“Anti-Adoption Advocates”: How Should We Respond?

Now that the election is over, one of the most chilling prospects of the future administration is the president-elect’s determination to sign the “Freedom of Choice Act” (FOCA). The implications of this — both financial and moral — are staggering, for it means our tax dollars may be used to snuff out the lives of millions of children. To be truly pro-life, then, is to seek ways to ensure that the need for abortion is eliminated, as far as we are able to do this.

Adoption gives those in crisis pregnancies an abortion alternative that saves the life of the child and relieves them of the unwanted responsibility of parenthood. Adoption also provides an opportunity for couples to have a child they might otherwise never have, and for the child to have a “forever family” that will love him or her for life.

child.jpgWith foster-adoption, children who have already been born — often to parents with such serious issues that the children may have been better off had the “adoption option” been chosen from the beginning — are given a second chance. Sadly, many of these children — especially those who are part of sibling group, have special needs, or are “older” (four or more) — must wait months and even years for a loving, permanent home. There are simply not enough suitable families willing to open their hearts this way.

The situation would be dire enough … Now grass roots, anti-adoption advocacy groups such as “Bastard Nation” and “Adoption: Legalized Ties” are seeking to discourage adoption, choosing rather to advocate for disgruntled adult adoptees and “natural parents,” including those whose children were taken from them because of abuse and neglect.

Anti-Adoption Advocates: Biased “Truth”

The dynamic of adoption is often described as a “triad,” with 3 sides representing the birth (or first) parents, adoptive parents, and adopted child. By and large, anti-adoption groups have vilified both adoptive parents and the agencies that mediate the placements.

Recently, however, the attack has expanded to birth parents as well: Under the “Unsealed Initiative,” adult adoptees and others are lobbying government agencies in New York and other states (successfully, in Toronto) to release sealed birth records in order to gain access to the identities of birth parents who may not desire contact, and who were promised anonymity upon relinquishment. In the minds of the adult adoptees, the “best interest of the child” trumps all — when in fact the “child” is no longer a child, but an adult whose “right to know” is no more important than the other party’s right to privacy.

This growing trend is even more alarming, given the unabashed pro-abortion stance of the Obama administration. Women in crisis pregnancies who are considering adoption may have second thoughts when faced with the very real possibility that their “past” may come knocking on their door twenty or thirty years hence, disrupting their lives with demands and recriminations. Unless the records are truly sealed with a “suite lock” — one that can be opened only by mutual consent — the real danger is that these “unwanted” children will simply be aborted.

Catholic Anti-Adoption Advocates

Recently I was appalled to discover that these “anti-adoption advocates” are making inroads even in Catholic publications. Last September the National Catholic Register ran this article (accessed through my EMN blog) by self-professed “anti-adoption advocate” Melinda Selmys, who writes about encountering teenage adoptees who were acting out — though the adoptive parents were “kind and loving people.”

Rather than consider the real possibility that the teens had been damaged by circumstances that led up to the adoption, or that adoption may indeed have been their best chance at a bright future, or that these kids were just like others teens who have difficulties making the transition into adulthood, Selmys concludes that the adoption itself was the true source of the problem. She writes:

The child … is not a tabula rasa on which anyone – parents, teachers, social workers, engineers of brave new worlds – can inscribe their glowing hopes for the future. … The child is created in the image and likeness of God, but it is also in the image and likeness of its parents. The people who hope to see evil eradicated from the world through increasing government intervention in the lives of children are going to be sorely disappointed. Children do not inherit their faults and failings merely by watching and imitating mom and dad. They inherit them on a much deeper level.

Healing the Wounded Heart

Now, much of what Ms. Selmys says sounds reasonable. Foster and adoptive parents are well aware that our children have challenges and issues originating with their “first families” — behavioral, mental, emotional, and medical among them. Sometimes it’s genetic. Other times challenges come from the child’s pre-adoptive environment, not a blank slate … a heart wounded by bad choices and negative impulses of broken people.

It is also true that no adoptive environment is “perfect” — just as no parent is perfect. Ideally, children thrive best when they are raised by their natural parents, joined for life in the sacrament of matrimony. Sadly, as a society we have fallen woefully short of this ideal, and the only question that remains is how to mitigate the damage inflicted on innocent young lives.

There are situations in which adoption is truly the best (though not perfect) choice: Children born to young teens (especially those who have neither the inner resources nor long-term support system necessary to parent); children of parents with unresolved substance abuse or domestic violence issues; and children of abusive and neglectful parents. In each of these cases, little wounded hearts heal best when they are no longer in close proximity to the source of the pain. Sadly, this can mean removing children from birth parents voluntarily or (when parents demonstrate neither the willingness nor the inclination to fix their own messes and put the children’s needs first) involuntarily.

Adoption gives children wounded by the choices of their first parents a second chance to heal. Granted, it does not completely shield the child from the consequences of her first parents’ choices. There is no way to shield the child entirely — that is the nature of sin. On the other hand, pressuring unwed teenage mothers (and other at-risk mothers) to keep their babies even when they are demonstrably not capable of parenting produces more difficulties than it resolves — down the line, when adoption is no longer a viable option.

Adoption, the “Pro-Life” Option

The sad reality is that the older the child, the smaller the pool of potential adoptive parents. In the U.S. today, more than 500,000 children are in need of temporary or permanent homes … the vast majority are part of larger sibling groups, special needs, or “older” (age four or more).

Because the pain of adoption is real, the adoption choice represents true self-sacrifice on all sides of the adoption triad: Birth parents put the best interests of the child ahead of their own needs, adoptive parents agree to invest themselves entirely in a young life they did not bring into the world. The child may also suffer in ways they cannot fully understand until they are much older — and may have difficulties accepting even then. And yet, when the choice is literally life and death, this kind of self-sacrifice is the pathway to hope … if we allow it.

Will these mothers come to regret their choice? Undoubtedly there will be times when they will wonder if they could have chosen differently. They may yearn to re-establish contact with that child — and should be able to leave the door open for this, should the child (ideally, with the blessings of the adoptive parent) seek her out. But as with many significant choices in life, once the choice is made we cannot see clearly “the road not taken”; because of the unknown variables that stem from that choice, it is illusory at best. We can only learn from our choices, and move on.

On the other hand, through adoption (even open adoption, in which the birth parents maintain a level of contact after the placement), a child is helped to make the most of their own natural giftings and eradicate the worst of their natural weaknesses. The birth parent is then able to tend to his or her needs without inflicting even greater damage on the innocent. And the adoptive parents are presented with an opportunity to invest their lives in a way that produces rich spiritual fruit in the life of parent and child alike.

In Search of the “Phantom Parent”

Books such as The Adoption Mystique, by anti-adoption advocate Joanne Wolf Small, MSW, remind us that some children never completely recover from the losses of adoption — no matter how much love and attention they are given. The sense of abandonment can run deep, and visions of “real” mom and dad can tantalize even the most outwardly accommodating child — especially those in the throes of adolescence and into young adulthood, when the natural desire to separate from Mom and Dad is most powerful, and the quest for identity strongest.

While the release of some information — such as medical histories — has objective value, and could be released without depriving the first parents of their right to privacy, it is imperative that the concerns of all three sides of the adoption triad be given equal weight. Birth parents have the right to remain anonymous (unless they choose to relinquish that right); adoptive parents have the right to raise their child without undue interference; the adopted child has the right to a safe and nurturing environment. The adult adopted child has the rights of any adult — but not access to the confidential records of other private citizens.

In the section entitled “Anti-Adoption Media Bias,” Ms. Small offers a revealing quote from “The San Francisco Examiner” (1999, February 22):

Anguish is everywhere in the adoption equation …. The birth mother … adoptive parents …. Adopted children haunted by phantom birth parents who, they may feel “abandoned” them – beings … they cannot know. Phantom limbs on the family tree (par 10).

At age eleven, my younger sister experienced phantom pains when her leg was amputated. The nerves at the amputation site, which connected the missing leg to the brain, did not immediately die. And yet, Chris did not let the amputation define her or limit her in any way, and in time these pains diminished. She became first a cheerleader, then a wife and mother. If she had chosen to concentrate on the pain — instead of healing — she would be a very different person today.

I realized just how complete the healing had been when, a few years ago, an over-zealous “street healer” offered to pray for her leg to grow back and she refused. “When I get to heaven, I’m going to get my leg back — and you better believe I’m looking forward to that. But right now, for whatever reason, this is God’s plan for me, and I’m going to accept it. I’m not going to feel sorry for myself — I’m going to live.”

Wise words that can be applied to many situations — including adoption. The “phantom pain” of adoption must be acknowledged — and yet, reunification may not always be possible or even desirable. The adopted child must recognize the reality of the adoption triad; each part of the triangle of birth parent/adoptive parent/adopted child has both rights and responsibilities, some of which cannot be assumed by the child until he or she becomes an adult.

It is in adulthood that many children — adopted and biological alike — discover something essential to their future happiness: Some things in life are chosen for us by the adults in our lives, based on the information at hand, which have both positive and negative repercussions. If we continue to blame our parents for those choices, we remain in a state of “arrested adolescence” and keep ourselves from realizing our God-given potential. This is true of adult children of adoption — and of many other children, too.

We cannot change history; we can only acknowledge and learn from it, grieve our losses, forgive those who have hurt us … and move forward. The loss adopted children experience is real — just as my sister’s loss was real. She had to work through those feelings; the loss was necessary if she was to survive. This is the story of adoption: a story of painful choices made in the present, in order to secure a better — and a living — future.

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  • Claire

    Excellent article, Heidi. As a new adoptive mother, I have been dismayed by some of the anti-adoption literature that I’ve encountered.

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  • mj0719

    Thank you for the wonderful and insightful article, Heidi. I think it points to the fact that has been pointed out to me before, that adoptive parents often have a difficult task in front of them to establish the proper attachment with their child(ren)—but one that reaps great reward! I hope someday to be able to provide a family for children who are hard to place, and I continue to pray that God gives many couples the grace to open their hearts to these little ones.

    To think that people advocate against adoption is unthinkable to me! I have friends who were adopted, who are so thankful their birth parents and their adoptive parents made that choice–to give them a better life, and life in the first place. It’s so sad not everyone can see this truth!

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  • mdiebel

    I am an active member of the Unsealed-Initiative in NY and have advocated for the specific bills in the NY Legislature, in particular S235 and A2277, which would allow an adoptee (18 or over) access to his or her original birth certificate. (These bills also include an contact preference.) We argue that the so-called grant of privacy to the original parent is an erroneous myth. Also, that in most instances the original parent is agreeable to contact or at the least the disclosure of identifying information. Finally, that it should be considered a matter of a human right that everyone have their own histories, not truncated by the state.

    Regards,
    Mark Diebel
    Albany, NY

  • Mary Kochan

    Editor’s Note: In response to feedback received on the original article concerning the narrow scope of the work of Bastard Nation and similar groups, Heidi is working on a follow-up post concerning birth-certificate unsealing/restoration and how it affects those on all sides of the adoption triad. We hope to be able to publish it soon.

  • SharG

    I had been under the impression that birth mothers today do not seek the sealed records that had been routine in the past, because such secrecy of the parties’ identities is no longer the standard in adoption. I placed a child for adoption 23 years ago, at what I’ve come to understand was the very end of the era of such secrecy. I did not meet the adoptive parents or receive more than a very small amount of information about them, but the agency in the intervening years has set up a registry to assist in mutual-consent contact. Considering the changes in adoption practices, is the unsealing of past records really a threat to young women thinking of placing a child today?

  • gadjmljj

    I am very opposed to the records being opened against the wishes of the birth mother. This could indeed have serious consequences on not only the birth mother later in life, but on her future family.
    I know a woman who gave up a child for adoption 27 years ago as a teenager. She would not have considered abortion and God has always given her a peace about her decision to give the child up for adoption.
    She has been happily married now for 25 years and has 8 children. Although her husband knows of the previous situation, they thought it best to never tell their children. They are a very close family, and they believe it would have difficult effects on their children to know the past.
    She even consulted a priest on this matter and he agreed she should keep this quiet.
    Children need role models and I believe our children don’t need to know “everything” about our pasts, especially when it can cause scandal in the family. That’s not to say parents can’t share that they have sinned greviously in the past but details can and I believe should be kept private. Many times when parents have been more open about their past sins, this is used by children to justify bad behavior since “mom or dad seemed to work out okay”. Because children don’t realize until they have fallen and struggled to come back just how hard it is and how our past can leave scars that we will always have to deal with. This may not be everyones belief, but that is why it is important to respect the right of someone to keep a secret.

  • trailblazer

    It seems clear enough to me that all rhetoric aside the purpose of ant-adoption initiiatives under whatever guise (knowingly or unknowingly) is to further the abortion industry by removing one the main legitimate options to abortion.

    The enemy consistently uses half truths and seemingly logical arguments to gain a little ground at a time as part of a plan for a greater victory.

    Michael

  • mamamull

    As an adoptive mom of three children – I have experienced two adoptions with varying degrees of openness. Our first adoption had limited openness, yet we had met the birth parents and could tell our daughter much about them.

    Our second adoption has been fully open with our son’s birth mom and her parents. It has been a wonderful gift to all of us. Recently the birth father has reappeared as much more mature and reasonable man. He is in contact with the birth mom and has seen photos of their/our son. He wants to meet our son and our son, who is 10, is interested, but we are taking it slow.

    Our third adoption was a child who was almost five years old. We have no openness with his birth family. Unfortunately, his birth mom didn’t place him for adoption at birth and he has been abused and neglected. The most stable person in life prior to adoption was his birth grandpa who was a paranoid schizophrenic and non-med compliant. Some chance with stability, eh?

    We were naive and his attachment disorder that wasn’t diagnosed prior to his placement with us has proven to be most difficult for me. Some moms would handle him better, I presume. I keep trying though it is very difficult for me.

    Adoption is a good practice and those who criticize it haven’t really gotten to know the full story on all sides of the adoption triad.

    Under the mercy,
    Denise

  • bethesda1

    Heidi,

    Thank you for mentioning by book “The Adoption Mystique.” For the record:
    (1) I am and have always been pro adoption.
    (2) In Alaska and Kansas adult adopted persons have always had access to their original birth records. The adoption and birth records in those states were never sealed. Still, the abortion rates were lower in AK and KS than for the US as a whole. Moreover, the National Center for Court Statistics reported that the 1992 rate of adoption per thusand live births was 31.2 nationally. It was 53.5 in AK and 48.6 in KS.

    Joanne Wolf Small, MSW

  • romany

    Interesting viewpoints.

    I don’t understand how supporting open adoption is being anti-adoption. Since first parents are the ones SEEKING open adoption – how can open adoption advocates be seen as anti-adoption and pro-abortion?

    As a long-time pro-life resident of Kansas, I don’t understand the supposed connection between access to one’s own original birth certificate and abortion. Perhaps someone can enlighten me. Kansas adoption records were always available to the adult adoptee upon request. Not so in Missouri. Yet, Kansas has a lower abortion rate and a higher adoption rate than Missouri. Should I repeat that?

    When original birth certificates became available in Oregon and New Hampshire – less than 1% of first parents requested “no contact”, the abortion rates actually decreased and the sky didn’t fall. So tell us again why we can’t be trusted to know who our first parents were.

  • http://amyadoptee.blogspot.com amyburt

    Your article is wrong on so many levels. I will show you why. First off, Bastard Nation and Unsealed Initiative are not antiadoption as you stated in your article. In fact, they have stated no opinion on adoption. I know this because I am a former member of Bastard Nation. I suggest you read the links provided to get a more accurate view of what these organizations are really about. They are about adoptee access. As late as the 1940s, adoptees, natural parents and adoptive parents all had access to these documents. They were initially sealed to protect these parties from the public eye.

    Second, I am not an adult adopted child. That in itself is a conundrum. I am forty three years old. I am no longer a child. I am also a Desert Storm veteran. I have fought for your rights in another country. I have fought for these adoption agencies rights as well. They use my tax dollars against me. That is called taxation without representation.

    Third, the original birth certicate is all adoptees are asking for. That does belong to the adoptee because it records their birth. The non adopted do not have to ask permission or approval to get their birth certificates. Why should I? If you read most of the privacy laws in the country, you will see that the non adopted have access to the documents with their names on them. The laws themselves treat adoptees and their families separately under the law. Separate is not equal. It is discrimination.

    Being adoptee rights advocate myself, I am personally not against adoption. In fact, I have worked with an adoption agency here in Texas that promotes openness in adoption. Adoption as it is currently practiced in the United States is promoting corruption, deception and just plain theft to the highest level. Even the adoptive parents are wanting more transparency in adoption. I have researched adoption for three years. You might want to check into the many civil RICO court cases against adoption agencies such as Project Oz and Commonwealth Adoptions International. There are several more as well.

    According to both Oregon and Tennessee court cases which proved, there was no promise to natural parents EVER documented in any adoption case. These natural parents only wanted privacy from public eye. They never wanted it from their child nor the adoptive parents. Please read Family Matters:Secrecy and Disclosure in the History of Adoption by E. Wayne Carp and Elizabeth Samuels article on this same topic. In fact, if these natural parents wanted privacy, how come the records were sealed from them first? The records are sealed at the adoption finalization not at relinquishment. Again read the book and article above. Believe it or not, the Catholic Church protested the sealing of adoption records to adoptees and their natural family. See the Holly memo. In fact, 90% plus natural mothers support adoptee access to their own records according to the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute.

    You are also equating foster care children with domestic infant adoption. Two very separate issues. Foster care is the involuntary relinquishment of a child, usually court ordered. Domestic Infant adoption is voluntary relinquishment of a child. Most natural parents today want their child to have access to their original birth certificate. Many of the Catholic Charities adoptions are only open adoptions. In Oregon, the adoptee access promoted adoption and decreased abortion numbers. Check them yourself. Also check New Hampshire’s statistics below. There have been no issues with either of these states. Kansas and Alaska never sealed their records from the adoptee. They have had no issues what so ever.

    The right to privacy laws in this country is about the right to be free from governmental interference. These laws give the non adopted access to the records with their names on it. Yet adoption is separate. Separate is not equal according to Brown vs. Board of Education. Right to privacy laws have been argued in Roe vs. Wade, Griswold vs. Connecticut, and the Eisenstadt case. It is the right to be free from governmental interference. There is no right to total confidentiality. Its impossible in the world that we live in with internet technology being what it is. Adoptees and their natural parents are finding each other every day without the access. I have done it for two natural mothers, two adoptees, and one adoptive mother.

    These natural parents relinquish their rights. They do not get new ones in the process. The natural parents of this country will tell you that. Most of the mothers in the past did not even get a copy of their relinquishment form. They did not even get a copy of the original birth certificate. In fact today they still don’t but that is dependent on the adoption agency.

    A majority of women who place children for adoption are in their twenties. They are not teenagers. A majority are wanting contact and openness with their child. As long as records are sealed, you will see an increase in abortions. No woman wants to place her child up for adoption and not ever know how their child is. If adoption is so great, which child are you willing to relinquish? Tough question isn’t it? If you read the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute’s report, you will see that this is true in 90% of cases. As far as the cases of rape, for every one case you present, I can present 9 other cases that show that women want contact with their child even through rape.

    Here are New Hampshire’s statistics on adoptee access:

    http://www.sos.nh.gov/vitalrecords/Preadoption%20birth%20records.html#progress

    Here is Oregon’s statistics on adoptee access:

    http://www.oregon.gov/DHS/ph/chs/order/58update.shtml#05312005

    Here is Elizabeth Samuel’s article on sealed records in the United States.

    http://pages.infinit.net/orions/textes_divers/elizabeth_samuels.pdf

    This suggests supporting women in parenting instead of aborting or relinquishing. Its from the Catholic Church.

    http://www.catholicsinalliance.org/files/CACG_Final.pdf

    This was written by Mary Anne Cohen, a natural mother.

    http://adoption.about.com/od/adoptionrights/a/reprorightsissu.htm

    The Holly Memo in the possession of Bastard Nation from Catholic Charities:

    http://www.bastards.org/activism/local/ny/hollymemo.htm

    http://www.unsealedinitiative.org/index.html

    http://www.bastards.org/

    Marley Greiner’s blog, the executive chair of Bastard Nation.

    http://bastardette.blogspot.com/

    The Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute which is run by Adam Pertman who is an adoptive parent.

    http://www.adoptioninstitute.org/publications/2007_11_For_Records.pdf

    http://www.adoptioninstitute.org/publications/2006_11_Birthparent_Study_All.pdf

    Adoption in this country is big business. Its not chump change. Domestic infant adoption is a roughly a three billion dollar business. International adoption is a seven point three billion dollar business. Add foster care into the equation and its another $20 billion dollar business. That money adds up quickly.

    So I ask you to please inform yourself about adoption before you believe the adoption industry hype. My adoptive mother and I were not angry at adoption until I searched. She is just as furious as I am. I am not anti adoption just pro adoption reform for the protection of all of us living adoption.

    Sincerely,
    Amy K. Burt

    owner/moderator of Indiana Open and Coleman Moms and Babes
    author of Adoption and its Triad blog.

  • http://unsignedmasterpiece.wordpress.com unsignedmasterpiece

    This article is a throw back to another age. It contains so many stereotypes about adopted adults and birth parents.

    I say, more in sorrow than in anger, that you do your readers a disservice by publishing things like this.

    If I were to write a post on my blog that said that Catholics were misguided and brain-washed, I don’t think you would be too happy. Ms Hess Saxton has done the equivalent with respect to birth families, adoptees and I suspect some adopted parents.

    It is always a mistake to assume one can extrapolate from the particular and personal to the general and the norm.

    If I did that, based on what I heard about my son’s adoptive experience after we were reunited, I would be making similar derogatory remarks to the ones Ms. Hess Saxton has made, only they would be about adoptive parents.

    You state she is going to write another article, I think she is biased and should perhaps find another subject which she can approach with a little more objectivity.

    Thanks for the opportunity to respond.

  • Mary Kochan

    unsignedmasterpiece and all: I thank all of you for your comments. Heidi Saxton is an adoptive parent. She has shown great willingness to listen and to incorporate new information into another article — which I will be happy to publish. While we are all, writer, editor, and readers, willing to learn here, I take exception to the idea that we shouldn’t have published this article, or that she shouldn’t write another one just because some people are unhappy with the contents of the first. We are Catholic around here, in case you didn’t notice, and we believe in personal growth, learning, the humility to recognize mistakes and the opportunity to make reparation.

    Civil comments that are made with the recognition of Heidi’s good will in this matter and that do not stoop to personal attacks will continue to be welcomed here. But posters to the comboxes aren’t taking over editorial control of this website — thanks anyway.

    Blessings,
    Mary Kochan, Senior Editor, Catholic Exchange

  • http://www.christianword.com Heidi Saxton

    Today at EMN (http://extraordinarymomsnetwork.wordpress.com) I review the book “The Adoption Mystique” by Joanne Wolf Small. I’m glad Ms. Small wrote in to challenge my perspective on her being “anti-adoption,” and want to take this opportunity to apologize to Ms. Small for unfairly associating her with those who are seeking to abolish adoption.

    The issues surrounding adoption are complex, and the perspectives from the different sides of the triad often shout over one another. I should have listened more carefully!

    Although I doubt it hurt her book sales any, there are enough misunderstandings in the world of adoption that I need not add to them. I appreciate her taking the time to comment on my article. (I’m putting this comment on my adoption blog “Mommy Monsters” for those who may not see it here.)

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  • http://www.advocatepublications.com mirahriben

    Ms. Saxton seems to be of the misguided opinion that any criticism of any aspect of adoption makes one anti-adoption. Equating fighting for the equal treatment of those whose lives are touched by adoption as being against adoption is preposterous! It is akin to calling all who work to curb domestic violence as being anti-marriage.

    I am pleased that the editors are taking the comments seriously, however, for these reasons, I would seriously doubt Ms. Saxton’s ability to impartially prepare a subsequent article and would suggest instead a counterpoint be published. I would highly recommend Rev. Msgr. John W. Sweeley, Th.D., a priest in the Catholic Apostolic Church of Antioch – Malabar Rite. He is a member of the faculty of Sophia Divinity School and adjunct faculty member of the Renaissance Institute of The College of Notre Dame of Maryland. Additionally, he is the pastor of St. James Catholic Community in Baltimore, Maryland (www.catholicmassonline.com) as well as the moderator of the web site Social Justice Speaks (socialjusticespeaks.com). John Sweeley is an adoptee and the adoptive father of three sons. He is author of “Jesus in the Gospels: Man, Myth, or God” to be released by International Scholars Publications in May 1999. Contact: pastorsjcc@gmail.com

    Or, you might contact Reverend Tom Brosnan, a Roman Catholic priest of the Diocese of Brooklyn. Brosnan was adopted as an infant through closed adoption. In 1985, at age thirty-two, he searched and found his birth parents. His mother, now deceased, lived in Baltimore; his father resides in Canada. Father Brosnan has presented on the unjust nature of closed adoption and the fundamental right of all adults to access their original birth records and is a proponent of open adoption records. “It shouldn’t take the equivalent of a papal dispensation for adoptees to learn their own history,” he says. Contact: sunam@aol.com.

    While Fathers Sweeley and Brosnan can speak as adoptees and an adoptive parent, I would like to comment as a mother who lost her firstborn to adoption, and as am past director of the American Adoption Congress and current Vice President of Communications of Origins-USA.org, a national organization that advocates for mothers’ rights and keeping natural families together.
    Origins-USA’s position regarding natural family preservation, and adoption as a last resort is no more “anti-adoption” or radical than that of the United Nations and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

    As a researcher and author with 40 experience in adoption reform and author of two books and numerous articles and have presented at many national adoption conferences I can tell readers her unequivocally that it us untrue that mothers who surrender children for adoption have ever been promised anything in return for their child. While an argument can be made that there is an expectation of confidentiality – from public scrutiny – anonymity from our children is not something that mothers have asked for or been given. In fact, the vast majority of mothers in survey after survey have expressed an interest in finding their adopted-out offspring or being found by them.

    Those who wish not to know or have contact with the child they bore, have ample opportunity to protect their privacy. No one need be subjected to meeting anyone they chose not to and if that right is violated, there are laws to protect all citizens from harassment with the need for antiquated, discriminatory laws that apply only to adoptees and their kin.

    Further, there is absolutely no support for the allegation that allowing adoptees and their mothers access to open another would increase abortions. This too is simply propaganda put forth by the National Council for Adoption which lobbies for adoption agencies, primarily of the LDS faith.

    Adoption is a very emotional issue and evokes passion in those of us who live with the lifelong effects. I hope that CatholicExchange will consider publishing other views.

    Thank you for printing my comment,

    Mirah Riben

  • http://www.advocatepublications.com mirahriben

    It is very admiable that Heidi has an opened her mind and heart to read and learn. She has been given plenty of links and names of people to google for study and enlightenment.

    Not only did she incorrectly pre-judge “Adoption Mystique” but also Bastard Nation. As a life time member, I have known many members of BN who are very happy having been adopted.

    On the other hand – there are also many people adopted whose parents committed no “sin” by any definition in no one’s religious belief.

    Reuben Pannor, author, researcher, teacher and past director of Vista Del Mar Adoption Agency in California confirms: “Most infants placed for adoption come from poor families. Check with any of the adoption agencies and their adoption lawyers to verify that the number one reason for relinquishment today is the in-ability to afford to raise the child. This is a sad commentary on the richest and most powerful country in the world. Even poor married couples are relinquishing their children.”

    So, even if you beleive that conception outside of marriage is sinful, married people – myself included – lose children to adoption. Where is the “sin”?
    And yes, I take great offense at being judged as a sinner for having done what i was made to believe was best for my child. Generalizations just don’t work.

    Perhaps most importantly, in Heidi’s educational process is the need to understand that not the most radical anti-adoptionist advocates:

    “pressuring unwed teenage mothers (and other at-risk mothers) to keep their babies even when they are demonstrably not capable of parenting produces more difficulties than it resolves — down the line, when adoption is no longer a viable option.”

    Those of us who seek to abolish adoption – AS IT CURRENTLY EXISTS – recognize that there will be always be orphans and children whose parents are incapable or unwilling to provide safe care for the. We, however, advocate alternative custody for such children that honors their past connections rather than eradicates them. All biblical references to adoption illustrate a unending continuum of original heritage. The issuance of falsified birth certificates and the issuance of a totally new identity with no connection to the past in adoption is a relatively new – ad failed – sociologically experiment – not a moral imperative nor n any child’s best interest.

    “The traditional blood-kin family is composed of one mother, one father, and their child or children. The adoptive family is composed of two mothers, two fathers and a child common to them. Although society, and to some extent adoptive parents, would like to pretend that it is exactly like a traditional family, it is the differences that are extremely significant in each member’s life.” Dr. Herbert Wieder, a psychiatrist who has been studying the adoption triangle for over twenty years testimony at Public Hearing before Assembly Institutions, Health & Welfare on Assembly Bill No. 2051 (Adoption), 9 December, 1981, Trenton, NJ.

  • http://thirdmom.blogspot.com/ thirdmom

    I’m the adoptive mom of two Korean teens who also happens to be Catholic. I offer my thoughts with respect, and hope they will be interpreted that way.

    I believe it is hardly a Catholic attitude to perpetuate the shame this post associates with unmarried motherhood. It is that shame that has driven women to surrender their children in secrecy, and has set the stage for the closure of adoption records during the 20th century.

    I also cannot reconcile my Catholic faith with any effort to deny a human being the basic right to know their identity. In this post and many similar points of view raised in other Catholic forums, there appears to be a “it’s the lesser of two evils” mentality that justifies the inequity because it may have stopped an abortion, even if abortion was never a consideration for the mother, and then considers the issued closed.

    This statement in particular:

    “Women in crisis pregnancies who are considering adoption may have second thoughts when faced with the very real possibility that their “past” may come knocking on their door twenty or thirty years hence, disrupting their lives with demands and recriminations.”

    would lead readers to believe that opening adoption records is always followed by search and contact, and that contact is always unwanted. This is simply not true; in states that have opened their records there has been no rush to “out” mothers. The report also points out that abortion rates in states with open records are no higher than in states with closed records. It can be found here: http://www.adoptioninstitute.org/publications/2007_11_For_Records.pdf

    It is also my opinion that the only reason a woman has a “past” is because someone has shamed her into it. I believe Catholics have a moral obligation to speak out against that brand of morality rather than sacrificing adoptee civil rights in its name.

  • Pingback: i am something of an anti-adoptee « Unrelated Thoughts()

  • disgruntedadultadoptee

    “Civil comments that are made with the recognition of Heidi’s good will in this matter and that do not stoop to personal attacks will continue to be welcomed here.”….

    Calling adult adoptees “disgruntled” was far from civil; you dismiss adoptees’ suffering. Your article is a personal attack on a group of people who have been psychologically SLAUGHTERED in all directions with no help from society because we make up a tiny 2% minority!! Let me give you a quick metaphor – corny but so true: a tree cut off from its roots is dead. We adoptees feel dead inside. We were murdered, shot at birth, our identities taken away from us. We have what Nancy Verrier calls a “primal wound” We are cut off and cut out no matter how hard we tried to belong, and we are going to stand up for ourselves just as you have stood up for birth mothers who got themselves into trouble. You will stand up for a gum-cracking, bubble-headed tramp or the Octomom or a yak-yak-yacking mindless partygoer before you stand up for a non-Catholic, well-educated, introverted, kind and thoughtful adopted only child who does volunteer work and helps animals and troubled girls who deal with similar dismissed pains!

  • Amanda

    This article is libelous and untrue. Shame on you. When did being Pro-Adoptee become anti-adoption? You do realize that the permanent and severe sever of ties between mother and child in adoption has been cited in reasearch as WHY women will NOT choose adoption and may in fact opt for abortion because the way adoption is done now is scary to them? Your position on this issue, therefore, actually encourages women to have abortions.

    Please advocate for the equality of adoptees, who are people, rather than the continued glowing report of adoption, an institution that is not a person. Caring about people makes much more sense than worrying about how nicely we speak about an institution that needs to be changes.

  • Thankful Peach

    Even The Child Welfare League of America supports legislation restoring the unconditional right of adult adoptees to their obc’s. 
    http://www.PeachNeitherHereNorThere.blogspot.com

  • Adoptive Mom

    I realize this post was written 3 1/2 years ago and maybe author has come around to a more  compassionate viewpoint, but if not, I would suggest that she and other viewers read the following , written by a Catholic Priest and Adoptee: http://adoptionandfaith.blogspot.com/2009/05/through-priests-adopted-eyes-adoption.html

  • Abrazo Adoption

    Adoption is not a “cure” for abortion, any more than lack of contraception is a cure for child abuse. And the people you call “anti-adoption” are actually anti-secrecy and anti-shame and opposed to systematic abuse (although that last one may be a difficult problem for some Catholics to identify for painfully-obvious reasons.) Adoption can be a very loving choice but it has to be done the right way and for the right reasons: those who question it have every reason, historically, to do so, because closed adoption and sealed records have been hugely detrimental to thousands over the years.

    Even Moses had access to his biological family, given the fact that his sister Miriam followed his basket as it floated down the river, then approach the Princess to offer her the services of their mom (Jochebed) to serve as wet nurse. And clearly, Moses had a continued relationship with his birthsiblings as an adult, but a “suitelock” and similar deceptive practices could easily have prevented all that, and changed the course of human history, as a result. 

    Nothing in Christianity teaches us that lying about one’s origins or denying all the opportunity to love one another enriches our faith. It’s high time we start applying the Golden Rule to the practice of adoption, and quit denying those who were once adopted without their consent their very own birthrights. Everyone should have the right to know Chapter One of their own life story, and the people who were present for it. Anything less creates a genealogical holocaust.

  • Kdawber

    Adoptive Mom,
    Thank you for sharing the Catholic Priest’s keynote address.  It was very healing for me.  I lost my first son sight unseen to an illegal adoption in 1970.  My first son and I have been reunited for 6 years now and he is finally starting to heal also.  Best regards.

  • antiadoption

    I was adopted almost 49 years ago. I survived being hit by pots, pans, fruit, plates, baseball bats and any other thing I could be hit with. Both my adoptive mother and father were abusive to both myself and each other. My adoptive father was a lawyer and was able to sidestep their abusive conduct.  The two who adopted me hid their sketchy mental health issues, and those of their families from social workers. There is a reason that couples can not have children on their own, is because God not want them to have children. Considering my life and its outcome, I would have been better off as an abortion. It would have been less painful.
    In the mean time I am trying to have the adoption annulled, as I continues to sicken me that I must have these two’s last name.

  • abort adoption

    Adoption is really no more than an exersize in human trafficking. It separates a child from its mother, in order to place it, often for money, to parents that God deemed not fit for parenthood. It separates a child from his/her lineage, including the most important person in that child’s life, it biological mother. God has determined that some parents should not have children, and divine intervention, and the laws of nature, prevent unfit parents from having children. Adoption is a slap in the face to God’s will. Many young mothers are bullied by churches, lawyers, and friends, to give up there child. State agencies can also profit from some forms of adoption. Adoption does the child a disservice to the child by denying it of a familial surname, the love of its real mother, and a social/ and medical history. While I believe child support should be abbollished, as accidental pregnancies are primarily the fault of the woman not ensuring that contraception was used, and another revenue stream for states just as adoptions can be. I believe the mothers family should rally around her and welcome/ support the newest member of the family. 

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