Is Family Preservation a Euphemism for Anti-Adoption?
By Mirah Riben
"Open adoption and open records are important byways. But they are not the most compelling route. Family preservation is." Dr. Randolph Severson, The Soul of Family Preservation, 1996
What is family preservation?
Family Preservation is a recognized part of social service practice and is defined by Child Welfare Information Gateway here: https://www.childwelfare.gov/topics/supporting/preservation/?hasBeenRedirected=1
A similar, albeit more long-term definition is provided by the National Family Preservation Network: “to keep families together and prevent unnecessary out-of-home placement of children.” http://www.nfpn.org/about-nfpn
Support of family preservation can be traced back to the negative reaction to the 'orphan train movement.' The term dates back to the 1890s, and in the 1909 White House Conference on Children it was the top ranked issue. For more, see Wikipdia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Family_preservation Many states offer family preservation programs that can be found by googling the term.
These views and positions are no more radical or idealistic than those of The United Nations, UNICEF, The UN CRC, The Hague Convention on International Adoption, and Save the Children - all of which call for family preservation first, then kinship care and stranger adoption as a last resort - with international adoption the very last resource after no domestic adoption can be found. They also call for protection of original identity.
Are Family Preservationists Anti-adoption?
Being opposed to adoptions that are corrupt, that traffic children, that involve exploitation or coercion is not being anti-adoption. It’s being anti- those kinds of adoptions. Being opposed to unnecessary relinquishments and recognizing that even when necessary, and even in the most loving adoption - there is a tragic separation, loss and pain at the root is not being anti-adoption.
Labelling Family Preservationists “anti-adoption” is pejorative and dismissive just as pro-choice advocates are opposed to being labeled anti-life or pro-abortion. To be labelled anti-adoption suggests a false and absurd extremism that one supports any and every mother keeping a child - no matter how dangerous that might be for the child....a position not held by even the most extreme anti-adoptionists.
Does Family Preservation mean that every natural mother should keep her baby?
No. No mother should be forced or coerced to parent any more than she should coerced or subtly pressured not to parent her own child. Mothers - after giving birth and seeing and hold their babies - deserve impartial option counseling that honestly tells them all the risks to them and their child of separation and the resources to be able to make an informed choice.
Some women who give birth are unable to provide safe care and some simply do not want to.
Mothers in crisis, however, deserve all the resources they need to keep their families intact because it is in every child's best interest – and preference - to be blood related to the family that raises them and most people would not simply trade off all kin connectedness for better or more material advantages.
How do we care for children when parents cannot?
Adoption, as it currently practiced, beginning with a falsified birth certificate that eradicates a child’s past, his origins, his heritage and replacing it with a lie – is not the only option to care for children in need.
Putting the needs of the child first, before those vying for a child, the first option is to seek extended family who might be able and willing to provide safe care.
If that option is tried and exhausted and stranger care is the next step, Permanent Legal Guardianship PLG can provide all a child in need requires with none of the lies of adoption.
Permanent legal guardianship (PLG) is the way adoption was always practiced up until the 1930's when adoptions began to become secretive and records sealed and falsified to protect the baby brokers like Georgia Tann and their paid clientele.
PLG gives caretakers all legal rights for their child's education and medical needs. The need to change a child's name is not necessary to provide care for a child, and never was prior to 1930's. Children are often raised by aunts or grandparents - or in step families - or by married parents with different surnames. With such a high rate of divorce today, there is no stigma to it. Physical and legal custody resides with the guardian and cannot be changed except by a judge and under highly unusual circumstances such as the death of the guardian or the abuse or abandonment of the child by the guardian. In that case, PLG would leave the door open for the original parent to step in, if able to - something not possible under current adoption laws that permanently relinquish all rights of the original parent. In PLG they would be forever in the background as a non-custodial parent in a divorce who generally have liberal visitation rights.
Prospective "adopters" who find this not in their liking do not have to, as there are hundreds of parents vying for each child in need.
Alternative child care is about what is about finding homes and families for orphans and children in need of safe care - it is not the last step in reproductive "rights." Children need and deserve caretakers who want what is in their best interest not to have them as possessions or replacements or pretense for a biological child.
Wouldn’t making adoption ethical resolve all issues and allow it to proceed safely rather than abolishing it?
The word ethical is totally subjective. Unless we establish clear - enforceable - ethical guidelines, it means nothing more than "nice." Even the most unscrupulous baby brokers - such as Seymour Kurtz and Dr. Michael Bergman who procured two babies for the notorious Joel Steinberg – each received a slap on the wrist.
What is ethical about domestic adoption agencies taking women out of state, enmeshing them with prospective adopters and making them feel indebted emotionally as well as financially for expenses paid for the room, board and medical costs? What is ethical about predatory practices such as prospective adopters in the delivery room denying the mother any bonding tome at all? What is ethical about providing one attorney to represent both parties - something that would never be done in real estate transaction but is done in very child adoption.
What is ethical about US adoption agencies accepting children who have been trafficked kidnapped, stolen and papers forged?
What is ethical about placing children with pedophiles and others who abuse or kill them, simple because they can afford to pay the brokers' fees?
What is ethical about exporting US children out of the country while we import kids by the thousands?
What is ethical about falsifying birth records?
There is no way to hold private businesses to ethical standards that cut into their bottom line in a country that glorifies and encourages free enterprise and capitalism...and encourages adoption with tax and other benefits yet has NO family preservation programs or budget whatsoever. Who will establish and enforce regulations?