Friday, May 25, 2007

A (Long Overdue) Time for Sweeping Change

I feel like an archaeologist having just unearthed proof that sane life existed and was somehow forgotten...

The following is from a pamphlet/brochure published by CUB in 1991.

Where/why did we go so far astray in the years since then, to the point that "activism" and "family preservation" are at best, just words with no effort behind them whatsoever? Mirah

by Annette Baran and Reuben Pannor

We have been avid supporters of CUB and its objectives. We believe, now, that it is time to move beyond and address basic issues. Otherwise we remain an instrument in perpetuating the problems. Each year that we delay, thousands of new adoptees, adoptive parents and birthparents join the long list of the afflicted.

What have we, in the adoption reform movement and in the practice of adoption, really been doing during the last two decades? It seems to us that, if we take off our blinders, we must admit that we have been co-opted in supporting a system that causes pain and lifelong suffering to all the parties involved. A study of conference programs, the adoption literature, and the media attention to adoption clearly points up the direction we have taken. We are all involved in patching up and maintaining a flawed institution. We talk about and offer so-called solutions to adoptees, birthparents and adoptive parents. We try to help them live within the system today as well as tomorrow. Let us now recognize and acknowledge our own vested interest in perpetuating this system.

The time has come to utilize our knowledge and experience with the past and present to forge a totally new direction for the future. We offer the following issues for critical consideration. Relinquishment of children to a new set of parents, as a final, irrevocable act, severing all rights of the birthparents, must be discontinued.

Open adoption, which we helped pioneer, is not a solution to the problems inherent in adoption. Without legal sanction, open adoption is an unenforceable agreement at the whim of the adoptive parents. Instead, we propose a form of guardianship adoption that we believe would be in the best interests of all concerned, with special benefits for the adoptee for it would decrease the abandonment/rejection issue and permit the child to know the birthparents as real people who cared about him but could not raise him.

We have always maintained that adoptive placement is the last resort, to be considered only when all other options have been thoroughly explored. However, our practice has never reflected this concept. Indeed we are now embarked on a world of "How to" books, videotapes, and seminars, to teach couples methods and ruses of locating and convincing pregnant women to give up their babies. We are a heavy presence in the high school classroom, and the advertising columns luring vulnerable and economically deprived pregnant teenagers. In fact in the California legislature a bill was recently introduced to fund recruitment teams who would present the virtues of adoption in the public schools. What have we done to underwrite and support keeping babies and helping the family stay together?

Where in the world of adoption reform have we heard any emphasis on prevention and education and contraception? Knowing the agony and lifelong pain that result from an unplanned pregnancy and subsequent relinquishment, why have we not made prevention a major issue? Why is the United States the leader of the western world in teenage pregnancies? This issue has been clouded by religious dogma and politicized to obscure the real problems.

The struggle to open records and address the wrongs of the past must continue. However, simultaneously and with equal emphasis, we must begin to look at the future and address the need for sweeping change. Change that radically reduces unplanned pregnancies; change that makes it possible for babies to remain with their birth or extended families; change that institutes a different system for the birthparents who must place their babies, a system that legally permits on-going connection with the child. We further recognize the need to replace the traditional relinquishment arrangement with other kinds of placements, that permit and encourage children to experience secure nurturing and rearing, while retaining their natural birth relationships.

Do we have the courage to address the issues that will truly eliminate the problems we have struggled with for so many years?

by Jean Paton

There is really no need for society to be torn to pieces by the needs of a few orphans, is there? Why should it seem necessary to reinvent the family as the basis of social life in order to place orphans in houses rather than orphanages? That is about the silliest thing that could have happened.

At first, orphans were placed in homes either as temporary help, under the provisions of indenture, or under chattel mortgages, the same as were used in the exchange of fleshy animals. This seemed inappropriate, and adoption became instituted under state laws, although it had been used in many countries and in ancient times under more or less traditional usages.

That is, in the United States we devised adoption to take care of little ones who had lost their parents, either by death or by dire poverty. We did not at that time separate babies from their mothers merely because they were born out of wedlock. These were usually sent together out into the cruel world, mother and child. Or if she could not cope, there were always the foundling home where babies would not live long.

So far, so good. When twenty-one years were up, the legal age of young people then, the parties to adoption were released to regular social life, anybody could know their names, and locate their kindred, who often did not move that far away. True, the orphan had to grow up without much knowledge of his past, but he usually knew that he had one, and was free to reconstitute it, to a degree.

Now that we have experienced adoption under the sealed record syndrome, we know that it is not a satisfactory arrangement. We know that guardianship is far more appropriate to the needs of all parties than what we have been using. So it is time to put it in place.

We also begin to see that the definition of family as applying to any set whatsoever of adults and children is not appropriate. What the family is, and always has been, is something quite distinctive. It combines ancestry, kinship, procreation-nurture and heredity. A child who grows up in such a climate, with the reality of all these things, is very much advantaged over children who grow up otherwise. What adopted people now struggle with is not so much the sealed record, as with all that is placed behind it, and denied him, from his earliest years throughout his life, until he may be able to reach behind the seal and recover pieces of what he has lost.

Children who lose their original parents will always exist. But they need not only some reconstitution of their original family, but also a society which does not give imaginative, unreal and inadequate definitions of what a family is. If society can remain intact in its values, and if children taken from families can have portions of these families early in their lives, then both the orphan and the person raised in his birth family can communicate with each other.

As it is, the adopted person hardly knows how to speak to society, he knows he does not belong to society in a.ny of its usual definitions. He feels deeply cheated and he is right. Perhaps this matters more than the fact that society has been cheated, but of that I am not certain. I think we have all lost a great deal through the sealed adoption experiment. A transition directly from orphanage to guardianship would have spared our culture a great deal of human suffering and a lot of social confusion.



Anonymous said...


I would like to know why Pannor and Baran are just coming to this conclusion NOW after all didn't they spend their lifetime building families? I am glad they seem to understand the pain now but think of all of those that suffered because of the closed adoption experiment.These were lives, real people who were cruelly punished for an act of love, and were given a lifetime sentence of pain, in return for having to put their baby up for adoption, because we were young, unmarried, and unmanned!

Anonymous said...

retrying my post

Aren't Pannor and Baran both social
workers from the Baby Scoop Era? I have seen them at a Cub function, and at organized protests, are they changing their beliefs on adoption?

AdoptAuthor said...

Reuben Pannor and Annette Baran are social workers from the baby scoop era. They have been on the forefront of admitting the wrong thinking of their training as social worker and pf the practices at the time, and have worked tirelessly all these many decades to change those wrongs, since the publication of The Adoption Triangle.


The were scorned for their outspokenness as was Carole Anderson, a MOTHER who went even further...a woman far ahead of her times. This is what often happens to those who are to ahead of their times:

All truth passes through three stages: First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident. ~ Schoepenhauer

Let us just hope the time has come at least for these truths to be self-evident!

AdoptAuthor said...

...and the worst is that today, in 2007, I and others are still beign stoned as "too radical" or as open=adoption [birth] mother Heather Lowe said recently on her blog:
"I don’t like extreme points of view"...referred my "inflammatory tone" in my other writing...and "Riben's ultimate conclusion (that guardianship should replace all adoption) is not something I can really get behind" (edited out bu in the original review as you can see from the comments.)

Likewise, Mary Anne Cohen who gave my book a very positive review on Amazon, also disagreed with the conclusion.

Most within the so-called adoption "reform" movement prefer to play it safe and no "offend" or be too radical. This is why it has accomplished little to nothing.

Radical points of view are essential in all movements for social change, if for no other reason but to get the midground passed as a comprise!

We who know we are right can no longer allow others to silence us!

Anonymous said...


We have to make it known by being radical that the way they took our babies was and is wrong.

I have met Pannor and he saw Baran at the Barbara Walter special where they picked a couple to adopt a young girls baby ON tv. I was there and heard neither one speak out, hold a sign, etc. They need to speak out more if they think that they as well as others are wrong. I think they would be listened to more than mothers or adoptees as our pain is important.

Anonymous said...


Tried to type in blog addy and it did not come up, is the addy correct?

Anonymous said...

"Radical points of view are essential in all movements for social change, if for no other reason but to get the midground passed as a comprise!"

I agree with you 100%, Mirah. Without people reaching towards a distant goal, society will not move in that direction. And society moves very slowly, especially on social policy issues and anything dealing with addressing the needs/rights of any "underclass." Look how long feminism has been at it -- since the suffragette movement -- and there is still systemic discrimination against women. But if it were not for "radicals," womens' rights would not have improved at all.

There are parallels.

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