Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Coercive Adoption Practices

I was recently asked: What percent of domestic infant adoptions do I believe are coercive. The following is my (edited) reply:

A great deal depends on the definition of the word "coerced" (not to sound like a politician). But we know that during the 40's, 50's 60's and into the 70's white single mothers had no other options but a shotgun wedding or relinquishment. There were certainly social PRESSURES and then and now there were and still are financial pressures. If you define coerce as to "bring about with force" then I would say virtually none. However, if you define it as "to dominate or control, esp. by exploiting fear, anxiety, etc." (both definitions found at for coerce) than I would say virtually all during that era. A choice without options is not a choice. What is being told you cannot come home with that child? Pressure or coercion?

[As an aside, I can tell you that right now there is a great deal of chatter on Facebook - adoptive parents, adoptees, and birthmoms - in an uproar about Marie Osmond calling her adopted son a "gift." Gifts are given freely and willingly and this is striking a chord with many who feel it was NOT the case.] 

Another factor is the amount of hindsight time of the mothers being asked. This is true for myself and for many, many others. There was a time during the first decade or so after my loss, that I described it as a "loving sacrifice" because we had to believe what we were being indoctrinated to believe: that it was for the best; that our child deserved better; that not to let go was selfish" and that we'd forget and have other children. Had we not "bought" into that denigrating rhetoric, we never would have relinquished. We were verbally beaten into submission. Is that coercion?  Today, having read Wake Up Little Susie and recognizing the larger social dynamic into which my personal experience was played out, I find "pressured" far more accurately describes my experience.

Many mothers remain in states of denial for decades or even for life. I have known of mothers who never told their husbands, or their therapists.  Others engage in behaviors, such as adopting or becoming a social worker, that seems to justify that what they did was in fact right and good in order to live with the horror, pain and shame of having given away their own child.  (Many adoptees likewise engage in similar justification behaviors to assuage their hurts and feelings of adoption as a rejection.)

It is not unlike defining rape and date rape and what the victim (and even some perpetrators might) think of it immediately after it happens, as compared to reflecting on it years after with education of the nuanced differences between informed consent and not. We know that in past generations, and still today in many parts of the world, women do not report rape because they know that they will blamed as causing it to happen -- being willing participants. It is the same with adoption loss for many mothers. The pain of being accused by others and even themselves is so great they simply remain silent.

Today, mothers are being convinced that they can have open adoptions and not suffer the pain those of past generations did. This too, is often coercive as they are not informed that promises of openness are unenforceable, and have no attorney truly representing their rights to inform them of such things. In some cases of legally defined coercion and fraud, there was no intent to keep the unenforceable promises of ongoing contact. Mothers who have been deceived by such false promises or promises which failed to be ongoing and are left with no recourse, describe their experience as betrayal.

Other coercive practices in current adoption practice include moving expectant mothers and keeping them isolated from their support system, as well as adopters paying medical and housing expenses, etc. for a particular expectant mother. this has been reported to create feelings of indebtedness in the mother and crates false expectations for the adopters.  Living expenses and legal fees need to come from a general pool paid into by adopters with fees tacked on to their adoptions.

IMO, any adoption in which the relinquishing parent does not have legal representation to ensure she has received impartial option counseling and knows all of her rights - an attorney NOT paid for by the adopting parents or an agency whose livelihood depends on adoption placements, or their agents...are ALL coercive adoptions. Mothers who voluntarily relinquish have less rights in this regard than those accused or felony crimes who are appointed legal aid.


Anonymous said...

The only person who knows if Marie Osmand saying her adopted child was "a gift" was offensive is the birth mother of her child. And she does not seem to be saying. It is nobody else' problem.

Why not save time and effort and just state that you consider all adoptions to be coerced? That is what you said using way too many words, after all.

AdoptAuthor said...

Marie's comment was hurtful - as I said - to adoptees, adoptive mothers and mothers who have lost children to adoption. Here are some sample comments on Facebook:

An adoptive mother, who is herself adopted said: "yeah, I'm sure she got pregnant just so she could give her baby away to an Osmond. I bet she wrapped him up with a bow"

Another saidL "the *gift* that Marie gave to her son's Mother----the ability to accept being so unworthy to be her child's parent that she would give him to one with fame and fortune with the promice of him having a long and happy life."

A birthmother said: "Gift is a horrid word! Don't get me wrong. I didn't consider my beloved daughter a Gift...she had no bow...and Gifts aren't taken with tricks and lies."

And another birthmom summed it all up with: "Life is a gift...people are not...if you grow up thinking you were a gift to be given away, how do you ever claim yourself as a full human being?"

Words out in the public area effect many. Adoption is a very sensitive and emotionally charged issue and we are very sensitive to language used.

AdoptAuthor said...

I did not relinquish daughter for adoption to please a childless family or make them happy or fill lives or make them feel complete as a family. I lost her because of social pressures and loss of option to keep her. That she brought another family joy was a side effect and NOT my - or any other mothers' INTENTION.

Does that clarify it in a way you can understand?

Anonymous said...

Hey anonymous:

NOONES child is a gift and coercion is alive and well... What is YOUR problem with everyone else having an issue with it? Make you a little uncomfortable, eh? Good. Adopters or whoever else that doesn't like it need to be uncomfortable. Them calling someone else's flesh and blood a "gift" is degrading and dehumanizing to those of us who know our children were not "gifts" for a barren woman; especially when they were obtained by coersive tactics such as renegging an "open adoption" and the like.

My son's adoptive mothers "gift" was a nightmare for me, his mother. I didn't realize that "gift giving" was supposed to make one feel that way, now do you?

A lied to, conned, coerced out of her child with false promises, mother.

Anonymous said...

I am glad to see you know "every mother's intention. Psychic powers?

AdoptAuthor said...

Would you kindly inform where the word "every" appears in my post or my comments? I quoted specific people - including adoptees and adoptive parents.

Anonymous said...

Sorry "... NOT mine or any other mother's INTENTION". Direct quote from you above. Same meaning.

AdoptAuthor said...

"ANY I KNOW" does NOT Equate to ALL or Every!! Not to be rude, but, is English your first language?

I am not being flippant here. I will readily admit that my knowledge is of a somewhat select group of mothers - those who are OPEN. There are others shuttered in the closet for whom I cannot speak.

Clearly mothers who had their children taken by the state - it was not their intention nor was if a GIFT!

I suggest you read The Girls Who Went Away by Fessler to get a clear perception of the pressure on WHITE single mothers.

I am also familiar with mothers in other nations who were DUPED out of their children with VERY COERCIVE methods that prey on their lack of ability to read, and exploit their poverty.

How many birthmoms do you know, Anon?

Anonymous said...

I see you have changed your wording. Very clever.It also makes the comments not make sense. You did not originally specify "mothers you know".I also know quite a few birthmothers; some of whom were coerced, some who had a choice and made it. Of course coercion exists, but it is not universal in the way your post originally stated.

AdoptAuthor said...

That is absolutely not true! The only comment about it contains the wording as it is now and always has been! This post is a copy of what I sent out on an email list and have that original as well.

Anonymous said...

The phrase, "NOT mine or any mother's INTENTION" which I quoted above including your original caps is gone from your "edited" article. It was there earlier. Now it is gone. If you took it out, good, but why deny??

AdoptAuthor said...

Whatever. I honestly do not recall. The words are the same. Perhaps you saw a very early version and I made some very minor edits afterward. I honestly do not recall. What diff? The words are the same. I still never said anything about ALL or EVERY mother as I do not claim to know or speak for all or every mother who has a lost a child to adoption and have never claimed to.

Anonymous said...

The "Anon" above sounds like the troll "M" who was pretending to be a female African American AP on Adoption Mosaic. He focuses a lot on "not everyone feels that way" and goes after anything that he intreprets as being universal or generalized language about whatever issue is being discussed. You're wasting your time repsonding to his nonsense.

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