Information is power. When armed with information a birth mother has the power she needs to make an informed decision. When information is withheld from birth mothers about the long-term effects of relinquishment on both herself and her child, can it really be said that she made a choice? Is it a choice when she is not presented with every avenue she can utilize to raise her child?
Adoption Truths: Whose Responsibility is it?
When adoption “counselors” present only skewed information it gives the illusion to the birth mother that she is making an informed decision. A birth mother trusts that the “counselor” is looking out for her best interests and the best interests of her child. She is already scared and unsure of her ability to parent. When she seeks out counseling in other scenarios, i.e. depression, anxiety, she can safely assume that the counselor is going to help her and do so with her well-being in mind. She would assume that an adoption counselor would have the same code of ethics. The problem is that most adoption “counselors” have a vested interest in a mother giving up her child. The counselor in this scenario is employed by the adoption agency and this is unethical.
The counter argument to this would be that it is the mother’s responsibility to seek out and understand all the nuances of adoption. She needs to educate herself on all the possible outcomes for herself and her child. That it is not the agency’s responsibility to talk a mother out of adoption.
Let’s take this out of the adoption context for a moment. Imagine a 17-year-old boy who is told by his doctor that he has a heart condition. His doctor has told him there are 2 options, he can either have surgery or he can attempt to control his condition with medication. Whose responsibility is it to explain to this boy all of the side effects, all of the possible outcomes, what the dangers of each choice entails? Should it be the boy’s responsibility to research and educate himself on all the possibilities? What if his doctor has only told him all of the positive outcomes of surgery without informing him of the negative outcomes or not explored in-depth the medication option? Take it one step further, what if his doctor actually gives him misinformation about his condition? None of these things would be ethical. The boy would not be able to make an informed decision. Is that true choice?
Am I the Face of True Choice?
For years I had thought I made a true choice. I thought that I had chosen to give my child a better life. I was scared and naive. I was told that yes, I would be sad for a long time, but someday I would have children of my own. I was told that giving my son to his adoptive parents was the best option because they were stable and would give my son the best life. I was not informed of the possible long term effects of adoption for my son. I was not told about the myriad programs out there to help me succeed in raising my son. I was offered so called counseling that only focused on the adoption option. I was not informed of the long term effects to myself. I was not offered therapy or support groups. I was continually told how wonderful adoption is, how it is a gift, how it is selfless. I was not told that his parents could stop sending me photos and updates at any time (which they did). I was dropped like a hot potato after relinquishing my son. There was no follow up. I wanted to believe I had made a true choice because the other side of it was unthinkable. It turns out I gave my son up without being fully knowledgeable about all my options. He was my son, my blood, my love, my family and I gave him away.
Real Choices Need Real Information
For adoption to be a true, ethical choice the adoption industry needs to employ truth and transparency. It should be their responsibility to present all possible outcomes to prospective birth mothers. It should be their responsibility to present every possible option available to mothers so that they can parent their children. A mother should be counseled by a professional who has zero vested interest in the outcome. A mother should have at her disposal her own attorney that also has no vested interest an there needs to be no conflict of interest. It is only when the truth is presented to a mother that she can truly make a real choice about adoption.
When I gave my son up for adoption I was led to believe that he would have no feelings of abandonment. I was led to believe that he would be “as if” born to his new parents. It was my understanding that it would be best to sign the relinquishment papers as soon as possible (here in Connecticut you can not sign until 48 hours after the birth). I wanted him to bond immediately with his parents so that he would not feel abandoned by me. I thought that “trying to parent” him would be detrimental to his mental health. I did not want him to go to cradle care because I wanted him to feel safe with his new parents. I was led to believe that if I did not sign at the 48 hour mark, there was no guarantee that he could be adopted by anyone and he might be forced to live in foster care. I assumed that he would have no emotional attachment to me, his mother. It turns out, I may have been very wrong.
The Separation of Adoptee and Mother Can Be Traumatic
Karl Stenske has written a thought provoking article at Adoptive Voices Magazine, entitled, “Adoptee View: What Can a Tiny Baby Know?” Here is a little about the author:
Karl Stenske shares a rich and compelling story as an adoptee. Being one of the many who had a great adopted family, he never thought being adopted had a big effect on his life. But at 37, Karl began to unravel the true impact adoption did have on his life and the lives of those who loved, and tried to love him. A sought after speaker and educator, Karl offers insights into the wounds created when any child is separated from his birth mother. In The Hidden Life of an Adopted Child: Understanding the Impact of Adoption, Karl explores the traumatic experience suffered by that separation and its influence on self-esteem, value, worth, and identity.
His article describes how adoption is not only a trauma to the birth mother, but also to the adoptee. We have no way of knowing this because a baby has no language. He can’t tell us what he is feeling except by crying or lack of crying. It stands to reason that if a baby knows their biological mother through smell or their voice that if they are taken away from their mother they would mourn. It must be traumatic, being taken away from everything you have ever known.
Stenske also goes on to explain that many adoptees carry this trauma with them throughout their lives. Sometimes without ever realizing that their fear of abandonment, depression, relationship issues, low self-esteem, etc. could stem from the original trauma of being given up for adoption. It is troubling to learn that the incidence of attempted suicide is higher in the adoptee population than in the general population (7.6% vs. 3.1%) as reported by a 2001 study*.
Adoptee Trauma Must Be Part of the Conversation
It concerns me greatly to hear Stenske’s point of view. Concerns me because as a naive 21 year old who was told my child would have a better life I was not told about the potential for a negative impact on my son. The entire premise of giving my son up for adoption was based on the notion that he would have the best life possible, much better than what he would have with me. If that wasn’t the truth, than I would never have considered it.
Information on the life long negative impact of adoption trauma to adoptees must be presented to expecting mothers considering adoption. A person considering adoption must be made aware of all the facts of adoption, not just the sunshiney picture of it most agencies and adoption counselors like to present.
*Slap G., Goodman E., Huang B. (2001). Adoption as a risk factor for attempted suicide in adolescence. Pediatrics Aug,108(2)E30.
Fundraisers are everywhere these days. I have 2 children in school now and I probably get at least 2 fundraisers come home every month. Usually these fundraisers are to raise money for their school or to raise money for a specific cause like breast cancer or juvenile diabetes. Add girl scout cookie fundraisers and boy scout troop popcorn sales and we’re pretty much always being asked to contribute to something. None of these things rub me the wrong way because they are causes I can get behind.
Fundraising for Adoptions: Who is Worthy?
For awhile now I have been seeing more and more fundraisers for adoptions. I have seen individual blogs asking for donations for their domestic infant adoption funds. I have seen blogs asking for money towards their international adoptions. I have seen people selling trinkets or tshirts to help fund their adoptions. I have seen garage sales for raising funds for adoption. I couldn’t put my finger on it, but every time I saw one advertised on a website my first thought was ew.
So last night, I really tried to explore why exactly all these fundraisers and donations for adoption made me cringe.
Domestic infant adoptions and international adoptions are two very different animals. When I see people asking for donations for their domestic adoptions I know exactly why my stomach turns. My personal reasons for giving my son up were money related. So, seeing these fundraisers hits home for me. Especially when I see people fundraising for friends or family who want to adopt. If you can raise funds for other people to adopt a baby, why the hell is no one raising funds for women who would love to keep their own baby? Money is pretty much the #1 concern for women who choose adoption so all that fundraising really makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. Why isn’t the woman who is actually giving birth worthy of fundraisers? Why isn’t the baby who is about to lose everything they know worthy?
On a more personal note, when I was choosing my son’s parents from the profiles at the agency I wanted to make certain that they were stable financially. I assumed, perhaps incorrectly, that anyone that was given the OK to adopt would have money. Not wealthy, but upper middle class at least. It wasn’t because I thought people with money were inherently better than those without, it was just that I thought I couldn’t keep my son because I wasn’t stable financially. If I had found out the parents were asking for donations or needing to fundraise for the adoption costs I would have been very upset. In my mind, it would have meant that they were more worthy because people liked them enough to contribute to them, but not to me.
Adoption is seen by the majority of our society as a positive thing. Most people only see adoption from the point of view of the people who can not have children biologically and want more than anything to raise a child. It is acceptable to help a couple in need who just want to have a family of their own. It is less acceptable to help a woman in need raise her own child.
Adoption Fundraising for International Adoption : Who is it Really Helping?
As far as international adoption fundraisers are concerned it just doesn’t seem like the right thing to do. Adopting one child from another country is so expensive, wouldn’t that money do so much more good by donating it to a community or an orphanage? I get it, really I do. These people want to grow their family. It just kills me that this needs to be done by removing a child from their country of origin.
Children in our country that are in foster care are much cheaper to adopt. I have read that the process is much lengthier for foster care adoptions and much more involved. But these children are just as worthy as those in other countries. If someone needs to fundraise to adopt overseas, isn’t foster care adoption a much more feasible option?
Raising Money for Child/Baby Purchase
In my idea of a perfect adoption system, no money would change hands at all. Usually people who are adopting say that they have the means to take care of the child once they’re home, but it’s getting them home that they need help with. If that’s true, it just sounds like people are buying babies and children. So in that light, fundraising is the means to buy a child. That is not right.
I understand that with the extremely high cost of domestic infant adoptions and international adoptions, most people just don’t have that kind of money saved up. But does that mean it’s ethical to ask others to help with the cost, thereby reinforcing the extreme financial costs of the adoption industry? What are your thoughts?
I would love to hear from adoptive parents who have gone this route. No, this isn’t some kind of trick. I really want to understand the thought process behind fundraising. What kind of adoption would you/did you fundraise for? If you agree with fundraising for IA would you/do you support fundraising for domestic infant adoptions?
Claudia over at Musings of the Lame has written a great post about the Adoption Tax Credit on her blog. She eloquently expresses (better than I could ever dream of doing) why the Adoption Tax Credit is just so wrong. Towards the bottom of her blog post she has links to write your congressman about not supporting the bill, please use them, it only takes a few minutes to have your voice heard. She has also written a short, but fabulous piece on the NY Times site about the Adoption Tax Credit.
The Adoption Tax Credit Should be About Foster Children
The adoption tax credit started out helping families who adopted children out of the foster care system. I am all for that and believe that is an excellent use of our tax money. These children are in genuine need of stable, loving environments and their adoptive families deserve a tax break.
Now the credit has been perverted into a way that entitled adopters can recoup come of the money they shell out to buy infants, domestically and in other countries. Call the money they spent fees, it still equates to buying an infant in my eyes. Okay fine, but now they not only want the ability to buy infants, now we all must subsidize them? How in the flying f*ck can that be a good idea?
The answer from adopters that I hear most often is that the fees associated with adoption are astronomical and they are entitled to have a family just like everyone else. Having a tax credit allows them to become families when they otherwise would not have been able to afford it. I can not get on board with this. There are so many would-be adopters out there in the US. If they are so appalled and outraged at the fees they have to pay to grow their family, why not use that voice to OPPOSE the astronomical costs associated with it? Why just go along with the status quo? As far as I know, the demand for infants in the US far outweighs the supply. It is my opinion that adopters refuse to use their voices because they know that if the adoption industry takes away the money involved there will be even less infants available for adoption. How did I jump to that conclusion?
The Adoption Tax Credit and Adoption Agencies
Adoption agencies are businesses. They have no incentive to present objective information to expecting mothers. Their incentive is money. No baby available for adoption means no money coming in. So why on earth would they offer more than a cursory “it’s your right to keep your baby” to expecting mothers who come to them for help? Now, if there were no money involved in the adoption industry, there would be every reason to supply expecting mothers with reams of information about the pro’s and CON’s of giving their child away. A better informed mother, in my opinion, would mean less infants available and NO ONE, let alone adopters, wants that.
Our government should be concerned with finding homes for children in the foster care system who truly need them, both from an ethical perspective and a financial perspective. Our government should NOT be concerned with finding babies for adopters who feel entitled to them. Adoption should ALWAYS be about finding homes for needy children, not finding children for needy parents.
Way back when in 1998 the internet was in its infancy. Sure it was there, but it wasn’t ingrained in everything like it is today. I think I MAY have had an email address back then, but I’m not sure.
I have found so many wonderful blogs and resources about adoption from every imaginable angle. Oh how I wish I had access to all of the information in 1998.
When my adoption went through, I truly was only hearing one point of view from my adoption counselor. And because she was so kind and nice to me, I felt that she understood me. I blindly trusted that she was presenting all the information available to me. If only I had known then what I know now.
If she was truly looking out for my best interests, she would have given me access to birth mothers who were UNHAPPY with their decision as well as happy.
She would have given me access to not only one on one counseling but also support groups for birth mothers. How wonderful would it have been to be able to talk to other mothers who truly understood what I was going through.
I am so grateful to the support groups I have found online with women who “get it.” It should be a mandatory part of the process for expecting mothers considering relinquishment to read some of what birth mothers say about their experiences. Experiences a year out versus experiences 10 to 20 years out. Especially because for me at least, there is a difference between how I felt a year after and how I feel today.
Thank you, Internet, for providing resources and reading materials that don’t gloss over what adoption can really mean for us…a lifetime of pain and guilt.