Wednesday, October 27, 2010

"Adoption Option"? Pro-Adoption Report Tries to be Progressive

"The Adoption Option: Adoption Won’t Reduce Abortion but It Will Expand Women's Choices" by Jessica Arons, Director of the Women’s Health and Rights Program at the Center for American Progress, Oct. 2010. The Center for American Progress, Wash, D.C., is a progressive public policy research and advocacy organization. Its website states that the organization is "dedicated to improving the lives of Americans through progressive ideas and action."

I encourage all to download the pdf and read it in full.

It's a mixed bag: Mostly good news that of course falls short of my recommendations, and the best suggestions and recommendations are meaningless without enforcement.

The good news - and some useful quotes - for adoption reformers:  
  • "Abortion has not caused the low rates of adoption in recent years; rather the low placement rates are a direct result of more single women choosing to parent on their own. pregnancy, annual estimates" 
    • Abortion certainly played some role in the initial decline of the adoption rate
      when it fell from 19.2 percent for white women in 1973 when Roe v. Wade was
      decided to 3.2 percent 15 years later.12 But it is the decreasing stigma of single
      motherhood that accounts for the low adoption rate now.13 Unmarried pregnant
      women also are more likely to be in their 20s than their teens these days, and they
      may therefore feel better prepared to keep their babies and raise them themselves.
  • "the Guttmacher Institute has pointed out,14 that promoting adoption is not an effective strategy for reducing the abortion rate—if that is one’s goal. Indeed, some portion of women who choose adoption never consider abortion, in which case those adoption choices have no effect on the
    abortion rate whatsoever."
  • "abuses in the present [adoption] system continue to occur and must be curbed. Reforms are
  • "most policy initiatives primarily focus on adoptive parents, addressing ways to streamline the system and make it more accessible and affordable for them. Too little attention has been paid to the needs of the pregnant woman considering adoption."
  • " Increased difficulties with international adoption may put renewed pressure on the domestic adoption system and provide an even greater need for more protections here. But it is more likely that we will see our society’s newfound reliance on fertility treatments,18 including domestic and foreign surrogacy arrangements, increase even further in the coming years."
  • "Women who chose parenting were more likely to report satisfaction with their
    decision than those who chose adoption (91 percent vs. 78 percent)"
  • "Abortion opponents often trumpet the possibility that partners, parents, or even medical professionals may coerce a woman into an abortion. Yet abortion clinics routinely screen for coercion and will not perform an abortion unless they are sure it is what the woman actually wants. The adoption process should similarly guard against coercion."
  • "Fueled in part by a particular political and religious agenda, as well as financial interests, a network of socially conservative crisis pregnancy centers,52 adoption agencies, and maternity homes have pressured vulnerable women to place their children for adoption."
  • "Coercion can come from adoption professionals, from family members or male partners, or from extended social networks. It can range from subtle signals, such as referring to the pregnant woman as the “birth mother” before she has made a final decision, to more overt pressures, such as moving her to a maternity home in another state where she is alienated from her support network of family and friends and where adoption laws are more lenient."
  • "Women participating in an open adoption may be pressured to be compliant and pleasant or else risk being shut out. And some women have fallen prey to bait and switch tactics, where they are promised an open adoption but told only after relinquishment that such arrangements are not “legal” in the state where the adoption took place. "
  • "Child Welfare League of America found that some birth mothers are unable to get a copy of the paperwork following a relinquishment." [A personal pet peeve of mine!]
  • "The Child Welfare Information Gateway has identified several potential responses to a relinquishment, including grieving the loss of the child; grieving secondary losses, such as the loss of a relationship with the birth father that may have occurred; guilt and shame; identity
    issues; and long-term issues around forming and maintaining relationships."
  • The National Council For Adoption (NCFA) is identified as: "a prominent, federally funded adoption lobbying group with ties to conservative Christian adoption networks"
The report's suggestions represent slight improvements:
  • To best serve the needs of women considering adoption, more research must be done to explore the pressures, motivations, and barriers surrounding that decision, as well to compare the
    long-term well-being of women who choose abortion, adoption, and parenting.
  • States should require that women pursuing adoption be offered nondirective counseling with a qualified professional and an opportunity to consult with independent legal counsel. Congress also should work to ensure that women have access to unbiased and accurate information so that they can make well-informed decisions about their pregnancies.
  • States should impose a waiting period of at least 72 hours between childbirth and the time a woman can consent to place a child for adoption and grant birth parents a minimum of one
    week to revoke their consent to relinquishment without having to give a specific reason. These rules ideally would be uniform in order to discourage agencies or adoptive parents from cherry-picking states with more favorable laws. States should also ensure that birth parents are entitled to a copy of all relinquishment paperwork as well as a copy of the child’s original birth certificate.
  • States should recognize the benefits of open adoption arrangements and ensure that birth parents are informed of available mechanisms to implement those agreements. States should also guar-
    antee that affordable clinical mediation services are available when disputes arise over the terms of an open adoption arrangement. NOTE: This suggestions omits something very important, recognized later in the report: " a birth mother should receive complete counseling about which aspects of the agreement can or cannot be enforced so that she will have reasonable expectations going forward, as there are potentially devastating consequences when such agreements are unilaterally terminated."
  • States and adoption agencies should ensure that birth mothers have access to affordable or no-cost postadoption counseling services throughout their lives, but especially in the two years following a placement.
  • More information about what adoption entails today and the women who typically choose adoption would help to educate the public and demystify the process so that we can dispense with outdated stereotypes about birth mothers and the adoption process. Congress should
    provide grants to establish national public education campaigns to accurately
    inform the public about adoption and its potential benefits for all involved. 
Not included in the initial list (above), is this good suggestion:

"Congress also should work to ensure that women have access to unbiased and accurate information so that they can make well-informed decisions about their pregnancies. Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) introduced the “Stop Deceptive Advertising for Women’s Services Act” in the 109th Congress, which aims to hold crisis pregnancy centers to truth-in-advertising standards, and Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) introduced a similar bill the next year. Congress could broaden such legislation to ensure
that adoption agencies and maternity homes also cannot engage in deceptive practices."
YET...the author believes "the Preventing Unintended Pregnancies, Reducing the Need for Abortion, and Supporting Parents Act, introduced by Reps. Tim Ryan (D-OH) and Rosa DeLauro (D-CT). This proposed bill contained a provision that would provide grants to establish national information campaigns to educate the public about adoption. Such campaigns would promote accurate and
positive information about adoption and its potential benefits for all involved."  REALLY?   How is promoting the potential benefits of adoption, without likewise explaining the possible pitfalls, impartial?
While overall the report fails to go far enough, there are some out and out errors, such as: 
  • "Closed adoption may raise a question of access to birth records" as opposed to open adoptions. ALL adoptions begin with a falsified birth certificate and open contact agreements have nothing to do with the fact that in 44 of 50 states adoptees are denied access to their original birth certificates.
  • "Twenty-one states had established “mutual consent registries” as of 2000 that attempt to balance the interests of birth parents who have been guaranteed confidentiality with adoptees’ rights to obtain their birth information."  This unfortunate wording validates the totally unproven and unproveable lies of the NCFA that any promises of confidentiality (other than assumption of confidentiality from PUBLIC scrutiny) were made to any of us.
What a shame that researchers such as this do not attempt to avail themselves of the wealth of hindsight available from organizations and authors that represent those of us who have lived with adoption in our lives and have hindsight to offer. The paper includes suggestions for time limits for relinquishment and revocation without even utilizing the fine research and conclusions of Elizabeth Samuels' Time to Decide. Those lackings alone, detract from its attempt at neutrality, not to mention a disregard for the research on  the lifelong negative effects on mothers who relinquish, some of which is included in my presentation: The Universality Grief of Mothers Who Relinquish.

If the report itself lacks that level of impartiality, how much can be expected in any counseling it suggests be provided to mothers considering their options, when there is no admonition that such counseling be provided by an impartial party who is not funded by an adoption agency businesses whose livelihood depends on placements.

But then, the name says it. The report endeavors to maintain (or even increase) adoption as an option. But why?  If the real issue is women's choices, why not leave them to make them as they are?

Instead the author seems concerned over the Guttmacher Institute estimates of unintended pregnancy outcomes, giving them in full view via a pie chart to illustrate dramatically how miniscule a slice of the pie adoption represents: 
  • 1.4 million women choose to keep the child
  • 1.2 million women choose abortion
  • 14,000 women choose adoption
But unanswered in the 30 page report is why this is of concern. If the perecnt of married people choosing diovrce decreased, would this be an issue of concern, or reason for optimism?  As numbvers of smokers decline, do we not see this as a move twoard greater health? Is it not an issue of cocnern only for the tobacco industry?

Yet the report talks about a need to "de-stigmatize" adoption without presenting any evidence that it is sitgmatized or that women are unaware of it as an option - and without any reason that it should be encouraged.

Read it and let's discuss it...


1 comment:

Von said...

One small point.Adoption often starts with a pregnancy that is wanted but the relationship is doomed to fail and adoption is the result.

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