adoption history

A Natural Mother

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As most of my regular readers know, I refer to myself as a mother, or in relation to adoption, as being the natural mother of an adoptee (or natural mother, for short).   I reject the term “birthmother” to refer to myself, and “Birthmothers as Incubators,” explains the reason for this in more detail.

But the term natural mother may not be one which is familiar to you.  Let me explain a bit about it.

What is the origin of the term natural mother? Before the term birthmother was invented, the term natural mother was used throughout adoption-related literature. It was in the first modern child adoption law (Massachusetts, 1851) and is still in the laws of several states including California, Florida, Virginia, and Texas.

Some say the term natural parent means that the adoptive parents must therefore be unnatural.  I call this “playing the opposites game.”  By this reasoning, the opposite of birth parent is death parent.   Obviously, forming a false black and white dichotomy is no reason to reject the term “natural mother.”  (That is, unless you have adopted a child and really do enjoy being called a “death parent”… )

Instead, more accurately, the adjective “socially-created” contrasts with  “natural.”  Calling someone a natural mother refers to motherhood by the laws of Nature, while the adoptive mother is a mother by the modern legal and social process of child adoption.  It respects the reality that legal child adoption did not exist prior to 1851 (see “Why Adoption Is How it Is”).

Choosing to use the term natural mother to describe one’s self is a way of saying, “I am a mother, too. I never ceased having a mother’s love for my lost child.”  In using the term natural mother for her instead of birthmother, others are saying to her, “I respect you as a mother; you are not an incubator.”

Reclaiming the term natural mother—honouring ourselves and each other as being mothers and refusing to be defined/dehumanized as being walking incubators—is an empowering way to reclaim our dignity, pride, and humanity. And as Wade (1997, pp. 23-24) states, “resistance to violence and oppression is both a symptom of health and health-inducing.”

Reference:

  • Wade, Allan. 1997.  ”Small Acts of Living: Everyday Resistance to Violence and Other Forms of Oppression ”  Journal of Contemporary Family Therapy 19:23–40. doi: 10.1023/A:1026154215299

Justice for Children taken in the Sixties Scoop

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Some great news that was published in the paper today is that a lawsuit has been filed by Sixties Scoop survivors, against the government that took them from their parents: Lawsuit filed for ‘Sixties Scoop’ kids”

Related to this, I wanted to share this with you a new article from Wikipedia at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sixties_Scoop.

“Sixties Scoop”

The term Sixties Scoop was coined by Patrick Johnston in his 1983 report Native Children and the Child Welfare System.[1][2] It refers to the Canadian practice, beginning in the 1960s and continuing until the late 1980s, of apprehending unusually high numbers of children of Aboriginal peoples in Canada and fostering or adopting them out, usually into white families.[3].

Reder (2007) reports that the adult adoptees who were the subjects of this program have eloquently spoken out about their losses: loss of their cultural identity, lost contact with their natural families, barred access from medical histories, and for status Indian children the loss of their status [4]

An estimated 20,000 aboriginal children were taken from their families and fostered or adopted out to primary white middle-class families [5],[6]

This government policy was discontinued in the mid-’80s, after Ontario chiefs passed resolutions against it and a Manitoba judicial inquiry harshly condemned it. [7] This judicial inquiry was headed by Justice Edwin Kimelman, who published the File Review Report. Report of the Review Committee on Indian and Métis Adoptions and Placements [8] (also known as the Kimelman Report).

Two lawsuits have been filed in Canada by survivors of the Sixties Scoop, one in Ontario in 2010 [9][10] and one in British Columbia in 2011.[11]

Use of the Term

The term “Sixties Scoop” has wide usage in Canadian media:

“A new report shines a light on the “sixties scoop,” where unusually high numbers of native children were put into foster care or adopted, usually by white families. [12] (CBC Radio Archives, 1993)

“Lawsuit filed for ‘Sixties Scoop’ kids,” (The Victoria Times Colonist, June 1, 2011) [13]

“The ‘Sixties Scoop’ is a term that refers to the phenomenon, beginning in the 1960s and carrying on until the 1980s, of unusually high numbers of children apprehended from their native families and fostered or adopted out, usually into white families…” (Reder, 2007) [14]

“Commonly referred to as the Sixties Scoop, the practice of removing large numbers of aboriginal children from their families and giving them over to white middle-class parents was discontinued in the mid-’80s..” (Eye Weekly, Toronto Star Newspapers Ltd.). [15]

“B.C. natives sue federal government for millions over ‘Sixties’ Scoop’.” (The Vancouver Sun, May 31, 2011)[16]

Similar social developments in other countries

An event similar to the Sixties Scoop happened in Australia where Aboriginal children, sometimes referred to as the Stolen Generation, were removed from their families and placed into internment camps, orphanages and other institutions. A similar term, Baby Scoop Era refers to the period in United States history starting after the end of World War II and ending in 1972,[17] characterized by an increased rate of pre-marital pregnancies over the preceding period, along with a higher rate of forced adoption[18].

References

  1. ^ Johnston, Patrick (1983). Native Children and the Child Welfare System. Publisher: Canadian Council on Social Development. Ottawa, Ontario
  2. ^ CBC Radio (March 12, 1983) “Stolen generations” Program: Our Native Land. Broadcast Date: March 12, 1983. http://archives.cbc.ca/programs/535-16036/page/1/
  3. ^ Lyons, T. (2000). “Stolen Nation,” in Eye Weekly, January 13, 2000. Toronto Star Newspapers Limited.
  4. ^ Reder, Deanna. (2007). Indian re ACT(ions). For Every ACTion – There’s a Reaction. First Nations Studies Learning Object Model. University of British Columbia
  5. ^ Philp, Margaret (2002). “The Land of Lost Children”, The Globe and Mail, Saturday, December 21, 2002, http://www.fact.on.ca/news/news0212/gm021221a.htm
  6. ^ Crey, Ernie, & Fournier, Suzanne (1998). Stolen From Our Embrace. The Abduction of First Nations Children and the Restoration of Aboriginal Communities. D&M Publishers Inc. ISBN 978-1-55054-661-3 Winner of the BC Book Prize Hubert-Evans Prize for Non-Fiction
  7. ^ Lyons, T. (2000). “Stolen Nation,” in Eye Weekly, January 13, 2000. Toronto Star Newspapers Limited. http://www.cuckoografik.org/trained_tales/orp_pages/news/news5.html
  8. ^ Kimelman, Edwin (1984). File Review Report. Report of the Review Committee on Indian and Métis Adoptions and Placements. Winnipeg: Manitoba Community Services.
  9. ^ Chiefs of Ontario – UPDATE Preparation for Special Chiefs Assembly. 60s Scoop Litigation. Downloaded from http://www.nanlegal.on.ca/upload/documents/coo-60s-scoop-litigation-update-final.pdf
  10. ^ “Former CAS wards seek billions in lawsuit” Wawatay News, July 22, 2010, Volume 37, No. 15. http://www.wawataynews.ca/node/20094
  11. ^ Fournier, Suzanne (2011). “B.C. natives sue federal government for millions over ‘Sixties’ Scoop’.” The Vancouver Sun, May 31, 2011. Postmedia News.
  12. ^ CBC Radio Archives (Print Edition, March 16, 2011). “Stolen Generations” http://archives.cbc.ca/version_print.asp?page=1&IDLan=1&IDClip=16036
  13. ^ “Lawsuit filed for ‘Sixties Scoop’ kids,” The Victoria Times-Colonist, Wednesday, June 1, 2011, http://www.timescolonist.com/life/Lawsuit+filed+Sixties+Scoop+kids/4872693/story.html Accessed 1 June 2011.
  14. ^ Reder, Deanna. (2007). Indian reACT(ions). For Every ACTion – There’s a Reaction. First Nations Studies Learning Object Model. University of British Columbia
  15. ^ Lyons, T. (2000). “Stolen Nation,” in Eye Weekly, January 13, 2000. Toronto Star Newspapers Limited.
  16. ^ The Vancouver Sun, May 31, 2011. Postmedia News.
  17. ^ The Baby Scoop Era Research Initiative
  18. ^ Fessler, A. (2006). The Girls Who Went Away; The Hidden History of Women Who Surrendered Children for Adoption in the Decades Before Roe v. Wade. New York: Penguin Press. ISBN 1-59420-094-7

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“Adoption Ethics” is a Contradiction in Terms

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This  post was prompted by a thread on an adoption-related discussion board this morning.  I wanted to share it here, because even though my thoughts on adoption and ethics might be known by my regular readers, some of my new readers may appreciate a summary.

“Adoption ethics” is a contradiction in terms.

Why?  Because as long as adoption contains falsified birth records, coercion, reproductive exploitation, human rights abuse, and fraud, it is NOT ethical in the slightest.   But one has to back up and examine the elements which constitute child adoption in order to see this.   The only reason that most people accept modern day adoption and so few have questioned it is because or a long time it has been all around us as an accepted part of society.   But, the same once held with domestic violence and child abuse (anyone else remember “Spare the rod and spoil the child’?).   And, just like these ethically unacceptable acts, reproductive exploitation and coercion happens behind closed doors.  But society can change.

Adoption, as it was invented in 1851 and practised ever since, has been institutionalized in Western nations in such a way that these following elements are inherent to it:

  1. Falsified birth records: Fabrication of a legal lie that the people who are adopting gave birth to the child.  Forbidding the mother from filling out a birth record.  In any other situation, intentional fabrication of a federal or state government record is a felony offence.
  2. Coercion — See the “Coercion checklist,” “Open Adoption:  They knew it would work,”  “Proof of Coercion in the Industry’s Own Words“, etc.”   Coercion is ANY method that is intentionally employed in order to increase the percentage chance that the mother will surrender her baby.  Includes pre-birth matching, separation of mother and baby at or near birth.  To get an idea of what constitutes coercion, compare practices pre-adoption industry (1930s, 1940s) to practices once the Post-WWII adoption industry arose.  Compare to practices in the U.K. (e.g. mother has 6 wks protection post-birth to recover and experience motherhood before signing) and Australia.  The Trackers International survey of 1000 natural mothers found that 98% had been pressured to surrender their babies.  That means only 2% who were NOT coerced!
  3. Fraud: Withholding vital information from the mother regarding social services and financial support that would have enabled her to keep her baby, withholding information or blatantly lying to her about the devastating emotional consequences of surrender for most mothers, convincing her that she is unworthy of keeping her baby and that the adoptive family are perfect and almost “heaven-sent.”  Convincing her that parenting is overwhelming and that she is emotionally or financially  incapable of doing it.
  4. Human Rights Abuse: Many articles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, but especially Article 25, which guarantees mothers the support and resources they need to keep their babies, and in effect guarantees babies the support and resources they need to keep their mothers! Also the recent guidelines for substitute care of the child published by the General Assembly in 2009..  We are ALL human beings. We are not dogs or pond scum.  To treat us like animals, like livestock, is act of violence aganst the inherent dignity and personhood of each one of us.
  5. Reproductive exploitation : Just as bad as sexual exploitaiton.  Why should it be considered any better, any more excusable?
  6. Human Trafficking (Baby Selling):   Adoption is an industry that thrives because baby brokers profit from the exchange in human flesh.  This is no different from slavery, where people “paid for” human beings to work as labourers for them.  Similarly, in adoption, people “pay for” human beings to act as “offspring”  for them.  Children sell up for $50,000 or more, and this pricing does depend on race:  white children are “worth more” than children of colour.   Check out an online price-list (there are many) for buying yourself a child, where babies are euphemistically called “situations”:

“The following are a few situations available to our clients from the agencies we work with:
“African American baby boy due Oct. 5 in UT. Agency fees are 16K plus medical.
“Caucasian/African American baby girl due Oct. 17 in UT. Agency fees are 22,500 plus medical.
“Caucasian/African American baby boy due in Oct. Agency fees are 26,500 plus 4K in assistance to mom.
” Caucasian baby boy due Jan. 11 Agency fees are 30,500 plus medical”

Gee, in case #4 the mother even gets a cut of the profits!

The United Nations has even reacted with alarm over the sale of babies:

“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” (p. 25, 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.“).

It is my serious opinion that adoption is SO flawed that it is impossible to reform.  That is why I do not believe in “adoption reform.”   What we need, instead, are laws that protect mothers and children from exploitation and coercion, from babies being sold like loaves of bread.   We need provisions that are based on ethics, not on exploitation for profit.

Shortlink to this post:  http://wp.me/p9tLn-ju

They admit it was illegal!

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I have always said that the theft of my baby was an illegal adoption.  No adoption could be legal when it begins with an abduction, a baby being taken from a tied-down mother against her will, withheld from her forever more from that point, the choice to keep her baby robbed from her, the “decision” of adoption made by others but not herself.

So, in Western Australia, exiled mothers are going to receive an apology from the government for exactly the same practices that myself and tens of thousands of young and unwed Canadian mothers endured!

I will include the full article here, because I do not want readers to have to surf over to second site to see what I am talking about.

Of course, an apology does not make up for the fact that criminal acts and human rights violations were committed. For that, IMHO, the perpetrators should be brought to justice.  There should be recompense for the victims, and the people who illegally obtained children for adoption purposes (the sole reason WHY these crimes were committed, to supply the market for healthy white infants wanted by infertile people who were deemed to deserve our children more than WE were!) should be treated in the exact same way as anyone in possession of stolen property.  But an apology if it is actually an admission of guilt, is a good first step.

Unmarried mums get State apology

DANIEL EMERSON, The West Australian September 1, 2010, 6:32 am

The State’s apology to unmarried mothers illegally separated from their babies under harsh adoption practices is set to happen within weeks.

WA is to become the first State or Federal government worldwide to admit hospital and welfare authorities were wrong to immediately separate mothers from their babies after giving birth out of wedlock. Mothers from around Australia keen to hear the apology have been told it will be delivered in Parliament on October 19.

Experts say tens of thousands of WA babies were adopted illegally when their unmarried mothers were prevented from seeing, touching, naming or bonding with their children immediately after birth between the 1940s and the early 1980s.

Health Minister Kim Hames said the exact format of the apology was still being finalised but it would be “to unmarried mothers of adopted children who were adversely affected by past adoption practices”.

Christine Cole, of the NSW-based Apology Alliance, said it was also important for the Government to say sorry to the children taken. “They were denied their family of origin and the culture of that family,” she said.

Lies the Adoption Industry Tells …

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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:

  1. All families, both adoptive and natural, are the exact same.
  2. 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.
  3. The child needs only you and not the love of their natural parents.
  4. Environment is everything – the child is a blank slate (“tabula rasa”) – all the chid’s skills and aspirations will be yours.
  5. Rest assured that the natural family can never search because the records are sealed tight.
  6. 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.
  7. This child is unwanted, the mother will never return.
  8. If loved enough, this child will never want to search.
  9. Adoptees will never feel hurt by being taken from their natural parents; love from adoptive parents will solve everything.
  10. “The Primal Wound” is a myth.
  11. This is a lifetime guarantee.

Lies the Industry tells to Expectant Mothers:

  1. 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
  2. Adoption shows you loved your child enough to give him/her two parents.
  3. You are not giving him away, you are giving him “more.”
  4. Children need two married parents.
  5. You will get over it and forget your child.
  6. You may feel “a type of grief’ but it will go away.
  7. Young and Unwed = unfit.
  8. The grief is resolvable.  Only flawed women or those who “cling to the past” can’t resolve the grief.
  9. 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.
  10. Keeping your child will involve more pain, struggle, and sacrifice than surrendering him/her.

Lies that the industry tells to adoptees:

  1. Your mother chose adoption.
  2. Your mother “gave you away.”
  3. Your mother does not love you.
  4. You only need your adoptive parents.
  5. 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.
  6. Searching is disloyal and will hurt your adoptive parents

Lies that the industry tells to society:

  1. Infant adoption is natural (false. it’s a relative recent (last 150 years) social experiment)
  2. Adoptive families are exactly like natural families, with no problems at all specific to adoption.
  3. Raising an adopted child is like raising a child of your own.
  4. Infant adoption has been common since Babylonian types (false. adult adoption was common but NOT infant adoption – infants were fostered but seldom legally adopted)
  5. 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.

“Birthmothers” as Incubators

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(Originally posted as a page on Facebook, I wanted to share it with my blog readers here as well.)

Before the term ‘birthmother” was coined, a mother who had given birth to a child was called that child’s natural mother. It was accepted that the mother was a mother by the laws of nature. The myth that adoption was any sort of “ancient” or “natural” act was not as prevalent as today. The truth, that child adoption is a modern legal convention invented in 1851, was not hidden or forgotten. It was accepted that mothers who had lost children to adoption still had an emotional, familial, and social connection to that child and there was no attempt to hide this fact.

The term ‘birthmother” is part of the “Respectful Adoption Language’ terminology set that was invented by the adoption industry in the mid 1970s. It may have been “coined” in 1956 by adoptive parent and adoption promoter Pearl S. Buck, but it was further developed and formally defined by adoptive parent and baby broker Marietta Spencer with the Children’s Home Society of Minnesota. And its meaning is clear: that we are no longer mothers (emotionally, socially, or legally) to the children we surrendered for adoption. That the sole parent and mother of our lost child is the woman who adopted our baby.

Spencer (1979) defines a birth parent as being a “non-parent” by use of  numerous examples in her article which validate the sole parenthood of adoptive parents after the adoption of a child, implying that no emotional or familial connection remains between members of the pre-existing family.

“For biological parents, a clear semantic separation … may be helpful in grasping the important fact that their child will no longer be occupying a role of family membership in the kinship group … appropriate language stresses the severance of both moral and legal obligations and emphasizes that there can be no social or emotional role expectations” (Spencer, 1979, p. 456)

Spencer (1980) goes on to state,

“An adoptive mother becomes the child’s parent through the transfer of parental rights.  Although she can never become the child’s birth or biological parent, socially, functionally, and finally she does the permanent mothering of the child.  In terms of the time continuum, she is the successor to the biological mother (p. 27).

Granting sole motherhood to the adoptive mother as the child’s only female parent (in the case of opposite-sex parents adopting)  eliminates the original mother from any claim, either singular or joint, to this title.

Those who raise and nurture a child are his parents:  his mother, father…” (Johnston, 2004)

So there is a “role expectation” placed upon us by the adoption agencies, adoption lawyers and other baby brokers (businesses and agencies that provide babies to prospective adopters for a price). No grief, no pain, no loss — nothing “lasting” anyway. Adoption loss as a one-time event, not a traumatic loss that continues on and on for the entire life of the mother and child.

Being “birthmothers,” we’re not supposed to have any feelings for, or emotional connection with, the children whom we lost to adoption.

“… those women who gave into the pressures suffer in a way the others will (mercifully) never know. For the saddest and most horrifying aspect of adoption is the amount of emotional damage inflicted upon the natural mother. To call her the ‘birth mother’ instead of the ‘natural mother’ allows her only the physical birth and denies her those feelings she wasn’t supposed to have.” — Death by Adoption, Joss Shawyer, Cicada Press (1979), page 62.

I always loved the son I was forced to surrender for adoption. I never wanted to lose him. I never “chose” the adoption “option” because I was given no chance of choosing — to have such a choice, a mother needs to recover from birth first with her baby PLUS have access to the resources she requires in order to raise her baby in a safe, secure, and healthy environment (which is her basic human right). If I were to call myself a “birthmother,” I would be denying that I had any feelings for him after his birth. I would be denying that we are related as family. I would be diminishing my role in his life to being only that of a willing gestator. In fact, Spencer also provides the terms “gestational parent,” “prenatal parent,” and “biological stranger” as synonyms for the term ‘birthmother.”

Am I a “birthmother”? No, because I am still a mother to the son I lost to adoption. It’s as simple as that.

References:

  • Johnston, P. I. (2004).  Speaking positively: Using respectful adoption language.  Indianapolis, IN:  Perspectives Press.
  • Spencer, M. (1979). The terminology of adoption. Child Welfare, 58(7), 451-459.
  • Spencer, M. (1980).  Understanding adoption as a family building option. Boulder, CO:  Adoption Builds Families.

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Why adoption is how it is

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Child adoption, as it currently exists in Western law, was first created in an 1851 statute in the state of Massachusetts to deal primarily with the social welfare problem of poverty and “unwanted and unloved children.” At the time, social welfare reformists were looking for a solution to the problem of poverty: work-houses, orphans on the street who were in danger of exploitation, and rapid population growth in-part due to birth control prohibitions and legalized marital rape.

“Its illegitimate origins, its birth in the workhouse, so to speak, has been another adoption secret and is usually omitted from official genealogies of adoption” (O’ Shaughnessy, pp. 68-69).

Child adoption was considered a “progressive” social policy at the time, and other states and countries (the U.K., Australia, Canada, etc.) soon passed their own similar laws. By the 1930s, almost every Western jurisdiction had some form of adoption law.

That child adoption is a modern invention is often a surprise to people who believe that it has existed since time immemorial. The fact, however, is that it was relatively rare and legally limited throughout history, and while it has been common practice throughout history for children to be fostered, legal adoption in most nations and situations was usually reserved for adult males to adopt other adult males for inheritance purposes.

As opposed to fostering or legal guardianship, adoption involves a complete legal severing of all legally recognized family relationships (“filiation”), inheritance rights, and parental rights. Before the 20th century, with high child mortality rates being the norm worldwide, adopting an adult to be a legal heir was a much surer bet.

One example of this distinction between fostering and adoption is the case of Moses in Jewish and Christian religious tradition, for whom a strong argument can be made that he was fostered, not adopted. At no time were his birth records changed to indicate that an Egyptian princess was the mother who had given birth to him, nor were his legal ties and legal family relationship with his Hebrew family severed. Aaron remained recognized as his brother, and Jochebed as his mother..

There was also little demand for adoption prior to WWII, as the historical norm up until the 20th century was for women to marry in their middle to late teens and began their reproductive careers long before the progressive and inevitable decline in fertility due to age. Thus, the late 20th century “infertility epidemic” did not exist.

Adoption laws since then have not changed significantly since they began a century and a half ago, other than to close and seal original birth records in most jurisdictions and issue new official birth records falsely stating that the adoptive parents gave birth to the child (beginning in the 1920s and going onwards). Other minor changes have included gradual elimination of inheritance rights from natural parents, modifications to the legal process of surrender, and a few jurisdictions that have re-opened their records again under highly restrictive circumstances. None of these changes affected or questioned the underlying assumptions on which adoption was founded.

But adoption as a legal and social institute assumes that the child is unloved and unwanted, or that the parent is devastatingly unfit. That’s the social problem adoption was created to address. No matter how one fancies it up, this is the reason behind it. Find a home for an unloved and unwanted child.

And adoption would likely have stayed this way except that after WWII, the interest in adopting newborns grew. In part because the emergence of social work as a profession defined unwed mothers as neurotics who could be “cured” with separation from their babies, and defined the unhappiness and “empty homes” of childless couples as an equally important social problem to address. Add to this mix the rise of J. B. Watson’s behaviorist psychology (“Give me a dozen healthy infants, well-formed, and my own specified world to bring them up in and I’ll guarantee to take any one at random and train him to become any type of specialist I might select … regardless of his talents, penchants, tendencies, abilities, vocations, and race of his ancestors.“) which left the former universal belief in “bad blood” in the dust, and a market demand for newborns emerged.

And on it went. But adoption laws still assume that the mother and father do not love or want their baby. Read almost any state or provincial adoption statute and it is evident that the law is built upon the assumption of complete legal and emotional cut-off from the original family. The complete absence of the natural family from legal statutes after the surrender has taken place reflects the assumption that this family has no continuing interest in the welfare of their lost child. The loving mother’s interest in the continuing welfare of her child, her love for her child, and the mother-child bond forged during nine months in the womb, are all assumed to not exist.

And, tragically, moms who love and want their babies, and assume that a continuing connection will be guaranteed through open adoption (as the industry began to promised them as it worked to persuade more moms to hand over their babies), get caught in the middle. Those who buy the promotional hype that “Adoption is the Loving Option” and surrender their babies on this assumption find out the hard way to their surprise that they are suddenly judged by both the law and by society to be “heartless abandoners,“as one adoptee so eloquently put it.

Is it any wonder that many (most?) adoptees feel abandoned and/or rejected on some level?

One hundred and fifty seven years of continuity in adoption law is not going to change any time soon. Especially because the underlying legal principle that adoption was founded on (child abandonment) is never questioned by politicians or society in general. And especially as adoption is now used by child protection departments to “save” children from parents who have been judged unfit and abusive in a court of law.

It is a tragedy that we who are natural mothers of adopted children got caught in this trap, of believing what we were told by adoption industry workers: that adoption was what it wasn’t (loving) and would provide what it legally can’t guarantee (a lifetime of happiness for our child and a continuing connection with us). We were sold a bill of goods. Adoption was created to provide homes for “children with no parents,” abandoned children, and unwanted children. In essence, it is a form of legalized abandonment. No matter how you dress it up, this fact will always remain.

But if you are an 18 year old mother, lying there in your hospital bed with your precious and much-loved baby in your arms, the facilitator and the “waiting parents” standing there wanting you to hurry up and sign the papers, has anyone told you any of this? You are but one signature away from signing into a system that assumes your baby is unloved, unwanted, and to being willingly abandoned into another family’s hands.

Recommended Reading:

  • Brace, Charles Loring. (1872). “The Life of the Street Rat,s” an excerpt from The Dangerous Classes of New York and Twenty Years’ Work Among Them.
  • O’ Shaughnessy, T. (1999). Adoption, Social Work and Social Theory : Making the Connections. Ashgate Publishing, Limited, ISBN 1-85628-883-8.
  • Practice Committee of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine. (Nov. 2006). “Aging and Infertility.” Fertility and Sterility, Vol 86, Supplement 4.
  • Samuels, Elizabeth J. (2001). “The Idea of Adoption: An Inquiry Into the History of Adult Adoptee Access to Birth Records” Rutgers Law Review #367.
  • Solinger, R. (2000). Wake Up Little Susie: Single Pregnancy and Race Before Roe v. Wade. New York: Routledge. ISBN: 0-41592-676-9.

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