Adopt-ation: A feminist take on the state of the adoption industry

Do a quick search on the Internet and you'll see that there are lots more people waiting to adopt a healthy newborn these days than there are babies out there ready to be adopted. Gone are the (ahem) "good old days" when a pregnant woman finding herself in less than optimal circumstances could be shamed, coerced or forced to give up her baby as a matter of socially accepted course (for more on THAT history, check out Ann Fessler's The Girls Who Went Away). Access to safe, legal abortion (while awesome when it occurs) has done a real number on the adoption industry.

So what's a pro-adoption organization to do? Well, start hard-selling adoption as an option to vulnerable women and bring back the days of shame under the guise of empowerment, of course. Enter the National Council for Adoption.

The NCFA is so all about adoption that they commonly speak out against the rights of adopted people to make their point. Their fight against the open records movement, (which argues that adult adopted persons have a right to their original, pre-adoption birth certificates) is based on the belief that it causes people to abort otherwise adoptable children.

Obviously, some number of women with unplanned pregnancies, who would otherwise choose adoption, would choose abortion if they could not choose adoption with the assurance of privacy. What that number would be is impossible to tell, but what does it need to be? The loss of human potential from even one abortion that would have been an adoption is unknowable. And the ratio of adoptions to abortions in New Hampshire is already extremely low. In 1996, New Hampshire had only 43 domestic infant adoptions placements for every 1,000 abortions.

From Consent versus Coercion: How SB335 Harms Adoption (a position paper about a New Hampshire bill that would allow adoptees access to their original birth certificates).

The NCFA pushes their pro-adoption agenda (what they call Adoption First) in several ways. They lobby politically for things like a continuation of the adoption tax credit (a credit that makes adoption more affordable for hopeful adoptive parents), for Safe Havens despite the controversy that surrounds them and by creating a full-blown adoption awareness campaign to convince women that "sometimes choosing adoption is being a good mother."

In the interest of talking more women into placing their babies, the NCFA spearheaded the Infant Adoption Training Initiative (IATI). The IATI came about as an effort to bring down abortion rates and not coincidentally, bring up the number of babies available for adoption by raising adoption awareness in people who work with women facing crisis pregnancies (people like school nurses, migrant health service workers, Title X Clinics, health care staff from youth and adult correctional facilities, residential treatment centers, military health services, rape and domestic violence shelters, college campus health services etc.).

Given the biases inherent in the NCFA, it's no surprise that a study by the Guttmacher Institute points to some serious concerns for the feminist among us:

Kelly McBride of Planned Parenthood of Indiana noted the exclusive and "constant focus on 'child-centered' counseling" and "how to inform clients that adoption is a 'good choice for the child.'" She said she was given "tips and techniques...about how to work against [women's] resistance, make them proud of their decision and convince them that adoption is a good choice." One family planning provider from Planned Parenthood of Collier Country, Florida, said she was told to repeatedly bring up adoption as an option, even if a woman says she is not interested. These examples border on coercion and clearly violate both Title X guidelines and principles of medical ethics.

from Out of Compliance? Implementing the Infant Adoption Awareness Act.

Adam Pertman of the Evan B. Donaldson Institute (an adoption think tank) phrases some of his concerns this way:

Here's an example of how the way in which adoption is presented is so important: The curriculum presents the best interests of the "child" as paramount; that sounds just right and, in the adoption world, it's accepted as a given. But it invariably refers to children who need homes, not ones who are not yet born. No professional standards of practice advise physicians and counselors to recommend to pregnant women that they weigh the best interests of their fetuses and as yet unidentified adoptive parents on a par with their own. This perspective implicitly furthers an agenda aimed at minimizing the option of abortion and perhaps even the option of parenting by the biological mother. [emphasis mine]

As the Evan B. Donaldson Institute shared in their landmark 2006 report Safeguarding the Rights and Well-Being of Birthparents in the Adoption Process, women need better advocacy and better post-adoption support far more than they need more pressure to place their babies:

Research on birthparents in the era of confidential (closed) adoptions suggests a significant proportion struggled - and sometimes continue to struggle - with chronic, unresolved grief.

Hear that, Juno? Maybe you won't have such a happy ending after all.

Despite the empowered slogan, I don't see full disclosure in the I Choose Adoption rhetoric. In the Infant Adoption Awareness training, grief is acknowledged but not addressed as the lifelong issue that it is for most birth moms -- sure, it hurts but you're so happy to get back to your life, so happy to know that you did the "right" thing that it's all worth it.

Watch the young woman in this training video: Note that she laughs every time she discusses something heart wrenching. Note that she insists that she's dealt with her grief through her counseling and to prove it she says, "And you deal with [grief]. You don't hide it; you don't try to deny it. You accept it and work through it and in the end you come to healing and, ummm, a lot of happiness and joy for the whole situation."

Adoption can be an appropriate option for some women but it must be a decision made freely and with full information at hand. But a truly woman-centric model wouldn't focus on the empty arms and privileged homes of waiting adoptive parents. Instead women considering adoption need to know that they are not the expendable pieces of other people's adoption stories. They are not conduits to someone else's family building. And they also need to know that once those papers are signed, they lose all the rights no matter how many promises the hopeful adoptive parents made about visits, phone calls or pictures.

Fauxclaud, an activist and first mother (aka "birth mother") in a closed adoption who has since reunited with her son, writes this in her blog Musings of the Lame:

It is claimed that Women facing abortion choices need special safeguards to protect them from misunderstanding the nature and consequences of their decision and from the regret that might come from having an abortion without understanding important facts about the intervention. … There are no laws governing what an adoption agency can say and cannot say.

  • There are no consequences if they outright lie on their websites about open adoption, affects on adopted children or the long term risks of relinquishment.
  • There are no government sponsored watch dog groups or official forms to sign.
  • There isn't even a real good guidebook for birthmothers so we know that to look for and expect the rest of our happy birthmother lives.

Nada, nothing, Zip. We are on our own with only the professionals at the agencies to guide us and as we all well know, once you sign the papers and the power transfer is complete, they don't really care much for us anymore. We become the blind leading the blind, thinking we alone are "wrong" somehow in this journey until we miraculously find others who can validate our experiences as normal.

Adoption is a feminist issue because it is a reproductive rights issue. It is an issue about the value of women as mothers and who has "earned" the right to be one. It's about how the states supports or does not support women who fall outside of the "good mother" rhetoric. It's about privilege. It's about class.

Right now the dominant voices in our cultural discussion of adoption are those like the NCFA who perpetuate stereotypes about the women who place their children and the women who receive them. It's a conversation that tries to erase the presence of the women who give birth to those children by pushing t-shirts that equate adoption with pregnancy thereby obliterating the origins of adopted people. The way we look at adoption – especially domestic infant adoption – is a manifestation of our Madonna/whore complex where birth mothers are saintly sinners – angelic enough to give away the babies they aren't good enough to keep.

We feminists need to start looking at adoption in new ways. We need to let the first mothers among us speak about their experiences past and present because their voices have been missing from our discussion. In the blogosphere we have feminist thinkers like FauxClaud, like Suz, like Jenna. They can tell us how Juno will likely feel five years from placement, ten, twenty or more.

(*November is National Adoption Month, a month dedicated to helping find homes for the thousands of children waiting to be adopted from foster care -- although some industry players have hijacked the month to promote international adoption or domestic infant adoption.)

Dawn Friedman is a long-time feminist and adoptive mom who blogs at this woman's work. She's also a published writer whose article "Tales of the Reluctant Groupie" appeared in Bitch's Fame & Obscurity issue.

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41 Comments Have Been Posted

Nothing but agreement from

Nothing but agreement from this adoptive parent. Thanks to Dawn and Bitch for putting this important issue out there.

Coercion & Relinquishment a women's issue

I was coerced to surrender in 1966 and was reunited with my son by the agency in 1986.
The social worker who reunited me was a feminist unlike the nasty one who coerced me.
I was manipulated like most women and didn't even know it until I spoke with an attorney in 1985.If you love this baby you'll do what's best for it, no longer think of this child as yours, go home and forget about this, all a manipulation .But times were different and we were easy to manipulate and get us to suppress our grief.

It's not only the NCFA who say we were given a right to privacy but some legislators actually believe them or they come up with this lie from some where. While lobbying in Albany for adoptee rights legislation we have to contend with this big lie. Birth mothers signed contracts of confidentiality or we made a deal with the agency for our privacy. Most legislators understand when they look at the surrender paper which is all we signed. We were not empowered to make a deal with an agency. No options were presented to us and a parent's presence was required for those of us under the age of 18 when we signed the surrender-It says nothing of confidentiality or privacy for us. On a small number of them the surrendering mother has to agree to swear she will not interfere with the custody of the child and family.There is nothing in any state statute sealing birth certificates of privacy for surrendering mothers because it was all about signing away the baby. --Confidential but not confidentiality.

The NCFA appealed open records legislation in Oregon and Tennessee- they were unable to present even one written proof of privacy- they were unsuccessful. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit based its decision to uphold laws on the fact surrendering to adoption is not a right a person has. According to the Journal of Social History pregnancy out of wedlock was not a traumatic event until the Victorian Era.
Why today should anybody especially women give a hard sale on adoption to someone who just isn't interested in surrendering? Where does feminism come into this picture?
Issues of birth/natural mothers have been swept under the carpet and need to get out. Adoptees birth certificates should be unsealed for them at age 18! They are the rightful owners.

Learn before you preach

"In the Infant Adoption Awareness training, grief is acknowledged but not addressed as the lifelong issue that it is for most birth moms."

Really? Are you sure that grief is a "lifelong issue" for "most" birth mothers? Or are you replacing one agenda-driven viewpoint for another? Your casual dismissal of adoptive parents as "privileged" (read: upper class, condescending bitches) is almost as bad as your assumption that birth mothers are universally victimized by the adoption process. Undoubtedly, there are crackpot anti-choice organizations out there who will stop at nothing to eradicate or reduce abortions. They should be identified and run out of business. But to suggest that birth mothers are not protected by the legal machinery of adoption reveals your total ignorance of the system. The birth mother is the most protected party in the entire process. Her rights come before the child's and certainly before the adoptive parents'. Birth mothers decide whether or not to make an adoption plan, whether they want it open or not, and who gets to adopt their child. Their medical, housing, food, utilities, and other expenses are covered for the duration of their pregnancy and 6-8 weeks afterward by the adoptive parents. And if they change their minds at any time before the legal transfer of custody--regardless of how much time, money, and blind hope the adoptive parents have invested in the adoption--the adoption is canceled. No questions asked. No refunds. Nothing. This is exactly as it should be.

Is there sometimes grief, regret, mixed emotions? Undoubtedly. But no rejiggering of the rules of adoption can change that. The transfer of custody of a baby from birth parents to adoptive parents is always going to be fraught with emotions. There may be instances where one party is treated unkindly or unfairly by the other (talk to a would-be adoptive mother who just had a birth mother change her mind after she took a baby home from the hospital if you want the other side of this story). I can tell you, however, having just gone through the process, that the American adoption system works. It's complicated, expensive, and full of emotional pit falls. But I can't imagine a better, fairer, kinder way of finding homes for babies who need them. Remember, that's what we're talking about here. Nobody forces a woman to make an adoption plan. And nobody should expect an emotion-free experience.

grief, victimized, making an adoption plan

For 12 years I led a Manhattan support birth/natural parents and from my experience those who search and are rejected suffer more grief as well as those who find death at the end of the search. Also those in open adoptions who are abandoned by the adoptive parents who move out of town with no notice. --the pain is horrendous!
Most of us have found the reunification does help heal our grief. Generally it lasts about 2 years and comes back to haunt us from time to time but doesn't stay so long. Some are found by the adoptee and the nightmare begins. Women have asked me why they were not informed about this? Of course they should be and it should be a major women's issue. It seems women who did not suppress their grief when they signed the paper would not have as much grief as we did but I can't say for certain. We were chewed up and spit out.

For those who choose adoption today including fathers I don't believe they are all victimized but I don't believe they are all making an informed choice. Some have told me they were not presented with options and became suspicious of the agency when they were told they would be. And I have heard of social workers becoming very angry when a mother changes her mind right after giving birth. There will always be some who are talked into adoption by someone else or their confidence is undermined.

The television media focused a lot on reunions but not on issues. When Margaret Moorman's book "Waiting to Forget" was published in 1996 her publicist contacted Oprah about a program for Mother's Day with birth and adoptive mothers and Oprah declined. Women in adoption have not come such a long way.

I can't tell you how disgusted I am with the words"Making an Adoption Plan". A lay away plan for clothing, financial planning but not a plan when it involves giving your child to
someone else. This phrase was concocted by adoption agencies who should know better and be more sensitive I was with Margaret Moorman when we first heard this phrase and we were mortified. I can go with "choose adoption" but I don't think the adoption plan is in the best interest of women or men. I find it disrespectful.


Lauren, I am really sad that you were able to read all that and not consider that there are still some issues to work out. Are you aware that the NCFA literally targets expectant mothers to influence them to place? They use a well researched strategy to include largely negative statements about how parenting affects children, along with positive language to describe how adoption affects children. I am an adopted person, and I can tell you that my mother experienced horrible coercion 27 years ago and that I experienced it myself 9 years ago.

The agencies still use biased language, pick up on an expectant parents fears about parenting and encourage them to feel powerless about parenting and powerful about an adoption plan. If you have EVER held a woman while she sobs and screams the loss of her child, night after night, if you had ANY idea how much pain these women go through, you would not think coercing anyone into that amount of pain is something to be taken lightly.

Many women have to be hospitalized within the first few years of placing due to emotional breakdowns, or suicide attempts. No one will do real research on the physical and psychological realities of how losing a child to adoption affects women because there's no money in that kind of research. Adoptive parents don't want to see that and the NCFA supports ADOPTION AGENCIES, that is where their interest lies, not in adoptees or biological parents.

I do think there are situations where a child will not be safe with a biological parent. And I do believe adoption is a much needed option for children in this situation. However what's happening now is NOT that.

How many biological mothers do you really know? How many have you seen break down and melt into indescribably horrific pain YEARS after the loss of their infant? Have you gone to biological parent support groups? Do you ASK them how they feel? Do you watch how fiercely the tears still come?

Do you REALLY believe that you are in any way educated enough to make the kind of smug comment belittling how deeply women are affected by losing their children?

Yes, Laura, I am...

"sure that grief is a "lifelong issue" for "most" birth mothers?"

Not only have I lived the expiernce of being a bithmother for the last 22 years, not only have I talked to and corresponded with literally hundreds of other birthmothers representing the opast 50 years of relinquishment experince, but I have collected a massive library of published scientific reseach studies that actually report the same thing:
1: the experinces of birthmothers and their greif is horribly not researched and studied enough; further research is needed
2: The grief experinced by birthmothers post relinquishment is very similair to prenateal death. but without the socially supplied support and actual closure
3: adoption casued grief is continous; IE it keeps adding on. So while the initial grieving process post birth is immiedate and based on the loss of a abay, as years go by more ads on top of it: the loss of the 2 year old, the lost of first days of school, the loss of a lifetime. This is further exasberated by the focus on open adoption as not, the relinquishing mother must live though the loss and seperation after each contact and visit. ( somethin they normally have NO control over as NOW, post signing, the adoptiove parent now hold all the poweer)
4: PDST, long term phyisolocical changes, depression.. all found in higher numbers post relinquishment in mothers based on the studies

Whats more, while the facts of these studies have been around for over 30 years and the body of them keeps growing, this information is NOT routinely given to mothers while they make their "informed choices" by the agencies and priofessionals, but rather the facts that would give us true "informed choice" are denied until it is too late.

Believe what you want about being "forced" into an adoption plan.. maybe the system served you well as an adoptive parent.. but <a href=" relinquishment stories</a> like these are more common than people want to think and <a href=" coersion in adoption counseling </a> is a common and expected practice in the US>.

Keep reading, Laura.. keep reading and learning.

Claudia Corrigan D'Arcy
aka FauxClaud

I've been through the process, too

Lauren, I'm an adoptive mom (my daughter is five and a half). Adoptive parents are privileged -- we are privileged to have the resources to adopt. I'm not an upper class, condescending bitch but because I had the resources (emotional, financial) to adopt, I'd say unequivocally that I came to the adoption table with more privilege than my daughter's birth mom did.

Not all expectant mothers have their medical, housing, food, utilities and other expenses covered during pregnancy and certainly not after and one wonders if such support is even appropriate or amounts to legally approved baby buying? (And we did NOT enter into this kind of adoption with our daughter's mom besides which some of this is illegal in Ohio.). And if an expectant mom changes her mind, she might be bullied or threatened into changing it BACK. I've got horror stories for days about that.

Further, a birth mom -- once she's signed the surrenders -- has no legal recourse in most states if adoptive parents renege on their agreements. Most agencies offer few if any post-adoption support services including counseling, mediation with adoptive parents, etc. Even in states where open adoptions are theoretically enforceable by law, most birth parents demanding visits that were promised to them will find the door absolutely shut. I don't call that any sort of legal protection. And of course some agencies will ferret expectant mothers to "adoption-friendly" states like Utah where birth parent rights can be got around for faster, easier adoptions for hungry adoptive parents.

Finally you say, "I can't imagine a better, fairer, kinder way of finding homes for babies who need them" is exactly what I'm talking about in this article. In many (most?) domestic infant adoptions there is no baby yet! A woman steps into the adoption machinery while she's still pregnant and the further she gets into the process, the harder it is to step off that treadmill. The NCFA wants to get her hooked up as soon as the test turns blue because if they can start getting women thinking of themselves as unworthy mothers and good "birth" mothers, they can get more babies to the market. (Reread Adam Pertman's quote to understand what I'm talking about here.)

Of course no woman expects an emotion-free experience when she places her child but neither are most women prepared for the ongoing grief, post-traumatic stress disorder, etc. Most women don't know that adoption will have long-term impact not just on their lives but on the lives of their children, their extended families and their partners. Five years into this I can tell you that none of us -- not me, not my husband and not my daughter's first mom -- knew what a complicated, difficult, gut-wrenching journey it would be -- and we have a great open adoption! But great is not easy and I would not want my children treated like the way we treat birth parents today and because I have unearned privilege -- because I have a daughter thanks to a broken system -- it's my obligation to speak out where I see lies.

I've been through the process, too

thisiswomanswork I'm a birthmom. I placed my son in 1985. I just wanted to say thank you!

There were so many coercive, economical, social, and logistical factors at the time of my birthson's birth/placement-the perfect storm. Anything short of a married two-parent family in 1985 implied he would be compromised. Told repeatedly I was inadequate, I wanted him to have everything I could not give him at that time. Come to think of it what I wanted didn’t matter. They said he would be better off placed for adoption-a closed adoption. Nothing else existed at that time. I would/should be as if dead to him. I was counseled to suppress my feelings, act as if his birth/placement never happened, and just get on with my life. Only that would be impossible. I compartmentalized until I just couldn’t any more.

11 years ago I contacted his aparents with the help of the adoption agency. They sent a letter back with a picture, a lot of inaccurate information about when a child's sense of identity begins, said how my sudden contact would "freak him out" if they shared my letter to him about his heritage right then. The letter ended with an air of entitlement and lots of we will pray for you coldness. I never heard from them again.

I think it is a real buzz-kill for some aparents that the "transaction" isn't "cleaner" and less emotional for all involved. As if it could be emotionless. I contacted my bson via facebook this year. He replied back twice but I’ve received nothing for months. He asked if his heritage included Italian. I had clearly stated his bio heritage in the letter-no Italian at all. I don’t think he ever got the letter. I also don't think his aparents are supportive of any contact between me and my bson. He is 24. There's so much to work through for me too.

Broken is just how I would describe my adoption experience.

Of course the system works for adoptive parents, Lauren

Lauren - As a recent adopter of someone elses child, I urge you to educate yourself a bit more on the reality of the US adoption system (and not just the pretty parts that "work" for you or for baby brokers). The system is indeed flawed.

I am one of those "birthmothers" that was not protected and was forced. However, I dont expect you to acknowledge that or any other flaw in the system for if you were to do so, you would also admit you were culpable. You would have to look at the dark side of your own self and admit that you built your family by destroying someone elses.

Yes, the trauma of surrendering your child to adoption is indeed a lifelong issues for most mothers. I am one of them and i have helped hundreds of them find their children. I have moderated and owned support groups for mothers and I have spoken at adoption conferences nationwide. I have also been in therapy for the treatment of PTSD caused by a five month stay in a maternity home in 1986, coercion and intimidation by a baby brokering service known as Easter House, and the resulting disenfranchised grief. The loss of my first born to adoption effected every aspect of my life from my marriaiges to my subsequent children to the homes I have purchased to the friends I have selected. Before you pull out the crackwhore, too young, birthmother explanation, let me tell you that I was an honor student, good Catholic girl, that had been accepted to college. I am now a professional parenting two sons. I was fully capable of caring for my child yet the powers that be decided I was not. These powers include my parents, an unethical agency, maternity home workers, coercive tactics, promissory notes, promises of open adoption and more.

Educate yourself to the reality of the American Adoption Industry Lauren. If not for yourself, certainly for the child you obtained and now call your own.

Your adopted child had a family before you and that will never change no matter how good an adoptive parent you are.

You say it clearly "finding

You say it clearly "finding homes for babies who need them" ...that's the point. They don't need them ...they have perfectly good parents if society would help those parents with a parenting plan and STOP using adoption as a "plan for baby".

The point is....that the problems of infertile couples, although sad, have ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to do with young vulnerable, pregnant unmarried women, and until we completely stop this madness which was based on a simplistic premise, we will continue to have problems.

The presence of adopters during pregnancy, delivery and post partum can cause extreme stress to a pregnant and post partum mother. The predatory and exploitive nature of the Adoption Agenda, their coercive tactics, savvy marketing, influence and/or financial help causes undue stress, coercion and pressure on a vulnerable young pregnant youth/woman which is unacceptable, and against the UN charter of keeping mother and baby together.

Sorry you can't have a is sad...but that does not make you a "deserving infertile couple" that some girl should "give her baby as a gift" to. Sorry, it is all wrong...all wrong.

Thanks for presenting the

Thanks for presenting the other side.

Yes, greif is a life-long

Yes, greif is a life-long issue for all mopthers. What did you think we just walk away? Your statement " But I can't imagine a better, fairer, kinder way of finding homes for babies who need them. (fairer? kinder?) Remember, that's what we're talking about here. Nobody forces a woman to make an adoption plan. And nobody should expect an emotion-free experience." is so sadly misinformed: what babies need homes? You created the demand by your own need! There would be no babies for adoption of there were no market for them in the first place! And please, of course people do "force" women to make an adoption plan! It is in fact enforced by people who then prevent the mother from ever seeing the child again -- do YOU have a plan for your child (whom you adopted frorm another woman) to see her mother again? That woudl be an honest adoption plan!

Nice try!!!

Although this article was posted 5 years ago, I have just now come across it. Nice try Lauren, but you are incorrect regarding the "legal machinery of adoption". It is you who is ignorant of the "adoption legal system". You claim that a birth mother is the "most protected party throughout the entire process". That is point blank UNTRUE!! Most of the time birth mothers are the victims of adoption agencies and lawyers preying on them and coercing them to give up their babies because the almighty $dollar rules!! What fairyland have you been living in, stating that first mothers can change their minds about relinquishing their newborns "before the transfer of custody"?? Although each state has different laws, once a birth mother signs the relinquishment forms (within 24 to 72 hours of giving birth, the time when she is extremely vulnerable both physically and mentally, often highly medicated, hormones raging and with all of those "professionals" coaching her to "do what's best for her baby") she CANNOT get her baby back. Additionally, in cases of failed adoptions, the adoption agencies get legal custody. Only to turn around and "re-sell" the baby to another hungry adopter. Most women only get support to surrender their babies, never given counseling and the resources to assist her in keeping her baby. Read up on the cases that have become public through the media regarding UNETHICAL ADOPTIONS, THWARTED FATHERS AND GRANDPARENTS WHO WANT TO RAISE THEIR OWN FLESH AND BLOOD and hundreds of thousands of dollars and lost homes later FAIL TO GET THEIR CHILDREN RIGHTFULLY RETURNED and the legal system supporting adoptive parents to drag things out as long as possible in order to claim it would be detrimental to the child's mental health to be removed from "the only parent(s) he, or she has ever known. Yes, there are a lot of adoptions that have worked out "successfully" (depending on what you define as "successful"), but not without an enormous amount of life long trauma, loss and grieving for the adoptees and their birth families. Also, "open adoptions", in almost all states, have no legal protection for birth mothers. Adoptive parents can cut off contact as they please and their is nothing legally binding to protect the birth mother's rights or enforcing an open adoption agreement . Broken promises and fraud are rampant in the adoption world, it is a multi -billion dollar BUSINESS where lawyers and adoption agencies benefit financially and support child trafficking. It is disgusting that in the year 2014 adoption laws have not been properly reformed to protect the best interests of birth mothers, fathers, grandparents and their children.

" I can tell you, however,

" I can tell you, however, having just gone through the process, that the American adoption system works."

Well now, of course you can. Can we hear from you again in say 10-20 years? Perhaps then you will have learned something truthful about adoption, like the fact that your child may have very different feelings about the whole "process" than you currently do. You might eventually understand that moms really are not all that interchangable in the mind of that malleable little lump of clay you want to shape and mold... oh I mean the person you adopted.
I think you would do well to listen to Dawn, and the mothers (Claud, Suz, Jenna) who know the truth about what the adoption industry does to mothers and their children. Trust me, they learned it the hard way. Oh, and if you think that traumatic impact of adoption doesn't apply to you I would love to share with you all the ways my life has been impacted by the pain and loss of my adopted children and their first moms. I once thought the bill of goods I was sold about adoption was "ok" to believe too, but I can't continue to be led by the nose through the grief of those children and mothers. Maybe you can?

More good stuff: The

More good stuff:

The National Council for Adoption: MOTHERS, MONEY, MARKETING, & MADNESS

Why adoption is not a reproductive rights issue by Maryanne Cohen

Are Laws Tilted Towards Adopting Parents? Well, yes, even in Oregon by Jane Edwards

A woman-centric model would get behind single moms too

A lot of scare tactics are used to explain to young expectant mothers how much it's going to cost to raise the child. One tactic is to add up the total average amount spent on a child until he or she reaches 18 and wave that figure around like a pirate flag while shouting, "How are you going to do that alone?" Another is to focus on the advantages of the two-parent heterosexual family as a model of parenthood. We know that all this stuff is bs and politically driven. And there is not a drop of feminism in it. A feminist approach to adoption would walk a woman through her choices and opportunities. Heck, I've seen women in grad school waver over their readiness to be moms, but once they realize they HAVE a future (even if the first couple of years are tough), their preferred option is to parent. Also, there is a sense on the part of some people that many single moms who have elected to parent should have relinquished. That is definitely a class and money thing too and not remedied by adoption. You are not entitled to somebody else's child because you believe you'd do a better job raising him or her. It's a false choice.

Complicated subject

Honestly I'm amazed when parenting - biological/trad, adopting out, adopting, fostering, being a guardian and so forth - works at all. And I say that loving kids and wanting to be a mom myself. I just think we're under so much pressure, especially as women, to be perfect. The perfect 'first' mother, the perfect biological mother, the perfect adoptive mother, and eventually the perfect grandmother. It makes something so grey area and individual seem so cookie-cutter.

To clarify, I have wanted to adopt since I was a small child myself. A combo of valuing adoption and wanting to be a mom in general, and growing up with almost being a street/foster system teen...well, there but for the grace of god, go I. But I'm also pro-choice (and had an abortion when younger), and that includes an informed and wanted choice if a woman chooses to place her child for care elsewhere. Myself I struggle feeling like I'll never ever ever have the 'perfect enough' situation to be okayed for adoption, and to be a 'good enough mom' to be good enough for the kids I'd want to adopt. (Plus asshat comments like "But what if you meet a man? What if he only wants kids of his own?" and so forth. Ironic because I grew up raised by a single mom and all my friends had the same...not that I don't think dads are important.)

Sorry this is so rambly, it's just there are SO many important things that branch out of this conversation. And like I said, so much pressure to take a side or form a judgement.

I've saved for years towards my own choice, goal etc: Adopting from a country that places from orphanages/is overrun with kids to adopt out. Which also for selfish reasons would mean the adoption would be completely finalized before I would get my kids, because I just could not handle someone taking my kids away, I'm sorry, I'd feel like jumping off a bridge at that point...and that's easier to have happen domestically. (And I'm not demeaning anyone going through their *own* grief from placing a child for adoption.) I've done so much research and put myself through the ringer in examining what I've decided to do and all the possible ways it can go wrong or be unfair to others. Because that's a distinct possibility. And yet, that is the biggest goal in my life. Not being '50s era mommy, but being a mom to kids who do not have a parent and are going to be stuck in the system unless they get one.

That's why I'm glad you mentioned November as National Adoption Month for children who are left in the system. I want to adopt siblings, at least one an older child, and am very open to special needs adoption. I just hate to think that kids are 'compared' like items in a store - everyone wants this healthy (usually white) 'perfect' baby and there are so many kids who suffer from not meeting that expectation.

As an '80s child I grew up addicted to Punky Brewster (and her Punky Power, but I digress). I always loved that the show advocated for adopting older children and being foster parents. I think when I'm older and my kids would be out of the home, I would love to domestically adopt a teen or pre-teen. That's the other group of kids that don't get a fair shake in our system. And there are so many waiting for a home of their own. (A lot have been seperated from younger siblings adopted out when still "young enough", which just kills me to think about.)

I want to adopt siblings because I was lucky enough to grow up with a brother (same mom, different dads, raised together) and there's no way I would have been okay with being seperated from him, even though he would bodyslam me and steal my markers. ;)

Okay, sorry for the rambling. It's just such an interesting post and such a personal issue for me.


I forgot to add that one of the reasons I do child & community sponsorships (secular ones) is that I still think it's important to enourage a family working out and staying together when it's an issue of money or stigma *only*. I realize that can be at odds with being able to adopt myself, and that there's a lot of overlap in reasons why people hand over or adopt kids, but it's my best solution being one individual. That and donating to orgs like Planned Parenthood that offer BC, abortions, and pre-natal care all at sliding scales, for whatever is someone's choice.

It can be difficult to know what the right thing to do is, whatever side of this equation you're on. Which is why I hate taking sides about it at all.

I used to think

I used to think international adoptions were fine, especially ones from China because I assumed they had a girl surplus and were just throwing their daughters away. I guess I was suckered by the adoption industry, if indirectly, because come to find out that is not the case all the time, and may not even be the case most of the time.

There have been kids in the former Soviet bloc who were in orphanages not because they were orphans, but because their parents needed help caring for them. The parents did not relinquish, yet the kids were adopted out to Americans.

Someone in Mother Jones wrote a piece about their adopted "daughter" who, they were disturbed to learn, might have been kidnapped from her family. Were they going to give the child back? Bite your tongue.

Ditto for the kids caught in that adoption scandal in Fiji. The Fijian government isn't even going to try to get those kids back. It's a done deal.

And in China, local authorities take children with impunity if their parents violate the one-child law. I don't get this. The child exists. Fine the parents and move on with things. But no, they take the children away. Wanted children. Who are then sold to Americans and taken away forever.

I came to realize that I can't trust ANY international adoption. I have no idea what the child's circumstances are, and as I would have to pay several different people throughout the process to adopt a child in that way, too many players in the adoption would have incentive to steal a child and then lie to me about it.

It's bad enough in domestic (U.S.) adoptions that in non-abuse-related scenarios, neither adopters nor judges look closely, 90+ percent of the time, at a first mother's situation before opting to take away her child or children. They make a lot of assumptions but don't actually LOOK. In my case it would have helped me tremendously had a judge in Florida refused to process my son's adoption for my in-laws until he'd talked with me. Of course he didn't. All he cared about was whether there was a signature on the relinquishment papers. He couldn't even prove the signature was mine.

Adoption sucks. Be a foster parent instead, and continue sponsoring children overseas through poverty relief programs. You'll be better off and so will the kids. I do think the foster care system needs a serious overhaul, but simply doing a better job screening applicants and allowing children to stay with foster parents if the relationship is working out would go a long way toward helping.

See this is what I meant

I get tired of no matter choice you make and good/bad odds you research, someone is going to tell you to do something else with your life. Of course there's horrible possibilities like that, there are also children who relaly need a home. And I would want to do domestic as well - see my later paragraph about that.

And fostering can also suck, because the kid can be taken away a helluva lot easier from you, how our system works. And besides, what's wrong with wanting to officially be a parent and having the legal and emotional benefits that can bring to you and to the child involved? Why should I be made to feel like abad person for that? That's what you get with a biological child, and trust me biology alone does not a parent make. If it did, I wouldn't have had to take my father to court at age 14.

The main point of my post is that we spend so much time assuming we know how another mother or would-be mother should 'choose her choice' that we nullify choice. And I do contribute to anti-child trafficking programs, by the way.

I hear you

We went into domestic infant adoption in part because we felt like it would give us some measure of control to only enter into a situation where we felt that the woman making the decision to place was doing so of her own volition and was making an informed choice. But as time has gone on, I feel less sure about that. I feel both that our daughter's mom's choice to place her daughter with us is absolutely valid but I also feel that in the climate in which she was operating, it was not as free as it should have been. None of us makes decisions in a vacuum and as feminists, we are obligated to do what we can to level the playing field so that women are able to make empowered decisions.

In a perfect world, there would be no adoption. However in an imperfect world where adoption is a reality, how do we structure it in a way that it best serves women and children? Right now with the emphasis on meeting the needs of wannabe adoptive parents (and funding an industry that exists to move children from one set of people to another), there IS no level playing field. And adoption itself is so emotionally loaded (orphans! needy babies!) that it's hard to untangle it all.

Adoption Nation

Dawn, thanks for the thoughtful essay about the grief relinquishing a child...I always knew it was going to be incredibly horrendous, and it far exceeded anything I could have imagined. In the end, both my daughter and I ended up damaged.


The grief never ended for either of us. And that is perfectly normal. At least the training video for adoption counselors focused on that. Grief. Sorrow. Pain. It's the payback for giving a child up. What I noticed watching the video was how many times the word "grief" was stated. And it is not over-stated.

As for anyone who thinks that the laws are all tilted towards the relinquishing mother, they should take a look at the post <a href=" we did at about the laws in one state, Oregon. It's also cited below.

Reproductive Choice

Good article bringing awareness to the work of the NCFA to discriminate against adoptees. I agree that adoption is a feminist issue, but also a class issue with one class of women preying on another.

I do agree with the criticism that I as an adoptee am a reproductive choice. Do I look like a reproductive choice to you?

oooops left out the not

Do not agree that I am a reproductive choice not not not not. I am a real girl and don't you forget it.

Absolutely -- you're correct

I told Marley that I winced when I typed that. I needed to be more clear that I meant that when the anti-choicers start shouting about adoption as a way to bring down abortion rates, feminists need to get into the discussion. Feminists have ignored adoption as an important human rights issue for way too long and we need to get involved.

Speaking from a Radical Feminist Bastard Perspective

I blogged a response, as much of what I had to say was simply too extensive for a comment field.

<b>Adoption as a modern Feminist institutional blindspot</b>

The mere willingness to approach the material from a critical perspective is absolutely to Ms. Friedman's (and Bitch's) credit.

Thanks, Dawn for an

Thanks, Dawn for an excellent article. To commenter "lauren", who gave you special knowledge of how surrendering mothers feel and how long their grief lasts? How many do you know, 20, 30, 40, 50 years and more after surrendering? I have known quite a few in the last 30 some years in adoption reform groups, and i can assure you that the grief does not go away for most of us, even those who hid it and tried to suppress it for many years. There is a potential for serious life-long emotional problems for mothers who surrender, especially if they are lied to, told to keep such a momentous event secret, and not given all the facts on which to base their decision.

I am not anti-adoption, nor do I demonize adoptive parents. There is a place for adoption when there is real informed choice for the mother, and real alternatives are explored, not dismissed as the "wrong" choice with adoption always the "right" one. Some adoptions are necessary, and in some cases surrender is the better alternative. The problem is that in the past and today, many women are pushed towards surrenders that are not necessary by means that are venal and dishonest. There is corruption and coercion in adoption practice and that is not acceptable.

No, Lauren, women in crisis pregnancies do not have "the most rights". No, not all surrenders are a free, informed choice today, given the predatory and commercial nature of many adoption providers. We also have the problem of religious fundamentalists using adoption to "save souls" by adopting as many children as possible into their narrow faith, and "punish sinners" by making sure unmarried mothers lose their babies.

For some, adoption works and is a good thing, especially where honesty and openess prevail. It does not good to stick one's head in the sand and ignore what is wrong with adoption today, nor to dismiss the voices of those of us who were hurt by shoddy adoption practice in the past.

Well Said

The vast majority of natural mothers I have met whether they were searching, had found, were found, or met at or outside of A.L.M.A and C.U.B. had been hounded, lied to coerced. In one case a natural mother had approached to sign a relinquishment while still under the effects of anesthetic having just given birth. They are repeatedly told they won't be able to care for their child. People who were not adopted or a natural mother just can't seem to understand what it's like to walk down the street looking at every woman you see and the need to know whether she is your mother or if she is still alive. Or what it feels like for a mother to need to find. the child who was taken from her. For me, the feeling was similar to being lost, have a part of me missing, or having been kidnapped. How could the pain of losing a mother or a child and not knowing if they are dead or alive or well ever go away? Additionally, most hereditary diseases don't show up until long after the adoption has occurred. Any competent geneticist will tell you that there are just too many things to screen for with no up to date family history to go by. The adoption agency had me believing I should watch for heart disease, but both of my natural grandfathers died of lung cancer after the adoption and after the agency lost touch. I was adopted by heavy smokers. Adoption is a big business. The agencies get money for each child in foster care. Adoptive parents, when they realize the situation, want to know the current genetic-related medical background of their adopted children. Once those adoptees are adults, there is no longer any legitimate excuse for hiding the records. Adults should not be bound by contracts they were not signatories of. That is like slavery. My natural mother, like 95 percent of natural mothers, wanted to be found. The agency had promised her that I would be able to find her, but when I went looking they claimed she wanted confidentiality. It was a bald faced lie. The main reason agencies push for confidentiality is because it is they who have dirty deeds to hide. The claim of mothers wanting confidentiality is a promotion of the stigma of illegitimacy. Both the stigma of illegitimacy and the discrimination against "bastards" continues. Technically I am a "bastard". I can't help but wonder how society deny our rights and then be surprised if we go ahead and act the roll they cast us in. Maryanne's comment is a good one. I agree. Thank you, Dawn.

The Problem here seems to be

The Problem here seems to be the BROAD blanket statements that are being made and assumed about those who adopt and those who choose to give up their children for adoption - yes SOME women suffer from life long grief, were taken advantage of and manipulated into making choices that they might not have wanted .. BUT TO ASSUME that ALL women who give children up for adoption suffer from these issues is EGOCENTRIC

I have given up 2 children .. it was not a financial choice, it wasn't a forced choice - my parents, grandparents, and 2 of my cousins all offered to "adopt" the child until I was ready to be a mother, they offered financial assistance- free living arrangements - basically I had no crisis situation to "force" me into anything - I just had absolutely no interest in rasing a squaling brat and had no interest in having it around as a constant reminder if it was raised by my family - so adoption was a perfect solution - it went to a family that actually wanted a child and I could get on with my life .. .and no I didn't suffer any guilt or regret - it's life would have been hell it i had keep it ... a vengeful, pissed off parent is way worse than being adopted and I do like to have my life inconvenienced

2nd time around - it wasn't even a consideration , it was adoption or abortion and knowing that white babies are so popular and desired, and my own belief that a child shouldn't be punished for my errors in birth control I once again choose adoption..

My name is not on either of their birth certificates and I wanted it that way ... As far as I'm concerned, those children have NO RIGHT to my identity, and if they would somehow manage to find me - they would not find a "warm cozy reunion" - I walked away from that committment ages ago and I would not welcome their intrusion into my life or my world ...

My perspective is not unique we just don't feel any need to express ourselves - it's funny how many women protest at abortion clinics and yet still take advantage of that opportunity when it's them - same with all the whinners about "I was forced to give up my baby" blah, blah, blah - you always have a choice, you choose not to go on welfare, you choose to have unprotected sex, you choose - and whinning about social circumstances will not change the status quo - there are always going to be poor people, always going to be teen-age pregnant mothers w/out support systems .. usually those who are whinning about this have been driven to it because they are unable to find joy in their lives and so they just focus on how things would have been SO MUCH better if they had just keep their child - bullshit .. that is a fantasy in and of itself and you only do yourself harm when you live in that fantasy

"My perspective is not unique..."

Actually, according to studies of natural mothers and birth psychology, your perspective is very unique. Mothers and infancts bond during the gestation process and hormones are released at birth to further seal this mother/child bond. Disruption of this natural biological bonding process creates much emotional stress for both mother and infant. Doesn't matter if the disruption is due to adoption or the baby being placed in neo-natal intensive care - they have the same effect of creating a huge amount of anxiety and stress that can result in lifelong emotional consequences.

Studies also show that an overwhelming majority of natural mothers wish to reunite with their child and spend their lives hoping they are okay. If that is not you, fine, but it has been shown to be true for the majority of mothers.

"Studies show..." Just

"Studies show..."
Just because it's written down, doesn't make it true.

Sara, I'd like you to say it,

Sara, I'd like you to say it, in so many words, to prove you really mean it: "Any person who is adopted should be denied basic human and civil rights for life, because that's how I want it."

I recognize the anger all too well. You sound just like my first mother. Here's the thing: her brother and sisters, her parents, her nieces and nephews, and my father were all thrilled that I found her because THEY wanted to know me.

You don't have the right to tear apart two families just because you don't want to face up to your mistakes.

Environment, Heredity, Concerned United Birthparents

There is much I left out of an earlier comment that concentrated on the rights of adult adoptees to have the same rights as everyone else. If you look up the word mother in most dictionaries you will find that Natural Mothers and Adoptive Mothers both fall under the definitions given. People are affected by both environment and heredity, and both are important. I started my search after reading the book "The Search for Anna Fisher by Florence Fisher, who founded ALMA. My own adoptive parents stopped feeling threatened by my search for my natural parents when they realized that the years I had spent being raised by them were not suddenly going to go away. After I found my natural parents, on a visit to an Adoptive Parents Committee meeting in NYC, I found most adoptive parents very receptive to wanting to know the heredity and medical background of their children. In the many Meetings of the Adoptees Liberty Movement Association I attended I can tell you that most adoptees found it infuriating when to refer to their NEED to know as "curiosity". I was one of the lucky ones. While I was there I knew a woman who had been a foundling and had been searching for 25 years. She had found a newspaper article from when she had been left and had tracked down over half of the people that had lived in that building so long ago. I also attended meetings of one of the organizations referenced in an earlier comment by An Adoptee, <a href="" rel="nofollow">Concerned United Birthparents</a> , which has an informative pdf booklet on the web you can read entitled <a href="" rel="nofollow">What you should KNOW if you're considering adoption for your baby</a> Although their "focus is on birthparents, long forgotten people of the adoption community", Concerned United Birthparents welcomes adoptees, adoptive parents and professionals. Try getting to know some REAL natural mothers like Maryanne Cohen or Lorraine Dusky, the author of "Birthmark", or others like the many members of CUB I knew who are REAL (unlike "Sara"). Try reading a book like "Pregnant by Mistake, The Stories of 17 Women" by Katrina Maxtone-Graham. Get the support of other birthmothers before you make your decision. And no, I am not anti-choice.


So here's a totally "bland" question - what exactly do expect will happen to all those natural mothers who keep their babies in a society that does not want to provide services that would allow those families to exist about poverty level ? who's going to fork over the $ to fund those programs? not the the public, people are getting poorer, the middle class is shrinking and those who have, don't like to share - then consider that the new health care bill just took a major hit, in order to get the numbers to get it to the floor - abortions have been removed from all the options - so there goes one alternative for the poor, leaving adoption, illegal abortions or a life of extreme poverty with all the social/emotional/mental/physical ills that go along with it - absolutely that is so empowering, it is more important to keep the "family" together regardless of the reasoning - honestly how many women who have given up children, regardless of the whether they were pressured or not, were in a position to realistically raise a child ?? but whatever, if it's more important then sure why not - I give it a generation, then let's talk

That's an interesting question

There are a lot of assumptions in it and they are assumptions that come naturally when we consider adoption from our current framework, which is fraught with stereotypes. The truth is that birth parents are a whole lot of different people. Some are poor, some are temporarily poor, some are not poor at all. Some are young, some are not. Some are already parenting children. Some are struggling with other challenges like domestic violence, addiction or homelessness and some simply feel unsure about their readiness to parent at that time. Further some are single but some are partnered or married. Which is to say that not every child whose mother changes her mind about placing him is going to end up in "extreme poverty with all the social/emotional/mental/physical ills" that go along with it." But it's difficult to say with certainty who the women are who are placing because no one keeps good statistics especially not on those kids placed privately (not through an agency). It's all very underground.

But we do know that less than one percent of pregnant women place their babies for adoption, (which is why the NCFA is pushing it so hard -- there just aren't enough babies to meet demand). So this means that most poor women ARE parenting their children. Should we push adoption to these women as a matter of course? Is every poor woman suspect if she chooses to parent? Should our feminist response to the anti-choice coalition be to stand aside when conservative organizations demonize parenthood and push the "good mother, birth mother" rhetoric?

Let me again state that the goal is NOT to force more women to parent against their will, it's to create adoption services that truly serve the women who need them because the world being what it is, some women will need to place their children and some women will want to place their children.

"Let me again state that the

"Let me again state that the goal is NOT to force more women to parent against their will, it's to create adoption services that truly serve the women who need them because the world being what it is, some women will need to place their children and some women will want to place their children."

Before it's a service for women, it should first have the children's best interest as the primary concern. If a woman doesn't want to parent then she has no right to anonymity from the child/ren she gives away to the adoption industry (no woman should have that right). Adoption "services" currently allow this. I'd imagine there's more married women that have less choice about parenting then the single ones.

Thank you - I never really

Thank you - I never really thought about it that way

What exactly do expect will happen to all those natural mothers?

Well my first thought here is: how much is the federal tax credit now given to adoptive parents? I believe it just went over $12,000? How sad is it that our own governement will help pay to remove the children from their biologially families, but not help keep them there? I suggest that if people, aka the general public, actually were aware that their tax dollars were supporting adoption in one way.. why would they care if it was going to another area?

And then, you question itself presents a major flaw: The presumoption is made that there are only these options to one facing an unmoplanned pregnancy: "adoption, (illegal) abortions or a life of extreme poverty"

See that's one of the reasons why my son was place at birth.. if I kept him at 19 then that "baby would have ruined my life" as I was told repeatedly and I believed.

Funny thing though: I am smart, hardworking, resourcesful and have goals. Had then beofre I had goten pregnant too. SO maybe "that baby" would have presented some new challanges, but what doesn't in life?

Maybe I would have had to take less classes per semester to keep up my 3.94 GPA while tending to my son; but gee.. 22 years later do you think it would matter much to me that the now useless degree I got took a few years longer?
Would it have matter very much to my son that the first 7 years of his life we would have maybe lived with my mother ( whowould ahve adored him) and my borther ( who was only 6 years older?) .. I am thinking not.

Would it have been very much differnt then when I did parent my second son.. and my husband and I had like no $$, lived in a rickety shack with only a wood stove and then, he left me as a single mother and I had to work? Nope. I am thinking that it might have been pretty much the same. And oddly enough.. that hardworking recourseful ness me kept it all together, went on with life, still never with very much $; but for my klids now. they have had a damn good upbringing. I did it at 23 and I am damn sure I would have done it at 19.

In truth; it wasn't having the baby that <a href="">"ruined" my life; it was letting him go to adoption.<a/>

The mothers like me who DO rerlinquish.. often we are the "smart, selfless, wise, goal oriented, over achievers"..and without the "loving adoption option" we would not sink down to a life of poverty and ruin, but would become similar smart wise hardworking mothers that we really are!

Claudia Corrigan D'Arcy

Adopt-ation: A feminist take on the state of the adoption indust

In any adoption, there is pain, loss and love. As a mother who had no choice but relinquish her son at birth. I can honestly say that the day I found out he was healthy, alive, safe and loved as a child, the weight of the world was lifted off of my shoulders. Nothing can make up for the loss of all those years that I missed of his life, which is understandable And, each circumstance is as different as people can be, the adoptive person, the mother, and the adoptive parents.

I would hope any feminist would acknowledge the pain that we endured as our children were MIA. There has to be a better way for all three parties than as practiced in the past. Adoptive adults, need to know their roots as well as their branches, if they so desire. Adoptive parents should have the fear that they will lose their 'child' removed, as their child's loyaltiy is to them. Mother's (birth-moms, in general, because I can't speak for everyone) should have the right to know their adult children are safe so they can die in peace. At least that is what finding Joel did for me.

I hope all feminists can understand the complexities and support what is best for all. Confirm this by reading the Evan B Doanldson Agency's reports (a research and think tank on adoption).

Thank you,
Jill - just another woman and mother

Perspective of an Adoptee

I've spent the last hour reading all these comments, and except for a few, they are all by mothers who only talk about themselves. How THEY feel, what THEY want. How putting their children up for adoption has ruined their lives. But what about the kids?

I am an adoptee and my adoption was closed. Many of you who have studied adoption will say that that's horrible, damaging, etc. I have also been on the other side of the process when my husband and I tried to adopt several years ago. Additionally I have many friends that are adopted and friends who have adopted - domestically, internationally, and out of the foster system, so I believe that I do know something about it.

To those women who still feel the pain of giving up a child - I am sorry about that. As a mother, I am sure that was excruciating. But as an adopted child, I am here to tell you that I am happy. I love my family (my REAL family = my adoptive family). I have always known that I was adopted (and my brothers were not) and my mother always made sure to tell me how special my birthmom was to love me so much to give me up (she was a teenager). As for money - no, we didn't have a lot. My parents certainly weren't rich - we struggled. Also, as the baby of a teenager (who probably didn't receive much prenatal care) I was premature and had health problems. My parents never complained. They took care of me no matter what the cost. My MOTHER (adoptive) was the one who sat up with me at night when my asthma was so bad I couldn't breathe. She rushed me to the ER when I stopped breathing. My parents got me the surgery I needed so I could hear again (I was born with fluid in both ears, so I couldn't hear anything for the 6 months I was in foster care). My brothers and I are close. My dad coached my soccer team, and my mom and I love the same books. I am adopted, but that doesn't define me. My family doesn't make any distinction - we are family. That's it. I don't want to find my birthparents. They are strangers. I don't want either a camera crew or my birthparents to show up on my doorstep. I wish them well, but this is my life. I am happy. And out of all my friends that are adopted - not one of them has ever found their birthparents, either, and none want to.

For those adoptees that want to find their birthparents - hey, that's your choice and you are entitled to it. I hope it's everything you want it to be. But don't assume that all adoptees need to find their parents to be whole. My mother actually encouraged me to find my birthparents, but I told her I didn't want to. My uncle is adopted and my grandmother always knew who his birthparents were (some distant relation) and he was similarly uninterested in meeting them. I believe families are made - not born.

I hope that my birthmother isn't still mourning me, that she made peace with it and moved on with her life and is happy somewhere. Even if she isn't, I hope she doesn't find me. People criticize closed adoptions, but in my case, we lived an uneventful life. I had two parents and two brothers. Everyone who talks about open adoption talks about how hard it is - how many issues there are. Maybe it's ultimately a good thing, but you won't know, will you? You won't know if it's too confusing for the child, or if it just keeps those wounds open indefinitely on both sides, and if that's a good thing. Those mothers who gave up their children and are now convinced they could have been good parents don't know that, either. Maybe you could have been, but who pays the price if you fail? Obviously you had many factors against you or else you wouldn't have considered adoption in the first place. I am a parent, too, and it's damn hard work. My husband and I have good jobs, but the costs are astronomical - safe car seats, daycare, formula, diapers, clothes, shoes, etc. I work part-time, and even part-time daycare for 3 kids is $25k/year, and I don't even live where it is the most expensive. My best friend has two children and she pays that much.

Seeing it from so many sides - adoption IS flawed. It IS emotional (how could it not be?). But in the case of my friends who are adopted and my other friends who have adopted - in our cases, us adoptees are happy. Even though as mothers you still feel loss, can't you make room for the possibility that your children are happy where they are?

I know that you suffered a loss, but it isn't healthy to dwell on it for so many years and not move on. Many people suffer losses and don't hold on to them as the ruination of their lives. I have friends that have lost children (to death) and although that pain will never go away, and they will always remember that child, they didn't let it ruin everything else good in their lives. I lost a sister-in-law, and a friend to breast cancer. I had five miscarriages and I am sad for each child that I will never know, but I have three healthy children that I am thankful for, and I'm happy about that.

If you want to find your birthchild, and that reunion is happy, that's great for you. But what if you find them and they don't want it? What harm have you done then? A girl I knew in college had her birthmom show up on her doorstep unannounced and she very much did not want that. Same on the other side, what I found my birthmom and she didn't want to be found? What if she were the victim of rape or just uninterested (like Sara)?And what type of relationship am I expected to have with these people, anyway? Am I supposed to bond with them just because we are related by blood? I actually find that unnatural and don't wish to be forced into a relationship with people who are strangers. Whoever said that adoptive parents have to come to terms with the fact that adoptees have a whole other family wasn't quite accurate. We have other blood relatives, but they aren't our family.

I hope all of you can find peace in some way. But remember, it's not always about you. As parents, that's the first thing you learn - your child comes first.

Another side

I do think there are a whole lot of moms and not enough kids on this thread. I am an adoptee and here's a fun kicker- I was a teen mom too. I have always wanted to find my bio mom not because there is a hole she needs to fill but because she is a part of my story. I used to yearn for her a lot because I was a fish out of water in my family- 3 adopted kids non-related. I always felt weird because my interests were so different and wondered if it was nature showing through all the nurture. Also there is something sucky about knowing the people who grew you said no thanks to raising you- I used to have anger but understand a lot more about the complexity of these decisions in my adulthood. Also I wanted to see my face on someone else's. I wanted to meet someone who looked like me
As a pregnant teen I knew I couldn't let my baby wonder why it wasn't good enough. She's 10 today and I've made plenty of mistakes as a parent but I don't think keeping her was one. She looks just like me too:).
I'm not saying its easy and there is a LOT of truth in the fact that not aborting is VERY pushed at young girls, as is the idea that you are not capable. At 28 I was just asked if both my kids had the same father, not something a married mother of ten year old would most likely have happen if she was 38 (or even 30). In keeping my child I have kept up the constant question - am I good enough - a question that I pondered a lot as a kid.
My parents were great, raised me right, were moderately well off and gave me more than I can give my daughter - they fill in the gaps though, my kids don't want. I did the "right" thing after I had her and put my butt through college- the degree hasn't made me rich and my "legitimate" 3 year old doesn't get rich parents either.
There are lasting effects. Its different for everyone because there are a lot of people involved in all of these cases, birth parents, adoptive parents, and a (or the) child(ren).
My sister has met her bio family, it was really important at first and now, she's kinda done with them. She did however have one priveledge I didn't have- when she was filling out forms when pregnant with her first baby she was able to give him a complete medical history. It seems silly to those who haven't been there but everytime I go to a new doctor I feel less-than. I don't have the correct papers sir, no pedigree I am just a mutt.

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