Saturday, October 27, 2007

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Sunday, October 21, 2007

Rights and Responsibilities of Adopting Parents

As I wrap up all my post-conference thoughts, I was sorting through the materials I brought home. One was a flyer from PEAR: Parents for Ethical Adoption Reform, “a grassroots group of adoptive and prospective adoptive parents” concerned about “the lack of a unified voice for adoptive families” and “meaningful ethical adoption from the adoptive parents pint of view.” They formed together because they felt a lack of representation of “the people most impacted by the system.”

My work in adoption began in NJ in the late 1970s. As I was a part of the formation of Origins: An organization for mothers who lost children to adoption, another group was simultaneously being formed. APFOR: Adoptive Parents for Open Records. Their president, Carol Gustavson and members such as Sue Wright, Jane Nast, Alyce Jenkins are women I have laughed with, cried with, embraced and are still dear friends of mine to this day as many of them continue their work with the AAC.

More recently I have had the extreme pleasure of meeting Margie Perscheid, David and Desiree Smolin, Rick Boas... some of whom I had “known” via email and their work for some time now.

I have also met some closed-minded adoptive parents and some with attitudes of entitlement, superiority and down right who insist on laughing at child trafficking and slandering me for saying it exists! I also know some mothers who have lost children to adoption who I am not too fond of either. I judge each person for themselves, not their title, and try to approach the issues as objectively as I can, from my personal perspective as a mother who was on the loosing end of this alleged “win-win” process of adoption. My first book was reviewed positively by RESOLVE and Families Adopting Children Everywhere (FACE) for its toughness but fairness. I trust my second one meets he same criteria, though I did go one step further in writing The Stork Market and state that parents seeking to adopt, and those who have…can chose to be part of the solution or part of the problem. I stand by that statement. The parents I have named above have chosen the former.

Rights and Responsibilities

I believe those planning or considering adoption have a responsibility first and foremost to recognize that their joy in adopting is another’s tragedy and irrevocable loss. As historian and author Rickie Solinger says: “adoption only exists on the backs of resourceless women”

No one owes another a child and no child will resolve that loss. Loss of fertility is no greater than one’s loss of sight or limbs, or need of an organ transplant and people with such disabilities do not expect another to fill their need through sacrifice, and payment for such is recognized as exploitive and is thus illegal. Adoptive couples and individuals need to understand that every child has a right to remain with his family and that poverty is not a cause for family separation. No one has a “right” to adopt.

At the recent Ethica/Donaldson conference on ethics and accountability in adoption, the question regarding when a family is in poverty, is taking the child and placing the child for adoption with a financially better-off family "helping"? In response, David Smolin said "A child is only available for adoption when all efforts to keep the family together have been exhausted. That's basic social work. If a doctor saves your life by amputating your legs, but antibiotics could have fixed the problem, that's malpractice."

I believe that those seeking to adopt have a right to:
- fair and honest adoption practices from licensed, trained, registered professional social workers
- receive honest and fair counseling to help them have realistic expectations; to learn that adoption is not the same as birthing a child.
- understand and accept that unlike having a genetically connected child, adoption means parenting the child of another, and being able to embrace that fact and help their child with his/her issues around loss.
- get as much medical background as is possible before deciding if thy are able to handle a specific child
- maintain an open and free ongoing relationship with their child’s family of origins to the extent possible and to the extent such family members are able to - practically and emotionally, and to respect their decision not to if it is too painful

I believe that those seeking to adopt have a responsibility to:
- educate themselves about adoption practices and practitioners here and abroad. To understand that most are entrepreneurs and some are scammers and others slipshod. To know that – in the words of Kellly-Kiser Mostrom (The Cruelest Con) “if it sounds good true to be true, it probably is.”
- ensure that the child they are parenting has been freely and willingly given for adoption by his mother, father and extended family; that thy were not coerced or lied to in any way and that they fully understand the definition of American adoption – that it is FOREVER
- respect and honor their child’s heritage and his/her feelings of loss, rejection and abandonment in the most sensitive and real ways
- respect and honor members of their child’s family if they are able to maintain contact
- keep any and all promises made to that family, even when doing so is trying or difficult – as many family interactions can be, recognizing the extra difficulty of contact with people of different culture and styles, and with an awareness of their pain

I believe that if adopters want adoption to be ethical, they need to act ethically and demand ethical treatment and practices. I would be proud to work with the people of PEAR toward those goals. I stand shoulder-to-shoulder with them in accomplishing their goals of creating uniform standards for adoption agencies and practitioners and developing an enforceable code of ethics of enacting the standards set by the CWLA.

Such standards need to begin with the goal of finding homes for the more than 100,000 children in this country who have no families to return to and could benefit from stable, loving family care. I share with PEAR and all seeking ethical adoption practices to pressure the US to ratify the Hague – and also UN CRC - and to follow the basic tenants of both and respect the autonomy of countries struggling to find ways to care for their own, instead of practicing hat has been called “patronizing colonialism(1).” To put the rights of children first and center is to protect their right to remain in their families fist, and in their nation. Though difficult for those seeking children to accept, according to UNICEF, the adoption should always be last resort, and international adoption the last of the last (UNICEF Press Release, March 2007).

Making adoption ethical is in part removing the scammers, the baby brokers, the untrained facilitators, the traffickers so that people who wan to provide alternative care for children in need are not ripped off. . .but mostly it is so that children are not wrongfully taken for adoption and that those who need it are. I go beyond PEAR’s goal of “addressing fees in domestic adoption” to removing all profit from adoption everywhere over and beyond basic filing fees and actual costs. Money, greed, supply and demand are the root of all corruption.

Together, we can accomplish all of these goals.

(1) Christopher Bagley with Loretta Young and Anne Scully, 1993. International and Trans-racial Adoption: A mental health perspective. P. 155

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Conference Reflections Part IV: More Work Needed

It was very encouraging to verify that decent, ethical adoption professionals want to clean up the industry as much as grassroots adoption activists do. After all, the “bad apple” scammers and baby brokers give all of adoption a bad name and put all parties in need of their services at risk.

The four OriginsUSA representatives at the conference all felt a very encouraging tipping point in consciousness raising on these issues. Awareness and recognition of the problems is step one. We need to act on these issues and get rid of those who were not in attendance to any extent, and who will continue in their slipshod practices as long as the law allows them to, moving from state to state as they are prosecuted. The industry needs to demand professionalism, training, licensing, and regulation as per L. Anne Babb’s suggestions (Ethics in American Adoption).

As stated previously education was recognized as a big piece of work needed. Myths need to be replaced with truth: from the ever popular blank slate and "love will concur all" beliefs to the "win-win" and "same as if born to" myths.

The professionals in the trenches – as well as the movers as the shakers from Donaldson and Ethica – need to continue to be educated as well as the public.
For instance, it was erroneously stated more than once at the conference – and not corrected - that California is the only state to allow adoption facilitators to practice. This is not the case, according to my research, which appears in Appendix A of my book, The Stork Market. Unless things have changed since 2003 Florida, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri and South Carolina also have specific statues that permit adoption facilitators to practice, and five additional states are silent on the issue, neither allowing nor prohibiting them.

Stopping these untrained adoption practitioners and getting the profit motive out of adoption trafficking domestically and internationally, has to be a priority numero uno.

We need to go beyond preaching to the choir. One place to start might be with seeking enforcement of the minimal guidelines set down by the CWLA and get then enforced!

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Ethical Accountability to Mothers Who Have Surrendered

Reflections on the Conference Part III: Ethical Accountability to Mothers Who Have Surrendered

Many ethical issues of accountability remain beyond those covered at the conference. One is the obligation of adoption agencies and professionals in regard to post-adoption services.

Too often we learn of cases in which both parties have returned to file a waiver of confidentiality and expressed a desire for reunification, and the agency tells both parties that their counterpart is in fact not interested in meeting them. Is this carelessness, or playing God with people’s lives?

Agencies who do assist in reunification charge high fees to do so and maintain strict control with intermediaries who often approaching parties in an overly protective, negative manner. . ."assuring” them of their right to refuse contact. One agency has a condition of 3 anonymous, non-identifying contacts within a 12-month time period. If someone is not ready to make their decision within that time frame, it’s all over. Case closed. They cannot think about it and return a year or three later and say that they are now ready for a reunion. Such a limiting policy puts undue pressure on someone to whom it may come as a hock to be contacted by a long-lost relative, and needs time prepare and decide.

The time has come to recognize that adults are able to handle their own personal intimate life affairs and relationships and that there are sufficient laws to protect people from harassment. Adoptees and their families of origins do not need to be treated as a suspect class of people.

Another ethical accountability not addressed at the conference is one that touches my life personally: the right of surrendering parents to copies of all documents that pertain to them. The concept of "confidently" cannot explain denying people that which concerns - especially when a great deal of information about mothers of subsequently adopted children is given to adopters: both identifying and non-identifying, including social workers assessments of our "emotional state" - either too "cold" and appearing "uncaring" or too emotional and deemed "hysterical" or even "unbalanced" as a result of legitimate and appropriate behavior to a trauma. They are permitted to make assumptions about alcohol and drug use, and share that information causing us to be frozen in time as the confused, scared, unsupported teens and young adults we once were.

Denial of access to our own records, to know what was aid about us and to have a record of our having given birth is a tremendous violation of our rights.

I recently (9/14) wrote about Jayni Anderson who discovered 28 years after the fact that the child she had been repeatedly been assured by LDS workers was “fine” had in fact died of SIDS at six months of age. When Jayni decided to go public with her outrage at being lied to all those years, the newspaper she approached asked her for proof of the story she was telling them. Like many mother in her situation, Jayni was unable to provide one shred of evidence that she even given birth to a child 28 years prior, let alone that she has been placed for adoption through LDS, or any other agency. Had it not been for the fact that she has taken a support with her to the agency who witnessed her discussion with the worker who now revealed to her daughter’s alleged death, the newspaper would not have printed her story, exposing this agencies deceit (another whole major issue of ethical accountability!).

Many mothers are faced with this dilemma. Although the birth takes place prior to any termination of our parental right and certainly before an adoption takes place…in other words, while we are still clearly the mothers of our children…the certificate of that birth, bizarrely, becomes part of the “sealed records” of a legal action that takes place subsequent to the birth.

We, thus, have no record of papers we were asked to sign, which in any other area of law is a clear cut violation. We have no medial records of our birth to share with our physicians.

I relinquished my firstborn daughter to adoption in 1968. I left the agency a crushed shell of a person, with just my tears and a broken heart. Not a shred of paper to prove that any of it ever happened. . .to help me “forget” that it did, I suppose. Forty years later it is as fresh in my mind as it was that day, however.

By the early 70's learned about ALMA and adoptees in search. I co-founded Origins (NJ) with four other mothers in 1979 or 80. Meeting and speaking with other mothers nationwide, I quickly learned that not all adoption were “happily-ever-after.” Despite the promises made to us about “forever” families and two parents being better than one, adoptive parents die and divorce often leaving our children alone or with a single parent while we are married.

Mothers were finding troubled – and deceased – children and teens. Some died in infancy, others in car crashes or suicides. One mother was told she could gladly take her child back from his adopters -- who had, for all intents and purposes abandoned her son at a private school, having stopped paying all fees. Another found her child living in the back seat of car.

I knew now that there was no assurance whatsoever that my daughter had gone to a “wonderful, loving, “professional” couple as I had always imagined, or that she was adopted at all, or even alive. I could not wait until any magic age of adulthood to do all I could to locate my daughter.

While many of us had nothing to show for our labor, our unending pain and our devastating, irresolvable limbo loss, some mothers coming to Origins and CUB for support had copies of their relinquishment papers or “Consent to Adopt.” I got to see several over the years I ran our support group. I was immediately impressed with the variety of different forms and languages used by different agencies in different states in different years. (Click on collage to enlarge.) Some of these papers stated that the mother agreed to have no contact with her child. Some made no mention of that issue, simply terminating parental rights. Other papers stated that the mother was barred from contact with her child “for his minor years.”

Knowing I fully intended to initiate any means possible to locate my daughter and verify her well-being, as well as to offer my availability for updated medical history etc., I contacted my agency: Jewish Child Care Association of NYC (JCCA) explaining what I had seen on others’ papers, and my need to know what I had agreed to in signing my papers, in order o know if I would be in violation of that agreement if I searched for or found my daughter.

I was refused.

I wrote again and asked for a whited out copy. I was refused again.

I asked for a blank for to see the wording. Still no. (I have copies of all my letters and responses.)

In 1978 I was fortunate to locate my daughter. I wrote the agency. JCCA, again informing them that I knew her name, her parents names and address but needed to know if I was barred from contact or not, and thus needed copies of what I had signed. I was refused again.

I contacted her parents and was horrified to discover that my daughter had remained in her foster home until one week before her fist birthday. Her foster family longed to adopt the baby they had known and loved since the day she left the hospital and who was calling her foster mother “Mommy.” Despite their protestations, the agency, in its wisdom, removed her at a year of age because this Jewish agency had placed her in an Italian Catholic foster home and along came a Jewish family. I was overcome with uncontrollable grief learning of her traumatic re-placement.

In 1995, my daughter – who had been wrenched suddenly from "the only family she had ever known” and with whom she had a deep bond. . .committed suicide.

After morning her death for some time, I wrote to JCCA once more, telling them of her passing, and begged them one last time to share with me any shred of evidence that I bore this child who now lay in her grave. And, again, my request was denied.

As I write this today, Adam Pertman is preparing to present a keynote address at the forthcoming 14th Annual conference of The Ametz Adoption Program of Jewish Child Care Association: INFERTILITY, ADOPTION AND THE FAMILY on Sunday April 6, 2008 in New York City.

This years' keynote: Welcome to the Revolution: What We've Learned From & About Adoptive Families ironically focuses on how greater knowledge leads to better decisions - and to improved parenting.

It is of course “Intended for prospective parents, those who already have formed their families and the professionals with whom they work.” Notice who is left our of this equation? Notice whose “greater knowledge” is STILL – in 2007 - of no interest?
The conference is billed in their call for papers as “one of the premiere adoption events held in NYC” and its focus is “on the latest trends and changes in domestic and international adoption, including the Hague Convention, Openness in Adoption, Multicultural Families, the focus on Pre-Adoption Education and Alternatives to Family Building.”

Pre-adoption education for everyone but the party without whom there would be no adoption.

I publicly submit the following blurb of an abstract for a presentation for this conference and lay down the gauntlet to have me address these issues:

As our community becomes more aware of actively pursuing ethical adoption practices, we have a moral obligation to look backward as well as forward and restore whatever ounce of dignity we can to those who have been harmed by faulty adoption practices of the past.

Where is the moral and ethical responsibility of JCCA to the mothers they “served”?

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Adoption Language

Reflections of the Conference Part II: Language*

There was a concerted effort throughout the conference, as noted in my previous blog, not to use birthmother for an expectant mother as mentioned and acknowledgment that to do so was coercive. This is a nice step forward. However, there was, of course, confusion over what mothers want to be called as over the past few years there have been a plethora of phrases suggested by various groups and individuals: first, original, lifemother, exiled mother. . . or the accurate, but a bit lengthy and awkward “a mother who surrendered a child to adoption.”

I noted in a critique of this year's Adoption and Culture Conference, "Encountering New Worlds of Adoption" the issue of language, and entitlement, also came up there. MaryAnne Cohen posted on the CUB ALL list that on: "a very interesting panel on adoptive parent language that included a discussion of how many adoptive parents say and believe that they were 'fated' to get a particular child. I put in my two cents as a birthmother on how repugnant this concept was, considering that the adoptive parents' good fortune or fate was predicated on the suffering and loss of the
birthparents. Happily nobody there was pushing the 'fate' idea and everyone, adoptive moms included, gagged at Rosie's 'wrong tummy' story."

And, so while there are efforts from all involved in adoption to do and say the right thing, there remains resistance to the use of the word mother as confusing and “mother who surrendered a child to adoption” as too lengthy and cumbersome. And yet, while this statement of fact is avoided because of its wordy nature, I couldn’t help noticing that many times throughout the conference adoptive parents identified themselves as a “parent of Guatemalan child” someone having an “interracial family” or, often: “Mother of x number of kids, x number of whom joined their family through adoption.” It seemed quite apparent that 1) they did not want to identify themselves as adoptive parents, and 2) they preferred language they chose, that softened reality with phrases indicating that the child “joined their family” as if it was the child’s choice to do so.

While this may not sit well with some of us, they will identify themselves as they chose. Mutual respect therefore demands that we continue to self-identify and not fall prey to feeling the need to use their defining terms for us, and continue to educate triads members, professionals, and the media on the language of our preference.

Helpful to this process is clarifying what it is we want to be called, and that has been evolving and led to a great deal of confusion. OriginsUSA has a very simple, honest solution for this dilemma, and that is that we are mothers with no prefix.

In an effort to clarify this for all involved, in adoption today both grassroots and professionals,OriginsUSA has prepared A Journalist's Guide to Accurate and Honest and Adoption Language and a more detailed explanation of the language of motherhood, in the explanation of our motto: “Motherhood is Forever:”

The motto of OriginsUSA, a national organization promoting family preservation and advocating for family members separated by adoption is “Motherhood is Forever.”

A mother is simply defined as one who has conceived and borne a child. Every person has one, and only one, forever mother. Our mother remains our mother throughout life...even if our parents divorce, even if we have a step-mother, and even after our mother is deceased. Nothing can or should change nature's truth. A mother is still a mother after her child is deceased. Even mothers who murder their own child(ren) do not lose their motherhood or become "ex" or "former" mothers.

The termination of parental rights, without which there is no adoption, is the legal severance of the relationship between mother and child. Adoption adds a legal caregiver and creates a new familial relationship for the child. Neither the relinquishment of parental rights, nor the adoption which follows, however, severs the emotional or genetic bond nor the biological reality of mother and child. No more than the le dissolution of one's marriage, or re-marriage makes a mother less a mother or a father less a father. Despite the fact that the law makes her a persona non gratis where her child is concerned, in her heart, a mother knows she is the mother of her child.

When a mother is made to believe that it would be the most loving and unselfish thing for her to do to allow others to raise her child through adoption, she still remains that child's mother. She no more becomes a "birth" mother or any other hyphenated designation of anything less than a mother, than any other mother who is not currently mothering.

No prefix or descriptive modifier is needed to describe her role in her child's life. Adoption, which thrives on pleasing those who pay to adopt, is predicated on the myth that adoption is "the same as if" the child was born into the adoptive family. Birth certificates thus become state secrets, and states issue falsified birth certificate naming another woman as the "mother" who gave birth to the child, in an attempt to obliterate the reality that every child has a mother prior to any adoption.

Our language and laws need to reflect and respect the reality that a mother is forever, and every adopted child has just one mother.

The term "mother" should remain intact and the caregiver -- the additional, legally created role -- given a hyphenated term with an adjective to describe his/her role, such as step- or adoptive parent or legal guardian. If any further description is needed to describe child's mother to resolve any confusion, she is a "mother who has surrendered" (as in the case of "persons of disabilities" rather than a "disabled person").

Terms such as birthmother or birthparent (as one word or two) diminish the reality of the relationship that is unchanged by the legal fiction of adoption. In a sense, all mothers are birthmothers, but when used for mothers who have relinquished - or worse expectant mothers - it is dehumanizing, reducing them to a breeder, surrogate, handmaiden or incubator. Mothers who have relinquished need to have our feelings and ability to self-identify respected, as we respect people of various ethnicities and races to choose how they prefer to be identified.

Those who adopt or become legal guardians for children are not made any less by allowing their child's mother to remain his mother, as they maintain the day-to-day connection of caregiver, protector and decision maker. Nor is there is any need for concern that children who are adopted, fostered or in a guardianship would be confused being taught to use respectful and honest terminology in addition to whatever terms of endearment one might choose to bestow upon those in close, daily, personal relationship. Young children seldom call their female parental figure "mother" but use terms of endearment such as Mom or Mommy. They will thus not be confused at all to have a Mom and a Mother. There is thus no need to use contrived terminology like "tummy mommy" or "natural" or "birth" mother, or "the woman who gave birth to you." There is, in addition, a need to leave the legal documents of one's birth intact and stop state committed fraud in falsifying such documents.

* Tomorrow: Reflections of the conference Part III: Ethical Accountability to Mothers Who Have Surrendered

Adoption Ethics and Accountability Conference”

Just home from the “Adoption Ethics and Accountability Conference" sponsored by Evan B, Donaldson and Ethica, Inc. October 15-16, 2007, Arlington, Virginia and cannot say enough good things about it.

View my presentation.
(Be patient while it loads)

It was very well planned and organized and ran like clock-work showing LOTS and LOTS of hard work and effort that went into every details of it.

It was very well attended – more than 300 people and lots of press coverage including, I was told the NY Times. The majority of attendees appeared to be social workers and other adoption professionals, a good number of adoptive parents, Marley (photo), Pam Hasegawa, and a contingent of other “bastards,” Bobby Beavers and others from AAC, and the five of us from OriginsUSA (Claudia, Suz, Bernadette, in photo, and I) along with other mothers such as Brenda Romanchick who was on two panels, Anne Cauman, and a mother whose presentation I will describe, and a few others.

OriginsUSA got three new members on the spot! The first was the first person I met after registering: Rick Boas. Dr. Richard Boas, you might recall is an adoptive father who has made it his mission to help Korean women keep their babies. Dr. Boas was the recipient of the fist annual Family Preservation award. It was such a pleasure to meet this most compassion humanitarian! (Photo: Rick Boas and I)

I also met, for the first time in person, David Smolin, his wife Deseree, and the youngest of their eight children! They are on the same plane as Rick Boas – true humanitarians who are working to fight the corruption in adoption. There were several adoptive parents like the Smolins and Rick who discovered after adopting that their children had in fact been obtained through coercion or kidnapping and were horrified and are bound and determined to put an end to the wholesale selling of children to supply a demand. This was pretty much an accepted premise of all who attended.

The entire conference – from start to finish – was predicted on a very strong emphasis on FAMILY PRESERVATION and ADOPTION AS A LAST RESORT!!! Hearing Adam Pertman emphasize things like: “Poverty is NOT a reason for adoption” and every child deserves the right to remain in his/her original family and that family has a right to all of the resources and services possible to remain intact…was for me astonishing, empowering, almost dream-like! Ethica and Donaldson are on the exact same track as we are in OriginsUSA!

We made excellent contacts and did an enormous amount of networking. The Ethica folks are wonderful and eager to partner with us. We were told that the only complaints they got were that the conference was too “anti-adoption”!! Ethica and Donaldson board members were all very careful NOT to call expectant mothers birthmothers, and corrected those few speakers who were not up to speed on that explaining how coercive it is to use it in that way. They’ve come a long way, baby!!

There were many touching moments throughout the event, but the last general session and final keynote was one of the most moving. A mother in a contested custody case presented the story of how she signed a paragraph long statement giving a couple temporary custody of her son – and has been in litigation for three years while he remains with them! The audience got to hear and see the impact of bad domestic “adoption” practices first hand. It brought home the very real the fact that coercion is not just an international issue. A former school teacher, bright and articulate and shared her pain and agony, holding back tears, as she told of the courts violating the law because the “abducters” are related to the judge. She is well-spoken, courageous and our prayers are with her as she now has visitation with her precious son.

The only negative session was the one added the last minute – I think to attract the press. Representatives of UNICEF were subjected to an angry “crowd” of Guatemalan adopters whose prospective children were caught in the pipeline when Guatemala put a moratorium on adoptions. The self-righteousness palpable and the air thick with “entitlement” in that room as they spoke about “their” children needing to ‘come home’ and be “united” with their families.

The four of us: Bernadette, Claudia, Suz and I, spread out so that we covered almost every workshop. So even the ones that focused on the rights of adopters got our input! The worst one I attended was about APS right to medical information in which a physician gave a glimpse of the scientific future of adoption: DNA testing for all relinquishing mothers and from that they could predict all medical risks, thus not need us for that anymore. Also cord blood storing for stem cell regeneration in case of a need for bone marrow transplant or such. The goal is to make us totally unnecessary after birthing!

The closing round table session asked us to explore the following questions:

- If we could change thing one thing about adoption, what would it be
- If we could make one new law what would it be
- If we had unlimited funding what would we do with it
- How do we envision adoption in 2020

The consensus of everyone there was pretty much this:
- Open the records in all states (Adam P said that Donaldson has a big plan that will be announced soon in this regard)
- Get all corruption out of adoption – get out all the “bad apple” facilitators, and basically get all the money out of adoption
- Lots if education programs for EVERYONE about what adoption is REALLY like – dispelling ALL the myths about adoption and the people whose lives it touches
- Work toward finding homes for all children currently in foster care
- Prevent all future family disintegrations
- Eliminating falsified birth certificates and parental terminations

Basically – it sounded an awful lot like the conclusion to my book! Donaldson is going to take these suggestions as their road map for future planning.

Needless to say we all left feeling hopeful. Someone said it feels as if we have reached critical mass: the tipping point! I am still floating.

Oh, yes...and the piece de resistance for me: I was told that Sandra Hanks Benoiton, who slandered me on, requested to attend the conference as a blogger and was refused because commercial bloggers were not allowed!!!

Watch these pages for MORE conference follow ups!

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Adoption Ethics and Accountability Conference

I am pleased and excited to be a part of the upcoming Adoption Ethics and Accountability Conference sponsored by Evan B, Donaldson and Ethica, Inc. October 15-16, 2007, Arlington, Virginia.

I was invited to present on as part of the following workshop panel on Oct. 15:

Alternative Routes to Permanency: Is Adoption Always the Best Choice?
* What factors are most important to consider in determining the type of permanency (return to family of origin, guardianship, adoption) that is in a child’s best interest?
* Is legal permanency the best option for every child? Are there more informal forms of permanency that should be considered in some cases?
* What alternative forms of permanency should be considered internationally?

I share this panel with:

James P. Gleeson:
Dr. Gleeson is Associate Professor at the Jane Addams College of Social Work, University of Illinois at Chicago where he teaches in the Child and Family Concentration of the MSW program and in the Ph.D. program. He has extensive experience as a child welfare practitioner, administrator, consultant, and researcher. Dr. Gleeson has been principal investigator for several federal and state funded child welfare research, curriculum development, and training projects. Dr. Gleeson’s research and publications focus on kinship care policy and practice, child welfare training, and evaluation of child welfare programs and practice. He is a member of the Review Board for the Child Welfare journal and is a member of the Editorial Board for the Journal of Public Child Welfare. He served on the Child Welfare League of America’s national taskforce on best practice standards for kinship care and the League’s National Kinship Care Advisory Committee. Dr. Gleeson is principal investigator for two federally funded research projects that examine Individual and Social Protective Factors for Children in Informal Kinship Care. His prior grant funded research includes Achieving Permanency for Children in Kinship Foster Care, which resulted in the development of a training manual and videotapes for child welfare practitioners helping kinship caregivers to make permanency decisions for the related children in their care.

Dr. Jeanne Howard:
Jeanne Howard is Policy & Research Director of the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute and a Professor in Social Work at Illinois State University, where she has co-directed the Center for Adoption Studies for six years. Her scholarly work includes a ground-breaking study on adoption disruption and a recent publication entitled After Adoption: The Needs of Adopted Youth, coauthored with Susan Livingston Smith, which is the largest study conducted to date on the needs of child welfare adoptive families. Dr. Howard is also a recipient of the Angels in Adoption Award (2006).

Dr. Mark Testa:
Mark Testa is an Associate Professor in the School of Social Work at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. From 1994 to 2002, Dr. Testa held a joint appointment as the Research Director for the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services. He was the architect of the Illinois Subsidized Guardianship Demonstration, and he leads the evaluations of similar demonstrations in Wisconsin and Tennessee. Dr. Testa is currently the Director of the Children and Family Research Center, an independent research organization created jointly by the University and the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services. He was named an Angel in Adoption by the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute in 2006. His recent publications include “New Permanency Strategies for Children in Foster Care” in Child Welfare Research, published by Oxford University Press, and “The Quality of Permanence—Lasting or Binding” in the Virginia Journal of Social Policy and Law.

Additionally, during the reception on Monday evening, October 15th, I will be part of “Meet the Bloggers”.

In this casual session we have an exciting opportunity for conference attendees to meet bloggers who are making waves in the adoption community. The blogosphere has become the new platform for adoption activists and a way to inform the community, allowing triad members and professionals to organize and build upon the adoption experience. Join us as we meet the people behind the blogs and learn how they’ve revitalized the community. Bloggers from all perspectives - adoptees, first parents, adoptive parents, and activists - have been invited. The following bloggers have confirmed - check back to see the list grow.

Suz Bednarz: Writing My Wrongs
Suz Bednarz is the proud mother of three beautiful children. Her first born child, a daughter, was lost to adoption in 1986 and found in 2005. Suz was coerced and intimidated into surrendering her daughter by an agency that threatened Suz and her parents with lawsuit when she informed them she wanted to keep her child. Living alone in a maternity home with her only support coming from the agency that stood to profit from the sale of her child, she surrendered. Suz blogs her adoption experience at Writing My Wrongs. She is also a past guest of The Adoption Show and a member of OriginsUSA.

Elizabeth Case: Beware of
Elizabeth ’s site pre-dated blogs but inspired other families to share their experiences with adoption fraud as well as help families navigate the structure of international adoption.

Claudia Corrigan D’Arcy: Musings of the Lame
Claudia is a domestic first mother who has lent her writing and community organization talents to her blog as well as Origins USA. She has rallied the triad against injustices against vulnerable parents as well as covered issues on open records and informed consent.

Marley Greiner: The Daily Bastardette
Marley’s alter ego Bastardette has been blogging since March 2005. The Daily Bastardette (which isn’t “daily”) features commentary on issues of identity and adoptee rights including open records for adult adoptees, Baby Moses/Safe Haven laws, and other atrocities the adoption industry, its paid lobbyists, and deformer “friends”can devise to maintain The Adoption Culture of Shame. Adoption blogging, she believes a powerful alternative to mainstream media and an outlet for oppositional research and activism.

Jennifer Hemsley: Great Wall China Adoption Nightmare
Jennifer is an adoptive mother with a painful experience of attempting to adopt a child from China . Her story has motivated her to inform the community of the intricacies and possible pitfalls in international adoption.

Jae Ran Kim: Harlow’s Monkey
As one of the 200,000 children sent from South Korea for the purposes of adoption, and now as a social worker working with youth in foster care, Jae Ran constantly seeks to expand her knowledge and understanding of the life-long ramifications of adoption through her blog, Harlow’s Monkey: Experiencing the social experiment of transracial and transnational adoption.

David Kruchkow: The Adoption Agency Checklist
David’s website paved the way for bloggers seeking information on how to assess adoption agencies and avoid adoption fraud. His personal experience, subsequent community organizing, and continued advocacy for transparency brings thousands of visitors to his website.

Margie Perscheid: Third Mom
Margie is the adoptive mother of two Korean teens and co-founder of Korean Focus. She thinks out loud on her blog about intercountry adoptive parenting, adoptive parent responsibilities toward their children and the adoption community, and truth in adoption.

Mirah Riben: Family Preservation
Mirah is author of two books on adoption, and PR and Membership chair of OriginsUSA. The FamilyPreservation blog is concerned with, and welcomes discussions of: support for mothers, fathers, emerging families, blood kin, and expectant mothers in crisis; family members separated by adoption; global child trafficking for adoption; exploitation of mothers and the commodification of children; profiteering and lack of regulation in international and US domestic adoption.

Desiree Smolin and Usha Rengachary Smerdon: Fleas Biting
The Fleas Biting blog details adoption fraud, corruption, and other unethical practices and has proven to be a vital resource for prospective adoptive families. A critical voice, the blog advocates that there is no room for injustice in international adoption.

The views of all conference participants, panelists, and bloggers other than the sponsoring organizations are their own, and are not necessarily the views of the sponsoring organizations.

RussiaToday Apr 29, 2010 on Russian Adoption Freeze

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

RT: Russia-America TV Interview 3/10

Korean Birthmothers Protest to End Adoption

Motherhood, Adoption, Surrender, & Loss

Who Am I?

Bitter Winds

Adoption and Truth Video

Adoption Truth

Birthparents Never Forget