Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Evan B. Donaldson Institute: More Protection Needed For Mothers

The Evan B. Donaldson Institute, in observation of what some have called National Adoption BewareNess Month has published a White Paper titled "Safeguarding The Rights And Well-Being Of Birthparents In The Adoption Process."

This White Paper was immediately picked up by The New York Times and MSNBC.

A nugget from the Donaldson paper:

Research on birthparents in the era of confidential (closed) adoptions suggests a significant proportion struggled - and sometimes continue to struggle - with chronic, unresolved grief. The primary factor bringing peace of mind is knowledge about their children's well-being.

The Donaldson White Paper is a sea change for the reason that it publicly acknowledges what has been known privately for decades:

The body of literature and research on women who relinquished their children when adoption was a highly surreptitious, stigmatized process demonstrates the ongoing, negative impact of their experiences on many areas of their lives, particularly by causing chronic grief, difficulties in intimate relationships, and/or complications in the parenting of subsequent children.

Women (like this writer) whose parental rights were contravened by adoption agencies between 1945 - 1972 (also called the Baby Scoop Era) have lived for decades with the results outlined above. Although it is my opinion that the report does not go far enough in stating the sequelae, which can include a PTSD like condition, severe recurrent depression even to the point of suicidal ideation, secondary infertility, and other ills, I wish to salute the Evan B. Donaldson Institute for finally stating what we and our families have known for decades. Chronic, corrosive and irresolvable grief is the result of forced child loss to adoption. Not only does the woman who loses the child suffer these ills, but her husband and subsequent children are at high risk, as well.

For further documentation in the form of oral histories of women who sustained such losses, please see this 50 minute movie. (WARNING: this is a large .wmv file that will download to your hd.)

The focus of the Donalsdon White Paper is protecting the rights of mothers who may be considering surrendering a child for adoption. This writer surmises the reason for this is the human toll taken on women who lost children to adoption in the past, and whose suffering is outlined in the White Paper..

The Donaldson paper contains 7 recommendations that if implemented would partially correct the flagrant denial of parental rights that were so common during the Baby Scoop Era, and which continue in a more covert form today. The recommendations are not specific enough, in my opinion, and their intent can be easily frustrated by people intent upon securing infants for quick, for-profit adoptions.

Recommendation 3 falls short specificity-wise. It addresses providing two sessions of non directive counseling in order to fully inform a woman of her rights and options regarding her child's future. But is is far too general. It does not specify that the counseling should be done by a neutral third party. It does not specify where the counseling is to take place, or who should pay for it. The tone of such counseling and the conditions under which it may occur can greatly affect the outcome. There are no recommendations as to what will be included. There are also no recommendations on how to enforce such a requirement, nor any outline on possible penalties for failure to comply with the counseling requirement.

Recommendation 4 of the paper specifies a minimum waiting period of one week before surrender documents can be signed. It also recommends longer revocation periods after the documents are signed. The Institute is to be congratulated for recognizing that hurrying a mother who has just given birth, into signing surrender documents, is coercive at best. These women aren't "birth" mothers. They are mothers with full parental rights. They have signed nothing. First time mothers especially may not realize what it is to give birth to a child. Before birth, the child is still an abstraction; after the birth, a living, breathing reality. A new mother needs time to learn what it is she is agreeing to surrender.

That means time alone with her child. Allowing potential adoptive parents into the delivery room and the mother's post partum room should therefore be should be strongly discouraged. Recommendation 4 stops short of specifying a
sheltered, private time alone for mother and baby, without the undue influence of individuals who may wish to raise her baby themselves.

In a related vein, prebirth contact with a couple desperate to adopt a healthy white infant is common in adoption practice today. Such contact between a needy woman and a desperate couple can set up dynamics in which the pregnant woman comes to feel obligated to the couple. Prebirth financial arrangements also can taint the context in which a decision to surrender is made -- or not made.

Protecting parental rights means protecting women from people who would use her neediness as a pathway to gratify their own.

This writer salutes the Donaldson Institute for the groundbreaking aspects of this White Paper, but hopes for more specific guidelines to assure that parental rights are well and truly protected in domestic adoption practice. In the current political climate where a doctor who believes that abstinence is the only way to prevent pregnancy is appointed to the post of Deputy Assistant Secretary for Population Affairs such protections become more critical than ever.

Original draft of the diary crossposted at Daily Kos. Updated version crossposted at Mother Talkers

Saturday, November 18, 2006

"Safeguarding the Rights and Well-Being of *****parents"


AdoptapPundit salutes the Evan B. Donaldson Institute for their courage in publicly stating what has been privately known for decades.

The Evan B. Donaldson Institute has released a study in time for National Adoption BewareNess Month that brought tears to AdoptaPundit's eyes.

"SAFEGUARDING THE RIGHTS AND WELL-BEING OF *****PARENTS IN THE ADOPTION PROCESS" makes a great number of points. Those of us who have worked for a decade or longer to draw attention to our issues will be most interested, perhaps, in these:

Principally because adoption is not well understood by the public generally, most women struggling to make decisions about unplanned pregnancies do not have accurate information with which to make an informed choice about whether this is a reasonable option for them.

Research findings consistently show that women who feel pressured into placing their children suffer from poorer grief resolution and greater negative feelings. Most states do not have laws that maximize sound decision-making, however, such as required counseling, waiting periods of at least several days after childbirth before signing relinquishments, and adequate revocation periods during which birthparents can change their minds.

Research on birthparents in the era of confidential (closed) adoptions suggests a significant proportion struggled - and sometimes continue to struggle - with chronic, unresolved grief. The primary factor bringing peace of mind is knowledge about their children's well-being.

Women who have the highest grief levels are those who placed their children with the understanding that they would have ongoing information, but the arrangement was cut off. Such contact/information is the most important factor in facilitating birthparents' adjustment, but only 13 states have laws to enforce post-adoption contact agreements in infant adoptions.

Salient points:

1) The public does not have accurate information about adoption and therefore women contemplating adoption can not make an informed choice..

2)Women need their own attorney to represent their interest independent of the agency or adoptors.

3) Coercion leads to emotional problems later on; laws need to be put into place that encourage sound decision making. These laws would include proper counseling and adequate revocation periods.

4) We whose children were taken in the BSE still struggle with the emotional aftermath.

5) Women who surrender into open adotions that close suffer the most.

They recommend a great many things, among them:

A parent should have the right:

To make the placement decision in a fully informed manner, devoid of pressure or coercion.

To reconsider an adoption plan at any point prior to the legal finalizing of the relinquishment.

To be informed from the start of any monetary expectations - such as repayment of financial assistance -- if she changes her mind about placement.

To exercise all parental rights she/he wishes prior to placing a child for adoption.

To be treated with dignity, respect, and honesty.

To have independent legal counsel to protect her/his best interests in the process.

To receive nondirective counseling to help her/him understand all of the options and resources available and the implications of the decision.

To be legally assured that promises and agreements made as a part of the process will be adhered to.

Finally, the Evan B.Donaldson Institute recognizes what we have been saying for three decades now:

The Institute also concludes that total secrecy has become rare in current infant adoption practice, and it is considered poor practice for everyone concerned by a growing majority of professionals. So-called closed (or confidential) adoption, in which there is little or no contact or exchange of information, is actually a relatively recent phenomenon that became prevalent in the U.S. by the 1950s. The body of research on birthmothers who relinquished children for adoption in the era of total secrecy chronicles a negative, long-term impact of this experience on many areas of their lives, including triggering chronic, severe grief reactions and contributing to ongoing complications in future parenting and marriage relationships.

What this report lacks is specificity regarding its recommendations. While it quite correctly observes that the public's perceptions about adoption are inaccurate and therefore women can not make an informed choice, it does not address the content of the counseling needed to fully inform a woman about the aftermaths of adoption to both mother and child. It specifies at least two sessions of non directive counseling but does not specify who should do it or what it should contain. This non directive counseling can arguably become an agency tool used to further their economic agenda of obtaining chidren for adoption if misused.

AdoptPundit proposes a third pary counselor situated off site and paid for by the pregnant woman. Each side of this debate -- family preservation vs adoption -- should produce a thirty minute tape advancing their very best arguments. Both tapes should be shown to the woman in question.

Fully informed consent also would include adequate private bonding time for mom and child, so she can expereince first hand what it is she will be surrendering. Informed consent means experiencing motherhood and bonding with the baby without the presence of an adoption nanny, ie, an agency person or adoptor present. Giving birth is a one or two times in a lifetime event whose boundaries should be more than respected. There should never be an agency person or adoptor in the delivery room. The mere presence of an anxious adoptor hovering at the hospital is coercive, and an agency person doubly so. AdoptaPundit recommends banning adoptors and agency persons from the hospital completely, and recommends at least a week of privacy in their own home for mom and baby, before any papers can be signed.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Happy To You!

A friend who knows of and identifies with our sadnesses gave me an article she clipped from the Dallas Morning News this evening. It is a beautiful essay about a 16 year old mom and her mom. It is a happy ending piece for a cold winter's evening in November, National Adoption BewareNess Month. It is with pleasure that I share with you The Dance Of MotherHood

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Even More CyberScreaming about Honest Adoption Language

When will the adoption industry -- and its paid and unpaid t00ls -- get it?

The recent well publicized kerfluffle about the "b" word ( hereafter referred to as "the * word " in this post) is not the latest battle in the War Over Words that has raged for decades over Honest Adoption Language. The adoption industry has invested decades in teaching the public that the women whose children they take for adoption are mere incubators. *moms. Things be to used. Functions. Disposable. UnWomen.

The arguments for honest adoption language, and most specifically, the use of the *word, are clear and convincing.

1) The *word is dehumanizing. It relegates women to the status of objects to be used and discarded.

2) The *word is limiting. It limits our roles in out children's lives to their births. With reunion and the reestablishment of relationships with our children, this is manifestly no longer the case.

3) As one anonymous poster sagely observed elsewhere, the * word is a signal to society at large that the *mom is a woman whose boundaries can be crossed in ways that are wholly unacceptable in any other situation.

4) As Sandra Pace observed in "Out Of The Fog", the *word is not a word that many of us chose for ourselves. Like any other member of society, we have the right to name ourselves. The adoption industry does not have the right to name us. "It's our right to say {what we will call ourselves}; it's the job of the rest of society to accede to that right."

As our knowledge of adoption and its aftermaths changes and grows, the language we use to talk about it also changes and grows.

Honest Adoption Language and specifically the use of the words "natural," "first, " or even just plain "mother" to describe ourselves is an idea whose time is NOW.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Love, War, Adoption

Here is the trailer for Love, War, Adoption.

Another Adoption Blog

But this one belongs to us.

There are some ground rules here. Adoption friendly, anti-woman, and anti-mother comments are not welcome here. They will be deleted.

This blog is intended for the use of women who have lost children to adoption, and for families separated by adoption.

Please respect our boundaries.