Thursday, May 31, 2007

Politics for Parents 101

The following article was written by Maureen Flatley and John Meredith. It was written for foster parents and reprinted here with permission of Maureen Flatley, a child rights lobbyist, because it is applicable to mothers who lost children to adoption.

“Some people say time changes things. I say you have to do it yourself.“
- Andy Warhol

Without a doubt, the question we are asked most frequently is, “How can I, just one person, make a difference? Yet from Samuel Adams and the Boston Tea Party to Candy Lightner and Mother’s Against Drunk Driving a single person is behind virtually every major policy campaign in US history.

Perhaps there is no better example of the One Person rule that John’s father, James Meredith. James, as an Air Force veteran and young father in 1961, took one step all alone over the threshold of the University of Mississippi and started a revolution in civil rights and higher education.

One person is where everything begins.

But one person can make a much bigger impact if they understand a few basic principles of political advocacy. Anyone with a fundamental understanding of what they want, who can make the necessary decisions and how to communicate about it.

For years, foster parents and kin have struggled to achieve a powerful political voice in the midst of hundreds of well organized, often unionized public sector programs and thousands of private child welfare programs often represented by well funded trade groups with experienced government relations departments. Yet in a very real way, individual families have far more power than the organizations generally perceived to have the most influence.

With dramatic shifts in everything from political party leadership to public perceptions about the effectiveness of government, effective political advocacy is increasingly originating at the local level, driven by community activists who are not affiliated with any institutional interests. Rather, it has been the small business owners and active family groups that have taken hold of the political process. The November elections were a crushing wake up call to a generation of politicians that business as usual is most definitely over.

But the average working family has little time to educate themselves to the intricacies of politics. More importantly, the process itself can seem overwhelming to even the most experienced operative. However, there are a few operating principles that inform the process. And if you can embrace a few simple ideas, the more complex aspects of the issues will fall into place.

These are a few rules that have worked for us:

They work for you.

Whether you’re talking to the receptionist in your state senator’s office or talking to your U.S. Senator you should not feel self conscious or embarrassed. Your elected officials and their staffs work for YOU, the taxpayer. This doesn’t mean that you should be rude or combative. In
fact, in the immortal words of Nancy Drew, “An air of superiority can ruin a first impression.” When communicating with your target audience be conversational and clear - but don’t be intimidated!

They are not mind readers.

Elected officials serve thousands, if not millions, of constituents, each of whom potentially represents dozens of different issues. While Congress or the legislature is in session they are often called upon to make dozens of decisions about a single piece of legislation. Though most legislators make every effort to hire staff who are skilled in the policy issues of the district, even the best staffers can’t know everything. When you contact their offices, make a simple statement of the facts of your issue, even if you think they already know about it.

Do not make assumptions.

There is no quicker way to lose a political opportunity than to assume your legislator is “bad” on an issue just because they are either a Democrat or Republican. In fact, if they are on the wrong side of your issue they will never have an opportunity to learn about it if you stereotype them or their positions. However, if they know little or nothing about the specifics of an
issue, it’s a terrific opportunity to create an ally in the legislature if you can persuade them to take up your cause.

Do your homework.

If you are going to talk to your local politician learn everything you can about their background, their interests and their track records. If you are advocating for a foster care or adoption issue, nothing is more powerful than connecting with an elected official who has a personal connection to the issue.

Understand how the system works.

If you are seeking to have a bill introduced, amended or repealed it is critical to understand the legislative process, whether in your state legislature or in Congress. Find out what committee has jurisdiction over your issue. Then check to see whether your own member is on the committee of jurisdiction. If not, find an ally who is, preferably with a coalition of their constituents. In any case, never ask someone to do something they don’t have the authority to do.

Ripen the issue.

After John Kennedy’s assassination, Lyndon Johnson realized that passage of the Civil Rights Act was in peril. He asked Roger Wilkins to go to Mississippi. He counseled him on how to lobby the powerful Sen. Dirksen. He personally couldn’t get out in front of the issue but he quietly, patiently provided advice and encouragement while the constituency for passage grew.
Other people created the political will to achieve final passage. While your issue may not involve the enormously complex political and cultural dynamics around the Civil Rights Act, you may still have to invest in a period of cultivation to achieve your objectives.

Know your friends. Know your enemies better.

While one person can make a difference, most issues benefit enormously from the support of a broad coalition of supporters. But not everyone that you think will be helpful will serve your interests well. Before you engage other organizations make sure you know where their funding comes from, what positions they have taken in the past and whether the positions they will
ultimately take will complement yours. If you are a grassroots parents’ group, inviting service providers to join your group may or may not be in your best interests. If you are a private group, your positions may not by in harmony with those of a public organization. In any case, don’t assume that even your best friends will serve your interests behind closed doors.

Invest in relationships.

Whether you are seeking support from your neighbors or from a large coalition group, don’t just engage them when you want something. Successful advocacy requires almost the almost constant building of relationships. There is no better example of this operating principle than President Bill Clinton. Beginning during his tenure with Boys State, Clinton maintained index cards with the contact information of virtually every person he met. He included in his files information about their work, their hobbies and their other interests. When he launched his Presidential campaign in the early 90's he had compiled thousands of contacts, most of whom were ready to support what was then considered an unlikely bid for the White House.

Don’t be afraid to take names.

Boston attorney and political strategist, Peter Sessa, begins his grassroots training by stating, “You can’t fight City Hall. True or false?” The answer, he quickly volunteers, is “False! You have to take names.” From King George to Bull Conner, the most effective advocates managed to personalize the issue. If your iniative is held hostage by a particular person, don’t be afraid to name names. Holding public officials or other individuals accountable for their postures or performance is fair game in any public policy discussion.

Take a long view.

The great Irish writer, Samuel Becket, said “Ever tried. Ever failed. No Matter. Try again. Fail better.” In politics, patience is in fact a virtue. While some relatively simply issues can be addressed in a few weeks or months, most public policy problems take quite a bit longer to resolve. The average Congressional season is at least ten months. Some issues take multiple cycles to be successfully achieved.

If you can embrace these basic concepts, the details of your agenda will fall into place. From subsidy payments to health insurance for foster care providers to better and more accessible services for the children in your care, almost any agenda item can be accomplished if you come at the issues from a realistic, deliberate point of view.

Maureen Flatley and John Meredith are partners in the Empire Bay Group, LLC a strategic consulting firm with offices in Boston, New York and Washington, DC.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Sweeping Change Part II:
Carole Anderson's Visionary Words
That Were Feared and Ignored as Being "Too Radical"

ABOVE: Inside front cover of brochure indicating publication date.
CLICK TO enlarge.
Front cover with title below in previous post.

"A Time for Sweeping Change"

by Carole Anderson, 1991

Open adoption is no solution to the problems inherent in adoption. I believe most of the problems in adoption stem from the fact of family separation, not from whether any subsequent adoption was closed or included some degree of openness (which often means no more than a one time preplacement meeting or a letter or two). My more than twelve years of sharing experiences with fellow CUB members in the areas of search, contact and reunion - in essence the opening of formerly closed adoptions - have taught me that adoption-separated people's finding, knowing and loving our separated family members does not end the pain or harm adoption causes. Over and over I have heard reunited people say, "It's wonderful knowing her, but now I see even more clearly that nothing can turn back the clock, nothing can ever 'make it right' for either of us."

Whether adoptions are open from the start or are opened later by search, all involve the separation of children from their families, with all the damaging effects that brings. In all adoptions, children grow up pretending to be related to unrelated people; the children's [birth] parents pretend they're not their children's "real" parents and lose their parenting roles to people outside their families; relationships among remaining members of birthfamilies are distorted by the loss of the children and by the psychological and grief issues experienced by parents who are not regarded as parents; adoptive couples pretend that obtaining a child means the end of their infertility and means being just like other families; and society in general pretends that adoptive families are just like natural families, or maybe better. There is a desperate refusal to view adoption as a situation in which families are permanently separated for temporary reasons. People prefer to believe instead that adoption undoes nature, that it somehow replaces it. There is even a chilling resistance to accepting the obvious fact that adoption is unnatural.

There is a great temptation to pretend that open adoption means more than it does. Adoption arrangers pretend open adoptions are positive for birthparents and give birthparents something. "Look what you've gained," they say, as if every little girl and boy grew up thinking, "Someday I'll grow up and have a baby to give away so I can have a picture or two of her." This pretense that birthparents gain from open adoption allows adoption arrangers to ignore the monumental losses those parents will live with for the rest of their lives, lets arrangers pretend the unnatural is natural, and absolves them of any responsibility for working to keep families together.

Infertile people pretend open adoptions mean they are special, generous people for "sharing" "their" children, unlike those nasty people who would only want a closed adoption. They pretend "their" child hasn't lost anything because showing the child a letter and describing their solitary meeting with The Birthmother will give the child all the heritage he needs. They pretend they are giving birthparents something instead of acknowledging that they are getting their hearts and souls. It absolves them of responsibility for truly coming to terms with their infertility, which would mean accepting their physical incapacity and living without parenthood.

People in the movement also pretend open adoptions mean more than they do. They pretend open adoptions can somehow prevent the pain they've suffered, the devastation they've seen in so many adoptees' and birthparents' lives. If adoptees acknowledge that all adoptions involve loss and pain, as well as incredible injustice to birthparents, they may feel they are betraying their adoptive parents; yet denying those facts means denigrating their birthparents. No wonder so many want to protect themselves from feelings of disloyalty to either side by seeing open adoption as "fair", and as a compromise in which everybody wins.

Everybody doesn't win. Birthparents lose, and so do adoptees. When I found my son, then age eleven, I soon obtained pictures and information and managed to see and meet him anonymously. That is at least as much as many, probably most, birthmothers whose "open" adoptions have brought three or four first-names-only letters or a one-hour meeting with the lucky couples who have their children. The typical "open" adoption entails far less contact than do many reunion relationships. Compared to raising children, what do birth parents get from any adoption but losses? Openness may slightly reduce their number and extent, but it does not convert losses to gains.

Open adoptions may bring what people in closed adoptions do not have. In closed adoptions it is at least clear who the winners are and at whose expense they won. While there were a few people who thought we should feel relieved, we birthparents knew we lost. Those birth parents who had subsequent children particularly knew what we lost. In open adoptions birthparents still lose and feel their losses, but they are told they've gained. In addition, these birth parents are usually expected to be grateful to the winners (for the "privilege" of seeing who it is who will take their natural places in their children's lives? for letting them know what their lost children look like?).

Those of us in closed adoptions carry enough guilt, especially for adoptions in which we later learn there was abuse of some sort. There is physical, sexual, or psychological abuse in many adoptive homes. How much worse will today's "open" adoption birth parents' guilt be when they learn of abuse inflicted in adoptive homes the birth parents "chose" from resumes and adoption arrangers' fabulous descriptions?

These days, when those who hope to adopt may be present long before and during the birth, birthparents are subjected to incredible pressures not to "deprive" these people of "their" child. Nothing with or about their child is the parents' alone, not even the memory of the child's birth. It is hard enough to be honest with ourselves about our surrender and loss experience in a closed adoption. The way most open adoptions are handled, with birth parents participating in their own destruction and suffering from more ambiguous losses, it may be even harder for open adoption birthparents to acknowledge and face their losses.

"Open" birthparents often seem to remain in a frozen, childlike state for very long periods. Could it be that open adoption means they are not free to grow up? Must they remain helpless, vulnerable, less than the view presented of the perfect adoptive parents so that they can continue to justify to themselves why it is that those people deserve their child and the birthmothers don't?

I am pleased that Pannor and Baran acknowledge that social workers' talk of keeping families together is only lip service. In fact, few social workers work at keeping families together, when those families include infants. Instead, they play "Let's Make a Choice." This is a game in which adoption arrangers pretend that expectant or new parents can choose whether or not to be parents at this time in their lives. The reality is that they are parents, but by ignoring this fact, and by urging parents to consider the child's presumed needs for older, more stable, wealthier parents, they put parents in the impossible position of bidding at an auction in which opening bids are higher than they can make. That kind of counseling is premised on the false idea that blood relationships have no intrinsic value. Urging comparisons between parents and strangers who want to become adoptive parents gives no credit whatever to the reality and value of the natural family or the parents' love, instead giving bidding credit only to such other factors as infertility, age, marital status, and financial status.

 Carole Anderson, 2003

The only problem I see with what Pannor and Baran wrote is that it does not go far enough. It identifies problems, but does not propose concrete solutions. People are unlikely to stop doing things the way they always have unless they have a clear idea of what to replace them with. I would like to see "A Time for Sweeping Change" expanded to include what people should be doing, not just what they shouldn't.

We need to eliminate infertility as a criterion for out of family placement. If infertility is to be considered at all, it should be a contraindication, not a requirement. As long as raising another's child is seen as a cure for infertility, as long as we allow our society to see it as a good, even necessary, thing to supply infertile people with others' babies, there will be pressure to separate viable families in order to supply infertile people with those families' babies.

We need to require that all resources for a child within its family be exhausted before placement outside of that family is considered. Instead of saying, "Since it's impossible for you to take your baby home because your parents won't accept it," we need to be working with those grandparents. We need to work on alternatives that keep parents and babies together. We need to do everything possible to keep parents and babies together, whether it's getting them into support groups, placing them together in a foster family or group home for a time, or working to help their parents accept the fact of their grandparenthood. If parents and grandparents cannot manage, even with help and advocacy, we need to look to the extended family.

We need to be truly honest with people about adoption instead of painting false pictures. We need to tell people that the pain will grow worse with the years, not disappear. We need to tell them that adoption separation is guaranteed to cause deep and abiding pain to birthparents, their surrendered children, their other children, and many others forever, while it does not guarantee anything else.

We also need to be honest with people about keeping their children. Instead of painting a picture of misery and frustration, we must acknowledge that parenthood has incomparable joys, whether parents are married or not, as well as that there are also struggles and difficulties to be overcome in any parent's life. We need to focus on how to overcome the difficulties facing parents rather than presenting them as insurmountable obstacles to their children's future happiness.

We need a new view of family separation. For the one in a thousand situation in which a child cannot be raised by the natural family, we need something different than adoption. Permanent guardianship would retain and acknowledge a child's true kinship relationships while providing permanent care. There should be no pretending that the guardians who care for and love a child are the "real parents." They are not parents. It would be understood that the child has parents but the guardians are responsible for raising the child. Children have no trouble understanding this.

My beloved "Aunt" Kristina was my grandfather's aunt who raised him and who lived with him during my childhood. My grandfather had no confusion about who his parents were nor about whom he loved. Nor did I; I named my older daughter Kristina after her. Two boys who attended grade school with me were raised by an aunt and uncle because their mother was seriously disabled and confined in a nursing home. They knew who they were, they knew where they came from, they visited their mother regularly, and they were as close to their aunt and uncle as the other children in school were to their parents.

We sometimes act as though adoption, by which I mean a system of pretending parents are not parents while pretending that non-parent caregivers are parents, is the only way to provide children with permanent homes. It is simply not true. Every child needs both a heritage and nurturing. We must work to assist children's families to provide both. When the two cannot come from the same place, it emphatically does not follow that we must pretend a substitute source of nurturing provides a heritage as well. Being forced to live a fantasy should not be the price of the nurturing every child is entitled to receive. We need sweeping change.

ED: A precious few open adoptions today involve more and direct contact, but they are unfortunately the exception; it is hard to find and know which will be done right, and remain open; and, even the best are predicated on a falsified birth certificate, and are unenforceable in most states. No matter how open an adoption, it is not joint custody. Open adoption does not replace day-to-day mothering or decision-making. Those are still forever lots and and is painful for mothers to watch others have those privileges.


In loving memory of a woman who died too young to see her words, at long last, appreciated.

Friday, May 25, 2007

A (Long Overdue) Time for Sweeping Change

I feel like an archaeologist having just unearthed proof that sane life existed and was somehow forgotten...

The following is from a pamphlet/brochure published by CUB in 1991.

Where/why did we go so far astray in the years since then, to the point that "activism" and "family preservation" are at best, just words with no effort behind them whatsoever? Mirah

by Annette Baran and Reuben Pannor

We have been avid supporters of CUB and its objectives. We believe, now, that it is time to move beyond and address basic issues. Otherwise we remain an instrument in perpetuating the problems. Each year that we delay, thousands of new adoptees, adoptive parents and birthparents join the long list of the afflicted.

What have we, in the adoption reform movement and in the practice of adoption, really been doing during the last two decades? It seems to us that, if we take off our blinders, we must admit that we have been co-opted in supporting a system that causes pain and lifelong suffering to all the parties involved. A study of conference programs, the adoption literature, and the media attention to adoption clearly points up the direction we have taken. We are all involved in patching up and maintaining a flawed institution. We talk about and offer so-called solutions to adoptees, birthparents and adoptive parents. We try to help them live within the system today as well as tomorrow. Let us now recognize and acknowledge our own vested interest in perpetuating this system.

The time has come to utilize our knowledge and experience with the past and present to forge a totally new direction for the future. We offer the following issues for critical consideration. Relinquishment of children to a new set of parents, as a final, irrevocable act, severing all rights of the birthparents, must be discontinued.

Open adoption, which we helped pioneer, is not a solution to the problems inherent in adoption. Without legal sanction, open adoption is an unenforceable agreement at the whim of the adoptive parents. Instead, we propose a form of guardianship adoption that we believe would be in the best interests of all concerned, with special benefits for the adoptee for it would decrease the abandonment/rejection issue and permit the child to know the birthparents as real people who cared about him but could not raise him.

We have always maintained that adoptive placement is the last resort, to be considered only when all other options have been thoroughly explored. However, our practice has never reflected this concept. Indeed we are now embarked on a world of "How to" books, videotapes, and seminars, to teach couples methods and ruses of locating and convincing pregnant women to give up their babies. We are a heavy presence in the high school classroom, and the advertising columns luring vulnerable and economically deprived pregnant teenagers. In fact in the California legislature a bill was recently introduced to fund recruitment teams who would present the virtues of adoption in the public schools. What have we done to underwrite and support keeping babies and helping the family stay together?

Where in the world of adoption reform have we heard any emphasis on prevention and education and contraception? Knowing the agony and lifelong pain that result from an unplanned pregnancy and subsequent relinquishment, why have we not made prevention a major issue? Why is the United States the leader of the western world in teenage pregnancies? This issue has been clouded by religious dogma and politicized to obscure the real problems.

The struggle to open records and address the wrongs of the past must continue. However, simultaneously and with equal emphasis, we must begin to look at the future and address the need for sweeping change. Change that radically reduces unplanned pregnancies; change that makes it possible for babies to remain with their birth or extended families; change that institutes a different system for the birthparents who must place their babies, a system that legally permits on-going connection with the child. We further recognize the need to replace the traditional relinquishment arrangement with other kinds of placements, that permit and encourage children to experience secure nurturing and rearing, while retaining their natural birth relationships.

Do we have the courage to address the issues that will truly eliminate the problems we have struggled with for so many years?

by Jean Paton

There is really no need for society to be torn to pieces by the needs of a few orphans, is there? Why should it seem necessary to reinvent the family as the basis of social life in order to place orphans in houses rather than orphanages? That is about the silliest thing that could have happened.

At first, orphans were placed in homes either as temporary help, under the provisions of indenture, or under chattel mortgages, the same as were used in the exchange of fleshy animals. This seemed inappropriate, and adoption became instituted under state laws, although it had been used in many countries and in ancient times under more or less traditional usages.

That is, in the United States we devised adoption to take care of little ones who had lost their parents, either by death or by dire poverty. We did not at that time separate babies from their mothers merely because they were born out of wedlock. These were usually sent together out into the cruel world, mother and child. Or if she could not cope, there were always the foundling home where babies would not live long.

So far, so good. When twenty-one years were up, the legal age of young people then, the parties to adoption were released to regular social life, anybody could know their names, and locate their kindred, who often did not move that far away. True, the orphan had to grow up without much knowledge of his past, but he usually knew that he had one, and was free to reconstitute it, to a degree.

Now that we have experienced adoption under the sealed record syndrome, we know that it is not a satisfactory arrangement. We know that guardianship is far more appropriate to the needs of all parties than what we have been using. So it is time to put it in place.

We also begin to see that the definition of family as applying to any set whatsoever of adults and children is not appropriate. What the family is, and always has been, is something quite distinctive. It combines ancestry, kinship, procreation-nurture and heredity. A child who grows up in such a climate, with the reality of all these things, is very much advantaged over children who grow up otherwise. What adopted people now struggle with is not so much the sealed record, as with all that is placed behind it, and denied him, from his earliest years throughout his life, until he may be able to reach behind the seal and recover pieces of what he has lost.

Children who lose their original parents will always exist. But they need not only some reconstitution of their original family, but also a society which does not give imaginative, unreal and inadequate definitions of what a family is. If society can remain intact in its values, and if children taken from families can have portions of these families early in their lives, then both the orphan and the person raised in his birth family can communicate with each other.

As it is, the adopted person hardly knows how to speak to society, he knows he does not belong to society in a.ny of its usual definitions. He feels deeply cheated and he is right. Perhaps this matters more than the fact that society has been cheated, but of that I am not certain. I think we have all lost a great deal through the sealed adoption experiment. A transition directly from orphanage to guardianship would have spared our culture a great deal of human suffering and a lot of social confusion.


Monday, May 21, 2007

Fight the Proposed Adoption Tax Credit Increase

Congressman Joe Wilson (SC-02). Wilson sent a letter to the Ways & Means Committee Chairman Charles Rangel and Ranking Member Jim McCrery requesting the Committee hold a hearing on the "Adoption Tax Relief Guarantee Act of 2007." They seek to make permanent the $10,000 child adoption tax credit, which is set to expire in 2010.

Wilson introduced the bill at the beginning of the 110th Congress. It currently has 125 cosponsors, including Chairman Rangel. Seventy cosponsors joined Wilson in sending the letter. Please find the text of the letter and signors below.

Following that, please find sample letter that each of us need to send to Ways & Means Committee Chairman Charles Rangel and Ranking Member Jim McCrery and to each of our respective legislators.

Find your senator by clicking here.

Find and write to your representatives - click here.

Please CC all letters to:

** ALSO NEEDED: If you are a professional, an author, an expert in adoption or child welfare, or representative of an organization whose name we can use as opposing this bill, PLEASE ADVISE (via a comment or email to: Please try to encourage those you know of to so do.

May 21, 2007

Dear Chairman Rangel and Ranking Member McCrery:

We respectfully request that the House Committee on Ways and Means consider H.R. 471, the "Adoption Tax Relief Guarantee Act of 2007," during the 110th Congress. This important legislation will make permanent the $10,000 child adoption tax credit currently set to expire in 2010.

The desire to see children grow up in healthy, happy environments with loving parents knows no party boundaries. To this end, Congress originally passed and President Clinton signed a $5,000 tax credit ($6,000 for domestic special-needs adoptions) per adoptive family. This credit was set to expire in December 2001. In May 2001, Congress took steps to extend this credit to 2010 and increase the tax credit to $10,000. We are once again facing a looming deadline that threatens to compromise the ability of average American families to adopt.

This legislation has been well received by many Members of Congress. It currently has 125 cosponsors, 12 whom sit on the Committee on Ways and Means. We are hopeful that this legislation will be enacted and make the dream of family a permanent reality for many Americans.

We appreciate your work on behalf of the loving parents desiring to expand their families, and we respectfully urge you hold a hearing on this important legislation at the earliest possible date.


Joe Wilson, Patrick J. Murphy, Kevin Brady, John Lewis, James Sensenbrenner, Solomon Ortiz, Ralph Hall, Bart Gordon, Duncan Hunter, James McGovern, Chris Smith, Vic Snyder,
Dan Burton, Robert Wexler, Paul Gillmor, Dennis Moor, Ron Paul, Mark Udall, Roscoe Bartlett, Lincoln Davis, Ken Calvert, Stephanie Herseth Sandlin, Pete Hoekstra, Nancy Boyda,
Don Manzullo, Steve Cohen, Barbara Cubin, Steve Kagen, Dan Lungren, Tim Walz, Sue Myrick, Mark Souder, Todd Tiahrt, Zach Wamp, Dave Weldon, Vito Fossella, John Shimkus, Heather Wilson, Robin Hayes, Lee Terry, Todd Akin, John Boozman, Ander Crenshaw, Jo Ann Davis,
Mike Ferguson, Darrell Issa, Jeff Miller, Rodney Alexander, Gresham Barrett, Rob Bishop,
Marsha Blackburn, Ginny Brown-Waite, Michael Burgess, Trent Franks, Scott Garrett, Jim Gerlach, John Kline, Marilyn Musgrave, John Campbell, Mike Conaway, Luis Fortuno, Randy Kuhl, Patrick McHenry, Cathy McMorris Rodgers, Connie Mack. Ted Poe, Jean Schmidt, David Davis, Jim Jordan, Bill Sali, and Tim Walberg


Dear Chairman Rangel, 1102 Longworth HOB, Washington, DC 20515 and
Ranking Member McCrery, 1139-E Longworth HOB, Washington, DC 20515:

Regarding H.R. 471, the "Adoption Tax Relief Guarantee Act of 2007," I am writing to respectfully request that the House Committee on Ways and Means does not increase the child adoption tax credit currently set to expire in 2010.

This seems like a "feel good" win-win bill to support, but it is not. The only tax credit to be considered when the current one expires should be one that is limited to the adoption of the approximately 130,000 children in foster care who cannot be reunited with family members. Helping these children to find permanent homes serves the intended purpose of adoption: to find homes for children who need them. It also reduces the tax burden of supporting them in unstable, and often unsafe, foster homes.

There are far more couples seeking to adopt infants domestically and internationally than there are infants to be adopted. There is thus no need to offer incentives to encourage such adoptions, and doing so is counterproductive because it discourages the adoption of children who need permanent homes.

Infant domestic and international adoptions support unregulated, untrained private entrepreneurs and often involve coercion and exploitation and child trafficking. Those who profit from these private arrangements merely raise their fees as the tax benefit is increased.

While adoption tax benefits sound heartfelt and “right”, we hope that you will think long and hard about supporting tax breaks that might be used toward unethical adoptions and will increase the coffers of unscrupulous baby brokers.

This proposal may sound like the “right” thing to do, and many are supporting it with our intentions without recognizing that it supports those who own and lobby for adoption agencies who profit from adoption and will actually be detrimental to the children you are wanting to help.


NOTE: If you are writing to known liberal, pro-choice legislator, add:

The Religious Right is promoting these benefits and infant adoption in general - under the guide of helping children in foster care - to further their anti-abortion agenda.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Getting Out The Message

Videographer Wanted!

Ever wish we could afford a PSA telling young women the facts about the long-term effects of relinquishing on mother and child? Well, there is a very INEXPENSIVE way to reach and influence many young women: YouTube!

Imagine, if you will, a series of brief clips of women of all ages telling how adoption affected them in ways they had never imagined. Some women old enough to have lost their child and grandchildren; others very young women who entered into open adoptions only to find it all a lie...and some adoptees speaking of their pain sealed records has caused ...not knowing their identity and feeling of abandonment; maybe an older LDA...

I envision half a three or four short films – each having about four clips. Some might even include young mothers saying that raising kids is difficult but they’d never go back and NOT do it even if they may have waited a little longer to become mothers)....adoptees relating the struggles of searching...struggles of “not fitting in” with their adoptive families, despite them being good people who they love...

Woman after woman saying they wished they’d known how awful relinquishing was for them and their child....maybe an older woman saying she thought it was the best thing to advise her daughter to relinquish and how much she now regrets having not helped her daughter to raise her grandchild.

Maybe we could do some taping at the CUB retreat in October!

As a result of TV documentary on religion a YouTube blasphemy challenge was launched. As of today, it has received 1250 video responses/contributions, 26,545 comments – and has been viewed 416,066 times!!

See also:

YouTube Popularity Eclipses, and Influences, Fall TV Season

Intel Brief: YouTube, another revolution
YouTube and others will lead to more "citizen journalists," increase the value placed on reliable sourcing and make it difficult for governments to control information. From Mercyhurst College.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

The Post-Adoption “Community”

Please copy this and post as a GUEST BLOG!
Forward widely and spread the word!

In the beginning of each person’s journey to recovery from our traumatic losses, there is a need to find a shoulder to cry on and to know that we are not alone feeling the pain of our adoption losses. We need to scream, vent pent-up anger etc…all are extremely helpful, necessary and cathartic.

But we each reach a point where we can choose to remain whining, angry victims forever or channel that anger for change! There is no greater force for change than anger. Rosa Parks was damn angry and not about to take it any more. The gays are not taking it anymore and are demanding equal rights.

The second stage of our healing process is empowerment through making changes for others! I think about MADD which was founded by a small group of California women in 1980 after a 13-year-old-girl was killed by a hit-and-run driver.

I think about Maureen Kanka the mother of Megan who got sex offender registry legislation in every state in the union! Child Find, started by parents of loss and the nationwide Amber Alert system begun by parents and named after their abducted and murdered child.

I think about The Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo, Argentinean women who have become worldwide known human rights activists in order to re-unite with their abducted children.

None of these people came to their causes with any other “expertise” or special abilities other than passion and anger. They all had just one ting in common: They knew it was too late to reverse their own loses, but were committed to ensuring that others would not suffer as they and their children did! And they all succeeded in making very positive changes! They are my heroes and my role models. These mothers turned their righteous indignation and deep personal loss of their children into positive action to help prevent the same loss for others in the future. They ensured that their children were not lost in vain. Instead of wringing their hands, they empowered themselves and set themselves free form victimhood. They did something! They made change!

Maureen Kanka and her husband were able to do it with just the two of them because their cause had no opposition (except the ACLU). Protecting innocent children from potentially murderous pedophiles is pretty much of a no-brainer. Legislators were eager to support this very popular legislation.

We do not have that privilege! Adoption is big business and many are very happy with the status quo because it is filling a constant demand for their paying clients and voting constituents. Keeping the babies coming is in their best interest and they have power and money. Additionally, the Christian conservative evangelic movement is waging an full-fledged mass media campaign to promote adoption! They are teamed up with the National Council for Adoption who has opposed open records since we first attempted to open them.

We are in the midst of an all-out major propaganda war. (See blog post directly below, "The Quiet Revolution"). The only chance we have to combat this onslaught and save anyone from the pain of separation from family through adoption, is to put aside our personal likes and dislikes of others and our petty power struggles that have plagued the adoption reform movement for over 30 years…and UNITE! The silver lining in this could is that it might help us motivate and coalesce progressive/liberals on our side.

There is power in numbers and we need all the power can muster to combat those who want to continue profiting by exploiting mothers and commodifying children.

Blogging can be powerful tool when we all work together, as many of us are doing to help Stephanie Bennett. But we need to do more. A website and a blog have been established to serve as a repository for information needed for letter writing to newspapers and legislators. They are still in the process of accumulating the data but there’s a good start, especially in terms of Safe Havens, and the information will continue to be posted. The two sites are: and Both are in their infancy.

PPFFPP stands for parents and Professionals For Family Preservation and Protection. This came about as a result of the (unexpected) international interest in the book The Stork Market: America’s Multi-Billion Dollar Unregulated Adoption Industry which is a no-holds-barred, powerful and well-documented report of the dirty business of domestic and international adoption, and the harm it causes ALL members of the triad. I wrote this book. It is not about me, nor did I write this book—or my previous book, ”shedding light on…The Dark Side of Adoption” (1988), or any of the myriad articles I have had published—to tell my own sad story, for any pity, or any personal glory or “fame”…and least of all not for monetary profit.

In addition to writing, I also created and support the adoption kinship memorial wall and encourage those who have lost a loved one to adoption who is now deceased to post a permanent memorial there for them. Donations to support it are accepted but not required to submit a name to be posted. I also created and support The, a survey of over 500 mothers and fathers who have relinquished. This project is in need of the help of someone with expertise in statistical data analyzing, presentation and reporting. There are powerful results to be published here about what natural/original/first mothers and fathers want in terms of anonymity/confidentiality and open vs sealed reords.

I do everything I do to stop the damage that is being done to ALL by adoption! But I cannot do it all alone!

The book is the blueprint, the manifesto for Family Preservation. Read it! Encourage others to read it. Request your libraries and legislators order it and read it! If you cannot afford the discounted price (printed cost plus postage) please write to me. Review it online and for your local newspapers. Spread the word…and come together via so we can ALL brainstorm our ideas to get the word out and battle the forces that want to keep selling our children!

We need to work TOGETHER! Power in numbers…power to the people!

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. Margaret Mead

You may think your actions are meaningless and that they won't help, but that is no excuse, you must still act. Mahatma Gandhi

The greatest menace to freedom is an inert people. Louis D. Brandeis

Reformers who are always compromising, have not yet grasped the idea that truth is the only safe ground to stand upon. Elizabeth Cady Stanton

Nobody made a greater mistake than he who did nothing because he could only do a little. Edmund Burke

Words without actions are the assassins of idealism. Herbert Hoover

Whatever you do may seem insignificant, but it is most important that you do it. Mahatma Gandhi

In a democratic society, you're supposed to be an activist; that is, you participate. It could be a letter written to an editor. Studs Terkel

Activism is my rent for living on this planet. Alice Walker

How much more grievous are the consequences of anger than the causes of it. Marcus Aurelius

When anyone steps out of the system and tells the truth, lives the truth, that person enables everyone else to peer behind the curtain too. Walter Wink

In times of universal deceit, telling the truth will be a revolutionary act.
George Orwell

If I am not for myself, then who will be for me? And if I am only for myself, then what am I? And if not now, when? Hillel

Monday, May 14, 2007

A Quiet Revolution is Underway

The following has been submitted for publication. PLEASE DO NOT COPY:

Womb Warriors:

“Call out the instigators
Because there's something in the air
We've got to get together sooner or later
Because the revolution's here, and you know it's right
And you know that it's right”
Thunderclap Newman

Anyone who has seen (or read about) the film Jesus Camp knows that there are Christians teaching children to be soldiers for God to “take back America.” Becky Fischer of Kids on Ministry International who ran the ill-fated camp said in the documentary: “I wanna see young people who are as committed to the cause of Jesus Christ as the young people are to the cause of Islam. I wanna see them as radically laying down their lives for the Gospel as they are over in Pakistan and Israel and Palestine and all those different places, you know, because we have... excuse me, but we have the truth!…

“I can go into a playground of kids that don't know anything about Christianity, lead them to the Lord in a matter of, just no time at all, and just moments later they can be seeing visions and hearing the voice of God, because they're so open. They are so usable in Christianity.”

Whatever your feelings about a parents right to indoctrinate their children into their beliefs, there are still bigger plans among conservative religious leaders. At their recent three-day summit in Colorado, they teamed up with Tom Atwood, president of the National Council for Adoption. This is nothing new. Tom is a long-time friend of the religious right and they of him. What is new is a full-fledged propaganda war being waged to recruit Christian soldiers through adoption.

With all the ingenuity and marketing skills available to them, they are attempting to couch their pro-adoption stance as a noble plan to help the hundred of thousands of children in foster care. But, Focus on the Family founder James C. Dobson, a major player in this new path of evangelism, expressed concern that foster parents typically are permitted to take children to church but cannot force religion on them. They must adhere to other state guidelines as well, some of which may contradict their faith such as parents “disciplining” their children physically with switches as taught by Dobson, a child psychologist.

While some of the flock may in fact adopt children from foster care —replacing abuse in the name of Satan from their original parents with abuse in the name of God—concern for orphaned and abandoned children is a smoke screen, or at best unclear. Their agenda is mired with using adoption as a tool against abortion, against single parenthood, and for evangelism.

At a recent three-day summit in Colorado Springs, members of Focus on the Family and Campus Crusade for Christ joined Evangelical leader Rick Warren and dozens of other pastors from across the nation to promote adoption via a media blitz. Many of those attempting to fulfill the edict of promoting adoption, resort back to the old ‘abortion not adoption’ arguments, which have nothing to do with children in foster care.

Ken Connor, the attorney who represented Governor Jeb Bush in the Terri Schiavo case and Vice Chairman of Americans United for Life, reporting on the pro-adoption summit (A Selfless Choice: In Celebration of Adoption, May 12, 2007) calls abortion big business and extols the “virtues” of adoption—a far bigger and corrupt—multi-billion dollar industry.

Connor goes on to tout infant adoption as a win-win for everyone including the mother who loses her parental rights, her child, and her relationship with him. That’s a lose-lose: a permanent, irrevocable lifetime loss that mothers and their families never fully forget or recover from. Some describe adoption as aborting the mother. It most assuredly aborts the relationship between the two.

Lost in the dogmatic rhetoric being spewed by both ideological extremes among pro-choice and pro-life proponents….the third choice, the most compassionate and moral choice gets lost, dismissed, and totally ignored by both sides in an attempt to prove their chosen “choice” is the better of the “two.” UNICEF’s position is that adoption should be a last resort. “Families needing support to care for their children should receive it, and that alternative means of caring for a child should only be considered when, despite this assistance, a child’s family is unavailable, unable or unwilling to care for her or him.” This is the moral and ethical “choice” to be promoting and none other! A decline in children being abandoned by mothers for adoption is something to celebrate, not bemoan…as does Connor and his followers. A decline in adoption is related more to single parents finding the support they need to parent, not an increase in abortions.

The only reason to encourage and promote more relinquishments and more adoptions is to fill a “demand” for healthy white infants, which, in fact, is counter to a goal of finding homes for older, non-white, or physically challenged children being supported by state funds. It is uncharitable and un-American. The same is true for supporting and encouraging international adoption.

The truth behind the curtain becomes clearer in the fact that working hand-in-hand with, and praising the efforts of, these pro-adoption zealots is Tom Atwood, president of the National Council for Adoption, which represents non- and for-profit adoption agencies. While the NCFA web page purports to be about finding homes for children in foster care as their goal, one click on their mission page shows in black and white their first and foremost agenda item: “Train pregnancy counselors and health care workers in infant adoption awareness, so women and teens with unplanned pregnancies can freely consider the loving option of adoption.”

Other items on their agenda list include the promotion of anti-family, anti-parenting programs such as so-called “safe havens” that allow for the legal abandonment of infants and putative father laws to speed relinquishments of newly born babies, causing one to ask if the real reason is to maintain the supply of “adoptable” [read acceptable] babies for their contributors, cronies, constituents or clients.

Also contrary to promoting the adoption of U.S. orphans, on the NCFA agenda is “Work[ing] with the U.S. and foreign governments to establish sound policies for inter-country adoption, so foreign orphans can be placed with loving, permanent families.” Seems foster care children are the foot in the door to get tax incentives and other benefits for their clients who seek to adopt primarily infants. All good social engineers know the advantages of starting with a “blank slate.”[1]

Additionally the NCFA is not just pro-adoption, they are the largest—and in many states the only—opposition to open record legislation returning to adoptees their right to their own true identity as protected by the UNICEF CRC and recommended by all experts on child and family issues.

Pro-life organizations can be known by whatever family-orientated, all-American sounding names and their adoption agencies can be called cutesie “baby saving” and “hope-filled” names…they may even invoke the name of, or believe that they are doing the work of, God…. but their tactics are all counter to true Family Preservation as spelled out in the constitution of the United States which protects parental rights; the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child; and message of Judeo-Christianity. Being pro-family means being supportive of all families…not judging who has the necessary finances or marital status. Nor should children be removed from abusive parents to go from the frying pan into the fires of hell, damnation and corporal punishment all in the name of God. Is this how Jesus meant for us to help widows and children by promoting the creation of more orphans and punishing children?

[1] For more on American adoption as social engineering see Barbara Melosh, Ellen Herman, and E. Wayne Carp.

Mirah Riben
author of “THE STORK MARKET: America’s Multi-Billion Dollar Unregulated Adoption Industry” (2007)
and “shedding light on The Dark Side of Adoption” (1988)

Sunday, May 13, 2007

The REAL, Ethical and Moral Choice is Ignored by Ideaologs

Connor claims that abortion big business. It is adoption, however, that is a multi-billion dollar industry. A business that preys on exploiting mothers and expectant mothers in crisis both here and abroad. Unlike pregnancy termination, the adoption industry is financed by those who profit from another’s loss.

Because of the demand for infants – especially white, healthy infants to adopt – expectant mothers in any less than the ideal, well-healed situation are bombarded with doctors, friends and relatives advocating on behalf of a “deserving” and “desperate” couple. If the mothers is young, poor, single or in any other way less stable she is told endlessly how difficult mothering will be and the “advantages” to her and her baby, as Connor extols.

Adoption is in no way a win-win for the mother who looses her parental rights and her child. To imply that it is insulting….a subtle implication that the mother is “relived” of her “burden” by relinquishing, and another way of trying “convince” women to relinquish to maintain the supply of ‘adoptable’ babies.

Adoption is a permanent, irrevocable lifetime loss that mothers will never get over. For her child, it is also a lifetime loss of genetic connection and heredity replaced with feelings of rejection and abandonment that exists in those adopted even into the most loving homes. As a result, adoptees are seen in all kinds of mental treatment facilities in disproportionate numbers as compared to non-adopted.

Women facing crisis pregnancies need to know that so-called promises of “open” adoption are just that - promises. They are not legally upheld in most states. Despite what expectant mothers are told, adoption does not guarantee better life – only a different one. Stable married adoptive parents die, divorce, and even abuse and kill children entrusted into their care. Single mothers marry. Adoption is a permanent solution for a temporary situation.

It is cruel and immoral to speak about choices and disregard the most scared choice of all – supporting mothers and newly forming families to remain intact. A decline in children being abandoned by mothers for adoption is something to celebrate, not bemoan!

UNICEF’s position is that adoption should be a last resort. ““Families needing support to care for their children should receive it, and that alternative means of caring for a child should only be considered when, despite this assistance, a child’s family is unavailable, unable or unwilling to care for her or him.” This is the moral and ethical “choice” to be promoting and none other!

Pro-lifers have been somewhat under the gun to improve their image as being concerned only for the unborn. Adoption is NOT the only other alterative. For mothers, that is giving them a choice between the devil and deep blue sea. Just because adoption benefits those who want healthy white infants – instead of being compassionate and charitable enough to care for older, non-white, or physically challenged children, tens of thousands of whom are in need of loving, permanent homes - is not reason to promote the breakup of families that need and deserve support. Adoption is intended to be in the best interest of children. The pursuit of infants to adopt, however, ignores in the best interest of the 130,000 thousand children from foster care who can never be reunited with family, nor is it in the best interest of other children to be commodified to meet a demand.

Bring pro-family means to support all families…not to judge or exploit poor or young ones!

Mirah Riben

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Blessed Mothers' Day

Wishing a loved and loving Mothers' Day to all who are mothers and/or have a mother.

My thoughts and prayers as Mothers' Day approaches are for motherless children and childless mothers everywhere. To every mother who has a child who has gone from her sight: deceased or whereabouts unknown, my heart is with you on this day....and to those whose children do not speak to them or make contact.

Those of us connected by adoption who have lost a loved one twice might want to visit: The Adoption Kinship memorial Wall.

I would also like to ask those interested to commemorate this day by supporting The Kinship Caregiver Support Act (HR 2188) supported by the Child Welfare league of America to address:

  • 6 million children live with relatives—4.5 million of whom live with grandparents - most of these families are not a part of the formal child welfare system.

  • Almost 20% of grandparents responsible for their grandchildren live in poverty. Overall population statistics in 1997 indicated that 27% of children living in grandparent-maintained homes lived below the poverty level, compared with 19% in households maintained by parents.

Sunday, May 6, 2007

All in a Day's News...

by Mirah Riben

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May 3, 2007: Prominent evangelical Christians are urging churchgoers to strongly consider adoption or foster care, not just out of kindness or biblical calling but also to answer criticism that their movement, while condemning abortion and same-sex adoption, doesn't do enough for children without parents.

It’s very charitable to urge congregants to take in foster children. It is quite another to promote adoption without making some clarifications and distinctions, and deeper thought into the intent of our duty to care for “widows and orphans.” The word orphan is unambiguous: a child who has no parents or extended family to care for him. There are currently half a million children in foster care in the US. Of those between 126-143,000 cannot be reunited with their families of origins. The adoption of these children is worthy of promoting.

The word widow requires a bit more explanation and updating. The Hebrew/bibical word for a widow — almanah — carries multiple meanings: any woman who is left without a provider for any reason; the state of loneliness, abandonment or helplessness. In New Testament Greek, the word for widow is cheras and refers to a woman who has lost her husband in any way, whether through death, divorce, desertion or imprisonment. One scriptural example of this broad definition is found in Isaiah 54, where God describes a woman who has been forsaken by her husband. “For you will forget the shame of your youth, and will not remember the reproach of your widowhood anymore” (verse 4). Her husband is alive, yet she is a widow in God’s eyes.

Today, this would likewise include women who were left alone – with child - prior to marriage. It is clear that Jesus did not judge and commanded us not to. Promoting adoption as an alternative to abortion for women in crisis pregnancies, or for congregants, ignores the essence of assistance of mothers and children.

Whether domestic or international, the adoption of infants – as opposed to children already in foster care - might take one child out of poverty but it does nothing to ameliorate the poverty of his family, community or the nation from whence he came. Infants have become a sought-after commodity in demand creating a market of coercion and exploitation both here an abroad. Children in many parts of the word are not "rescued" by adoption - they are stolen, kidnapped and sold into adoption.

The most loving, caring, Christian act is to offer assistance to mothers in crisis. Foster BOTH a mother a child! Adoption, as it is practiced in the US today, denies those adopted knowing their roots. This was not the case in biblical adoptions, i.e. Moses and others. Adoption is for the truly orphaned, only.

Adoption should also not be promoted without distinguishing between ethical and unethical agencies and providers, a daunting task in the current climate of privatized US adoptions where anyone – with no training, education, or licensing can hang a shingle and open a business called “adoption agency.”

Perhaps the evangelicals who suggest promoting adoption might read the other two news stories, relased the very same day as thir suggestion (above), and think out their decision more carefully:

May 3, 2007: Simone Boraggina and Joseph Beauvais, owners of “Waiting Angels Adoption Agency” of Macomb Township, Michigan were arraigned on felony counts of racketeering and tax fraud. Police seized $523,700 from safety deposit boxes in the owners' homes -- money prosecutors believe the pair bilked from couples who wanted to become adoptive parents. Couples were promised to help couples adopt Guatemalan children and accepted tens of thousands of dollars in fees but failed to deliver.

May 3, 2007: In Copley Township Ohio, another private adoption business was in trouble with the law, again. The state began investigating “A Child's Waiting.” Involved in a case of minor child who was allegedly told by the agency to run away from home to relinquish her five month old daughter, the agency was cited for numerous procedural and paperwork violations that could jeopardize its license because it has a history of similar citations, state records show.

The agency also failed to submit acceptable plans detailing how it would make sure the violations don't occur again, the state said. A Child's Waiting was founded in January 2000 and has handled about 1,200 adoptions since then, according to the agency's Web site. The agency has been cited seven times previously for violations because of complaints, and its license has been reduced to ''temporary'' twice because of previous problems, according to state records.

The agency has been cited seven times previously for violations because of complaints, and its license has been reduced to "temporary'' twice because of previous problems, according to state records.

Cited seven times and license reduced to temporary - but still in "business" and acting in very unscrupulous ways!

How can people of good conscience promote adoption when agencies such as this cause harm to adoptive and birth parents, and worst of all to innocent children – every single day. How can we broad brush support adoption when there is no line of demarcation that anyone can see between ethical and unethical adoption practitioners? How can we advocate a game of Russian roulette with our most precious and most vulnerable?

We have instead a moral obligation to clean up the mess that adoption has become, not to promote it to help our personal or collective image.

Take action -- click here to contact your local newspaper or congress people:
remove profiteering in adoption

Click here to see the most recent messages sent to congressional reps and local newspapers

Author of "shedding light on...The Dark Side of Adoption" (1988) and "The Stork Market: America's Multi-Billion Dollar Unregulated Adoptuion Industry" (2007)

MIRAH (aka Marsha) RIBEN has been researching, writing and speaking about the need to reform, humanize, and de-commercialize American adoption practices for nearly three decades.

Former Director-at-Large of the American Adoption Congress, is co-founder of Origins, a New Jersey-based national organization for women who have lost children to adoption.

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Guilty Until Proven Innocent

May 3, 2007 at 07:03:02

Guilty Until Proven Innocent; The Dark Side of Adoption

by Mirah Riben

What did Jonelle of Mesa. Arizona do to her months-old son in the three days she got to see him that was so horrible? Why is her constitutional right to parent her child being challenged, not by the state or her son’s father—but by unrelated strangers? Equally important, why is this infant, Adrian Zane, being denied the right to be with his mother?

Jonelle, a 24-year-old intelligent and fully capable college graduate with a bachelors degree in nutrition and a minor in chemistry from the University of Arizona was studying for MCATS to enter medical school when she became pregnant. She is not a drug user nor has she been in any trouble with the law in any way. She doesn’t even smoke cigarettes.

On October 18, 2006 Jonelle gave birth to her first child—a healthy son who she has never been accused of abusing or neglecting. Jonelle is self-supporting as a neuro-monitor, a job that would allow her time with her son, as she only works 20 -25 hours a week with full-time pay. She lives in a two-bedroom, two bath townhouse with ample, clean space for her and her son.

Jonelle discovered she was pregnant shortly after moving to South Carolina. She had no friends and no family in the area. Her son's father distanced himself and wanted her to abort the pregnancy. “What was supposed to be the most beautiful time in a woman's life,” she says, instead “was the most depressing and lonely time of my life.”

A single expectant mother, Jonelle went to her parents for help. Instead of helping her, however, their feelings of shame caused them to hide her and her pregnancy from all extended family and friends who might have influenced her to do anything but what her parents wanted their grandchild placed for adoption without anyone ever knowing…except of course Jonelle.

Given no help or options, Jonelle found what she thought was a reputable adoption agency called “A Baby To Love” and dialed a toll-free number.

After 24-hours of labor, alone, Adrian was delivered by caesarian section. Three days later, still in the hospital, weak, groggy from the surgical birth, confused and stressed out…Jonelle was given relinquishment papers to sign by an attorney she had never previously met, and whom she believed was representing her interests. At the same time, she had a 30-minute first ever meeting with a couple who wanted to adopt her newborn son. Within an hour after that meeting on a Friday, the attorney called to tell her that she had to make a decision about the adoption by end of business that day, before the weekend. She felt as if she was having a breakdown but got no help, only pressure from her parents, the attorney and a social worker. Jonelle says, “I never wanted to give my child up. I truly felt forced.”

In a plea to the judge Jonelle wrote: “There was never a time throughout the adoption process that my rights or lack of rights were ever discussed with me. The content of what I was to sign was NEVER discussed with me until the day I signed. There is no way after going through the emotional trauma I went through during my pregnancy and giving birth to my son ALONE, by C-section, I was able to fully understand the content of what I was signing. I was never told that after I sign the papers there would be no way I could reverse my decision. I was misled into believing I had ninety days to reverse my consent… I didn’t understand the consequences of signing that document.... I never wanted to sign those papers, NEVER.”

Jonelle’s story, unfortunately, is far from unusual. In a 2006 online survey of mothers who relinquished, eighty-two percent of the 424 respondents reported feeling pressured to relinquish. Sixty percent said they experienced coercion, signed under duress, or felt their legal rights had been in some way denied.

How was this young woman—or anyone in her position—to understand that the attorney she was trusting to represent her, was in fact representing the interests of those who pay his fee—prospective adopters? L Ann Babb, Ethics of American Adoption states: “[A]doption, more than any other human service, is rife with conflict of interest. Adoption agency social workers and attorneys routinely represent both birth and adoptive families [who are] party to the same adoption. Agencies whose very existence is based on fees paid for consummated adoptions claim to offer unbiased ‘crisis pregnancy’ counseling to expectant mothers.”

Despite the fact that the American Bar Association’s Standing Committee on Ethics and Professional Responsibility concluded in 1987 that a lawyer may not ethically represent both parties, dual representation in adoption is permitted in Kansas and California, and prohibited in Kentucky, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, and Wisconsin. All other states, including South Carolina where Jonelle gave birth and signed relinquishment of her rights, are silent on the issue. Why would anyone think such a thing could be possible? It would not be allowable in any other legal transaction, so why would have any reason to suspect such impropriety, especially in a case involving something as important as the transfer of child custody?

How are expectant and newly delivered mothers to know that infant adoption in the US has become big business based on a dwindling “supply” of healthy white infants to meet demands? How many of any of us are aware that: “…there is no professional standard for or regulation of adoption practice” or that we have “profit-based motivation in child placement [that] is … loathsome” and “largely driven by money.” Would she or anyone know that “[p]rofessionals have yet to develop uniform ethical standards… or to make meaningful attempts to monitor their own profession”? or, that the adoption agencies and facilitators “main job” according to adoption facilitator Ellen Roseman “is coaching prospective adoptive parents.”

How is any such woman to know that attorneys like the one she was dealing with was one of many attorneys acting as a private adoption facilitator or intermediary….a go-between who scouts for women just like Jonelle: expectant mothers alone and in crisis acting on behalf of clients who pay his fees to obtain the sought after commodity of a healthy while infant? Anyone—attorney, clergy, physician, car salesman or hairdresser—can hang a shingle and arrange adoptions with little to no oversight of any kind, other than the regulations to open and run any type of business.

Alex Valdez Jr., spokesman for the California Department of Social Services states: “Essentially, [adoption facilitators] are required to have a business license, publish a list of their services, and [have a] $10,000 bond before they hang a shingle.” And, if a match fails—as it did the first time for Jonelle—the facilitator can offer the same child to another set of would-parents and collect yet again. Randall B. Hicks, an adoption attorney whose fees, home studies are paid for by his adoptive parent clients, said facilitators are “not licensed nor trained to do anything.”

When “in other professions and occupations, licensing or certification in a specialty must be earned before an individual can offer expert services in an area. The certified manicurist may not give facials; the certified hair stylist may not offer manicures” why is unreasonable to expect the same of adoption practitioners? “Yet…individuals with professions as different as social work and law, marriage and family therapy, and medicine may call themselves ‘adoption professionals.’” In adoption “…anyone with enough money to advertise him- or herself as an independent adoption facilitator can claim expertise and get into the business of moving children from family to family.”

How could a woman be expected to make such an important, and irrevocable decision without being properly informed? The Child Welfare League of America’s Standards of Excellence for Adoption Practices recommend that all mothers considering adoption and their families receive “counseling to help them understand the grief and loss” they may experience. This is only a recommendation, however, and is not enforced.

Samuels, Associate Professor of Law, University of Baltimore, states: “For mothers considering placing their children for adoption, skilled, unbiased counseling is invaluable: complete, well-communicated information is indispensable; and time is, perhaps, ‘the wisest counselor of all.’” Yet Samuels notes: “Many of these state laws do not ensure that best practices will be followed in all infant adoptions…. When a state places its legal imprimatur on the unmaking of one family and the making of another, the state should at least ensure to the greatest extent possible that all the individuals involved have followed or have been afforded ‘best practices.’ These are the practices that ethics and humanity demand…. In a number of other countries—including European countries and Australian states—consent may not be given or does not become final for a period of approximately six weeks.”

Jonelle and Adrian, like all mothers and babies who are unnecessarily torn apart by adoption will suffer life-long feelings of loss. Yet, despite the gravity of an act made by the stroke of a pen that affects the lives of many extended family members—both related and by adoption—the distressed mother is denied the decency of a “cooling off” or grace period, unlike any other legal transaction.

What “crime” did Jonelle commit that created an orphan of her cherished son? Being innocent and lacking the knowledge that infant adoption in the US is often corrupt and exploitive; that there is an invisible line separating black market adoptions from business-as-usual in the multi-billion dollar unregulated industry of American infant adoption. Jonelle was worn down, physically and emotionally exhausted, lacking any support of any kind, and believing for just long enough to put pen to paper that it was the best, or only, thing she could do. And by the time the ink dried on that paper, Jonelle had legally abandoned her child and become an unfit mother in the eyes of the law, and her son left to pay for the “sins” of his father.

Jim Gritter writes in Lifegivers: Framing the Birthparent Experience in Open Adoption: “How curious that one moment these critics admire [a mother’s] contemplation of adoption and consider it a sign of maturity, and the next they consider it a cause for concern. The proposed act that one day was regarded as a ‘loving choice’ is the next referred to as ‘unloading responsibility.’”

If her new attorney is successful in getting her relinquishment revoked based on coercion and pressure and the timing so soon after her birth….she will still have to prove her fitness as compared to the strangers in whose custody her infant son has now been for fewer months than he was inside of her. Why? Why must she prove her fitness? Why is she guilty until proven innocent? She is “guilty” of having trusted “her” attorney to explain and represent her rights. If she had never made that one phone call to a so-called adoption “agency” and instead simply given birth and taken her son home from the hospital, there would have been no question of her fitness. The irony is that in doing what women are told is “best” for their babies, they are automatically labeled unfit.

Infant adoption in the US is in dire need of an overhaul. “Professionals and organizations concerned with professional adoption practice have uniformly opposed the facilitation of adoption through intermediaries, such as medical doctors and attorneys, who are neither trained nor licensed to provide child placing services….” Yet, there is “no professional association or academics, no certification or licensing procedures, no professional recognition as adoption specialists, and no training or educational qualifications.”

Unlicensed, untrained adoption facilitators hurt all of the parties to adoption. They are often only charged when they have ripped off or scammed one of their paying clients, and few of them ever press charges. But the most innocent, most vulnerable are of course at the greatest risk. Lack of proper background checks by unregulated entrepreneurs have led to children being placed with pedophiles and even murderers, all in the name of free enterprise. Who is concerned about, and protecting the rights of, these precious children—and their mothers—after they are born?

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L. Ann Babb, Ethics in American Adoption, Westport, CT: Bergen and Garvey, 1999.

Laura Mansnerus, “The Baby Bazaar: How Bundles of Joy Not for Sale Are Sold.” New York Times, October 26, 1998

Dan Gearino, “Special Report Hope & Risk: Money, Hope Lost In Failed Adoptions,” Courier Des Moines Bureau and Courier Lee News Service. February 20, 2006.

Jamie Court, “Beware the Baby Profiteers.” LA Times, August 20, 2006.

Elizabeth J. Samuel, “Time to Decide? The laws governing mothers’ consents to the adoption of their newborn infants.” Tennessee Law Review, V. 72, Winter 2005.

Lifegivers: Framing the Birthparent Experience in Open Adoption. Washington, DC: CWLA Press, 2004.

Mirah Riben is the author of “shedding light on…The Dark Side of Adoption” (1988) and “The Stork Market: America’s Multi-Billion Dollar Adoption industry” (2007)

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

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Bitter Winds

Adoption and Truth Video

Adoption Truth

Birthparents Never Forget