Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Forced Adoption Practices Still Persist in U.S.

An article at RHReality Check looks at the recent attention to the Baby Scoop Era forced adoptions, and worries that that attention creates the impression that all those problems are in the past:
I'm concerned that the conversation about forced adoption is being framed in such a way as to imply that adoption coercion is a relic from the past. I'm concerned that mothers who lost children to more recent unethical practices are discouraged from sharing their stories in order to support this conclusion. I'm concerned that women who might consider adoption now or in the future will incorrectly believe that today's agencies and facilitators are above reproach because reports say that coerced adoption ended in the seventies. While its true that contraception and abortion access have reduced the number of infants being surrendered for adoption in recent years, corruption is ever-present.

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Now, instead of the secrecy and shame that surrounded the girls who went away during the Baby Scoop Era, adoption agencies promise expectant mothers unlimited contact with their children. Technically, modern facilitators are being truthful when they say that most of today's infant adoptions are open, since “open” is a blanket term used to describe any situation in which the mother has some form of contact with the adopters. This can mean anything from a few meetings during pregnancy to exchanging pictures and letters via an intermediary to a coveted lifelong relationship that includes phone calls and visits. However, many agencies promise expectant mothers that they can decide how much contact to have with their children. This is untrue. Legally, once an adoption is finalized, the adoptive parents have all the control and can cut off contact at will. And they frequently do. One mother who complained to her adoption agency that her daughter's adopters were not following through on the level of contact they promised was told that the adopters close more than 80 percent of the open adoptions that are initiated there.

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There's no need to argue whether or not adoption has changed in the past thirty years. It has. The problem can be summed up with the old adage: the more things change, the more they stay the same. Not only are modern adoption practices coercive as were their predecessors, but we have to contend with the War on Women that currently threatens to take women's rights back to the '50s. As conservative legislators rush to deny funding to Planned Parenthood, limit access to contraception, and prevent abortion by any possible means, the shadow of a second Baby Scoop Era is looming over America. Will we learn from the past, or will we repeat it?
The article talks about reframing relinquishment as "making an adoption plan," adoptive parents in the birthing room, "Dear Birthmother" letters promising the moon, talk of "loving choice," etc., as more subtly coercive tactics today.  Go read the whole thing.

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