it’s not rational. I start crying at the slightest criticism and can really scare myself at how I feel. I threaten suicide and I know even though I wouldn’t actually do it, I am unable to stop myself from saying these things. Rationality and my feelings don’t coincide.

    I fear my parents disapproval so badly that my life is secret from them.

    I am terrified to make friends to the point of having anxiety attacks. I am so scared someone will reject me I went years without asking a friend over because I was scared they’d say no.

    Those are just the attachment issues. I’ve never thought well of myself, I have extremely poor self esteem, I have an eating disorder that I can’t get over and it’s ruining me and making me unhealthy (I eat until I can’t stop and then cry that I did it).

    These things are not just me. I know from adoptee blogs that I’m not the only one. But it’s really just hidden in the real world, we don’t tend to get heard when it comes to being harmed psychologically by being adopted. We are expected to have no problems and be simply grateful we were taken in.

    The problem comes when even counselors don’t get it. They tell you it’s not “really” what’s wrong, that there must be something else.

    I know I’ll need help to at least help me somewhat. I can’t live like this forever. My partner has helped me so much and knows where I’m coming from, but I drive him away because of my problems…He’s great about it but I can’t keep doing this. I really hope counseling helps.

    Anyone else have psychological issues you relate to being adopted/relinquishing a child? Do you also have to keep it secret?

  247. Question to dominant narrative
    July 29, 2011 at 9:14 am

    So, I have a question for anonadoptee and all of the others who are very forcefully advocating their conception of adoption based on their experiences. Do they feel any hesitancy in based on experiences which are no longer in the majority? If the majority of children away from their biological parents now are foster-adopted, or state-coerced due to abuse and neglect, or non-infant, it seems strange to me that this entire discussion is centered around the experience of voluntary infant adoptions from 30 years ago.

    Reading the thread, there is no mention of AACWA and the pro reunification movement, ASFA, the rise of kinship care, or MEPA, the narrative is completely ahistorical for the past 30 years. Btw the role of foster care is understated in adoption numbers because of the rise of kinship care and other mixed arrangements (like guardianship) which don’t require TPR.

    Understandably, adoptees are reacting to policies from 50, 30, 20 even 10 years ago… but isn’t there some privilege denial on this thread? Can we hear from some people who were adopted out of nominally abusive homes? Or not as infants? All I’ve heard is “POC pulled out of homes by “white social workers with middle class values” by one poster. Ok, lets hear it with some nuance (or evidence!). People who had attachment issues and knew their bio parents? Because these stories are definitely invisible on this thread.

    Basically there are a whole lot of children for whom the alternative isn’t bio parents, it is foster care. And I feel like that is a much broader conversation than is being had. Dismissing it as “racist intervention” or “abuse is bad” denies the fact that fixing the entire adoption system or rather, centering the child’s experience means fixing THIS ISSUE. People need to do some thinking on how to meet the needs in this scenario rather than painting really black and white pictures of religious v women etc. Is there over-intervention or under-intervention? On one hand, POC, women and the poor are heavily policed. On the other hand, nobody cares about their children.

    Btw on kin care (which has been brought up a ton of times with no context) – social workers LOVE kinship care. Love it. Why? Because there is a federal limit on how long a child can stay in foster care without moving them to a permanent home which can only be waived under certain circumstances. (No one reaches it in this dysfunctional system obv). Once this time is reached, the social workers need to either send the child back home or terminate parental rights (TPR) and adopt. BUT the legal standard in most states to be met to remove a child due to abuse is “preponderance of the evidence” (50+%). The constitutional standard required to actually take the child from care and TPR is “clear and convincing evidence” (prob 75%). In other words, it’s harder to move them on than it is to take them. So before a deadline was put in place, many kids languished in foster care because it was likely but not likely enough they were being abused. But the deadline is waived if the child is placed with kin. Most kin also do not want a TPR. So it’s a win for social workers and the govt, and for the many times a win for the abusive parent who can still get access to that child. Or is in many cases is LIVING WITH the kin carer. People are bringing up kinship care as if it’s some new fancy liberal invention, not the practical policy of almost every state for the last 10 years, despite prelim evidence showing that the majority of children placed with kinship carers end up back in foster care.

    As for dragging babies out of mother’s arms, please.(Ugh, need to get home to find my family law notes for cites) but pretty sure that under ASFA, as it is interpreted by most states, only having killed a previous child will get your parental rights automatically terminated at birth. Nothing else triggers any intervention. Not prior abuse and neglect against other children. Neither will having other children *currently* removed from your care for abuse or neglect. Neither will being in prison for violent offenses. Neither will having your child born addicted to drugs or alcohol.

    Again, the narrative on this thread is ahistorical and limited on (probably) desirable white newborns. Foster care/abuse and neglect/ is the reality for children RIGHT NOW who are currently not growing up with their bio parents and this is the future. There are very few babies around anymore. International adoption has plummeted and UNICEF and other international aid orgs target countries with high rates of int. adopt. to close them. People having out-of-wedlock babies, poor or otherwise, generally keep them. Parents who are unfit get years to destroy the child before they are removed. In other words, isn’t the general trend of history going to take care of pretty much all of the issues raised on the board today if you push for universal access to abortion and an end to sexual violence? So why are the real issues being sidelined in favor of pretending that it’s still the 1970s?

  248. anonadoptee
    July 29, 2011 at 9:31 am

    I imagine we are discussing adoptions that were carried out over 20 years ago because if we (adoptees) were adopted within the past five years I doubt we’d be on here discussing these issues.

    And the rise today in first mothers who relinquished in the 70’s, 80’s, and even earlier is because feminism has helped at least a little bit to help women see that there WAS a problem. Women are able to open up more. 30 years ago it was all kept a big secret. So it makes sense to me that there are many women who relinquished years ago who are finally finding a voice. That they found this voice 30 years late doesn’t make it any less important.

    And this discussion is primarily about infant adoption. Foster care and older child adoption is a whole other ballgame and probably needs its own post. You can’t lump all adoptions in together, they are not the same.

    And even though infant adoption isn’t as popular (although I think it is just as popular, just harder to get a white infant) the narrative surrounding it is quite popular and is touted by the right wing as a good reason why abortion should be illegal…they feel that the problem with adoption isn’t that it is coercive and damaging, but that there simply aren’t enough babies because us horrible women keep aborting the babies “god” meant for these waiting couples.

  249. anonadoptee
    July 29, 2011 at 9:34 am

    And for the record, the “dominant narrative” as you call it here on feministe is the “minority narrative” in the real world. This is one of the few spaces (blogs and the internet) that we feel safe discussing these things. Even though people still show up telling us we are wrong, or in this case that we are “ignoring the bigger picture” blah blah blah.

  250. Nicole
    July 29, 2011 at 9:40 am

    Question,

    Estimates are 13,000 to 14,000 women in the US each year voluntarily relinquish. That absolutely is a small number of women.

    Because it’s small, does that mean we don’t get to talk about our experiences or advocate for positive changes to the infant adoption system?

    Foster care adoption is a whole different ballgame. There are certainly reforms that need to happen there too. (By the way, killing a child is not the only reason a woman can lose a child without any chance given for reunification. It varies by state, but outright killing of a child is not generally the only reason.)

  251. rox
    July 29, 2011 at 9:42 am

    I’m sorry, but what? Many of the women who lost their newborns to adoption lost them less than ten years ago. No family abuse and neglect will not stop unless we stop punishing mothers for being poor/struggling mothers and instead create research based support that addresses the ways that abusive and neglectful family dynamics develop.

    We have a lot of teen mothers, a lot of single mothers, a lot of low income mothers. We fail to assist these families because we are too busy judging how they got they way to realize that no matter how they got that way the children involved deserve their families to be helped.

    Low income families face higher stress, more health problems, higher substance abuse problems, greater mental health issues… and further more adverse childhoods are highly correlated with the development of these problems.

    These are PARENTS whose families we failed to help because we were too busy judging THEIR parents to realize the child deserves their family to get support.

    Enriching childhood environments are proven to reduce the development of cognitive and mental health problems, physical health problems, scholastic performance problems and more.

    Parents who have been affected by adverse childhood conditions have legitimate obstacles to creating the kind of enriching envrionments that will provide a foundation for health for their children. Until we step up and realize that judging these families for their struggles is NOT going to itsel improve the lives of these children, these cycles will continue.

  252. Nicole
    July 29, 2011 at 9:49 am

    Forgot to say… if people would like to talk about the foster adoption system that is fine by me. I can’t speak so much to that, because I didn’t relinquish through the public system, didn’t grow up in foster care, and have not adopted from foster care. I did work VERY briefly (10 months) in that system, writing child profiles for kids in foster care, and I do intersect with the impacts of that system in my current work in mental health (knowing people who’ve grown up in foster care and knowing parents who’ve involuntarily lost parental rights), but am hesitant to speak for them.

    If there’s someone here who has direct experience who’d like to talk about that system (it’s a different system from infant adoptoin in the US–ASFA and all that doesn’t apply), I’d love to hear from them too.

    It probably really deserves its own thread… as does ART… as does international adoption. But since we don’t have a separate thread for it, sure, let’s turn the discussion there.

  253. rox
    July 29, 2011 at 9:50 am

    If 13000 women each year were being assaulted in a way that was leaving them with lifelong PTSD would that be irrelevant? How many children do catholic priests abuse each year? Should we not give people who faced that a space to talk about it? Because… “most catholic priests are nice, hey it’s not THAT COMMON, nothing to see here, move along folk”

    Infant adoption is particularly relevant to feminism also because despite that we can see clearly MOST WOMEN DON’T WANT TO PLACE— it’s thrown around by the pro-life movement as this wonderful win win solution for everyone.

    If it causes lifelong grief in over half of the women who place that is NOT a win win. that is an anti woman solution to the poverty her child would face with her. Because it is a solution that requires the woman to sacrafice her well being– ACCORDING TO THE ADOPTION AGENCIES THEMSELVES.

    The existance of adoption, despite that most women do NOT want to go through it, is often cited as a reason that we do not have a responsability to children in poor families, because women should just ahve gotten abortions or placed the child for adoption. (and if you are anti- abortion then the ONLY solution they want to see happen is often adoption)

    Despite the low numbers, the existance still plays a huge role in our thinking about unplanned pregnancy and our willingness to support women who choose to parent.

    And if infant adoption is being held up as an excuse to not provide support to women who choose to parent their unplanned children — then that is PARTICULARLY relevant to the lack of programs that leave this low income families at risk of dveloping abuive or neglecful circumstances.

  254. chingona
    July 29, 2011 at 9:58 am

    That said … I think the danger of the narrative that centers around infant adoption is that it presents the real or true interests of biological mothers and their children as always aligned, barring coercive social pressure, religion, etc. The appropriate feminist response to exploiting other women’s reproductive capabilities seems fairly obvious. The type of analysis that is common in online feminism, that places all types of oppression under the umbrella of feminism, flounders a bit (or a lot) when we start talking about something like the foster care system. What children need and have a right to, what women want and have a right to, do sometimes conflict.

  255. Safiya Outlines
    July 29, 2011 at 9:59 am

    Question to dominant narrative:
    So, I have a question for anonadoptee and all of the others who are very forcefully advocating their conception of adoption based on their experiences. Do they feel any hesitancy in based on experiences which are no longer in the majority? If the majority of children away from their biological parents now are foster-adopted, or state-coerced due to abuse and neglect, or non-infant, it seems strange to me that this entire discussion is centered around the experience of voluntary infant adoptions from 30 years ago.

    Reading the thread, there is no mention of AACWA and the pro reunification movement, ASFA, the rise of kinship care, or MEPA, the narrative is completely ahistorical for the past 30 years. Btw the role of foster care is understated in adoption numbers because of the rise of kinship care and other mixed arrangements (like guardianship) which don’t require TPR.

    Understandably, adoptees are reacting to policies from 50, 30, 20 even 10 years ago… but isn’t there some privilege denial on this thread? Can we hear from some people who were adopted out of nominally abusive homes? Or not as infants? All I’ve heard is “POC pulled out of homes by “white social workers with middle class values” by one poster. Ok, lets hear it with some nuance (or evidence!). People who had attachment issues and knew their bio parents? Because these stories are definitely invisible on this thread.

    Basically there are a whole lot of children for whom the alternative isn’t bio parents, it is foster care. And I feel like that is a much broader conversation than is being had. Dismissing it as “racist intervention” or “abuse is bad” denies the fact that fixing the entire adoption system or rather, centering the child’s experience means fixing THIS ISSUE. People need to do some thinking on how to meet the needs in this scenario rather than painting really black and white pictures of religious v women etc. Is there over-intervention or under-intervention? On one hand, POC, women and the poor are heavily policed. On the other hand, nobody cares about their children.

    Btw on kin care (which has been brought up a ton of times with no context) – social workers LOVE kinship care. Love it. Why? Because there is a federal limit on how long a child can stay in foster care without moving them to a permanent home which can only be waived under certain circumstances. (No one reaches it in this dysfunctional system obv). Once this time is reached, the social workers need to either send the child back home or terminate parental rights (TPR) and adopt. BUT the legal standard in most states to be met to remove a child due to abuse is “preponderance of the evidence” (50+%). The constitutional standard required to actually take the child from care and TPR is “clear and convincing evidence” (prob 75%). In other words, it’s harder to move them on than it is to take them. So before a deadline was put in place, many kids languished in foster care because it was likely but not likely enough they were being abused. But the deadline is waived if the child is placed with kin. Most kin also do not want a TPR. So it’s a win for social workers and the govt, and for the many times a win for the abusive parent who can still get access to that child. Or is in many cases is LIVING WITH the kin carer. People are bringing up kinship care as if it’s some new fancy liberal invention, not the practical policy of almost every state for the last 10 years, despite prelim evidence showing that the majority of children placed with kinship carers end up back in foster care.

    As for dragging babies out of mother’s arms, please.(Ugh, need to get home to find my family law notes for cites) but pretty sure that under ASFA, as it is interpreted by most states, only having killed a previous child will get your parental rights automatically terminated at birth. Nothing else triggers any intervention. Not prior abuse and neglect against other children. Neither will having other children *currently* removed from your care for abuse or neglect. Neither will being in prison for violent offenses. Neither will having your child born addicted to drugs or alcohol.

    Again, the narrative on this thread is ahistorical and limited on (probably) desirable white newborns. Foster care/abuse and neglect/ is the reality for children RIGHT NOW who are currently not growing up with their bio parents and this is the future. There are very few babies around anymore. International adoption has plummeted and UNICEF and other international aid orgs target countries with high rates of int. adopt. to close them. People having out-of-wedlock babies, poor or otherwise, generally keep them. Parents who are unfit get years to destroy the child before they are removed. In other words, isn’t the general trend of history going to take care of pretty much all of the issues raised on the board today if you push for universal access to abortion and an end to sexual violence? So why are the real issues being sidelined in favor of pretending that it’s still the 1970s?

    Woohoo! At last!

    I’ve backed out of what has become a very US centric, and very single narrative conversation, which completely differs from my experiences of adoption/foster care and general child protection. But I have to give my agreement here.

    To say that children are only ever removed from their removed from their home because of white mc social workers is bull. In my country 2 children a week die at the hands of their parents. Child abuse and parents so terrible, the child needs to be removed from them are real.

    As Question has pointed out, social care is very expensive, foster places limited and outcomes for children in the care system are are atrocious. Social workers and the system very much wants other family members to look after the children, it is easier cheaper and sometimes even better all round.

    Although, again as Question points out, this isn’t always best for the child, as 1, abusive parents often come from abusive homes and 2, the child may still not be protected from their abuser.

    In these situations, the best thing for that child is a loving and stable home and the best way to provide it is adoption. The ‘All Adoptions are Evil’ viewpoint seems to miss this entirely.

  256. July 29, 2011 at 10:05 am

    “So every angle of the women who place have to be considered first and foremost above and beyond any other cosiderations. Without them there are no adoptees just aborted fetuses”

    I’m sorry, but I just had to respond to this – it is insulting to assume that an adoptee “would have been” an aborted fetus if not otherwise adopted.

    Truly, that is low. *shaking her head*

  257. rox
    July 29, 2011 at 10:12 am

    “The ‘All Adoptions are Evil’ viewpoint seems to miss this entirely.”

    No one here has said that all adoptions are evil. If you are referencing spaces out there in the world where that is said, it’s really not relevant to attribute to those in this thread with that sentiment.

    I do not advocate that children stay with violent parents. I DO advocate that we assist parents who are having a hard time with creating enriching environments for their kids and that includes improving access to household management and organization services, mental health services, education and guidance with enriching activites and improving parent child bonding, assistance with managing the difficulties of cooking healthy meals, addiction services etc.

    Research into neurobiology,epigenetics, brain development, and the intersect of environment and mental illness and physical illness are giving us more and more opportunties to create more oppropriate programs than what we see now.

    The reasons there is such push back against such programs is that they can be costly and many people in society feel that women who are poor and can’t afford such services should not have access to them. The reality is that the person who gets punished is not the mother but the mother AND AN INNOCENT CHILD.

  258. Kathleen
    July 29, 2011 at 10:12 am

    First, Question, I just want to endorse rox, Nicole, and anonadoptee’s excellent answers above. But I’d also like to add: if there is some learning you’d like to do, GO OUT AND DO IT. To say that the undertold stories of first mothers and adult adoptees have to be shut up to make space, exactly right here, for the even less told stories of foster kids is the “why don’t feminists in America shut up when women are being killed in the third world?” argument, and it’s crap.

    The internet is a big place. I bet if you moved your fingers across your keyboard (a big effort I know) you could find some resources where former foster children tell their stories. Also! If you are concerned that there are not enough such spaces, you could CREATE one. Coming here to tell people who don’t have many forums in which to speak to shut up because you would prefer this space you have wandered across to educate you about something else (it is clear from your comment you have read very, very, very little about the issues under discussion) is (since you are so concerned about this) lazy privilege personified.

  259. Nicole
    July 29, 2011 at 10:13 am

    Absolutely children who are abused should be removed from those situations. Absolutely adoption is a viable and good outcome for many many children in the foster care system.

    Maybe I missed it (truly) but no one here said “All Adoptions Are Evil” did they?

    Foster care really is a whole different ball of wax.

  260. Kathleen
    July 29, 2011 at 10:19 am

    Question and now Safiya — I’m not an expert, but what I do know about inequities in the foster care system would REALLY challenge the narrative the two of you are presenting, that North American state interventions into abusive homes are done in a necessary, fair, and consistent way.

    They aren’t. They are done as part of a hideous legacy of racist intervention that uses children as the entry-point to destroy non-white families. Slavery? Residential schools? The aftermath is still with us, and still shapes what child-removal looks like.

    I’d say the knowledge that adoptees bring to the table is a lot more relevant to those issues than the knowledge foster-care cheerleaders do.

  261. anonadoptee
    July 29, 2011 at 10:22 am

    Safiya Outlines: In these situations, the best thing for that child is a loving and stable home and the best way to provide it is adoption. The ‘All Adoptions are Evil’ viewpoint seems to miss this entirely.

    We never said “ALL adoptions are evil”. You are putting words in every adoptee’s and first mother’s mouth in this post.

    And as for being centered on infant adoptions…well yeah, I think it is. I absolutely feel there are so many problems in the foster care system. It should be easier to find parents for older children who need homes, and getting children out of abuse should happen faster and more efficiently. But those things aren’t really related to infant adoption. I kind of feel like that’s a derail. Because if we were going to talk about infertility treatment, foster care, abusive families and all those very important issues on top of infant adoption…we’d have a 1000 comment blog post. I do not think that all those things can be discussed together, I think they need to be addressed separately. I think they all intersect with the idea of the “right” mother and intersect with classism and racism, but I think that the fact that this discussion is centered around those affected by infant adoption doesn’t mean that other issues aren’t important. It’s as if someone writes a post about transgender rights and people start jumping all over the commenters that they are ignoring other LGBTQ issues.

    Those of us who are fairly anti-adoption are anti-INFANT adoption. Anti- coercive infant adoption.

    This doesn’t mean I don’t love my adoptive parents. I do. But I think that shows that it is very complicated.

    Infant adoption is important because of how strongly it relates to the anti-choice movement. The Crisis Pregnancy Center that my sister went to when she was pregnant (it was a well known, nationwide Christian pro-life center) refused to give her help because she wanted to keep her baby. They gave her a diaper bag and some clothes and a link to go online and find resources. That’s IT. When she asked for more help (after all, these people advertise that they’ll help you if you decide to “choose life” and not abort) they gave her many lectures over weeks and weeks about how she should really consider adoption because she’d never be able to give her child what it deserved. This was less than two years ago, for those who say these manipulative counselers don’t exist anymore. She came very close to making the decision to relinquish, but because my parents were able to support her and were rich, she got to keep her baby. Had she not had that support it was obvious to me that the lady would have succeeded in talking her into adoption, rather than offering her any help whatsoever.

    It’s not enough for the pro-lifers to stop a woman from having an abortion, whether it’s through shame, false information, a lifetime of religious indoctrination, whatever–…once you “choose life”…then all of a sudden you are the “bad unwed mother” and should really give up your child to a good Christian couple. It happens more rarely that they are able to talk women into adoption, but they try as hard as they can. And if they keep eating away at abortion rights and programs that help single parents, they will succeed more and more.

    And I do apologize for being US centric. I don’t know anything else, although I did post about Australia’s Catholic Church apology for over 150,000 forced adoptions. Yeah, it admitted it forced women to give up their children, oftentimes by using medication to knock the women out or shackling them while giving birth. It is horrifying, and really, a “sorry” is not enough. This happens all over, not just in the US, and I apologize for that being my sole viewpoint.

    http://www.abc.net.au/news/2011-07-25/catholic-church-apologises-over-forced-adoptions/2808672

  262. Brigid
    July 29, 2011 at 10:29 am

    anonadoptee: And as for being centered on infant adoptions…well yeah, I think it is. I absolutely feel there are so many problems in the foster care system. It should be easier to find parents for older children who need homes, and getting children out of abuse should happen faster and more efficiently. But those things aren’t really related to infant adoption. I kind of feel like that’s a derail.

    Actually, no. There is nothing about this thread’s design, intent, or execution that limits it to infant adoption. It has become centered on infant adoption, but that’s no reason to say it has to stay that way. I’ll be the first to admit that this conversation could (and arguably already has) become too unwieldy for this space. People interested in really in-depth discussions of any one topic may wish to take them elsewhere for that reason. But I’m not comfortable with anyone policing what subtopics a general thread on feminism + adoption should be allowed to include.

  263. Nicole
    July 29, 2011 at 10:33 am

    Okay so…. parental rights being involuntarily terminated, since some people would like to talk about the public system:

    Here’s a resource for a quick run-down on when reunification efforts are not required: http://www.childwelfare.gov/systemwide/laws_policies/statutes/reunify.cfm

    Plenty of room there for discussion. My favorite, as a non-neurotypical person (having a diagnosis of bipolar), is the states where simply have a severe and persistent mental illness is enough to automatically have your parental rights involuntarily terminated without any chance for reunification if the court decides there’s little chance you’ll recover in short order… without a requirement to offer you services and supports to try to recover.

    Then there’s the drug and alcohol states, but at least they have to offer services and you have to refuse before it’s grounds to deny you a chance to reunify.

    I also particularly love withholding medical treatment…..

  264. anonadoptee
    July 29, 2011 at 10:34 am

    Can I just reiterate how much I hate anti-choice Crisis Pregnancy Centers and their pro-adoption selves? I have been there before for free pregnancy tests…I figure I might as well get a test or two out of them…and also to see what they tell people. They actually tried to talk me into adoption if I were pregnant…and I’m married (which for them is usually the “right” way)! But I’m also feminist and not religious anymore so I guess not good enough…I also am poor and am not going to quit school so they told me adoption would give my kid a better life and that abortion would scar me MUCH more than adoption. LIES LIES LIES. While I’m pissed, they also say their pregnancy tests are “lab-quality”. My ass they are. When they realized I was just using them for their tests, they told me I could get the same tests at the dollar store. And sure enough, they were exactly the same. What dupes. They’ll do anything to get you to go for adoption.

  265. anonadoptee
    July 29, 2011 at 10:39 am

    Brigid: But I’m not comfortable with anyone policing what subtopics a general thread on feminism + adoption should be allowed to include.

    Technically it was only a suggestion and I do not expect to be taken as law, this blog can go wherever it wants. But my opinion was that it would take 1000 plus comments to delve into everything, and that might be hard. I’m not “policing”. I’m only saying that it reminds me too much of other blogs, like Kathleen said

    Kathleen: To say that the undertold stories of first mothers and adult adoptees have to be shut up to make space, exactly right here, for the even less told stories of foster kids is the “why don’t feminists in America shut up when women are being killed in the third world?” argument, and it’s crap.

  266. rox
    July 29, 2011 at 10:39 am

    I would absolutely DELIGHT if some foster care adoptees shared their stories in this thread and their visions of reform. Too often their stories are told through their adoptive parents and social workers eyes.

    My cousin was in foster care. My sister was in foster care. I am extremely close to my first family and I have seen with my own eyes how the experience of seeking help and recieving a recommendation of placing the child in foster care and then returning the child impacted them.

    When my aunt sought support for her poverty and life struggles, the solution offered was foster care. She had never been abusive in any way other than just struggling to keep bedtimes consistant and manage the difficult of being poor and a parent.

    I believe she could have been helped in better ways than were offered. When my cousin got back from foster care he was banging his head on the wall every day.

    The whole thing was worse for him than the situation he already was in. My sister floated through the foster system for her first 6 months of life. They had told our mother that she would be going STRAIGHT to an adoptive home.

    None of us even know where she was those 6 months.

    When parents with money get overwhelmed they can turn to friends, they can get a massage, they can hire a babysitter and take a break, they can go do yoga, they can go to quality therapy, they can hire occupation or physical therapists to help their child’s adjustment, they can do family therapy, they can go to play therapy, they can buy enriching activites to do as a family such as crafts, sports, science camp etc.

    These things are good for children’s development. People feel moral anger over the idea that poor families could have access to these things because the poor need to live in conditions that are bad enough to stimulate them to work harder.

    But of course, leaving people in extremily difficult circumstance and telling them they don’t deserve what they need until they can suddenly get a higher paying job does NOT improve their ability to function in the workplace or get a higher paying job. And the innocent kids involved in this are the ones who suffer.

  267. anonadoptee
    July 29, 2011 at 10:43 am

    Nicole,

    I just checked out that link and see this reason to not require reunification help…way to punish pregnant women for a drug/alcohol problem instead of offering help. Def a feminist issue.

    “A newborn infant tests positive for the presence of alcohol or a controlled substance (Florida)”

  268. July 29, 2011 at 10:45 am

    Re: the “dominant narrative” comment. I have to admit I find that a bit ridiculous considering the fact that in the overall population, adoptees are a minority group subjected to archaic laws due to stereotypes and a lack of awareness of issues that surround us. Only 2% of people in the U.S. are adopted and HALF of that 2% are step-parent adoptees. Infant adoption is tha rarest form of adoption in the U.S. Few people out there know what it is like to walk in my shoes. Yet, when I happen to be commenting on a thread when my particular perspective is actually being heard, I’ve somehow magically transformed into the privileged “dominant narrative?”

    Not forgetting, you don’t stop being adopted just because you’ve turned 18 (and many laws treat us as if we never grow up at all). Being adopted is a lifelong process and experience. The perspectives of those adopted 50, 40, 30, 20, 10 years ago matter.

    Yes, the comments here have been geared toward infant adoption. I can tell you that the way I am answering the questions is because of the nature of the question itself. The question asked about feminism and about problems in adoption. These questions were based off of a previous post which was about pregnancy where topics also included surrogacy and donor conception. Not to mention, while infant adoption is the rarest form of adoption, it is still one of the most in demand, by far.

    I am answering based on this information because I am trying to be helpful regarding what I think Brigid is seeking to learn more about.

    When you ask me what is problematic in adoption, I am going to speak on topics regarding infant adoption and inter-country adoption because, IMHO, this is where most of the problems lie.

    It doesn’t matter than infant adoption is the rarest form; it is still riddled with unethical policies and practices, some of which are from as far back as 80 years ago. Prospective Adoptive Parents are still waiting on huge lists and paying $50,000 to adopt an infant while passing by the children in foster care, many of which have no hope of being raised by their biological families.

    In the 1970’s, the demand to adopt infants was 10 to 1 (10 parents waiting for every 1 child that might be available). Now that ratio is said to be 40 to 1. Astronomical amounts of money are spent each year promoting and marketing infant adoption and attempting to popularize it. Yet the voices of those who have lived infant adoption aren’t important?

    While the U.N. may be trying to limit and completely stop inter-country adoptions, but the fact of the matter is, “almost” or “we’re working on it” does not equate to “all better now.” Not in a long shot.

    As I have said numerous times in this thread, I support older child and foster care adoption. I have also said numerous times that children should not remain with families who abuse them.

    I acknowledge my privileges as far as adoption is concerned (and I’ll point out that biologically-raised/non-adopted people calling me “privileged” as far as adoption is concerned is pretty unfair considering the fact that you have way more privileges than I do). I am part of an extremely small percentage of adult adoptees who has their original birth certificate and uncensored state adoption file. I was not rejected at reunion and have the support, love, and companionship of my maternal and paternal natural families as well as my adoptive family. So many adoptees out there cannot say the same and it is the source of never-ending heartbreak for them. Thus, my perspective does not come just from my own experience. I would be foolish for thinking that my experience gives me infinite knowledge on all areas of adoption and others diverse experiences. I spend 20-40 hours per week, unpaid, exploring adoption issues, blogging on adoption, reading theoretical works and empirical research, as well as following adoption bills in multiple states. As an adoption reform advocate, adoptee rights activist, and a leadership member of an adoptee rights grassroots organization as well as a representative for a national group, my wonderful fellow adoptee activists from all walks of life and types of adoption have helped form my opinions and I advocate for rights and ethics wherever it is needed.

    No matter what type of adoption we are talking about, my answers for the questions asked by Brigid for this blog entry are still the same. Yes, adoption is a feminist issue. Yes, racism, ableism, adultism, sexism, classism (etc.) are rampant in adoption. Yes, the first option for every child should be to remain with their biological parents unless this is not possible as a matter of human right (and the focus of foster care is actually temporary care of children with the goal of reuniting them with their biological family). Yes, every parent has a right to parent his or her own child. No, no one has the “right” to adopt. And yes, adoption is problematic and my blog contains two years worth of information on why I think that is–which is barely the tip of the iceberg.

  269. July 29, 2011 at 10:56 am

    And I too missed where anyone said “all adoptions were evil.” I don’t think all adoptions are evil at all. There are a few unethical things that all adoptions in the U.S. (and I specify the U.S. because I am not aware of all of the policies and practices around the globe in this regard, though I am aware of quite of few) that all adoptions share in common that I would like to see changed. Step-parent adoption, kinship adoption, foster care adoption, infant adoption (etc.) all have their original identities and original birth certificates amended and sealed once the decree of adoption is issued. I think this is unethical. I would like to see this changed.

    But I do not think, and have said it probably 5 times now, that adoption isn’t the solution to *anything.* It has been my experience as an adoptee that discusses adoption regularly to most often see people view adoption as the solution to *everything.* I do not think that children should remain in abusive homes and children who do not have anyone to care for them have a right to receive caregivers and a family who can.

    How is that “all adoptions are evil??”

    The “anti-adoption” label is typically thrown out there to suggest that certain individuals within adoption shouldn’t voice their narratives under the assumption that “anti-adoption” means these individuals don’t care about children who are truly in need and only have the opinions they do because of their personal gripes with adoption. This label, and the added implications that go with it, are insulting and belittling.

  270. Safiya Outlines
    July 29, 2011 at 10:56 am

    Kathleen – I am not USian.

    To Rox and others, the decision to remove the child from their parents is a hugely fraught one. Have their been cases where the state got it wrong? Absolutely. The Cleveland and Orkney ‘satanic panic’ scandal in the UK are proof of that. Of course there is the matter of who decides and how. But that still doesn’t change that there are some children who are being abused and need to be protected.

    In the UK, there has been a concerted effort to promote positive parenting, out reach via the Sure Start schemes with varying degrees of success. However as they can help stop poor parenting which may lead to abuse, but not actually stop abuse itself, they can only be part of the solution.

    On the other hand for reasons including financial, the state can often give parents far too many chances, i.e the ‘Start Again Syndrome’ and fail to advocate for the child.

    I absolutely share the dislike here of the ‘Just adopt’, ‘Adoption is magic’ rhetoric so often produced, but when there are now so many children who have been removed from abusive homes, I don’t think an overwhelmingly negative rhetoric is helpful either.

  271. Lika
    July 29, 2011 at 11:04 am

    Safiya Outlines: In these situations, the best thing for that child is a loving and stable home and the best way to provide it is adoption.

    I know someone who was severely abused in her adoptive family, so no, adoption is not the best way to provide a loving and stable home. I’m not sure what, but I do know there’s nothing special about adoption families that makes them immune from being abusive or neglectful.

    And while we’re discussing what to do with children who are abused, we need to talk about children are abused not only in biological families, but in foster care and adoptive families as well.

  272. Safiya Outlines
    July 29, 2011 at 11:07 am

    Lika – Let’s just send the children to the moon then.

  273. July 29, 2011 at 11:10 am

    And though I don’t wish to continue on with the abortion stereotypes, I will say that my mother never considered abortion. The fact that we were born and adopted should seemingly indicate that abortion was never an option our mothers considered at all.

    Only a tiny percentage of pregnancies that are unplanned (that are carried to term) result in adoption. Therefore, I think it is highly more likely that those whose mothers considered abortion and chose against it are walking among the non-adopted and not the adopted.

    Yet this stereotype is still slung at adopted people. It’s a sad thing to constantly be associated with abortion. People are so kind *rolls eyes*

  274. rox
    July 29, 2011 at 11:12 am

    When my sister was being adopted, her native tribe was given notice. Because of the fact that white people used to just forcibly take native children, there are now laws that the tribe must give consent.

    That was the reason she floated around in foster care for 6 months. Her father was from the poorest reservation in the united states. I imagine that in deliberating whether to take her they debated the percentage of her blood and the ability of the tribe to care for her. Since the people on the reservation were all living in dire poverty and alocholism and addiction and family violence were dominant, there was a huge limitation in ability to care for her.

    How much of a role did white people play in this tribe being so poor facing such issues of addiction and abusive cycles? And you know what? Within the last few years the American government decided to TAKE MORE OF THEIR LAND BECAUSE THEY DIDN’T PAY TAXES. When they had gotten more money out of the tribe they returned it.

    What freaking right does the US government have to impose taxes on people who have been shoved onto small pieces of THEIR OWN land and are struggling to adapt to all the changes that Europian immagrants put them through?

    When she tried to meet her father he was dead. He had carried a picture of our mother trhoughout his addicted life. Our mother said that when she told him she was going to place he was so sad. He just kept saying, “are you sure?”

    Yes their are issues of racism and privaledge and power imbalance and those issues are present in abusive cycles and dysfunctional families who are often cases of people not getting the kind of emotional and mental health support that will genuinely improve their ability to function.

    Once a month med check is NOT enough.

  275. Nicole
    July 29, 2011 at 11:13 am

    Yes, so going back to the original thread topic and trying to keep it broad…

    How can or should we view adoption as a feminist issue? As a class, race, or disability issue? Whose rights stand to be compromised when adoption is or is not an available option?

    Sexism, classism, racism, and ableism are all present in adoption (all forms of adoption) as currently practiced in the US. (Sorry for being US-centric but this is where I live and would prefer to hear from people outside the US for their perspectives in other countries.) It’s a feminist issue because rather than supporting women who may need extra support, there is a dominant attitude (and policies and legislation based on this attitude) that “Well, you just shouldn’t have gotten pregnat.” It’s a class issue because the children available for adoption (in all forms of adoption) are generally from financially disadvanted homes and adopted into more financially privileged homes. It’s a race issue because children of color are disproportionately represented in the foster care system; because children of color cost less in private adoption; because women of color who voluntarily relinquish have fewer choices available to them when trying to select adoptive parents for their child; because in many states just being black is enough to qualify a foster child as special needs in the foster care system; because thousands of people are adopting internationally and transracially. It’s a disability issue because women with mental health, drug and alcohol, and physical issues may, can, and somtimes are discriminated against when it comes to assessing their ability to raise or reunify with their children, and children with these issues are “less adoptable” than children without.

    Does every child have a right to be raised by the people whose genetic material helped create them?

    We’ve covered this. As a default position, yes. Does this mean people should be forced to raise a child, no.

    Does every genetic parent have a right to raise their genetic children?

    Yes, unless and until they violate the rights of their genetic children to a safe, abuse-free, neglect-free environment.

    Do people who are unable (though biology or circumstance), or do not desire, to conceive children have a right to raise children? No. But they do have a right to use legal and ethical channels to use adoption or ART to attempt to become parents. But there’s no guarantee, nor should there be, that everyone who wants a child will or can have one.

    If you believe adoption is problematic, what circumstances would make it less so?

    …. this one is so hard to talk about in a comments section. See answer regarding problems and -isms in adoption.

  276. Question to dominant narrative
    July 29, 2011 at 11:14 am

    @Anonadoptee

    I imagine we are discussing adoptions that were carried out over 20 years ago because if we (adoptees) were adopted within the past five years I doubt we’d be on here discussing these issues.

    … but… so you are saying that current adoption policy should be set or framed around people who were adopted 20 years ago, not people adopted 5 years ago? There are a lot of people *advocating* while recounting your experiences. I’m surprised that you don’t think their advocacy might be improved by some reflection on *current* adoptive issues.

    This even goes for international adoption. The debate around international adoption has been raging for years! Not one person, that I saw in 248 posts, had even referenced any changes that have happened in international adoption for 15 years!

    Look, my issue is that people are talking about infant adoption in a very complex ways and expressing a variety of viewpoints etc etc. They have cited evidence for their points. But the only comment (unchallenged) on the foster adopt system is “white people/middle class people” etc. I feel like since that is the heart and majority of the system which deals with children, why should the thread avoid attempting to do the same analysis on this issue.

    @Kathleen

    I think you missed my point. I have learned about it – I studied it, I was in foster care (for one week only on a made up abuse charge), and I volunteer in the foster system. I didn’t know that this thread was infant adoption only (which it isn’t) which is why I asked why this seems irrelevant. As for your comment on systems i.e. “they’re racist” – that’s exactly my point! Do you have experiences of these systems? I THOUGHT that if people had experiences of these systems then they could do the same thing that was done on the issue of infant adoption – offer competing narratives and their experiences! To what extent are these systems part of a racist legacy of child removal? What do the children in these systems actually want? What is working and what is not working? From feminists who care about these issues and have lived it. If it feels like a derail or not appropriate, then fine.

    As for the 13000 – does noone think there is any OVERLAP between women who are familiar to the foster care system and people who “voluntarily” give up their kids? Do you honestly think that all those 13000 are good white catholic girls in some throwback 1970s family who give up their kids? Because state efforts range from persuasive to coercive, plenty of those kids recorded as voluntary belong to homes who would otherwise HAVE TPR BEGUN AGAINST THEM. This is why I think it’s dangerous to disregard the last 30 years of history.

    My point is that the discussion of foster adopt was explicitly missing from this debate, which Brigid admitted, was not by any intentional design. If you think this is a different debate, fine but it’s interesting that you think people who foster then adopt are sooo different or that the voices of kids who were foster-adopted are invisible here. Finally, a lot of the issues you have discussed i.e. kinship care, are BEING TRIED OUT in other contexts and it seems strange to feel that the other contexts are completely irrelevant.

    @ Nicole

    And btw, the one dimensional “the foster care system is racist and evil” is WHY I jumped in. Nicole – I’ve seen the site. I put together packs on it. I love your disingenuous characterization of its content. Firstly, look at the NUMBER of states in which these are the law. Wow, in a whole THREE states if a parent is convicted of a sexual offense which resulted in the child’s conception, then they get involved!Hurray! In ONE STATE ONLY – in Washington, if the parent is a convicted violent sexual predator do they NOT try to reunify.

    Look the point is that these laws hurt women but they also hurt CHILDREN. Not just in an emotional way but in a real physical and developmental way. It is NOT just a states rights v parent’s rights issue. There must be some state intervention and I thought part of this discussion would be how to make it non coercive or productive. It’s really easy to say “give them services” – 30% of families refuse early home visits. Besides it doesn’t solve the problem of what to do right now. Not in fifty years in a mythical land with unicorns in which there is a Scandinavian style welfare state and no racism!

  277. rox
    July 29, 2011 at 11:27 am

    Safiya– if a parent has commited a criminal offense such as violent assault or sexual abuse against their child, then we ABSOLUTELY need reform to make the transition to an adoptive family much swifter.

    As far as sentencing, mental health status should be relevant as it should be in all crimes and if mental health rehabilitation is possible that should be part of the sentencing. The parents mental health status or potential to “eventually” recover really should not be relevant in delaying the adoption process because if the home is violent and dangerous it really doesn’t matter why, the immediate problem is the safety of the child. And since recovery rates are so low once violent abuse has occured, I would think that should be relavent in making a swift transition to an adoptive home instead of focus on family repair that is often not possible with the supports we now have.

    I hesitate to make these statements as asbolutes without feedback from foster adoptees themselves however, but from my own personal perspective, I agree we desperately need reform in this area.

  278. Question to dominant narrative
    July 29, 2011 at 11:28 am

    Just read the last comments and am slightly perplexed. Most adopted kids COME FROM FOSTER CARE. By every objective measure they LACK MORE PRIVILEGE than those privately adopted. There are plenty of boards and forums and media attention on this narrative. None on “kids in the system” even though these kids are usually adopted, many by minority parents (who never show up in the glossy NYT spreads on multicultural families).

    The page linked to re reunification clearly shows that the laws people have picked out are the case in an extreme minority of cases. More concerning is that there is not enough protection at play for kids. This defensive backlash reminds me of when people talk about street harassment or rape in the communities of black women (of which I am one) by black men. Asserting BW’s rights immediately elicits a long tale about BM’s oppression by the police (yep), our unjust and racist system (yep) and white racism (yep) as a way to basically say shut up. Here it is that we are sweeping under the rug the actual abuse of children with that same tactic.

    But if people genuinely feel oppressed by someone else bringing up foster adoption on an open adoption post then fine. The mod should feel free to delete my earlier comments?

  279. July 29, 2011 at 11:38 am

    Question to dominant narrative:

    But if people genuinely feel oppressed by someone else bringing up foster adoption on an open adoption post then fine. The mod should feel free to delete my earlier comments?

    There’s nothing wrong with discussing foster care. I’ve discussed it numerous times here myself.

    What I disliked was being labeled as the “dominant narrative” when that has certainly never been my experience as an adoptee. I have never, ever been the dominant narrative in society, not even in adoption.

  280. anonadoptee
    July 29, 2011 at 11:39 am

    Infant adoption has decreased. But the tactics of adoption agencies have NOT changed that much! Should I recount the experience of my sister less than two years ago, since obviously no one read that.

    I think people assume adoption has changed more than it actually has. Sure there is a lot of talk of open adoption, which is “supposedly” much more common now…but it is not exactly legally enforceable in most situations. The mother still terminates her parental rights, so if the adoptive family promises an open adoption but changes their mind and moves away, the first mother has little to no say in the issue.

    Adoption has not really improved that much. I think perhaps it takes first mothers many years to open up about their experiences, so in 10, 20 years we might be hearing the same things we are hearing right now from the mothers who are relinquishing children at this moment.

    Our experiences still matter, even if we are older. And it is impossible to do studies on adult adoptees without focusing on those who were adopted years ago. And it is important to know how those adoptees are doing as adults, because it can influence how we think of adoption.

    There doesn’t seem to be much difference in those adoptees who were adopted fifty years ago and are in their 60’s, 70’s and adoptees (like me) who are still barely in our twenties. So unless the adoption system radically changes (again, it hasn’t changed that much legally, open adoption is really just a way to get more babies), in 20 years there will be adoptees and first mothers saying the exact things we are saying now.

    Question to dominant narrative: … but… so you are saying that current adoption policy should be set or framed around people who were adopted 20 years ago, not people adopted 5 years ago? There are a lot of people *advocating* while recounting your experiences. I’m surprised that you don’t think their advocacy might be improved by some reflection on *current* adoptive issues.

  281. rox
    July 29, 2011 at 11:40 am

    Possibly the families who refuse services know that in opening up about they problems they will be at risk of having thier children removed.

    i would like it if for NON VIOLENT, NON SEXUALLY ABUSIVE cases that we considered offering an option of the parent AND child staying in a a temporary assisted living environment in which appropriate services to help the parent manage their issues could be offered without disrupting the parent-child relationship. Many parents would refuse and that would be their choice.

    But because the system is often set up to attack families, families often respond by being resistant to services. Services often come accross as scary and offered as a “You are a bad parent, let us tell you how to do it,” through the eyes of the parents involved.

    When this is attitude social workers go into “helping” families with, it wouldn’t be surprising that their efforts to collaborate with the “bad moms” doesn’t become reciprical.

    There are certainly cases where the moms are quite genuniely parenting in ways that are harmful to their children. But if we AREN’T going to remove the children for that, storming in with controlling practices that dehumanize the reasons the mother is struggling will probably not actually do anything but make the mother scared of services.

    If the mother has done something to warrent removal, then removal should be done. But often removal is used as the threat to make parents behave better.

    Behave better or we remove the child! The terror that women exprience in feeling that their children might be removed is unlikely to improve mental health issues/life stress and other overwhelming problems they are facing and make them able to function better.

    Removal shouldn’t happen as a tool to control the mother. Removal should hapen because it is NOT SAFE for the child and if that is the case, it should not be done with intent to return the child to a physically violent or sexual criminal.

  282. July 29, 2011 at 11:47 am

    Question to dominant narrative:
    @Anonadoptee

    … but… so you are saying that current adoption policy should be set or framed around people who were adopted 20 years ago, not people adopted 5 years ago? There are a lot of people *advocating* while recounting your experiences. I’m surprised that you don’t think their advocacy might be improved by some reflection on *current* adoptive issues.

    No, she is saying (anonadoptee, correct me if I am wrong) that if we (infant adoptees) were adopted five years ago, we would be five years old. I don’t envision myself as a 5 year old being able to sit on the computer just now and have deep discussions with you about feminism and adoption :-)

    But the people who can speak to you about adoption are likely adults. Which means, if they were adopted as young children or infants, that their adoptions happened at least a decade prior. People will call this too “outdated” and say that our voices don’t matter because adoption is so “different” now. I am a 26 year old adoptee whose adoption happened 25 years ago. When I’m not being told I am too young and naieve to have an opinion I am being told that my adoption was too long ago to be relevant lol.

    I was adopted 25 years ago. But yesterday, I was still adopted. I’m still adopted right now. My thoughts and perspectives are valuable, as are those of all others of other types of adoption. So many laws and practices are not different from when my adoption took place and so many of us do keep up on current research and laws in adoption–our voices are more relevant than ever.

    And adoption isn’t really all that different “now” as it was “then,” as people think.

  283. rox
    July 29, 2011 at 12:00 pm

    When I think about people who have crossed the line into terrifying behavior– and their role in the lives of family members who want to understand and possibly continue a -distanced- relationship with them, I sort of think of the zombie in Shawn of the dead playing video games with Shawn at the end of the movie on a chain.

    Violent scary behavior doesn’t happen in the vaccuum. If you study the existance of aggression and abusive behavior in animals you can pretty much create an aggressive animal with near exact certainty through manipulation of the brain and stimulating harmful conditions in the prenatal, infant and adolescent environment.

    Having an indepth understanding of how this happens is part of honoring those kids who are from abusive families and who have to process how that happened, how it relates to will, and what degree of choice in involved. Some of those question we can’t and may never be able to answer.

    However being angry and mad at abuser and turning them into inhuman monsters has an affect on the children that come from them and while it might feel beneficial for some, it will also feel dehumanizing to others. What if that aggression is in the child too?

    How hateful to we want to be about people who have abnormal instincts and a different amount of ability to control them? I certainly resepct every single abuse victims right to rage against the actions of others that caused them harm until eternity.

    But so often, in my experience, children who are busy raging against the evils of their parents behavior don’t notice as they grow up and slowly tread into the waters of the very behaviors they despise.

    What do they think of themselves then? WHAT IF— there isn’t as much will involved in this process as we tend to think there is? What if we are attacking some amount of people who were trying just as hard as we have tried to be good people in our lives? I’m not saying I know. I don’t know if free will exists outside of genetic, biological, chemical, experiential, development influences. It very well may, certainly WILL exists (cognition, the weighing of options and the coming to a conclusion and acting on it), but whether it is “free” of external and physical variables is uncertain.

    But how we judge the ways that parents behave in relation to their children is an influential factor in how we approach them, whether we can see their humanity, and whether we can GENUINELY approach struggling families with compassion for the powerful mechanics behind generations of poverty and mental illness and struggling with life.

  284. Esti
    July 29, 2011 at 12:01 pm

    @Question to dominant narrative

    I’m really interested in the issues you want to discuss, which I agree have been missing from this conversation. By all means, open up a discussion on the children and parents who aren’t being represented in the dominant narrative here — it’s an important part of these issues that needs to be discussed and is too often msised.

    But while you’re completely right that infant adoptees and their first parents have more of a voice than children/parents in the foster system, they still have very little voice. So maybe bear in mind when critiquing the dominant narrative in this thread that it’s being put forward in the form of very painful personal experiences from real people, experiences that they don’t feel they can discuss/which aren’t listened to in many other places? Because given that, it would probably be more constructive and less hurtful to simply put forward the counter narrative without fighting about who has more or less privilege, and without being quite as hostile to people sharing views shaped by their own past trauma.

  285. rox
    July 29, 2011 at 12:04 pm

    To make it explicitly clear: the existance or lack their of of free will or choice is irrelevant in removing children from violent criminals.

    It is utterly irrelevant how much choice went into the parents behavior once that is going on and the child needs to be removed no matter what.

    I’m simply advocating that we think through how we ourselves process it– and how we process other issues of parenst struggling to implement an enriching environment that do NOT expose their child to violence or sexual abuse.

  286. anonadoptee
    July 29, 2011 at 12:16 pm

    I don’t think any of us have much voice, whether we were adopted as infants or older children from the foster care system.

    I think we all probably have many issues to deal with, that are all relevant. But there is one thing specific to infant adoptees that I’ve tried to talk about and been ignored.

    And that’s the fact that our psychological issues are ignored. Written off. We’re told it’s all in our heads. Now, children adopted out of abusive situations and out of foster care or orphanages have serious psycological issues as well, and they should be treated and helped. But I think that overall, people “assume” they do have issues and there is help out there.

    With infant adoptees, our psychological problems are ignored because we “aren’t supposed to have any”. We were adopted as infants so there is “no reason” we should suffer. So when we adult adoptees say we have issues with rejection and attachment, we are ignored. Told we had great lives and there is no way we could possibly suffer. Tell that to those of us who considered suicide. Who sit for days in their room because we are so depressed. And then when we try to find a counselor who deals with infant adoptees…we find none, because we are not expected to have problems. It is assumed in popular culture that we are blank slates who will be in our adopted family exactly the same as we would have in our original family. That is wrong.

    So I really am not saying we can’t discuss all aspects of adoption. I really am interested in hearing about fostering/foster care, and other aspects I know less about.

    But the one thing that has always bothered me is the assumption that infant adoptees are privileged in the fact that they have no “issues” to be dealt with. That leaves us with nowhere to turn when we “do” have those issues that are “expected” in older adoptees.

    Our whole system is fucked up. Really. And I think that the same things are behind all of it…little support for the poor, classism, ableism, no societal structure to help the poor and those who need help with children. We need healthcare, childcare, healthy food availability, reduced stigma on abortion, birth control, parenting of any kind…so many things. I hope someday at least some of these structures will be in place in my country. (USian perspective).

  287. Azalea
    July 29, 2011 at 12:17 pm

    Anonadoptee:
    Azalea.

    I cannot interact with you anymore. Yes the op asked these questions but I do not believe the op is an adoptee and so perhaps all the questions are not as relevant. I have said over and over and over that I don’t want to force anyone to parent.

    You say the womens rights trump the Childs? Well I’m not a fucking child anymore I am a woman too. My mom and I are both adults. I have the right to know who the person is who gave birth to me and as two adults, I should have the right to attempt contact. If she does not want contact then she can hang up the phone and ignore an email if she really wants too.

    I’ve been reading feministe for years. I’m not a newbie to the world of blogging, and I did not write you off as a troll immediately, nor do I think you are always one on this site. But you repeatedly ignore the fact that every single adoptee or first mom blogging here disagrees with you. That is usually a sign that you just might have a wrong opinion and should listen to the people here telling you how it is. We aren’t pulling this shit out of nowhere.

    No one has a right to anonymity. Or at least they shouldn’t. This is not the case of woman vs child. In the states where original birth certificates are available it is after age 18. So that could be woman vs woman. One womans right to anonymity doesn’t trump another womans (or mans) right to know who zir mother is.

    Why do you (any adoptee) have a right to know who this person is if they do not want you to know? What happens if you get the birth certificate and you know who she is but there is a restraining order because she decided years ago she wanted no contact with child or adult you? What are the affects of finding out who your bio parents are contacting them and they hanging up or shutting a door in your face?

    If its adoptee vs government yes adoptee wins out but what you are saying is that you have a right to contact someone who does not want to be contacted by you because of a biological relationship and I can not understand where that right comes from. I speak from what I know based on what I’ve been told by other people’s first person experience as a bio parent who placed their child(ren). Those people don’t disappear from my opinion because there are people who feel differently. What I addressed had absolutely NOTHING to do with any bio mom who WANTED to raise her child yet everyone who is disagreeing with me is speaking on those terms. THAT is where the problem lies.

  288. rox
    July 29, 2011 at 12:21 pm

    Another issues is that so often cases violence or sexual abuse are not present are handled by the same social workers who are working with violent dangerous families.

    When “support” is offered to struggling families its offered by social workers with secondary trauma and legitimate rage and passionate hatred for parents who horrifically abuse their children.

    That rage and hatred is present when walking into a home where there is a mom who is struggling to manage her home, pay bills on time, create structure, or even basic daily activities like timely healthy meals and enriching parent/child time.

    Sending in a social worker who is carrying the weight of horrific child abuse and is ready to hate the shit out of parents who are struggling is not realy the appropriate solution to human beings who are just plain struggling and are otherwise behaving in loving and gentle ways with their children.

    Family services are often become an excuse for social workers to take out their rage at the injustice of horrifying child abuse on every single struggling parent they come in contact with, even though the legitimate and justified rage against horrific child abuse may be misplaced in the context of struggling parents who just need support. I do not think it is social workers fault this happens. Secondary trauma is real and the anger is completely and totally understandable at seeing horrific injustice happen to children who NEVER should be faced with it.

    BUT, when working with families in which THAT KIND OF ABUSE IS NOT HAPPENING, that hatred will interfere with the possibility of offering nurturing and compassionate support of the nature that might facilitate a collaborative effort in making the home more enriching and succesful for the child.

  289. Safiya Outlines
    July 29, 2011 at 12:23 pm

    Rox – Sorry but your view of child abuse is far too simplistic. It’s not about Violence/Sexual abuse bad and anything else we can fix.

    One of the most common forms of abuse is neglect. Sometimes, yes, extra support etc is enough to turn the situation around. Other times, the parent is simply not willing to meet the needs of their child and that is just as dangerous and damaging as violent/sexual abuse.

    As for not using removal as threat, while those working with families should do so in a positive and empowering manner, in the interests of the child, the situation is harmful to the child, if removal is on the table, it should be openly so. But again, the state (at least in my country) does not like to remove children. It is seen as a last resort or temporary measure and while that may benefit mothers, it isn’t always the best option for the child.

    It’s not just as simple as the bad social worker against the mother. Sometimes social workers relate more to the the adults in the situation then the child, meaning that the child’s needs are ignored.

    I am kind of getting the feeling that you think anyone who doesn’t share your view of social services/ child protection doesn’t know the realities. I can assure you that I do and that there are no easy answers.

  290. July 29, 2011 at 12:26 pm

    I just want to add one more natural mother’s voice to the conversation. Too often we are left out of the narrative. I’m also a late discovery adoptee-lite. I found out at the age of 26 that my father is actually my step-father. Even in that situation the records are sealed and I was issued an amended birth certificate. I had no idea it was amended since as usual they make it look “as if born to”.

    Someone above mentioned a perfect storm. At the time I lost my daughter to adoption there was a perfect storm that consisted of a very religious family, cultural pressure, societal pressure, agency pressure and a lack of resources. When the BSE is mentioned it’s usually also mentioned that it ended in the 70’s. I want to make the point that that date just isn’t accurate. The treatment of woman like myself didn’t suddenly change in 1973. When I surrendered (and it is surrender for many – it’s not a case of giving away a child, it’s a case of the mother giving up under the pressure and the feeling of having no other choice) it was 1980.

    Catholic Social Services coerced me into signing a consent form releasing custody and control of my baby when I was only 6 months pregnant. When I began showing I was sent to a home for unwed mothers to hide. No one in my extended family knew what was happening. In the hospital I wasn’t allowed to see my daughter when she was born. As soon as she was born she was wrapped in a blanket and whisked out of the room. All I got was a glimpse of one little hand and heard her cry. They wouldn’t tell me the sex of the baby or any other information about her. The door to my room had a sign taped to it – large red paper with black letters – BFA (baby for adoption) The staff also made a sign to post on the wall above my bed. Basically the treatment I received was no different than the women in The Girls Who Went Away. Their story is my story.

    I was a legal adult at the time of surrender but I was not informed of my rights. I was young and naive. I had no legal representation or outside counsel. Women in this vulnerable situation need an advocate. They need information about available resources and knowledge of their rights as mothers. For 22 years I had no idea if my daughter was alive or dead. After finding her I found out that her adoptive parents divorced when she was only 3 years old. She was raised by a single mother and she was taken from me because I was unwed.

    In order for a choice to be made there has to be more than one option.

  291. rox
    July 29, 2011 at 12:33 pm

    Also in relation to children in struggling families? That is EXACTLY what I would like to discuss. The fact that our systems of support for struggling families aren’t working is EXACTLY what I want to see change and it is exactly what I think will lessen the power imbalance in infant adoption as well.

    The fact that if a mom chooses to parent– we do not put an investment in helping her achieve an enriching environment for her child, is a child rights issue.

    If there are children in struggling families and we not offering suffesful services, that is a problem.

    It’s a problem with so many difficulties that it’s not one we are going to snap our fingers and fix. But it is one we should be dedicated to eradicating.

    The fact is, if my mom had chosen to keep me, which is her right, there would have been no one invested in making sure she had the tools to help me have an enriching environment.

    For all the children, which is MOST unplanned pregnancy births, who are born in difficult circumstances and our society does not have an investment in creating enriching programs to facilitate healthy families in a way that does not attack families.

    I am not ok with all the others like me, but who were kept by their mothers, being left unserved.

  292. rox
    July 29, 2011 at 12:36 pm

    “I am kind of getting the feeling that you think anyone who doesn’t share your view of social services/ child protection doesn’t know the realities.”

    I never made that insinuation. I agree there is no easy fix.

  293. Azalea
    July 29, 2011 at 12:43 pm

    Mei Ling:
    “So every angle of the women who place have to be considered first and foremost above and beyond any other cosiderations. Without them there are no adoptees just aborted fetuses”

    I’m sorry, but I just had to respond to this – it is insulting to assume that an adoptee “would have been” an aborted fetus if not otherwise adopted.

    Truly, that is low. *shaking her head*

    If a woman who did not want to raise a child, had no choice but to raise a child if she continued her pregnancy; seriously what do you think she does? Logically what is the next step if you dont want to raise a child, you’re pregnant and if you have the baby you must raise it?

  294. Lika
    July 29, 2011 at 12:52 pm

    Safiya Outlines: Lika – Let’s just send the children to the moon then.

    Why, because the existence of children abused in adoptive families screws up your perception that adoption is the best way to ensure a child has a loving and stable home? I think they need to be taken into consideration too. Too often children abused in adoptive families are ignored. When people talk about child abuse, they only mean children abused in their biological families.

    I’m not saying that adoption is useless. I do think it has a place in cases of child abuse. Unfortunately, there’s nothing about the framework of an adoptive family that’s really different from the framework of a biological family – both has the same capacity for abuse and neglect. Personally, I think the way the family, both biological and non-biological, is framed needs to be dismantled, and re-defined in a way that puts children first.

    There’s a lot of reform that needs to done, not just in adoption and foster care (and god knows, they both need massive reform), but in how families in general are defined.

    To clarify, I am in support of removing children from toxic home environments into another one that’s loving and stable – I’m just saying that declaring adoption is the best way to do that is simplistic and ignores the child abuse that does happen in adoptive families.

  295. Safiya Outlines
    July 29, 2011 at 12:55 pm

    Rox – On the contrary, social workers who have been exposed to abusive families are not ‘ready to hate the shit out of normal families’, but are more likely to overlook/minimise abuse and raise the threshold of intervention because it’s not as bad as case x or y previously.

    Again. Intervention is not the easy road for social workers. It is far, far easy in terms of time, money and paperwork to close cases, keep minimal supervision and so on.

    Removing a child from it’s home is very time consuming. You can’t just drive by and pick them up. There’s a whole legal process to go through, even for a temporary removal. Then you have to find a place for the child to go. Not easy. Children’s homes and foster carers are often at full capacity. Then there’s all the follow up once the child is in care, it is endless work.

    When social workers are busy and overstretched (as they so often are), where do you think the pendulum swings, away or towards interevention (removing children from the home)? If you think towards, then I’m afraid you have a very skewed idea of social work which is not based in reality.

  296. anonadoptee
    July 29, 2011 at 12:57 pm

    Lika,

    Yeah, I wrote about a paragraph about the physical pain I was put through as “punishment” as a kid. The psychological pain I was put through was even worse. I don’t think I should have been taken from them…I mostly blame their “childraising” methods on very traditional religious beliefs as well as the community. That post was ignored on here though so I can see where you are having a hard time getting people to see this.

    Others might say I should have been taken away from them…but either way. The physical beatings and emotional abuse were not the greatest. I was actually sat on and given some religious ritual as a very young child (while screaming and crying) because I talked back. Religion and childrearing together are dangerous.

    But NO ONE would ever question my parents because they were the “right” parents and were Christian.

  297. rox
    July 29, 2011 at 1:08 pm

    “Again. Intervention is not the easy road for social workers. It is far, far easy in terms of time, money and paperwork to close cases, keep minimal supervision and so on.”

    I agree with you. Keeping minimal supervision and doing very little intervention does not sound like services that will improve the functioning of the family. I think that perhaps family enrichment and bonding activites and activities, therapies, suports that enhance parents ability to be good parents could be more succesfully offered by people outside of the child protection services. Is what I’m trying to get at.

  298. Nicole
    July 29, 2011 at 1:31 pm

    So I have an honest question for those who would like to talk more about safeguarding the rights and wellbeing of foster kids. What reforms do you think need to happen to serve those children better?

    I have some thoughts but would prefer to hear from those of you who have this corner of adoption as your passion or personal experience.

    Thanks.

  299. July 29, 2011 at 1:58 pm

    “If a woman who did not want to raise a child, had no choice but to raise a child if she continued her pregnancy; seriously what do you think she does?”

    NOT EVERY WOMAN who unintentionally gets pregnant wants to abort or is somehow vastly unaffected by the hormones that develop throughout the nine months of pregnancy.

    NOT EVERY WOMAN who unintentionally gets pregnant ends up *still* not wanting that fetus throughout the nine months of pregnancy.

    Going by your logic, every conceived-and-kept child should have been aborted, because half the rates of every “unintentional” pregnancy *in general* are unplanned pregnancies.

  300. Question...
    July 29, 2011 at 2:10 pm

    Hi,

    I’m question to dominant narrative and I want to thank anonadoptee and the others who engaged with my point and I agree that the phrase “dominant narrative” implies a privilege which doesn’t exist. I agree that this is a space in which people should feel happy to share their experiences and casting it in that light was wrong.

    But if it’s ok to carry on the foster care discussion

    @ Rox – I think you’ve hit on something re coercion but Safiya’s response is valid. The problem is that the state doesn’t want to remove children. Despite the fear that I think a lot of people have, the state cannot cope with and does not want to cope with the removal of any child who’s parents mess up. The problem is that, you are right, coercion is paternalistic and humiliating for parents. The problem is that it is generally necessary in order to get them to improve their parenting re abuse and neglect.

    1) For abuse cases, remember the standard is whether the child is going to be in danger. It may not be clear from a one off incident. It is such a difficult area to judge when, e.g. a child “falls down the stairs”. Maybe they have? So an ongoing relationship with the family generally can help to determine if the child needs to be removed. But honestly, most kids are not removed.

    I have a personal story. A family friend of my parents had to move out of his house for 6 months due to a CPS investigation. Basically the family believe in corporal punishment (as do my family – this is not the issue) and the kid – who is 12 – is quite naughty. Well, the father (who, sorry, suffers from severe depression and some impulse control issue) lost his temper with his son when “disciplining him” and left bruises all over him. In order words, he beat up his child. Kid went to school, school saw bruises, school called CPS. Long story short, family admitted to the beating, police declined to prosecute, court mandated anger management and parenting classes for both mom (who defended dad’s action) and dad, and compulsory counseling for kids. They worked with a counselor and a marriage counselor also. Throughout that entire interaction the only threat they had for good behavior was to take the kids away but taking them away would have devastated a good family who had problems. That’s the thing. I know you guys won’t believe me but I do think they are better off at their home. And (partly for selfish reasons) the dad will never physically chastise them again.

    But CPS don’t know if you are going to be that dad or a chronic violent abuser who this is the last chance to stop before he kills the kids. But at the end of the day he left bruises across 1/3 of his child’s body and the child was not removed.

    Here’s the thing though – this family have lots of sympathy from people around them about the “meddling social services”. They don’t think the father should have been kicked out (I do) or investigated (I do). Whole communities collude in abuse, seriously. And they hide their tracks better next time. Basically, the “CPS grabs kids for nothing” narrative is identical to the “women lie about rape” narrative. It way overplays something (false accusations) to deny a chronic and widespread problem (abuse against a less powerful group). One thing we don’t recognize in the stats re rape is that they count over a woman’s lifetime. In many cases the abuse starts in childhood. I truly believe society is in denial about how widespread child abuse actually is. Sexual abuse is almost impossible to prove and in sooo many cases “kin” are the problem. Children cannot testify in many court cases. It’s terrifying.

    2) Also, neglect cases are basically evaluated by looking at the child’s failure to thrive vs other kids their age. They are not when a parent hits but in soooo many cases, related to a drug abusing parent and an unsafe environment. This is usually when parents are given tons of services and will not conform. The kids will move into foster care and usually 1) gain weight 2) develop language skills 3) lose aggressive or hoarding behaviors. Then the parent is lucid enough to take the child back and the cycle starts again. Often the child is in foster care for the first 4-5 years with the same carer but because the parents have rights which have not been terminated, if the child is not in immediate danger to go back, they have to go back. And this cycles throughout childhood. And often abuse cases are characterized as neglect cases because it’s easier to prove.

    I think most people understand that poverty and lack of opportunities etc breed this sort of environment but these children don’t have 15 years to watch their parents fall off the wagon 8 times before they get clean and learn to parent. Well, unfortunately currently they do.

  301. Question...
    July 29, 2011 at 2:21 pm

    And one more thing which may be slightly more controversial. Someone said upthread that the evidence showed that teenage moms from certain backgrounds did better than those teenagers without kids. That’s true. Being a mom actually taught these young mothers responsibility. But the same evidence showed that these kids born to the teenage mothers did a lot worse than other children! In order words, we have to be careful about what role we are willing to let children play in the rehabilitation of mothers. If the children are especially in neglect situations, is it fair to value the mother’s welfare above the child’s?

    I know it’s a crappy anecdote but if you look at the teen mom type shows, the mother of these teen moms usually had her kids young. Now the grandmother is the weary voice of experience but it hasn’t stopped her daughter from perpetuating a cycle. And where there are drugs involved, good luck!

    I’m not saying EVERY teen mom is like this. Just pointing out that developmentally, the last thing children have is time. But realistic social policy for any “failing” parent depends on having a lot of failure built into the model and that takes a lot of time. Time the children may not have.

  302. Nicole
    July 29, 2011 at 2:50 pm

    Okay, so I am genuinely asking… what are the solutions? Those of you who know more about foster care? Because absolutely child abuse happens, it happens often, and children aren’t protected the way they should be. (I see the effects all the time in the mental health system…. people who were abused as children and never removed, or removed and returned repeatedly, or removed permanently but then they obviously still suffer the effects of the abuse. Some trauma experts suggest 80-90% of people who receive public mental health services have experienced significant trauma–Judith Herman–and a large portion of that has to be child abuse.)

    I really do not know enough about the foster care system though to know what the reforms are. My understanding is that ASFA was supposed to help address some of that–obviously it’s not good enough, because kids still are in foster care for years at a time–but is ASFA not working at all? And even if it is working in some instances but not in others, what needs to change so kids aren’t returned to abusive homes over and over?

  303. rox
    July 29, 2011 at 3:36 pm

    “But the same evidence showed that these kids born to the teenage mothers did a lot worse than other children!”

    Yes but WHY? When informing a pregnant teen about options, it would be important to give research based information about what kinds of parenting are unhealthy and what kinds of parenting are not. Outcomes are bad for teen moms because of a lack of parenting education, stress poverty.

    Here’s another thing. My first mom experienced a lot of trauma. Her memory is bad, her time perception is bad, she has all kinds of problems that began after seriously traumatic experiences in childhood.

    I carry that same functioning. Trauma and adverse condition can cause epigenetic alterations that can be passed to offspring. (I really hope people will start reading about epigenetics so I don’t have to try to explain every time.)

    If you see my mom as a lost cause, what do you think I am?

    I was robbed of people who are like me, who function like I do and who LIKE ME THE WAY I AM.

    In the society where being messy, or disorganized, or forgetful are signs of being a terrible dysfunctional person– how do the kids feel when they have teh same issues and you have demonized their parents for just not being better?

    I sat behind the gym for an entire year of highschool by myself. I couldn’t relate I couldn’t remeber homework assignments, I couldn’t function the way they wanted. I got bad grades and I got lectures over and over about how I was a failure and failing to try.

    Yes I got stuck in therapy and pu on meds that caused siezures, no thanks. And did NOTHING to actually help with the problems I had with cognition.

    Meanwhile after being completely broke down to having no self esteem at all and thinking I was the worst human being that could possibly be– it turns out all my family deals with this. It turns out that they like me just fine like I am.

    I would have missed the private catholic school education with my first mom and I would have had a harder time in some ways, but genuinely I think I would have had a better shot at feeling like I was an accepted, ok human being with the family who understands me inherently.

    I DEFINATELY don’t know how to fix the foster system and I damn well wish I could. I don’t know how to end physical and sexual abuse.

    But I know that my mom being spacy is not the same as abusing your kids. I know that we should do more research on how to help people function better and we ARE and we need to make all the things that help with it more accessible to low income people. Things like exercise, nutritional homemade meals with fresh vegetables every day, social time with peers, self expression, activities like yoga and meditation: we are doing more and more research on things like this and finding that they can literally change our biology and health and mental health outcomes.

    The problem is when people are struggling, they might need help implementing these kinds of changes in their lives. We have all kinds of studies about how things like dust mites and roach pollution in homes, leaky areas with mold— these kinds of things cause health and mental health problems—-and these things are associated with poverty because struggling families can’t just fix problems like this.

    We have studies on how single parent families who are working a lot struggle with energy for cooking and are more likely to have TV dinner or meals out that are not good for their childs physical and brain development.

    I believe we have a dedication to the poor to do research on what kinds of behaviors are MORE HARD for people when low income or facing mental illness or life stress, and research ways that we can make it more possible for health enriching activities and supports to be acceible to low income people.

    You’re presenting this “Well teen moms just need to place and then we wouldn’t have all this poverty and abuse”.

    That will ultimately leave behind all these other kids whose moms will choose to parent because adoption is excruciating and parinful for most women. We should have a dedication to kids PERIOD.

    Unless you are suggesting mandating teens be forced to give up their children, THERE WILL BE A MAJORITY OF TEENS AND YOUNG WOMEN WHO CHOOSE TO GIVE BIRTH KEEPING THEIR CHILDREN. We can’t just say, “Well that’s not advisable because it’s not good for kids.

    You know what, a solution that entails destroying my mom in the way she was destroyed and ignoring the needs she had for support? That is NOT OK WITH ME.

    I absolutely believe we need better programs for teens to have support– yes shows like teen mom should show us that. The parenting behaviors exhibited in teen mom are not in line with research on positive early childhood environments. But is anyone showing them how to do it better? Is anyone offering them help with the specific obstacles making it hard to parent from a research based success perspective?

  304. July 29, 2011 at 3:36 pm

    As for permanent termination of parental rights, thus entering a child into the system, which is heavily weighted towards rapid placement) several legal pressures have dramatically shifted the balance of power and “preference” away from “family preservation and reunification efforts”, “kinship placements” etc:

    1. Mandatory time limits before filing for termination of parental rights passed as part of the 1997 “Adoption and Safe Families Act”.

    As I wrote here, Encarnación Romero and the stealing of undocumented immigrants’ kids in a piece about the increasing “expendability” of the parental rights of undocumented immigrants and those in the prison system:

    “I recently wrote about the role of the hideous “Adoption and Safe Families Act” and it’s mandatory trigger dates in relation to termination of parental rights.”

    &

    “More recently, adding new pressures on those in the system and parental rights (as well as siblings ability to remain together etc. ) has been the addition of laws like the “Adoption and Safe Families Act” that went into effect in 1997. It has been widely criticized both within the Bastard community and by those who advocate on behalf of parents ability to retain their parental rights.

    It has had numerous effects upon children in foster care, not the least of which being the setting of time frames for almost mandatory terminations of parental rights, (thereby increasing the number of children made available to the adoption process.)”

    &

    “See this article, A Tangle of Problems Links Prison, Foster Care as but one of many examples criticizing the effects of the law on some of the most vulnerable of parents in terms of defending and retaining their parental rights:

    “The hurdles facing imprisoned parents grew higher in the late 1990s with the federal Adoption and Safe Families Act. If a child has spent 15 of the previous 22 months in foster care, the law requires that child welfare authorities file for termination of the birth parent’s rights.”

    As I brought up in another post (linked below):

    “The (mostly) mandatory triggers have had disastrous results of parents in prison for example, who have endured the termination of their parental rights at more than double the rate of the years before the law passed.”

    These new mandatory trigger dates for beginning the parental termination process run right over realities such as the national average amount of time most kids spend in foster care. The terminations begin well before most kids situations would otherwise statistically begin to stabilize.

    These mandatory deadlines also tie social worker’s hands and override their personal judgment, often forcing them to begin procedings to terminate a child’s connection to the family even as siblings who entered the system later are forced onto a different timetable, (i.e. the law has had the effect of splitting up sibling groups who might otherwise be placed together.)

    Feminists familiar with the effects of mandatory minimum sentencing laws for crimes should recognize the basis of what could be termed this additional penalty that prisoners, particularly women endure, the “mandatory maximums” of time before their parental rights are well on their way to being terminated.

    Also just because the kid has had their access to the parents cut that does not necessarily translate to any form of so called “permanency,” 20-30,000 kids simply “age out” of the foster system every year (some at 18, others at 21.)

    Most are dumped out on the street. Others receive some state school scholarships, and some get turned into an income stream for evangelical ministries.

    2. The adoption tax credits and incentives to the states.

    I’m barely going to touch on the lucrative federal and state tax credits schemes, other than to

    A) point at this post I wrote pertaining to National Adoption Day from the Bastard perspective and how all of it is being funded by what is essentially a State bailout of an industry going through rough times at the moment. See “National Adoption Day:” a celebration of sealed records & inequality

    &

    B) make mention of the ongoing body count of dead adoptee minors I’ve been reporting on and the sheer number of adoptive families still collecting state subsidies and tax incentives for their long dead kids years after the fact.

    Why? Because the State has no system in place to ensure that the money being paid out is actually in relation to a living breathing kid.

    Finally, as for the financial incentives/bonus checks to states for adoption placements see my statistical post for 2009Federal bonus bucks to the states for moving kids out of foster into adoptions (regardless of the damage)

    The federal incentive checks to the states for expediting adoption placements came out to 39 million dollars, all of which went into states’ operating budgets. Texas alone received seven and a half million for the year.

    “States receive $4,000 for every child adopted beyond their best year’s total, plus a payment of $8,000 for every child age 9 and older and $4,000 for every special needs child adopted above the respective baselines. The year 2007 is the baseline.”

    “Put simply, states receive cash bonuses for every child they move off the foster care rolls and into adoptions. A single child can be worth up to $12,000 in bonuses to the states.”

    Kids deemed “special needs” can be labeled such simply for being older or part of a sibling group.

    Put just those two changes in the landscape together and you have no “merely” vastly increased rates of terminations of parental rights, but the states then filling out their dwindling budgets by doing mass and sometimes rapid turn around placements.

    What that means to these kids and their existing families gets the occasional article here and there, but very little systemic treatment. After all, we’re talking about the voices of foster kids (who are culturally taught to shut up and bebe grateful-or else) and women prisoners (who barely get listened to at all.)

    I was adopted out of foster care over 40 years ago. Things have gotten measurably worse for both Bastards and our families, particularly Mothers.

    There are some counter-examples, but by and large, most Feminists haven’t even started dealing with these issues and this current landscape. They’re late.

  305. rox
    July 29, 2011 at 3:39 pm

    “I sat behind the gym for an entire year of highschool by myself”

    LOL this should have been “sat behind the gyn *at lunch* every day”

    Man if I had sat behind the gym for an entire year that would definately suck.

  306. rox
    July 29, 2011 at 3:57 pm

    Also I think we would see better outcomes for kids if we focused more energy on research based parenting program for single and teen and low income moms FROM THE START. Programs that are not designed by CPS to scare women into submission, but that are designed to promote compassionate support and encouragement with research based parenting practices and access to supports for the sepcific obstacles each owoman is facing.

    I think we would find a much greater impact from such programs than we will find sending CPS in when things are already bad and trying to force moms to realize how bad they are and conform. I just don’t see that resulting in as much positive good though once it is bad, we do need to continue to do what we can.

  307. Kathleen
    July 29, 2011 at 4:46 pm

    Baby Love Child — thank you. Your cold hard facts are exactly what this discussion needed!

    One thing that has been bothering me from the people saying “oh, but there really are abusive families out there who should have their kids taken away” is the total lack of acknowledgement that *which* abusive families ever get investigated (and which simply stressed out, but not actually abusive families get punished with child removal) is so so so so so racist and classist. The problems with foster care and infant adoption are in so many ways the same: the “wrong kinds” of parents (too young, too poor, too unmarried, too non-white, too foreign) get all the scrutiny and have much higher odds of getting their kids taken away (or being pressured to give them up, in the case of infant adoption — of being convinced that keeping their own kid would somehow be an abusive act) Nobody is saying all parents are perfect, but which parents get supported by society and which ones get treated punitively creates a consistent pattern that feminists will find familiar.

  308. Safiya Outlines
    July 29, 2011 at 4:51 pm

    Rox – This support does exist to an extent in the UK. Early intervention programmes, aimed at children in poverty, rather then children who are at risk per se, operate at a community level and are not directly related to child protection services. Here’s a link to more information about them:

    http://www.direct.gov.uk/en/Parents/Preschooldevelopmentandlearning/NurseriesPlaygroupsReceptionClasses/DG_173054

    Nicole – Let’s be clear first of all, I’m not talking about relinquished children, which are very rare, but children removed from their parents because they are being abused, which accounts for the majority of children in foster care

    IMO institutional care is the worst setting for children and the fewer children within it, the better. Whenever possible, children should have a family life, even if it is not able to be with their bio family.

    However, there is currently a massive shortgage of foster carers in the UK. There needs to be a push to attract more people to become foster carers, while at the same time ensuring that carers are of sufficient calibre training.

    The main key vital part to the system is that it must put the child’s needs first. This is a good link to encouraging child participation: http://www.funkydragon.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=60&Itemid=98&lang=en

    The times when social services have got it most wrong is when they failed to consult the child and listen to them.

    The next huge problem with foster care, is that children are often shunted from place to place due to capacity, which takes a massive mental, emotional and educational toll. For children staying within the system, there needs to be stability and continuity and yes, this is where adoption comes in.

  309. rox
    July 29, 2011 at 4:56 pm

    I was a nanny for a wealthy woman for a year. She left diapers on the floor all the time. She had piles of dishes WITH MOLD all in the sink and counters and kitchen table… if I was gone for 5 days.. that’s how many days they weren’t done.

    She had mood problems and PTSD but she was an FUCKING AWESOME mother.

    The kids where happy, she was a fun and engaging mom, she was involved in their education and they were SMART and doing well in school. They had a huge backyard to go play in and lot’s of fun engaging activities. Their house didnt get cleaned much but it was still beautiful and had plants and nice things out and exercise gear. There were areas with stacks of paper and clutter every where and toys always all over the floor. Sometimes she didn’t wash the cloth diapers for like a week and it smelled bad. Fortunately for her she had a whole room to stick those in so it didn’t affect the rest of the house.

    If she had been POOR and CPS had walked ito her house? I;m certain they would put her on their shit list.

    How does that affected parenting to be on their shitlist even if they don’t take your kid?

    I can about gaurantee you that CPS WILL NEVER WALK INTO HER HOUSE. NO ONE WILL EVER REPORT THAT BECAUSE SHE IS WEALTHY AND ALSO BECAUSE IT’s NOT A SIGN SHE IS NOT PARENTING WELL TO BEGIN WITH. And even if they did walk in her status and her wealthy friends and family would MAKE SURE that nothing bad happened to her relationship with her kids as a result.

    So yes I still stand by the fact that there are class and race issues involved.

  310. rox
    July 29, 2011 at 4:59 pm

    When I say race issues that is also meaning there is a history of race be correlated with poverty, addiction, and poor education systems etc.

  311. Safiya Outlines
    July 29, 2011 at 5:19 pm

    Rox – Of course there are class, race and wider societal issues involved. No one is denying away inequality. What Question and I are arguing against is the tired and harmful stereotype that Social Services are a bunch of kiddy snatchers.

  312. rox
    July 29, 2011 at 5:32 pm

    I think ultimately in the minds of parents who fear them, they in fact ARE kiddie snatchers. Even witht he best of intentions, any services offered BY THEM will have an element of fear/terror attached to it.

    This isn’t because social services workers are bad, or because it is wrong to remove children when there is danger…. it’s just by virtue of the function of the organization.

    It’s really NOT designed to offer family services. It’s designed to protect children from abuse. By default of its purpose, parents will feel threatened.

    This is why I am saying, services to families who are struggling with more minor issues(occasionally major) like those seen on teen mom could better be helped by programs that aren’t based out of child protective services orginizations. (There has been abuse on Teen Mom and I think CPS involvement was INCREDIBLY needed.)

  313. rox
    July 29, 2011 at 5:37 pm

    I think most CPS workers are trying really freaking hard to do a good job and they are faced with so much overwhelming crap that it’s really amazing that anyone is able to work for them at all. I think some of their burden could be relieved if there were alternate organizations offering family bonding and enrichment activites, groups activites that talk about and encourage healthy parenting techniques, and enriching activities for kids that promote physical, emotional, and cognitive development—

    Families might be more receptive to free family salsa night with a a cooking class; than to an offer for social workers to come to their homes and offer “intervention services” which sounds scary and unpleasant to most moms even if they are healthy parents.

  314. rox
    July 29, 2011 at 5:43 pm

    I wonder if families might be more receptive to “family support” rather than “family intervention” services?

    When I hear the word intervention, I hear the idea that the families behavior is bad and needs to be stopped.

    The question is why is the families behavior bad? And I think the answer comes back to support. Again it still sounds like the good people coming in to manage the bad people.

    And I think poor people are not blind to this. Well at least, I am a poor person and I am not blind to it. I want to do more research on the perceptions of people working with poor families, and how they view their services: and how the people recieveing the services view themselves and the reaons they are recieving services.

    I am delighted that in the UK they have tried these programs… I imagine there is still more to be done though, right? There is always more to be done with this. : )

  315. July 29, 2011 at 5:44 pm

    No problem Kathleen, glad to be of help.

    As for abusive families, few take into account the number of kids PLACED into abusive situations Masha being sort of an unintentional “poster child” used by many.

    The Russian abused and dead adoptees make quite the case studies as well.

    Then you have the untablulated number of adoption “disruptions” wherein the placement doesn’t work and the kid gets dumped back into the system (not to fear, the state can apparently collect another adoption placement incentive as the kid get tossed into yet another “forever family.”)

    If being shuffled through multiple rounds of disruption/placement while the state gets the cash bonuses isn’t considered “abusive” then I don’t know what is.

    Then you have certain adoption agencies and let’s be perfectly frank here, ministries that regard the mere act of placing a kid into a Queer household as “abusive.” Moreover, they expect the state to (et-hem) “adopt” their religious beliefs in relation to child placement.

    So sure, those who always get labeled the “wrong kind” as you spelled out above are thrown into the “unfit” bin by these organizations, but so are many others: Queers, Atheists, those of of other religions, those who would be single mothers outside the structures of any given agency’s faith (though other eventual single mothers *in relation* might be deemed preferable.)

    It’s all about removing children from those deemed “unfit” towards whichever set of criteria meeting segment of the population (using aligning with a statement of faith, or tithing an appropriate sum) come to be viewed as a desirable outcome.

    Evangelicals with the rise of their “Orphan” industry (see Your “orphans” aren’t; the rise of the “orphan” industry based on a lie have been particularly “orphan” obsessed in their endless quest for social movement growth/perpetuation via adoption.

    It’s merely the latest chapter in what I’ve termed the christian Eugenic eovement. (I.E. sorting not on “racial,” “mental,” or “physical” characteristics to determine an arbitrarilly set “in” group and “out” group, or those considered desirable or expendable but by adhering to an espoused tribal set of core “beliefs” and ongoing participation in a prescribed set of ritual behaviours.)

    If I might be granted the indulgence of a 5th link, I elaborate upon the christian eugenic concept in relation to emergent reproductive technologies in my post here In-Vitro Fertilization, “Snowflakes,” and the growing Christian Eugenic movement

  316. rox
    July 29, 2011 at 5:53 pm

    I have worked with foster alumni dumped out in the streets and runaways— I want everyone of them that wants a home to have one.

    In fact I wish there were programs where young adults aged out of foster care could be adopted into families. The young people I worked with needed families, they didn’t need social workers.

    Social workers should not be in charge of raising kids or young adults, everyone deserves a family. I too wish that older kids were given more opportunities to have loving homes.

  317. July 29, 2011 at 5:58 pm

    “Why do you (any adoptee) have a right to know who this person is if they do not want you to know? What happens if you get the birth certificate and you know who she is but there is a restraining order because she decided years ago she wanted no contact with child or adult you? What are the affects of finding out who your bio parents are contacting them and they hanging up or shutting a door in your face?”

    The whole point is adult adoptees would like to be treated like adults. If there is a restraining order then so be it. 2 adults should be able to determine for themselves if they want contact with each other or not. The government should have no say in the matter. There should not be an intermediary in these decisions. Everyone has a right to their own birth records without interference from a government agency. If at that point an adult adoptee desires to seek out a parent they have the right to do that. If then the biological parent decides they do not want contact they have that right also. Why should there be involvement of a third party?

  318. Azalea
    July 29, 2011 at 6:12 pm

    Mei Ling:
    “If a woman who did not want to raise a child, had no choice but to raise a child if she continued her pregnancy; seriously what do you think she does?”

    NOT EVERY WOMAN who unintentionally gets pregnant wants to abort or is somehow vastly unaffected by the hormones that develop throughout the nine months of pregnancy.

    NOT EVERY WOMAN who unintentionally gets pregnant ends up *still* not wanting that fetus throughout the nine months of pregnancy.

    Going by your logic, every conceived-and-kept child should have been aborted, because half the rates of every “unintentional” pregnancy *in general* are unplanned pregnancies.

    Why would she let it get that far? If she nows when she finds out she is pregnant that her options are only 1) abortion or 2) raise the child. If she does *not* want to raise a child why would she carry it for nine months if doing so means she would absolutely be forced to do so?

    You act like if adoption isn’t an option she’d use the entire pregnancy to decide on an abortion. Without adoption she’d be under *more* pressure to have that abortion because she’s on a cloc to have one when its more affordable and safest (in the first trimester).

    Many many many women have abortions because they do not want to parent BUT could not imagine relinquishing a child after enduring a pregnancy. Then there are women who would prefer not to ever have an abortion but want to relinquish a child over parenting. If you took away the option to forgo parenting via adoption why would any woman who knows or is even ambivalent about parenting decide to carry to term (because over one million abortions occur a year it’s pretty much common knowledge that those hormones will not prevent women from aborting)?

  319. Azalea
    July 29, 2011 at 6:19 pm

    And also, I didn’t say all unintended pregnancies. Hey my own children were unplanned and neither option were ever on the table for me. It all depends on the WOMAN who can decide whether or not to allow the fetus to become a child how she feels and where she is in life. I said the women who CHOOSE adoption obviously they didn’t carry a baby for nine months intending to parent and then say “today is a bad day to begin parenthood, I think I’ll give this child up for adoption!” These decisions are made long before the option to abort is off the table legally. So with the whole truth in mind do you honestly think women would choose to raise their child if they knew within the first trimester that they didnt want to and the option to abort is available as it always should be?

  320. July 29, 2011 at 6:56 pm

    Kathleen:
    annalouise, anonadoptee, rox, and especially Amanda — your commentary is amazing and informative and obviously, really necessary in this space.Thank you for your patience and generosity with your knowledge and experience.

    I am a little uncomfortable that the mods keep jumping in with commentary that seems pretty biased (esp. of the “but this might threaten MY desire to parent someday!” variety:done properly, adoption is for children, not for parents); the voices of adult adoptees (and birthmothers who gave up children under duress) are *so* *so* *so* underheard in discussions of adoption, I really think people whose first inclination is to argue with them just need to do a bit more listening.

    Azalea, this *REALLY* means you.

    Kathleen, I agree wholeheartedly. Firstmoms and adult adoptees are so often spoken over and dismissed. What we have to say is challenging, and often painful. It’s unpleasant to people who have other ideas about parenting and plans for themselves.

    I have been asking myself what Azalea’s connection to adoption is, and where she is meeting “all” these women who have absolutely no desire to parent, but to carry pregnancies to term. Sounds like she might be an employee of an adoption agency. Just sayin’.

  321. Lika
    July 29, 2011 at 6:59 pm

    anonadoptee: Lika,The physical beatings and emotional abuse were not the greatest. I was actually sat on and given some religious ritual as a very young child (while screaming and crying) because I talked back.

    Oh my god, anon. That’s horrible. *hugs* I’m so sorry you were treated like that. No child should ever have to go through that.

    I know what you mean about religion and childrearing being a dangerous combination and about what you said about not thinking you should have removed because the abuse was more cultural. I grew up in a very strict, Christian, patriarchal-Asian family (for the record, I’m not adopted). There were things that were abusive, and I struggle with them because my parents were loving people, just brainwashed by the culture, which doesn’t excuse their behaviour, but it does complicate things. I’ve described the struggle before as “culture didn’t stop the love, but love couldn’t eradicate the culture”. Either way, the pain remains.

    But NO ONE would ever question my parents because they were the “right” parents and were Christian.

    I wouldn’t be surprised if the fact that they adopted also played into it. I think there’s a lower standard for adoptive parents, because everyone is so dazzled that they “saved” a child, that they’re more willing to dismiss the possibility that they too can be abusive.

  322. July 29, 2011 at 8:39 pm

    “If she nows when she finds out she is pregnant that her options are only 1) abortion or 2) raise the child. If she does *not* want to raise a child why would she carry it for nine months if doing so means she would absolutely be forced to do so?”

    Because. Her. Emotions. And. Thoughts. Are. Changed. Throughout. Pregnancy?

    The second she finds out she has a embryo/fetus inside her uterus CAN CHANGE WHAT SHE THINKS/FEELS.

    “So with the whole truth in mind do you honestly think women would choose to raise their child if they knew within the first trimester that they didnt want to and the option to abort is available as it always should be?”

    Yes, I would. Because people change and circumstances change. It’s not a black & white process. God.

    I’m not saying there are women who didn’t want to parent OR relinquish who would NEVER EVER abort. I’m saying it’s insulting and demeaning when you insinuate that we adoptees “could have been” aborted on the basis that we are adopted because no woman could ever *possibly* change her mind about her own baby at Trimester 1 if she didn’t want to parent in the first place or even carry to term.

    In other words, you’ve been saying: if she didn’t want to parent, why carry to term? obviously adoption means she considered abortion, otherwise she’d have been PARENTING right now.

    No. Wrong. Try again.

    There are people who conceive children who originally DIDN’T WANT TO PARENT and never planned to abort, then their thinking changed and they became parents! Imagine that! Amazingly, thought processes can sometimes change.

    You are so convinced that we adoptees are walking, talking could-have-been abortions, aren’t you?

    Nothing I say will change your mind, not that I expected it to.

  323. Lika
    July 29, 2011 at 8:51 pm

    Azalea: I said the women who CHOOSE adoption obviously they didn’t carry a baby for nine months intending to parent and then say “today is a bad day to begin parenthood, I think I’ll give this child up for adoption!”

    Not every women who relinquished a child truly choose adoption. For a lot of them, it wasn’t a choice. When you said in that incredibly crass, false comment that the adoptees speaking in this thread would have been aborted fetuses if there wasn’t adoption, you’re assuming that every one of THEIR mothers would have chosen to abort. You weren’t talking about about women who chose, you were talking about that specific group of mothers. You were claiming that they didn’t want to raise their kids, that they would have aborted, that they choose adoption. You claimed that without even know the stories behind the relinquishment of their children.

    I know for a fact that at least one of them was wanted and would have been parented and loved. And no, you don’t get to assume that it’s because the mother would have been pressured into parenting. I know the pressure was to relinquish. No, I’m not going to into details with you, but I know the facts of the story. YOU DON’T.

    Every story is different. You don’t get to assume that every adoption involved an unwanted child, that every adoptee would have been aborted if not for adoption. You most certainly don’t get to assume what the stories are for these actual people. These people know their own story better than you do.

    These decisions are made long before the option to abort is off the table legally. So with the whole truth in mind do you honestly think women would choose to raise their child if they knew within the first trimester that they didnt want to and the option to abort is available as it always should be?

    Mothers changing their minds about relinquishing their child happens a lot. The celebrity Alex Kingston talks about how two adoption attempts fell through because the mother changed her mind after the child was born and decided to parent. I’ve heard multiple prospective adoptive parents talk about how “their birthmother” changed her mind. And I know of one mother who swore up and down she was fated to give her child up to another family and then after holding her son for the first time, said she didn’t want to let him go. So yes, it is possible for a woman to choose to raise her child after deciding in the first trimester that she didn’t want to.

  324. rox
    July 29, 2011 at 10:14 pm

    If it hadn’t been for adoption I would have parented. If it hadn’t been for adoption no one could have hung over my head how unworthy I was in comparison to the BETTER adoptive parents. If it hadn’t been for adoption I could have kept holding on to my daughter in the hosptial with her sweet little hands grasping mine, nursing and being so close.

    She was heaven. She was everything. I wanted her with all my heart. If it wasn’t for adoption they couldn’t have convinced me to sit their in agony sobbing hysterically while they walked away with my child. Because I was not good enough. Because I couldn’t afford to stay at home with her, I couldn’t afford to do all the things I wasnted for her, I couldn’t afford a montessori school, I couldn’t afford nutrious healthy food, I would have been too tired being the single parent with no help– because no matter how much I wanted her or how hard I was willing to do anything in my power I could not manifest those things on the income I had.

    They outdid me. They bested me.

    If it weren’t for adoption my daughter would NOT have been an abortion. She would have been wanted and kept and loved with all my heart.

  325. anonadoptee
    July 29, 2011 at 10:15 pm

    Real quick.

    Not everyone in the world has the option of abortion. Let’s just get that straight real quick. In some countries rules are different, and from just a USian perspective, not everyone has the option either, whether or not it’s legal. If you are raised religious and pro-life, abortion is not always a choice (I think a woman can still wish they could have an abortion, or they “hope they miscarry”, but the religious stigma is too strong to actually get a legal abortion). If you live too far away from an abortion provider (some states only have ONE) or can’t scrape together the money you can’t choose abortion.

    Just because abortion is legal doesn’t mean women all have access to it.

  326. anonadoptee
    July 29, 2011 at 10:15 pm

    Real quick.

    Not everyone in the world has the option of abortion. Let’s just get that straight real quick. In some countries rules are different, and from just a USian perspective, not everyone has the option either, whether or not it’s legal. If you are raised religious and pro-life, abortion is not always a choice (I think a woman can still wish they could have an abortion, or they “hope they miscarry”, but the religious stigma is too strong to actually get a legal abortion). If you live too far away from an abortion provider (some states only have ONE) or can’t scrape together the money you can’t choose abortion.

    Just because abortion is legal doesn’t mean women all have access to it.

  327. anonadoptee
    July 29, 2011 at 10:16 pm

    Apologies for the double post. No clue how that happened.

  328. Kathleen
    July 29, 2011 at 10:22 pm

    Safiya Outlines — I am going to disagree with you about institutional childcare settings. Everyone hears the word “orphanage” and thinks “Oliver” but right now, the foster care system in North America is just awful. Some people genuinely are in it for the money. Some people have religious complexes, some people have messiah complexes, and when there aren’t enough foster families some kids end up housed in motel rooms. Children get badly hurt in foster care far too often, and they get moved around too much, and it just stinks.

    There are wonderful foster parents, for sure. But there are *not enough* of them (though perhaps there would be, if more energy was put into supporting existing families rather than removing children, so there were fewer foster kids). Putting kids in private homes, where most of their care is in the unsupervised hands of one or two adults who don’t love them, is a recipe for bad outcomes. Rich people send their kids to boarding schools (I know, I know, there are horror stories there, too); really well-funded, transparently operated, caring and stable orphanages (with programs offering support for 18-21 year olds, rather than dumping 18 year olds out into the world with nothing) might be a better option than the current foster system in those cases where long-term family situations can’t be arranged for children.

    The idea that the foster care system potentially provides real love to children — it just doesn’t, often enough, to be justifiable. Orphanages can’t guarantee love (though kids growing up in them can love one another), but they can provide consistency, stability, patience, resources, and — with the right staff — genuine kindness, which I’d argue is preferable to the current catch-as-catch-can system.

    It would be expensive; it would require a massive overhaul of entrenched systems; but the current system is really hurting people. At any rate, I am not sure the assumption that *nothing* is worse than an orphanage is correct.

  329. rox
    July 29, 2011 at 10:26 pm

    The whole way along I wanted to parent. The whole way along I fought against the idea of adoption. I tried to find research on adoptees, outcomes, surely, surly I’m not the only adoptee in the world who feels like I lost SO MUCH not having my biological family?

    Surely I’m not the only one who is questioning the idea that infants are unaware? I was taking these birth classes and hypnotbirthing and doing prenatal yoga and bonding with my baby and reading about development and infants awareness and doing meditative activity to bond with my baby.

    Surely I wasn’t the only one who would question that an infant is more emotionally aware than we give credit for? That an infant knows it’s mothers heartbeat, the sounds in her womb, the sound of her voice, the very emotions and feelings running through her body. That seperating the mother and child immediately after birth could be disrupting something profoundly important for the infant?

    But I couldn’t find proof, I couldn’t convince anyone.

    “No, newborns can’t feel, you’re imagining that because you are being selfish and you want your child.”

    Dear god, of course I want my child. Jesus. Ok so single parents have poor outcomes– INS”T THERE ANYTHING I CAN DO?!! Can’t I make positive choices and try to identify the REASONS single parents have poor outcomes and try to make those factors different?

    “No, there is nothing you can do. Even if you try your best you just can’t be as good. You would be selfish to keep her and cause her to have a life of deprivation.”

    Fine, you win. Take my daughter. But death would be kinder.

  330. Kathleen
    July 29, 2011 at 10:33 pm

    oh, rox. You’ve convinced me.

  331. July 29, 2011 at 10:55 pm

    Adoption affects the ability of queer people, especially gay men and trans people (who may be biologically incapable of conceiving) to have children. How we recognize or do not recognize biological parents directly impacts the ability of queer people to self-determine their families. For example, I know of gay parents who adamantly DO NOT want open adoptions, because they wish to be able to define their families as their own — a wish that is challenged by normative notions of family, and that queer people have to work hard to defend.

    What I’m hearing from this discussion is that closed adoptions are unjust, which creates a conflict with some queer parents’ desires to self-determine their families. In bringing this up, I am not saying that queer parents’ experiences trump anyone else’s; pointing out a conflict is not the same as choosing a side. The point is that queer family issues (as well as infertility issues) intersect with adoption issues, so we can’t conclusively address one without bringing up the other.

    While I can sympathize with gay men’s and transgendered people’s desires to parent, it saddens me to feel that their desire to parent would trump their potential child’s desire to know who they are on a genetic level. The gay/trans parents may or may not have relationships with their own families, but they *probably* know who they were born. They can choose to sever those ties on their own, but that is THEIR choice.

    To say that they want only a closed adoption so that they can control their family is understandable, if they are worried about homophobia on the part of their child’s natural family, but it still is trading their child’s knowledge of who s/he is for their own security. And children grow up knowing all about their parents’ insecurities, whether from infertility or what-have-you.

    I am an adult adoptee, now 42, who was in a closed adoption. I could be seen as a poster child because I got great aparents who loved me; I had “every advantage” with education, the pony, name-brand colleges, graduate school, etc. And yet all my life, there was a huge hole in my heart where my first mom was missing. I didn’t search for a long time because I didn’t want to be “disloyal” to my aparents (they really felt insecure and made it very clear to me that my “biological family” was inferior, in their mind) and because searching was emotionally difficult and expensive. When I did find my family, at the age of 40, it was like a huge weight fell off my heart and soul. I finally felt complete. This was something my adoptive family couldn’t do for me, couldn’t fix for me.

    I am not an aberration. There are *some* adoptees who don’t have any curiosity, but you never know what kind you’re going to get. And if you put restrictions on your kid and make it clear that their loyalties are to YOU only, they probably won’t be honest with you.

    I am not saying that adoption is *never* the answer to unexpected pregnancies, but it is not a joyous answer. It happens as the result of a tragedy and results in loss. The only happy people are usually the APs, but usually we are their second choices, as well, when they are infertile, at least.

    I have lesbian friends who have become parents using sperm donation, but they have been ethical and used a bank that does not allow anonymous donation. Their kids will have access to their fathers one day, which I think is only right. If a man is going to sell his DNA, he should be willing to answer questions that child might pose.

    There are many things to be weighed out, but I think far too often the child does not have an advocate. That’s where adult adoptees and adult donor children come into the picture. While we are all individuals and cannot speak for everyone, we can at least raise important issues that have too long remained unspoken in light of the needs and wants of the adults in the equation. We are not “blank slates” for adoptive parents to write on. We are people who come with our own histories, even from birth. We look and behave like our first families, no matter how hard our adoptive parents might like to deny it.

  332. July 29, 2011 at 11:39 pm

    So the unsealed birth certificate for adoptees who were never placed should be something the bio parents know and may serve as an incentive for those who wish to remain anonymous to get the ball rolling on finding a family for the child.

    No. It means that all these cries about protecting anonymity are bogus. Most of our mothers never signed papers that gave them legal protection for that anonymity/confidentiality (although the state in which I was born has enshrined anonymity in law). I wish my aparents had known about this time lag so that they could have gone to Vital Records and requested a copy of my OBC before my adoption. Of course the agency conveniently neglected to tell them of this loophole back in 1969-70.

    My adoptive parents always had my mother’s name on my Pre-Adoptive Agreement, though, so her “anonymity” wasn’t ever perfectly protected.

    Moreover, the “secrecy” was never so much about protecting the first mothers from “shame” as about protecting the adoptive parents from what they feared were “predatory” first mothers. That part of the story is conveniently forgotten. See first mother Lorraine Dusky’s “Birthmark” for more on this.

    How often stories get turned on their ears to justify making bad things worse! It’s always possible to find that one, poor, emotionally distraught mother in the closet who will suffer if records are opened; that was the ploy used recently in New Jersey. But it’s a red herring! It’s not about pitting their rights against ours. It’s about EQUALITY of access to government records. Seriously. We can find our mothers without our OBCs. I did. Most of us can. It’s not about getting our OBCs to search and FORCE our mothers to have relationships with us. It’s about wanting to have a document that EVERY OTHER citizen in the US can have.

    These really are feminist issues, and I hate thinking that it’s mother v. daughter. It’s a false dichotomy, at least most of the time, but the adoption industry LOVES to pretend that they need to protect our mothers and our aparents from us meanie adoptees.

  333. MissKate7511
    July 30, 2011 at 3:02 am

    God, Rox, I’m sorry.

    I’d comment more on this, all of this, but I’m still reeling after reading everything. I’m an adoptee who met her birthmom four years ago, at the age of 25 (she was 42), and the dust is still settling and my world is still shifting. I feel underqualified to comment until I get this aspect of my life sorted.

    What I’ll say is this: the narrative I always got from my [adoptive] parents was that my birthmom had moved on, that she was different from my [adoptive] mom, who would have “never, ever, ever been able to give up her own child!” The whole narrative about birthmoms being emotionally broken/unfit parents BECAUSE they were able to give up their kids (even though SO MANY were coerced) is the accepted story with so many I know, so I can see why people resist the “but some women who carry to term don’t care about their kids” line. Yes, some women carry pregnancies that they’re happy to be done with on the day of the delivery, but so many are in agony over choices that were made for them. The “Gee, but they’re happy to be free!” story is told about birthmoms to make all the ugliness of the process okay, to whitewash over it so everyone keeps smiling and thinking this process is fucking zero sum. THAT is why people get defensive. This explanation is told, untruthfully, about so many women and their pregnancies. It’s what I was told, and it was a lie.

    So, yes, I’m sure some ladies are happy to hand off a baby unemotionally. However, that’s what’s claimed about SO MANY PEOPLE when it’s not true… and it’s a story that’s believed. So let’s allow a little space for birthmoms to be angry at the [very often] false narrative painted over their truth, okay? Just saying.

    Okay, I need to go have a glass of wine and maybe cry a bit and maybe call my birthmom in the morning.

  334. Momentary
    July 30, 2011 at 7:28 am

    rox, I am so sorry.

    Thank you to all the adoptees and birthmoms who have posted in this thread.

  335. July 30, 2011 at 8:56 am

    Rox – I’m so sorry and I understand. I was in those same shoes. There are still too many people who don’t know or don’t want to know what we experienced. The extent of the devastation can be such that the mother just can’t speak of it. We’ve been quiet so long and hidden so well and lied about so much that the general population hasn’t had a clue the damage that adoption caused. It was 30 yrs before I could even begin to talk about it publicly. And, talking about what happened 30-40 yrs ago is relevant to a conversation about adoption now.

    Like someone said earlier, adoption hasn’t changed much in that time. The agencies have simply had 30 yrs to figure out new ways to get the infants from their mothers. Lobbyists such as the National Council for Adoption work hard to ensure that laws regarding relinquishment and birth records remain slanted toward the agencies and their paying customers. It’s such a huge business, of course they’re going to do what they can to ensure that the baby selling business continues. Take a look at this price list – http://apathoftheheart.blogspot.com/2011/06/updated-situations.html Why is this even legal? They don’t even call them babies now, they are “situations”.

  336. July 30, 2011 at 9:03 am

    One more thing…. notice on the price list that the African American infant is listed at 17K and the Caucasian is listed at 30.5K

  337. Sharon
    July 31, 2011 at 12:58 pm

    I’d just like to add my two cents to the previous comments. First of all, thank you to all those adoptees for understanding what their real mothers really went through. To those who think that adoptions which took place in the BSE have no bearing on adoption today. Wow you just don’t know how wrong you are.
    I just want you all to know that being a natural mother who was date-raped and pregnant at 15 in 1968 and after being sent away and giving birth in a hospital all on my own, and then coersed into surrendering a child to adoption was not an easy thing. It was a life-threatening and tragic event that changed my entire life. I can only now say that I have suffered since then from PTSD and didnt know it until 5 years ago. I can also assure you, and believe you me I didnt know this myself, that there are hundreds of thousands of women just like me, from the US, UK, South Africa, New Zealand and Australia. I imagine that there are indeed women like me in other countries too, but because they dont’ speak our language I don’t know much about them.
    I am one of the ‘lucky’ ones because my life did go on, after a short breakdown when I was about 21, I married and had two other children.
    BUT none of us were prostitutes, drug addicts or white trash. We were just ordinary women and a horrendous crime was commited in taking our babies from us.

  338. Azalea
    July 31, 2011 at 10:57 pm

    Carlynne:
    . Everyone has a right to their own birth records without interference from a government agency. If at that point an adult adoptee desires to seek out a parent they have the right to do that. If then the biological parent decides they do not want contact they have that right also. Why should there be involvement of a third party?

    Let’ssay a restraning roder wasn’t put in place, but when the decision was made to place the child it was made clear the bio parents wanted no contact. Perhaps this was put into writing ( a letter a note but nothing igned by a notary or enforced with legal consequences). Does the adoptee have a right by virtue of biology to ignore the other adult’s wishes to not be contacted? Because that’s where I was getting at, not the government, not what the adopted parents want but alllllllllllllllllllllllll about what the bio parents want.

  339. Azalea
    July 31, 2011 at 11:04 pm

    Mei Ling:
    “If she nows when she finds out she is pregnant that her options are only 1) abortion or 2) raise the child. If she does *not* want to raise a child why would she carry it for nine months if doing so means she would absolutely be forced to do so?”

    Because. Her. Emotions. And. Thoughts. Are. Changed. Throughout. Pregnancy?

    The second she finds out she has a embryo/fetus inside her uterus CAN CHANGE WHAT SHE THINKS/FEELS.

    “So with the whole truth in mind do you honestly think women would choose to raise their child if they knew within the first trimester that they didnt want to and the option to abort is available as it always should be?”

    Yes, I would. Because people change and circumstances change. It’s not a black & white process. God.

    I’m not saying there are women who didn’t want to parent OR relinquish who would NEVER EVER abort. I’m saying it’s insulting and demeaning when you insinuate that we adoptees “could have been” aborted on the basis that we are adopted because no woman could ever *possibly* change her mind about her own baby at Trimester 1 if she didn’t want to parent in the first place or even carry to term.

    In other words, you’ve been saying: if she didn’t want to parent, why carry to term? obviously adoption means she considered abortion, otherwise she’d have been PARENTING right now.

    No. Wrong. Try again.

    There are people who conceive children who originally DIDN’T WANT TO PARENT and never planned to abort, then their thinking changed and they became parents! Imagine that! Amazingly, thought processes can sometimes change.

    You are so convinced that we adoptees are walking, talking could-have-been abortions, aren’t you?

    Nothing I say will change your mind, not that I expected it to.

    I know that people change their minds. Part of that process is that the choice existed in the first place to be able to select adoption over parenting. My point is, and it isn’t insulting no one has a right to be born and if a woman wanted an abortion she couldn’t have that resulted in a child then she was screwed out of her rights to determine what goes on in her own body and that’s a travesty of reproductive justice.

    When abortion was not legal and women did not want to parent a child for whatever reason they tried to perform abortions on themselves. Now that adoption comes wth a lot of stigma towards bio parents who don’t want to or are even afraid of the responibility, babies end up in dumpsters. This isn’t something I am making up, this isn’t something that only happens twice a year. This is reality. Women need choices without stigma and those choices need to extend to whether or not she chooses adoption.

    I stand by my earlier statement, if the woman decided that she did NOT want to parent and chose adoption over abortion. I believe that without the option to choose adoption she WOULD have aborted. Women change their minds but there are FAR more women opting for abortion than there are adoption, imagine if adoption were taken off the table altogether.

  340. Azalea
    August 1, 2011 at 12:14 am

    Kara: Kathleen, I agree wholeheartedly. Firstmoms and adult adoptees are so often spoken over and dismissed. What we have to say is challenging, and often painful. It’s unpleasant to people who have other ideas about parenting and plans for themselves.

    I have been asking myself what Azalea’s connection to adoption is, and where she is meeting “all” these women who have absolutely no desire to parent, but to carry pregnancies to term. Sounds like she might be an employee of an adoption agency. Just sayin’.

    I’m not. I volunteer my time, and donate money and professional legal services to non profit organizations in the DC area that benefit poor women. Most of these women are WOC. I don’t know what your race is or how well you know the workings of “pregnancy politics” when it comes to WOC in urban areas but let me assure you; the fetus that develops into the child are viewed as the same entity. Many women in this area grew up with mothers who told them of their strong bond from the womb, how closely the fetus them was associated with the baby them as being one and the same. Typically when this isn’t the case, when there is a separation of fetus and baby it’s when the conception of the fetus was a traumatic, painful or shameful circumstance.

    These stories pretty much give a sense of personhood to fetuses for these women. Some of these women have grandmothers who were forced to have abortions because she was a WOC. Abortions and the black community have a very rocky road and many black women who have abortions do so because they felt they couldn’t afford another child, not because they did not want to parent but that they lacked the support to do so.

    Again I do not know what *your* race is or where you live to know how many WOC in urban areas you have personally spoken to in depth about the circumstances surrounding their unwanted pregnancies they intend to carry to term for adoption.

    But that specific circumstance aside, there are women for whatever reason who don’t want abortions but dont want to parent. When all other options fail, adoption is the next big thing *for them* and *their* needs.

  341. Azalea
    August 1, 2011 at 12:24 am

    Kara: No. It means that all these cries about protecting anonymity are bogus. Most of our mothers never signed papers that gave them legal protection for that anonymity/confidentiality (although the state in which I was born has enshrined anonymity in law). I wish my aparents had known about this time lag so that they could have gone to Vital Records and requested a copy of my OBC before my adoption. Of course the agency conveniently neglected to tell them of this loophole back in 1969-70.

    My adoptive parents always had my mother’s name on my Pre-Adoptive Agreement, though, so her “anonymity” wasn’t ever perfectly protected.

    Moreover, the “secrecy” was never so much about protecting the first mothers from “shame” as about protecting the adoptive parents from what they feared were “predatory” first mothers. That part of the story is conveniently forgotten. See first mother Lorraine Dusky’s “Birthmark” for more on this.

    How often stories get turned on their ears to justify making bad things worse! It’s always possible to find that one, poor, emotionally distraught mother in the closet who will suffer if records are opened; that was the ploy used recently in New Jersey. But it’s a red herring! It’s not about pitting their rights against ours. It’s about EQUALITY of access to government records. Seriously. We can find our mothers without our OBCs. I did. Most of us can. It’s not about getting our OBCs to search and FORCE our mothers to have relationships with us. It’s about wanting to have a document that EVERY OTHER citizen in the US can have.

    These really are feminist issues, and I hate thinking that it’s mother v. daughter. It’s a false dichotomy, at least most of the time, but the adoption industry LOVES to pretend that they need to protect our mothers and our aparents from us meanie adoptees.

    There are countles children with blank spots on their birth certificates, countless children with the wrong father or no father listed.

    Again, my pont was not to make ALL adoptions closed or ALL bio parents identities a secret. But if the bio parent wants secrecy I think they should have it. If the argument is that adoptees have a right to information about another person, even against that person’s will, because of shared biology doesn’t that make the case for mandatory DNA testing and no more blank spots on anyone’s birth certificates since all children have a right to know who their bio parents are? Sperm donors and egg donors can no longer be anonymous and I have no clue where gestational surrogates would fall into all of this or even if it fits from an adoptees standpoint.

  342. Azalea
    August 1, 2011 at 12:33 am

    MissKate7511:
    God, Rox, I’m sorry.

    I’d comment more on this, all of this, but I’m still reeling after reading everything.I’m an adoptee who met her birthmom four years ago, at the age of 25 (she was 42), and the dust is still settling and my world is still shifting.I feel underqualified to comment until I get this aspect of my life sorted.

    What I’ll say is this: the narrative I always got from my [adoptive] parents was that my birthmom had moved on, that she was different from my [adoptive] mom, who would have “never, ever, ever been able to give up her own child!”The whole narrative about birthmoms being emotionally broken/unfit parents BECAUSE they were able to give up their kids (even though SO MANY were coerced) is the accepted story with so many I know, so I can see why people resist the “but some women who carry to term don’t care about their kids” line.Yes, some women carry pregnancies that they’re happy to be done with on the day of the delivery, but so many are in agony over choices that were made for them. The “Gee, but they’re happy to be free!” story is told about birthmoms to make all the ugliness of the process okay, to whitewash over it so everyone keeps smiling and thinking this process is fucking zero sum.THAT is why people get defensive.This explanation is told, untruthfully, about so many women and their pregnancies.It’s what I was told, and it was a lie.

    So, yes, I’m sure some ladies are happy to hand off a baby unemotionally.However, that’s what’s claimed about SO MANY PEOPLE when it’s not true… and it’s a story that’s believed.So let’s allow a little space for birthmoms to be angry at the [very often] false narrative painted over their truth, okay?Just saying.

    Okay, I need to go have a glass of wine and maybe cry a bit and maybe call my birthmom in the morning.

    Point blank, lying to you about your birthmom was fucked up. Nobody should be lied to about this. If they didnt have information about her or didnt know FROM HER what the circumstances of placing you were, they should have been honest about that.

  343. August 1, 2011 at 12:49 am

    Azalea – an adoptee having access to their own birth records and an adoptee having a reunion with a natural parent are two separate issues. If a natural parent has made it clear that they don’t want any contact with their adult offspring then that should be the end of it. It’s my personal opinion as a mom who lost a child to adoption though that the adoptee is owed an explanation of the circumstances of their birth and placement. Adoption is something that was done to the child and the child had no say. It’s not a one time event, adoption affects us for a lifetime and I think everyone has a right to know their history.

    Regarding birth records – every other citizen in this country has access to their original birth certificate by simply applying for it and paying a small fee. In 43 states adoptees records are sealed by the court. The only thing we have (I’m also an adoptee) is our amended birth certificate which is a lie. Many adoptees now have problems like trying to get a passport or renew a driver’s license because of this issue. Adoptees are treated like second class citizens for something we had no control over.

    An adoptee can find their parents without having the OBC especially now with the internet so it really is silly to have states hiding these forms that we are entitled to. Mothers being promised confidentiality is a myth. We were never promised that and most of us didn’t want it. The sealing of records was done to protect adoptive parents and agencies not the mothers. We were told not to search for our children because it would damage them. If you read about Georgia Tann you’ll find that originally, sealing records began in order to hide illegal adoption activity.

  344. Natural Mother from the '80s
    August 1, 2011 at 9:46 am

    Azalea: There are countles children with blank spots on their birth certificates, countless children with the wrong father or no father listed.

    In most states the standard rule was that unmarried women would not be allowed to name the father on the birth certificate without his consent. In my case, I filled out the paperwork for the BC with the father’s name, address, etc, but since we were not married he was required to come to the hospital to sign the form. Because he didn’t show up to sign the BC his name was removed when the official record was entered into the system. These laws were enacted to protect MEN, not women or children. If they could keep their names off the BC they could avoid child support or keep their infidelities secret. Not to mention the number of supposedly celibate clergy who benefitted from these laws. This occurred in my situation in 1982 – hardly ancient history.

    As one who works in the adoption/legal field as an advocate for pregnant women, I’m surpised you don’t know this history.

  345. August 1, 2011 at 5:00 pm

    Azalea, as Carlynne said, getting my OBC and having a relationship with my mother are two separate things.

    I want my OBC because you and EVERY OTHER non-adopted person in the country have the right to yours. What makes *you* more special and different than adoptees? Nothing. I don’t buy your argument about needing to protect mothers promised confidentiality. If I got my OBC and used it to find my mother, which I wouldn’t because I already know her, and she refused contact, that would be that. And if she felt threatened, she could follow protocol like any other citizen and file paperwork for a restraining order if I overstepped my boundaries. But she does not have the right to deny me a legal document that belongs to ME, not to HER, and not to YOU.

    No, my father’s name is not on my OBC. Who cares? Most unmarried women were not allowed to name fathers back at that time. Again, what’s it to you? It’s not your OBC, it’s mine.

    And you know what? There are many, many, MANY more blank spots on my amended birth certificate, the cooked one, because it had to be filled out a year later. It looks strange. Have you ever seen an amended BC? It says that two people gave birth to me who didn’t. It’s a legally falsified document.

    Your concern about protecting gamete donors’, surrogates’ and natural parents’ anonymity really scares me. Why is it all right to create human beings and then deny them access to their family heritage? I have medical conditions that almost killed me. Back when my mother had me at the age of 22, she gave what medical history she had for herself and her parents, who were 48. Lots of things change in 40 years. People get old, get chronic diseases, etc. And there was the unknown history of my father. I have been struggling with severe illnesses for two years. MDs begged me for family medical history. Was I supposed to write my ADOPTIVE parents’ family medical history? Is writing “unknown” any better than that? How about praying, or making things up? Is my mother’s anonymity more important than information that could save my LIFE?

    I was fortunate to find my mother and my brother, who is a physician, and get information that has been very helpful to me. You seem to have a sense of adoptees needing to express “deference” to their natural families that I don’t think you would expect of yourself in relation to your own parents. Why is this? Would you put tape over your mouth and just step back and die, all in order to protect someone’s “secret”?

    And as for you questioning my credentials: I am an adoptee, which I count foremost. But I am also a Labor and Delivery RN who works in one of the highest volume, highest risk hospitals in the Bay Area, with a diverse patient population (over half of our patients are on MediCal and are not affluent, either–I get issues of class). I do outreach with pregnant teens of color in the community (most of whom, by the way, want to keep their babies–and I work hard to get them the help they need to do so). I talk with pregnant women every day, some in crisis, some not. So yes, I know what I am talking about when it comes to how women cope with pregnancies and difficult decisions.

  346. Azalea
    August 1, 2011 at 5:43 pm

    Natural Mother from the ’80s: In most states the standard rule was that unmarried women would not be allowed to name the father on the birth certificate without his consent.In my case, I filled out the paperwork for the BC with the father’s name, address, etc,but since we were not married he was required to come to the hospital to sign the form.Because he didn’t show up to sign the BC his name was removed when the official record was entered into the system.These laws were enacted to protect MEN, not women or children.If they could keep their names off the BC they could avoid child support or keep their infidelities secret.Not to mention the number of supposedly celibate clergy who benefitted from these laws.This occurred in my situation in 1982 – hardly ancient history.

    As one who works in the adoption/legal field as an advocate for pregnant women, I’m surpised you don’t know this history.

    The women I help are women who did not wish to the child who was the product of her unwanted pregnancy. I did not pretend to know how adoptees felt nor did I pretend to know how women who WANTED to parent yet placed their children anyway felt about adoption. I came from the perspective of ONE set of women and that was the group who pretty much felt like surrogates, they carried the fetus because they did not have any interest in abortion but placed the child because they had no interest in parenting. Their only pain and strife came from children trying to contact them or people (often relatives) finding out about the adoption and giving them shit about it.

  347. rox
    August 2, 2011 at 10:15 am

    “Their only pain and strife came from children trying to contact them”

    I don’t think policy should be based in dead beat dads who don’t care about their offspring, any more than it should be based in women who don’t care about their offspring.

    If you choose to give birth, you should do so knowing that child matters and will have rights to your identity. If that increases abortion then that is totally fine. Women have the right to decide they don’t want to birth a child and have to face the reality of how that affected another human being some day. Once a child is born the people who created them have a moral obligation to care about them.

    Responsability can be transferred, and in cases where the mother was unable to care for the child, it can be an act of parental love itself. If you are truly placing a child for the well being of the child itself, then you have nothing to worry about if they someday contact you. And you have the right, like every other person on the planet, to refuse to interact with your adult offspring.

    The same as dead beat dads who bail and never want contact again might be upset if contacted, moms who get rid of their infants and never want contact again might be upset if contacted.

    It’s a reality of being an adult and having produced offspring, that they should have right to your name. And if recieving one letter or phone call from the child you abandoned causes you so much inner turmoil you can’t handle it, that’s fine. Your child has been living with the aftermath of your actions their whole life. You can survive a letter or phone call.

  348. Sharon
    August 2, 2011 at 11:46 am

    Azalea: The women I help are women who did not wish to the child who was the product of her unwanted pregnancy. I did not pretend to know how adoptees felt nor did I pretend to know how women who WANTED to parent yet placed their children anyway felt about adoption. I came from the perspective of ONE set of women and that was the group who pretty much felt like surrogates, they carried the fetus because they did not have any interest in abortion but placed the child because they had no interest in parenting. Their only pain and strife came from children trying to contact them or people (often relatives) finding out about the adoption and giving them shit about it.

    You really truly amazing Azalea . I hope you don’t think that anyone here actually believes you here? I also think that you should think about the harm that your mean words do to adoptees. Adoptees are the most affected by adoption however it comes about, and regardless of whether like me, the mothers were coersed, or the (according to you) willingly gave birth to a child that they ‘wanted’ to abandon to the ‘wonderful’ adopters. All out of the goodness of their hearts! You are indeed a very sad person.

  349. August 2, 2011 at 2:57 pm

    anonadoptee:
    Annalouise and Amanda,

    Both your posts were wonderful. I really enjoyed reading them and think you are both spot on.

    And yes, someone mentioned the book “The Girls Who Went Away” by Ann Fessler. Read it. I cried through the whole thing. I truly had eaten up the lies told to me by family and friends that adoption hurt no one, helped everyone, and was the perfect solution. It was unheard of to think of the mother in the situation (growing up in my community I mean)…so the book opened my eyes and my heart. I truly had no clue. And most people still don’t.

    Why have “feminists” never supported mothers who were coerced into giving up there children? We paid for our sexuality, we violated the rules of the patriarchy, we weren’t given any choice. Most of us were less well off than the families that ended up with our children. Aren’t those feminist issues? I used to consider myself a feminist but their willful blindness on this issue prohibits me from proudly wearing that title any more. A real feminist doesn’t look to take another (less well off) woman’s child so she can have a family and she doesn’t develop and promote a whole philosophical underpinning, such as biological narcissism. just so she can do it with a clear conscience.

    Read up on the effects of relinquishing on women, foreign and domestic. Listen to the adoptees.

  350. August 2, 2011 at 6:47 pm

    rox:
    “Their only pain and strife came from children trying to contact them”

    I don’t think policy should be based in dead beat dads who don’t care about their offspring, any more than it should be based in women who don’t care about their offspring.

    If you choose to give birth, you should do so knowing that child matters and will have rights to your identity. If that increases abortion then that is totally fine. Women have the right to decide they don’t want to birth a child and have to face the reality of how that affected another human being some day. Once a child is born the people who created them have a moral obligation to care about them.

    Responsability can be transferred, and in cases where the mother was unable to care for the child, it can be an act of parental love itself. If you are truly placing a child for the well being of the child itself, then you have nothing to worry about if they someday contact you. And you have the right, like every other person on the planet, to refuse to interact with your adult offspring.

    The same as dead beat dads who bail and never want contact again might be upset if contacted, moms who get rid of their infants and never want contact again might be upset if contacted.

    It’s a reality of being an adult and having produced offspring, that they should haveright to your name. And if recieving one letter or phone call from the child you abandoned causes you so much inner turmoil you can’t handle it, that’s fine. Your child has been living with the aftermath of your actions their whole life. You can survive a letter or phone call.

    I second everything Rox said. If a woman is going to choose to carry life to term and not abort then she has an obligation to the child whether she likes it or not. At the minimum she has an obligation to give that child the truth about his/her beginnings. In my case the situation was BSE style coercion. The BSE did not end in the early 70’s with Roe vs. Wade like many would like you to think. It carried on well into the 80’s regardless of anyone thinks. I know, I lived it.

  351. Kristen J.
    August 2, 2011 at 8:56 pm

    Sharon: You really truly amazing Azalea . I hope you don’t think that anyone here actually believes you here? I also think that you should think about the harm that your mean words do to adoptees. Adoptees are the most affected by adoption however it comes about, and regardless of whether like me, the mothers were coersed, or the (according to you) willingly gave birth to a child that they ‘wanted’ to abandon to the ‘wonderful’ adopters. All out of the goodness of their hearts! You are indeed a very sad person.

    Woah, too far. You and Azalea may have different perspectives, but she’s speaking from her place of truth. It may not be true for you and I respect that. You may think she’s dead wrong. But its not fair to treat her like she’s not arguing in good faith.

  352. August 2, 2011 at 10:33 pm

    I did not pretend to know how adoptees felt nor did I pretend to know how women who WANTED to parent yet placed their children anyway felt about adoption. I came from the perspective of ONE set of women and that was the group who pretty much felt like surrogates, they carried the fetus because they did not have any interest in abortion but placed the child because they had no interest in parenting. Their only pain and strife came from children trying to contact them or people (often relatives) finding out about the adoption and giving them shit about it.

    Again, you can feel sympathy for one group, but before you argue to the bitter end that their rights matter more than anyone else’s, you really need to LISTEN to everyone else in the equation. Since you are an attorney, I am sure you need to be aware of all sides of an argument and weigh them judiciously. Believe me, I spent *years* thinking about my mother and her needs. It’s not that I simply bulldozed my way over her. I agonized over every step I took in approaching her, and it took me 31 years to have courage to do it. I know it wasn’t easy for her when I reappeared. But it’s really not my job to remain the secret in the attic. I am a living, breathing human being with feelings, as well as my own needs and rights, and yes, sometimes they are in conflict with hers. I won’t deny it. But I refuse to believe that because of my being adopted, and being the “child” once upon a time in this situation, I forfeited every right to my identity. I owe no one any debt of gratitude for being alive. That’s the common falsehood perpetuated by adoption myth: adoptees should put up and shut up and be grateful to our mothers for bearing us and not putting us in dumpsters, and to our adoptive parents for “saving” us from being human garbage. We are not human garbage.

    It’s an uphill battle in many discussions, such as this, when we are told that it’s your mother that matters, not you, and it’s tired and old. We are not children anymore. I appreciate mothers like Rox and Carlynne and speak up for us because we are the silenced ones. But even our mothers are dismissed, more often that not.

    Ironically, my mother in some ways fits the description of Azalea’s clients: very religious; originally seeing herself as a vessel, not a mother; feeling anxious when I found her and then upset when my brother and her brother found out about me. And then when 40 years of secret keeping fell away, she felt, in her own words, much, much better. We now have a friendship that I treasure. If I had stayed away, guided by the heavy hand of society’s demand for deference, we would both have missed out.

  353. Azalea
    August 3, 2011 at 1:03 am

    Kara:
    Azalea, as Carlynne said, getting my OBC and having a relationship with my mother are two separate things.

    I was fortunate to find my mother and my brother, who is a physician, and get information that has been very helpful to me. You seem to have a sense of adoptees needing to express “deference” to their natural families that I don’t think you would expect of yourself in relation to your own parents. Why is this? Would you put tape over your mouth and just step back and die, all in order to protect someone’s “secret”?

    And as for you questioning my credentials: I am an adoptee, which I count foremost. But I am also a Labor and Delivery RN who works in one of the highest volume, highest risk hospitals in the Bay Area, with a diverse patient population (over half of our patients are on MediCal and are not affluent, either–I get issues of class). I do outreach with pregnant teens of color in the community (most of whom, by the way, want to keep their babies–and I work hard to get them the help they need to do so). I talk with pregnant women every day, some in crisis, some not. So yes, I know what I am talking about when it comes to how women cope with pregnancies and difficult decisions.

    I dont recall questioning your credentials on your experience. I’m a WOC living in DC who does shitloads of nonprofit work as a volunteer and donor for the benefit of other WOC. The things I know are as real as it gets, because I am told the unadulterated truth without judgment. There is no one telling them “but I would NEVER abort/place a child OMG who does that!!!” in the spaces where these conversations are held. They don’t see me for one week of their lives and go about their business, they see me often, I get updates it’s an ongoing thing.

    So why is your father’s name not a big deal? 50% of your DNA came from him, if this is just about genetics you shoud be equally interested in finding him and knowing him and his family history as you would your mother.

    I already said that everyone has a right to family medical history. At this point I can even concede to them having the birth certificate, as I have helped women who have legally changed their name and moved after finalizing an adoption as a way to ensure their anonymity.

    I don’t think people raised by their bio parents are better than people raised by adoptive parents nor vice versa.

    Sharon: You really truly amazing Azalea .I hope you don’t think that anyone here actually believes you here?I also think that you should think about the harm that your mean words do to adoptees.Adoptees are the most affected by adoption however it comes about, and regardless of whether like me, the mothers were coersed, or the (according to you) willingly gave birth to a child that they ‘wanted’ to abandon to the ‘wonderful’ adopters.All out of the goodness of their hearts! You are indeed a very sad person.

    I’m a sad person? Because I don’t agree with you I am a sad person? What does it say about you that you had to resort to personal attacks about me?

    Have you ever heard of something called “conflict of interest?” How could you, for two seconds be in a position to help someone if you are willing to place someone else’s needs above theirs? How could you assist them legally when your main concern is someone whose desires conflict with their own? You can’t, these women have enough people judging them and placing them at the bottom of the totem pole and I’ll be damned if I joined the mob.

    I think someone said here already but what people deserve and what they have rights to tend to be two separate things. When you start giving rights to people based on what they deserve at the cost of another person’s existing rights then I think you need to have substantial reasons why this ought to be the case all across the board.

  354. August 3, 2011 at 3:25 am

    Azalea, I would love to know who my father is, but I can’t find him. My mother doesn’t know who he is. She got pregnant when she was drunk at a fraternity party. I have to respect that she doesn’t remember and cannot tell me. His name isn’t on my OBC. It just isn’t. It not being there isn’t a big deal to me, because there’s nothing I can do to change it. I have to accept its absence. I have to accept that all I have is my mother.

    Some time down the road, I could do some research and look at yearbooks and perhaps see if I can dig something up on a man who might be my father. But I live in another part of the country, and it’s been an exhausting experience looking for and finding my mother. To be honest, I wanted to find her more than I ever wanted to find him. Even though I know I inherited a blood clotting disorder from him. Even though I want his medical history. How do you begin to look for a date rapist at a university whom your mother doesn’t even remember? It’s difficult. I would welcome any suggestions.

  355. rox
    August 3, 2011 at 10:06 am

    Azalea-
    I have heard countless women give long speeches about how they just don’t want to parent and they don’t feel any attachment for the infant. I have seen these same women sob…. because they miss their infant.

    I’m just not sure that you understand this as well as you think you do. The professionals working with me THOUGHT they understood me based on things I said, but they did not. They thought they knew all the ins and outs of what relinquishment was like because LIKE YOU they had built long term relationships with women relinquishing and they had had many personal and private conversations.

    They in fact did NOT understand. I would NOT like for any of them to speak for me in a thread like this. So while I understand that your heart is involved in advocating for a group of women who you believe needs advocacy— I’m really truly a bit concerned that you would wish to claim that among women who decidedly do NOT want to parent at all FOR SURE and not because they think they arent good enough but because they actively want to be rid of the child and the parenting duties that come with it:

    That it is the norm for women in this group to not experience suffering related to relinquishment. All evidence is to the contrary.

    Also, as indicated by research, women are more likely to desire to reject their infant when they do not have access to adequate support:
    “A sample of 50 adolescent mothers were used to test the hypothesis that variations in amounts, sources, and kinds of support would be related to maternal rejection as measured by the Parental Acceptance-Rejection Questionnaire. The results indicate that both emotional support and the total amount of support received have an inverse relationship with maternal rejection. Relatives and a partner or spouse were found to be the most important sources of support. It was concluded that when young mothers are isolated from a supportive social environment their children run a greater risk of maternal rejection.”

    What scares me is that professionals in charge of supporting women facing these circumstances refuse to explore the inner depths of the literature on how comlicated these issues are. Women and adolescents in a first unplanned pregnancy are completely new to the entire experience, to how normal their feelings are, to what supports are available– to how those supports might assist their emotional security and ability to parent…

    It’s all new. She has a period of months to figure all of this out and the professionals working with her have THEIR ENTIRE CAREER to make sure the best support is available and to have an in depth and nuanced understanding of the myriad of issues involved and how supports could be better. What IF the women who you worked with have a totally different feeling about the whole thing ten years down the road, and YOU DON’T KNOW?! What if you are advocating for a one dimensional experience these women are having when you have NOT explored all the dimensions of how this experience may have affected other aspects of their lives and physical/emotional/mental well being?

    What if in 10/15/20 years, the women you are advocating were TOTALLY NOT AFFECTED by relinquishment feel like this?:
    http://shakespearessister.blogspot.com/2009/03/breaking-silence-on-living-pro-lifers.html

    What if women who are considering adoption deserve to know that such suffering is more often THE NORM in relinquishment EVEN AMONG MOTHERS WHO WANTED TO BE RID OF THE CHILD? And they deserve to know that such suffering is a very real possibility while the option to abort is still on the table?

  356. rox
    August 3, 2011 at 10:29 am

    (By Sherman BR, Donovan BR, The American Journal Of Orthopsychiatry)

  357. Azalea
    August 3, 2011 at 3:58 pm

    Kara:
    Azalea, I would love to know who my father is, but I can’t find him. My mother doesn’t know who he is. She got pregnant when she was drunk at a fraternity party. I have to respect that she doesn’t remember and cannot tell me. His name isn’t on my OBC. It just isn’t. It not being there isn’t a big deal to me, because there’s nothing I can do to change it. I have to accept its absence. I have to accept that all I have is my mother.

    Some time down the road, I could do some research and look at yearbooks and perhaps see if I can dig something up on a man who might be my father. But I live in another part of the country, and it’s been an exhausting experience looking for and finding my mother. To be honest, I wanted to find her more than I ever wanted to find him. Even though I know I inherited a blood clotting disorder from him. Even though I want his medical history. How do you begin to look for a date rapist at a university whom your mother doesn’t even remember? It’s difficult. I would welcome any suggestions.

    Kara I apologize, I was trying to respond to far too many comments at once and aimed that part at you when I didn’t intend to.

    There are ways, its expensive, its emotionally difficult and mentally exhausting because there will be a lot of leads and tiny tiny results. It takes a looooooooooooong time but it can be done. I have not been personally involved in searching for parents outside of offering finances because the emotional burden of it all was too much for me to bear. The constant disappointment at *almost* finding someone, especially when that person may be looking for you too was too hard. You can’t be personally involved with helping everyone in every situation all of the time. You gotta pick your battles and fight them hard.

    One place to start would be to get a private eye to look into who were the members of the frat that night and if any of them had a known medical problem similar or the same as yours. It doesn’t stop there but again, its a very very loooooooooooooooooooong process. Even if you don’t find him I hope you get the information you need for your health.

  358. Azalea
    August 3, 2011 at 4:23 pm

    rox:
    Azalea-
    I have heard countless women give long speeches about how they just don’t want to parent and they don’t feel any attachment for the infant. I have seen these same women sob…. because they miss their infant.

    I’m just not sure that you understand this as well as you think you do. The professionals working with me THOUGHT they understood me based on things I said, but they did not. They thought they knew all the ins and outs of what relinquishment was like because LIKE YOU they had built long term relationships with women relinquishing and they had had many personal and private conversations.

    They in fact did NOT understand. I would NOT like for any of them to speak for me in a thread like this. So while I understand that your heart is involved in advocating for a group of women who you believe needs advocacy— I’m really truly a bit concerned that you would wish to claim that among women who decidedly do NOT want to parent at all FOR SURE and not because they think they arent good enough but because they actively want to be rid of the child and the parenting duties that come with it:

    That it is the norm for women in this group to not experience suffering related to relinquishment. All evidence is to the contrary.

    Also, as indicated by research, women are more likely to desire to reject their infant when they do not have access to adequate support:
    “A sample of 50 adolescent mothers were used to test the hypothesis that variations in amounts, sources, and kinds of support would be related to maternal rejection as measured by the Parental Acceptance-Rejection Questionnaire. The results indicate that both emotional support and the total amount of support received have an inverse relationship with maternal rejection. Relatives and a partner or spouse were found to be the most important sources of support. It was concluded that when young mothers are isolated from a supportive social environment their children run a greater risk of maternal rejection.”

    What scares me is that professionals in charge of supporting women facing these circumstances refuse to explore the inner depths of the literature on how comlicated these issues are. Women and adolescents in a first unplanned pregnancy are completely new to the entire experience, to how normal their feelings are, to what supports are available– to how those supports might assist their emotional security and ability to parent…

    It’s all new. She has a period of months to figure all of this out and the professionals working with her have THEIR ENTIRE CAREER to make sure the best support is available and to have an in depth and nuanced understanding of the myriad of issues involved and how supports could be better. What IF the women who you worked with have a totally different feeling about the whole thing ten years down the road, and YOU DON’T KNOW?! What if you are advocating for a one dimensional experience these women are having when you have NOT explored all the dimensions of how this experience may have affected other aspects of their lives and physical/emotional/mental well being?

    What if in 10/15/20 years, the women you are advocating were TOTALLY NOT AFFECTED by relinquishment feel like this?:
    http://shakespearessister.blogspot.com/2009/03/breaking-silence-on-living-pro-lifers.html

    What if women who are considering adoption deserve to know that such suffering is more often THE NORM in relinquishment EVEN AMONG MOTHERS WHO WANTED TO BE RID OF THE CHILD? And they deserve to know that such suffering is a very real possibility while the option to abort is still on the table?

    These women need advocacy because some of them need my help on ensuring that their identity remain confidential. They seek ME out via the non profit not the other way around. It is NOT easy to find the non-profit as it goes by word of mouth and it is not easy to get an appointment with me personally because I work with more than one non profit and they aren’t my “day jobs.”

    The problem with statistics is that they could paint a very generalized picture of people based on something like gender or race which ignores the individuality of the persons in that group. It took me a loooong time to be able to truly understand their plight because I’m a mother, I carried my children through high risk pregnancies delivered via c-sections and almost lost an organ or two because of it. I sacrifice for my children because for *me* that is an essential part of parenting, putting your child’s needs first. I can not force that view on other women, I can’t demand that every pregnant woman carry to term even if it might cost her her health just because I did it, I can’t and wouldn’t dare demand that women feel a certain way about the children they give birth to if they have no plans or desire to parent that child. Who the fuck would I be to sit them down and say “look I hear you but you need to woman up and cry and be devasted that you secretly think you’re too fucked up of a person to raise your own baby. You need to be miserable you should feel shame why are you so damn selfish? Whats wrong with you, normal women want to be parents?!” I can’t and will not do that. I speak for these women OFTEN with their permission and at their request. I trust that they aren’t misguided children who do not know how they really feel, they’re adults who have made decisions they want people to stop questioning them about.

    Again I don’t doubt that *most* women are being pressured into it, in fact we have a group that is exploring the option of an informal foster system where new mothers are slowly introduced to full time parenting while a “support family” has fulltime care of the infant. There is paperwork put in place that protects the mother’s rights to her child but recognizes a member of the support family as a guardian who can take the child to dr appointments, enroll the child in daycare if needed etc. We got the idea from a newsarticle in Washington Post where a family did this for a young mom. I will say this though: that family was supposed to have the baby for about 6-8 weeks and because the mom say she still isn’t ready yet they’ve had the infant for longer, the family has no interest in adopting the child this was supposed ot be a temporary thing. I will try to dig up the link for you.

    But again you don;t know these women like I do and I know them well enough to know that when they placed the child, they had no desire to parent and they still have no desire to parent that child nor any regrets about their choice.

  359. rox
    August 3, 2011 at 4:52 pm

    “These women need advocacy because some of them need my help on ensuring that their identity remain confidential.”

    This is not a need. This is a want. You, nor the legal system are under any obligation to fulfill this want at the expense of children. Mothers do not “need” to be rid of their infants. It is a want. In the event this want happens to coincide with a preferable outcome for the child (being in a family where they will be wanted)– the want can be accomodated by society. If there is IS NO other better family, the mothers WANT to be rid of her infant does not give her the right to neglect or abandon the child just because she finds parenting to be a pain in the ass. Yes she damn well DOES owe it to her child do woman up. Just as fathers who produce offspring and then whine about being involved or having to pay child support? Yes they should man up. If you have a kid who is legally under your care; be a parent. If it’s hard… KEEP TRYING. If you’ve put forth your best effort and there are too many obstacles against you? SURE, finding an alternate parent is perfectly legitimate. It does present issues TO ME about why society was not offering you help to deal with those obstacles that were against you.

    “look I hear you but you need to woman up and cry and be devasted that you secretly think you’re too fucked up of a person to raise your own baby. You need to be miserable you should feel shame why are you so damn selfish? Whats wrong with you, normal women want to be parents?!”
    You don’t need to say that at all. Respecting adoptees legal right to their mothers name does not need to include saying any such thing. You can tell women that there is a chance they will be contacted even if they choose anonymity and it’s part of having produced a child. This is reality. You are welcome to be compassionate and view the woman as an innocent victim and the child as a burden who is ruining her life if you like. You are free to advocate that laws be set up in preference for mother’s well being at the expense of their children’s well-being. I do not share your views, and will actively advocate the law not do that.

    Yes there are always problems with research and the way to counter that is to advocate that research be better, look for the problems and present new directions that include unseen variables and groups of people who may have been unerreprented/not included, or misunderstood from the way the research was set up. It does not mean throwing our hands up and saying “whatever all research is pffft.”

  360. Louise
    August 3, 2011 at 9:01 pm

    Azalea: I am curious, why does a child have a right to their biological family if that family has no wish/desire to raise them?

  361. Louise
    August 3, 2011 at 9:11 pm

    Louise:

    The Child, which will turn into an adult…maybe even a female adult has a right to know their biological family. they have a RIGHT to know where they came from, what they carry and what they may pass on. They have a right to know so that they can make informed decsions regarding their reproductive lifes based upon biology. A child born , just by the mere fact that their mother made the decsion for them to be born has a RIGHT…to know about themselves and their biological history. Even if mother is not willing or able to “mother” them based upon choice or circumstanse the childs need to know trumps mothers need to be free of pesky childrearing duties. The child concieved is human, vunerable and needy of biological connections to grow into well rounded adults that can make their own life decsions based upon they are born with and how they are raised. To minimze either is wrong. I don’t see it as so much a feminist issue as much as a human one. If feminism means dumping your off spring to free yourself and not give them the tools to live then…welll….I see a huge problem with that. So yes…off spring have a RIGHT to their biologicals. Even if it makes it uncomfortable for them.

  362. Suzanne
    August 4, 2011 at 11:05 am

    Yes, of course the vast majority of biological mothers do want to contact the children they placed for adoption. But majority isn’t all.

    Certainly the first priority should be to increase women’s access to contraception and abortion, and to increase support for women who do give birth so they don’t have to place the child for adoption, since most of them don’t want to. And also to increase opportunities for relatives to adopt a child before adoption by other people is considered. But still, those who place a child for adoption and really do not want to parent, nor to have contact with the child, they must be accommodated too, rare though they are, they still have rights.

    People have a right to know their own genetic traits, which today means knowing as much of the medical history of your biological family as you can find, but there’s no reason that has to include *personal contact* with your biological parents if they don’t want personal contact with you. Having personal contact with people who are forced into it will NOT benefit a child at all. The medical info is what’s needed.

    If you have the medical info you don’t need the names, either. I mean, what use is it to know their name, if the genetic parent doesn’t want contact with you? Now, what *would* be useful is to have a go-between that can update you with new medical info as it becomes known. In the future hopefully you won’t have to rely on family medical history, but can just get a DNA test to learn everything about your genes.

    Other info about your genetic parents, besides hereditary medical traits, isn’t really your business at all if they don’t want to share it. Just the same as if a non-adopted person wanted to ask their parents info like: personality, religious beliefs, career history, etc. The parents don’t have to reveal this info if they don’t want.

  363. anonadoptee
    August 4, 2011 at 3:56 pm

    It’s not my business to know my mom’s story? To at least find out if she wants to give me that story? Of course it’s my business I’m her daughter! Just beacause I contact my mom doesn’t mean she has to reciprocate or respond. But I think all adoptees have the right to the information to allow them to at least attempt contact. Whether or not a mother responds is up to her. But at this point it is between two adults, not a mother and young child–two adults who have the right to make contact and reject contact if desired.

    Suzanne: Other info about your genetic parents, besides hereditary medical traits, isn’t really your business at all if they don’t want to share it. Just the same as if a non-adopted person wanted to ask their parents info like: personality, religious beliefs, career history, etc. The parents don’t have to reveal this info if they don’t want.

  364. August 4, 2011 at 10:00 pm

    Suzanne: If you have the medical info you don’t need the names, either. I mean, what use is it to know their name, if the genetic parent doesn’t want contact with you? Now, what *would* be useful is to have a go-between that can update you with new medical info as it becomes known. In the future hopefully you won’t have to rely on family medical history, but can just get a DNA test to learn everything about your genes.

    Seriously?! Like I said in an earlier comment…..

    2 adults should be able to determine for themselves if they want contact with each other or not. The government should have no say in the matter. There should not be an intermediary in these decisions. Everyone has a right to their own birth records without interference from a government agency. If at that point an adult adoptee desires to seek out a parent they have the right to do that. If then the biological parent decides they do not want contact they have that right also. Why should there be involvement of a third party?

    Adoptees are not children forever. They have the right to know more about their own family than just medical information (which changes as family members age). And yes, they are family. AND, there’s more to the family than just the mother. Maybe siblings would like to connect. Maybe Aunts, Uncles, Fathers, Grandparents etc….. Once that adoptee turns 18 it’s no one’s business but the adoptee’s and each member of the biological family. Whether or not they connect should be up to them and them only.

    IMO… if a woman gives birth she has a responsibility to her offspring to provide answers but if she doesn’t want contact she can always say no.

    I don’t understand – why is it ok that genealogy research and family histories are so important to the general population but adoptees better not be interested in their own histories – I guess that’s just not acceptable.

  365. anonadoptee
    August 5, 2011 at 9:20 am

    Exactly. I’ve always been jealous when friends talk about their family trees and where their families came from (I live in the U.S. so most people have stories of how their great-great-great (etc) grandparents came from wherever). I always wished I knew about my history. What “am” I? I always wanted to know if I was half this, half that, etc. When I found out it was super interesting because my ancestry happened to be a culture I’d been studying and always been oddly interested in. Who knew?

    But yeah. Everyone who’s not adopted can talk about finding long-lost relatives and it’s somehow totally awesome that they found a new family member. Or when they research their family tree. Why can’t we do it?

    Carlynne: I don’t understand – why is it ok that genealogy research and family histories are so important to the general population but adoptees better not be interested in their own histories – I guess that’s just not acceptable.

  366. anonadoptee
    August 5, 2011 at 9:35 am

    I know this post is old but I came across this and it pissed me the hell off. I really need to find a better outlet. Maybe I need my own blog.

    http://lifetimeadoption.com/adoption_situations/index.html?nav=none

    Note where they describe mothers as “Birthmother #BR315235” and so on. Wow. Reducing women to numbers? What the hell.

  367. August 5, 2011 at 9:55 am

    anonadoptee, did you see the link to the baby price list I posted earlier? There are so many of these types of sites, so many agencies spending a fortune on marketing to vulnerable pregnant women it makes me sick.

    Maybe you do need your own blog. Help us get the word out about what adoption agencies are doing now in order to maintain their status as a multi-billion dollar a year business. Follow the money. They need those babies to keep the income flowing in.

    http://oneoptionnochoice.blogspot.com/2010/08/language-and-lures.html

  368. anonadoptee
    August 5, 2011 at 11:15 am

    I did it. Got a blog. Nothing on it but it’s there. :)

    http://feministadoptee.wordpress.com/

  369. Azalea
    August 8, 2011 at 4:18 pm

    rox:
    “These women need advocacy because some of them need my help on ensuring that their identity remain confidential.”

    This is not a need. This is a want. You, nor the legal system are under any obligation to fulfill this want at the expense of children. Mothers do not “need” to be rid of their infants. It is a want. In the event this want happens to coincide with a preferable outcome for the child (being in a family where they will be wanted)– the want can be accomodated by society. If there is IS NO other better family, the mothers WANT to be rid of her infant does not give her the right to neglect or abandon the child just because she finds parenting to be a pain in the ass. Yes she damn well DOES owe it to her child do woman up. Just as fathers who produce offspring and then whine about being involved or having to pay child support? Yes they should man up. If you have a kid who is legally under your care; be a parent. If it’s hard… KEEP TRYING. If you’ve put forth your best effort and there are too many obstacles against you? SURE, finding an alternate parent is perfectly legitimate. It does present issues TO ME about why society was not offering you help to deal with those obstacles that were against you.

    “look I hear you but you need to woman up and cry and be devasted that you secretly think you’re too fucked up of a person to raise your own baby. You need to be miserable you should feel shame why are you so damn selfish? Whats wrong with you, normal women want to be parents?!”
    You don’t need to say that at all. Respecting adoptees legal right to their mothers name does not need to include saying any such thing. You can tell women that there is a chance they will be contacted even if they choose anonymity and it’s part of having produced a child. This is reality. You are welcome to be compassionate and view the woman as an innocent victim and the child as a burden who is ruining her life if you like. You are free to advocate that laws be set up in preference for mother’s well being at the expense of their children’s well-being. I do not share your views, and will actively advocate the law not do that.

    Yes there are always problems with research and the way to counter that is to advocate that research be better, look for the problems and present new directions that include unseen variables and groups of people who may have been unerreprented/not included, or misunderstood from the way the research was set up. It does not mean throwing our hands up and saying “whatever all research is pffft.”

    The law sides with me, which is why a woman can, in many states drop an infant off at a police station or firehouse and go about her business. It seems that may be her only real option of erasing doubt about how she feels concerning her anonymity since they are no nametags at the dropoff. She doesn’t have to prove that she would hurt the infant if she kept him or her just leave the child there and everything else will be taken care of.

    Now I know some of you may see NO difference between that and personally interviewing investigating and selecting a loving family for your unwanted child but there is a world of difference. However if she goes through with carrying a fetus she does not want a pregnancy she never intended, a delivery she didn’t want to give birth to a child she had the humanity to care enough about not to outright abandon in a police station why should she have to do anymore than that? Children need *someone* to love and take care of them why is biology a necessity when the biological parent(s) want no part of parenthood? As someone else has already said; you have a right to know your family medical historybut why does that include knowing who those people are? That is a *want*, not a need and certainly not a right.

    I know this is emotionally difficult and can cause a lot of mental anguish but agan no one has a right to be born and once born no one has a right to know a relationship with their biological parent(s). Being an adult doesn’t give ou the right to force your presence onto some unwilling participant’s life even if that person is a relative. Remember, you can’t even force a relative to give you blood even if your blood type was extremely rare even if they were your parent even if they could safely give it to you.

  370. Kathleen
    August 8, 2011 at 7:12 pm

    Azalea — really? Just had to get the last word in, in a way that underlines exactly how much you are still not listening?

    Anonadoptee — that is great news. I’ll be checking your blog out!

  371. rox
    August 9, 2011 at 1:24 pm

    Actually children biologically need their biological mothers and in mammals the results of infant adoption studies have found long biological and brain changes in animals removed at birth and placed with another lactating mother.

    So in fact. Yes, there is a biological NEED that results in biological harm to the child when neglected.

  372. rox
    August 9, 2011 at 1:28 pm

    Parent responsability is different than peer or romantic responsability.

    Honestly azalea, your philosophy that abandoning the child is the same thing as moving on from a romantic relationship is barbaric.

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