Monday, September 8, 2008

The Soul of Family Preservation

Oh the joys of cleaning my bookshelves! I recently came across a GEM.

The Soul of Family Preservation* is a 100 page booklet written i1996 by Dr. Randolph W. Severson, author (Adoption: Philosophy and Experience**) , psychologist, theologian, and self described “Christian existentialist and romantic in child welfare.”

I never met Randy, though we did correspond and he published some of my articles when he edited Adoption Therapist***, for Hope Cottage. Among his many contributions to changing the complexion of adoption practices was writing the foreword to Ethics in American Adoption by Babb, in which Severson, always eloquent, states:

"Adoption isn't about building families at all. It's about tearing them apart. It's about poverty and exploitation, incredible pain and need....

"My hope is this: change the adoption myth, change the adoption culture. Change the adoption culture, change adoption policy, procedures and practice. Change practice, change lives for the better."

The following are excerpted from Severson's The Soul of Family Preservation, written far ahead of its time:

“Open adoption and open records are important byways. But they are not the most compelling route. Family preservation is.

“To urge family preservation within the adoption field abounds with risks because if you’ve been touched by adoption or as a professional work in the field your soul is inevitably so implicated in the institution that a defense of family preservation may very well be experienced as a personal attack...”

...judgments about how birthparents appear now, “long years after losing their child…would be like describing Bosnia today ignoring the fact there had ever been a war. You simply can’t know what might have been. The damage done to any single personality or family by losing a child to adoption mocks measure. The event shrivels the heart, shames the ghosts, turns the soul from what should have been a radiant fountain into a hollow cup."
In giving their child a “better life they may have undone their own.” Pp 10-11
"Adoption" says Severson, can add to child’s well being…adding “the love and kindness of strangers...opportunity...stability....Adoption can be all these things; in fact often is. But with these ‘gains’ are associated grave and irreparable losses, so much so that I sometimes wonder if adoption is like trying to fill an empty glass after the bottom has dropped out. No matter how pure the milk of human kindness that cup will never over flow.” P 39
* HeartWorks, Dallas Texas
** House of Tomorrow Productions, 1994. ISBN 1880856093
*** Open Adoption: Optimim or Oxymoron , Adoption Therapist, Dallas, TX: Hope Cottage, Vol. 4, No. 2, Fall, 1995, pp. 13-16.
Dealing With Death, Adoption Therapist, Dallas, TX: Hope Cottage, Vol. 6, No. 4, Fall, 1994, pp. 5-8.
For more on Family Preservation:

- See the right hand panel of this blog
- See Baran and Panor on Family Preservation
- See Carole Anderson on Family Preservation

NOTE: Both of the articles above refer to guardianship as an alternative to adoption. Permanent Legal Guardianship varies from adoption only that it does not begin with a termination of the rights of the original/natural parents and a “birth certificate” that falsely claims a child was born to his entrusted caretakers. It provides guardians ALL rights to make decisions re education, medical care etc. It is NOT joint custody or foster care.


Anonymous said...

Good stuff, Mirah. Thanks. Gonna link it on my blog.

Anonymous said...

He knew what he was talking about on several fronts.

maryanne said...

Beautiful writing by a very smart guy. He almost lost a granddaughter to adoption in the 90s; his daughter was pregnant and unmarried and denied the pregnancy until she went into labor. Luckily she kept her baby, it all worked out fine.

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