Thursday, January 17, 2013

Force Of Nature

In all the years I've been a part of the fight for adoption reform and family preservation, in all the different First Moms I have come to know, the many stories and experiences I have heard, there is one overwhelming similarity we all share . . .

We wanted to keep and raise our children but, for whatever reason, unique to our own experiences, we believed giving our babies up for adoption was what we had to do.  We didn’t have the confidence in ourselves, the belief in our own importance to our child, and were left with feeling as if we couldn’t possibly raise our own child and the only solution was to give our sons and daughters away to someone perceived as better than us.

Of course, like in all things, there are the exceptions, the minority . . . those few . . . who truly just don’t want to be bothered with parenting.  Who, even with all the support and help they could have possibly been given, would still give their baby away because they have no desire to take on the responsibilities of being a parent.

But they are so far from the norm.  So far from what I hear, over and over again, in the world of adoption . . .

“I wish I could keep my baby . . . but . . . “

Though so many have tried to do so, you cannot dismiss or weaken the natural, primal instinct that exists inside a mother to care for and love her child.  She’s not a fish, a reptile, an insect, who simply lays eggs and walks away.  She’s a mother.  One who nurtures her child’s life inside her body.  Who is already prewired with hormones that connect her to her child in a way that can never be replicated with any other relationship.

But in adoption, where I have often said all logic goes away, there are those who believe you can coerce or force a mother into doing something that is natural and instinctive – keeping and raising the baby you have carried for nine months inside of you.  Your child, who is a part of you in a way no one else ever can be.

They claim every mother should have the “right” to give up her child if she feels she is incapable of raising him or her.  Which, okay, in the broadest of terms, perhaps, to some, this sounds acceptable.  But if you are going to carry that belief, then shouldn’t it pass to all mothers of all ages of children?

What about that mom, newly divorced, just lost her job, with a fourteen year old son who is in and out of trouble?  We wouldn’t want to force her to parent, would we?  We should give her the same encouragement and support to give up her troublesome son as we give the mothers who are still pregnant and haven’t yet even had the chance to try parenting their children.

We wouldn’t want to coerce her into parenting if she feels she just can’t do it.  We should instead give her that same right so many are fighting for pregnant mothers to have – to go to an adoption agency and be reassured how brave she is for recognizing her failures as a mother, guaranteed that another, better couple will be found for her child.

All of her bills, from that point, should be taken care of until a hopeful adoptive couple is found and she signs away her rights to her teenage son.  She should be offered temporary housing, perhaps college tuition and even presented with gift baskets and blankets to honor the wonderful sacrifice she has made by knowing she is incapable of taking care of her fourteen year old son and “choosing” to give him away to a “better” couple.

And if we are going to go by the terms of what is considered coercing or forcing a mother to keep and parent her child, we cannot judge this mother for giving her child away while she is facing a hard time in her life.  We cannot tell her anything about the damage she will cause him or even suggest that he will feel pain from such a loss.

She will have to be restricted from hearing from any mothers about the pain they suffered from being where she is . . . in the midst of a crisis, feeling as if they had no choice and believing giving their child away was the only answer.  And she will have to be protected from hearing from others, who were also given up by their mothers as a troublesome teenager, if they have anything to say that doesn't praise the separation they suffered because nobody wanted to "force" their mother to keep and raise them.

This mother can also not be offered help and support to keep her teenage son.  And if she is offered such things, she needs to be made aware that those who are offering to stand by her won't keep their promises and won't be there when she needs them.

See, that's the thing.  If one truly believes that the majority of mothers can be forced to keep their children, then they have to carry that belief for ALL mothers and offer the same encouragement and support for every child to be given away whenever their parents face a hard time in life.

Since the claim is that it's not about the demand for infants that persuades others to fight for the right for a mother to "choose" not to parent, then it shouldn't matter the age of the child she is giving up.  If he or she is fourteen years or fourteen hours old, there should be that assurance that there is a "better" couple willing to adopt them and raise them as their own.

But that just isn't the case.

The myth of mothers being forced to raise their children only lasts as long as that child is of the young age where they are still sought after to meet the demand of hopeful couples willing to pay to adopt them. 

Once the children are past a certain age and are no longer considered "adoptable," the rights of all those poor mothers being "coerced" to raise their own children suddenly changes.

It then becomes more of what you would expect to hear . . .

How could a mother not take responsibility for her child and just want to give him up because times are hard? 

How could she do that to her own son? 

Is she aware of how much damage she will do to him by giving up on him instead of doing everything in her power to help him, help herself, and get past whatever troubles she is facing?

There wouldn't be any question about forcing her to parent.  Society, as a whole, would expect her to get help for her son, for herself.  To take responsibility as a parent and not give up just because times are hard.

It's an interesting dilemma, isn't it?

Depending on the age of the child, we either encourage mothers to give up their responsibility and give their children away.  Or we expect them to stand up and be parents to their children and think of the damage they will do if they abandon them just because they are facing a hard time in their life.

And yet, the reality is, every mother, no matter the age of her child, deserves our help and support to overcome whatever it is leading her to believe she can't care for her own son or daughter.  She deserves empowerment to be the best mom she can be.  Encouragement for how important she is in her child's life and the knowledge to know that at a day old or a decade old, her child will suffer a loss if he or she is separated from his or her mother.

That isn't coercion.  That isn't forcing a woman to do what comes naturally - care for her own child.  That is stepping in when a mother feels so desperate, so lost, she sees no other choice but to give up on parenting.  It is offering the guidance needed to work through the problems in front of her so that she isn't left with the most unnatural thing a mother can do - give away her own flesh and blood.

Yes, there is always the sad reality that there will be mothers who resent their children.  There will be mothers who truly just don’t care to parent and want nothing to do with it and will give their children away no matter how much help and support they are offered.

But they aren’t the norm.  And they should never be reason to try and suggest mothers don’t have a natural, primal instinct to care for and raise their children.

We SHOULD expect mothers to step up and be the best parent possible to their sons and daughters.  We SHOULD provide help and support for those who find themselves in a place where they feel as if they are unable to do so.

We should be empowering them, not discouraging them.  Be truthful with them about the very damage they and their child could face by being separated.  About the fact that there will be those who believe, for their own gain and benefit, in encouraging a mother to view herself as a failure and incapable of parenting while being led to believe that a complete stranger to her child would do better than she ever could.

It’s not coercion.  It’s not force.  It’s human kindness.  It’s caring about the well-being of families . . .

And it’s supporting and believing in the very natural process of a mother’s desire to keep, love and raise her child without outside influences trying to convince her otherwise.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Big Business

So, we’ve all heard the news now about the Russian Adoption Ban.  Many great writers have commented on the story on their blogs, carefully highlighting facts beyond the tales of heart broken couples affected by Putin’s decision . . .

To me it is disappointing to see the majority of the opinions on the ban.  I readily admit to having a limited amount of knowledge about International Adoption compared to so many other wonderful voices out there.  But I do know the adoption industry and I do know it is, at its very core, a clear and true example of big business.

And I have no doubt the damage it creates in its wake holds so much responsibility for how we as Americans practice adoption and how we are viewed in return by other countries for our ways.

As a nation, we blindly, and without question, support and encourage a multi-billion dollar industry.  And we expect other countries to do the same and shake our head in disbelief when they don’t.

We refuse to see, or outright ignore, that so much of adoption in today’s world has nothing to do with finding families for children in need.  Instead it is a business, profiting off obtaining children for couples who want them.

There is nothing humanitarian about it.  Nothing charitable, kind or good, in so much of past and current adoption practices.  It is, plain, cut and dried, simple as can be, nothing more than paying customers – potential adoptive parents – hiring a business to find a baby for them, creating a personal demand they expect to be filled.  It is vulnerable, pregnant mothers being marketed for and counseled into giving up their children to create the answering supply for that demand.  And it is babies becoming nothing more than the product in between.  Priced and paid for just as in every business transaction that occurs.

That is it.  That is the majority of what adoption is in our country.  It has nothing to do with saving anyone.  It isn’t about heroes or saints.  Better or worse parents.  It’s about money.  It’s about the profits that can be gained in an industry that is mostly unregulated, powerful, and sitting comfortably with the knowledge that their unethical practices of acquiring and selling children are not only supported, but hailed as something wonderful by so many.

And the saddest part is, in so many ways, as a nation, we only have ourselves to blame.  We are a culture that firmly believes that those who can afford to pay for a baby deserves them far more than a mother in need of help and support.  We equate money with parenting ability and prefer those who do not require us to help a mother and her child in any way but instead allow us to walk away without concern.

And the children are the ones caught in the ugly middle.  They become the innocent victims in the business of adoption.  Taken away from their families, their countries, their culture after the price is paid for them and then viewed as “saved” into a better life.  Paying couples wanted them, vulnerable, frightened mothers provided them and the adoption industry profited off of them.

This is what we accept.  Encourage.  Support.

We embrace the business of adoption and its unethical and immoral practices then work ourselves into a frenzy when others dare to condemn the way we treat children and their mothers during times of need.

Fueled by the Adoption Industry in their quest to profit off of finding children to fulfill the demand of couples wanting a child . . . the needy, the vulnerable, the poor, become targets in our country and others.  But, unlike here in the States, other countries are beginning to realize the truth behind the business of adoption and are taking steps to protect their citizens from the damage caused by allowing greed and money to be a deciding factor in the life of an innocent child.

In Australia, where their Adoption practices were similar to what we have today, they finally realized the danger in allowing big business to determine a child’s future and created laws to protect a mother and her child from being separated to fulfill the demand of couples wanting a child.  Once money was removed from their adoption practices, their concerns changed to what was truly best for their children and supporting family preservation became a priority rather than a lack.

We can only hope that, maybe, with Russia banning the money driven business of American Adoption in their own country, there will also be a genuine shift in truly caring about what is best for their children. 

Though it is missed in all the heart breaking stories of couples who have had their hopes of adopting from Russia erased, Putin promised to sign a Presidential decree that would help the children in his country.  He has given hope that their focus will now turn in to what is best for children in need instead of what will profit those in the business of adoption.

I hope, more than anything, he follows through with his promises.  I hope Russian children will finally be given the care and support they truly need and that their lives will now be about what is best for them and not about what strangers desire to gain from them.

And I also hope that, someday, we here in the States will recognize and admit to the damage we cause by allowing Adoption to be a business based on profits, supply and demand.  That at some point we realize how terribly wrong it is to allow families to be torn apart because we use the illusion of money as a determination on who does or does not deserve a child.

Perhaps, someday, one of our own Government Officials will have the same courage to stand up and speak out against the business of paying customers, coercive counseling and unnecessary separation of a child from his or her family.  Someday maybe we will see a true concern for what is best for our children and a commitment to doing more to help families stay together rather than be pulled apart.

And maybe, just maybe, if we keep fighting for, and hoping for, change, we might see a time when society finally realizes how wrong it is to have a business that is centered around fulfilling the desires of adults at the expense of our children.  That demands an end to all profits made from taking a child from his or her family to satisfy the wants of strangers.

A time when we cry out with the same disgust, as so many have for the Russian Ban, against those who use the most innocent members of our society for their own gain.   Who market for and place price-tags on the heads of our children, making them nothing more than just another business transaction . . .

 Another product to be sold.