The basic facts of pre-birth adoption matching

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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.

Related Posts:

*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”

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16 thoughts on “The basic facts of pre-birth adoption matching

    angelle2 said:
    June 14, 2010 at 11:17 pm

    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..

    You are giving PAPs too much credit. In this day and age there is no excuse for PAPs engaging in this behavior except for their own selfish desires. They know darned well what they are doing. Seriously, no excuses! At the very least these are people who need to have the cold light of truth thrown in their faces.

    I will be happy to provide a bucket of iced water.

    Lois Luckovich said:
    June 14, 2010 at 11:19 pm

    I’m sure by how quickly mine placed and the fact the adoptives parents took her on a trip over the border, that they knew for a LONG time that they’d be getting her. And they couldn’t have gotten her a pasport and ammended birth certificate before the adoption was finalized without being in cahoots with the Ministry Adoption worker.
    Who, strangely enough has the same last name as they do!
    (Her ex has a brother & sister-in-law with-no family)

    thanksgivingmom said:
    June 14, 2010 at 11:59 pm

    You know, I get why some expectant Mom’s are really into pre-birth matching – I do! But sometimes the level of contact REALLY concerns me. If I had a nickel every time I read from a prospective adoptive parent, “I don’t know where our birthmom is! I’ve been trying to call her all week to check in and she’s not returning my calls. Why????”

    And all I can think is, LEAVE THIS WOMAN ALONE!!! She’s picked you, she’s dealing with a crisis pregnancy, and it’s HER time to enjoy her child. PLEASE get to know her on her time, at her pace.

    Great post!

    Jennifer said:
    June 15, 2010 at 2:39 am

    Dear Cedar,

    Long-time reader, but I think this may be the first time that I have ever commented.

    First – thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts on your blog. I always find your posts extremely thought provoking.

    Second – to be clear and up front, I am a prospective adoptive parent in the middle of the adoption process. So, we definitely come to adoption from very different sides of the table.

    Your post was incredibly similar to something I read online close to a year ago – something that inspired a post from me. I won’t re-post my response here (too long) but invite you to visit

    http://inthepresentmomentmom.blogspot.com/2009/08/wowthats-all-i-can-saywell-not-quite.html

    Again, I know that we have opposing views about adoption, but please know that I do appreciate what you have to say even though I sometimes find your sentiments to be personally upsetting because of my status as an adoptive parent.

    And I thank you for allowing me a little space to share my thoughts in return.

    Best and peace.

      Linda said:
      June 21, 2010 at 3:20 am

      Sorry, Jennifer, but you ARE a predator. It SHOULD be upsetting to you, and if you adopt due to the extremely coercive practice of “pre-birth matching”, your adoptling will be upset when they find out what you did.

      As an adoptee, I am horrified at the lengths to which most paps will go to to get their hands on a womb wet infant. If you REALLY wanted what was best for a child, you would NOT even consider this.

      You have fallen victim to slick baby broker brainwashing.

        Jennifer said:
        June 22, 2010 at 12:48 pm

        Hello, Linda,

        I’d like to respond to your comment here on Cedar’s blog, but that would take up too much space. So, instead, I invite you to visit my blog – specifically the following post that I wrote a while back

        http://inthepresentmomentmom.blogspot.com/2009/11/compassion.html

        Best and peace.

          Linda said:
          July 8, 2010 at 4:28 pm

          Your words on your blog are shallow. Your blog is no different than any other salivating pap’s with baby fever.

          You wrote,

          “Really?

          Is your pain greater than mine?

          Is my pain greater than yours?

          I don’t think so.

          Wouldn’t it be better for all parties in the world of adoption if we acknowledged that we have ALL struggled in different ways? Wouldn’t it be healthier if we tried supporting each other instead of tearing each other down?”

          Sorry, but your pain from your infertility is no excuse to coerce a pregnant woman into surrendering HER child. Pre-birth matching is coercive. Period.

          Your struggle is of no concern to me, or your adopted child’s. Your pain and struggle is the WORST reason to adopt.

          Again- newborn adoption is selfish, and is ALWAYS about the pap’s WANTS…NOT what the newborn NEEDS. If you truly wanted to parent and do what is RIGHT…what is MORAL, you would adopt a waiting child from foster care- a child who has no hope of reunification with his or her first parents, and has no one in his or her natural family to raise him or her.

    Carlynne said:
    June 15, 2010 at 11:52 am

    Thank you for putting this out there! I lost my daughter to adoption 30 years ago, I was coerced, I didn’t want other people raising her. I had no resources and no support. Thankfully I’ve been in reunion with her for 8 yrs now and it’s been wonderful. In researching this topic for a series of paintings I’m doing I started reading current adoption agency websites to see what they were saying to pregnant women and girls. I was truly appalled!!!! I thought by now things would be different. They are not, they just have slicker advertising and have now involved the PAP’s in the process of coercion. I was truly sickened when I saw one of them claim to have “counselors” that can help the young women deal with the negativity of family members who are not supportive of her “adoption plan”. So let me get this straight….if your family doesn’t want you to give your child to other people, if they want to help you keep your child, we have people that can talk you out of that!? Like the medical industry, the adoption industry should not be motivated by money. We need to find homes for needy children, not babies for needy adults.

    Lois Luckovich said:
    June 15, 2010 at 8:42 pm

    Carlynne you are right on!

    I don’t have a blog, please email me lluckovich@shaw.ca

    Lois Luckovich said:
    June 22, 2010 at 9:07 pm

    Sorry Jennifer,

    Linda is RIGHT-you are brainwashed!

    Don’t try to teach us compassion–we who have lost our children deserve to be given compassion!

    Yes, we tend to see things from OUR side of the fence, but some of us have seen brainwashing before.

    I’m sorry, but you won’t EVER convince ME you did the right thing!

    Lois

    Lois Luckovich said:
    July 8, 2010 at 8:32 pm

    Jennifer-I politely suggest that you don’t post here-you’re very upsetting to some of us–me for one!

    Lois

    CJW said:
    July 12, 2010 at 5:44 am

    Jennifer,
    I LOVED your blog post! We have four children–three daughters (ages 10, 3 and 16 months) and a 2 year old son-ALL adopted! Im sorry that these other women are not willing to hear your thoughts and only want to focus on their own agenda and self pity. I was honestly enjoying reading this blog and thought on adoption from the other side of the fence but whe. n I saw the responses from these women to you, it totally made me change my mind! Adopting children does not make you a predator as these women suggest. Dont allow yourself to feel that way. Lois–you GAVE YOUR CHILDREN UP FOR ADOPTION– you didnt “lose” them. Jennifer–dont let anyone tell you what is a good reason to want to adopt a child. I have no idea where these women got the idea that you were out there coercing a baby off a pregnant woman from your blog post–your words were beautiful and full of meaning. Linda–you make it seem that people who adopt awas re out there kidnapping children. WRONG. My youngest three children (biological siblings) were neglected and abused by their “birth mother” –we stepped in and SAVED yes SAVED them and gave them a wonderful life with two loving parents and everything they deserve. Giving birth may make you a “mother” but loving and raising a child makes you a real mom. Lois, its pretty horrible of you to say that Jennifer’s adoption will be “upset” Geez–if you all didnt want to hear comment, then DONT POST ON BLOGS –WHAT DID YOU EXPECT??

      Lissa said:
      September 13, 2010 at 6:54 pm

      CJW, why this statement:

      ‘you GAVE YOUR CHILDREN UP FOR ADOPTION– you didnt “lose” them.’??

      How can you possibly believe that statement? Have you not read our posts? Do you not read blogs of mothers who have lost their child to adoption? Why your adamant statement that we “gave your children up for adoption”? Are you really so determined to believe that we were not coerced? I am not sure if it is an attempt to make yourself feel better about taking another woman’s child. Is that how you justify yourself? Be demeaning and dismissing mothers who have lost their children? You make statements that appear to be deliberate attempts to hurt people who have LOST THEIR CHILDREN. I am not sure how you can feel good about that.

      Also, why is it so important for you to tell us you ‘SAVED yes SAVED’ “YOUR” children? Who are you trying to convince exactly? Do you expect those children to express forever gratitude for your efforts? It’s a parents job to put their children first. The only difference is you paid for that privilege.

      I would ask you: how would YOU feel if someone came to take a child of yours? Knowing you would never see them again; never know if they were alive? Can you make yourself understand how completely terrifying that would be? To know they would be gone forever?

      I will attempt to educate you and ask that you respect the mothers who have survived the loss of their child. Please also respect those who have lost their mothers and fathers. This isn’t about the adopter. We are the people who are directly affected by the separation of adoption. Our voices deserve to be heard. Particularly as we are no longer willing to maintain our silence in the practice known as adoption. I will no longer tolerate being told to shut the hell up and go away. It’s inconvenient, isn’t it? Adoptees are no longer willing to be ordered to maintain their silence either. Have you not bothered to question why?

      Please go to: http://www.aaafc.com It is a site for adult adoptees. The children residing with you are going to have issues concerning their adoption. Perhaps you can learn from those who have lost their families how they feel, and how adoption has impacted their lives. Try to understand however, it is not about the adopter.

      Why do we say “lose”? I lost my daughter to adoption. Her adoption was needless. I didn’t want to surrender my daughter. Note, I said ‘surrender’, not relinquish. I was forced to surrender my baby to strangers. Many mothers were coerced, lied to and manipulated. We were also threatened with having our baby ‘placed’ in foster care – in order for the baby broker to state our baby was ‘abandoned’. Sign or don’t sign, we’re taking your baby. Mothers were also drugged, tied down or told their child had died in order to obtain a baby for adoption. You cannot possibly believe or deny these blatant coercive tactics. Not only are they illegal, they are morally repugnant.

      I did not have ILA, nor was I allowed to see the documents or given or offered any copies. I now know why. I received copies of non-identifying information and have learned my daughter has been lied to concerning her adoption transaction. I presume the baby brokers were content knowing they didn’t have the pesky interference of a lawyer to represent my rights- and my daughter’s rights. They are well aware their methods are illegal. One of the baby brokers in my case would rather I didn’t bring that to light presently.

      I was also placed under duress, even removed from my parent’s presence, in order for the baby broker’s to obtain my signature. To obtain a minor’s signature. FYI, any signature obtained under duress or through coercive tactics is illegal. It also renders that documentation void. They ignored me when I told them I refused to sign their documents. They ignored me when I told them I loved my daughter and wanted to keep her. No wait – they didn’t ignore me then. They then screamed and yelled at me (yes, screamed) that I was ‘selfish’ for loving and wanting my daughter. Information was deliberately withheld that would have allowed me to keep my baby. I was never given any choice. I was harassed and stalked.

      The baby brokers in documentation they personally provided in the file. Not only were they completely unprofessional, they were incompetent and misrepresented me, defamed me and included slanderous comments.

      I have attempted to tell my daughter the truth of the circumstances surrounding her needless adoption. The adopters are very aware her adoption was needless. I have refuted every single statement concerning my daughter’s adoption and have backed it up with supporting documentation. I presume the facts get in the way of their insecurities. The adopters have threatened me with a restraining order should I tell my daughter HER truth. They are deliberately withholding her information from her to suit themselves. Who is being selfish? They did this after opening private correspondence to an adult. That’s illegal, isn’t it?

      Why, you may wonder? They have lied to her her whole life. They would rather put their selfish needs and desires ahead of her wellbeing. They want her to believe she was unloved and “abandoned”. Why would that be? In order for them to tell her she was unwanted and in order to take credit for having ‘saved’ and ‘unwanted’ baby. They require continued and ongoing gratitude and acknowledgment of their generosity. The truth of my daughter’s needless adoption doesn’t sit well with their insecurities and selfishness. They would rather she believed she was unloved by her mother in order for them to receive her love. They also don’t want her to know she was ‘bartered or brokered’. THEIR words.

      I’ll mention here they are also upset knowing I have my daughter’s true and original birth certificate. They don’t feel I have the right to it. Would you care to know why? Firstly, they falsified her birth certificate to state they had given birth to her. That is a blatant lie. Secondly, the baby brokers misspelled my daughter’s true last name SEVERAL times. Finally, the baby broker also gave her a FALSE birth date! NO ONE is entitled to arbitrarily change a person’s birth date. I will assume the adopters don’t want her to be aware of the many inconsistencies due to their determination to erase, deny and sever her true identity and heritage.

      But the adopters ‘saved’ her, isn’t that right? If they had truly been interested in putting my daughter’s needs ahead of their own, they would have done everything in their power to help me keep her. They would have realized that what was in her best interests would have been to keep her and her mother together. They wouldn’t have felt the great need to make her ‘their’ own. They wouldn’t have falsified her identity. I did, in case you’re interested, ask them to please confirm her birth date was in fact the correct one. They ignored me.

      Baby brokers have one objective: to obtain a baby-any baby-for an adoption transaction. (I have learned recently they refer to white baby girls-i would presume this includes boys-as ‘blue ribbon babies’). You may make your own conclusions regarding that label. In fact, in my own case, I was told by the baby broker: ‘Sweetheart, your baby will make the most money for the baby broker – you’re white’. You just can’t make that garbage up. I was offended and horrified to learn they wanted to sell my baby!

      Their only concern is profit. When a pap pays a baby broker to obtain a baby, they are directly responsible for that baby broker’s actions in preying upon vulnerable expectant mothers. A baby broker is well aware that in collecting monies you provide, they are being instructed to obtain a baby for an adoption transaction. They will also lie to the pap and tell them they will be obtaining a baby ‘as if’ their own. You see, they can read your desperation and need to obtain another woman’s child and feed paps what they want to hear. What they won’t tell you is that no amount of falsifying documents or attempts at severing a mother’s relationship with her baby will make you a true mother. That, however, is hardly their concern.

      I mentioned on another blog what our children would feel if their surrenders had been videotaped. If they were to see firsthand the adopters waiting gleefully and anxiously in their vehicle for a baby to be handed over to them by their broker. What would our children think if they saw their mother screaming and crying desperately on the ground for their baby? I would NEVER want them to have to relive their surrender. Do you now know why? Because our separation was too traumatic. It destroyed our rightful relationships. Because it hurts us that much. I don’t doubt for a minute they would be horrified to see their mother screaming for them. You know, perhaps on second thought, someone should aim a camera on the baby broker when they are attempting to take a mother’s child. I would presume that baby brokers and those who work in the adoption industry would have a rather difficult time attempting to gloss that aspect of it over, wouldn’t you say?

      I don’t know why you are so vehemently against those of us who lost our children. We scream and cry our anguish and grief inside for the rest of our lives. We cry for our children. We miss them terribly.

      I have tried to inform you of what I am sure you have already learned from other mothers. I have tried for courtesy and common sense. I am not against providing homes for needy, orphaned children. Every attempt should be made to keep any child with their family-any family member. Children who need a home deserve a happy and secure home. I am leery of adoptions that result from children in foster care. The baby brokers in my case told me they would ‘place’ my daughter in foster care, and then declare her ‘abandoned’in order to be made available for adoption. It certainly wasn’t on my consent. She did not need to be placed. She was not abandoned. They were well aware that I was capable of raising my daughter.

      Unfortunately adoption is not about finding a home for a child. It is about finding a child for a needy person who wants to parent. The truth is, infertility does NOT entitle a woman to take another woman’s child. They are making the child responsible for their issues. No child is responsible to make an adult feel better about themself. There are many other ways to care for a child without stripping them of their identity, heritage or severing them from their family. Guardianship, for example,would allow for a person to care for a child in an honest manner. If that person truly wanted to care for a child, they wouldn’t even think of falsifying their identity. They wouldn’t feel the need to be called something they aren’t. Because it’s about the CHILD. Right??

      If adoption truly did concern itself with a child’s best interests we wouldn’t see, or hear again and again, the devastation that results for the mother/father and her child who lost each other.

      I am horrified by my daughter’s adopters’ actions. I am very worried about her wellbeing in their presence. They are concerned with themselves and their status. I made it clear to them that I will be hear for her. I will not lie to her or demean her. It’s what a mother does.

      I hope this might help you to learn more about adoption from the not-so-pretty side and open your mind and heart. For your childrens’ sake at least.

    Adoption Critic responded:
    July 12, 2010 at 6:33 am

    CJW, adopting does not necessarily make a person into a hero. Okay, so you gave 3 children a loving family, but isn’t this something that anyone should do? I also do not believe that adoption is necessary in order to provide a child with permanent substitute care when necessary. Other times and cultures have shown us that there are other alternatives.

    Your adoption from the child protection system is ENTIRELY different than someone who is looking for a vulnerable mother who feels she must surrender her baby for reasons that may amount to coercion. That is very very different. You adopted children whose parents already had their rights terminated. You did not influence a mother (or exploit a mother who was otherwise influenced).

    Also, Lois did not “give up” her daughter, she was coerced. And this means that it was not a “decision” as all freedom of choice was removed from her. She has told her what happened. She was critically ill at the time, and thought she was dying, and had no-one to help her, and the baby’s horrible father (who didn’t want to pay child support) forced her to sign surrender papers while ill and unable to resist him, and then the Ministry violated the laws in pushing through the adoption court order the day before Lois’s legal court hearing to revoke consent. Lois was supposed to be given notice about this Ministry proceeding, and she was not.

    There are many sides to adoption, and one of these is the fact that it is an industry that profits off people willing to pay large sums to obtain infants, and as an industry it stoops to unethical lows to obtain babies from perfectly fit and capable mothers by using tactics which are designed to increase surrender rates. It is not fair, not ethical, and not moral.

    I hope you will stick around and read this blog. I am not against anyone giving a child a home. I am against human rights abuse, coercion, and reproductive exploitation.

    CJW said:
    July 12, 2010 at 9:00 pm

    I didnt say that adopting a child makes a person a hero, however in some cases I do believe its true. I found this blog interesting because my experiences with adoption were SO vastly different than what Im reading on here. My first adoption was from the child protection system and let me tell you something–I KNEW my daughters natural mother (had met her several times throughout the process) and we strongly advocated for her rights to be terminated–NOT because we wanted to adopt (in fact we were not looking to adopt at all and wanted to foster children who needed a safe loving home while their parents were rehabilitated and able to care for them) but things didnt change so we did everything we could to keep our daughter from returning to that situation and in the end a judge agreed. As for my younger children, they were born to a very very young mother who was already in the system herself. Rather than fight to keep her kids after she had been charged, she declined a trial and services and relinquished. Did I have something to do with that? I guess you coudl say that. At first I wanted nothing to do with her but she was the one who wanted to meet us, know us, and ask us questions about how her natural children would be raised. So I guess in a way I did influence her. Did I beg her for her children?? No–in fact we werent even sure we wanted to adopt THREE more children but we met them, we loved them and so of course I promised her I would love them and do everything I could to give them a wonderful life with everythign they deserve. Was that coercion? I dont think so. We met several times in court, she had visitation, I had her to our home several times, and in fact we were careful NOT to make promises or make it seem like we could give the kids a better life. After several court hearings, meetings and visits, she relinquished her parental rights to the state (that was a technicality since she knew we were the adoptive family but coudlnt legally relinquish to us) and we finalized the adoption last month. The mom remains in foster care and apparently now regrets her decision. I feel very very sorry for her and she is still involved in our life and the life of her natural children but it is what it is. She claims she was “made to give them up” but that is NOT what happened. She could have kept them and gotten services, but she declined and now claims coercion…… I will stick around and read your blog–I find it interesting

      Sam said:
      February 6, 2013 at 5:54 pm

      “She claims coercion.” B.S. Adopters never coerce do they? Like hell they don’t.

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