Thursday, February 10, 2011

Abducted v. Adopted: What's the Difference?

At Huffington Post, Jennifer Lauck, author of Found: A Memoir and Blackbird: A Childhood Lost and Found, asks that question:
Carlina White said she always had a sense she did not belong to the family that raised her. The twenty-three-year-old woman had been abducted in 1987 from a Harlem Hospital when she was nineteen-days-old. White was then raised by her abductor, Ann Pettway. Pettway is now in custody for kidnapping.

What White expresses about her sense of belonging is what I have felt for all the years of my own life -- only I am called adopted versus abducted.

Go read the whole thing, and then tell us what you think.


Linda said...

I am an adult, so I know I was not abducted. My ap's wanted a baby, they adopted. No coercion, no fraud, they just wanted a baby. My first Mother was like Ms. Lauck's, who was also like millions of other Mothers who were told they had no right to parent their child, simply because she was unmarried. The only malice involved in my adoption was societal, and religious.

BUT- A newborn baby/young child does not know the difference between adoption and abduction. All they know is that the mother they knew, the mother who was their entire existence, is now gone. It is violent to the newborn, as his or her natural Mother was his world and they were bonded to her. Even an older infant/toddler does not know the difference between adoption and abduction. They just know that the life they knew is over, and they must do what they need to do to survive.

Some adoptees call themselves "adAptees". They adapt to these new stranger parents, or they will not survive.

Some adoptees even say the experience of being adopted is similar to "Stockholm Syndrome"....even when there is no abuse in their adoptive families.

I have found the case of Carlina White, and the comments from the general public to be ironic, because for the most part, they have totally supported Carlina's feelings about feeling "out of place" and like a "stranger" in her (abducted) family.

But adoptees are told (and the comments on Huff Po are typical)"Well, would rather have been dead/in an orphanage/on the streets?" or that they "should be grateful that someone loved them or took them in".

It is simply not accepted by society that adoptees struggle within their adoptive families, and they are made to feel guilty for talking about their experience.

I personally agree with Ms. Lauck, because in my infant mind, there was NO difference. My Mother was gone, and I had no choice but to "adapt" to these new strangers and surroundings.

Linda said...

PS- Thanks for this article. Is it ok to link to your blog? I think a lot of adoptees would be interested in this story.

malinda said...

Always ok to link! What I'm most interested in with what I post is that the conversation continues!

birthmothertalks said...

I wish I could read the book but if I buy a book every time someone blogs about it.. I will be broke. I have read all the adoption related books that the library in my area has.

Anonymous said...

As an adult adoptee, adopted at an older age from an orphanage overseas, I am struck by 2 things:

One being that ethicial adoptions would ever be held up to said "abducted" scrutiny. Personally I believe that derails us from the very real discussions that need to take place. The woman featured in the article truly was abducted by a disturbed individual....a heinous crime.

Second, I am beginning to realize that being adopted at an older age and from an institution has afforded me insights that others adopted domestically on in infancy might not benefit from.

I have no memories of being ripped from a mother, only enfolded into a loving family that liberated me from a hellish institutionalized environment.

While I wouldn't wish my first 9 years of orphan status on anyone, I am finding it allows me closure that not everyone benefits from.

Myst said...

In some cases where the mother is actively fighting the adoption, there isn't a difference. In fact I see it as being EXACTLY the same except that it is an abduction sanctioned by law.

There are many cases out there where a woman is bullied into signing a consent and then the second the pressure is off decides to fight it.

In my case, I fought and won my first case. My daughter's adopters took it back to court and somehow managed to get a judge who was famous for giving into aps, on our case (later learned this was not normal and something corrupt likely happened) and I lost my daughter. To me she was kidnapped, stolen, abducted by the law. I have even told her adopters that is what they did.

The lines between adoption and abduction are blurred very easily... there are even cases of abduction for adoption purposes. They are both closely connected even if people do not want to admit they are.

Anonymous said...

With all due respect, making the decision to sign away the rights to your child are not in any way the same as having a child taken by force as perpetrated in the crime discussed in this article.

Sorry, but second thoughts and regrets are just not the same.

While I may be sympathetic to mothers who felt they had no recourse or faced societal pressures and stigmas, pretending its the same, doesn't make it so.

I am speaking to ethical adoptions, not to the issues that have plagued some IA. I do believe more should be done to make all adoptions more transparant.

The family of Ms. White, for years, had no idea of the whereabouts of their child. No idea if she lived or died. She was snatched from a nursery, not placed for adoption. Not placed in an orphanage or left in a finding spot.


sign me: Anon 2

P.S. Yes, I know some of you will write back to enlighten me on the systemic abuses in adoption, lack of real choice facing many overseas mothers, parallels between closed adoptions and the above circumstances I described.

Still not the same and implying such does a great disservice to all legal and ethical adoptions.

joy said...

I feel very bad for the author and her situation. I agree with what Linda said, to a baby there are some parallels but as an adult, no I don't feel like I was abducted.

I also feel really uncomfortable with the thought of adoption = abduction.

Myst said...

Anon 2, making an informed choice with all the facts known and buckling under pressure because you have no choice as presented is NOT the same and therefore in those cases, yes, adoption and abduction IS very similar or the same depending on the case.

As you have not been through the same experience, you CANNOT speak for those this has happened to. And I maintain that what happened to me and other mothers in similar circumstances was abduction sanctioned by the law, especially since I won my first case.

Unless YOU have been through this, how would you know? If you made an informed choice to abandon a baby, that is a very different situation to the one I am talking about.

I am sure there are many who are uncomfortable about the fact adoption and abduction are similar. Not my problem if truth is uncomfortable. Doesn't change the facts though. And yes, like the parents of children who are abducted, many of us who were NOT given a choice or tried to keep our babies, we spent many years not knowing where they were, what was happening to them if they were alive etc. In fact I would say for the mothers of the days where children were taken from their mothers at birth while those mothers were drugged, chained to a bed etc and those children never seen again, there was no difference. It was straight out abduction and they, like the family of this abducted girl, spent many years traumatised by what happened to them.

What I notice here though, is the huge hypocrisy in the way stranger abduction is seen vs state sanctioned abduction aka adoption. Just because it is labelled with adoption, mothers whose children were adopted AGAINST our wills are expected to wear it. Not allowed to speak up and if we are do we will be shot down in flames. Nup, doesn't work for this mother. You can take your hypocrisy elsewhere.

Reena said...

I agree with what Linda wrote about the perspective of the baby/young child. There is no difference to them-- they don't understand adoption-- they only know that everything familar to them is suddenly gone.

Soemthing I don't understand-- it seems like many folks do so much fertility treatments to get PG-- from what I have heard, the mom's want that early bond with the baby.

How many PG do we or have we known who talk to their baby-- because we now know the baby can hear us. The baby can hear other voices and becomes familar with them.

There is a "feel" the baby has while being carried by the mom that I have heard quite a few women say they want.

Fertility treatments don't work and we move on to adoption. Then these same people discount the bond that is present between mom and baby inutero (SP?).

What gives?

We've twice adopted from China.

Our first daughter was 16-months and had lived in an institution. She seemed pretty happy with me almost instantly.

Our second daughter was nearly 2-years old when we adopted her. She had lived with a foster family for most of her life. I have no doubts AT ALL that she felt she was being abducted-- ripped away from her family.

Jane said...

Hmmm...I wonder if Carlina is still feeling all those things as it her primary concern appears to be money rather than reuniting with her birth family. The NY Daily News reported that Carlina is no longer in contact with her biological family when they addmitted they spent all the money they received from a settlement with the hospital. Carlina had been pressing her mother about the money from the moment of reunion, which leads me to question what her true motives were to begin with.

Anonymous said...

"I am beginning to realize that being adopted at an older age and from an institution has afforded me insights that others adopted domestically on in infancy might not benefit from."

How would they "benefit" from those insights if their experience was not that they were taken away from an orphanage that they disliked?

Actually, I have heard and read about older adoptees from institutions that have had the feelings of being "kidnapped" because these people are strangers that they are expected to have an intimate relationship with right off. (Considering someone your "mother" and "father" is not an overnight process, but that's what's often expected of children being adopted.) So your experience is not what everyone adopted from an orphanage has felt, though I'm sure there are others who have felt the way you do.

Also, please remember that just because someone is an older adoptee does not mean they were adopted from an orphanage. There are older adoptees that were with their original families or foster families and then were adopted.

I personally do relate to the feeling of being kidnapped as a child. Putting aside the legal context, how from a baby or child's actual experience in the moment, does taking a baby or child from a family they are bonded with differ from the experience of being kidnapped?

Anonymous said...

@ Anon ( the last Anon. commenter)

Clearly my experiences and sharing them srtuck a nerve for you.

You are asking for the same thing I am; to have my voice counted and heard as "my experience."

I didn't invalidate anyone elses' nor did I state my situation is representative of every adoption.

It would seem though that you would like your experience to be given greater weight.

I was merely stating that I might in fact be better off from having been adopted at an older age from an institutionalized setting.

Sorry if that threatens you.

Also....I mean, have you lived that life? A loving orphanage that they crave to remain in? Maybe. But its probably more about fearing the unknown and having only known that existance than actually choosing that life over a loving family.


Anonymous said...


This is Anon. 2 responding to your query.

I AM a birth mother and it is abhorrant to me that the choices that I made to place my child for adoption, with a loving family, are equated to abduction. That is a personal feeling and I am equally entitled to it, just as you have your own.

In one sweep it implies that I cared so little for my child and participated in a leagalized and sactioned form of abudction or a form of enabling it.

So you see, I do know and have walked, at least in part, in your shoes.

I firmly believe there is NO one formula for adoption and each experience is unique.

Your presumption that I wouldn't "know" was quite simply false. Something you might wish to consider before making your own generalizations nex time.

Kris said...

I also agree with Linda, that to the child there is no real difference. I know my daughter grieved when we brought her home. It didn't matter to her that it was all legal. To her, she may as well have been kidnapped. This is the dark side of adoption, that the child is the one who suffers such loss.

However, having said that, I can't agree that adoption and abduction are the same thing. We contacted our child's mother in Russia. We know our child was not abducted. She was not going to parent her little girl. She gave birth and left her at the hospital. When social workers went to her house to ask her to come get her baby, she refused. Our adoption of her from an orphanage is not the same as snatching her from a hospital from parents who intended to take her home.

Adoption was not ideal for our daughter. It is not what she would have chosen for herself. I'm sure she will not feel lucky or grateful. Adoption is adoption, but it is not abduction (in most cases anyway; I know there are exceptions.)

Myst said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Myst said...

@ Anon 2, no you have NEVER walked in my shoes. As I said before, making an informed choice is incredibly different to not having a choice. Your comment about "having regrets" etc is not the same as never wanting to place in the first place and being bullied into it and then fighting for your child, winning her back only to have her taken away by corruption etc. No, you have no clue!

So I am not making generalisations. Just because your situation is different to mine doesn't make what I feel invalid or wrong. You made an informed choice, good for you. Not all of us were so fortunate. And I don't really care for your own generalisations. No, you didn't experience the kind of 'adoption' others did therefore you will never understand how a mother who lost her child to adoption can feel like her child was abducted. Simply because your experience was so different.

I didn't say ALL adoptions were abductions but yes, there are many many, many adoption cases out there that are nothing more than abductions sanctioned by law. Can't relate to that? Well that is your story. Just don't try to tell me and all the other mothers whose babies were ripped from them (and I actually mean that in the real terms) and taken how to feel.

So yes, sadly, because you cannot trust human nature adoption and abduction are alot more closely connected than any of us might like. I didn't make it like this, so instead of getting all defensive with me about it, go and join those who want to change it. There is nothing else you really can do.

Anonymous said...

Myst, don't you see your child or at least get pictures or something?

Hardly the same as having your child abducted from the hospital or wherever never to be seen again or know what happened to them. Most abducted children are never seen nor heard from again, more often than not because they aren't alive.

Try comparing your situation face to face with parents who really have had a child abducted, never to be heard from again.

Sharon said...

To Anonymous, the adult adoptee who described the experience of coming to a family from an overseas orphanage and feeling positive about that experience: thank you so much. My children were also older at adoption. Two are siblings, who left the orphanage together easily and excitedly, and to this day express no longing for anything connected with that institution. For my other child, the experience was more mixed; she grieved the loss of her friends, but with time shared more and more stories about life there that are indeed "hellish." I'm prepared for their feelings and perspectives to shift and evolve as they mature, but hearing from you supports my own intuitive sense that they have adapted to well precisely because they were older and had some understanding about the changes that happened in their lives and the reasons for those changes.

SustainableFamilies said...

"Myst, don't you see your child or at least get pictures or something?"

Wow. That's interesting. My firstmother wanted to keep me and the adoption agency said that she would have to give them thousands of dollars. They set her up to be in a position where she would literally have no power to keep me after the birth.

She didn't get pictures or letters, have a clue if I was alive or dead or being abused. Some adoptees do die and many do get abused.

I'm sorry but that really shows a horrific insensitivity. There were women who literally had their children taken from them in the hospital just for being unmarried. Signatures forged. That IS child abduction.

Not all adoption is abduction and fortunately I think it's a very small percent of women who exprience true abduction that is upheld legally as an "adoption."

But it does happen. I'm not sure why you're being so cruel about it?

Oooooh, it must be the "women who spread their legs deserved it" thing? That makes it ok? What about rape? Is ik for women who are raped to be bullied into losing their children?

Myst said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Myst said...

@ anon2

Whatever is happening right now in present day has no bearing on what actually happened to obtain my daughter. Yes, NOW I get to see her from time to time but that doesn't erase the fact she was taken from me by force as a baby.

Really, are you going to walk up to a family who have been reunited with their abducted child and tell them their case was not an abduction case because they have their child back?

Nope, your point is invalid simply because what happens today has no bearing on what happened years ago.

My daughter was taken. That is a fact. You don't have to like it or accept it but that doesn't change the truth of it.

Taking a child from a mother without her consent is abduction. Plain and simple.

ms. marginalia said...

This is a very interesting topic.

I think adoption as abduction is a troubling metaphor on many levels, but I agree that infants (at least some) may experience adoption as abduction because they must bond with strangers. I also agree that to many first mothers of the BSE and in IA, the level of coercion involved brings adoption uncomfortably close to abduction.

I was born in 1969, and my adoption was perfectly legal. My nmom chose to place me because to her, it seemed like the only and best choice. My aparents are fantastic, loving people whom I adore to this day.

When Carlina's story broke, everyone was thrilled for her to reunite with her family. Conversely, almost every time I discuss my reunion with people--even those involved with adoption in some way, and particularly some aparent friends of mine--the very first questions I am asked are "What do your aparents think about this?" and "Why do you need to find those people? You already have a family."

Why is the tie of DNA so very, very important to Carlina but not to me and the millions of other adoptees? Reena nailed it. It forces people to say that for adoptees, genetic connections and mirroring are needless frivolities. Makes no sense at all for them not to apply to us, and yet such sureties are chucked around all the time.

Anonymous said...


Realize this topic is old news now but for the record I, Anon. 2, was NOT the poster who asked what the big deal was and implied that because you get photos or visits, it diminishes your pain.

I stand by what I said, but the other comments were from another Anon.

Setting the record straight.

Anon. 2

Myst said...

Okay thanks for that Anon 2 :)

Sorry for the confusion and thanks for clearing things up.


Chris said...

Anon said:"Myst, don't you see your child or at least get pictures or something?
Hardly the same as having your child abducted from the hospital or wherever never to be seen again or know what happened to them. Most abducted children are never seen nor heard from again, more often than not because they aren't alive.
Try comparing your situation face to face with parents who really have had a child abducted, never to be heard from again.""

Clearly you don't know much about adoption as it was carried out decades ago, wherein the vast majority of adoptions were 'closed adoptions, many, many newborns taken for adoption against the young mother's will. There were no pictures, did not know where your baby was or with whom. Your baby being taken from you right there in the hospital. Many mothers never allowed to know the sex of her own child, being allowed to even see her own baby, let alone holding her own baby, some mothers being told their baby was born dead or died soon after birth..when those babies were very much alive, as some mothers would find out decades later. For many mothers, not ever knowing if they would ever see their child in the future, not knowing if their own child was dead or alive. When mothers did not make 'an adoption plan'...the 'plan' was made for the mother, by others.

Now if that doesn't parallel the feeling of 'abduction' from a natural mother's point of view, then I don't know what does. I believe this is what Jennifer Lauck was trying to get across to her readers. She was speaking to the 'how' she became available for adoption, decades ago. Jennifer was a BSE baby born to her BSE mother.
To add, many a natural mother has never heard from their child again, and yes, some BSE nmothers have found graves at the end of their search. I am suspecting you have not educated yourself on adoption practices of the past, and the cruel methods that were practiced openly, to separate a mother and her newborn.
I am a BSE mother and now in reunion going on 12 years with my BSE baby, who is now very much an adult. She was 34 yrs old when I found her..I was lucky.