Tuesday, June 12, 2007

More or Less: Pro- or Anti-Adoption?

Reply to: More Adoption, Less Adoption? By Jan Baker

In my research, I have spoken and with and or read the writings of the most strident anti-adoptionists, and remarkably, not of one them is 100%! Not one advocates leaving a child in an abusive or dangerous home, nor prefers foster care or institutionalization. These are false impressions that are being spread by those who have not taken the time to read and discuss the issues, but have chosen to jump to conclusions.

I highly recommend reading completely, “The Case Against Adoption: Research and Alternatives for Concerned Citizens” by Jess DelBalzo, one of the oldest and most radical self-proclaimed anti-adoptionists. If you read it through, you will see that she is not saying anything very different than many within adoption reform who use the phrase Family Preservation.

All of us agree with UNICEF that separating a child from his/her family should be a last resort, only when no extended family can care for the child. We are all opposed to unnecessary separations. Where we disagree is what defines "necessary." You twice use the example of drug addiction. Addiction, however, is seen by the medical community as a treatable illness, albeit with some more resistant to treatment than others.

Many of us would not advocate, as you do, for removal of a child for pre-birth drug use without giving the mother an opportunity for rehabilitation. This is a slippery slope that could lead to babies being taken form cigarette smokers. Many of us are opposed to permanent solutions for temporary problems. Removing a child from his/her family involves a gamble that the outcome will be better. Like medications, none of these so-called “solutions” is without its side effects, or shortcomings. Studies and model programs (described in The Stork Market) have found that mothers and babies do better when kept together during drug rehabilitation, with supervision.

When you read the work of Elizabeth Samuels into the history of sealed adoption records you discover that the records were sealed to protect adoptive parents from intrusion, and secondarily to protect adoptees from the stigma of illegitimacy. Since the second reason no longer exists, the need to seal records cannot be said to have anything to do with providing for the best interest of children who need alternative care. In fact, it is counter to healthy identity formation and is known to create an increase in mental health issues for those adopted.

All reformers agree that when a non-relative placement is necessary it must be open and honest and now we have learned to add is: enforceable. Some of us recognize that the only way for adoptions to be truly open and honest and openness never stopped leaving a child with no access to his true identity, is to not falsify the birth certificate to begin with.

Thus, some adoption professionals reformers such as Reuben Pannor, Annette Baron, Jean Paton and others have advocated enforceable open adoption by calling it simple adoption, guardianship adoption, or permanent legal guardianship. A (Long Overdue) Time for Sweeping Change . This is what all anti-adoptionists and those labeled as such are suggesting. It is nothing new or radical or for that matter far different from what any other adoption reformer are suggesting…just with different words to describe the same thing. Some are additionally more lenient in their preferred definition of necessary, although that will always remain a matter of interpretation and never be totally defined or legislated.

To be 100% anti-adoption would mean being opposed to adoption no matter what! There is, thus, no one who is 100% anti-adoption, no more than those who are not anti-adoption are by definition pro-adoption. Unless one considers blogging on adoption.com being pro-adoption, inasmuch as that is decidedly a pro-adoption site which exists for the puyrpose of gettiugn their advertsiers see, who exist for the sole purpose of profiting from adoptions. One might also call those mothers who are basically content with open adoptions (albet, some want more openness) pro-adoption.

One label is as equally absurd an extreme stereotypical assumption as the other, and are simply polarizing.

We are all on a continuum in respect to our desire to transform adoption into something ethical and human, removing coercion caused by the commercialization and privatization of adoption. Labels such as these create we/they dichotomies of people who are all working toward the same goals and keep us in-fighting instead of using our energies toward what is needed. Instead of labeling, especially as it often done in a very judgmental, perjorative fashion, it is far more appropriate to ask one another "how" anti-adoption are you? People are learning to judge themselves on a scale of 1-10 with one being someone who thinks adoption is wonderful thing that should be supported and promoted (pro-adoption) ...to 10 being those who see it as failed system that needs to be replaced with a far more moral one.

Where do you lie on that continuum? More importantly to what degree to either side - left or right - of where you place yourself, are you will to listen to and try to understand the views of others...and maybe even work with others?

For further reading, I suggest:


3rd generation adoption said...

You hit it on the head. There is no 100% stance against it. I am an adoptee of an adoptee and an adoptive parent. At times I hate it. At times, I rejoice as it's the only option. I'm inside, outside and under the topic of adoption. There is no one-size-fits-all way to solve this - but there is a voice that will soon become deafening to stop the profiteers and wake up the socialists and judicial numb ones to get off their high horses and start finding solutions that help the kids. Reform is the answer and there is no black and white.

Mirah Riben said...

After my recent negative experiences on Adoption.com I see far more wrong pro-adoption and supporting pro-adoption money-making businesses than I being anti-adoption and pro-family.

Adoption: Legalized Lies said...

Thank you for mentioning my most recent Associated Content article. I do disagree with your stance that there's no such thing as being 100% anti-adoption. There is. I am, and so are many, many people I know. I think it is really misleading (and seems very wishy-washy, people-pleasing, etc) to say that no one is completely against adoption. Guardianship is not adoption and would not (in an ideal world) be structured as such. Money should not be changing hands, no one should be profiting from the placement of a child vs. the keeping of a child, and guardianship agreements can and should be terminated if the guardians fail to live up to their promises (not to mention, of course, that there would be no false birth certificate or name change).

Perhaps it would be more straightforward to say that even people who are 100% anti-adoption recognize that not all children can be raised by their parents. One of the biggest misconceptions about the movement is that we'd leave all abused kids in abusive homes or orphanages . . . that certainly needs to be cleared up. But the fact of the matter is, some of us ARE against all adoptions. You don't have to be; I'm not trying to tell you what to believe. However, I think you are doing yourself a disservice trying to bridge this gap. It certainly makes me question your allegiances.

Why not disspell the myths about the anti-adoption movement instead? The real myths -- the idea that we want children to stay in abusive homes, the idea that we think no one but a parent can love a child, the idea that we don't have any alternatives to propose. Disspelling the myths will get people over to our side -- the rational people who are able to read and understand what we actually believe. The others, who would rather cling to their adoption fairytales? We aren't going to get them no matter what we do, and that's okay.

It is just very disappointing to see someone who appears to be in the movement presenting it inaccurately.

Mirah Riben said...

What I said was:

not of one them is 100%! Not one advocates leaving a child in an abusive or dangerous home, nor prefers foster care or institutionalization. These are false impressions that are being spread by those who have not taken the time to read and discuss the issues, but have chosen to jump to conclusions.

It needs to be taken in context. We’re saying the same thing: None of us is 100% *IF* that is taken to mean that we advocate leaving children in harms way.

Adoption: Legalized Lies said...

I can see how you intended it to come across that way, but it's very easy to misinterpret. You can be 100% against adoption and not want to leave kids in bad situations -- that doesn't mean you aren't still 100% anti.

I'm not trying to be obtuse here. You could have done away with the 100% part entirely, if you weren't looking (at least it seems) to please people who are horrified at the anti-adoption position. You could have clarified the myths without making what IS a false statement.

Mirah Riben said...

used "100%" because this post is a REPLY to something written by Jan Baker. The link to what I replied to is at the top. She used that qualifier and I was replying.

However, I see nothing wrong with presenting in argument is a way that doesn't turn people off so quickly they won't read past the headline, or listen to it.

We each have our own style and way of presenting our positions, in addition to having our own positions.

I am not comfortable with the in-your-face approach that you are fond of using. I actually define myself as a Family Preservationist rather than anti-adoption. I just like to keep things more positive, and yes...more acceptable and palatable to those I am trying to educate.

It aint what we say anyhow - it's what we DO! You know, there's a lot more to activism that a sign and a bumper sticker.

Adoption: Legalized Lies said...

Is that last bit supposed to be some kind of jibe at me? I agree there's more to activism than bumper stickers and signs, but what we say certainly is important. For instance, your insistance on refering to adopters as parents is really off-putting to a lot of "family preservationists."

Regardless, I'm done here. I was not interested in commenting on your blog anyway, and I only did so to actually get a response to the email I sent you after seeing this post. I have no interest in having some kind of public debate with you.

Mirah Riben said...


No "jibe."

I have to say I find it comical.I am so used to defending my radical stance that it is odd -- at the same time -- to be called too moderate! (Sandra - are you reading!!)

Yes, once someone adopts they become parents, albeit legally. Further, for many adoptees their psychological mother and father ... mom and dad, are their adoptive parents...often the only parents they have ever known. Is that they way it should be? No. Does that diminish their parents by blood and their relationship to them? Yes.

But that is the reality of the way it is and to use language to deny it does nothing to change that reality, IMO.

I find wars of words a waste of time and energy. It is the cause of these situations that need to be changed, not the words to describe the end result.

maryanne said...

See what happens when you try to reason with fanatics? At least Jess is very clear about where her group stands, 100% anti-adoption and adoptive parents are NOT parents in any sense. This noxious and prejudiced view is also privately espoused by some who try to deny or soften their stance publicly. You cannot really appeal to or work with these people unless you are 100% with THEIR program. Is it really worth waffling on your own beliefs to have these people as allies??

I am neither pro-adoption nor anti-adoption. Adoption will continue to exist quite well without either my support or opposition. I am a realist, and accept that there is a place for ethical adoption, along with family preservation, guardianship, and ethical foster care. None of these are inherently evil and need to be abolished, but no "one size fits all" either. As you have noted, what you call something is not as important as how it actually works.

Mirah Riben said...

I have never felt more the reality of the saying that you cannot please all the people all the time!

To my left: Jessica.

To my right, Sandra Hanks Benoitoin, MaryAnne Cohen, CUB, AAC, et al...

MAC writes: "You cannot really appeal to or work with these people unless you are 100% with THEIR program."

Seems you missed the whole point of this post. There are the extreme outliers like Jess, but the vast majority are somewhere along the continuum.

"Is it really worth waffling on your own beliefs to have these people as allies??" Waffling is a political pejorative for maintaining an open mind, learning, growing and changing. My "allies" are those with whom I work toward the same goals. My goals have evolved as I have and I consider that a good thing not to get stuck with one's heals dug in - for a need to prove one is "right" or whatever reason, but to be able to see other points of view. To be open minded and not prejudicially and judge groups of people as "them" and "they" but to appreciate the nuances.

I appreciate your point of view. I have mine. I do not want to see adoption exist when adoption means falsifying one's identity to create a new, false one.

I think it is those who like to play it safe and call themselves adoption "reformers" who are fooling themselves and hurting the cause.

I may not be "anti-" enough to suit Jess, and that's OK.

I sway far more to the left (thus more pro-adoption folks to the right complaining about me) and am far more concerned about those who ally themselves with pro-adoption money-making businesses. I think AAC and CUB need to take a hard look at who they are allying themselves with...who their board members are and where the financial support of those board members comes from...the blood of mothers!

I think adoption is big enough business without our aiding and abetting them and being part of them and cowing to them and their rules...or playing in their playground to gain attention for their cruddy advertisers.

And so I think. MaryAnne, this is a question you and others in CUB should be asking yourselves: "Is it really worth waffling on your own beliefs to have these people as allies??"

slyoung said...

I like your stance, Mirah. I think that when you are being attacked by someone you have struck a nerve. I am sorry that Jess can't see the similarities in your views, or even Mary Ann, but they are really more similar than dissimilar, imo. We are different by inches, only.

Mirah Riben said...

Inches, centimeters, and WORDS away! Which is why I linked Jess' article, so people could see that past the headlines is the same thing we are all saying:

We all want any alternative care for chidlren to be last resort.

We all want mothers to have informed choice, option counseling and separate legal counsel.

We all want strong controls on who can get custody of children in need, making it truly about families for children in need...not about filling empty arms who can afford a child!

We all want the process to be open and honest and transparent.

All the arguing and posturing and name-calling is about what that process is called.

Have you read MaryAnne's review of The Stork Market on Amazon? She loved everything about it, except that near the end I suggested - as ONE possibility - that such a system described above (which she agrees with) might possibly be called guardianship.

Words are button pushers!

On the other side, Jess wants me to insist that I am anti-adoption for making these recommendations.

But I am not against providing permanent care for children who absolutely need it...which is no called adoption. It could stay being called that name as long as it met all the above criteria. It could be called monkey snot...i don't care what it's called!

But names and words are inflammatory and anti-adoption just doesn't feel right to me...no more than pro-abortion feels right to any pro-choice advocate. Because they are in fact advocating for women to have the option, not suggesting that everyone go and have an abortion...which the later implies.

Family Preservation best describes to me what I am about, and I am the one who gets define me and what I am proposing!

But for golly sake I do the WORK that has to be done. Let's get rid of falsified birth certificates!!

With all of Jess' extremism - what has she she actually accomplished?

maryanne said...

You can define where you stand, but so can I define where I stand. Neither family preservation per se nor getting rid of amended birth certificates are my main interests in adoption reform. Not that I oppose those things, and do feel in many cases family preservation is the best choice. But not in all cases, and never forced when that is not really the choice of the mother, or really in the best interest of the child. And those cases do occur.

Having no amended birth certificates is a good long term goal, but realistically is not going to happen until many more reforms, like open records for adopted adults, are in place, and societal attitudes drastically change. Saying you want something or demanding it does not make it happen.

I prefer to put my efforts towards helping those already dealing with adoption loss, supporting open records, and supporting legislation I feel is helpful as it comes up. I do not appreciate being characterized as "hurting adoption reform" by not wholeheartedly supporting your agenda.

I do not think it fair, true or right to characterize me or organizations of which I am a member as having financial support which comes from "the blood of mothers". That is a bit melodramatic and extreme, not to mention false. You make statements like this, then wonder why so few can stand to work with you.

Mirah Riben said...

Two of the members of the Board of Directors of CUB, including the Vice President: Heather Lowe and Jan Baker, specifically....are paid employees of Adoption.com, earning approximately $300 a month to blog on a website that has one and one goal - selling babies for profit.

Heather has admitted that this work keeps her too busy, in fact, to perform her duties as VP of PR for CUB.

Adoption.com's advertisers include Gladney and other LDS-affiliates and the owners, a conservative religious persons and members of a known LDS family, are no doubt kissing cousins with NCFA...or in any event support their goals of helping these agencies to continue to profit.

I would sooner see a board member employed directly by the NCFA cause maybe that would be to spy on them.

Asdoption.com is using those who go there. Every click on their site is $$ for their advertisers. That's how a.com gets paid. And we know where the $$ from the agencies comes from. This is no big leap.

If you, CUB, and the AAC want to spend the rest of your lives wiping up tears...go for it! There will be a continuing flood of them to keep ya'll happily in business, doing what you do best.

Far more fingers will continue to being pointed at the ugliness - the misguidedness, at best - of being pro-adoption than are pointed at those of us accused of being "anti"! When BN started many were shocked at their in-your-face name... change happens...

The tides are turning, get a life jacket and swim ashore; or drown along with your kiss-up, do-nothing, pro-adoption cronies....or, third option: hop on board the luxury yacht and share in the goodies while partying with those laughing at all of us...

Mirah Riben said...

MAC: "You can define where you stand, but so can I define where I stand."

And indeed you have!

Sine you are very fond of pointing out that family preservation is not the best choice "in all cases, and never forced when that is not really the choice of the mother, or really in the best interest of the child. And those cases do occur"...

And, since you have als made it clear that you "prefer to put my efforts towards helping those already dealing with adoption loss"...

I have a suggestion. Why not avoid the middle-man and get a job working for Gladney or one of the other a.com agencies...and get paid to do what you prefer to do...wipe the tears of mothers as they leave empty handed! be there to offer support after the fact. Keep cleaning up...

And help adoptees by working to get them back their rights - when they are adults!

Mirah Riben said...

Heather Lowe has requested that I correct a mis-statement.

It is not just her work at Adoption.com that keeps her too busy to do CUB work.

Heather wrote to me off this blog: "What keeps me too busy to do much work for CUB is my sixteen hour a day job, international travel, and the pursuit of a masters degree....When I write for adoption.com (from a high of 20 to a more normal four times per month) it takes very little time. Blogging is not at all the source of my time problem- it is yet another thing that suffers from my schedule."

I apologize for not knowing all the details of Heather's busy life when she told me she was "too busy."

Thanks for clarifying, Heather.

I would further like to clarify that I said bloggers on a.com ear approx. $300 a month. That too was an error. they earn "up to" $300/month.

I hope this clears things up.

Mirah Riben said...

I would like to further state that Heather is a very sincere and well-meaning woman who is doing a lot of good - or at least trying to. We each have to make judgments how we can help the best.

mariah said...

"Adoption.com is using those who go there. Every click on their site is $$ for their advertisers. That's how a.com gets paid. And we know where the $$ from the agencies comes from. This is no big leap."

I had no idea. Thanks for the heads up.

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