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Adoption: Securing the Rights of Mothers and Children

The adoption of a child either within your own country or across borders creates opportunities for children and prospective parents as well as risks for human rights abuses. On the internet, people worldwide share varied experiences from the point of view of adoptive mothers, birth mothers and adoptees themselves. One thing most people seek, is more openness and dialogue about a process with many consequences hidden from view.

Babygate: trafficking children to cover demand

Malinda, an adoptive mother of two Chinese girls,  writes in her blog Adoption Talk about the lengths some corrupt individuals are going to ensure the steady flow of adoptable babies to people able to pay the pricey adoption fees. In her post Adoption Corruption: Trafficking in the news she highlights recent cases in Cameroon, where children are kidnapped in order to be placed for adoption; Korea, where young parents put their baby on sale on the Internet; Guatemala, where the army abducted and sold more than 333 children for adoption and where recently babies and children were put up for adoption without parental consent; and Ethiopia, where unregulated agencies are convincing families to give their children up for adoption, promising them the children will later return to them or that the agency will help support the remainder of the family. Similar cases have been seen in numerous other countries.

Mothers coming together to secure their human rights

Some adoptive mothers do what they can to ensure one woman's right to motherhood doesn't go against the reproductive rights of another mother.

One such option is open adoptions, a sometimes controversial decision where the child remains in contact with the birth mother and is aware that due to other circumstances, she wasn't able to take care of them.

One woman in the United States, Leigh, writes a blog called Open Adoption Round Table about the challenges of giving her child up for adoption in a semi-open arrangement.

Another blogger and writer Dawn Friedman tells a story in her blog from the opposite perspective of adopting her daughter, Madison, while keeping an open line of communication with the birth mother. Friedman is also an activist for adoption reform in the United States. She believes pregnancy counseling in unplanned pregnancies too easily pushes women towards giving up their babies for adoption without informing them adequately of how difficult it is. Friedman also recommends that the process of adoption counseling should include a post-labor session where women are accompanied through the decision making process and advised of their rights and possibilities after giving birth, in case they are having second thoughts or have additional concerns.

Birth mothers

Lorraine Dusky in the United States, who runs the Birth Mother, First Mother Forum had medical history that made her think that birth control pills she took during pregnancy could have affected the child she placed in adoption, but when she tried to contact the adoptive family through the agency to let them know, they refused to send over the information.

She relinquished her child with no particular coercion, but the laws for “closed records” in adoptions may have cost her daughter's life.

But what about natural mothers in developing countries? Where are their voices? Some of them have written letters to the children they've placed for adoption, as Pam Conell of families.com tells us in her book review of I Wish for You a Beautiful Life: Letters from the Korean birthmothers of Ae Ran Won.

Others are telling their stories through documentaries, or after being reunited with their natural children. And there are some others who tell of women who don't regret giving their children up for adoption, considering it was the best alternative. However some women, like  Malinda in the USA,  adoptive parent of Chinese Girls who writes AdoptionTalk believes that these last representations have to be taken with a grain of salt:

These representations of foreign birth mothers allow us to divorce ourselves from the experience of these birth mothers, to minimize their pain, and to justify how much better off our children are with us than with them.

The Voices of the Adopted:

Mary Grace in China by endbradley

Mary Grace in China by endbradley

The voices of the adoptees are as varied as any of the other parts of the adoption triad. But in general they share some points of view in common: The desire to know about their origins and the reason for their adoption and the hope that their birth mothers made an informed decision to part with them.  They also believe in the right to know their history if they choose, to know about their adoptee status from early on and have it acknowledged as part of their identity.

For example Susan from ReadingWritingLiving, an adult adoptee born in the 1960's, identified with TV drama Mad Men, particularly in their portrayal of adoptions in that time period, where women hid their shameful unwanted pregnancies until giving birth and how adopted children where seen as discards. She sums it up in her post Mad Men: A Window into my Own Past

Yes, it was painful to hear this but also WILDLY refreshing to have someone just come out and SAY it.

In the I am adopted [es]blog in Spanish, David Azcona writes about his difficult childhood, adoption at the age of 6 and the instability and inability to bond with people [es] he's felt since. It is also a place for other adoptees to post their adoption stories, and to share their experiences. In the comment threads of his about page, stories about apropriated babies [es] with no knowledge of their birth parents, twins separated at birth[es] by nurses who told parents one of the babies had died[es] and requests from birth mothers trying to contact their children as well as the other way around.

An adoptee answers a question asked on a website regarding love between adoptees and adoptive parents:

I was adopted as a baby by the two most loving, caring and supportive parents a child and young adult could ever wish for. I also have a younger adopted brother.

I don't think my biological parents could have loved me more than my adoptive ones.

Other adoptees with similar experiences chime in, some with relationships with both natural parents and adoptive parents and others who have only known their adoptive families. In this particular thread, the experiences are overwhelmingly positive towards adoption.

Some adoptees advocate against adoption. Lost Letters, an adoptee herself who writes in the Anti-Adoption livejournal community believes that instead of using so much money to aid in adoption processes and fees, it should be spent in improving the conditions of the birth parents so they can take care of their family. She adds:

I understand that my actual position on adoption is going to piss people off because people want to believe that adoption is a win/win/win situation for everyone, because people think that middle class white women deserve children no matter what, because people think that our western society is so wonderful that all children should be bought up here.

AmyAdoptee who posts in the Adult Adoptees Advocating for Change forum writes:

The adoption industry intentionally pits us against each other.  We are letting them do it.  In fact, the adoption industry gets a wonderful kick out of this.  Here is an article that supports generally our point of view but they ask that we refrain from attacking adoptive parents.  There is nothing wrong with a healthy discourse.

PhilM, in the same forum thread discussing how adoptive parents perceive them, clarifies:

I’m angry at a society that ignores the problems of adoption, and the harm it causes. I’m angry that when I try to talk about these things, I am marginalized and dismissed with comments along the lines of “well, everyone experiences it differently” and “most adoptees I know love their adoptive parents” and others. I am angry that, because I speak out about adoption, people question my love for my adoptive family. And, I admit, I get angry when individuals parrot these messages.

I don’t need a lecture for how to behave in dialogue. I need people willing to engage in it.

The way forward

As with any delicate issue, it touches a sensitive chord for all those involved: adoptive mothers, birth mothers and adopted children. However, it seems they all meet and agree on one important point: Transparency in the adoption process is vital to safeguard the human rights for the mothers and the children, and discussing adoption openly encourages transparency.

EDITED TO ADD:

We have removed a reference to a blogger who didn't wish to be quoted or mentioned in this post. To her, our apologies, it was in no way our intention to infringe on her or offend, but to provide a multiplicity of visions regarding a sensible subject.

5 comments

  • Thank you for writing this article and including varied voices and thoughts. As an adult adoptee, it is so disheartening to
    see so many adoptee’s voices dismissed.

  • […] Children in the […]

  • icecream

    actually i don’t agree with adoption.though some adoptive parents might be really care a lot for their adoptees but still they are not their biological children.WHAT IF,1 day the children’s biological parents appear???….imagine…

  • – Transnational Adoption and the “Financialization of Everything”
    http://bit.ly/ep1ax

    – International Adoption and the Fight for Human Rights
    http://bit.ly/lMq0E

    – Trading in Babies
    http://bit.ly/bQjEG

    – TRANSRACIAL ADOPTION Some Visions I Have Seen…
    http://bit.ly/4nRXHS

    – THE PRICE WE ALL PAY Human Trafficking in International Adoption
    http://bit.ly/2IuREy

    – INTERNATIONAL ADOPTION Child Protection or a Breach of Rights?
    http://bit.ly/14z2gz

    – REVERSE ROBINHOODISM Pitting Poor Against Affluent Women in the Adoption Industry
    http://bit.ly/14EBID

  • Abdurrahmaan

    In positive response to the TRANSPARENCY issue, let me tell u that ISLAAM tells us to name the adopted child after his/her biological father’s name, even if he’s dead, & not after the adoptive/adopting father.

    THUS TRUE EXPOSURE TO REALITY

    Instead of costly baby-getting alternatives, y don’t childless parents adopt children, in general?

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