Friday, November 21, 2014

The Legacy of In-Fighting in the Internet Age

I've written much about in-fighting in the adoption reform movement. It's not unique to adoptionland. In-fighting exists in all grassroots movements, in entertainment, sports, in academia, and in the business world.  

Often, people on the same team with the same goals disagree about how to achieve those goals. The more passionate the issues, the more likely there will be differences of opinions.  And our issues are often very personal and emotionally charged. Disagreements are a part of life and likely there'd be little progress without a heated debate, now and then, as to how accomplish a desired outcome. Compromise is not easy when strong feelings are involved.

In the case of adoption we have people coming at the issues from different perspectives and with vastly different levels of education (both formal and knowledge of adoption issues and history), varying levels of awareness and insight, varying levels of tact, and varying levels of  hurt and healing. 

Obviously there are going to be disputes. We cannot expect everything to just go along rosy. The issue is, how we deal with these disagreements, especially in the Internet age.

We all know that once a naked picture or sex tape gets on the Internet or the cloud it is there to stay. Permanent. (Irrevocable, like a relinquishment of parental rights!)  No do-overs. And no apology can ever erase it. 

Case in point: I googled "B J Lifton" adoptee, distinguished author, lecturer, and highly regarded figure in the history of adoption reform and this is, sadly, what came up. 

First two "hits" on the first page:


This is a huge embarrassment! For one thing, the whole rift was RESOLVED, but of course that, like retractions in newspapers is buried or non-existent.

Secondly, that it happened in the first place is ridiculous. Trifling!

It was wrong and that is why the conference organizers reascended their banishment of BJ from the conference. 

I posted about it as well because it so WRONG and i cna tell you that controversy "sells." My blog posy about this incident got more comments than ANY ever!! And BNs nearly crashed the stratosphere. 

We WILL disagree. Connecticut, which is getting ready to introduce a bill closing up the gap of the years not covered in the first bill that granted adoptee access, will prove once and for all that laws can and WILL be passed incrementally!  Hopefully (though I must admit doubtfully) it will end the name-calling and ruckus made by a small vocal (though not well known or recognized) group of adoptees who put more effort into dissing the hard work of others than trying to get any meaningful legislation passed. Hopefully, it will end their (fear-based) claim that "imperfect" or "unclean" access laws will never be changed. 

Of course the argument ignores the fact all access laws change the existing status quo of laws created to close records that were originally unsealed...and ignores prohibition that came and went. Laws come and go and are changed and amended all the time. It was never an argument that made any sense but it was - and is - the argument against "accepting compromises" - as if any of us want to! (And if those who complained the loudest actually did any work on legislation, they'd know that compromise is the name of the game and you try for as little as possible but have to give in order to get anything!)  

But I digress.

My point here is, and the lesson I hope we can all take from this is that when we disagree let's try to do it in PRIVATE message exchanges and not blast the Internet with our dirty laundry that will remain long after the issue has been resolved.  

Before pressing "POST" remember that you are not just hurting the individual or group you disagree with, but you are hurting the movement and our progress.  And try to disagree with dignity and respect. 

As another example, if you google my name, or my name +adoption you will find thousands of "hits."  One adoptive mother who got her panties in a crunch because I called her on the FACT that she adopted from the same convicted baby broker -  Lauryn Galindo  - used by Angelina Jolie. The ap in question apparently has the money and the inclination to keep her scathing reply to me among the first page of google results! So there it is. The world can see that when you are a mover and shaker and make waves, you upset people! Well shucks.  I ain't a "well-behaved" woman, I'm an activist! 

While we want to be outspoken and HEARD in our activism and NOT silenced, respect among and between us is always a good thing. 

Think long and hard before posting what you want YOUR legacy to be as well as the legacy of others of us. BJ did not deserve to be treated this way and surely does not deserve to be remembered for one of the ugliest scars on the entire history of adoption reform!  It was all much ado about nothing but has left it's mark for time immemorial.

And respect also goes to the heart of the BJ incident - respect for the language we use. None of us want to use language that would hurt another of us, but we also need to be left to use the language we ourselves are perfectly comfortable with,knowing full well the arguments against its use. I see it as exactly the same issue as Black vs African American. To each his own! And even those old-timers who cling to using negro, as the NAACP retains its original name. 

All oppressed groups of people demand and deserve to SELF-IDENTIFY, that often is very individual. 

These are blots on our history and hopefully though they remain have receded from the foreground and allowed us to focus our limited time and precious energy on the far more important issues of equal access, ending corruption, profiteering, coercion, exploitation and commodification. 



Wednesday, October 22, 2014

HUFFINGTON POST

TO ALL MY FRIEND,S FANS AND FOLLOWERS....






I will likely still come here to VENT in ways that would be inappropriate for a more formal and more public venue....

But PLEASE do follow my Huff Posts because they are IMPORTANT issues that will benefit greatly from LIKES, SHARES and comments.


Thursday, October 16, 2014

Private Adoption: White Knights or Flesh Peddlers

In the late 1980s Geraldo Rivera had a talk show. It was shortly after the world was rocked by the Joel Steinberg trial for the death of his adopted daughter Lisa. See all four short segments of the show to see Aaaron Britvan and Bill Pierece square off on private adoption. 

Part I of the four-part video of the program introduces the audience to Rebekah Dulik, a minor who was lured out-of-state and coached no to tell her parents where she was or that she was pregnant and having her child adopted.  

Judi Cochran of Children's Right of PA addresses Rebekah's situation. 



In Part II Adopters, Lisa and Earl who obtained a child by placing over 100 ads in newspapers. A home study was done a week after they took the baby home from the hospital.


Aaron Britvan, notorious adoption attorney and Bill Pierce, NCFA, who speaks out AGAINST private adoption. Britvan claims the Joel Steinberg case was not an adoption. Pierce and Cochran both set him straight.


Part III Aaron Britvan talks about baby brokers and slipshod adoption attorneys.

Britvan and Bill Pierce of NCFA debate whether Joel Steinberg adopted or abducted Lisa.

I speak out on behalf of the rights of the child in adoption, against private advertising, and for more regulations.



Part IV Aaron Britvan, Judi Cochran and Bill Pierce of NCFA discuss the usage of advertising for babies. Bill Pierece defends Edna Gladney agency. Pierce also compares ads for babies for sale to ads for escort services that are ads prostitution. 







Friday, October 10, 2014

How I Came to Meet Joan Rivers

As the nation mourned of the death of the beloved comic icon, I recalled my meeting with Joan Rivers when I was guest on her short-lived a daytime talk show, in March 1990.
But the story of how that came about began in 1987 with a horrific tragedy that garnered headlines of a “house of horrors” and a six year old girl called Lisa, who died after years of abuse.

In the dimly lit, filthy Greenwhich Village home of attorney Joel Steinberg and Hedda Nussbaum where Lisa had endured unspeakable abuses, police discovered a toddler boy tethered to a table leg in soiled diapers with a bottle of rancid milk. He, like Lisa, had been illegally adopted by the couple. Hedda, who once wrote children's books, was badly abused, and drug addicted. She was given immunity to testify against Joel who was convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to 8-1⁄3 to 25 years in prison.  He was denied parole twice and released after serving his time.

The media focused on how Lisa’s abuse had occurred for six years and no one, even in Lisa's school, had known or reported it. It was portrayed as an anomaly in terms of adoption that "slipped through the cracks."

I was writing articles, speaking at local and national conferences, and appearing on talk shows such as Geraldo, and the Morton Downey Jr. Show, twice addressing the need to unseal adoption records. Lisa’s death sent shock waves through the adoption community.

Adoptees of all ages identified with the two victims while mothers who had been persuaded to relinquish children for adoption in the hope they would be provided a better life, worried about the safety and well-being of their children. Could such a tragic end befall their children? How could this have happened?

These two adoptions were labeled “illegal” because Steinberg had failed to file final adoptions papers. Other than that, there was really not much difference between these adoptions and any other privately arranged, independent adoption. It was not then, and is still today, not uncommon or illegal for doctors and attorneys to arrange the transfer of custody of infants without an adoption agency involved in the process.  

In order to bring light to the loopholes in the adoption process, I organized a candle light vigil from Lisa's home to her Greenwich Village elementary a school. The march was televised and garnered news coverage we hoped would help prevent other such tragedies.

At the same time, I worked with the attorney general's office to identify and locate the mother of the toddler boy called Mitchell. I discovered that his mother was a teenager named Nicole Smigel who had kept her pregnancy a secret from her mother who had just hours to deal with finding out about the pregnancy and a baby being born.  The doctor who delivered the child said he had a friend (Joel Steinberg) who would adopt the baby. Nicole's mother, Grace Ann Smigel made all the arrangements.

I contacted Grace Ann and she was initially extremely vested in maintaining the secret. She had done everything so quickly. She never told her husband, Nicole's father or Nicole's grandmother. Nor did the baby father's know anything about his son or the decision to have him adopted. Grace Ann couldn't bear to break it to them that the baby in the headlines was THEIRS! She wanted to keep it all buried and just allow the child to be re-adopted by another family.

I called Grace Ann over a period of weeks.  Every time we spoke I impressed upon her that she and her grandson were given a second chance and that the only way she could be assured of his safety and well-being was to reclaim him. Finally, she and Nicole told the family the truth and reclaimed Nicole's son who she named him Travis.

My 1988 book, “shedding light on…The Dark Side of Adoption” was published with a dedication to Lisa.

And so, Joan Rivers, looking for hot trendy news issues for The Joan Rivers Show invited Grace Ann to describe how her grandson wound up in the midst of this front page horror story. Joan also wanted an "expert" to address adoption laws and explain how this was allowed to occur, and Grace Anne wanted me to be there with her.  And so the two of us were guests on the show along with Joyce Johnson author of “What Lisa Knew.” 

Also appearing on that same Joan Rivers Show was Joan’s friend Howard Stern who recently spoke at her funeral and Angela Bowie, former wife of David Bowie who had just written a tell-all that included how she caught her husband in bed with Mick Jagger!   (I remember being concerned for her young daughter was there with her, backstage, as she revealed this.)

My sister attended the taping with me as did some colleagues.  The Joan we met was professional and obviously wanting to be seen as more serious than her usual comedic persona by conducting an interview about a hot, but unpleasant topic as child abuse, as part of a series she was doing on secret-keeping.

When Joan interviewed Grace Ann, she was initially incredulous that her 17-year-old daughter had successfully hidden a pregnancy for more than nine months, especially from her own mother. Nicole had worn loose clothing and pooh-poohed questions about her modest weight gain. Joan, whose own daughter Melissa was not more than a teenager at the time, appeared sincere in her empathy with Grace Ann’s dilemma in trying to protect everyone.

Apparently, the public preferred Joan as a jokester, however, and the show was soon cancelled. Grace Ann and Nicole kept in touch with me, sending holiday cards and photos of Travis, and updated me until he got into college. My second book, THE STORK MARKET: America's Multi-Billion Dollar Unregulated Adoption Industry (2008) tells the story with photos.

WCBS-TC News coverage of the candlelight vigil for Lisa



Saturday, September 27, 2014

The Tangled Web of Entitlement, Resentment and Justification

Entitlement is often spoken and written and blogged about in the adoption community. We know it fuels adoptions. But...do we recognize how deeply it motivates through justification.

I was watching a re-run of an old crime show on TV. The detective on a murder case commented on how feelings of entitlement  -  I deserve it (whatever "it" is) - especially when combined with feeling it unfair that others have what you feel entitled to, can lead to justifying most anything. The "it" could be a promotion, a husband or wife, wealth, fame... or a child.

Think about it. Rapists often it feel it unfair that women tease or simply say no after feeling they were led on. They feel entitled and take what they want, even with force. 

Child molesters justify their action because the children want their "affection." They believe they are being "good" and loving to the their victims.

Thieves, too often feel a deep sense of injustice that others have wealth and possession they cannot afford but feel entitled to. Same with white color criminals. they're just - in their justification - leveling an unfair playing field. 

Men who feel their wives are not giving them enough sexually, feel entitled and justified cheating. Women who catch their husbands cheating likewise use it to justify their doing likewise. It's only fair!

Injustice, unfairness, entitlement.... put them together and they justify taking anything by any means.

Infertility builds strong resentments and immense feelings of unfairness. Why can other women get pregnant so easily, even when they don't want to or are not ready, but they can't? UNFAIR!  Monumentally unfair when you "know" you would make as good or better a parent than teens who get pregnant... Infertile women and same sex couples hear about women aborting and they think how UNFAIR!  They read about mothers who abuse, neglect, abandon and they know it is UNJUST!  Entitlement is joined by it's first cousin:  resentment, bitter indignation at having been treated unfairly.

In adoption, this attitude and way of thinking is what allows prospective adopters in Finding Fernanda to ignore blatant signs of corruption and illegalities such as seeing multiple photos of the same child with different names or seeing the same name labeling photos of different children. They know it's not right and they ignore it because it might harm their chances of getting what they want, what they lust for and feel entitled to.

It is illustrated vividly in the documentary Wo Ai Ni (I Love You), Mommy that follows a woman as she goes to China to adopt. And there, in a hotel room, she counts out piles of cash on her hotel bed and says: "I know this looks wrong, but it's just how things are done." The essence, the very definition of justification!

Adoption differs however from crimes that are committed based on entitlement, resentment, envy and justification because adoption is not just socially accepted, it is encouraged and promoted. Those who adopt are treated as heroes.  . 

Bonus - adopters not only get what they long for, they initially receive compassion for the loss of their fertility and after adoption,  society's  admiration for rescuing an 'unwanted' child!  Win-win for them!

Society buys into "the ends justifies the means" hook, line and sinker. It matters not what bribes are paid, how mothers are coerced, how children are trafficked, or who is exploited... We - actors and society - ignore the exploitation of "them" as "other." "They" - destitute and desperate mothers are not "us."  The public can identify with the longing for a child to parent and care for, but cannot identify with being coerced or pressured, or merely lacking the resources to provide... They become "other" -- dehumanized - like enemies in war.   

And their children? The end up going to "better" homes. Our social mores and our laws put their seal of approval on anything goes tactics because the end justifies the means - any means.

The US State Dept even turned a blind eye when Guatemala revoked an adoption after affirming that Anyeli was kidnapped from her mother, Olga Rodriguez. DNA testing to deny or confirm the kidnapping allegation and was never orders  and the adoption of Anyeli Hernandez Rodriguez by Timothy and Jennifer Monahan's of Missouri was declared  "legal."

Kidnapping justified by not just the perpetrators, but by the highest law in the land.  Kidnapping justified by ethnocentric enlistment and the belief that the end - an American life - justified the means. (Similarly, many contested adoptions involve two states fighting for entitlement.) 

Reversing these motivators is no easy task. Simply exposing the exploitation and corruption has proven to have very limited effect. One country closes, another is targeted. Nothing will stop until the social justification ends. 

Reducing infertility would also help reduce demand, but we as a society do virtually no preventive education. Why bother, when you can "always adopt"?  Why prevent a problem that supports two multi-billion dollar industries - infertility and adoption?  certainly those profiting have no reason to help with prevention of infertility or family preservation.

The severest cases of adoption entitlement are seen in contested adoptions. The audacity of adopters to go to the lengths they do to fight loving, capable parents. The become obsessed in their belief of themselves as superior and more entitled to the child than th child's blood mother, father or both. They seem never to think how they will justify it to the child later in life when the child eventually reads the details and/or meets the loving/capable parents who fought to keep their child.

And the cause of many contested adoption are are broken openness promises once the adoption is finalized.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Birth/First Moms: Do you have an adopted child?

Moms, when you speak of your interest in adoption are you ever asked these two questions?:

  • Are you an adoptive parent?
  • Are you adopted?
It happens to me often because of my activism and because I am an author. When I am asked these questions it is almost always JUST THESE TWO questions. 

The third, and correct, option that makes adoption of personal interest to me is never considered....or is it that I don't fit the stereotype of a teenager or drug addict or impoverished woman?

I usually use it as an education moment. But today I was asked by the neighborhood gossip and just answered NO to both questions. But the I got to thinking...

She did not ask if i was an adoptive parent, she asked if I had an adopted child. .If she asked if I was an adoptive mother, that requires no thinking. 

But I'm a very literal person and I was asked if I have (had) an adopted child. Did I? Do you?

All of us have children who were adopted. Does that mean we have children who are adopted??

In a sense yes.

Do you ever say that you have a child who was "adopted out"? Do you hate that phrase? is it as bad as "given up" for adoption - a phrase which BTW was used on the fairly new TV show "MOM."


Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Threats to Family Presevation

Money. Demand. Lack of regulation of adoption"professionals," facilitators, and adoption agency business.

Exploitation. Coercion. Secrets and lies.

All of these are threats to the sanctity of families, particularly families in crisis and those lacking affluence.

Demand is a major part of the problem and demand will continue until such time as we face infertility as a major health problem and add information on reducing infertility risk to high school health education classes. of course, this is unlikely inasmuch as infertility supports several multi-billion dollar industries: infertility treatment and adoption... and now surrogacy. Until we stem the tide, nation after nation will be stripped of their children to meet the demand.

However there is another very important underlying cause of family disruption that is seldom if ever addressed:  The doctrine of "best interest."  

Best interest can be used to justify taking any child and placing him or her with a wealthier family who can provide more "advantages." As long as we as a culture place more value on material "advantages" than on connectedness, we will continue on a path of family destruction and recreation.

We see the very dangerous effects of this "best interest" doctrine in contested adoptions. Instead of being treated as kidnappings - which illegal, fraudulent or coercive adoptions are - the courts too often look at the "best interest" of the child...or at least those who hold the child captive from his or her family hope they will, and use delays and postponements to increase their boding time with the captive child.

In conjunction with this misused premise is the underlying belief that the end justifies the means.

This end-justifies-the-means belief is extremely dangerous in terms of adoption custody transfers as it can be used to condone a great many illegalities.  When end-justified is applied in adoption, it becomes OK to lie to mothers, dupe them, coerce then... all in an effort to remove their children to be raised by those deemed "better."

End-justifies-means has left Loyda Rodriguez's daughter, Anylie with Jennifer and Timothy Monahan despite Guatemala demanding the return of this kidnap victim.

End-justifies the means causes "desperate" for a child, prospective adopters top ignore blatant red lights, such as those delineated in the book Finding Fernanada and to condone paying bribes, as seen in the film Wo Ai Ni (I Love You) Mommy.

Entitlement? Yes. But entitlement is a personal feeling. But it takes the cultural acceptance of best-interest and end-justifies-the-means to uphold policies and court decisions that support personal beliefs of one party's entitlement over another's.

And the underlying prejudice in play in all of this is that wealth equals entitlement and less affluent parents are less fit and less able to provide for their child's "best interest" based on their financial status.

Biology, blood, genetics sadly seem to hold no sway in weighing a child's best interest. We as a society put no importance on these factors except when a doctor asks our medical history or when a baby is born and relatives debate who the newborn resembles most or parents want to take credit for their offspring's abilities or talents.


RussiaToday Apr 29, 2010 on Russian Adoption Freeze

Russi Today: America television Interview 4/16/10 Regarding the Return of Artyem, 7, to Russia alone

RT: Russia-America TV Interview 3/10

Korean Birthmothers Protest to End Adoption

Motherhood, Adoption, Surrender, & Loss

Who Am I?

Bitter Winds

Adoption and Truth Video

Adoption Truth

Birthparents Never Forget