[Update of July 2012] This post was originally published a year ago, to announce that the Facebook group that was formerly called “Adopting-Back Our Children” changed its name and expanded its focus to become “Adopting-Back Our Children / Adoptees Terminating Adoptions.” As the Facebook group and the accompanying website have both grown and changed over the past year, it is time for an update.
This group has a history dating back to 2002, when it was an MSN Group of the same (old) name hosted by a natural mother named Scarlett West and myself. When MSN shut down its groups, we moved onto Facebook to continue there. I fell out of touch with Scarlett. Once she had adopted back both her stolen twin daughters, I think she was able to finally able to put adoption entirely behind her and focus on the rest of her life. Her family has been healed from adoption separation, and her daughters are back home with their mother again, healing from the abuse they suffered at the hands of a racist, unbalanced woman who should never have been allowed to adopt.
Anyway, back to the topic of the group. For years, the group and the site focused on the legal process of adopting-back, which of course has always been the “second-best” option, because the very best option would be for all adoptees to be able to terminate their own adoptions as they saw fit. But, we were unable to gather much information about this being done — until an adoptee joined our Facebook group and told us all about how she was able to legally terminate her own adoption via a Private Members Bill in Alberta.
So we found out that terminating an adoption is not only possible, but it has been done with some frequency in Alberta. One of these Acts was passed fairly recently in fact, in 2009, the Beverly Anne Cormier Adoption Termination Act. This excerpt from the Standing Committee on Private Bills proceedings gives some details of why a private members bill was used:
“Ms Dean: Certainly, Mr. Chair. As all committee members are aware, a private bill seeks something that’s not available through the general public law. Bill Pr. 1 is seeking the termination of an adoption order because, basically, the petitioner is unable to get recourse in any other way. A person is unable to set aside an adoption order after one year unless it has been procured by fraud. Now, that’s not the case here. There’s been no fraud, so this is the appropriate tool by which one goes about terminating an adoption of this type. It’s a fairly rare type of bill, but these have come before the Assembly before. The most recent one was in 1998.”
Other adoption termination acts have included:
- Tanya Marie Bryant Adoption Termination Act (1998)
- Kenneth Garnet McKay Adoption Termination Act (1997)
- Satnam Parmar Adoption Termination Act (1990)
- David Michael Skakun Adoption Termination Act (1985)
- Dino Alberto Knott Adoption Termination Act (1984)
- Keith Dial Adoption Termination Act (1980)
In addition, Mike Chalek was able to get his adoption terminated in a Florida court. , which provides a different means that adoptees can try. The problem in Mike’s case is that it took the proof of fraud for the judge to grant the petition. It is uncertain what type of proof other judges may deem to be “sufficient grounds.” Also published this year was an E-How article, “How to Nullify an Adoption for an Adult.” I do not know if this article is actually based on real experiences or not, or is (as many E-How articles appear to be) just a “spam page” having the sole purpose of displaying a profuse amount of advertising.
But I cannot think of why anyone would deny that all adoptees should have the option to choose whether they want to remain adopted or not. If they were adopted as an infant or young child, no-one asked them if they wanted to be grafted into a family of genetic strangers. Some adoptees may choose the termination route, and some may be be perfectly happy with how things worked out in their adoptive families. But all adoptees should be able to make that decision, unilaterally, of their own choosing.
In Canada, our situation is so very sad. We are in the middle of an election, and if you look at the party leaders, the selection is pitiful. No women, no persons of colour, no-one under the age of “Seniors Day at Zellers.” In essence, no-one to represent the interests of women, the young, or the disenfranchised.
I feel like we’re in a time-warp. Nothing has changed. Like I stated in 2008, all we can choose from are Old Rich White Men.
So the sorry fact is that, even if your party’s platform pretends to pay attention to you, you can be certain that the corporate culture in Ottawa will not even know you exist. Even the women who are elected to Parliament end up finding out that they have to obey the rules of the “Old Rich White Boys’ Club.”
“Ottawa is old, white and male” — John Ibbitson, in “Five reasons Ottawa is turning you off” (Globe and Mail)
And, I know my readers will remind me about the Green Party leader, Elizabeth May. But what does it say about Canada that the only female leader is heading up a party that stands no chance of being elected under our current “First Past the Post” system?
No wonder there is no support for young, single, poor mothers to keep their children. The life experiences of the people whom our political parties nominate for leadership do not reflect their experiences, values, beliefs, or struggles.
I can give you a clear picture of this: A young First Nations woman I know well, struggling to raise three children on welfare, has bills this April of $740 not including groceries. Her total income is $600. She is already in subsidized housing. Child support? What’s that? She has to call the father of her children every month to try to hound him to pay up. If she makes even a little bit of money, the welfare office takes it away. The stress of trying to figure out how to afford to feed her children, how to pay her bills, and how to get herself out of the crushing student debt she is in (the college she had enrolled in went bankrupt so she ended up with a staggering debt and no diploma. She is overwhelmed with “How do I get the money to feed my children?” and this constant stress is on her mind even when her daughter is demanding attention — how can you focus on two critical things at once? Her stress is harming her health and she already has chronic neck pain. Working? How do you afford daycare for three children? She already has lost children to adoption due to poverty alone. Canada is still forcing women to surrender their babies and children due to poverty. Is this not systemic financial coercion?
But is there anyone who cares? Obviously not. And nothing will change as long as our only choices for political leadership are old rich White men.
I decided to participate in the “Adoption Carnival III: Photos of Adoption,” presented by the blogging network “Grown In My Heart,” which encourages bloggers to share blog posts related to adoption.
I thought about what photographs to share, and decided that posting photos of people may be a bit more personal than I would like to be. So, I took a photo of a print-out of an “e-card” mounted on the wall of my office. Along with the adoption certificate from when I adopted-back my son, and his original birth registration, this is the most precious adoption-related document I have.
My precious son turned 19 in 1999. Thanks to Open Records and Freedom of Information legislation in BC (which enabled me to obtain his adoptive name plus the adoption case file, and all birth and court records), I found him in November of 1999, and we reunited in-person in February 2000, one day before his 20th birthday. That Mothers’ Day, May 2000, he sent me an unexpected e-card that blew me away. “Here Mom! A Bunch of Love Happy Mothers’ Day” it read:
I was blown away by this card. After twenty years separation, in a closed adoption, I had assumed that perhaps we would be friends, if I was lucky. I knew the bond and love I felt for him, loving him as deeply as I loved my other three children, but I had no idea that he would feel similarly. But he did. Unfortunately, he had to hide his feelings from his then-adoptive parents, and they reacted very negatively (understatement) when he let slip about a year later that he considered me to be his mother, when recounting a story to them about introducing me to one of his friends. They laid down the law that they were his only parents and that he may not consider me to be a mother. In their eyes, i was not a mother to him, only a “birthmother.”
But, this e-card is very precious to me. It shows that the natural mother-child bond can endure through decades of separation, that my son felt this bond very early in our reunion, and that it will last no matter what. It shows that even then in his eyes I was not his “birthmother,” but that he loved me as, and considered me to be, one of his mothers.
The question was recently asked in a newsgroup: Is the use of unethical adoption practices (e.g., coercion, exploitation, reproductive predation) in order to obtain babies for adoption a reproductive rights issue or a women’s rights issue?
My answer is that it is both, plus it is also an issue of human rights.
Adoption is a women’s issue because of the economics of male vs. female power in our society. Despite all our talk about “women’s rights” and “equality,” a woman who gets pregnant and gives birth without a “man” to support her is often left in the lurch unless she has a salary sufficient to afford a home, daycare, and other expenses on her own. The sole fact that men don’t give birth guarantees that they are not affected in this manner. Being “unmanned” makes her baby “illegitimate” and she is often left dealing with stigma, social disapproval and prejudice, insufficient income to support herself and her baby, and the lack of resources. “Single parent” is a term of derision in many places, and the stigma and inadequacy of “social assistance” renders her vulnerable to the loss of her child. Even the legal system fail the mother: child support from the baby’s father is often not guaranteed even when court-ordered, and he may not have a sufficient income himself.
Let’s look at her situation:
- If daycare is not available she cannot work.
- Lack of stable and guaranteed financial support may force her to work while her child is still an infant, thus potentially damaging her child and their relationship. Infants need their mothers, and from raising three children I personally do not believe that being away from mommy for 8-10 hours a day is beneficial for a young child. What about government providing solid universal mother-and-child support such that NO mother is forced to work before her child is in school?
- Being pregnant and giving birth may force her to quit work. If a mother is in a low-paying or non-unionized job, few employers are going to pay for her to have maternity leave. Pregnancy can be physically incapacitating. Sometimes not, but i had to quit work myself during Month 4 of one pregnancy to avoid a miscarriage. And the only way I could do so was to sell the shop that I owned. Thus: out of a job.
- Lack of financial/social support forces mothers to surrender babies they have bonded with for nine months. This does not happen to men as men do not have another human being as a growing part of their bodies for such an extended period of time, ideally followed by the extended physical bonding of breastfeeding. Overwhelming bonding hormones during pregnancy (oxytocin) serve to change a woman’s whole life to focusing on her baby. Her very brain structure changes. Mood and function changes occur. The brain can even temporarily shrink in size. Men, on the other hand, can more easily walk away (as the father of my eldest child did) — after all, their only direct involvement in the child’s life may have been ten minutes of sexual activity nine months previous. They have no physical connection with this unknown (to them) third-party, the baby.
These are all womens’ rights issues, as women cannot live on the same “biological timetable” as men can: pregnancy and birth (and subsequent childcare) are biologically a woman’s responsibility and this conflicts with jobs and career. Having been promised by the feminist movement that they can and should “have it all,” many women are finding that juggling a career and a family can be highly stressful and often next to impossible. And women who live according to “a man’s biological clock” may find that once they are financially-secure they can no longer have children (age-related infertility can start at age 27). Hence the “infertility epidemic” as women postpone attempts to conceive to later and later ages.
The term “reproductive rights” is most commonly attached to the pro-choice/anti-abortion debate. Does a woman have the right to control her own reproductive functions? Despite the adoption industry’s sales-pitch that adoption is an alternative to abortion, I would argue it is most definitely not. Early in pregnancy, a woman may decide to have an abortion or become a mother. The decision on whether to become a mother raising her child, or a mother who loses her child to adoption, is a decision that can only truly be made post-birth. So adoption and abortion are unrelated and are not alternatives to each other. But adoption is a reproductive issue in that it involves a woman’s inherent reproductive capability and the exploiting of that capacity as a “resource” by those in a position of greater social/financial/political power. This happens to women who are rendered vulnerable to this exploitation due to youth, poverty, or lacking the “Mrs.” designation.
Reproductive exploitation has parallels to sexual exploitation. In fact, the only difference is who is doing the exploiting and who is being exploited: economic and age differences are approximately the same, as is the tendency of the victim to blame herself and “fall in love with” the exploiter.
Reproductive exploitation is not new. It was an identifiable part of the slave trade in fact, where enslaved mothers were also were not accorded the right to keep and raise their babies.
Reproductive predation is a relatively new phenomena. Just as there are sexual predators who hunt down vulnerable young women and children to sexually exploit, with reproductive exploitation there are predatory practices such as women with “baby hunger” seeking out vulnerable mothers. If you want to see some examples of the parallels, check out the article “Reproductive Exploitation” on the Origins Canada site. If you want examples of the common “lures” that reproductive predators use, check out http://www.keepyourbaby.com/lures.html.
Feminists are not immune to engaging in reproductive exploitation, and may not even be aware that they are engaging in this practice. Is this from complete ignorance of what constitutes exploitation, or tunnel-vision due to personal avarice and “baby hunger”?
You don’t see people adopting from 30-something married mothers with six-figure incomes, nor do hospitals routinely approach them while they are in labour to ask if they have considered adoption. The average income of a woman who surrenders a baby for adoption is less than $20,000/yr — often far less than that.
Women left in these dire financial straits, with no way to financially afford to keep their babies — without adequate housing finances, healthcare, daycare, paid maternity leave, etc. — are left vulnerable. To obtain a baby from a woman in this situation is exploitation. Just the same way that paid or coerced sexual acts with vulnerable women and children is sexual exploitation.
Adoption is a human rights issue because for most mothers, the circumstances forcing them to surrender are the result of government-led human rights abuses. Article 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states:
* (1) Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.
* (2) Motherhood and childhood are entitled to special care and assistance. All children, whether born in or out of wedlock, shall enjoy the same social protection.
If these fundamental human rights were enforced and upheld, particularly in rich nations, there would be far fewer surrenders. Adoption is a huge industry primarily because we deny mothers the support they are entitled to.
“Most infants placed for adoption come from poor families. Check with any of the adoption agencies and their adoption lawyers to verify that the number one reason for relinquishment today is the inability to afford to raise the child. This is a sad commentary on the richest and most powerful country in the world” (Pannor, 1998)
In 1948, the General Assembly of the United Nations — which includes U.S., Canada, the U.K., Australia, and NZ — sign the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. These nations then violated this on a massive scale with their treatment of unwed mothers during the time from about 1950 to the early 1970s (and up to the mid 1980s in some countries such as Canada, where the BSE was bolstered by the “Sixties Scoop” that took native children en masse as well).
The New South Wales government in Australia apologized. They changed their laws such that all mothers are provided support such that no mother need lose her baby due to a human rights violation (which includes poverty) again. PLUS they gave adoptees the right to annul their adoptions if coercion was involved. It’s a start. More information can be found on the Origins Australia website, including transcripts from the Parliamentary Inquiry where the government admitted that systemic human rights violations had occurred.
The same practices occurred in the other nations I listed above. The same crimes, systemic human rights abuses, and coercive tactics.
What must be done is to ensure the financial security of all mothers. To ensure that NO child is left in poverty. To ensure that no child is surrendered for adoption due to this form of blatant financial coercion.
Exploitation precludes any sort of ethical adoption from happening. When you exploit a mother, you are committing an ethical violation. You cannot state that you have “adopted ethically” unless you have proof that the mother’s rights have not been violated: human rights, reproductive rights, or women’s rights. And, frankly, given the immense emotional damage that the loss of a child to adoption does to a mother — damage that is in many cases permanent — coerced adoption should not take place at all.
Love, S. (1998). “Interview with Reuben Pannor.” PACER newsletter. (Winter 1998-1999). Post Adoption Center for Education and Research.
United Nations General Assembly (1948). Universal Declaration of Human Rights. http://www.un.org/en/documents/udhr/index.shtml
On Saturday, our family received sad news: my son’s uncle had died. This was Uncle Peter, my “ex’s” younger brother. Full of life, and only 38, he died very suddenly from complications of leukemia.
Peter had been diagnosed with leukemia last year, and had spent several weeks in the hospital receiving treatment. The diagnosis was sudden and unexpected. Since then, he had been having regular radiation treatments, and we had been reassured he “was doing fine.” Last Saturday, the phonecall from my son’s father to him, was a shock.
I have not seen Peter for ages. Since the loss of my son to adoption, I have always felt like “persona non grata” in that family. The “girl” who had the audacity to at age 16 actually have a serious relationship with their eldest (against his parents’ wishes). I know that they pressured “X” to break up with me — he told me this afterwards. They thought we were “too serious,” and he never told them of our plans/intentions to eventually get married after high school. Likely this pressure was the reason why he never told them of my pregnancy, my incarceration in that wage home, or the birth of our son, until my friend Darcie threatened that if he did not tell them about our newborn, she would. And knowing the “force of nature” that was Darcie, she would have too.
So, the last time I actually saw Peter, he was a tall and broad-shouldered pre-teen with bright blond hair, probably no more than 10 or 11 years old. But the birth of M. bonded together our two families. And, like adoption, the events that transpired split us apart. So, the family of my “ex” has always been present, yet not present, in our lives. A family related, bonded, yet so far apart.
But because of this bond between our families, I cannot help but think of my son’s uncle as being a sort of “former brother in law” to me, or that the father of my son is “my ex.” Having a child together formed a bond as solid as any other type, even if no emotions remained between us after “X” and I went our separate ways (other than, perhaps, anger). We share a child, who is so much like both of us. I see his fathers’ face and hear his father’s voice every time I look at him. I am certain that his father, “X,” sees me in our son’s smile and his long curly hair. And our families became permanently “bonded” by the existence of our child, related to both of us, belonging to both families.
When i found my son, almost 9 years ago, he found he had an aunt, Leslie, and an uncle, Peter. He and Peter shared a love of large machines, and M. had always hoped to find time to spend with Peter to learn how to use his excavator.
Nine years later, Peter is dead. I sat on M. ‘s bed when he told me the news. And I admit, the second thought that came into my mind, after the huge shock and sense of loss and disbelief was “I am SOOO glad I found you so you could meet him.”
If I had not, if open records did not exist in B.C. or if I had waited until M. had “come out of the adoption fog” and searched for me, he would never have known his uncle. He would never have known this part of himself, his family.
So I dedicate this to Peter. Your lost (and found) nephew loved you. And I am so glad that he was able to get to know you.
Rest in peace. You are truly loved and will be missed, by more people than you will ever know.
– – –
Postscript: Peter’s obituary was published this morning, written by M. ‘s father. In the list of aunts, uncles, in-laws, and other family members and relatives (including an adopted cousin), M. ‘s name as Peter’s nephew was never mentioned. Adoption hurts. When asked, his father said that he “forgot.”
p.p.s My son says this is a good post and is officially “M. -Approved.” : )