Month: June 2010
(Note: This post is not directly adoption related, but pertains to another issue close to my heart, the mistreatment of First Nations peoples in Canada)
There are no words to describe the magnitude of the horrors that occurred during the 150 years of the residential school system (they were instituted in the 1840s, started winding down in the 1950s, and the last one only closed in 1996).
Some people who went to them talk about having “positive experiences,” but the horror stories of physical, sexual, and emotional abuse that took place in these “prisons for children” are overwhelming in number. Not only were children forceably taken from their families and forbidden to speak their native languages, but it was all part of a “cultural genocide” which had the purpose of trying to “eliminate Canada’s Indian problem.”
“I want to get rid of the Indian problem. Our object is to continue until there is not a single Indian in Canada that has not been absorbed. They are a weird and waning race…ready to break out at any moment in savage dances; in wild and desperate orgies.” – Duncan Campbell Scott, Head of Indian Affairs, Canadian Government, 1920.
The researcher, activist and former minister Kevin Annett is a controversial figure, but no matter how you feel about him, I very much recommend his documentary “”UNREPENTANT: Kevin Annett and Canada’s Genocide” (January 2007). ” on his site “Hidden From History: The Canadian Genocide — Telling the Untold Story of the Genocide of Aboriginal Peoples in Canada”
It went beyond abuse — to murder and the withholding of proper medical care. At a time when tuberculosis was being successfully treated, some of these schools had a huge mortality rate. John Milroy, author of A National Crime: The Canadian Government and the Residential School System, has data indicating that at it’s peak, from 24% to 42% of the children in some residential schools died of it. This is quote from a small article in New Scientist (reprinted here)
” In 1907 Peter Bryce, a chief medical officer for the federal Department of Indian Affairs, recorded that 24 per cent of pupils at 15 schools had died of TB over 14 years. At one school, 63 per cent of the children died… Other documents show that officials knew death rates were high until the 1940s, Annett told New Scientist. They record children being admitted with active, contagious TB, with no quarantine or even ventilation in their rooms, the only ways to control TB before antibiotics. Former students say they slept in crowded dormitories with sick children, and were often hungry: hunger lowers immunity and exacerbates the spread of TB.”
But did news articles about a possible 28 mass graves found at residential schools ever made it into your local newspaper? (The list of locations, as compiled by the Friends and Relatives of the Disappeared Children is available here). (Annett writes about it here).
But, just like with adoption, a child and a parent were separated, often against their will. Sometimes parents talk about willingly sending the child to residential school as they thought it would help the child get a good education and good care. Sometimes former residential school students speak about having had a good residential school experience. But, just like with adoption, we must listen to the stories of those who suffered at the hands of people in positions of trust and authority who forcibly separated families against their will, those who were abused, those who suffered trauma for which there may be no recovery.
And, to quote the dedication on the T&RC website,
“For the child taken. For the parent left behind.”
1) Further reading: “‘Aggressive Assimilation’: A history of residential schools in Canada – FAQs on residential schools and compensation,” CBC News, June 14, 2010.
2) The end of residential schools did not spell the end of the en masse removal of First Nations children from their families. As they closed, the “Sixties Scoop” began, lasting well into the 1980s. For more information, see “Stolen Nation,” “Aboriginal Justice Inquiry – The Sixties Scoop,” “The Sixties Scoop: How Canada’s ‘Best Intentions’ Proved Catastrophic,” Native Children and the Child Welfare System by Patrick Johnston, and Stolen From Our Embrace: The Abduction of First Nations Children and the Restoration of Aboriginal Communities by Ernie Crey and Suzanne Fournier.
Unfortunately, due to it increasing the chance that a mother will surrender her baby*, the practice has grown in North America to allow prospective adoptive parents to track down and try to convince expectant mothers (whom they call ‘birthmothers”) to give up their babies.
Or, at least that is what it looks like. A “Dear Birthmother” letter could be seen as saying “Choose us over other people hoping to adopt!“, but, unfortunately, first and foremost the message it gives is “Choose us over yourself! We are better for your baby than YOU are! See how loving and perfect we are? We have everything your baby needs.” Whether the prospective adoptive parents mean to give this message or not, it is there.
So, unfortunately, the whole issue of “profiles” and “dear birthmother letters” is rife with ethical land mines
An expectant mother who is considering adoption and is feeling very emotionally insecure, inadequate, and scared may — instead of getting support and counselling to help her overcome these problems — may see the prospective adoptive couple’s “Profile” and think “Wow, they’d be better parents than i would.” or “My baby doesn’t deserve me, he deserves a family like this.” or “They want a baby so badly, I shouldn’t be selfish.” So, reading “dear birthmother” letters and seeing profiles combined with raging pregnancy hormones can actually influence a mother’s decision regarding adoption. This is where it gets ethically sticky.
Plus, can the mother really recover from birth first before deciding on adoption if she has formed a loving bond with people hoping to adopt her child?
Paul Meding, a Columbia attorney who has been taking adoption cases for 12 years, works as a medium to match birth mothers with adoptive parents. For Meding, this process has been successful. “In my opinion, when the birth mother has more input and can see first hand how important the adoption is to the family, it is more difficult for her to back out and disappoint them.” (“Open Doors,” The Columbia Star, April 29, 2005)
I think that these are questions to be considered by anyone who is hoping to adopt, plus by natural mothers who found that this tactic worked on them to get them to surrender their babies. (Would you have surrendered if the alternative was a closed adoption? If not, then you were coerced by adoptive parents using this practice).
Another reason why this is ethically problematic is that women most often surrender babies to adoption because of lack of support, resources, finances, etc. A woman is hence being made vulnerable to exploitation because society and government has put her into a position where she can be exploited, removing protections (such as human rights in the form of a guaranteed income sufficient for her to raise her baby) that would protect her from predation.
To try to find a woman who is in a vulnerable position, so you can obtain her baby from her, is reproductive exploitation, and the people committing it are, by definition, reproductive predators. This is why prospective adoptive parents are handing out “adoption networking cards” at teen activity centres, in Walmart, to high school guidance counsellors, in poor areas of town, to pregnant waitresses — women who look vulnerable due to youth or possible financial stress. This unfortunately resembles to some degree what sexual predators do to find vulnerable women and youth to exploit. Removing power and protection from socially vulnerable groups leaves them open to being exploited by those with more power, money, and social status. No-one wants to be a predator, but many prospective adoptive parents blunder into this practice without realizing what they are doing.
There are many reasons why women surrender their babies for adoption, but some of them involve influence or pressure from other people, even adoptive parents who have NO idea that they are affecting a mothers’ decision (i.e. coercion), or that reproductive exploitation is what they are engaging in.
Fuelling this is desperation: Unfortunately, as we all know, adoption is market driven. There is a huge demand for babies:
“For every healthy newborn available, there are now almost forty potential parents searching.” – (“Love for Sale” Adoptive Families Magazine, 2000).
But I encourage all adoptive parents and prospective adoptive parents to get educated about this issue, so they have enough information that, if practising this type of coercion falls outside their ethical framework (and it should — do you really want in on your conscience that you made a mother give up her baby?), they know how to avoid it.
- Open Adoption: They knew it would work
- Adoption: Getting more babies to market
- Adoption: Women’s Rights. Reproductive Rights. Human Rights
- Adoption Coercion in Black and White
- Adoption practice: “What is coercion?”
- “Adoption Books, Letters, Promises: Why Solicitation To Obtain Babies for Adoption Must Be Outlawed“
*Meeting prospective adopters increases surrender rates (Chippendale-Bakker & Foster, 1996) and prevents mothers from “changing their minds” (Caragata, 1999). Choosing them increases surrender rates (Barth, 1987; Chippendale-Bakker & Foster, 1996).The infant going directly from the hospital to the adoptive parents increases surrender rates (Barth, 1987)
Also see this follow-up post: “More on Pre-birth Matching: Assumptions Some People Make”
This is a little list i first began drafting a few years ago which has been sitting on my hard drive ever since. These are the promises, guarantees, and blanket statements that the adoption industry (comprised of baby brokers such as adoption agencies, lawyers, and facilitators) routinely promote as being the gospel truth. And they work — the industry now makes over $3 billion a year in profit. Don’t let it fool you.
Lies the Industry tells to Prospective Adopters:
- All families, both adoptive and natural, are the exact same.
- The bond between parents and children in all families are the same. The amended birth certificate will say that you gave birth, so act as though you did. You are now the only mother.
- The child needs only you and not the love of their natural parents.
- Environment is everything – the child is a blank slate (“tabula rasa”) – all the chid’s skills and aspirations will be yours.
- Rest assured that the natural family can never search because the records are sealed tight.
- The natural mom is just an incubator, a “b—-mother” and thus her only purpose is to gestate that child and then hand it over.
- This child is unwanted, the mother will never return.
- If loved enough, this child will never want to search.
- Adoptees will never feel hurt by being taken from their natural parents; love from adoptive parents will solve everything.
- “The Primal Wound” is a myth.
- This is a lifetime guarantee.
Lies the Industry tells to Expectant Mothers:
- Your child will be grateful to be adopted and won’t be angry at you for it. Your child will not be damaged by adoption
- Adoption shows you loved your child enough to give him/her two parents.
- You are not giving him away, you are giving him “more.”
- Children need two married parents.
- You will get over it and forget your child.
- You may feel “a type of grief’ but it will go away.
- Young and Unwed = unfit.
- The grief is resolvable. Only flawed women or those who “cling to the past” can’t resolve the grief.
- It won’t hurt, or won’t hurt for long. The satisfaction of providing a wonderful future for your child will make any “regret” go away.
- Keeping your child will involve more pain, struggle, and sacrifice than surrendering him/her.
Lies that the industry tells to adoptees:
- Your mother chose adoption.
- Your mother “gave you away.”
- Your mother does not love you.
- You only need your adoptive parents.
- You should be loyal and grateful to your adoptive parents for raising you as your natural mother dumped you and who know where you’d be if your adoptive parents weren’t heroes for rescuing you.
- Searching is disloyal and will hurt your adoptive parents
Lies that the industry tells to society:
- Infant adoption is natural (false. it’s a relative recent (last 150 years) social experiment)
- Adoptive families are exactly like natural families, with no problems at all specific to adoption.
- Raising an adopted child is like raising a child of your own.
- Infant adoption has been common since Babylonian types (false. adult adoption was common but NOT infant adoption – infants were fostered but seldom legally adopted)
- Adoption is about finding homes for unwanted babies.
What is is all about? Filling post-WWII consumer demand for infants.
“Because there are many more married couples wanting to adopt newborn white babies than there are babies, it may almost be said that they rather than out of wedlock babies are a social problem. (Sometimes social workers in adoption agencies have facetiously suggested setting up social provisions for more ‘babybreeding’.)” SOCIAL WORK AND SOCIAL PROBLEMS, National Association of Social Workers, (Out-of-print) copyright 1964 (quote provided courtesy of BSERI).
The broker (agency, lawyer, social worker, doctor, or whomever else took the baby for adoption) made promises to the adoptive parents that permeate the entire adoptive relationship and even impact upon reunion. And the promises are lies, nothing but a sales pitch. Brokers knew there was a consumer demand out there from people who wanted newborn babies to adopt. Brokers knew they could make money by meeting this demand — now $25,000 or more per infant. So the brokers give promises that these infants neither knew about nor could keep. And adoptees are expected to live up to these promises, which they had no part in making in the first place! It is all done for money’s sake. It is time to take the profit motive out of adoption.
If you get any unsolicited email “from me” firstname.lastname@example.org today, please delete without opening
This was my Yahoo account it happened to. Luckily, my “other” email address seems to be okay.
What is ironic is that I run a complete AVG antivirus scan every friday morning, plus I am behind a pretty good firewall, and the latest scan ran this morning just an hour before the ‘hacking’ took place.
I have reported this to Yahoo, but I doubt they can do anything about it. I won’t be logging into the account for a while, at least until the latest scan is done on my computer. So, if you need to contact me, please phone me or leave a comment here and i’ll get back to you.
A Mothers’ Bill of Rights
Expecting? Considering adoption? The adoption agency may not have told you all your rights!
If you are considering surrendering your baby for adoption, remember that you are still the only mother that baby has until you have signed the surrender papers and until any revocation periods have passed (this varies from within 30 days of birth in British Columbia, to no revocation period at all in some states such as Florida and Illinois). Some adoption agencies publish “Birthmother Bills of Rights,” which invariably neglect to inform the “birthmother” that she has rights that every other mother takes for granted – including the right to change her mind.
This list below is provided so that expectant mothers considering adoption can take this to adoption agencies and potential adopters and ask right-off-the-bat if they’ll honour these rights. And if they refuse to, then mothers go to a different agency or different potential adopters that will. According to an article (“Love for Sale”) in Adoptive Families Magazine, there may be up to forty couples vying for every baby available, so there is no lack of choice if one couple says “no” to you. And in fact, the best parent for your baby may well be you!
As a mother, maybe being called a “birthmother,” these are your rights.
~ Your Rights as an Expectant and New Mother ~
YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO:
- … see your baby after he/she is born.
- … choose to hold, nurse, and care for your baby in the hospital.
- … decide if the potential adopters can be in the labour or delivery room, and the right to change your mind and ask them to leave at any time.
- … have independent legal counsel (i.e not also representing the potential adopters, known as “dual-representation”) to explain the surrender papers and to be present when you sign them.
- … choose to care for your baby without feeling pressured to decide about adoption within ANY certain time period.
- … choose to take your baby home from the hospital if that is what you want to do.
- … say “No” to adoption at any point before or after the birth without fear of hurting or disappointing the potential adopters.
- … adequate financial support from the state which would enable you to keep and raise your baby.
- … expect child support from the father of your baby, and take him to court for enforcement if this is not provided.
- … be free of any monetary obligation, such as repaying living or medical expenses, should you choose to keep your baby (potential adopters can buy insurance to cover all costs if a mother changes her mind, it is a risk they knowingly take).
- … choose to decide on adoption after recovering from birth and any post-partum depression.
- … be treated as the mother and a parent of your baby until and unless papers are signed, and to be thus treated with the respect granted any other mother.
- … be a mother. No matter if you’re unmarried, young, or financially strained, you still have the right to be a mother.
These rights come from the application of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (at http://www.un.org/Overview/rights.html), which since 1948 has guaranteed these protections to ALL citizens of the U.S., Canada and all other nations that signed it. Articles 12, 16 and 25 of the Declaration specifically guarantee protection and social support to mothers and families:
- Article 12. – No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, FAMILY, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.
- Article 16(3) – The family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State.
- Article 25(1) – Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control. (2) Motherhood and childhood are entitled to special care and assistance. All children, whether born in or out of wedlock, shall enjoy the same social protection.
Copyright © B. Lake 2004. This article may be reprinted on other not-for-profit websites as long as it is reprinted in its entirety with copyright statement included.
Reprinted with Permission of the Author