Monday, March 10, 2014

Why I Hate Adoption

I didn't know where or how to share this story since it's all about our agency domestic newborn adoption of Baby Girl, but it heavily influences my opinion of foster care. Then there's that whole, "Don't bite the hand that feeds you." thing. But here I go anyway...

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 inventory baby)

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.



25 comments:

  1. Oh no. Oh, no. My mouth dropped open and my heart lurched as I read this. How awful for you, and for that poor child who was so hurt already and so misled. This is part of why we looked to fostering instead of adopting outright. There is nothing to be done for Baby Girl's mother beyond what you're doing, and that has to weigh on you so heavily. Oh, man. I feel for you.

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    1. You made a great choice. Thank you for providing a home without demanding ownership.

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    2. Actually, I thought there was something you COULD possibly do...have you considered having your child's mother live with you, so that your child has the benefit of both her mothers?

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    3. That's a legitimate question. As addressed in the post, I was unable to even facilitate a visit as Mom is a minor, lives across the country, and does not want the adults caring for her to know she has contacted us. If there was an opportunity to work with the adults caring for her or a legal way to bring her across state lines, there would be a dialogue about her staying with us- at least for an extended visit. Our daughter is on a ventilator and can not safely travel to Mom in her current condition. I did tell Mom that if she is able to make a trip to New York, she can stay here.

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  2. This RIGHT HERE is the reason we chose international adoption for our second set of kiddos. Yes, we will eventually do foster care because us crazies feel like we are weirdly suited to it, but for adoption no. Not to say I wouldn't fall in love with a child but it definitely would be with my eyes wide open. My dh says 'Think of them as your extra kiddos who just happen to live here for 2 days to ?, and treat them like they're yours.' Yep.

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    Replies
    1. You chose international adoption to protect yourself from knowing that your children were taken from a mother who didn't know what she was signing. The children will grow up and hate you for that.

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    2. Melissa, be aware that international adoption has its own stories of birth parents tricked out of their children.

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  3. Thank you for your honesty. This is valuable information for anyone thinking about adoption. I really feel for you in this situation and for everyone involved. Baby Girl's bio Mom is a minor so it seems strange that as a minor (further complicated by a language barrier) you would be allowed to sign a legal document that severs your rights to your child, but in any other case a guardian has to sign for you. Extremely difficult.

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  4. Wow, what a crushing story that must be hard to share, but thank you for sharing it. Unfortunately, there are stories in international adoption that are too similar. In another country, it may be common for poor families to send their children to live with wealthier relatives or friends in the city, then return later, and so it's easy for adoption to be misunderstood as a temporary situation. I hear from some people that the foster system swings too much the other way, that states and agencies get more funding for children who are in foster care, so there's pressure to delay permanency not to make sure that no stone is unturned, but to delay a loss of funding. I definitely support being able to tell an adopted child that all was tried for reunification, but delaying permanency can have consequences, too. Honestly, I don't know a ton about how the funding works, I've just pieced that together from foster parents' comments here and there.

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  5. Oh, can I just say I LOVE you? I just found my way here and am reading THIS and I know we don't know each other, but yeah.. I love you!

    "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."

    And now, I am sharing this because others need to love you too.

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  6. Melissa- If you adopted internationally then there is a very good chance you have also exploited a mother who did not understand what she was signing. IA is rife with corruption as bad, and much worse, then this.

    Thank you for sharing this post. It is amazing.

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  7. Melissa, just because you don't observe the sausage-making of international adoption, it doesn't mean it isn't happening. IA is just as gruesome and unethical than DA, if not more so. Only difference is, you get to cover your eyes, plug your ears, and pretend it isn't happening.

    To the author of this piece, thank you very much for writing it.

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  8. Thank you for writing this. It sums up my reservations about infant adoption perfectly. I just can't participate in such a flawed system, where young girls or other disadvantaged women could be pressured into handing over their babies. It's foster care all the way for us. A system which has it's own share of corruption, but I feel like it's more transparent to see.

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    Replies
    1. Thank you for making the best choice for the children involved.

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  9. I was adopted at birth. My birth mother place me for adoption after telling my birth father she had miscarried. Had my parents insisted on contact with BOTH biological parents I would not have been 45 when I met my birth father for the first time. He would have taken me and raised me.

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  10. Not all adoption agencies are going to be misleading. I'm a foster parent and have worked in the system, so I have much more knowledge of that than domestic adoption. However, I have looked into adoption and I've found quite a few agencies that provide for and take steps to help the mother parent (for example an adoption agency that also has housing, support and parenting classes for crisis pregnancies and mothers that decide they want to parent). I've decided that if we do try to adopt I would use an agency like that because I know they were taking mom's best interests into account. The thing about adoption is that it may save a baby from harm or having to ever end up in foster care if it was just placed for adoption in the first place, right?

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    1. I agree that not all adoption agencies are misleading. I would also have to concede to a challenge that not all foster care adoptions are necessary. I personally feel foster care offers more transparency to prospective adoptive parents as to the ethics of the specific case. For me, the risk of unintentionally being involved in an unethical adoption is not worth the possibility of being in a fair and morally upright adoption. As I stated, there will always be people willing to adopt. I can't come to terms with the risk.

      I view housing provided to pregnant women by adoption agencies differently than you do. I feel it is very coercive as it puts the woman in a mental state of debt to the agency. That housing ends once the baby is born and the decision is made to not follow through with an adoption plan. Removing a pregnant woman from her natural support system then making her have to move and get out on her own postpartum stacks the deck against her in terms of successfully parenting a newborn.

      Adoption saving a baby from harm implies that birthfamilies are harmful and adoptive families are not. I would argue that the large majority of biological families are perfectly capable of safely parenting their children. Foster and adoptive families are just as susceptible to divorce, disease, death, violence, neglect, and losing their children as everyone else.

      I would encourage anyone considering domestic adoption to read some birth family blogs. I would encourage everyone involved in any aspect of foster care or adoption to read Reform Talk. There are certainly good aspects of this adoption world, but we all need to be aware of and avoid the death traps too.

      http://anotherversionofmother.com/
      http://www.reformtalk.net/

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  11. OK, but would you be willing to let baby girl go, when both she and her mother are less vulnerable?

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  12. What a heartbreaking story. I believe that the true "orphans" of our nation are foster children, and I am so thankful we went this route instead of domestic adoption. Adopting domestically would have been, for me, a selfish decision (not saying this is true for everyone who adopts domestically by any means), whereas foster care is slowly teaching me to be less selfish and truly care for children who need a home rather than for myself who thinks she needs another child. I think another way to truly care for children unselfishly is to adopt special needs kids, whether at home or abroad.
    PS I, too, have been thankful many times for the thorough, if not agonizingly long, process involved in adopting a foster child!! Social workers don't always handle the process properly, though... but our's did, and we love them for it.

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  17. My sister found out as an adult that her adoption was 100% forced and unethical and I found out mine was what I will call "barely ethical." This has really strained my relationship with my adoptive parents. It will mean a lot to Baby Girl if you stay focused on doing what is right. I hope the mother will eventually be reunited with her child.

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  18. Our adoption was on the unethical side of the financial aspects of adoption...where the mom was getting large monthly stipends while incarcerated. We had to reimburse the CA attorney for birth mother expenses between stints in jail (total 8k) at match. When our son was born, we knew he was born vaginally which meant we had to pay 6 weeks of post partum care. Instead of paying monthly, our attorney made us get a cashier's check for 4k payable to our birthmother that he would hold for her until she was released. We felt obligated to do as our attorney told us to do but it didn't mean I thought it was right. There was a point where I sent an email to the atty staff regarding baby #2 up for adoption when our son was 4 months. In the email I stated that we were not comfortable supporting her drug habits in jail, our son was born drug exposed while she was incarcerated, said it came down to an "ethic/conscious issue for us", then the attorney blew my email out of proportion. Apparently if he was doing things on the up and up he wouldn't have been so defensive of my personal statement.

    Nonetheless, this is an awful situation to be in. I couldn't imagine.

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