I was thinking about this issue this morning, and it occurred to me that there may be an analogy to the demand by the adoption industry and its supporters — but others as well including even many adoption-reform organizations — that natural mothers must accept the title (and status) of being nothing more than incubators (a.k.a. “birthmothers).
That analogy would be if everyone who is adopted must always live be referred to as an “adopted child” or “adopted baby” or “infant who was adopted” and may never call themselves an “adoptee” or adopted person” or “adopted adult.” That they will always be perpetual children and be called that, no matter what their personal preference.
Some adoptees of course may be okay with being called a ‘baby” or “child” for the rest of their lives, finding it “endearing” or “special” — the same way that some CUB members I have spoken to say that ‘birthmother” is “endearing” or “special.” Some mothers may insist that calling the child they lost to adoption “their baby” all his/her life is “endearing” and want to call all adopted persons “babies” — the same as some adoptees say that the term “birth mother’ is a special and endearing term for their own natural mother and want to call the rest of us that as well.
We know that the adoption industry and its customers want to treat adoptees as if they were children with no power and no voice. WE also know that this same people and its customers want to designated all natural mothers as being nothing more than breeders with no power and no voice. But adopted persons do not want to be classified as perpetual infants and natural mothers do not want to be classified as being breeders.
Some adopted persons have protested about being called “babies” in online support groups. I understand their point of view entirely, and I would never belittle an adopted person this way. I did not reunite with my “baby.” I reunited with my adult son. Society in general, and anyone who personally knows an adopted person, must cease treating adult adoptees as if they were still children.
So, my thoughts on this are that just as adult adopted persons are not perpetual children or babies, never to grow up; natural mothers are not “birth-mothers,” never to be considered to be mothers. We all deserve some mutual respect.
Think adoption is a non-profit service for children? Think again. If it was so charitable, it would be provided as a public service with no money changing hands.
Instead, adoption is a multi-billion-dollar industry. Each transaction, each time money is given to an agency in exchange for an infant, a profit has been made, a human being has been bought. And, usually by people who would recoil at the concept of human trafficking. But if you can dress it up in euphemisms of “adoption services” and “adoption situations,” you can get away with treating babies as commodities.
Here are examples of price-lists for babies. These are screen-captures of actual pages from business websites. I am leaving out the business names to avoid legal hassles. But just google “adoption situations” to find these and many more.
(Click on graphic to see full-sized image.)
And, gee, this one below even offers a great discount for African American babies — only $17,000! These prices are not based on the needs of children — they are based on market demand.
Want to compare how much profit is being made by these businesses? It cost me all of $200 to adopt-back my son. This is because there was no business needing to make a profit on it. Only the court paperwork.
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 “Infant Adoption is Big Business in America” (PDF) for a good analysis of why this unregulated industry exists.
The United Nations has also expressed concern:
“During the course of 2002, the Special Rapporteur received many complaints relating to allegedly fraudulent adoption practices. Where such practices have the effect that the child becomes the object of a commercial transaction, the Special Rapporteur, like his predecessor, considers that such cases fall within the “sale” element of his mandate. The Special Rapporteur was shocked to learn of the plethora of human rights abuses which appear to permeate the adoption systems of many countries. The Special Rapporteur considers that the best environment for most children to grow up in is within a family, and the adoption by a parent or parents of a child who does not have a family able to look after him or her is a commendable and noble action. Regrettably, in many cases the emphasis has changed from the desire to provide a needy child with a home, to that of providing needy parents with a child. As a result, a whole industry has grown, generating millions of dollars of revenue each year, seeking babies for adoption and charging prospective parents enormous fees to process the paperwork.” – from “Rights of the Child: Report submitted by Mr. Juan Miguel Petit, Special Rapporteur on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography in accordance with Commission on Human Rights resolution 2002/92.
Want to do something about it? Write to your legislator and let them know that this is human trafficking and you are offended and appalled by it. Ask them to pass laws to take the profit out of adoption, to prevent situations where money needs to change hands in order to provide a new home for a child. Ask them to pass laws to protect unwed and new mothers from reproductive exploitation. And, if you are seeking to adopt, refuse to patronize these businesses. Instead, look at alternatives where you are not paying in order to obtain a child.
[Update of July 2012] This post was originally published a year ago, to announce that the Facebook group that was formerly called “Adopting-Back Our Children” changed its name and expanded its focus to become “Adopting-Back Our Children / Adoptees Terminating Adoptions.” As the Facebook group and the accompanying website have both grown and changed over the past year, it is time for an update.
This group has a history dating back to 2002, when it was an MSN Group of the same (old) name hosted by a natural mother named Scarlett West and myself. When MSN shut down its groups, we moved onto Facebook to continue there. I fell out of touch with Scarlett. Once she had adopted back both her stolen twin daughters, I think she was able to finally able to put adoption entirely behind her and focus on the rest of her life. Her family has been healed from adoption separation, and her daughters are back home with their mother again, healing from the abuse they suffered at the hands of a racist, unbalanced woman who should never have been allowed to adopt.
Anyway, back to the topic of the group. For years, the group and the site focused on the legal process of adopting-back, which of course has always been the “second-best” option, because the very best option would be for all adoptees to be able to terminate their own adoptions as they saw fit. But, we were unable to gather much information about this being done — until an adoptee joined our Facebook group and told us all about how she was able to legally terminate her own adoption via a Private Members Bill in Alberta.
So we found out that terminating an adoption is not only possible, but it has been done with some frequency in Alberta. One of these Acts was passed fairly recently in fact, in 2009, the Beverly Anne Cormier Adoption Termination Act. This excerpt from the Standing Committee on Private Bills proceedings gives some details of why a private members bill was used:
“Ms Dean: Certainly, Mr. Chair. As all committee members are aware, a private bill seeks something that’s not available through the general public law. Bill Pr. 1 is seeking the termination of an adoption order because, basically, the petitioner is unable to get recourse in any other way. A person is unable to set aside an adoption order after one year unless it has been procured by fraud. Now, that’s not the case here. There’s been no fraud, so this is the appropriate tool by which one goes about terminating an adoption of this type. It’s a fairly rare type of bill, but these have come before the Assembly before. The most recent one was in 1998.”
Other adoption termination acts have included:
- Tanya Marie Bryant Adoption Termination Act (1998)
- Kenneth Garnet McKay Adoption Termination Act (1997)
- Satnam Parmar Adoption Termination Act (1990)
- David Michael Skakun Adoption Termination Act (1985)
- Dino Alberto Knott Adoption Termination Act (1984)
- Keith Dial Adoption Termination Act (1980)
In addition, Mike Chalek was able to get his adoption terminated in a Florida court. , which provides a different means that adoptees can try. The problem in Mike’s case is that it took the proof of fraud for the judge to grant the petition. It is uncertain what type of proof other judges may deem to be “sufficient grounds.” Also published this year was an E-How article, “How to Nullify an Adoption for an Adult.” I do not know if this article is actually based on real experiences or not, or is (as many E-How articles appear to be) just a “spam page” having the sole purpose of displaying a profuse amount of advertising.
But I cannot think of why anyone would deny that all adoptees should have the option to choose whether they want to remain adopted or not. If they were adopted as an infant or young child, no-one asked them if they wanted to be grafted into a family of genetic strangers. Some adoptees may choose the termination route, and some may be be perfectly happy with how things worked out in their adoptive families. But all adoptees should be able to make that decision, unilaterally, of their own choosing.
Sometimes my blog posts are inspired by conversations which occur on message boards, and this is one of them. So, it is very possible that you have read the original conversation where this took place, and if so, then I apologize for the repetition.
This came from an online conversation about a recent “birthmother petition,” where an organization is requesting the signatures of natural mothers to support adoptee-rights. Now, I believe wholeheartedly in open records, and that EVERYONE has the right to their original birth records, their family history, and the right to make contact with their lost family members if they choose (this means both ways!) … BUT, I also do not believe that it is the right thing to do to objectify a group of people in order to further the rights of a separate group, at the expense of the first.
So, in this conversation about this petition, several natural mothers such as myself stated that we would not be signing it. Not that we do not support adoptee rights (we wholeheartedly DO! and the women discussing this have spent years of their lives actively working for open records), but because: (1) being mothers still, we are not “birthmothers;” (2) we find it offensive, dehumanizing, and objectifying to be defined and labelled as “incubators;” and (3) we feel that the organization which sponsored this petition could just as easily have used the term which respects us: “natural mother.” Even if it used both terms, that at least would show respect for all of us, those natural mothers who respect themselves as being mothers, and those who accept the adoption industry’s statement that we are no longer mothers.
So, this is my response to the person who defended the use of the term “birth mother” in the petition. I sincerely respect her an an open records advocate, but I do feel that even if she does not feel that her own natural mother is a mother to her, that is her personal choice in her life, but it does not mean that this can be generalized to cover other mothers-of-adoption-loss without our consent. And I do not give consent to be dehumanized.
” I am sorry to hear, xxxxxx, that your natural mother is nothing more than an incubator to you (yes, this is what she is reduced to if your adoptive mother is awarded the status of being your sole mother, it means that her only relevance/action as a mother in you life was to gestate and push you out), but the word dehumanizes and objectifies women as being nothing more than convenient uteri. Legislators also recognize and understand the term natural mother. They have for ages, as much currently-in-effect state and provincial legislation still uses that term.
” I disagree with you that it is necessary to use this term with politicians. I have been involved in open records campaigns in 3 provinces, actively writing to politicians, creating websites that promote open records, and sending out bulletins to members of nonprofit organizations I belonged to in order to publicize open records campaigns and get members in involved in open records. I have never yet had to use the term ‘birthmother’ in any of these actions.
” People have the right to not be objectified. The ‘birth terms’ objectify women. They were invented and defined by the adoption industry, which treated and treats us as livestock anyway:
‘… the tendency growing out of the demand for babies is to regard unmarried mothers as breeding machines…(by people intent) upon securing babies for quick adoptions.’ – Leontine Young, ‘Is Money Our Trouble?’ (paper presented at the Nationa…l Conference of Social Workers, Cleveland, 1953)
” And, if one reduces a human being to an object, one can then treat them as voiceless, with rights, in need of protecting. The term ‘birthmother’ actually plays into supporting closed records legislation by defining us as having NO continuing love or connection with our lost child, and thus no interest in ‘reunion’ or being ‘found.’ And reunion IS the elephant on the dining room table when it comes to ‘adoptee rights’ and ‘open records.’
” I have the right not to be defined as an non-mother, an incubator, etc. So do all other MOTHERS who have lost children to adoption. Thus the term natural mother, which recognizes and respects our continuing motherhood, is the one which is not derogatory or denigrating to us. Or you can call us mothers, or mothers of adoption loss. Or mothers separated from a child by adoption.
” What is a natural mother? I am a mother by the laws of nature. The adoptive mother is the mother who was created by the laws of modern human society, pursuant to laws which began with the first child adoption law, invented in 1851 in Massachusetts. So, natural and socially-created. But the continuing love and blood-bond I have with my child, our sharing of genes, that I created him through the processes of Nature, all count towards me being a mother. (He also calls me Mom and I have adopted him back, but these are moot points). If laws and social-worker-procedures and the adoption industry had not been created to rip us apart, we would still have been together. My love for him never died, my connection with him that is just as strong as my connection and love for my other children. This is NOT saying that adoptive parents are unnatural. It is not a game of ‘Opposites,’ because if you say that this makes adoptive parents ‘unnatural’ then in the ‘Opposites Game’ the term ‘birthmother’ makes them into ‘deathmothers.’“
Sometimes I feel that i beat this topic to death, and you, dear readers, are likely sick of hearing it. But why ask for my support in a way that treats me as less-than-human, that assumes that I do not have or want a family relationship with my son? The issue this time is that we, as natural mothers, are being asked to further the interests of another group while ignoring our own interests (e.g. open records for natural parents as well), but we’re being asked as “incubators” do to so.
Meanwhile, please sign this petition, which has been active and on in the internet since 2000:
This page contains an example of open records legislation that can be used by open records action groups to propose legislative change. It is non-discriminatory in that it open records to both adoptees and natural parents, and also recognizes that family includes siblings and grandparents who may also wish to search. It recognizes that — yes, adoptees have rights to know their original identities — but also that recognizes people do request records, at least here in Canada, because it is the only way to be able to find your lost family member unless they have registered with a search registry. Search and reunion is recognized in these type of open records campaigns, frankly addressed, and hence anti-open-records lobbyists cannot bring up the topic of reunion as a “cheap shot,” using it as scare-mongering.
Both Canadian and U.S. adoption laws are handled on the provincial/state level, and all of these laws are based on the same original law (Massachusetts 1951), legal principles, and social pressures (e.g. records closing to “protect” adoptive families from the natural parents). In Canada, each piece of existing provincial law has a name and collectively they are usually referred to as the acts and regulations, the laws and regulations, or the statutes of each province (with the exception of the Quebec civil code). In the U.S., the compiled laws are known as state codes and each code has a title, chapter, and section. As examples, here are links to see Ontario statutes and regulations and the California State Code.
To see the laws or your state or province, google “state code” or “provincial law” for your jurisdiction.
This model legislation provided below is based on B.C.’s current open records legislation (Sections 63 to 67 of British Columbia’s Adoption Act), but eliminating the appalling disclosure and contact veto provisions and instead including a contact preference provision from Alberta’s Child, Youth and Family Enhancement Act.
British Columbia was the first province in Canada to open its records, which it did in 1995 with the Adoption Act (Bill 51). Alberta obtained open records in 2003 via Section 74 of the Child Welfare Amendment Act (Bill 9) , which modified the old Child Welfare Act.
This model legislation, below, is also the type of legislation that does not change existing flawed legislation by “nickel-and-diming” it to death. Instead, it is meant to be passed as a bill to replace old legislation (as was done in B.C.) and any bill would begin with a clause to repeal the old legislation. Sometimes you need a fresh start.
In the following example, replace the phrase “Director of Vital Statistics” with the name of the office or official in your state or province who takes care of maintaining all state/provincial birth, death, marriage, and adoption registrations. Replace the phrase “Vital Statistics Act” with the name of the statute, legislation, code, etc. which authorizes your state or provincial government to collect and maintain this information.
Sample Open Records Legislation:
Section 1 – Disclosure to adopted person 18 or over:
(1) An adopted person 18 years of age or over may apply to the [Director of Vital Statistics] for copies of the following:
(a) the original birth registration,
(b) the amended birth registration that was substituted for the adopted person’s original birth registration, and
(c) the adoption order.
(2) When an applicant complies with Section 3, the [Director of Vital Statistics] must give the applicant a copy of the requested records.
Section 2 – Disclosure to natural parent or natural family member when adopted person is 18 or over
(1) If an adopted person is 18 years of age or over, a natural parent named on the adopted person’s original birth registration may apply to the [Director of Vital Statistics] for a copy of one or more of the following:
(a) the original birth registration,
(b) the amended birth registration that was substituted for the adopted person’s original birth registration, and
(c) the adoption order.
(2) When an applicant complies with Section 3, the [Director of Vital Statistics] must give the applicant a copy of the requested records
(3) Before giving the applicant a copy of the requested record, the [Director of Vital Statistics] must delete the adoptive parents’ identifying information.
(4) Other natural family members (grandparents, grandchildren, siblings, etc.) may also apply upon presentation of the death certificate of the natural parent
Section 3 – Applicant must comply with [Vital Statistics Act]
A person who applies to the [Director of Vital Statistics] under this Part must:
(a) supply any proof of identity required by that director, and
(b) if the application is for a copy of a record, pay the required fee.
Section 4 – Contact Preference
(1) An adopted person, a natural parent or any other person whose personal information may be in orders, certificates or documents may register a contact preference with the [Director of Vital Statistics] that indicates the person’s preferences concerning contact with a person who makes a request under Sections 1 or 2.
(2) The [Director of Vital Statistics] shall advise a person making a request under Sections 1 or 2 of any contact preference registered with respect to the requested information.
Recent Related Blog posts from Other Natural Mothers:
“Unsealed with a K.I.S.S.”
“Hey Wait a Minute…”
“What Does Adoption Reform Activism Look Like?”
This post was inspired by Mei-Ling’s recent post on her blog, where she spoke of a person who adopted who hoped that Mei-Ling would “find closure.” One more adoptee gets patronizingly fed this line, once more.
How many times have we heard that, over and over again?
This continual reiteration to adoptees and natural parents about closure, when i hear it, admittedly pisses me off. it invariably is from someone who has never experienced adoption separation/trauma/loss. someone whose only connection with adoption has been GAIN.
“Closure” is a word thrown around a lot in “adopto-land,” and I sometimes wonder if it is such for one reason: Because if adoptees or natural moms get “closure” then maybe the two parties in the adoption transaction that “gain” from adoption do not have to feel guilty as they would feel if the “losers” in adoption are “still hurting”? No-one with any conscience wants their joy to come at the lifelong expense/pain/torture of another person. So, there is the hope out there that we will get “closure” somehow.
The problem that this ignores is that “closure” is closely tied to such factors as whether a loss is finite or ongoing, simple or complex, ambiguous or complete, sudden or expected, traumatic or voluntary, etc.. I held my father’s hand in the hospital as he died peacefully in his old age — that was a nontraumatic, unambiguous and completed loss with closure, finality, resolution, completeness. But adoption loss is ONGOING and overwhelming. If a loss is continually compounding, how can there be closure? It hasn’t ended yet! Every compounded loss of a day in life lived “elsewhere,” every birthday apart, every moment separated, all the years and minutes apart … and the ties that are not ties, family that is not family, ambiguity of family boundaries in our society that only recognizes “what is on paper” as being valid … and always the hope/chance/dream of eventual “having my child/parent back again” because after all they are still breathing … no closure means unresolved grief, ongoing pain, ongoing loss.
But, if you’re not there in the middle of it, if you’ve never experienced it, then can you truly understand it? That glib line about closure, I just wish they would stop trying to foist it onto us, and then imply that we’ve somehow got some psychopathology if we don’t achieve it.
Happy birthday, my precious first-born! I never imagined we’d be reunited for 10 years, 1/3 of your life. Plus i feel far too young to possibly have a son who is 30! Come on, I’m not nearly old enough for that!
I still remember that clerk in the furniture store, when we were buying stuff for your/our apartment, referring to you as “my brother” and when i said with a smile that you were my son, she stated in surprise “How old were you when you had him — four?!?” We had a great laugh over that one!
Anyway, happy birthday, honey. I hope we have many more great years together, back together, where we belong. We have come a long long way in only 10 years, restoring everything we could that was taken from us. But we will never get those 20 long years back, and I think we will both always grieve that loss.
I want to share with my readers how you described to a classmate today the reason why you belonged to Origins: “I was adopted, and it was the most painful thing that every happened to me.” Your words are echoed by so many other adoptees I know. I will forever try everything I can to take away your pain.
(Related post, for visitors who have not read how this all began: February 20, 1980)