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
A TIME FOR SWEEPING CHANGE
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?
ORPHAN VOYAGE MESSAGE FOR 1991 AND BEYOND
by Jean Paton
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.