All posts by Mirah Riben

Class and Race in Child Adoption

Despite the illusion of adoption as an altruistic child-saving social service . . .  adoption is deeply imbued in classism, nearly always redistributing children from economically at-risk “unmarried” or “too young” mothers and fathers, or those in temporary crisis, to adopters of higher socio-economic status who can afford the tens of thousands of dollars that babies cost.

Some call it Class Warfare. I have dubbed it Reverse Robinhoodism.

Worldwide, poverty far exceeds abuse, neglect, or abandonment as the reason for adoption surrenders.

It is the poor states that produce the children and the rich that consume them. In this process, poor parents are left behind, serving only as the initial fabricators of other people’s children.

— Debora L. Spar, Harvard School of Business (2006)

Finances are also the number one reason American mothers surrender children for adoption. Reuben Pannor, author, researcher, teacher, and past director of Vista Del Mar Adoption Agency in California, reported:

Most infants placed for adoption come from poor families. …This is a sad commentary on the richest and most powerful country in the world. Even poor married couples are relinquishing their children.

USA Today, May 18, 2009, cover story tells of Renee, a 36-year-old mother of three teens who earns $50,000 a year. Renee relinquished her fourth child, a baby she briefly breastfed because of financial strain on her and her children.

Race

“ . . . the demographics of those in need of loving homes do not precisely match the demographics of those seeking a new child. Adoptive parents are disproportionately white. Adopted children are not,” David French, senior writer at National Review, and a white Evangelical Christian man from “middle Tennessee”, who together with his wife, adopted a child from Ethiopia.

Race has been a controversial issue in adoption for decades. In 1972 the National Association of Black Social Workers famously declared white adoption of black children to be a form of “cultural genocide.” Many still believe they were right. Cries of cultural imperialism and colonialism continue to question whether or not to place babies and children of color in white households, and now, in addition, there are questions about cost differences, and “white savior syndrome.”

Adoption fees for babies and children vary based on age, health, and race. The cost to adopt a Caucasian child was approximately $35,000, plus some legal expenses.  Black babies cost about $18,000 and a biracial children between $24,000 and $26,000. Six Words: ‘Black Babies Cost Less to Adopt’, NPR, June 27, 2013.

When a couple seeking to adopt a white baby is charged $35,000 and a couple seeking a black baby is charged $4,000, the image that comes to the Rev. Ken Hutcherson’s mind is of a practice that was outlawed in America nearly 150 years ago . . . What’s the difference between that and slavery?

The cost difference rises from the supply and demand manner by which adoptions are arranged.  “If you’re white, as most transracial parents are, it’s easier to adopt a nonwhite child because more of them are available for adoption. . . Worldwide, it’s often easier to adopt black, Asian, and Hispanic children than white children,” says Sharon Perkins, Advantages & Disadvantages of Interracial Adoption.

Jacquelynn Moffett, president of Homes for Black Children in Detroit agrees that the racially-skewed menu of prices to adopt children based on race “looks like a slave poster.” She adds: “As a Black person, it’s totally offensive.”

Stacey Patton wrote about racism in the case of the intentional car crash in California that killed six abused Black children adopted by two white women, Sarah and Jennifer Hart, calling them “completely functional white people in white supremacist America who sought to commodify and abuse Black bodies.”

 . . .racialized sadism that jumps off the pages and harkens back to the slavery era when white plantation mistresses, America’s first transracial adopters, meted out brutal treatment against enslaved Black children. The way Sarah and Jennifer were controlling these children—starving them, keeping them in line in this creepy way, humiliating them, calling them liars and gaslighting them—reeks of racialized control, amusement, and ownership.

White people also have a long history of fetishizing racial Others that they fear. Sarah and Jennifer would give every indication of having had a deep and unspoken inherent fear of Black people.

Celebrities such as Angelina Jolie, Sandra Bullock, and Madonna have not only role modeled adoption but glamorize Inter-racial adoption as the height of liberalism or what some call “virtual signaling” – far better than any bumper sticker can.  But “intent, like being colorblind, doesn’t really get you that far.”

LaSha writes on Kinfolk Kollektive: Blogging While Black, “Adopting Black Children is Not Your Chance to Prove You’re Not Racist.” She states:

No, adopting a black child is not an opportunity to prove you’re not racist or be heralded for wanting the undesirable and loving the unlovable.

A white parent adopting a black child must first understand that no matter how much they’d like to believe that race is not real or pretend they don’t see color, that black child is dealing with the very real social ramifications of his race and color. That parent needs to recognize that the needs of that black child are different emotionally, socially, mentally, and physically. That parent needs to be committed to the Herculean task of making their home, with all the subconscious subtle hostilities learned through decades of an inevitable socialization of suspicion, a space where that black child feels free from the ever-looming burden of racism. . .

She points out that Whites who adopt interracially need to be aware of the “baggage” of their privilege and that “the amount of money you make, the places that your kids have access to because of your status, class, and your Whiteness” don’t excuse you from considering what you need to do to help your adopted child of color adjust to a world other than the one he or she was born into.”

The acknowledgement of a black child’s blackness by white parents is a delicate thing. It must be constant yet never blaring. It must become effortless yet conscious. It must be broached such that the child realizes black is everything he is but not all he is. A white parent of a black child must be skilled at navigating the intricacies of that child’s racial identity such that it becomes as natural as breathing….

[B]lack parents raising black children have been black children. White parents of black children have been white children. The disadvantage is nearly insurmountable. The victory is never flawless. And the preparation is never enough.

The Pitt Family

Jolie described a desire to create a “rainbow family.”  To some this is reminiscent of collecting souvenirs from places visited, or a desire to model a more multicultural world –  a world in which race is a non-issue.  But it is not any child’s responsibility to be used for your political motives, no matter how noble.

Making the world free of perceived racial differences is a worthwhile goal that might be better accomplished by interracially dating and marrying and having biracial children – difficult enough for many such children –  or adding an adopted child or children to that mix, rather than adopting a child into a family with no one who looks like him and putting the onus on an innocent child who did not agree to be a spokesperson for your cause.

Others, like the Frenches, adopt to fulfill an Evangelical act of charity as described in The Child Catchers: Rescue, Trafficking, and the New Gospel of Adoption by Kathryn Joyce. Ironically, French and others who, believe they are called by God to adopt, blame both the racist alt-right and leftists for disparaging them for doing so. French writes of “attacks” on his family from “the left” online and in person, bizarrely pointing to the adoption tax credit that was created to encourage special needs adoption which was expanded under Bill Clinton and made fully refundable under the Obama administration as his evidence.

French argues that adoptive families – all adoptive families – were caught in an IRS “dragnet” having to prove their adoption expenses were legitimate. What this has to do with persecution of interracial adoptive families is left to the bewilderment of readers of his Atlantic treatise. He concludes that compared to the alt-right, “at least” progressive critics didn’t torment them with photo-shopped pictures of his young child being killed.

Some are far more critical of White families who adopt interracially. LaSha says:

White people who adopt black children don’t deserve reverence and praise for doing the unthinkable. White parents of black children also don’t get to christen themselves black by proxy, carelessly draping themselves in the adornments of soul food, hip hop, and braided hairstyles they have been brainwashed to believe encompass the entirety of blackness. And black people most certainly should not be bestowing irreproachability on these people, as if a choice to adopt a black child demonstrates an absolute commitment to being anti-racist and deconstructing white supremacy.

What Interracial Adoptees Say

 A 1999 study published in “The American Journal of Orthopsychiatry” found that about 50 percent of Asian and Black adoptees felt discomfort over their racial appearance.

Prospective adopters can gain invaluable insights by reading the writings of adults who experienced being interracially adopted.  Many have been voicing their experience and their reality.  The blog Banana Writers gives voice to Asian adoptees.

One such prolific writer is Lucy Sheen, who is also an actor, poet and filmmaker, who describes her experience as an Asian adoptee growing up in the UK, “made in Hong Kong, exported to the UK in the late 50s early 60s” saying her face was a permanent reminder. She was “not like them, did not come from them.”

 . . .no one wants to be so different that you stick out like a sore thumb. Different yes, but not that different. No child wants to be picked on. You want to be liked by everyone else. You want to be picked to play games and not be the last to be chosen. You want to be part of the group, go to parties, visit your friends’ houses and play . . .

I was different. I was the ‘other’. I was something they had never seen before. It’s something that I battle with every day though now it’s at a subconscious level. Occasionally, someone or a situation will stand out and consciously make me take active umbrage or make me feel like I’m back in the school playground being picked on. But it’s not very often these days.

Another good source for learning what it is like being internationally and interracially adopted is afforded us by Jane Joeng Trenka author of: The Language of Blood, and Fugitive Visions: An Adoptee’s Return to Korea along with Outsiders Within: Writing on Transracial Adoption, which she co-wrote with Julia Chinyere Oparah. Also see Foreign Goods: A Selection of Writing by British East Asian Artists by Jingan Young.

Nicky Campbell, host of the TLC reunion show, Long Lost Family, who was adopted as a baby, notes that interracial adoption adds “an extra layer of identity problems” for children. He, and others, agree the issue is far deeper than “love.”  It would be helpful, if before considering an interracial adoption, White adopters made an effort to learn about White privilege and entitlement and what it means to be a good ally to POC, lest they unintentionally come from a position of savior.

If you adopt interracially you become an interracial family with all that entails, and you have to be prepared for people staring and asking uncomfortable and invasive questions, often in front of your child. If you are not prepared to deal with anti-Black sentiments prevalent in this nation, it is probably best not to add a Black child to your family.  Discrimination and racist remarks will not just be hurled at your child, but at you and any other children you may have, as well.  It can be extremely difficult for children of color who are adopted by families who live in lily-white communities as opposed to more urban and diverse neighborhoods.

The popular NBC series This is US featured some issues facing a Black boy as he grows into a man in a White family with two white siblings. Growing up, the character named Randall sought out others who looked like him, while his adoptive mother dealt with hair and skin care issues.

One would hope that pre-adoption counseling would make this clear and be part of any vetting process. However, adoption agencies in America placing children domestically or from overseas are businesses, concerned more about their bottom line by providing a child for those who are willing to pay for one above any concerns for child welfare. Even state foster care whether privatized or not rely on federal bonuses for completing adoptions.  Many who claim difficulty finding homes for Black children don’t do their due diligence. It is thus the responsibility of those adopting interracially to do their homework and be sure what their true motivation is and if they are up to serving the special needs of a child of color.

Adoption: In Whose Best Interest? Who Are the Winners and the Losers?

Most people know of adoption through the self-selecting lens of someone they know who has adopted, or someone “desperate” to parent through adoption as a last resort. They may also have a family member or friend who was adopted as a child but seldom, if ever, talks about it with them on any deep level.

Others get their impressions of adoption from television, movies, and other media. Scripts of sitcoms (such as Modern Family), crime fighting shows (such as SVU), and musical shows (such as Glee), etc., all have included an adoption theme.  In addition to these fictionalized versions of adoption, celebrity adoptions are very visible from the perspective of the enthusiastic mothers or couples who have adopted. Stars such as Madonna, the couple formerly known as “Brangelina,” and Sandra Bullock have publicly gushed over their newly acquired, prized little ones, garnering glowing, positive PR for their apparent altruism in opening their hearts to an otherwise perceived “unwanted” child. Still others assume that adoptees are fortunate to have been saved from being aborted (no more true of adoptees than anyone else), abused (maybe true of some adopted from state foster care, but not necessarily newborns), or left in orphanages (true for some adopted internationally.)

It is through these false, one-sided views that adoption is glorified as altruistic and romanticized, idealized, and idolized as a “win-win.” But is it?  All who know of adoption from this superficial depiction, or second-hand, are missing the backstory­. Even most people who adopt, who initiate the process to gain a child, experience the loss of the child they hoped to genetically produce.

The Adoptee: Gains, Losses, Trauma, and Harm

It is, in fact, true that adoption moves children from lower to higher (or much higher) socioeconomic status and affords them, in many cases, more material advantages than they might otherwise have. But at what price?

We must begin by recognizing that there is no adoption without loss; thus, for the adoptee, it is not a win-win. Internationally adopted children lose family, heritage, and their native tongue.  Even those adopted domestically lose their kin, their genealogy, and usually their family medical history, with the exception of some truly and fully open adoptions that remain open. But all adoptions—open and closed—begin with the adopted person’s original vital record of his birth “sealed” forever in most states. In some states, adult adoptees are allowed access to these records under certain circumstances, through procedures not required of their non-adopted peers.  (See the American Adoption Congress website for up-to-date adoption birth certificate access laws state-by-state.) Upon the sealing of the true and accurate birth record, states issue a falsified, fictitious birth certificate that lists the adopters as the parents of birth. Same-sex couples’ adopted children are issued birth certificate listing parent #1 and parent #2 instead of mother and father.

Who benefits from this state-committed fraud? Birth records, allegedly, were originally sealed to protect adoptees from the stigma of illegitimacy, which no longer exists. Sealed records are perpetuated for the benefit of two parties: the paying customers in the transaction, who obtain the baby they covet, and those who are paid to locate and procure babies for these customers.

The unpleasant reality of this process is far less warm and fuzzy than commonly imagined. People pay tens of thousands – averaging $40k – for children who are priced as commodities by age, skin color, and health status, in a manner reminiscent of slavery.

Most so-called “open adoptions” are semi-open at best. They are most likely to be identified adoptions wherein the expectant mother meets the prospective adopters. Many such adoptions are transacted with a lack of transparency and honesty and arranged through an intermediary facilitator, without any exchange of ongoing contact information and with no means of enforcement of promises of ongoing contact. Thus, both the child and the family of origin lose out.

Every adopted child gains but also loses.

The events that create the joy of adoption for the new parents also have profound lifelong effects that cause adoptees to feel a sense of abandonment, rejection, and identity confusion. We must be cognizant that every adoption begins with a tragedy for every adoptee. No matter how loving the adoptive family, no matter how soon after the birth the transition occurs, every adoptee experiences the trauma of loss and separation, described by adoptive mother Nancy Newton Verrier in The Primal Wound.

As early as 1943, Dr. F. Clothier wrote in Mental Hygiene:

Every adopted child at some point in his development, has been deprived of this primitive relationship with his mother. This trauma and the severing of the individual from his racial antecedents lie at the core of what is peculiar to the psychology of the adopted child … [who] is called upon to compensate for the wound left by the loss of the biological mother.

Infants and young children experience their world as an environment of relationships that affect virtually all aspects of their development—intellectual, social, emotional, physical, behavioral, and moral. Even fetuses recognize voices, rhythms, and smells from the womb. The prospect of losing her child to adoption is stressful for mothers-to-be and those stressors can have a permanent negative impact on the infant in utero in many ways.

Research from National Scientific Council on the Developing Child (NSCDC) in 2004, 2005, 2007, and 2010 indicates that the stress the infant experiences from losing the gestational caregiver releases abnormal amounts of cortisol and adrenaline, flooding into the amygdala and hippocampus. This changes the brain’s growth pattern, permanently limiting an individual’s capacity to regulate thought, emotions, actions, and learning, for the lifetime of the person. Trauma that is the result from incomplete infant-gestational bonding “can lead to lifelong problems regarding physical and mental health.”

Kinsella and Monk reported the “Impact of Maternal Stress, Depression & Anxiety on Fetal Neurobehavioral Development” in Obstetrics and Gynecology, September 2009:

The prenatal period is a critical time for neurodevelopment and is thus a period of vulnerability during which a range of exposures have been found to exert long-term changes on brain development and behavior with implications for physical and psychiatric health. .   . . Clinical studies link pregnant women’s exposure to a range of traumatic, as well as chronic and common life stressors (i.e., bereavement, daily hassles, and earthquake), to significant alterations in children’s neurodevelopment.

Despite these challenges, most adoptees are perfectly well adjusted, having the resilience to cope with these early traumas.  Still, adoptees, even in the best possible scenario, face a lifelong task of integrating complex issues regarding personal identity and are thus over-represented in mental health facilities “for understandable reasons,” according to Gordon Livingston, MD.  As a result, adoptees are seen in greater numbers in special education classes, private therapy, youth residential facilities, substance abuse programs, and prisons.  Some facilities, such as Three Points Center in Utah, exist solely to treat adoptees with mental health issues.

Four-and-a-half percent of adopted individuals have problems with drug abuse, compared with 2.9 percent of the general population.  At the Wellness Resource Center in Boca Raton, FL, up to one-half of clients in drug treatment are adopted. That percentage, observed anecdotally by multiple mental health care providers, is notable considering that only 2% of the population are adopted.

A Dutch study found that adopted children had 1.52 times the likelihood of meeting criteria for anxiety. About 16 percent of adoptees had anxiety disorders, compared with 11.2 percent of the non-adoptees.  Twice the number (about 8 percent) of adoptees met the criteria for substance abuse or dependence, compared with about 4 percent for non-adoptees.

Another very alarming statistic is that adoptees are four times as likely to attempt suicide as non-adoptees, according to a study in Pediatrics.

2003 Swedish study in Lancet found that international adoptees were more likely than Swedish-born children to attempt and to die from suicide (odds ratio 3.6, 95% CI 2.1-5.9). More recently, adoptees were found to be nearly 4 times as likely to attempt suicide than non-adopted offspring, according to a September 9, 2013, study in Pediatrics, (Keyes, et al.)

Howard, Martin, et al. studied “Early Mother-Child Separation, Parenting, and Child Well-Being in Early Head Start Families” and  found that “early separation has consequences for both children’s aggression and negativity.”

“What if the question were framed differently” asks Michele Sharpe.  “Why are outcomes for children adopted into stranger families worse than for children who grow up with their own people? In that case, we might be inspired to answer the question: ’Because they are being raised by strangers’!”

If we listen to adoptees, we can learn ways to ameliorate the pain suffered by adoptees.  The losses they suffer have no rituals and go unrecognized and ignored.  Instead they are told they are “lucky” and expected to feel grateful.

The Mothers and Fathers

The only view the public sees of mothers who surrender children for adoption is via reality-type television programming about teen moms. These scenarios feed the false belief that all mothers willingly give away their babies and that doing so is in their best interest, as it is for their child. The reality is that for any mother—from anywhere in the world, and no matter how willingly—it is a lifelong loss. (See “Universality of the Grief Experienced by Mothers Who Lose Children to Adoption”).

While for the child adoption may be a loss and a gain, for many families of origin it is simply a loss. They gain nothing in return.

Mothers and fathers in impoverished parts of the world are often duped with promises that their children will go to another country to be educated and then return.  Having a child “rescued” by adoption leaves these families as destitute as they were before.  Many have no idea what they are signing, can’t read, or never sign anything. Others have their children stolen by baby traffickers.

Take, for example, Madonna. According to the pop star, she rescued a very ill child who might otherwise have perished of malaria and tuberculosis.   Madonna claimed that she was told the boy was abandoned, but the child’s father, Yohane Banda, who brought his son to the orphanage because he was unable to care for the sick days-old infant after the child’s mother died, claims that “I always imagined that when he was better, or I had got another wife, I would go and take him back. I did not think anyone would want to take him away.” Banda visited his son regularly, cycling the twenty-five miles to the orphanage to “bring him food from my garden, then sit and play with him for a while. I wanted him to know that I was his father, that I love him very much.”  In addition, the boy’s uncle and other family members protested David being taken out of the country by a “rich white donor,” noting that “other parents at the mission who have had their children adopted [are] still living in their poverty.“

Angelina Jolie was reportedly shocked to hear that her adopted son Maddox might not have been an orphan whose mother had died, but rather may have been sold by his birth mother in a desperate attempt to escape a poverty-stricken life. Lauryn Galindo, who helped Jolie adopt from Cambodia, pleaded guilty to visa fraud and money laundering as part of a ring that paid poor Cambodian women as little as $100 or less for their children. The agency that handled hundreds of such adoptions charged fees of $10,000. Additionally, the FBI closed down Seattle International Adoptions Inc., the agency used by Jolie to adopt Maddox, after former owner Lynn Devin pleaded guilty to false claims that some children the agency handled were orphans.

While prospective adopters and adoption profiteers moan the decrease in international adoptions (IA), it is a result of such corrupt practices that (IA) has been stopped from countries such as Guatemala, Ethiopia, Bhutan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Rwanda, and Ghana, reducing IA numbers drastically in recent years.  (See the State Department website for current information on which countries now allow out-of-country adoption and the requirements.) Russian adoptions were closed as a result of abuse and abandonment (sometimes fatal) of Russian children adopted by Americans.

Taking children from their culture, without concern for their families’ needs —not just by the rich and famous – continues to be a common practice..

Madonna created Raising Malawi, a charity that supports orphans and vulnerable children of Malawi through health, education, and community support. Others who are less able to create such a foundation can donate to many existing charities, such as Save the Children and UNICEF. Why pay tens of thousands to “save” just one child, when the same funds could be used to help entire communities build schools or obtain medical supplies? That is altruism.

Domestically, mothers-to-be face tremendous pressures as a result of demand outpacing the supply. From the late 1940s, starting after WWII, until the late 60s – early 70s, being pregnant and single was stigmatized. This historical period has been dubbed the Baby Scoop Era because of large numbers of babies placed for adoption to spare their mothers, and the “unwed” mothers’ families, the “shame” of their “sin” of non-marital sex.

Pregnant single women were shuffled off to maternity homes, hidden away in secrecy. The steady flow of expectant mothers with no alternatives created a steady supply of babies. Books such as Rickie Solinger’s Wake Up Little Susie: Single Pregnancy and Race Before Roe v. Wade, Ann Fessler’s The Girls Who Went Away: The Hidden History of Women Who Surrendered Children for Adoption in the Decades Before Roe v. Wade, and The Baby Scoop Era: Unwed Mothers, Infant Adoption and Forced Surrender by Karen Buterbaugh document the phenomenon and the plight of women victimized by society’s scorn.

Then in the 1970s came greater accessibility to birth control and acceptance of single motherhood, with students continuing to attend school while pregnant. This, of course, put a huge dent in the supply of babies available for adoption; at the same time, feminism also encouraged delaying childbirth while pursuing education and career, which in turn led to an increase in infertility issues. Add to that a reduction in international adoption, and marriage equality for same-sex couples – who could now also compete for the dwindling number of newborns being placed for adoption – and you have a higher degree of pressure, manipulation, and coercion of mothers-to-be who consider adoption than ever before. This dark, exploitive side of adoption is hidden from public view.

Mothers are led to believe that they are in control of the process by choosing prospective adopters from photo profiles and meeting their top choices.  However, these vulnerable, pregnant women are then “matched” with those who seek to adopt their baby. The moms-to be are encouraged to accept their “expenses” to be paid by the prospective adopters, despite the fact that most expectant moms would be entitled to housing and medical costs from the government. These payments and the constant contact during the pregnancy are done to create an incomprehensible obligation and pressure to go through with the adoption even if they are having second thoughts or have changed their minds. The mothers are not provided independent legal counsel and are often duped into “open” adoptions that slam closed once the papers are signed.  Mothers who attempt to reverse consents to adopt that were obtained fraudulently or through coercion are often silenced with gag orders. Fathers have even less voice in the placement of their children for adoption.

Lessening the Loss of a Perceived “Win-Win”

Current adoption practices serve only one client, the adopting family. The child—in whose best interest adoption purports to be—has been reduced to a desired product in a consumer, market-driven world, commodifying the child whose rights need to be protected.  The mothers of these children are too often reduced to the discarded wrap in which the gift came, exploited for the same adult-centered goals.  The intended parents should not be the client; the child should be. His or her rights should be paramount, prevailing over the needs, wants, desires, or desperation of all others.

When we lift the curtain, remove the rose-colored glasses, and see the demand-driven market aspect of adoption and the lifelong harm it causes, society needs to do everything in its power to reduce the number of family separations. Instead of encouraging and promoting adoption via tax credits and other incentives, we need to put in place resources to protect children, mothers and families in crisis.

Clearly there will always be orphaned and endangered children with no family members to care for them safely, but in order for adoption to be in a child’s best interest, every child deserves a thorough search for stable and able kin who would want them before stranger adoption is considered.

In order for alternative care to be in the best interest of the child, such care must stop requiring the unnecessary eradication of the adopted person’s original identity and replacing it with an “as if born to” pretense, protected by the fraudulent issuance of fictional birth certificates.  Hiding a person’s true, original identity from them is not in any adopted person’s best interest, but rather the interests of those who profit from their losses. These gaslighting, secretive practices need to be replaced with a form of legal guardianship that gives the new parents all rights in terms of health and education of the child in their care while respecting, honoring, and maintaining the child’s identity and kinship connections.  Only then will adoption be in the best interest of the children it purports to protect and serve.

Adoption Loss

Adoption loss is the only trauma in the world where the victims are expected by the whole of society to be grateful.

— The Reverend Keith C. Griffith, MBE

Every adoption is built on a foundation of tragedy and loss. This is why the TLC television show featuring family reunification “stories of people who have, for one reason or another, experienced long-term separation from members of their family is entitled Long Lost Family [emphasis added].

Universality of the Grief experienced by mothers who lose children to adoption

Yet recently, someone took umbrage at my stating the fact – my truth – that I lost my child to adoption. “Lost?” asked the man with incredulous shock, somehow offended at my description of my experience.  Maybe he was surprised because loss of a loved one is equated with death. Probably that combined with the prevailing fairy-tale, romanticized image of adoption as a win-win; a sum zero in which there are no losers. Women who are incapable of caring safely for a child, or simply don’t want to be mothers “chose to place” their babies for adoption to be cared for by desperately waiting persons or couples and they all live happily ever after. Powerful mythology tells us it is brave and it is loving. This is the image of adoption our culture has created and the public embraces tightly with certainty.

Yet this powerful perception is smoke and mirrors. It is a construct to keep a thriving mega-billion-dollar industry – and those whose livelihoods depend upon it –  flourishing. The truth behind the curtain is that adoption is not a win for everyone involved in the process.  Never has been. Adoption is NOT a win-win, but involves loss for all parties.

Adoptive Parents

Some who adopt do so because since childhood they totally bought into this myth and they felt a life-long commitment to help the mythological “languishing” orphans.

The vast majority adopters, however, (excluding step-parent adoptions) have lost their fertility, their ability to carry a pregnancy to term, or are unable to have a child of their own with their partner or spouse. They’ve lost the dream – often a lifelong dream – of having a family and a child of their own. Many have lost the dream of experiencing pregnancy, childbirth and seeing an offspring who might look like them or have familial and familiar traits. This is a grievous loss and one that cannot be underestimated or taken lightly. It is the loss of hopes and dreams. It is shattering for those who experience it. It often drives people to endure years of painful and very expensive infertility treatments and assisted reproduction solutions, leaving them heartbroken in the end.

Some who chose adoption – as a last resort – experience a let-down after adopting that they liken to postpartum depression, though the causes are very different. Many are trying to bond having not had sufficient time or counseling to properly mourn their loss. Some adoptive parents admit that the longing and wondering what their own child might have been like lingers long after they have opened their hearts to a “replacement,” substitute child.

Mothers who lose children to adoption

Universality of the Grief experienced by mothers who lose children to adoption

For the mother who bears the child there is nothing but loss.  My loss was half a century ago. 1968. My daughter was born in the Summer of Love. July 1967 and also during what some call the Baby Scoop Era (from the end of WWII to Roe v. Wade) because of the high number of babies lost to mothers who were deemed “too young” or simply “unwed” – judged immoral for the sin of fornication. For some the “cure” was a shotgun wedding.  For many it meant banishment to a Home for Unwed Mothers and the ultimate punishment – permanent loss of your child into an abyss of the unknown and a lifetime of worry, wondering if your child was dead or alive, well taken care of or lost in the foster care system. After carrying a child for nine months, laboring and birthing and being left with empty arms, what else could possibly describe that but loss?  In 1980, I was one of five such mothers in New Jersey who co-founded the original Origins, subtitled: An organization for mother who lost children to adoption.” Childless mothers.

Much has changed over the decades and much has not.  Birth control is more readily available, drastically reducing the number of unintended pregnancies and abortion is an option, currently, in most of the country. The stigma of being an “unwed mother” has all but disappeared except in some ultra-religious communities. Single parenthood is far more accepted and even applauded under the right circumstances – meaning if one is wealthy enough (think Sandra Bullock).  And even those less financially secure can still continue to attend school while pregnant today, as they could not previously.

The shame that drove everything about adoption underground and secretive and forced so many young mothers to lose their children, is for the most part in the past. No longer are mothers having to hide their “sin” as described so graphically in The Girls Who Went Away by Ann Fessler.

Today we have MTV reality shows following young expectant moms as they make their decision to become mothers or make the very difficult, painful but loving choice to allow others to parent their child. Today most mothers in that situation can opt for “open adoption” which purports to spare them the torturous pain of not knowing the well-being of their child. Some open adoptions last. Some such arrangements are satisfying for both sets of parents. Others fail or were merely a false promise from the get-go, a pretense to pry a baby from a mother.

Universality of the Grief experienced by mothers who lose children to adoption

Many young, naïve mothers-to-be believe that by choosing an open adoption they are entering into a binding contract that will make them akin to a non-custodial parent in a divorce when nothing could be further from the truth.  No open adoption contact agreement is enforceable and cannot be because every adoption, including open adoption, begins with the mother and father relinquishing ALL their parental rights, rendering them legal strangers to their child. All rights then reside with the adopting parents – the only legal parents –  who can choose to allow contact or not. Relinquishing parents, because they have no independent legal counsel, are often unaware of this and all too often enter into agreements that are not at all what they imagine it to be. Most have become enmeshed with prospective adopters throughout their pregnancies and feel a tremendous sense of obligation and indebtedness to them for the “kindness” and support – both emotional and financial. They believe these people who have “been there” for them when boyfriends or family have abandoned them, are their true friends.

Far too many are left out in the cold, feeling nothing but emptiness, loss and betrayal when promises are unkept.

No matter what type of adoption occurs –  open or closed – the mother has experienced a grievous loss she will never forget. Mothers in adoption that remain open often feel pain seeing their child calling someone else Mommy, no matter how well-prepared they thought they were. The child that grew inside them is someone else’s. Someone else gets to marvel at all their milestones and gets the kisses and hugs. Even if they are recognized as the “mother” – someone else is Mom. And even if that is what they wanted for their child, it is bitter sweet and a loss of what might have been, could have been.

Unlike other maternal losses – miscarriage, stillborn, loss of custody in divorce, death of a child – a loss to adoption is not socially accepted and there are no customs or rituals to mark the loss – no funeral, no grave. In fact, it is the only loss encouraged by society and funded by federal tax dollars.

Because there is no finality, no closure, it has been identified as a limbo or ambiguous loss akin to mothers of soldiers lost in action as per Pauline Boss, author of Ambiguous Loss: Learning to live with Unresolved Grief. For more on the never-ending loss of adoption for mothers, see “Universality of Grief experienced by mothers who lose children to adoption.”

The loss of a child is not forgotten nor healed over time, but, in fact, is reported to worsen.

“Time since relinquishment, age of the respondent, education level, and income had a significant inverse relationship with birth mothers’ satisfaction to place their child for adoption.”1

Evelyn Robinson writes about “Long term outcomes of losing a child through adoption: the impact of disenfranchised grief.”

The Adoptee

The adopted child likewise experiences profound loss. The loss of the life he might have had, the loss of genetic connection to the family in which she is raised.  In very real tangible way they lose their original identity, many adopted transnationally lose their heritage, culture and native tongue. They lose access to their original birth certificate, aka a vital record at least until adulthood and for some, depending on the country and state they were born in, forever. And most significantly, they lose their family medical history.

Some adoptees have likened their life to a puzzle with pieces missing. Others to a book missing its first chapter. Many feel a sense of injustice for the denial of their truth, including their grief.

Kathryn Patricelli, MA, writes Long-Term Issues for The Adopted Child:

Children may feel grief over the loss of a relationship with their birthparents and the loss of the cultural and family connections that would have existed with those parents.

This feeling of loss may be especially intense in closed or semi-open adoptions where little or no information or contact is available with birthparents. Such grief feelings may be triggered at many different times throughout the child’s life including when they first learn of their adoption, during the turbulent teen years, upon the death of other family members, or even as when becoming a spouse or parent.

Some who are adopted experience an initial separation and one or more subsequent separations and losses before – and even after – being adopted, but even  one of these can have a profound emotional toll.

“Neglect, abuse, violence and trauma endured early in life can ripple directly into a child’s molecular structure and distort their DNA, according to a new study this week from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

“The genetic changes leave them biologically more vulnerable in later life to psychiatric afflictions like depression, anxiety, mood disorders and high-risk behavior like drug abuse, the researchers found.”  Childhood trauma leaves scars that are genetic, not just emotional, study affirms.

Every separation from primary caregivers is a traumatic loss, no matter when it occurs – even at birth. For newborns, accustomed to the smells, sounds and motions of the mother in whose wombs they grow, it is called a primal wound.

Adoptees are burdened not only with ignoring their losses, in most cases, but dealing with society’s expectations of gratitude. They are imposed with feeling grateful they were not aborted when their chances are no greater than anyone else’s. They are told they are lucky not to have lived a life of assumed abject poverty or abuse or neglect had they not been adopted.

Imagine losing a spouse and being told: “But look how fortunate you are that you have your children” without any expression of sympathy. This is what adoptees deal with day in and day out. Sharon Pine writes, “Please Don’t Tell Me I was Lucky to be Adopted”:

For me, being an adoptee is like getting into a horrible car accident and surviving with devastating injuries. But instead of anybody acknowledging the trauma of the accident, they tell you that you should feel lucky. Even if the injuries never stop hurting, never quite heal. Even if the injuries make it impossible to feel comfortable in everyday life. . .

Adoptees are often so busy trying to prove that we’re fine, that it’s too late when we realize we’re not.

Elle Cuardaigh expresses her frustration and writes of her anguish of coping with society’s expectations for her regarding her adoption experience. In Dear Adoption, Do Not Tell Me How I Feel Cuardaigh speaks for many adoptees when she says:

When I say I feel I don’t belong anywhere, you say I feel lucky to be adopted. When I say I consider myself a commodity, you say I actually feel like a gift. When I say I long to connect with my birth family, you say “those people” mean nothing to me. When I say I miss my original mother, you say I have abandonment issues. When I say I mourn my bio-father, you say I cannot grieve someone I never met. When I say I carry great pain, you say you wish you were adopted.

Lost Daughters  is a collaborative writing project founded in 2011 authored exclusively by adult women who were adopted as children.  “Our name was chosen in the spirit of BJ Lifton’s concept of one’s Self becoming “lost” and “found” throughout the journey of being adopted.” One such contributor writes:

I think for many adoptees we have grown weary of being told how to feel.  Adoption has been painted as a win-win for all parties and a wonderful way to create families for so long the under belly of adoption not been revealed. . .

Loss is loss. You don’t tell someone who lost a leg to be thankful for their prosthetic, or tell someone who has lost one kidney to be glad still have one left, or someone who lost a child that they have others to be thankful for.  Even IF there is some reason to be thankful for that it doesn’t diminish the initial trauma and loss.  Loss, is loss, is loss, is loss and will always BE loss.  Some losses are greater than others certainly.  We can measure and compare them, but they are all still loss. Yes, what we do with it makes the difference but that will never erase the initial loss.

Diminishing initial loss for adoptees can further undermine their feelings and emotions leading them to question even more who and what they are. … If adoptees are shamed into believing some of the most basic and primal parts of themselves are wrong then they begin to trust in others rather than themselves.

Psychologist and author David Kushner writes:

Abandonment and loss are core issues in adoption. Loss of the birth mother is a primal wound, says adoptive mother/author Nancy Verrier (1993), likely no less profound than loss of significant relationships through death, separation or divorce. In adoption, however, there is also a loss of origins, loss of identity and loss of a completed sense of self. All members of the adoption triad experience profound loss. Birth parents lose their children, adoptive parents lose their dream of a child they wanted to conceive, and adoptees lose their birth families. Unlike other situations of traumatic loss, the adoptee’s need to grieve is too often not validated by society, or understood by the adoptive family.”2

Nancy Adams, an International adoptee recently summed it up on Facebook:

In the adoption process, there are two parties with power and two parties without power. The agency or attorney and the adoptee parents have the power and gain the money and the child. The birth parent and child do not have any power. Whether the decision was forced, surrendered or relinquished, given up….both the powerless parties feel an incredible loss on so many levels. That is a fact that can’t be denied, even with the best adoptee parents, issues of trust, loss, abandonment, grief of questions unanswered will always be there for both the adoptee and original mother. I don’t think this is a debate on positive or negative adoptions. This is speaking to the underlying life-long effects of losing, surrendering, being forced, relinquishing a child no matter what the reason. These psychological and emotional effects do not go away. I have huge amounts of adoptee friends and in that group,  [even among] those who have found their birth families.

The life long search for self is real, the life-long grieving on both parties is real even if the child got a “better life or family or opportunities”…the psychological/emotional struggles are real.

Adoption loss is real. It cannot and should not be denied. We need to leave the win-win myth where it belongs: with other childhood fairy tales, Santa Claus, Easter bunnies and unicorns, and face the realities of loss and grief that is a very real part of every adoption. The profound loss for all of the parties to adoption is a reality that needs to be recognized within adoptive families, by society, and in our legal system.

  1. The Relationship Between Time and Birth Mother Satisfaction with Relinquishment, Madden et al.,  April 30, 2018.
  2. Sometimes a Fatal Quest… Losses in Adoption“, David Kirshner, June 21, 2008.

Is Adoption Legalized Kidnapping?

Kidnap is a verb that is defined as:

To take (someone) away illegally by force, typically to obtain a ransom.  Synonyms include: abduct, carry off, capture, snatch, take hostage.

Yet most kidnappings involve no ransom and many – such as parental “kidnappings” –  involve no force at all. And some illegally, criminally kidnapped children are raised well in every respect, as the child of their abductor:

  • Kamiyah Mobley, who was raised as Alexis Manigo, when found and learned the truth of having been abducted from the hospital defended her kidnapper, saying: She loved me for 18 years. She raised me for 18 years … I will always love her.”
  • Carlina Renae Whitewho was kidnapped in New York, was not recovered for 23 years. She was raised as Nejdra “Netty” Nance by Annugetta “Ann” Pettway in BridgeportConnecticut.  Like Mobley, White suspected the “mother” raising her might not be, in fact, her biological mother, just as many adoptees who are not outright told they are adopted, do. Neither woman, however, became really suspicious until they needed a birth certificate.
  • A man who was kidnapped as a baby in China said:  “I never thought she was not my mom as she was so good to me. I don’t really care if they can find my biological parents or not.”
  • Julian Hernandez was abducted from his mother when he was five years old.  Bobby Hernandez, aka Jonathan Mangina, was charged with interference with custody, not kidnapping. 19-year-old Julian Hernandez forgave him.

Conversely, many who are adopted legally are horrendously abused, even killed by their legal adopters. A few recent cases:

  • Janet Solander, who authored a book critical of Child Protective Services,was convicted of 46 counts of abuse of three adopted children in Las Vegas, March 2018. Charges included abuse, neglect and endangerment with substantial bodily harm; sexual assault with a minor under 14; and assault with a deadly weapon.  Solander’s husband Dwight pled guilty to similar charges of abusing the three girls aged 9 to 12.  The abuse reportedly began within a month of adopting the girls.
  • Jennete Killpack, 26, of Utah, was found guilty in 2006 of second-degree felony child-abuse homicide in the death of her adopted daughter Cassandra. June 9, 2002, Killpack put the child on a bar stool, bit the child, tied the girl’s hands behind her back and forced her to drink about a gallon of water as punishment for taking a sibling’s drink.
  • Carri and Larry Williams were charged in 2013 for the death of their 13-year-old adopted daughter, Hana Grace-Rose Williams who died of hypothermia and “a culmination of chronic starvation caused by a parent’s intentional food restriction, severe neglect, physical and emotional abuse and stunning endangerment.” Hana had been adopted in 2008 along with a 10-year-old boy, who is deaf, also from Ethiopia.
  • Kevin and Elizabeth Schatz adopted Lydia and her sister Zariah from Liberia. The Schatz’s who are White were devout Christians and had six biological children in addition to their three adopted children. Lydia was seven when she succumbed to liver failure after being whipped with plastic tubing for several straight hours, interspersed with prayer breaks by her parent in their California home.
  • Former Army Maj. John Jackson and his wife, Carolyn, were convicted in New Jersey July of 2015, of abusing their three adopted children – all under the age of four at the time. They were force-fed hot sauce and raw onions, and suffered broken bones. One two-year-old died. The children born to them did not suffer the same abuse.
  • John and Joyce Bell of Iowa pleaded guilty to abusing one of their nine adopted children after their 21-year-old daughter video-taped the abuse. The Bells adopted children with disabilities who ranged in age from 16 to 18.
  • Jim and Paige Nachtigal of Kansas adopted three children from Peru.  The children were starved and had bruises from being beaten for incorrectly doing the pushups, sit ups, and jumping jacks doled out for punishment. Jim Nachtigal, convicted of three counts of child abuse, had served as the chief executive officer at Kansas Christian Home in Newton for 10 years. His wife, who was charged with two counts of child abuse, was a missionary at World Outreach Ministries when the abuse surfaced.
  • Michael and Sharen Gravelle forced 11 adopted and foster children, ranging from one-year-old to fourteen, to sleep in cages. The Gravelles spent two years in prison for abusing some of the children.

The Heartless Hart Family

  • Sarah and her wife Jennifer Hart adopted two sets of three Black siblings, abused and killed all six and themselves by driving their van off a cliff in California on March 26, 2018. Devonte, 15; Jeremiah, 14; and Sierra, 12 were siblings acquired by the Harts in 2009. Their aunt, Priscilla Celestine, fought to keep the children she had custody of.  They were removed from her care for allowing their mother to visit and allowed to be adopted and removed from their home state of Texas, far from the mother, father aunt and all extended family known to the children, then aged 4, 6 and 9. Markis, 19; Hannah, 16; and Abigai, 14l were also siblings, adopted by the Harts in 2006.

 Blurred Lines

Attorney Steinberg and his common-law wife Hedda Nussbaum were drug addicts who kidnapped, abused, and neglected two children, had them living in squalor and filth, and may have sexually abused the older of the two, a female child they named Lisa who was 6 when she died.

The two unmarried mothers of these children were obstetric patients of Dr. Peter Sarosi who conspired with Steinberg, telling them of a “wonderful,” “professional” couple seeking to adopt.  Steinberg never told the mothers he intended to keep the children.

Neither doctor nor lawyer were ever charged with kidnapping and the case was labeled an “illegal adoption” because Steinberg never filed any paperwork to adopt them legally. Nor was Steinberg charged with the murder of Lisa, just for not seeking medical care for her as she lie dying on the bathroom floor under the watchful eye of Nussbaum, who was exonerated.

Dr. Sarosi, without whom Steinberg never could have obtained the two babies, pleaded guilty to unlawfully placing a child for adoption without court approval. His sentence: “three years probation and 100 hours of community service and fined $1,000” and he resumed practicing medicine until he died.

Legal/Illegal: What’s the Difference?

What Steinberg and Sarosi did was considered an “illegal adoption” and not a kidnapping. Why? What’s the difference? Hoax – the pretense of adoption – was used as the method to trick these mothers out of their babies, as opposed to simply walking out the door with the babies. The mothers, in fact, never suspected foul play and thought their babies were being legally adopted and would be raised by fine upstanding citizens.

Michelle Launders, mother of the 6-year-old named Lisa, and Nicole Smigiel, mother of the toddler boy found after Lisa’s death, as well as Nicole’s mother, trusted both doctor and lawyer who were, in fact, illegally abducting their children. To the mothers, it was a legal adoption.  They were doing, as all mothers considering adoption are told, what was “best” for their child and that their child would be lovingly cared for. In fact, Launders has reported paying Steinberg for his services in placing her infant daughter for adoption.

How does that differ from legal adoption practices? Mothers who relinquish are convinced and given assurances that their child(ren) will be raised by stable, loving couples or individuals. Mothers relinquishing their parental rights believe that to be the case without any guarantees. Some mothers in legal adoptions report being duped with promises of open adoption without being told such promises are unenforceable.  Some mothers-to-be are coerced and pressured by would-be adopters who ply them with gifts and create strong feelings of indebtedness and obligation. Some are held to pre-birth consents, illegal in 48 states as baby selling. Yet all these questionable, unethical practices are within the letter of the law in some states. And perfectly “legally” adopted children can — and do — end up abused and even killed by their adopters as illustrated previously herein.

Mobley very well could have been adopted, not kidnapped. Her mother, Shanara Mobley, was just 16 when she gave birth and believes the perpetrator “preyed” on her because she was a minor at the time. The baby’s father, Craig Aiken, was 18 and incarcerated at the time of his daughter’s birth. The kidnapper, Gloria Williams, was driven by the fact that she had numerous miscarriages and feared she’d never have a baby, so she stole one just hours-old from a hospital nursery and raised her as her daughter. Everything about these facts mirrors many adoptions, except for the method of taking the child.

To the child, what difference does a legal technicality or definition make?

The legal definition of kidnapping includes being taken by fraud:

The crime of unlawfully seizing and carrying away a person by force or fraud, or seizing and detaining a person against his or her will with an intent to carry that person away at a later time.

The law of kidnapping is difficult to define with precision because it varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction.

There are those, such as the members of the Facebook group entitled: “Adoption-Legal Kidnapping?” who believe all adoptions are legal kidnapping. Likewise, the blog Unethical Adoptions makes it clear that unethical adoption IS kidnapping and shares a multitude of cases.

Regardless of the technical, legal difference, adoptees and birth parents, often refer to feeling kidnapped, snatched, stolen, taken, while, adoptive parents use the phrase “Gotcha” (which implies snatched.)

Chris Reynolds’ daughter Brooke was adopted by her maternal great-grandparents. Reynolds says he didn’t sign any paperwork and no one told him until after the private adoption went through. He says:

To me, it’s a legal way of kidnapping.

Robert Franklin, Esq., Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization, writing about Reynolds’ case and others agrees, stating:

The whole sham is a disgrace, but one look at how a PFR [Putative Father Registry] in a foreign state acted to kidnap Chris Reynolds’ daughter makes that word too weak, too mild to do the matter justice. When a father . . . can lose [his daughter] to an adoption he never agreed to, there can be no doubt that the system is rotten.

Adoptee Jennifer Lauck writes, “Abducted Versus Adopted: For 1.5 Million of U.S. Adoptees, What’s the Difference?” Lauck identifies with the feeling of not belonging expressed by kidnap victim, Carlina White. Yet, she notes:

 . . . human beings have sanctioned adoption as a moral act and have given it legal and even religious support.

Adoptee and author Judith Land writes:

Was I kidnapped? Every adoption is different but in my case all the elements of a kidnapping seemed to be present, at least as viewed from the perspective of a small child. I was ripped out of the arms of my beloved foster parents, the only people I had ever known, on my first birthday and handed to strangers.

Adoption day is a big event for the parents, a day they eagerly anticipate for many weeks and months, but for the innocent and unsuspecting child who is radically shaken and dramatically confused by the sudden and unexplained presence of strangers in their life, it is a mysterious day of dissimilarities and variances that radically alters their essence—a day of unexplained upheaval and fear that has the potential to highly traumatize the child. In my case, ‘Gotcha Day’ seems to have had all the psychological elements of a kidnapping.

“The only parents he or she has ever known”

It is interesting how courts will us that phrase to justify keeping a child with “adopters” even while recognizing that fraud had been committed, but take children of any age – even adults – away from kidnappers who have cared for them lovingly as their own. And the courts feel compelled to remove children from unsafe homes – despite that being “the only parents” the child has ever known.  Does the child know or feel the difference? Is a traumatic separation different when one has paid the fees and gone through the proper channels?

In response to Land’s blog, the blog “Adoptees Searching for Self” asks: Is Reunion for Adoptees Like Reunion for Kidnapped Victims?

I think using the word kidnapping is a strong word with a terrible connotation so many people want to reject that right away. I don’t think that word should be the focus of what Judith was trying to get across, rather the emotions from being taken from your parent/s and given to strangers, even though it is accepted and legal.

She writes of identifying with a kidnap victim on an MTV show who is reunited with her family and identifies with the TV characters feelings of “awkwardness” and:

wonder[ing] what her role and place is in this family” as well as the expectation that she feel “grateful to be home” while feeling allegiance to her mother who kidnapped her. . . One thing is for sure, and I think that every one of us can agree on this, is that adoption causes trauma, whether it is recognized at the time or not, the child and the birth family experiences trauma.

An Adoption.com forum ask adoptive parents: Does your child feel he/she was kidnapped from birth family? Carol responds:

One of the things I have heard quite a bit over the years is kids feeling as though they were kidnapped from their birth parents.

Pepperminty says:

Yes, and yes. . . I was really surprised when he told me recently that when he thinks about being adopted, he usually is wondering whether he was really kidnapped. He is 8, and for approx. the past three years he has often mentioned fear about being kidnapped.

Adoptee, “Crazy Woman” notes:

I believe I had Stockholm Syndrome, after I was taken into custody. But I went into care when I was 6 years old, pretty much kidnapped the legal way, meaning it’s just like a kidnapping, but the system did it. If you’re adopting a kid in foster care, they might [have] Stockholm Syndrome. I’ve even heard, when babies are adopted, they don’t always feel like they belong.

Other adoptees have drawn this comparison noting that they are made to feel allegiance, indebtedness, gratitude to their adopters as saviors because they were otherwise unwanted. Society conflates adoption and abortion putting onus on those adopted to be thankful they weren’t aborted.

Momraine writes:

My son does feel like he has been kidnapped, but for him it’s mostly because he believes a fantasy he has made up about both his birth parents and life in the orphanage.

Adoptive mother Desiree Smolin well understands the adoption/abduction connection, saying on Facebook:

I’ve always thought that from the child’s point of view there was no difference … It’s [adoption and abduction] the same thing.

Both Smolin and Dr. Geoffrey Greif recognize that adopted children are often pathologized – diagnosed with an alphabet soup of conditions and syndromes, such as RAD – for having the very same feelings a child who is abducted has.

As I wrote previously on this subject:

In both abduction and adoption, the children are given new identities, and their original legal and genetic identities are destroyed, erased, or hidden from them. In adoption, the law allows and facilitates this deception, in some cases the records even change the individual’s date or place of birth, and all but 19 states deny adopted adults access to their accurate, true, original birth certificates.

The most legal and ethical adoptions involve state committed fraud in terms of falsifying the child’s original and accurate vital records.  But society has very different expectations. An abducted child is expected to “retain fond memories of, and long for reunification with, their ‘real’ families of birth, and reject the abductor raising them” while an adopted child is “expected to bond unquestioningly to non-related strangers, and in some cases are expected or encouraged to abandon any thoughts or talk of seeking out their roots.”

From healing weekend exercise manual by Joe Soll, author of Adoption Healing:

Since I know my mother had no choice, then I was taken from her or kidnapped. A baby’s loss of his/her mother is no different if [the] cause [is] adoption, death or kidnapping. Mommy is here, mommy is gone. A mother’s loss of /her baby is no different if cause, adoption, death or kidnapping. Baby is here, baby is gone. However, there is a huge difference if the loss is due to adoption as it is ignored as a loss. There is no emotional help for those separated by adoption. If I tell someone I was kidnapped when I was a baby, I get enormous support.  If a mom says her baby was kidnapped, she gets enormous support. I was not given away, I was taken or kidnapped. My mother did not give me away, I was stolen from her.

In fact, rather than support for their loss, adoptees report facing societal expectations to be grateful because of the assumption that justifies adoption: that of a “better life” . . . a fact disproven by the myriad cases of adoption abuse. Adoption merely guarantees a different life along with a realization of a lost past, original life.

Look again at the definition at the top of this article. If you remove the word “illegally” from the definition you are left with “taking someone else’s child.” The trauma of separation in adoption is different from kidnapping only in terms of legal definition that is a fluid continuum from gray (legal but unethical) to black market (illegal human trafficking).

Separating ALL Mothers and Babies Should be a Last Resort

I saw a bumper sticker that said abortion is the worst form of child abuse. I disagree. I think the worst form of child abuse is separating a child from her mother.

— Anne Heffron, Writer, Photographer

The outrage against Trump’s zero-tolerance immigration policy which separated families was swift and loud. The condemnation came from far and wide: It’s inhumane to separate children from parents!  The world is aghast, shocked, horrified, and incensed at the separation of thousands of immigrant children from their parents.

Millions of Americans marched in protest all over the country.

Worldwide, children have been taken as part of warfare in:

  • Poland – as many as 200,000 children with blue eyes and blond hair were abducted from orphanages or taken from their parents to be ‘Germanized‘ during World War II.  Another 250,000 Jewish children were kidnapped during the war and subjected to Nazi propaganda in an attempt to “cleanse” them of their Jewish heritage.
  • Argentina’s Disappeared are well known as a result of the mothers and grandmothers who have never given up searching for them. As many as thirty thousand people, mostly young Argentines, were “disappeared” during the military junta’s Dirty Wars that went on from 1976 to 1983.
  • El Salvador has documented 323 instances of children who were taken by army troops or separated from their families during the civil war from October 1979 to January 1992. At least another 500 are suspected to have been victims with no way of knowing for sure the origins of some 2,300 Salvadoran children adopted by Americans during the war.
  • In Britain, after WWII, ministers aided by respected charities, including the Salvation Army and the Catholic Church, filled orphanages with a generation of children, some as young as four, who were shipped to Australia, Canada and other outposts of the empire.  The children were told their parents were dead and when some parents sought to reclaim their children from the orphanages, they were told they had been adopted. Many now claim they “suffered years of neglect, beatings and sexual abuse by the religious orders and charities that were supposed to care for them.”
  • In Spain parents are searching for their lost children years after Spain’s 1936-1939 civil war removed children from families to be given to families considered more deserving.
  • In Serbia it is estimated some 10,000 babies were stolen from newborn hospital nurseries. It is believed that organized crime may be behind the theft of the babies who are then trafficked and sold for adoption.

Disappeared

Domestic Warfare

In the U.S., taking children from their families began with Native American children being taken to boarding schools, which turned into foster care.  The second wave of mass American child separations were Orphan Trains that took an estimated 200,000 urban American street kids to the heartland between 1854 and 1929.  Most (perhaps 87%) were taken as family members; others were used for free child labor.

The third wave is known as the Baby Scoop Era that began after WWII and lasted until the early 1970s. Societal and familial shame of “unwed” pregnancy and the “stigma“ of being born an “illegitimate” bastard led to a deluge of babies placed for adoption to “protect” the reputations of “wayward” girls who were shuffled off to maternity homes and expected to forget and get on with their lives absolved of their “sin” of fornication, which adoption was intended to “cure.”

Unscrupulous baby brokers such as Georgia Tann, Dr. Thomas Hicks, and Betsy Bernard provided babies for wealthy clientele, including celebrities. They worked with their high-level political contacts encouraging legislation that sealed adoption records allegedly to protect the sinful mothers and their illegitimate children. In reality it provided concealment to cover up the thievery of children by various deceptive means including telling women their babies had died. Tann was closed down before she died, but the legacy of deception and questionable ethics continued to produce the notorious Artie Elgart of Golden Cradle in PA and today adoption remains a “wild west” with little far less ethics regulations than the real estate industry.

Amidst the recent outrage at the separation of immigrant children is the irony that every day American children are removed from American citizens with accepted justification. Rather than horror, the permanent separation of mothers by Child Protective Services (CPS) is applauded and encouraged as in the child’s best interest despite the known high-risk of foster care and the fact that the suffering is every bit the same horror and trauma experienced by refugees and asylum seekers.

These domestic child removals – and the termination of parental rights – are deemed necessary based on reports of neglect or abuse. Foster care often separates children from their siblings who have caused them no harm and places them at equally or greater risk of abuse. More and more reports are coming to light that state CPS agencies are overstepping their authority and are too quick to place children with strangers in order to receive federal grant money.

In the book, Legally Kidnapped, Child Protective Services whistleblower, Carlos Morales, exposes the dangerous tactics and overt corruption that he witnessed as a CPS investigator. CPS is, in fact, a billion-dollar industry funded by taxpayers.  The Adoption and Safe Families Act of 1997 (ASFA) included Title IV-E funds, which limited funds for foster care, and instead encourages states with bonus incentives for turning temporary separations (which are traumatic and risk-prone) into permanent losses for mothers, fathers and their children, all for profit.

Profit also is part of what motivates the immigrant separations as private contractors are paid to build shelters and house the children, often in conditions that have been compared to concentration camps. Bethany Christian Services, a global nonprofit providing adoption and foster care since 1944, with links to the family of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, is being paid $700 per night for a reported 81 children taken from their parents at the U.S. border. This amounts to a $1.7 million windfall per month for the agency.

Domestic Infant Adoption

Everyone has friends and family who have adopted, want to adopt, or are trying to adopt. They long for a child with loving, caring intent and would make wonderful parents. We thus naturally view adoption as altruistic and magnanimous.

The reality of it is far less romantic, warm and fuzzy. Profit motivates all adoption, not just that which involves removals by CPS.  Adoption is a megabillion-dollar industry with the average cost of a baby being $40,000 (higher or lower depending on race, ethnicity, age and health) and involves marketing to lure expectant mothers, even offering incentives such as college scholarships.

The willingness to pay tens of thousands of dollars creates a demand that outweighs “supply” by 36 to 1. Birth control is accessible and the “stigma” of single parenthood has all but disappeared (except in small pockets of religious communities).  At the same time, infertility rates have grown exponentially as women start families later and later.  Marriage Equality has added gay men to the long queue of infertile heterosexual couples longing to adopt, possibly doubling the demand. Adding to the lopsided supply and demand is the major decrease in international adoptions over the past decades due to corruption, kidnapping, and trafficking for adoption.

It is estimated that as many as two million people in America are waiting to adopt. Eliminating stepparent adoptions, adoptions from foster care (59%) and other countries (26%) from the 135,000 children adopted in the U. S. each year, about 15% percent are “voluntarily” relinquished American babies.  That means that 1.2 million prospective parents are competing over approximately 20,000 domestic infants.

All of this has resulted in increased pressure and coercion on American expectant mothers caught off-guard by an unintended pregnancy. Every day mothers-to-be without adequate resources are pressured into “voluntarily” surrendering their parental rights and consenting to the adoption of their child without access to option counseling or legal representation without conflict of interest to inform them of their rights. They are rushed into making decisions before their babies become a reality and made promises about open adoption, the lack of enforcement of which is not explained to them. Their youth, inexperience, and state of trauma are all exploited to gain access to the highly sought – and high-priced – commodity they are carrying.

Expectant and new mothers are assured their babies will be “better off” with adopters as if home studies – paid for by adopters – were guarantees against death, divorce, abuse, terminated adoptions, and even the torture and murder of adopted children in their “forever” homes. Fathers are all too often stripped of their right to parent without their knowledge and consent. Nor are parents faced with an adoption decision told the lifelong effects on them and their children of their separation.

Recently, police officer Ryan Holets was honored by President Trump for adopting an addict’s baby.  The mother, who is now in recovery, like so many others needed temporary help, not to be permanently separated from her child and their separation glamorized and exalted.

The Consequences

The trauma experienced by children separated from their mothers at any age – newborn to teen – is permanent and costly to society in a multitude of ways.

Pro-life advocates, such as blogger Caitlin Fikes, agree with scientists who tell us that:

…fetuses can hear voices and distinguish between unique speech patterns, allowing them to recognize (and prefer) their mother’s voice over any other’s. It has also been shown that a fetus will learn to recognize a song or story repeatedly played/read to them, retaining a familiarity with that tune or story post-birth. This is referred to by scientists as “preconscious learning.

Research at Lancaster University in the United Kingdom demonstrates that fetuses will react to face-like shapes in the same way infants do.

Dr. Kyle Pruett, clinical professor of psychiatry at the Yale University Child Study Center, concurs that:

Infants are highly attuned to mood even when in the womb making them susceptible to things like parental depression….We need to help parents early on with things like maternal depression, marital conflict and violence in the home.

The pre-conscious damage experienced by newborns is delineated in Nancy Verrier’s Primal Wound. Dr. Mark Sircus, Director International Medical Veritas Association Doctor of Oriental and Pastoral Medicine explains the detriment:

Children are programmed to interact, and the quality of that interaction is crucial for their emotional, physical and mental development. …

The essence of our suffering as beings is seen in the pain of separation (rejection of our being) that cuts into this needed bond of total love.

The consequences are life-long. Glyn Hudson Allez, in Infant Losses, Adult Searches, 2nd edition, writes:

Adopted children can learn to develop a secure and confident working model of life, but they will have already constructed a LOSS circuit, which with happy and loving adoptive parents may lie dormant throughout the childhood.

But one day, a loss may trigger that circuit which had been myelinated from the earlier  years, and will raise huge emotional insecurities in the person.

This is why we, as therapists, see so many people who were adopted as children, and why so many adoptees get to the stage where they want to search for their biological origins.

Adoptees cope with their deep-seated feelings of rejection and abandonment in many ways, most constructive and some not.  The Mental Health of US Adolescents Adopted in Infancy, Keyes MA, Sharma A, Elkins IJ, Iacono WG, McGue M.  Archives of pediatrics & adolescent medicine. 2008;162(5):419-425. doi:10.1001/archpedi.162.5.419, reported:

Being adopted approximately doubled the odds of having contact with a mental health professional . . .and of having a disruptive behavior disorder . . .  Relative to international adoptees, domestic adoptees had higher odds of having an externalizing disorder.

“Study after study has found that adopted kids are more likely to take their own lives.”

In addition, American adoption laws in all but a handful of states permanently seal the adoptee’s original accurate certificate of birth and replace it with a new falsified vital birth record that lists the adoptive parents as the parents “of birth.” This is state-committed fraud and is in violation of Article 8 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) which states that every child has the right to an identity and governments must respect and protect that right, and prevent the child’s name, nationality or family relationships from being changed unlawfully.

Perhaps this is in part why the U.S. is the only United Nations member state that has not ratified the UNCRC which also stipulates other basic rights of children that America does not, including (in Article 9) that children who have been separated from their parents against their will because of abuse or neglect have the right to stay in contact with both parents, unless this could cause them harm.

Separating children from their parents is an act of violence used as a tool of war because of the lifelong pain and grief it causes parents and their children. It is also used to reduce undesirable populations while increasing those considered to be superior.

It is imperative for society to understand and accept the permanent damage done to children when they are separated from their parents, regardless of the reason or good intent. Recognizing the detrimental effects, we need to reduce as many unnecessary parent/child separations as possible and work to keep struggling families intact.  Children are not “products” for those willing to pay no more than they are blank slates who will forget the wounds of their primal separations.

Why Do Students Kill Their Class-Mates?

A recently released phone video shot by 19-year-old Parkland, Florida school shooter Nikolas Cruz, reveals a cold, callus young man who claims to “hate everyone and everything.”

Los Angeles Times reporter, Melissa Healy, compares Nikolas Cruz to Sandy Hook school shooter, Adam Lanza, and sees a commonality in isolation and “a profound sense of alienation from virtually all human relationships.”

The anonymous web on which we play and interact is clearly a double-edged sword. Healy notes:

Most adolescents and young adults come to recognize there’s a fundamental difference between going online and actually having a close personal relationship. But for kids who are not fitting in, that’s a very attractive alternative: You can hide or disguise who you are and what you’re thinking.

Many young shooters, however, have attributed motivation to wanting to be “known” indicating feelings of being unheard, invisible, insignificant.

The need to “belong” to be part of a “family” or something bigger than oneself has been reported to be at the root of adolescents joining gangs, cults, and being recruited by foreign terrorists.  While not joining, others feel in sync with terrorist’s ideologies, identifying with the intense anger but striking out as lone actors.

Another noted commonality of school shooters and mass murderers is fatherlessness by various causes:

  • Evan Ramsey, 1997, who shot and killed two people and wounded two others at Bethel Regional High School Alaska was a foster child.
  • Adam Lanza, 2012. Sandy Hook Elementary School, Newtown, Connecticut, killing 28, was a child of divorce.
  • Stephen Paddock, 2017. Shooting into a crowd of approximately 22,000 concertgoers attending a country music festival on the Las Vegas Strip, killing 58 people and injuring 851 more. Paddock’s father was a grifter, a con artist, a bank robber and a jail-breaker who spent years on the F.B.I.’s most-wanted list and was absent for much of Stephen’s life.

Divorce, death of a father, and unintended single parenthood have been creating fatherless children for generations. Today we add to these misfortunes by intentionally eliminating the role of a father, and creating children detached from mothers as well.

Affluence, Technology and Family Deconstruction

We need to consider why school shootings are uniquely an American occurrence. One obvious reason is access to guns. But what are some of the other influences and contributing factors that cause children to use these readily available weapons to kill?

In many cultures, lack of options leads to extended families living together. Survival is mutually dependent. Children may have few material “things” but they feel part of and connected to their kin and by extension humankind.  To hurt another of their clan would be to hurt oneself.

In America we admire independence and live in nuclear families, with single parent households making up approximately 26% of families with kids under 21. Young adults move to states – and even countries – where they find employment. As a result, their children grow up not knowing their extended families such as cousins – who in the past acted like siblings we didn’t live, or compete for attention, with.  Instead of learning to share, many kids today have their own “devices” and separate television screens in the back seat of their parents’ vans. Instead of talking to anyone, they text using acronyms and emojis more than words.

The gadgets and devices, like violent movies and video games, are contributing factors. But we need to look at the larger world in which today’s youth are growing up that seeps into their psyches even with no conscious awareness. American children grow up with a constant backdrop of violence, divisiveness, hate, and unending war.

Closer to home, America’s marriage rate hovers at 50% as does the divorce rate. While the majority of children in the U.S. live in two-parent households, the prevalence of divorce makes all children today anxious, less assured that their parents will remain married, a concern that did not exist in former generations. They wonder when and how a divorce might change their family dynamic.

In addition, approximately 4 out 10 children are born to unmarried mothers. Once stigmatized, it’s now a statement modeled by celebrities who enter motherhood with no visible or known father.  Creating families is approached with a menu of choices that are selected based on convenience and what one can afford with total disregard for the genetic connectedness of the children produced or how they may feel about it. How families grow, how adults chose their method of obtaining offspring, are not simple choices without consequences, but rather have lifelong effects on the child being created.

We promote and encourage adoption, permanently removing children from parents who are often dealing with a temporary crisis, believing that substitute love can undo the trauma and that the end justifies the means.

We commodify and commercialize all aspects of family creation, applauding reproductive choices, with little recognition of the loss created for the child, down-playing biology, even while genealogy is the fastest growing hobby.

We buy and sell spermatozoa, eggs, and sell frozen embryos – calling it adoption –  all despite the illegality of selling humans. We allow wombs to be rented, turning humans into incubators carrying unrelated surrogate fetuses created from purchased – or so called “donor” – gametes.  College students are sought out and preyed upon to sell their life-producing material, putting their health at risk and risking the children being created meeting one another and unknowingly committing incest.

All of these practices contribute to dehumanization which has been associated with an increased willingness to perpetrate violence. Studies have long shown that nations and their military dehumanize their “enemies” to justify destroying them. Those who dehumanize “others” – the homeless or people of different races – are less likely to consider their feelings and are thus more supportive of building walls and violent counterterrorism tactics such as torture, separating immigrant families, bombing entire countries, and committing genocide.

How Does it feel to be Dehumanized?

An estimated 30,000-60,000 Americans are born every year from artificial insemination. The Donor Sibling Registry has in excess of 59,000 members and has helped to connect more than 15,000 offspring with their half siblings and/or their donors. A 2010 study conducted by Karen Clark and Elizabeth Marquardt:

About half of [people conceived via sperm donors] have concerns about or serious objections to donor conception itself, even if parents tell their children the truth.

Mary Stuntz, an adult adoptee, described on Facebook what it feels like:

The truth for me is I was a victim . . . I was forced to become another couple’s child . . . I lost my lineage and the birth certificate I’ve been issued is a lie . . . I will never promote adoption that cuts off a child’s lineage and seals their birth records issuing a new one based in a lie. I was not born to the parents that raised me. As good as things were in my life I cannot morally stick my head in the sand and promote a practice that is based in lies and secrets.

Susan Golombok, a professor of family research and director of the Centre for Family Research at the University of Cambridge, has found that children born with the help of a surrogate may have more adjustment problems – at least at age 7 – than those born to their mother via donated eggs and sperm.

Signs of adjustment problems could be behavior problems, such as aggressive or antisocial behavior, or emotional problems, such as anxiety or depression . . .

While all the children seemed to be doing well by age 10 . . . the concern is, trouble could crop up later as kids hit their adolescence and are trying to find their identities and place in the world, experts say.

Anne C. Bernstein, a professor at the Wright Institute in Berkeley, and author of Flight of the Stork: What Children Think (and when) About Sex and Family Building also recognizes the importance of more studies and following children of surrogate births into their teens when:

It might make a bigger difference to them at that point that they aren’t biologically related to one or both of their parent.

Brian, 18, is the son of a traditional surrogate, a biological father, and an adoptive mother. He says:

What about what the kids of traditional surrogacy think? . . . What you think doesn’t even make sense to most of us. It doesn’t make sense to the majority of people and that’s why surrogacy is so controversial! Do you expect us to have this sort of delusional thinking that you do or do you expect us to think like 99.9% of the general population who thinks that it is wrong to have a child in exchange for money or give away your biological child? How do you think we feel about being created specifically to be given away? You should all know that kids form their own opinions. I don’t care why my parents or my mother did this. It looks to me like I was bought and sold. You can dress it up with as many pretty words as you want. You can wrap it up in a silk freaking scarf. You can pretend these are not your children. You can say it is a gift or you donated your egg to the IM [intended mother]. But the fact is that someone has contracted you to make a child, give up your parental rights and hand over your flesh and blood child. I don’t care if you think I am not your child, what about what I think? Maybe I know I am your child. When you exchange something for money it is called a commodity. Babies are not commodities. Babies are human beings. How do you think this makes us feel to know that there was money exchanged for us?

Yet, surrogacy is popularized and normalized by celebrities who chose it and is included in many television scripts.

The latest statistics from the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) show that the number of children who were created with a donated egg rose more than 30 percent from 7,284 in 2004 to 9,541 in 2011, while the number of births involving a surrogate jumped more than 200 percent, from 530 in 2004 to 1,179 in 2011. No one knows how many births have resulted from sperm donations, but estimates range from 30,000 to 60,000 per year, according to a New York Times report.

Where do we go from here?

Do we continue down this path raising generations of disconnected children in a society filled with hypocrisies and dichotomies that berate the poor for having babies “out of wedlock” while admiring affluent mothers for their bravery in choosing single parenthood?

Or do we take stock and look at the consequences of choices such as third party assisted reproduction and surrogacy which eradicates one or more of a child’s progenitors? These practices need to be seen as what they are: dehumanizing acts of violence that we are normalizing and exposing our youth to, wondering why they find it so easy to pick up weapons, act out their hurt and anger by committing acts of violence against their peers.

How can children grow up feeling a part of, and a healthy attachment to, humanity while living in a society that dismisses human connectedness at every turn?

How many children are products themselves of such casual creation that discards their roots? How many have friends who have been disconnected from their progenitors, not knowing who “begat” them, who they get their hair and eye color from?

It’s a painful loss and a wound constantly reopened because human nature subjects us to family members noticing and commenting on who resembles whom because one of the major ways people connect and bond is visually. When a baby is born, one of the first things asked is: “Who does he or she look like?” People learn by mimicking behavior of those closest to them and seeing a reflection of themselves in their caretakers helps them understand and accept themselves. Lack of such mirroring causes angst and lack of human attachment.

Adoption as it is currently practiced in the US is based on lies that are validated legally by most all states denying truth with the sealing of birth certificates and replacing them with a false one that states that the adopted person was born to his or her adoptive parents, which in some states that could even be two people of the same gender.

Adoptees have long written about feeling alien, hatched, unmoored to their roots. But instead of hearing how the primal trauma of separation from the sounds, smells, and rhythm of the womb affects people’s ability to trust and form healthy attachments, we have continued to encourage adoption – not just as a way to find homes for children in need – but as a way to “build families,” fill empty arms, and basically fill orders.

Instead of hearing the damage adoptees experience we continue to replicate the eradication of reality and commodification by allowing the sale of human beginnings and surrogacy and now the tearing apart of immigrant families.

So when we wonder and look for causes of troubled youth and wonder why today’s youth are feeling isolated and isolate themselves even while in a crowd . . when we see behavior that is totally out of touch with humanity . . . let us consider the ways in which our laws and practices accept and encourage detachment.

We need to ask what society is doing to make parents interchangeable and their genetics unimportant. We have collectively “normalized” the destruction of families and made reproductive manipulations simple personal choices for family creation, as if they have no consequences.

Ignoring the blood that runs through our veins, disregarding deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA), the self-replicating material present in nearly all living organisms as the main constituent of chromosomes and carrier of genetic information, denying the truth is crazy — making gaslighting and putting people’s life and health at risk and has caused adopted people a great deal of anguish.

How can we teach children to be honest and tell the truth when their lives are based on lies? How can we hope the children of tomorrow will not continue to show indifference for a human race that has betrayed them and disallowed them knowing their righteous connection, leaving them feeling untethered? How can we raise children with compassion when they are treated as commodities to fill the wishes of those who play god with their origins?

Gay Adoption: Is This Really the Most Pressing Issue in Adoption Today?

The media has focused on gay adoption for quite a while, perhaps because it is controversial and controversy – like sex – sells. So, it is little wonder the attention being given to gay rights advocates who are up in arms about laws they see as discriminating against them in the adoption arena based on religious beliefs of adoption agencies such as the law recently passed in  Kansas granting legal protections for faith-based adoption agencies that refuse to place children in LGBTQ homes.

LGBTQ activists have now been joined by “tech giants” Google and Apple lobbying against such laws that prevent the state from denying grants and contracts to faith-based agencies for refusing to place children into homes that don’t align with their religious beliefs. A similar bill passed the house in Oklahoma and heads for the Senate. South Dakota, Michigan, Alabama, and Texas have all passed similar legislation.

It amazes [and offends] me that, of all the pressing issues in child adoption today, this is the one these mega corporations chose to take on and stand up for.  Is this really the most pressing current wrong in adoption?

What about child trafficking for adoption? What about pressure, coercion, exploitation to meet a demand for babies? What about rehoming? What about establishing a national child abuse registry so people cannot move state to state like the Hart family did to avoid detection of their abuses to the vulnerable children entrusted to them, and may possibly have prevented the murder of six adopted children? What about denial of adoptees right to access their own birth certificates? None of that matters? It is shocking that Apple and Google find the alleged rights of the LGBTQ community more important to take a stand on than all of these other issues facing adoption.

Sadly, none of these issues which cause harm and suffering to innocent children ever garnered the attention that the issue of gay adoption has. They are just not popular or sexy. Sad realities don’t sell like warm fuzzy happily-ever-after – or even indignant – stories do.

Let me be perfectly clear. Despite the recently freorted horrific abuse and murder of six children adopted by Jennifer and Sarah Hart, as a lifelong friend, ally, and supporter of LGBTQ rights to equality, to live free of harassment and violence perpetrated out of hate and discrimination and to marry whomever they choose, I know that same sex couples and gay individuals can and do make excellent care-takers and parents of children, of that I have no doubt or concern and plenty of hetero adopters have brutally abused, abandoned, and murdered children in their care (as have natural parents).

At Issue

The argument is that adoption agencies should not have the right to discriminate against same sex couples and gay individuals and that to do so causes suffering to children who need adopting by reducing their options for a loving home, a preposterous claim when demand for children to adopt greatly outweighs the “supply.”

It’s also a deceptive argument inasmuch as neither state adoptions from foster care nor secular private adoptions are being challenged. These avenues remain open to people of all persuasions. No one is screening out potential families for these children based on religious beliefs or sexual preferences.  Thus, it is patently untrue that LGBT people are discriminated against when it comes to adoption.

Gay adoption – like international adoption – is masqueraded as being in the best interest of “unwanted” children who are “languishing” in foster care.  It is true that there are approximately half a million children in state care in the United States. Many are awaiting reunification with their families. Others who can be adopted are, for the most part, ignored by those seeking to adopt because of the children’s age, because of their physical, emotional and educational abilities and limitations, or they are sibling groups. But there are still other paths to adoption open to same sex couples.

As noted in The Nation’s recent article “The Left’s Assault on Adoption”:

Same-sex couples have abundant options to foster and adopt. Every state in the country allows fostering or adoption by same-sex couples. As one LGBT advocacy group has documented, there are no states where same-sex couples face legal restrictions when petitioning for fostering, joint adoption, or stepparent or second-parent adoption.

Most private adoption agencies, as well as all public agencies in America, are willing to place children in same-sex households. The number of adoptions by same-sex couples has more than tripled from 6,500 couples in 2000, to 22,000 in 2010. And almost 40 percent of all adoption agencies, and 83 percent of public agencies, report that they have made at least one adoption placement with an LGBT person. Same-sex couples adopt and foster and are not prevented from doing so by the continued existence of adoption agencies that prefer to place kids with married moms and dads.

Anyone – regardless of their gender, marital status, or sexual preference  – is perfectly able to adopt a child needing a family. The only restriction in question is one that pits the non-existent right to adopt against the right of faith-based adoption agencies – often funded by religious institutions  – to operate in keeping with their religious beliefs and to provide services to specific communities that choices such religious based services.

The Nation also recognizes:

Faith-based adoption agencies that follow their religious beliefs have a high level of success in placing older and disabled children. They also provide services for vulnerable women seeking help with unplanned pregnancies. Moreover, some women facing an unplanned pregnancy want their child to be raised by a married man and woman. A birth mother should have the freedom to work with an agency that honors her preferences and shares her values.

In general, I am opposed to businesses refusing to serve LGBTQ customers which can result in health professionals refusing to serve clients based on their religious beliefs.  However, when it comes to adoption agencies, there are multiple clients served – those seeking to adopt , the families seeking placement, and the child. Adoption is not, or should not be, merely a business transaction.  And herein lies the difference between adoption agencies and wedding photographers or bakeries who are serving a single client.

This is nothing new. There have long been specifically Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, and Evangelical adoption agencies that serve their communities, providing families the option of selecting who might or might not want to raise their child based on religious values and practices. Should that right be taken from families in need of finding alternative, extra-familial care for their child? It is, after all their child up until they relinquish their parental rights or have those rights terminated by the state.  Families in crisis considering adoption have the same right to ensure their child is raised in the tradition of his or her family of birth and kin just as every parent does and thus have the right to choose a placing agency to act on their wishes and preferences.

Religious and secular adoption agencies have many criteria such as age of those seeking to adopt, standards some may object to or call discriminatory. The alternative, however, is a society in which children are treated like cars that are sold to whomever has the ability to pay. Adoption agencies act on behalf of and represent families in need. We hope they are acting on good faith and using good judgment to do the best not for the paying client – those adopting – but for the silent client, the child. In that capacity, representing the most vulnerable among us, it is their duty to be selective and have criteria. As a society, we want potential adopters subjected to criminal background checks and home studies though many object to being scrutinized in ways that people who become parents naturally are not. But should the safety net for children in need be any less cautious?

The powerful LGBTQ lobby

I have long avoided writing about this aspect adoption knowing that unless I am totally in favor and supportive of the rights of the LGBTQ community to adopt, I would be seen as biased against gays and deemed homophobic.

The rights of LGBTQ people to create anonymous offspring via genetic “donations”, to exploit women as surrogates, and their alleged right to adopt – a right no one has – become hands off, sacrosanct. Speak out against any of these practices that provide children for LGBTQs and you are labeled prejudiced against their sexual preferences, and silenced, despite speaking out against such practices for all.

Out of more than 100 blog posts I wrote for Huffington Post, only two were rejected. One was this one, opposing the sale of anonymous genetic material because it stepped on the toes of the gay community, despite my objections being the practices themselves when utilized by anyone, gay or straight.

No adoption policy should be formed without hearing and respecting the input of the lived experiences of adoptees.  Anything less treats adopted persons as commodities. Yet, the voices of adult children of same-sex parents who dare to write or speak out about their personal experience in anything but glowing terms, are silenced, discounted as “ungrateful,” bitter, angry by powerful LGBTQ lobby. Those who are less than thrilled at having been raised by same-sex parents report having have great difficulty getting published despite glowing credentials, are labeled homophobes, and are harassed to the point that at least one woman known as Rivka Edelman had to go underground and write under a pseudonym.

Gay men and women, like any group of people, are unique individuals and cannot be grouped together based on that one aspect of their lives. Not all women or even all feminists agree on everything any more than all left-handed people, or all Ohioans share similar opinions, or beliefs.  Thus, not all members of the LGBTQ community are incensed or feel discriminated against by religious adoption agencies upholding their criteria.

Bryan C. is a gay male adoptee and an adoptee rights advocate. He brings a unique perspective to  this issue:

My issue with same sex couples adopting a child is not dissimilar to my issue with any couple or individual legally and ethically adopt[ing], that being the primacy of the child’s well-being above and beyond any real or imagined “need” to parent where biological ability is absent. It is my sincere belief as an adoptee who struggled over years with my own sexuality (self-concept) issues, that a child at all cost, be allowed to thrive in the most stable environment possible. In some instances, single mothers and fathers . . . if assisted by family and professional help would be [able] to maintain an original nuclear family.  In the absence of that possibility, a child placed for adoption for whatever reason, is immediately in a destabilized environment by the very nature of the process.

When one compounds that destabilized situation, it is not, in my opinion, ameliorated by adding further to a [child] placement [with] a same sex couple by nature of it not being a societal ‘norm’ (tolerance or lack thereof ) is not itself necessarily a stable environment. A child already struggling with issues of adoption is then faced with the struggle of being raised in a created non-traditional family. There may be instances of success, but in light of what I have experienced as both a ‘successful adoptee’ who grew up and became an experienced gay man, I believe what I have written to be true from my experience.

I do not think same sex parents ‘deserve’ to be parents more than stable single parents, it simply adds another potential layer of instability to a child of whom instability, in my honest opinion, is already a large portion of their lives. This is my opinion with the interest of all adopted or potentially adopted children, including those conceived in vitro as primary.

My position on adoption

As a lifetime advocate for children and families, I too view adoption through one narrow lens: the best interest of children, above and beyond the alleged “rights” of any of the adults involved (birth or adoptive parents) over those of the child, though I recognize the powerful bond created by the mother/child dyad and believe it detrimental to both mother and child to severe that without good cause.

As such I do not give primacy for the needs, wants, desires or wishes of anyone seeking to create or enlarge their family through adoption. I believe adoption should always be about finding the best care for children not about filling longing arms. (I am equally disliked for this position in the infertility community which has accused me of being heartless and lacking compassion as in the LGBT community.)

Apple and Google and any others who support adoption need to educate themselves and learn the facts. Adoption is glamorized, applauded, encouraged, and promoted as a win-win. It is not. Every adoption, in fact, begins with a loss that creates a lifetime trauma. Many – perhaps even most – adoptees cope well with the separation, loss, lies, and secrecy of the relinquishment at the foundation of every adoption. Their resilience and coping skills do not, however, eliminate struggles such as cultural identity and lack of medical history. Stranger adoption – by any non-related person or persons –  should be a last resort turned to only when there are no extended family able or willing to parent. It should not be encouraged and fought for as a right.

Viewing adoption from a child-centric perspective, we need to be less inclined to jump on the band-wagon of anything that increases the enormously high demand for sought-after babies – currently about 36 to 1. It is this demand and the tens of thousands of dollars those seeking children to adopt are willing and allowed to pay, that creates pressure, coercion, exploitation, corruption, and child trafficking. Thus, if one agency turns down one couple there are many other agencies and many others vying to adopt! No child has suffered.

No adult’s “rights,” needs, desires, or feelings of entitlement should take precedent over the rights of children in need.

Nikolas Cruz: So Many Red Lights Ignored

Those who were permitted to act appropriately throughout their childhood – ie with anger – to the pains, wrongs, and denial inflicted upon them . . . will retain this ability to react appropriately in late life too. When someone wounds them as adults, they will be able to recognize and express this verbally. But they will not feel the need to lash out in response. this need arises only for people who must always be on their guard to keep the dam that restrains their feelings from breaking. For if this dam breaks, everything becomes unpredictable . . . [they] will experience occasional outbursts of inexplicable rage . . . or will resort repeatedly to violent behavior such as murder.
— Alice Miller, For Your Own Good: Hidden Cruelty in Child-Rearing and the Roots of Violence, November 14, 2002.

There is seldom ever any one single cause for such an outrageous act of violence as a mass murder, especially when aimed at school children. In the case of Nikolas Cruz, as in others, there are multiple complex causations – including both environmental (nurture) and genetic (nature) – that come together, and then often one event that lights the fuse.

Cruz’s public defender described the perpetrator of The Valentine’s Day Massacre as a “deeply disturbed, emotionally broken” young man who is coming to grips with the pain he has caused.

What made Nikolas Cruz go on the murderous rampage at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida killing 17 and injuring 15?  What can we learn to prevent future tragedies?

Timeline of Warning Signs

Cruz has been described by those who know him as “weird,” “troubled,” and a “volatile” teen who threatened and harassed his schoolmates, talked about killing animals, posed with guns in disturbing photos on social media, and bragged about target practice in his backyard with a pellet gun.  An aunt of Cruz reported that as he grew up Nikolas developed emotional issues. He had been doing community service after getting into some sort of trouble.

Cruz had two Instagram accounts featuring weapons and photos. In one picture he is wearing a kerchief over his face and a Make America Great Again hat, and he dons the same cap and gun in a video. According classmates and individuals who knew him, he was actively hostile towards Jews, black people, and Muslims in particular throughout high school.

He was allegedly part of a white supremacist organization called Republic of Florida Militia that self-identifies as a “white civil rights organization” that fights for the “ultimate creation of a white ethnostate.” Nikolas was a member of the ROF and participated in one or more of their “training drills” to prepare for the possibility of an attack by people of color and Jews against white people.

He had been expelled from the same school he launched his attack on for threatening students and, in particular, had threatened to kill his ex-girlfriend’s new boyfriend in a series of foreboding texts.

It’s been reported that law enforcement was called to Nikolas’ home more than 30 times over the years, that he showed signs of emotional disturbance, and a neighbor claimed he was diagnosed ‘autistic.’ Nikolas allegedly testified he ‘heard voices’ telling him to execute his horrific plan. It has also been reported that Cruz was prescribed Ritalin for ADHD.

In August 2016, Florida’s child welfare agency investigated Cruz after he cut himself in a video.  “Mr. Cruz was on Snapchat cutting both of his arms,” the Florida DCF abuse hotline was told in. “Mr. Cruz has fresh cuts on both his arms. Mr. Cruz stated he plans to go out and buy a gun.” Yet, they found him stable, according to state records.

The following year, September 2017, still prior to the November 1st death of Cruz’ adoptive mother, the FBI received a tip about Cruz from Ben Bennight, a 36-year-old YouTube video blogger from Mississippi, who noticed an alarming comment on a video he’d posted. “I’m going to be a professional school shooter,” read the comment, left by a user with the name Nikolas Cruz. Bennight told CNN he immediately contacted the FBI at the time, in September of 2017, five months before the mass shooting.

Bennight emailed a screenshot of the comment to what he thought was an FBI tip line, but the email address was invalid, he said. Bennight said he followed up with a phone call to the FBI. The comment on YouTube has since been removed.

According to Bennight, agents from the FBI’s field office in Mississippi contacted him and came to his office to conduct an in-person interview the next morning. CNN reported that Bennight told the agents he didn’t know anything about the user.

Nikolas and his brother were left in the care of a family friend after their mother died. His brother, Zachery, stayed but around Thanksgiving Nikolas Cruz asked to move in with a friend’s family in northwest Broward County.

Then on January 5th, just five weeks before the fatal shooting, a second tip was received by the FBI. A caller provided information about “Cruz’s gun ownership, desire to kill people, erratic behavior, and disturbing social media posts, as well as the potential of him conducting a school shooting.” The information should have been assessed as a “potential threat to life,” the bureau said.

But the bureau did not appropriately follow established protocols. The tip should have been forwarded to the Miami field office and investigated. But that didn’t happen, the FBI said in a statement: “Protocols were not followed.” The Miami field office did not receive the tip, and “no further investigation was conducted at this time.”

Winnie Dabroski Cabelus raises some issues for discussion:

One of the questions we should all be asking is how was he not captured by his school district’s obligation to ‘child find’ ‘at-risk’ kids?  He should have been evaluated and recognized as having needs due to his acting out behaviors, and in an emotional support program and supported instead of eventually expelled for his many increasingly strange and concerning behaviors. Does your school district have an emotional support program in place for students? We need to demand they exist to support and protect ALL of our students.

We stink at addressing mental health in this country. Many mental health issues can be averted with early intervention before monsters are created. I strongly feel our society did this to Nikolas by ignoring the signs, by failing to provide adequate supports to his family and him. The system also failed the 17 children who perished on Valentine’s Day. More will perish if we don’t do more to ‘child find’ and do something about guns.

Guns, Gun Safety, and Assault Weapons

The outcry is growing. In Florida and in Washington DC,  students are protesting.

Mental illness exists worldwide. So why is it these mass murders and school shootings are only being seen – in these enormous numbers – in the USA?  One need only to look as far as Australia to know why. In 1996, Australia enacted strict gun laws and hasn’t had a mass shooting since.

Is it our constitution with its “right to bear arms” provision or are the reported kickbacks to legislators from the National Rifle Association (NRA) the real root of the problem?  What about our constitutional right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness in movie theaters and in schools?

Do we lock down schools like prison fortresses and arm teachers? Is that really the answer?

The argument that guns protect us from violence falls flat in the face of statistical comparisons to other nations. According to CBS News:

Americans are 10 times more likely to be killed by guns than people in other developed countries, a new study finds.

Compared to 22 other high-income nations, the United States’ gun-related murder rate is 25 times higher. And, even though the United States’ suicide rate is similar to other countries, the nation’s gun-related suicide rate is eight times higher than other high-income countries, researchers said.

The study was published online February 1 in The American Journal of Medicine.

Overall, our results show that the U.S., which has the most firearms per capita in the world, suffers disproportionately from firearms compared with other high-income countries,” said study author Erin Grinshteyn, an assistant professor at the School of Community Health Science at the University of Nevada-Reno. ‘These results are consistent with the hypothesis that our firearms are killing us rather than protecting us,’ she said in a journal news release.

These are questions that are being debated and solutions demanded.

Among the many facets of this gun violence issue in America, the current case raises yet another.

Adopted and then Orphaned

There has been speculation that 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz might have been born with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FASD). But, as with most adoptions, we really don’t know what genetic medical history may have been a contributing aspect. Nor do we know if the two brothers were voluntarily placed by their original family or removed by the state for allegations of abuse or neglect.

All that is known thus far is that both Nikolas and his brother Zachery, 2 years younger, were adopted together by an elderly couple, Lynda and Roger Cruz.

Was it a “wonderful, idea” as neighbors told the Sun-Sentinel for “two older people to have two little boys to look after”?

Is the purpose of adoption to bring joy to adopters – as one might take up golfing upon retirement or purchase an aquarium – or is the purpose of adoption to help children in need be placed with families who can be there for them?

Roger Cruz, died of a heart attack when Nikolas was only six, leaving Lynda to raise the two boys alone. Lynda died of pneumonia at 68.

Zachary, who is turning 18, was removed from the home he had gone to in the days after the shootings and taken to a mental health facility for treatment under the Baker Act, which allows minors to be held for up to 12 hours.  It’s unclear if he has been released.

Is Adoption an Issue or Not?

The adoption community is of mixed feelings about the extent to which adoption should be mentioned as a contributing factor. Adoptive parents object to Cruz’s mother being labeled anything but his mother, while adoptees such as one who identifies as “One Black Girl,” express concern that reporting a shooter’s adoptive status casts a negative light on all adoptees.

Katherine S. Newman writes:

When a premeditated massacre occurs – such as the terrifying carnage in Las Vegas or the heartbreaking murders in the Sandy Hook elementary school – journalists, politicians and millions of ordinary people turn their attention to the families that raised the killers, the siblings that shared their childhoods, and the wives or girlfriends who lived with them.

Adoptive mom, Sarah Mouracade, was so incensed she claimed in vast exaggeration that adoptees are “only” seen as superheroes or mass murders, negating all the other stereotypes that go along with being adopted from being “lucky” and “grateful” to be alive and not aborted to being “chosen” and a “gift” to name a few.

Recognizing and reporting adoption as one aspect of a perpetrator’s life casts no dispersions on anyone else who also happens to be adopted. It is a fact just as that all school shooters (except for one) were boys between the ages of 17 and 48 and white males far outweigh females or those of other race or ethnicity.

Referencing the gender and race of mass murders such as Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols, who bombed the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, in 1995, killing 168 people and injuring more than 680 – and seeing the trends –  does not casting any dark shadows on all white males or imply that all white men have murderous tendencies, but it does perhaps help us understand what drives some people to deal with their anger or frustrations.

In fact, adoption is not the only cause of feelings of abandonment. Many of the school shooters and mass murderers were fatherless by various causes. For instance:

  • Evan Ramsey, 1997, who shot and killed two people and wounded two others at Bethel Regional High School Alaska was a foster child.
  • Adam Lanza, 2012. Sandy Hook Elementary School, Newtown, Connecticut, killing 28, was a child of divorce.
  • Stephen Paddock, 2017. Shooting into a crowd of approximately 22,000 concertgoers attending a country music festival on the Las Vegas Strip, killing 58 people and injuring 851 more. Paddock’s father, a Las Vegas gunman, was a grifter, a con artist, a bank robber and a jail-breaker who spent years on the F.B.I.’s most-wanted list and absent for much of Stephen’s life

Adoptee “One Black Girl” is quite angry:

…as an adoptee myself—a transracial adoptee, at that, what you will not do is exploit our experiences to get white terrorists off the hook. Cruz’s adoption literally has nothing to do with what he did. I don’t give one, two, three or four f*cks, when he was adopted, who adopted him or where he was adopted, because it doesn’t matter. Yes, adoption has many complications, and many of us adoptees experience mental health issues and trauma, but it does not turn you into a racist mass murderer.  Being Adopted Does Not Turn You Into A Mass Murderer: This isn’t an adoption issue, don’t make it one, “One Black Girl”.

While we cannot and should not place blame for Cruz’s actions on adoption, it is an equally extreme position to declare that it is has “nothing to do” with it.  Why would a thorough evaluation of the mitigating circumstances – with an effort to find solutions –  ignore such a dramatic life-altering legal, social, and psychological event as relinquishment and adoption as an underlying part of this young man’s, or any adoptee’s, life and psyche?

More accurately, it is not the adoption placement, per se, but the initial mother/child separation which is documented to cause trauma – as even recognized by “One Black Girl.”  This trauma is known as a primal wound. Every adoption is the result of a loss and separation that causes feelings of abandonment, identity confusion, and rejection which can weigh heavily on some.  Loss, which too often goes unrecognized and undealt with in adoption, can have a detrimental effect on the lives of adoptees, as Alice Miller describes.

Some of us are better able to withstand life’s difficulties with more resilience than others. The hurts, the feelings of rejection and abandonment that underscore being adopted are well managed by the vast majority of adoptees. For some, however, the trauma combines with other factors (in Cruz’s case other losses such as the breakup with his girlfriend and the death of his adoptive mother which were no doubt triggers of those feelings once again) and light an existing fuse.  We cannot totally negate the harm such early trauma causes, whether one acts out and makes headlines or suffers in silence having difficulty in relationships or other aspects of life or is aware of no ill-effects whatsoever.

David Kirschner, psychologist and author specializing in adoption, is working on an article detailing how almost every school and mass shooter was in treatment prior to and during killing events. Kirschner notes that Cruz was in treatment and prescribed medication for ADHD which in his opinion was a misdiagnosis and that a proper diagnosis of Adopted Child Syndrome (ACS) and meaningful therapy might have helped prevent the tragedy that occurred.

Cabelus, describes her adopted brother as:

…very wounded by adoption, felt he was worthless. Was obsessed with Hitler, swastikas, and firearms. Was also self-destructive. In the end, slept with two illegal firearms under his pillows. Illegal because he had a felony charge for threatening someone with a firearm, the two under his pillow were straw purchases made by my bullied, elderly adoptive mother.

I think in a minority of cases, adoption abandonment, and being asked to accept a new, false identity without knowing the old one, can be the cause of mental illness. My adoptive brother was dead by 47, self-destructive causes.

Based on her experience and that of other adoptees, she disagrees with “One Black Girl,” noting recently on Facebook:

While adoption itself does not turn someone psychopathic, many adoptees struggle with what adoption means and asks them to do: namely become someone else, forget their first families, their origins, and whatever traumas may have put them there to begin with.

I was a teacher in an in-patient mental hospital. At one time, fully 100% of my 10+ students in the high functioning autism wing were adopted. No one seemed to make the correlation, except me: an adoptee, with a self-destructive, abusive, adoptive brother . . . My adoptive brother threatened to shoot me more than once. He threatened to shoot someone else, too, (had a felony charge) and routinely abused my elderly parents. He felt worthless; after all, he was a throw-a-way kid. He took the anger and hurt he felt over his early abandonment out on everyone around him in his family. Perhaps Nikolas felt this way too.

We also need to learn and accept that adoption is not a magic wand that erases or loves away the tragedy upon which it is built.  We owe it to adoptees who are charged with crimes to be honest about the role their relinquishment or termination loss creates. We must face the painful side of adoption as well as the advantages and strive to decrease the vast number of unnecessary mother/child separations to meet a demand instead of promoting it as a win-win.

In the meantime, since we cannot go back and change a shooter’s past, let’s try to remove the one element we can: guns, especially assault rifles.

It has been reported that Cruz stands to inherit as much as $800,000 from his deceased adoptive parents when he turns 22. This could be money the families of the deceased students can seek through civil suit, since it likely will not help his defense.