Tuesday, November 11, 2008

“Anti-Adoption Advocates”: How Should We Respond?

An important article from Heidi Hess-Saxton, an adoptive mother:

Now that the election is over, one of the most chilling prospects of the future administration is the president-elect’s determination to sign the “Freedom of Choice Act” (FOCA). The implications of this — both financial and moral — are staggering, for it means our tax dollars may be used to snuff out the lives of millions of children. To be truly pro-life, then, is to seek ways to ensure that the need for abortion is eliminated, as far as we are able to do this.

Adoption gives those in crisis pregnancies an abortion alternative that saves the life of the child and relieves them of the unwanted responsibility of parenthood. Adoption also provides an opportunity for couples to have a child they might otherwise never have, and for the child to have a “forever family” that will love him or her for life.

child.jpgWith foster-adoption, children who have already been born — often to parents with such serious issues that the children may have been better off had the “adoption option” been chosen from the beginning — are given a second chance. Sadly, many of these children — especially those who are part of sibling group, have special needs, or are “older” (four or more) — must wait months and even years for a loving, permanent home. There are simply not enough suitable families willing to open their hearts this way.

The situation would be dire enough … Now grass roots, anti-adoption advocacy groups such as “Bastard Nation” and “Adoption: Legalized Ties” are seeking to discourage adoption, choosing rather to advocate for disgruntled adult adoptees and “natural parents,” including those whose children were taken from them because of abuse and neglect.

Anti-Adoption Advocates: Biased “Truth”

The dynamic of adoption is often described as a “triad,” with 3 sides representing the birth (or first) parents, adoptive parents, and adopted child. By and large, anti-adoption groups have vilified both adoptive parents and the agencies that mediate the placements.

Recently, however, the attack has expanded to birth parents as well: Under the “Unsealed Initiative,” adult adoptees and others are lobbying government agencies in New York and other states (successfully, in Toronto) to release sealed birth records in order to gain access to the identities of birth parents who may not desire contact, and who were promised anonymity upon relinquishment. In the minds of the adult adoptees, the “best interest of the child” trumps all — when in fact the “child” is no longer a child, but an adult whose “right to know” is no more important than the other party’s right to privacy.

This growing trend is even more alarming, given the unabashed pro-abortion stance of the Obama administration. Women in crisis pregnancies who are considering adoption may have second thoughts when faced with the very real possibility that their “past” may come knocking on their door twenty or thirty years hence, disrupting their lives with demands and recriminations. Unless the records are truly sealed with a “suite lock” — one that can be opened only by mutual consent — the real danger is that these “unwanted” children will simply be aborted.

Catholic Anti-Adoption Advocates

Recently I was appalled to discover that these “anti-adoption advocates” are making inroads even in Catholic publications. Last September the National Catholic Register ran this article (accessed through my EMN blog) by self-professed “anti-adoption advocate” Melinda Selmys, who writes about encountering teenage adoptees who were acting out — though the adoptive parents were “kind and loving people.”

Rather than consider the real possibility that the teens had been damaged by circumstances that led up to the adoption, or that adoption may indeed have been their best chance at a bright future, or that these kids were just like others teens who have difficulties making the transition into adulthood, Selmys concludes that the adoption itself was the true source of the problem. She writes:

The child … is not a tabula rasa on which anyone - parents, teachers, social workers, engineers of brave new worlds - can inscribe their glowing hopes for the future. … The child is created in the image and likeness of God, but it is also in the image and likeness of its parents. The people who hope to see evil eradicated from the world through increasing government intervention in the lives of children are going to be sorely disappointed. Children do not inherit their faults and failings merely by watching and imitating mom and dad. They inherit them on a much deeper level.

Healing the Wounded Heart

Now, much of what Ms. Selmys says sounds reasonable. Foster and adoptive parents are well aware that our children have challenges and issues originating with their “first families” — behavioral, mental, emotional, and medical among them. Sometimes it’s genetic. Other times challenges come from the child’s pre-adoptive environment, not a blank slate … a heart wounded by bad choices and negative impulses of broken people.

It is also true that no adoptive environment is “perfect” — just as no parent is perfect. Ideally, children thrive best when they are raised by their natural parents, joined for life in the sacrament of matrimony. Sadly, as a society we have fallen woefully short of this ideal, and the only question that remains is how to mitigate the damage inflicted on innocent young lives.

There are situations in which adoption is truly the best (though not perfect) choice: Children born to young teens (especially those who have neither the inner resources nor long-term support system necessary to parent); children of parents with unresolved substance abuse or domestic violence issues; and children of abusive and neglectful parents. In each of these cases, little wounded hearts heal best when they are no longer in close proximity to the source of the pain. Sadly, this can mean removing children from birth parents voluntarily or (when parents demonstrate neither the willingness nor the inclination to fix their own messes and put the children’s needs first) involuntarily.

Adoption gives children wounded by the choices of their first parents a second chance to heal. Granted, it does not completely shield the child from the consequences of her first parents’ choices. There is no way to shield the child entirely — that is the nature of sin. On the other hand, pressuring unwed teenage mothers (and other at-risk mothers) to keep their babies even when they are demonstrably not capable of parenting produces more difficulties than it resolves — down the line, when adoption is no longer a viable option.

Adoption, the “Pro-Life” Option

The sad reality is that the older the child, the smaller the pool of potential adoptive parents. In the U.S. today, more than 500,000 children are in need of temporary or permanent homes … the vast majority are part of larger sibling groups, special needs, or “older” (age four or more).

Because the pain of adoption is real, the adoption choice represents true self-sacrifice on all sides of the adoption triad: Birth parents put the best interests of the child ahead of their own needs, adoptive parents agree to invest themselves entirely in a young life they did not bring into the world. The child may also suffer in ways they cannot fully understand until they are much older — and may have difficulties accepting even then. And yet, when the choice is literally life and death, this kind of self-sacrifice is the pathway to hope … if we allow it.

Will these mothers come to regret their choice? Undoubtedly there will be times when they will wonder if they could have chosen differently. They may yearn to re-establish contact with that child — and should be able to leave the door open for this, should the child (ideally, with the blessings of the adoptive parent) seek her out. But as with many significant choices in life, once the choice is made we cannot see clearly “the road not taken”; because of the unknown variables that stem from that choice, it is illusory at best. We can only learn from our choices, and move on.

On the other hand, through adoption (even open adoption, in which the birth parents maintain a level of contact after the placement), a child is helped to make the most of their own natural giftings and eradicate the worst of their natural weaknesses. The birth parent is then able to tend to his or her needs without inflicting even greater damage on the innocent. And the adoptive parents are presented with an opportunity to invest their lives in a way that produces rich spiritual fruit in the life of parent and child alike.

In Search of the “Phantom Parent”

Books such as The Adoption Mystique, by anti-adoption advocate Joanne Wolf Small, MSW, remind us that some children never completely recover from the losses of adoption — no matter how much love and attention they are given. The sense of abandonment can run deep, and visions of “real” mom and dad can tantalize even the most outwardly accommodating child — especially those in the throes of adolescence and into young adulthood, when the natural desire to separate from Mom and Dad is most powerful, and the quest for identity strongest.

While the release of some information — such as medical histories — has objective value, and could be released without depriving the first parents of their right to privacy, it is imperative that the concerns of all three sides of the adoption triad be given equal weight. Birth parents have the right to remain anonymous (unless they choose to relinquish that right); adoptive parents have the right to raise their child without undue interference; the adopted child has the right to a safe and nurturing environment. The adult adopted child has the rights of any adult — but not access to the confidential records of other private citizens.

In the section entitled “Anti-Adoption Media Bias,” Ms. Small offers a revealing quote from “The San Francisco Examiner” (1999, February 22):

Anguish is everywhere in the adoption equation …. The birth mother … adoptive parents …. Adopted children haunted by phantom birth parents who, they may feel “abandoned” them - beings … they cannot know. Phantom limbs on the family tree (par 10).

At age eleven, my younger sister experienced phantom pains when her leg was amputated. The nerves at the amputation site, which connected the missing leg to the brain, did not immediately die. And yet, Chris did not let the amputation define her or limit her in any way, and in time these pains diminished. She became first a cheerleader, then a wife and mother. If she had chosen to concentrate on the pain — instead of healing — she would be a very different person today.

I realized just how complete the healing had been when, a few years ago, an over-zealous “street healer” offered to pray for her leg to grow back and she refused. “When I get to heaven, I’m going to get my leg back — and you better believe I’m looking forward to that. But right now, for whatever reason, this is God’s plan for me, and I’m going to accept it. I’m not going to feel sorry for myself — I’m going to live.”

Wise words that can be applied to many situations — including adoption. The “phantom pain” of adoption must be acknowledged — and yet, reunification may not always be possible or even desirable. The adopted child must recognize the reality of the adoption triad; each part of the triangle of birth parent/adoptive parent/adopted child has both rights and responsibilities, some of which cannot be assumed by the child until he or she becomes an adult.

It is in adulthood that many children — adopted and biological alike — discover something essential to their future happiness: Some things in life are chosen for us by the adults in our lives, based on the information at hand, which have both positive and negative repercussions. If we continue to blame our parents for those choices, we remain in a state of “arrested adolescence” and keep ourselves from realizing our God-given potential. This is true of adult children of adoption — and of many other children, too.

We cannot change history; we can only acknowledge and learn from it, grieve our losses, forgive those who have hurt us … and move forward. The loss adopted children experience is real — just as my sister’s loss was real. She had to work through those feelings; the loss was necessary if she was to survive. This is the story of adoption: a story of painful choices made in the present, in order to secure a better — and a living — future.


Heidi Hess Saxton is the author of Raising Up Mommy and founder of the Extraordinary Moms Network, an online resource for mothers of adopted, fostered, and special needs children. She and her husband foster-adopted their two children in 2002.

6 comments:

KITE KAMP GIRL said...

Before you go spreading this horrible article, I suggest your research the topic first. This is what I also wrote the author of this stupidity.

Thia article is wrong on so many levels. I will show you why. First off, Bastard Nation and Unsealed Initiative are not antiadoption as you stated in your article. In fact, they have stated no opinion on adoption. I know this because I am a former member of Bastard Nation. I suggest you read the links provided to get a more accurate view of what these organizations are really about. They are about adoptee access. As late as the 1940s, adoptees, natural parents and adoptive parents all had access to these documents. They were initially sealed to protect these parties from the public eye.

Being adoptee rights advocate myself, I am personally not against adoption. In fact, I have worked with an adoption agency here in Texas that promotes openness in adoption. Adoption as it is currently practiced in the United States is promoting corruption, deception and just plain theft to the highest level. Even the adoptive parents are wanting more transparency in adoption. I have researched adoption for three years. You might want to check into the many civil RICO court cases against adoption agencies such as Project Oz and Commonwealth Adoptions International. There are several more as well.

According to both Oregon and Tennessee court cases which proved, there was no promise to natural parents EVER documented in any adoption case. These natural parents only wanted privacy from public eye. They never wanted it from their child nor the adoptive parents. Please read Family Matters:Secrecy and Disclosure in the History of Adoption by E. Wayne Carp and Elizabeth Samuels article on this same topic. In fact, if these natural parents wanted privacy, how come the records were sealed from them first? The records are sealed at the adoption finalization not at relinquishment. Again read the book and article above. Believe it or not, the Catholic Church protested the sealing of adoption records to adoptees and their natural family. See the Holly memo. In fact, 90% plus natural mothers support adoptee access to their own records according to the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute.

You are also equating foster care children with domestic infant adoption. Two very separate issues. Foster care is the involuntary relinquishment of a child, usually court ordered. Domestic Infant adoption is voluntary relinquishment of a child. Most natural parents today want their child to have access to their original birth certificate. Many of the Catholic Charities adoptions are only open adoptions. In Oregon, the adoptee access promoted adoption and decreased abortion numbers. Check them yourself. Also check New Hampshire's statistics below. There have been no issues with either of these states. Kansas and Alaska never sealed their records from the adoptee. They have had no issues what so ever.

The right to privacy laws in this country is about the right to be free from governmental interference. These laws give the non adopted access to the records with their names on it. Yet adoption is separate. Separate is not equal according to Brown vs. Board of Education. Right to privacy laws have been argued in Roe vs. Wade, Griswold vs. Connecticut, and the Eisenstadt case. It is the right to be free from governmental interference. There is no right to total confidentiality. Its impossible in the world that we live in with internet technology being what it is. Adoptees and their natural parents are finding each other every day without the access. I have done it for two natural mothers, two adoptees, and one adoptive mother.

These natural parents relinquish their rights. They do not get new ones in the process. The natural parents of this country will tell you that. Most of the mothers in the past did not even get a copy of their relinquishment form. They did not even get a copy of the original birth certificate. In fact today they still don't but that is dependent on the adoption agency.

A majority of women who place children for adoption are in their twenties. They are not teenagers. A majority are wanting contact and openness with their child. As long as records are sealed, you will see an increase in abortions. No woman wants to place her child up for adoption and not ever know how their child is. If adoption is so great, which child are you willing to relinquish? Tough question isn't it? If you read the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute's report, you will see that this is true in 90% of cases. As far as the cases of rape, for every one case you present, I can present 9 other cases that show that women want contact with their child even through rape.

Here are New Hampshire's statistics on adoptee access:

http://www.sos.nh.gov/vitalrecords/Preadoption%20birth%20records.html#progress

Here is Oregon's statistics on adoptee access:

http://www.oregon.gov/DHS/ph/chs/order/58update.shtml#05312005

Here is Elizabeth Samuel's article on sealed records in the United States.

http://pages.infinit.net/orions/textes_divers/elizabeth_samuels.pdf

This suggests supporting women in parenting instead of aborting or relinquishing. Its from the Catholic Church.

http://www.catholicsinalliance.org/files/CACG_Final.pdf

This was written by Mary Anne Cohen, a natural mother.

http://adoption.about.com/od/adoptionrights/a/reprorightsissu.htm

The Holly Memo in the possession of Bastard Nation from Catholic Charities:

http://www.bastards.org/activism/local/ny/hollymemo.htm

http://www.unsealedinitiative.org/index.html

http://www.bastards.org/

Marley Greiner's blog, the executive chair of Bastard Nation.

http://bastardette.blogspot.com/

The Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute which is run by Adam Pertman who is an adoptive parent.

http://www.adoptioninstitute.org/publications/2007_11_For_Records.pdf

http://www.adoptioninstitute.org/publications/2006_11_Birthparent_Study_All.pdf

Adoption in this country is big business. Its not chump change. Domestic infant adoption is a roughly a three billion dollar business. International adoption is a seven point three billion dollar business. Add foster care into the equation and its another $20 billion dollar business. That money adds up quickly.

So I ask you to please inform yourself about adoption before you believe the adoption industry hype. My adoptive mother and I were not angry at adoption until I searched. She is just as furious as I am. I am not anti adoption just pro adoption reform for the protection of all of us living adoption.

Sincerely,
Amy K. Burt
aka Amyadoptee
owner/moderator of Indiana Open and Coleman Moms and Babes
author of Adoption and its Triad blog.

AdoptAuthor said...

Ditto.

Ms Saxton has written a very opinionated piece based on a great deal of MISinforamtion. According to this woman, anyone who is against any aspect of adoption - a very multifaceted complicated process - is anti-adoption. That is like calling those who work to help and support victims of domestic violence and try to curtail if from happening - anti-marriage!

Not every aspect of adoption is all warm and fuzzy. There is plenty of room for improvement and reforms in a multi-billion dollar industry with little regulation to protect the vulnerable population it serves. Speaking out against the negatives aspects of adoption is not necessarily being anti-adoption. Many who are glad o have been adopted and encourage others to adopt want the records open, for instance.

There are many types of adoptions: in-family and step parents adoption, domestic and international adoption, infant and older child adoption, private and state adoption, open and closed adoptions. Children become adopted for a variety of reasons - some are involuntarily taken from their mothers because of allegations of abuse or neglect - some true and some not. Others are pressured from very caring and capable mothers by social mores that judge them as too young, too poor, or not properly 'wed' -- while if you are rich enough you can easily adopt as a single parent!

many mothers in this situation are given a choice between the devil and th deep blue sea: abortion or adoption.

There is a BIG NEED for all loving, caring peoples to see the kindest and most sensible option -- supporting this budding family, as Sarah Palin is doing for he daughter.

Saxton spouts her on personal opinions. It is contrary to the opinion of knowledgeable adoption experts who have studied the effects of open versus closed adoptions. Some of those are Catholic priests such as Father Tom Brosnan and Father John Sweeley - both of whom you can google.

It is also notable that Billy Graham's daughter Ruth Graham was very proud of her decision to help her daughter place her child for adoption. She write books and went on speaking engagements touting the joys of adoption and making her daughter the poster child for saving a baby from being aborted. Interestingly, her daughter - not uncommonly - got pregnant again and this second child the family found the strength and compassion - the human decency - to keep and care for and love...also a way of preventing abortion!

The internet allows far too easily for anyone to espouse views and then have others like yourself repeat them as if they were gospel or well informed facts when they are quite the opposite.

How should we respond? With FACTS and with COMPASSION and understanding for many who are touched by adoption and unhappy with the restrictions and discrimination they must live with that does not apply to others not touched by adoption.

I am - and have been for nearly 40 years - a family rights and adoption activist, researcher and author. I am currently Vice President of Communications for Origins-USA.org, the voice for mothers who have lost children for adoption. I can unequivocally state that it is a totally a bogus claim that any mother was promised anonymity form her own child, nor have any asked for it or want to today. Quite the opposite is true. These are lies spread by those who represent adoption agencies and baby brokers which operate more easily under the cloak of secrecy.

In no state which has reversed the antiquated sealed adoption laws have abortions increased. That is a fact. All else is wild speculation and hysteria.

Mirah Riben

Natalie said...

To call Bastard Nation and other adoptee rights groups "anti adoption advocates" and to say that we are "disgruntled adoptees" to want the same righs as non adopted adults is nonsense. Not knowing one's family medical history is wrong. Not knowing one's roots and family heritage can cause deep psychological problems.

I am a member of the Unsealed Initiative, and we are not an "anti adoption" group. We are a group that advocates for the rights of all people to have their original birth certificates. We advocate for open adoption records so that adopted adults can find their medical history, family ethnic background, and perhaps have the opportunity to meet their birth family.

Before you go spouting off about how we are "anti adoption" and in favor of abortion, do your research. The article you wrote was worthy of the trash bin, not publication. You come across as ill informed and prejudiced. If you are truly expecting more people to get on the adoption bandwagon because of your article, you are seriously mistaken.

Patrice Fagnant-MacArthur said...

I would like to thank those who have written in to express the opposite point of view of this article. Ms. Saxton is my friend and I reprinted her article as a result of that relationship. Truly, she is only adoption advocate I know, and I am willing to support anyone who feels that adoption is a better choice than abortion. I believe that all of you who have written in fall into that category. I admit that I do not know a great deal about the debate surrounding adoption as it is not something that I have been involved with at all myself. It is obviously a debate that is highly charged with emotion on both sides.

Once again, thank you for your feedback. It is always good to hear both sides of the issue.

the passionate "peach" said...

Just wanted to add my two-cents about this misinformed article. Research has shown that birthparents were never promised confidentiality by law, and indeed, were not given any other option. Sealed records were to protect the adoptive family. Adoptees who want their own birth certificates and birth/medical/genealogical information are being "lumped" in to the category of "anti-adoption". This is wrong on so many levels.

the passionate "peach" said...

Adult adoptees who only want the same right as every other citizen should not be termed "anti-adoption" ~ that is wrong on so many levels.