adoption in Canada

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

External links

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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.

“Bastardized” via adoption?

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I have to admit, I feel very uncomfortable with the word “bastard.”   Mainly because it originated as a derogatory term used for children born out of wedlock and I feel strongly that any form of discrimination against a person due to their circumstances of birth  is reprehensible.  Even if the term “bastard” has come to mean  “jerk” or “impolite/rude/inconsiderate [male] person”  — or even sometimes serving as a humorous term of endearment/admiration for someone who has managed to come out ahead of the game (“Hey, you know Bob?  He won the lottery last week — that bastard!”) —  I still refrain from using it even in casual conversation.  And if I do “slip up” and say it, I feel a small pang of something (guilt?).

Having said, that, I have a huge amount of respect for adoptees such members of Bastard Nation, and bloggers such as Bastardette and Bastard Granny Annie and Ungrateful Little Bastard, for proudly taking ownership of the term and using it for their own purposes, and in doing so are removing some of the stigma from it.  Good for them!

But this post is not about the term, it is about the stigma that is still attached to the birth of children outside of marriage.  You can see this in figures quoted in newspapers, about how it is a measurement of the “social ills” in society.  You can hear it in the derogatory words thrown at single, young mothers on buses, at least where I live. And the “campaign against teen pregnancy” that assumes that all young mothers are not only irresponsible monsters but are unwed.

I personally knew the shock when I met a woman in 1990 who had also given birth at age 17 in Canada, but had been allowed to keep her baby — the hospital did not abduct her baby at birth — the difference was that she was married!!

… And having to wear my grandma’s wedding ring whenever I left the wage home to go anywhere.

… and when I found out 24 years after the fact that my father had phoned my son’s father around the time of the birth of my son and asked him if he would do the right thing and marry me (Grandma Maxwell told my son about this one).  I guess, that was the condition on which they would allow me to keep my baby.

… and being a single mother giving birth in a hospital in many places in Canada will still prompt a social worker visit while you are still in hospital, questioning your motherhood and your right to raise your baby, giving you adoption pamphlets and asking “How do you intend to support this child?”

But getting back to the stigma that in many places still surrounds having a baby outside of marriage, it is interesting about the double-standard that surrounds adoption.

Question:   Given that it is such a social crime to give birth to a baby outside of marriage that the child is termed a “bastard”:   What about a child who was born to a married couple, surrendered (perhaps due to poverty — this is happening all the time) then adopted by a single person (male or female)?   That person was not born “illegitimate. ”  The modern child adoption system that was invented in 1851 makes a child “As If Born To” the person who has adopted them.  So, does that child become “illegitimate,” and hence a “bastard”?   If not, then why not?

Only in adoption is there a paradox that a single mother “deserves” to adopt a child —  but a child *born* outside of marriage is “illegitimate” and the mother is deemed not to deserve her own child.

Why is it is okay to adopt as a single mother, BUT if you dare to give birth to a child outside of marriage, that child is called a “bastard” and the mother vilified???   The woman who adopts is put onto a pedestal while the mother who has given birth is considered by the same people to be inherently irresponsible and potentially unfit?   Being unwed is still considered to be “just reason” to surrender a child, or imply to a mother that she should surrender her child (“Have you considered adoption?”).  Books on “how to adopt” advise prospective adopters to, in public places, approach pregnant women who do not have wedding rings, to hand them “adoption cards.”   To imply that the people who want to adopt deserve her baby more than she does.

An interesting double standard.

~ ~ ~

Postscript:  I want to recommend a related blog post, about how some mothers are condemned while others are honoured:  “The Right Kind of Mother: Intersections of Race and Class and Choice

Origins Canada – check it out! :)

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I’m absolutely thrilled to share a very special link with you, the new Origins Canada website:

Origins Canada: Supporting Those Separated by Adoption

http://www.originscanada.org/

Open Records: Congratulations to Ontario!

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Congratulations to all Ontario residents who have lost family members to adoption: Adoption records opened in your province on June 1st!

But deep sympathy for those who are affected by vetoes that prevent them from obtaining the records that belong to them. Vetoes are based on fear and denial. I am not saying this in a derogatory way at all as I work in the mental health field, but vetoes are invariably filed by people who — instead of filing a veto — should actually see a counsellor, perhaps with family members, to help them deal with the issues that are causing them to feel they need “protecting” from other family members.

Adoptees often file vetoes to “protect” the people who adopted them from feeling “threatened.” A family counsellor could help the adoptive family to get over these feelings and fear and embrace the reunion experience. A registered clinical counsellor or family therapist could enable the adoptive parents to learn that the sales-pitch they were given by the adoption agency, of being “the only parents,” is not only impossible to guarantee, but also in most cases a fabrication (e.g., the original mother did NOT willingly abandon her baby and her motherhood and still feels love for her lost child, mother and child are still connected by a deep blood-bond and genealogy), and is false advertising of a promise that the adoptee has NO obligation to try to fulfill.

Natural parents can enlist the aid of of a family counsellor or marriage counsellor to help them break the news to a husband, wife, or children, that they have another son or daughter out there. This information will NOT destroy a marriage. But we as natural mothers were told that NO man would marry us if he found out about our “shame” (I was even told repeatedly by my mother that no man would marry a non-virgin!). After all, that is why our parents and the pressure of society incarcerated us into maternity “homes” — to hide our pregnancy from society and release us again as “born again virgins.” I know myself how hard it is to tell. My three younger children were only told about their eldest sibling about 5 months into our reunion — it took me that long to get the courage, and I still expected the worst. Our families rejected us when we got pregnant out of wedlock — so of course we expect the same reaction from our present families. But this fear is unfounded.

BUT did you know that natural mothers were NEVER promised confidentiality? The social workers, maternity prisons, and those who had power over us not only knew while they were stripping us of our rights to our child and many of our human rights, that not only did the adoptive parents receive copies of our records including our and our child’s full names, but also that records were NOT sealed upon the surrender of the child but upon the legal adoption court order being granted to the adoptive parents! The purpose of sealed records was NOT to protect us, but to protect the adoptive family *from* us. So do not let anyone lie to you about “birthmother confidentiality.” It is truly a myth.

“Secrecy in adoption probably has its roots in a desire to protect the child from interference from the biological parents and to hide the often illegitimate circumstances of the child’s origins.” – Ministry of Community and Social Services Report by the Committee on Record Disclosure to Adoptees (1976)

I admit, I have heard of one natural mother who was in favour of closed records. But the reason why was that she had also adopted and did not want her adopted children to find out that she was “on par with” their lowly slutty incubators (as she saw their natural parents as being). This is not the type of woman who needs protecting. What she needs is therapy.

So, good for you, Ontario, for opening your records. Next task: to eliminate the veto provisions.

“The legal system ordinarily makes no attempt to write out of existence, by sealing records or other such mechanisms, the various parental figures who walk out of their children’s lives, such as the divorced parent who relinquishes custody. It is only in regulating adoptive family — families formed in the absence of any blood link – that the government feels that it has to seal records as to figuratively destroy the existance of the famiy that is linked by blood.” (Yngvasson, p. 44).

As an addition, as with all my posts, I invite your feedback. If you have an interesting story or point of view regarding vetoes, please comment.

More information: Origins Canada page on Open Records In Ontario

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.

Copyright 2009 Cedar Bradley. All rights reserved.

February 20, 1980

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… a seventeen year old with no-one to talk to and no-one who would listen to me.

… parents are 62 and 61 years old … small town Prairie mentality and Fundamentalist beliefs.

… internment in a wage home once I began “showing,” hiding my growing belly to protect my parents from the shame of “what would the neighbours and relatives say?”

… being shamed by my parents into wearing my grandma’s wedding ring to hide my shameful “unwed” status from the world.

… a week of false labour.

… my parents dropping me off at the hospital slightly past midnight, and the nurses telling them to leave. Being put on a gurney and given a sleeping pill to sleep, then put into a closet for the night. Lights on. The pain was strong and the sleeping pill did nothing for me. Awake all night. Alone.

… strapped down to a bed with a fetal monitor wrapped around my stomach. Another one screwed into his scalp.

… my mother coming in the afternoon to sit with me, acting ashamed, never showing concern or affection.

… screaming in pain … and being told by nurses to shut up.

… nauseated and disoriented from the straight Demerol injections that did nothing for the pain

… a doctor telling the intern that he had given me too much Demerol.

… 18 hours of labour with no food or water

… wheeled down the hallway

… climbing  onto the narrow delivery table,  as flat as an ironing board, my arms strapped down with leather straps, feet up in stirrups.

… trying to push out a baby  against gravity, not having slept for 36 hours … not having eaten for 24 hours … overwhelming pain.

… episiotomy sliced down with a deep 4-inch-long cut, without anaesthesia … sewn up again without adequate anaesthesia.  Permanent nerve damage.

… sheet put up in front of my face to prevent me from seeing him as he was born and whisked from the room, abducted.

… given a shot and waking up 18 hours later in a ward far far from the maternity ward and nursery, other end of the hospital, different floor.

… a huge huge sense of loss.

… my breasts bound up to prevent lactation.

… unable to walk for 2 days after.

… not allowed to see or hold my baby. Never being told I had the right to. No lawyers to explain to me that i had *any* rights at all. No nurse brought him to me

… finally allowed to look at him for about 5 minutes  in the nursery several days later, watched over by hawk-like nurses to prevent me from picking him up. I was not welcome there.  Seeing him confirmed for me what I already knew: that I loved him beyond all measure. I wanted to keep him.

….  a woman who had surrendered a baby 2 months prior being sent in to convince me to “do the right thing.”

… forbidden by parents from taking my baby home.

… never told about welfare or any other way to keep him.  At age 17 from a small farming town and a sheltered upbringing, I had no idea even what ‘welfare’ was.

… the social wrecker telling  me to sign or he’d be in foster care until I ‘decided’ to. Telling me that the children of unwed mothers grow up to be criminals.  Lying to me that I would “move on.” No informed consent, no other options, no choice.

I wanted to keep my baby. I was capable. I was never given the chance or the choice.

This is adoption. This was coercion.  I was nothing more than a convenient uterus to them, to take away another baby for adoption.This was done to thousands of unwed mothers across Canada for thirty years, until about 1988. There is nothing “voluntary” about “voluntary surrender.” A coerced “decision” is not a decision at all.