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.
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:
A literature review was recently done on a collection of peer-reviewed journal articles on natural mothers published between 1978 and 2008. The results of this literature review were published as part of a masters thesis on trauma and are reprinted here with permission of the author.
In this literature review, 98 articles were identified, and 91 of them obtained. The author did a thematic analysis of the articles, using grounded theory to identify the themes present in these articles. Nine themes were identified, including search and reunion, the surrender experience, open adoption relationships, and advice for professionals. But there were two main themes in this literature that were found to be above and beyond all others in terms of frequency. I am going to quote directly from the thesis:
” There were found to be two main themes in literature on natural mothers. These can be viewed as two “streams” of research, as the articles within a stream mainly refer to other work and prior research within that one stream. The first stream (43 articles) examines the consequences of surrender on the mother. The second stream (32 articles) examines factors that may predict and/or influence rates of surrender, often stating with concern that surrender rates have declined significantly and should be increased. The latter stream contains three main sub-themes: factors (socio-demographic, educational, attitudinal, familial, or economic) that distinguish mothers who surrender their babies from mothers who keep their babies, surveys to determine what would encourage expectant mothers to consider adoption, and comparisons of differing agency practices and their effects on surrender rates.”
Let’s come to the point and put it into more concrete terms: These 32 articles are on how to take babies.
The author of this thesis provides a list of some of these articles (below, reprinted with permission). So, seeing these, how can anyone believe that a “decision” about adoption is free from influence, coercion, or manipulation? When agencies have 30 years worth of research on how to increase the likelihood a mother will surrender her child, is she really making an informed decision completely of her own free will?
|Bachrach, Stolley, & London (1992)||Analysis – how demographic/economic/social trends affect and predict future surrender rates, plus factors distinguishing mothers who surrender from those who don’t.|
|Baran, Pannor, & Sorosky (1976)||Results from a focus group on how to increase adoption: Open adoption can persuade single mothers to surrender.|
|Barth (1987)||Research on adolescent girls and mothers: how to make adoption more appealing. Recommends open adoption as a way to encourage more adolescent mothers to surrender.|
|Berry (1991, 1993)||Study on effects of open adoption on family members and relationships. Suggests that open adoption can benefit adoptive parents by enticing more mothers to surrender.|
|Caragata (1999)||Examines teen pregnancy as an economic problem.’ Suggests open adoption to entice more mothers to surrender, that adoption should be “restructured,” and that meeting with prospective adopters might prevent a mother from “changing her mind”|
|Chippendale-Bakker & Foster (1996)||Studies of what demographic/economic/social factors distinguish mothers who surrender from those who don’t.|
|Cocozelli (1989)||Research – what situational variables predict surrender rates. plus factors distinguishing mothers who surrender from those who don’t (life plans, social worker visits, sign consent before delivery)|
|Custer (1993)||Research on influencing attitudes, beliefs and decision-making about adoption among pregnant adolescents. Found that deterrents to surrender include: fear of harm to baby, social disapproval, feeling that it shows lack of responsibility, lack of knowledge of benefits, “failure of professionals to actively initiate discussion of adoption with clients,” and anticipated psychological discomfort. Suggests that these issues be actively addressed in “social programs and political interventions.”|
|Daly (1994)||Research on adolescents to find out what keeps them from considering adoption. Recommends agencies do educational and public relations programs to explain the benefits of adoption, promote open adoption, and conduct face-to-face outreach programs to adolescents.|
|Donnelly & Voydanoff (1991)||Research on pregnant adolescents and new mothers: attitudes, demographics, relationships, experiences, and perceptions of early pregnancy distinguishing mothers who surrender from those who don’t. Suggests programs to present benefits and “promote positive attitudes towards adoption” as those who surrender have more positive attitudes than those who don’t.|
|Dworkin, Harding, & Schreiber (1993)||Research on pregnant adolescents, regarding how adoption knowledge, social/psychological functioning, familial influences (grandmother and father of baby), and demographics correlate with surrender rates.|
|Geber & Resnick (1988)||Research on family functioning, cohesion and adaptability differences between parenters vs. surrenderers using “FACES II” questionnaire.|
|Hanson (1990)||Research on factors distinguishing mothers who surrender from those who don’t, to recommend early intervention based on those figures, especially to get mothers “who might exhibit poor parenting styles” to surrender.|
|Herr (1989)||Research study on maternity home inmates to examine what affected their decision most: parents, “decision counseling,” and peer role models who are parenting.|
|Kallen, Griffore, Popovich, & Powell (1990)||Research study on attitudes towards adoption and open adoption in mothers who surrendered, mothers who don’t, and their own mothers. .|
|Kalmuss, Namerow, & Bauer (1992)||Research study on socio-demographics, family, education differences of mothers who surrender vs. those who don’t. Plus 6-month outcomes on life satisfaction, outlook, relationships, etc.|
|Leon (1999)||Instructions to physicians on treating surrendering mothers, including how to promote adoption to pregnant mothers.|
|Low, Moely, & Willis (1989)||Research factors distinguishing mothers who surrender from those who do not, in terms of parental influence and vocational goals.|
|Miller & Coyl (2000)||Analysis of how demographic/economic/social trends affect and predict future surrender rates, plus factors distinguishing mothers who surrender from those who don’t.|
|Moore & Davidson (2002)||Socio-psychological influences (family background, peers), cognitive functions, beliefs, and decision-making in pregnant adolescents, to determine how to best influence decision-making processes as part of “adoption education” of adolescents and promoting “more reasoned choices” (i.e. adoption) for pregnant teens|
|Namerow, Kalmuss, & Cushman (1993)||Research on what social, demographic, beliefs, and attitudinal factors influenced the pregnancy decision.|
|Resnick (1984)||Overview/analysis of research on decision-making and what distinguishes mothers who surrender from those who keep. Mentions sociological, psychological, factors.|
|Resnick, Blum, Bose, Smith, & Toogood (1990)||Studies of demographic/economic/social factors distinguishing mothers who surrender from those who don’t, including their views on adoption vs. parenting vs. abortion.|
|Sobol & Daly (1992)||Overview and summary of the literature and findings: Factors influencing adolescents’ decisions about adoption. How to get more babies surrendered: Promote open adoption; make surrender easier; encourage pregnancy counsellors to suggest adoption; and present more “options” to make adoption more attractive.|
|Warren & Johnson (1989)||Research on factors distinguishing mothers who surrender from those who don’t.|
|Weinman, Robinson, Simmons, Schreiber, & Stafford (1989)||Research on mothers who initially planned to surrender but then decided to keep their babies: decision-making process, demographic/psycho-social and health differences, and treatment plans.|
|Weir (2000)||Research on what familial, developmental and peer barriers might prevent mothers from surrendering, and suggests how to remove them through group and family therapy.|
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:
- 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.
- 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!
- 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.
- 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.
- Reproductive exploitation : Just as bad as sexual exploitaiton. Why should it be considered any better, any more excusable?
- 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
Unfortunately, due to it increasing the chance that a mother will surrender her baby*, the practice has grown in North America to allow prospective adoptive parents to track down and try to convince expectant mothers (whom they call ‘birthmothers”) to give up their babies.
Or, at least that is what it looks like. A “Dear Birthmother” letter could be seen as saying “Choose us over other people hoping to adopt!“, but, unfortunately, first and foremost the message it gives is “Choose us over yourself! We are better for your baby than YOU are! See how loving and perfect we are? We have everything your baby needs.” Whether the prospective adoptive parents mean to give this message or not, it is there.
So, unfortunately, the whole issue of “profiles” and “dear birthmother letters” is rife with ethical land mines
An expectant mother who is considering adoption and is feeling very emotionally insecure, inadequate, and scared may — instead of getting support and counselling to help her overcome these problems — may see the prospective adoptive couple’s “Profile” and think “Wow, they’d be better parents than i would.” or “My baby doesn’t deserve me, he deserves a family like this.” or “They want a baby so badly, I shouldn’t be selfish.” So, reading “dear birthmother” letters and seeing profiles combined with raging pregnancy hormones can actually influence a mother’s decision regarding adoption. This is where it gets ethically sticky.
Plus, can the mother really recover from birth first before deciding on adoption if she has formed a loving bond with people hoping to adopt her child?
Paul Meding, a Columbia attorney who has been taking adoption cases for 12 years, works as a medium to match birth mothers with adoptive parents. For Meding, this process has been successful. “In my opinion, when the birth mother has more input and can see first hand how important the adoption is to the family, it is more difficult for her to back out and disappoint them.” (“Open Doors,” The Columbia Star, April 29, 2005)
I think that these are questions to be considered by anyone who is hoping to adopt, plus by natural mothers who found that this tactic worked on them to get them to surrender their babies. (Would you have surrendered if the alternative was a closed adoption? If not, then you were coerced by adoptive parents using this practice).
Another reason why this is ethically problematic is that women most often surrender babies to adoption because of lack of support, resources, finances, etc. A woman is hence being made vulnerable to exploitation because society and government has put her into a position where she can be exploited, removing protections (such as human rights in the form of a guaranteed income sufficient for her to raise her baby) that would protect her from predation.
To try to find a woman who is in a vulnerable position, so you can obtain her baby from her, is reproductive exploitation, and the people committing it are, by definition, reproductive predators. This is why prospective adoptive parents are handing out “adoption networking cards” at teen activity centres, in Walmart, to high school guidance counsellors, in poor areas of town, to pregnant waitresses — women who look vulnerable due to youth or possible financial stress. This unfortunately resembles to some degree what sexual predators do to find vulnerable women and youth to exploit. Removing power and protection from socially vulnerable groups leaves them open to being exploited by those with more power, money, and social status. No-one wants to be a predator, but many prospective adoptive parents blunder into this practice without realizing what they are doing.
There are many reasons why women surrender their babies for adoption, but some of them involve influence or pressure from other people, even adoptive parents who have NO idea that they are affecting a mothers’ decision (i.e. coercion), or that reproductive exploitation is what they are engaging in.
Fuelling this is desperation: Unfortunately, as we all know, adoption is market driven. There is a huge demand for babies:
“For every healthy newborn available, there are now almost forty potential parents searching.” – (“Love for Sale” Adoptive Families Magazine, 2000).
But I encourage all adoptive parents and prospective adoptive parents to get educated about this issue, so they have enough information that, if practising this type of coercion falls outside their ethical framework (and it should — do you really want in on your conscience that you made a mother give up her baby?), they know how to avoid it.
- Open Adoption: They knew it would work
- Adoption: Getting more babies to market
- Adoption: Women’s Rights. Reproductive Rights. Human Rights
- Adoption Coercion in Black and White
- Adoption practice: “What is coercion?”
- “Adoption Books, Letters, Promises: Why Solicitation To Obtain Babies for Adoption Must Be Outlawed“
*Meeting prospective adopters increases surrender rates (Chippendale-Bakker & Foster, 1996) and prevents mothers from “changing their minds” (Caragata, 1999). Choosing them increases surrender rates (Barth, 1987; Chippendale-Bakker & Foster, 1996).The infant going directly from the hospital to the adoptive parents increases surrender rates (Barth, 1987)
Also see this follow-up post: “More on Pre-birth Matching: Assumptions Some People Make”
This is a little list i first began drafting a few years ago which has been sitting on my hard drive ever since. These are the promises, guarantees, and blanket statements that the adoption industry (comprised of baby brokers such as adoption agencies, lawyers, and facilitators) routinely promote as being the gospel truth. And they work — the industry now makes over $3 billion a year in profit. Don’t let it fool you.
Lies the Industry tells to Prospective Adopters:
- All families, both adoptive and natural, are the exact same.
- The bond between parents and children in all families are the same. The amended birth certificate will say that you gave birth, so act as though you did. You are now the only mother.
- The child needs only you and not the love of their natural parents.
- Environment is everything – the child is a blank slate (“tabula rasa”) – all the chid’s skills and aspirations will be yours.
- Rest assured that the natural family can never search because the records are sealed tight.
- The natural mom is just an incubator, a “b—-mother” and thus her only purpose is to gestate that child and then hand it over.
- This child is unwanted, the mother will never return.
- If loved enough, this child will never want to search.
- Adoptees will never feel hurt by being taken from their natural parents; love from adoptive parents will solve everything.
- “The Primal Wound” is a myth.
- This is a lifetime guarantee.
Lies the Industry tells to Expectant Mothers:
- Your child will be grateful to be adopted and won’t be angry at you for it. Your child will not be damaged by adoption
- Adoption shows you loved your child enough to give him/her two parents.
- You are not giving him away, you are giving him “more.”
- Children need two married parents.
- You will get over it and forget your child.
- You may feel “a type of grief’ but it will go away.
- Young and Unwed = unfit.
- The grief is resolvable. Only flawed women or those who “cling to the past” can’t resolve the grief.
- It won’t hurt, or won’t hurt for long. The satisfaction of providing a wonderful future for your child will make any “regret” go away.
- Keeping your child will involve more pain, struggle, and sacrifice than surrendering him/her.
Lies that the industry tells to adoptees:
- Your mother chose adoption.
- Your mother “gave you away.”
- Your mother does not love you.
- You only need your adoptive parents.
- You should be loyal and grateful to your adoptive parents for raising you as your natural mother dumped you and who know where you’d be if your adoptive parents weren’t heroes for rescuing you.
- Searching is disloyal and will hurt your adoptive parents
Lies that the industry tells to society:
- Infant adoption is natural (false. it’s a relative recent (last 150 years) social experiment)
- Adoptive families are exactly like natural families, with no problems at all specific to adoption.
- Raising an adopted child is like raising a child of your own.
- Infant adoption has been common since Babylonian types (false. adult adoption was common but NOT infant adoption – infants were fostered but seldom legally adopted)
- Adoption is about finding homes for unwanted babies.
What is is all about? Filling post-WWII consumer demand for infants.
“Because there are many more married couples wanting to adopt newborn white babies than there are babies, it may almost be said that they rather than out of wedlock babies are a social problem. (Sometimes social workers in adoption agencies have facetiously suggested setting up social provisions for more ‘babybreeding’.)” SOCIAL WORK AND SOCIAL PROBLEMS, National Association of Social Workers, (Out-of-print) copyright 1964 (quote provided courtesy of BSERI).
The broker (agency, lawyer, social worker, doctor, or whomever else took the baby for adoption) made promises to the adoptive parents that permeate the entire adoptive relationship and even impact upon reunion. And the promises are lies, nothing but a sales pitch. Brokers knew there was a consumer demand out there from people who wanted newborn babies to adopt. Brokers knew they could make money by meeting this demand — now $25,000 or more per infant. So the brokers give promises that these infants neither knew about nor could keep. And adoptees are expected to live up to these promises, which they had no part in making in the first place! It is all done for money’s sake. It is time to take the profit motive out of adoption.
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.
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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“