Monday, October 27, 2008

Adoption Today Magazine Review by Denise Roessle

Adoption Today Oct/Nov 2008(pages 58-59).

The Stork Market: America’s multi-billion dollar unregulated adoption industry,” Mirah Riben, Advocate Publications, 2007

The Stork Market is not an easy read, whatever your perspective on adoption. Chances are you will squirm, gasp and shake your head in disbelief (as I did). Then, you will likely come to realize that this book is an important addition to the body of adoption literature — in fact, a must-read for every mother who is considering surrendering a child, every couple seeking to adopt, and every adoption professional and legislator in the United States.

You won’t find a more straightforward account of the adoption industry as it exists today. Concise, well researched and documented, The Stork Market offers a comprehensive history of current adoption practices, including the lack of regulations (no requirements for training, licensing and reporting) for agencies and facilitators in 47 of our 50 states, transgressions committed against both natural mothers and adopting parents (including recognizable names like Georgia Tann and Seymour Kurtz), varying international adoption policies, trends toward rushing mothers into the decision to surrender, unenforceable open adoption agreements, safe havens, foster care, and sealed records.

Mirah Riben’s conclusion (a view shared by Origins-USA, on whose board of directors she serves) is that family preservation is the answer — with kinship adoption and legal guardianship as viable alternatives to adoption by strangers, the end to amended birth certificates, enforcement of open adoption agreements, and a greater focus on finding families for older children in foster care.

“It is far easier for the general public to identify and empathize with the plight of someone who desires to be a parent and cannot, than with expectant mothers needing support,” Riben writes. Many in the media “lament the ‘shame’ of the lack of ‘adoptable’ babies, and describe painfully desperate attempts to adopt and ‘deserving’ couples being forced to endure long waiting periods, traveling overseas and/or paying exorbitant fees, and being victimized by scammers. What is overlooked is that the intended purpose of adoption is not to fix infertility but to find homes for children whose families cannot raise them.”

After reading The Stork Market, I believe family preservation is an aim worthy of our consideration and effort. At the very least, major reforms are in order. Riben (along with Evelyn Robinson, a social worker, author and speaker on the long-term outcomes of adoption separation, who has lived and worked in Australia since 1982 and wrote the book’s foreword) cites Australia’s Children’s Protection Act of 1993, an adoption alternative model based on the best interests of children that might well provide a road map for changes here in America. The act makes private adoption illegal, bans commercial adoption agencies and payments of any kind connected to adoptions, encourages and supports expectant mothers in raising their children, requires counseling after birth at least three days prior to consent for adoption, prohibits consent for adoption until the child is at least fourteen days old, and includes the names of both the natural and adoptive parents on the birth/adoption certificate.

Change of this magnitude takes years. In the meantime, The Stork Market provides vital information on mothers’ and fathers’ rights and how adoptive parents can avoid being victimized by unscrupulous agencies and facilitators.

“Adoption is a very personally and emotionally charged issue for those touched by it,” Riben acknowledges. “Few can think about or discuss it without passion. For that reason, this may be a difficult or painful book for some to read. It may make you sad, it may shock you, or it may make you angry. But it is for just these reasons that you might need to read it.”

I hope you do.

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