Friday, May 4, 2012

Mothers Day: A Time of Loss and Sorrow for Mothers and Their Children Separated by Adoption

As Mothers Day quickly approaches a young mother in Columbus, Georgia  has gone public with the search for her daughter she relinquished to adoption in 1984.  Dove Founz discovered she was pregnant at 18 while already the sole care giver for her mother who was undergoing chemo therapy for cancer. Dove says:
"Love was not the issue. I loved her the second I knew she was there. I loved her the whole time she grew in my tummy.  Because I loved her so much I had to give her a better life. I had to give her a chance.  She deserved it." 
Her story is beautifully told and for once with all the empathy and compassion focused on the mother for whom adoption is not a joy, not an answer to years of prayers and a celebration....but a lifelong loss and eternal pain and heartbreak.

I look at everything adoption through eyes and ears that have seen, heard and shared this pain with hundreds and hundreds over the course more than 40 years. For more than 50 years - since adoptions became secretive, records sealed, and birth certificates falsified by states to maintain the secrets...adoptees such as Jean Paton and Florence fisher have spoken out seeking their rights and equality.

In the late 70's they were joined by Lee Campbell standing up and becoming the first public face for mothers who lost children to adoption. Campbell founded Concerned United Birthparents. I was there at some of the earliest meetings.  Annette Baran, who once followed the dictates of her chosen profession - social work - and helped separate mothers and babies, became a whistle blower for the industry and called for changes, calling mothers who relinquished the silent, voiceless, marginalized members of the adoption process.  Annette and Campbell led the battle and soon others of us followed...

I was among the first group of mothers who followed Lee in going public. I did TV shows in the 80s saying: This is what a mother who looses a child to adoption looks like. We are mothers, school teachers, housewives, doctors and layers. We are your sisters, your mothers, your wives. We are not whores and drug addicts. We LOVE our children and were forced by our parents or pressured by societal norms that deemed us "too young" and undeserving for being "unwed."

And here we are all these decades later and this mother, Dove, was not "allowed" to hold her own child at the time of birth, before signing any relinquishment papers! Whisked away by a doctor.

Dove's local newspaper covered her story with empathy and compassion for her and her loss without the need to "balance" it. This is a oddity in a world in which so much press and public sympathy is cast upon the "plight" of these who struggle with infertility and then the "agony" of the long and expensive adoption process - as if they are so "deserving" of a child and so "entitled" to one, it should just be handed to them, and we should all feel sorry for them that it is not so easy...  As if adoption is all about meeting THEIR needs!! And a great deal of publicity is likewise focused on the joys of celebrities who adopt with never a mention of those for whom their gain is a horrific, life-altering, heart-wrenching, grievous, tragic loss. Such falsely one dimensional media coverage repeats over and over a message to the public of the joyous side of adoption, ignoring the pain and loss.

I am thus glad that as Mothers Day is quickly approaching this one story has been published that refocuses the public's compassion for those for whom adoption represents a tragedy, a lifelong loss and eternal pain. Far too often that a side of the story is still swept under the carpets as adoption is applauded, promoted, encouraged and celebrated as win-win when it very much a win-LOOSE.

Even in the happiest. most loving and caring of adoptions, the adopted person LOOSES their identity, their original birth records, their name, their family, their lineage, their heritage, their medical history, their genealogy, and in some cases their culture and language. They loose their TRUTH and they loose the right to be treated as equal US citizens - forever denied (in most all states) access to their own birth certificate that is hidden from them, having been confiscated by the state and replaced with a falsified state document claiming they were "born to" those who adopt and care for them.

My eyes and ears have seen and heard some progress over the past 40+ some odd years. A scattering of states have begrudgingly given back some crumbs to those who are adopted. In the majority of states that have given adopted persons any rights at all, they are still far less than equal, having hoops to jump through to obtain their own birth certificate - hoops that do not exist for those not adopted.

I've also witnessed Open Adoption become a viable option for a small percent of domestic infant adoptions - a small percent of adoptions to begin with.  Openness is given lots of lip service as the way adoption 'should' be.  It was a forced conclusion as with so many international and inter-racial adoptions its pretty hard to keep them secret anymore and pretend the child was 'born to' their adoptive parents. And yet, the "as if" pretense still exist in all but two states which never sealed the original records in adoptions to begin with: Kansas and Alaska. Openness is how it should be - everyone knows that, everyone says that -and yet every adoption (with the exception of those two lone states) every adoption to this day still begins with a falsified birth certificate denying the truth of adopted person's creation.

And, at the same time baby steps of progress are being made to restore adoptee right...children are being stolen and kidnapped worldwide to meet a demand.  Now that single motherhood is acceptable (for those who can afford private nannies etc.) and birth control is more readily available than it was in past decades....far less American mothers can be pressured top part with their babies. The supply has dwindled as infertility steadily rises with more women delaying childbirth for graduate school and careers. This increased demand coupled with decrease supply has created the perfect storm for unscrupulous bay brokers and child traffickers to operate within an industry with virtually no controls!

Adopters open admit and document (as in the documentary Wo Ai Ni (I Love You) Mommy) to paying bribes with o consequence whatsoever. She counts out the cash in the film and comments that some might think it wrong but "it's how things are done." And that's that. No shame. No guilt. No fear of recriminations by having that filmed and shown all over the world - she glibly pays off whomever needs to be paid off in order to whisk her new 'daughter' home to America! She has bought herself what she wanted and is happy and proud and the world applauds this as altruism, turning a blind eye to the exploitation and corruption her US dollars have supported.

The book Finding Fernanda likewise documents adopters and those hoping to adopt blatantly choosing to ignore "irregularities" like seeing the same child's photo with different names, or different names on the same photo of a child being "offered" for adoption. They hold their tongues and report no such obvious red flashing lights for fear of being black-balled and never obtaining the prize they so desperately seek.

We read about missionaries swooping in on places like Haiti and in their over zealous religious fury not carting if the children they are grabbing for redistribution in the US are actually orphans or have family who are searching the rubble for them.

And still the public is able to ignore all of this - call them 'anomolies' and remain focused on the joy adoption brings and how it 'rescues' children in need - while more than 100,000 children in US foster who COULD be adopted are IGNORED as too old, or 'too dmamaged' as if any child being taken from the only language they've heard since their conception and in an orphanage for any length of time is not equally "damaged." Ad out government supports all such adoption equally with the same tax benefits - benefits that were created originally to serve ONLY 'special needs' children in US foster care that now are used instead to supply more "appealing" to those with the money to pick and choose.

With nary a thought of the mothers and families left the same impoverished conditions...having still more babies, still lacking proper pre-natal care, proper nutrition and medical supplies. Still without schools. While wealthy Americans and Europeans pay $40k and more per child. And all of this is labeled noble and charitable, despite the pleas of the UN, UNICEF and other NGOs on the ground who plead for the money to be better spent to help these people instead of exploiting them to meet a demand.

This Mothers Day let us hold in our hearts all the mothers who have needlessly lost their children to corruption and poverty and social pressure. All the children unnecessarily torn from their loving arms.  And let us reach out and help mothers and families in need her and abroad.


Robin said...

I agree with you that this article was helpful in that it focused on the mother's pain rather than the APs gain. However, I felt it gave too much credence to the idea that even though relinquishing a child is painful, adoption is still a positive thing because it will give the child a 'better' life.

Mirah Riben said...

Absolutely agree! And am thus very glad you brought that up. Yes, wouldn't it have been great if she could have said she REGRETS having had to loose her daughter!

Of course she has no idea if it was "best" or "better" or not since she has not found her daughter to know what 'other" life she got - where the spin of the wheel or toss of the dice landed her after the hand she was dealt was reshuffled - cause that's all adoption is, folks!!

Anonymous said...

i hate it when people say adoption means better life,its crap shoot at its best,because sometimes it turn to be worse.

Jess said...

Regarding the Wo Ai Ni (I Love You) Mommy incident with the PAP counting out the cash. I just want to clear up something, though you may not find my response significant.

It's not *exactly* a bribe. In the context of int'l adoption, We might expect a bribe to be cash to pay off an orphanage worker or a judge or something like that. The cash you take to China is an official part of the adoption process, fully transparent, with the support of the PRC and your own gov't. Officially, it's a compulsory "orphanage donation," (yes, the verbiage is squicky). The requirement is that the money be brought in clean, undamaged, US bills. Since my trip, the amount has gone from 3K - 7K.

I am not defending the cash at all, and it is the source of corruption in the adoption process, absolutely. But it has also gone to fund the social welfare institute system in China, generally improving the state of orphanage care, including for children with special needs, and care for the elderly.

One can argue, of course, that this doesn't excuse the system and that China had the money to revamp the SWI system. But it chose not to, and chose instead to make PAPs pay.

In some ways, Mirah, a bribe would be less contentious. The cash in the China system has done more than pay off individuals: it has corrupted the system entirely so that even in the face of dwindling numbers of children, the machine just keeps running.

Thanks for letting me blather.

Mirah Riben said...

Thank you for that "explanation" of "squicky" verbiage.

Adoption is a shell game with smoke and mirrors to confound truths and gloss over injustices, "irregularities" and down right corruption. Lies, lies and more lies until the truth itself is too corrupted to unravel...just like the origins of the children being passed off as abandoned or orphaned.

Bottom line: You can choose to be part of the problem or part of the solution. FAR too few stand up and refuse to participate in the corruption. PAPS are not "made" to pay - they CHOOSE to pay! And it is known that they will pay ANYTHING in any way to get what they want - and that is the core of the problem. That willingness to pay CREATES the trafficking and the corruption; the exploitation, the coercion, the deceit, the kidnapping....

Too many see "dwindling numbers of children" as a problem. As long as the demand persists, and the number of children truly needing adoption 'dwindle" or are simply ignored because of their special needs, the kidnapping and trafficking will persist.

In Guatemala, we were told that narco traffickers switched to baby trafficking because it was more lucrative and there was far less likelihood of being apprehended.

Stateside, adoption agencies and facilitators whose livelihood depends on redistributing children will of course assure customers that it is all legit! Read Finding Fernanda. Not only did she insist it was all perfectly legal, she would make those doubting her sincerity feel ashamed and not good christians, like she herself claimed to be! When up is down and black is white how can anyone what is real or legal?

We do know that money corrupts and most especially clean, crisp unmarked cash currency! If it were all legit why can't a 'donation' be made by check or in any way that is traceable?

If it smells like a rotten rat...and looks like a rotten rat...

Jess said...

Yes, you can choose not to adopt from there or anywhere and it looks like many people have heeded that advice. Int'l adoptions are down something like 45%?

"If it were all legit why can't a 'donation' be made by check or in any way that is traceable?"

Well, first off, if China says "cash only, madam" you say how much and when. Second, I had the same question when I returned. Foolishly I thought that graft was the only issue and supposed that they were not making improvements to the SWI system as promised. However, it looks as though they did use the money to improve the system and there was some graft (cars, that kind of stuff), but most important, the donation for each child created a kind of ponzi scheme in which middlemen would receive a small percentage of the funds to entice, bribe, or otherwise coax children away from parents so that a supply of children--each valued at $3000 - $7000, depending on the time frame--would be somewhat assured, and yet everyone knew that there would never be enough children to meet the demand of adopters.

Mirah Riben said...

Jess, Again I am very appreciative of your honesty ins sharing this.

Comment and two questions:

You said: "if China says "cash only, madam" you say how much and when." But anyone COULD say NO and walk away. It's a CHOICE.

1. How did you feel upon learning that the money was used to coerce, exploit and pressure mothers, often using deceit, out of their children to provide babies for others?

2. Do you have a blog? You are knowledgeable and sound like someone who is active in the adoption community.

Mirah Riben said...

And to clarify, I know full well that you are asked to pay in cash. What I was suggesting by saying "why not a check?" is that this is a question that HAS to occur to every pap the minute they are told that a cash "donation"/bribe is required.

And while they may be officially told this at a point when they have too much invested emotionally and financially to simply stop the it not true that the majority if not all who go this route are on email lists with others going through it and who have gone through it and KNOW that they will be asker for this cash 'donation" long before they are asked for it? Lists similar to GuatAdopt.

Thus, would not there be time to say: This is wrong! I will not be part of the this corruption!? Or does the LUSTING for a child just turn one into a junkie who wants what he wants no matter the consequence; blinding you to the ugly reality staring you in the face? And then how do you feel about yourself afterward? Just a tad dirty or guilty?

Anonymous said...

I have to wonder sometimes about the First Moms and how many of them really just want to move on and forget. I found the First Mom of my two kids on FB. I didn't feel comfortable contacting her, so I found the mom of her new boyfriend and contacted her. I told her that the First Mom was welcome to look on my page and see the pics I had posted of the two kids. Later, I contacted the mom of her new boyfriend and offered to mail school pics. To make a long story short, I never even got a reply! The First Mom has found this new man and has a baby by him and is expectine another one. It was out mutual daughter's B. Day yesterday and I checked her FB page ant there was no mention of anything by her @ all. With Mother's day coming I have to wonder how many First Moms out there really have just moved on and don't want to be reminded.

Mirah Riben said...

You raise some interesting points.

First, let me say that each of us are individuals and deal with our losses differently. Mothers who lost children to adoption can no more generalized or described with one brush stroke than all Americans, or all Catholics or whatever.

Some of us are active in finding our children or have been grateful to have been found by them. Some of us remain active in reforming adoption. Others - especially depending upon how long it's been since the placement - are in different stages of denial. Decades ago, mothers were strictly instructed never to tell anyone, to keep it a secret, even to the man you marry! Nuns and other members of the clergy, social workers, and our parents told us we had shamed ourselves and our families and we must keep it a secret forever. Some mothers are more complacent and compliant and have followed this dictate. Some are afraid now to reveal the truth - fearing their husband's disapproval of them, still feeling like they did something shameful.

Their denial in some cases is conscious and in other cases totally unconscious to the point of allowing a Mother's Day or their child's birthday to pass without seemingly noticing it. Such mothers should not be judged as uncaring, but rather victims of a serious trauma that caused serious denial - not unlike some victims of childhood sexual abuse who need to keep those memories locked away in deep denial for fear that if they allowed to think about it, they would not survive.

And, yes, then there are mothers who simply do not care or have taken too many drugs or had too many kids to even remember. This is a reality, just as there are evil adoptive parents who beat, abuse and even kill the children entrusted to them.

In your particular case, however, you complicated things and muddied the situation by using an intermediary. ***You have no way of knowing if your child's first mother ever got the message from her "new boyfriend's mother." ***

For one thing, you "outed" a mother who may have not told people such as a possible future mother-in-law. Did you even consider that? I cannot imagine how you thought that a proper and good way to approach her.

For another that woman may have decided that this child - which she may not have known existed - represented an interference between her son and his fiance. After all, it's not HIS child! So, as I said, you have no way of knowing is he passed on your message.

I think you unintentionally went about this poorly and can never know how your child's first mother feels until you yourself - or your child - contact her directly. I hope you do and hope you do so with an upfront apology about the circuitous route you initially took to contact her.

Anonymous said...

I was VERY careful about the way that I went about it. I called the future MIL and asked her how many children this mother had and she told me that there were 3, but she only had one. It was only then that I said anything about the situation. If the future MIL had said that she only had one child, BELIEVE ME! I wouldn't have said anything. She was a very bad drug addict and prostitute who cleaned up her act and I think that she wants to put this behind her. Also, on her FB page, she has them listed as her children, but has their ages wrong. Our mutual son is almost 7 and she has him listed as being 5. I always SWORE that I would have nothing but an open adoption and I'm more than willing to do my part. I don't feel comfortable contacting her directly and I since her parental rights were terminated, I don't think I should for legal reasons.

Jess said...

Mirah--it's me, "Jess". O Solo Mama. Adoptoraptor extraordinaire. I ripped my blog down.

Yeah, I know more than I want to.

"1. How did you feel upon learning that the money was used to coerce, exploit and pressure mothers, often using deceit, out of their children to provide babies for others?"

It was a slow process. I know there are bloggers out there who "could have told me," as they proudly proclaim, but the fact is, they are as ignorant about the machninations of the China system as I was and as most of us still are (relatively speaking). There is zero transparency in the China system, so as soon as you think you understand it, there are new and unsavory things to consider. I recommend that any PAP start with and also maybe subscribe to the non-public blog.

Anger, sadness, foolishness, and a sense of betrayal are some of the emotions you experience. I think that about covers it. All that stands in tremendous contrast to the joy of my daughter . . . the forever bittersweetness, right?

What can I say. I continue to search for her parents. I recently found her foster parents.

It's important for each int'l a-parent to face the calamitous truths about his or her own adoption situation (unless they know otherwise) and yes, it's important for PAPs to turn around and walk away if the red light is blinking.

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