The fantastic video “Out Of The Fog: Mothers Speak About Adoption” by producer/director Suzie Kidnap has been released on Youtube. I strongly recommend it. This is a landmark video about the natural mother’s experience.
Update on September 22: A week ago I posted a proposed definition of adoption coercion. Thank you so much for all who gave feedback. This below is the revised definition, based on your feedback:
“ Adoption coercion is any form of overt or covert pressure, manipulation, convincing, force, fraud, human rights violation, or withholding of services that results in a woman surrendering a baby for adoption.
“ It includes any practice specifically designed and intended to ensure or significantly increase the odds that a mother will surrender her baby for adoption. It also includes any practice designed to restrict or remove a mother’s freedom of choice by the use of influence, persuasion, fraud, or duress. A coerced ‘choice’ is not a ‘choice’ at all. There is no ‘decision’ where there is coercion.
“ Perpetrators of adoption coercion may include anyone in a position of trust, authority, or relative power in relation to the mother. Examples are: adoption industry employees, hospital staff, medical professionals, prospective adopters, social workers, government social policy makers, the mother’s own parents, clergy and nuns, etc.”
Again, what do you think?
You may also be interested in reading these related posts where I elaborate more on specific coercion practices:
- Adoption Practice: “What is Coercion?”
- Adoption Coercion in Black and White
- Adoption: “Studies on How to Take Babies”
- Adoption: Getting more babies to market
And the “Coercion Checklist for Mothers” on the Origins Canada site.
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.
This post was inspired by the article “Adoption as a Feminist Issue,” and is expanded from a comment I posted there.
The awareness of adoption as a feminist issue, as a women’s issue, goes back decades. Feminism as a movement is concerned about the exploitation and oppression of women. It speaks out against the violence and abuses which are perpetrated against women because they are women. Reproductive exploitation is thus a feminist issue. And reproductive exploitation is the basis of the adoption industry.
In her landmark book Death by Adoption (Cicada Press, 1979) feminist policy analyst Joss Shawyer states:
“Adoption is a violent act, a political act of aggression towards a woman who has supposedly offended the sexual mores by committing the unforgivable act of not suppressing her sexuality, and therefore not keeping it for trading purposes through traditional marriage. The crime is a grave one, for she threatens the very fabric of our society. The penalty is severe. She is stripped of her child by a variety of subtle and not so subtle manoeuvres and then brutally abandoned.”
(I would also like to recommend Shawyer’s article “Adoption ‘Choice’ is a Feminist Issue.”)
And, in 1986, Celeste Newbough wrote the landmark article “Adoption, Surrogate Motherhood and Reproductive Exploitation” in the feminist quarterly Matrix: for She of the New Aeon.
Shawyer’s quote, to me, sums up adoption. Along with the statistics that show that the majority of women who surrender babies to adoption do so against their will. These are babies they love and want to keep, but there is a thriving industry that currently sells newborns for $25,000 and more. See some sample price-lists for newborns. Just google “adoption situations” to find many more.
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. It is easy to exploit a woman if you deny her the supports she needs in order to keep her baby, and then convince her that she is undeserving of her child and that surrender is “heroic, noble, and selfless.” It is even easier if you get her to meet people who are eager to adopt her child, who she may then “fall in love with,” and who she then won’t be able to bear to disappoint by “changing her mind” and keeping her baby. Coercion takes many forms.
How is it not a feminist issue when women are being harvested for their babies, due to combination of a lack of legal protections and an enduring stigma against “un-manned mothers” (or now, “teen mothers” who are now the new “undeserving mothers,” striking fear into the hearts of the populace). Pregnancy and childbirth is an experience unique to women, it is part of their innate biology, a natural process that defines womanhood. When governments violate human rights by withholding the support necessary for a mother to keep her baby, this is blatant sexism and in effect punishes her for being a woman.
Let’s look an example illustrating the sexist double-standard. Men are not punished for fulfilling their reproductive imperative. Men don’t have body parts amputated off by agencies in retaliation for impregnating a woman (another natural act that is specific to their sex) — so why are women’s babies taken away from them (or women being manipulated into surrender (“choosing adoption”) by the NCFA’s “adoption is the loving option” crap), a traumatic act that feels like an emotional and physical amputation, if they get pregnant at a time that “violates” the artificial mores of society, who has “offended the sexual mores by committing the unforgivable act of not suppressing her sexuality…”?
A friend of mine, Karen Wilson Buterbaugh, who lost her baby to coerced surrender during the Baby Scoop Era, approached N.O.W. for their support. They refused to talk to her, and a woman there implied that it was because many in N.O.W. are adopters:
” When I was working in Washington, D.C., I called the N.O.W. office to schedule an appointment to speak with a representative. I wanted to discuss the issue of adoption surrender, especially during the Baby Scoop Era, being a major feminist issue. I wanted to see what they thought of this and if they were aware of the fact that so many babies were removed during that time from mother, mostly under age 21, who wished to parent their baby but were denied that right by social workers practicing in adoption, many of whom worked at maternity homes around the country such as the Florence Crittentons and Salvation Armies.
” I arrived and was told to wait. I waited and waited. An hour later I asked how much longer it would be. I was then told that I would not be seen. I asked why. She said she didn’t know but that no one wished to speak to me. I left and walked down the stairs to the lobby of the building. A woman approached me saying that she had overheard why I was there. She said, ‘Don’t you know that the women of N.O.W. adopt?’ I admit that I was startled at this as I had not considered that to be a factor!
” She then said, ‘Don’t tell anyone but here is the email address for the current President of N.O.W.’ (whose name I do not recall at this time). This would have been approximately 1997 or 1998. I thanked her for her flagging me down and for the information she shared with me. When I arrived back at work, I composed an email to the President of N.O.W. and sent it. Not hearing back, I sent it again,. I never received a reply. Not even a response saying she had received my emails or even saying she wasn’t interested in speaking to me or even defending adoptions. (My concern was specifically infant adoptions.)
” That experience was certainly a rude awakening to the fact that NO ONE cared, not even other females, about babies being removed from unprotected single mothers. “
So, mothers who have lost children to adoption have no advocates to speak for them and no support from the feminist community. I would like to call out to all feminists to help change this.
An analysis of what is REALLY behind “Dear Birthmother Letters”
We want you to give us your baby. We know that by meeting us and seeing just how perfect we would be for your child, you will gladly do this.
Why do we know this?
Because you are young, vulnerable, and don’t feel confident about your ability to be a mother. We know that we will appear mature, confident, capable, and will make you feel like we could take care of your baby better than you can. We may even remind you of your own parents.
Because we know that the reason you are considering adoption is out of fear and guilt. Guilt that you have disappointed your parents by irresponsibly getting pregnant. Fear because you do not know what to do and you don’t know if you’ll be a good parent or not. We can take advantage of your fear and your guilt, and we don’t have any qualms about doing it.
We know that research shows that mothers who “meet” and “choose” prospective adopters during their pregnancies will give up their babies out of guilt and obligation. Especially if we are in the delivery room with you, or “bonding with” OUR newborn in the hospital with our family and friends congratulating us. How would you DARE think of keeping our darling newborn from us? Giving us a “failed adoption” by “not carrying through with your adoption plan.” We are scared that if you take your baby home first before deciding, that you likely wouldn’t give her to us, so our agency’s “birthmother counsellor” will ensure that won’t happen.
We know that if we befriend you while you’re still pregnant, you won’t have a choice. In fact, we’re happy to take that choice (and all choice) away from you, because we are desperate and we know we deserve your baby more than you do. After all, we’ve paid thousands to the agency – you just had a broken condom.
We also know that our promises of open adoption will sounds great, and the same pregnancy hormones that make you feel trusting of others and insecure about yourself will make you believe us, and WANT to believe us. And we also know that these promises have NO basis in law, that we can close the adoption any time we want. And we will close it, especially if it looks like OUR baby loves you when you visit (as many adopted children do with their natural mothers). We’ll just crush that pesky blood-bond by stopping those upsetting visits. They will only “confuse” our child.
If need be, we can get you a counsellor at an adoption agency. We know that the more visits you have with agency staff, the more likely you will be to surrender your baby. They will have lots of time to work on you and convince you how expensive and difficult it would be to raise a child at your age. Can you actually afford it? Like any other luxury commodity, only the rich should be allowed to obtain (and keep) a child. Poor? Too bad. You should have kept your legs crossed.
We promise we will treat you like a queen while you are gestating our baby, while we are “Paper Pregnant” and counting down the days until we get our freshly made bundle of joy from you. We’ll praise you and call you things like our “heaven sent angel” and “God’s gift” to boost your ego and make you feel valued and incredible and loved during your pregnancy — the love and support that your parents and those around you don’t show.
We’ll even give you flowers and a “birthmother gift” when you hand over OUR baby to us — a reasonable exchange, right? If you’re lucky, the hospital will give you a teddy bear to take home with you – standard practice now, right?
And of course we or our paid agency worker will be right there with you in the delivery room, to make certain you don’t try to “bond” with our baby. We’re paying too much money to the agency/lawyer/facilitator for this baby to allow THAT to happen.
Speaking of money, we offer to pay your medical and hospital expenses. This will make you feel like you “owe” us that baby.
But frankly we don’t care what we do to you — how we will manipulate you, exploit you, and then cast you aside like a used container (and that’s what you are, right?) — because we’ll be better parents than you will ever be. That’s why we’re writing you this letter: We know we deserve that baby more than you do. We pay more in taxes than you earn in a year (but we’re sure looking forward to that $10,000 adoption income-tax credit that we’ll get!).
Contact us at our 1-800 number, and check out our “profile page” to see how good-looking we are and how confidant and mature we look compared to you.
Two “Waiting Parents”
Praying that God will bring us Our Little Angel
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.
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My previous post on pre-birth matching was inspired by a question asked in a forum that is supposedly to support everyone who has been touched/torched by adoption.
I received a response from another member of this group, who had adopted, and she displayed some assumptions in her response that are very common in society. I am glad she responded as she did, so that maybe another point of view could be provided, by a mother who has actually been there and has lost a baby against her will.
This is what this woman who had adopted said:
“Obviously, for an expectant mother to see these profiles, they must be looking for families to adopt their babies. I’m not sure – what do you think would be a better thing for an expectant mother who thinks she wants to place her baby to do? We don’t want her to leave the baby on a doorstep. So what should she do, if we lived in a world where no one wrote ‘dear birth mother’ letters?”
Reading this, the first question that came to my mind is: No it is NOT obvious. Why do people think that a mother looking at prospective adopters’ profiles is REALLY, concretely, at the stage of looking for a family to adopt here baby? Is this expectant mother really 100% at that point yet and never going back to the question “Should I, can I, keep my baby?”?
So this, the rest of my post here, is my response to her:
Actually, I think that it’s possible that for many mothers, they are not looking for a family to adopt their babies, they are still deciding “Should I surrender or keep my baby?” The mother is still making up her mind, and these profiles can influence this decision.
I know mothers who read these online profiles during their pregnancies and it made them feel they had no right to keep their babies, that they would be selfish and greedy and “unchristian,” as they are made to feel that there are these wonderful people out there who deserved to be parents much more than the mothers did. It was one more nail in their coffin of insecurity and lack of self-esteem. Worse yet if an adoption agency is coaching them that parenthood would be too much of a struggle for them and that their babies “deserve more.”
If you are a woman who has given birth, a mother, you know the emotional changes that come with late pregnancy, labour, and birth. This can be a shock to new moms, how much they may want their babies once their babies are in their arms. And many moms separated from children by adoption feel, from experience, that the final decision about this should (or must) be made post-birth once the mother has her baby in her arms and knows her emotions, preferably given a few weeks so she can recover from birth first.
Viewing profiles of course leads to forming a relationship with someone hoping to adopt — later on — BUT how much pressure does this relationship put on her to “not change her mind” and cause a “failed adoption” — in many cases, lots. (i.e.
“Paul Meding, a Columbia attorney who has been taking adoption cases for 12 years [says] “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)”.
What Meding talks about here is also called “emotional coercion.”
So, another person who had adopted responded and asked me what an mother should do instead (i guess, instead of boarding the adoption bandwagon while her child is not yet born). I responded:
I think that the supports are in place already that expectant mothers can obtain necessary prebirth and post-birth counselling and get care and resources such that she can make this decision once recovered from birth, without the decision being influenced by relationships with or expectations from people hoping to adopt.
A good example is South Australia: Adoption offices are ready with substitute care for the baby if the mother wants this while the mother makes up her mind, and she is encouraged to have visits, given parenting mentorship, and to bring her baby home overnight. Various public service agencies have programs providing this type of “cradle care” already in place. After the mom recovers from birth, then an adoption agency (or child welfare office) can provide her with profiles of couples she can interview and choose, *if* she then finds first-hand that she doesn’t want [to raise] her baby. I corresponded with adoption workers in the state of South Australia, who confirmed this information. Evelyn Robinson also has written about it, and she can be contacted through Clova Publications at http://www.clovapublications.com. In Australia, an adoption workers’ paycheque does not depend on the sales she or her agency makes per year, on how many babies they can broker for $25,000 and up.
There is no reason to fear that children will be “left on doorsteps” if there is no pre-birth matching. And there is no need for mothers to be pressured to make decisions about adoption pre-birth, or even soon post-birth. Pre-birth matching is just another tactic that agencies use in order to obtain more babies for the market.
I seriously do not think that any person who adopts can claim that the mother was not coerced, if they have engaged in pre-birth or even pre-surrender matching. How can they guarantee that they did not affect the mother’s decision? Do they even care how they obtained the baby? Several people in the same group, when asked, said that they felt that the mother’s reasons for surrendering “were her own,” indicating that they did not care if she was coerced or not, or whether they themselves had pers0nally engaged in coercion. I find this to be very sad that anyone would s0 blinded by “baby hunger” that they would put this ahead of having ethics, did not care how or why that baby was being surrendered for adoption.
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