First, I guess I should clarify that I don't necessarily hate adoption as much as I hate the questionable ethics that surround newborn domestic adoption (and likely international adoption, but I don't have personal experience to draw from on that matter). I love the orphans finding Fathers kind of adoption. Kids who need families getting good ones. That's fantastic. There's this murky, muddy area between that and straight up human trafficking/baby selling, though, that makes me break out in hives and gives me a cold sweat.
For us it goes like this:
We got the info for Baby Girl's case when she was already 5 weeks old. Her Mom did not sign the relinquishment until the day before we went to pick her up at 9 weeks old. We knew Mom was very young and Baby Girl was very sick. We knew the plan had always been adoption even before baby was born with medical complications and the pre-birth matched family backed out.
I felt like this was a clear cut situation of a Mom making the choice to give her baby to a family that would provide the life she wanted for her child. I felt this specifically because of the number of times she could have changed her adoption plan. When the first family said they could not go further with the adoption, it was a great time to say, "I want to parent.". During the next 3 weeks where there was no family matched with the baby would have been a great time to say, "I want to parent.". Then when the relinquishment was in front of you- that was a good time to say, "I want to parent.". Since, to my knowledge, there was never any question of the biological family's intention to pursue adoption- I was sure that our adoption was going to be an ethical one.
We had no contact with Baby Girl's biological family at all. We were chosen by the adoption agency to be her family. We were told she was hurt by the other families she had picked that had backed out, so she just wanted the agency to find a family that was serious and met some vague expectations (married, religious). We made a profile that she never saw. I asked for contact, and we were told that she knew we'd be in the hospital for the 2 weeks we were in CA- she would come see us if she wanted. I believed what I was told. Why wouldn't I?
I didn't know enough back then to see the red flags:
The nurses told me how Mom cried for her baby at their goodbye visit while her Father (baby's Grandfather) yelled at her to stop and told her this was her mistake and she needed to fix it.
I found out from the original adoption attorney for the first prospective family that the first prospective adoptive Mother was actually the Dr who administered the pregnancy test to the minor biological Mom at a free clinic. When the Dr realized that the girl was pregnant, she handed the patient to another Dr and somehow became the prospective adoptive family that was prebirth matched to Baby girl without the use of an agency.
The original adoptive family sent a message to us through the attorney. They believed there was- best case scenario- questionable activities in the family involving the minor Biological Mother of my daughter- and worst case scenario- criminal abuse. They wanted to pass this info on because it could be pertinent to Baby Girl's medical condition.
The caseworker from the adoption agency that came to sign placement papers with us in the hospital was also aware of this information. I asked what was being done. Was CPS being contacted? The police? How do we know the Mother is safe right now? I was told that HIPPA prevented the information we had to go anywhere beyond the Dr's treating the baby. (Blatant disregard for human life? Eye on the prize of profitable adoption? We wouldn't want to lose this
The caseworker was honest, but in a very flippant way- like we wouldn't care how the biological family was treated. She was annoyed by the language barrier our case presented. She was reading off an English version of the relinquishment papers while Mom was presented with the same form in Spanish and signed that one. When it came to the part where Mom could have asked for a Post Adoption Contact Agreement (PACA, or open adoption), Mom was unsure if she wanted letters or pictures from us- so her parents had her check "No".
I still had it burned in my head, though, that this adoption had to be the result of an informed decision. We paid for Mom's attorney- who certainly informed her of her rights and the consequences of her choice. We paid an interpreter to be present when Mom met with the adoption agency. We paid the adoption agency who is legally required to make sure Mom is making this adoption plan of her own free will. I would never be part of an unethical adoption.
18 months later, I received a phone call from an unrecognized long distance number. It was my daughter's Mother.
She wanted to know how her baby was doing.
She wanted to know when her baby was coming home.
I was very gentle in my answer. Baby Girl is adopted now. She lives here now.
Mom was very calm and steadfast in her response. No. She is coming home after she gets well. Mom said she only signed the papers for "open adoption" because her baby needed an operation. She insists she was told that open adoption means that when she was older and the baby was healthy, she would get her baby back. Mom begged me to send her the papers she signed so she can prove to me she only signed for us to have Baby Girl temporarily.
I called the adoption agency, who just told me not to worry because legally Baby Girl is ours and nothing can change that. But that is not the point
I do believe this girl was mislead. Even though the adoption agency and lawyer read the papers that very clearly said adoption is forever, she believed her Father who said that she could come back later and fight for her baby back.
I believe that if she did not want to make an adoption plan, she should have been offered other options. Based on what I know of the situation- she should have been placed in foster care herself where she could have made a decision to parent or make an adoption plan away from her abuser. If she wanted a safe place for her baby temporarily while she was able to get everything in place to care for a medically fragile child, foster care should have been offered to her for Baby Girl. Forever in this girl's story, I'm the woman who stole her child. I can pray for a different outcome, but it's not unreasonable to think that Baby Girl may struggle with those thoughts as well.
I have had 3 other phone conversations since that initial call. I've sent text messages with pictures and videos. I did send the copies of the relinquishment she signed as well as our adoption certificate, and I suggested she bring them to her lawyer. Our conversations are interpreted by Mom's high school girlfriends during study hall and in the gym locker room. Mom has not told any of the adults around her that she has contacted me. She wants to have a visit, but that will be very difficult unless she includes her legal guardians. Mom seems lovely. I've delivered really crushing news and she is so so nice to me still. It's just hard to talk real life with a girl who age-wise is supposed to be living in a carefree, responsibility-free world.
At this point, it would do irreparable damage to just hand her baby back to her and say, "Sorry for the miscommunication!" Baby Girl is attached securely to us. Mom has no idea what it takes to care for her. She never understood what was going on medically with her baby. She thought one surgery would make her well. Baby Girl will always be compromised- even after the 3 open heart surgeries needed to correct her condition. There is nothing to be done now except try to be open and include Mom as much as safely possible to allow all of us to heal.
I know, you're thinking, "So.... what does your shady adoption have to do with foster care?"
Here's the deal. You know how over half of this blog is me complaining about how long the TPR and adoption process takes in foster care, and how many chances biological families get? That's what unethical adoption has to do with foster care. When I adopt Baby 4, no one will ever be able to question the ethics of the situation. No one will be able to say that he was stolen. No one will be able to say his parents were tricked. No one will be able to say that some time and support was all that was needed to keep Baby 4's family together. Foster care makes sure that no stone is unturned before permanently severing the legal tie between Mother and child.
There is no counting on an uncaring social worker in some back room to explain the levity of an adoption plan to a scared underage girl who doesn't even speak English. There is no agency who loses a lot of money if an adoption falls through. The parents are required to go to court dozens of times and are told what is happening by a CPS worker who is mandated to provide "due diligence", their attorney, and the judge themselves.
Services must be offered to the parents by the county: Substance abuse treatment, Supportive living, food and rent assistance, parenting classes, daycare assistance, transportation assistance, medical coverage for the child, GED classes, providing baby equipment, WIC, etc. If a child becomes available for adoption after being in foster care, it's because they really need a family- not because their parent was not supported.
Yes, I know there is a large chasm between children/parents in the foster care system who are coming from abusive/neglectful situations and the children/parents in the domestic adoption realm who are faced with this decision for other reasons- but hear me out. There are always going to be waiting lists of doe-eyed prospective adoptive parents waiting for those cute little babies from the agencies. Maybe they don't know or don't care about the ethical tightrope they'll be walking for the rest of their child's life. Maybe they could never give a child back. Maybe they only want an asian girl or a white boy. Maybe they only want babies. Maybe they don't want contact with birth families. Maybe they always dreamt of naming their child after their late Grandmother and so only want a baby they can name. Yes, those are all reasons I have heard in real life for people not adopting from foster care.
But you and I, dear reader: We know better.
We know there are kids in foster care who truly need families. We know raising any child who has been separated from their family will be as difficult as it is rewarding. We know we do not deserve another woman's child even if we find ourselves prepared and barren while she finds herself destitute and pregnant again. We know we do not need to stand in line with our life savings in our hand outstretched, wishing and praying that someone will find us a baby.
Sure, foster care is hard and awful. You might have to hand your baby over and never see them again. But an unethical adoption is even worse. It hurts the child just as much as abuse and neglect.
I never went searching for a newborn domestic adoption. Baby Girl fell in our lap. So I can't say I'll never pursue adoption again when I didn't in the first place. I can say, though, that if another adoption is ever on the horizon for our family I will be insisting on a few things. I will be insisting on pre-placement contact with the birth parents and I will be insisting on post adoption counseling being offered to Mom (that I would pay for) by a counselor who is not affiliated with the adoption agency. I did do some things right this time around. I fought to have an original copy of Baby Girl's original birth certificate and to have the full name of her biological Father- who was not on that birth certificate. I would insist on that again as well.
Barring another unforeseen adoption surprise, I will be pursuing foster care with a clear conscious and open eyes. I will fight for what's right- not just right for me- even though I admit that is hard for me at times. I will not be the one to tell a Mother that she has no rights to her child- forever. Not again.