|Jul/Aug 2002 • Miscellaneous|
It is child abuse, slavery, and rape all rolled into one pretty package, marketed to wealthy infertile couples as the answer to all their prayers and forced upon unsuspecting members of the lower classes. It is an industry that earns $1.4 billion each year shamelessly promoting its product with no regard for the damage it is doing to children and their parents. Surprise! It is not the tobacco industry, nor is it a chemical company polluting our air and water. It is adoption, and it is toxic to America's families.
Deemed a "loving option" by social workers, agencies, and anti-abortion crusaders, adoption puts children at risk for a myriad of psychological problems that range in severity. That may sound like love to the people who receive a portion of the $1.4 billion, but it should scream child abuse to anyone else. After all, parents can be prosecuted for child neglect over something as simple as a messy house. And in reality, adoption workers are guilty of more than neglect. Since the 1940s, professionals have known about the damaging effects of adoption on mothers and children. In fact, the Florence Crittenton Home brochure from 1942-1956 responded to suggestions of adoption with the statement, "Motherhood, and the love and care of a baby, strengthens the character of every girl who has the mentality to grasp it. As to the child: psychologists and social workers have learned that no material advantage can make up for the loss of its own mother." In spite of their knowledge, the Florence Crittenton homes went on to become some of America's biggest adoption proponents, once supply and demand made it more profitable to sever a mother's rights and sell her infant to a wealthy but sterile couple.
The abuse that adoptees suffer throughout their lives comes in many forms. As infants, they are separated from the only person they have ever known: their mothers. They're born into the world expecting the familiar scent of family and the warm voice that they grew accustomed to in utero, and instead they're handed over to strangers masquerading as "mommy" and "daddy." Because this severing of the world's most natural bond occurs at a time in a child's life when he is unable to communicate his emotions and experiences, it is a trauma that will stay with him into adulthood. Adopted people also report struggling with their identities, as the legal lie that they are "as if born to" their adopters works far better on paper than it does in the real world. Already a trying time for any young person, adolescence presents a special challenge for adoptees who lack knowledge of their heritage, family traits, and other critical factors for establishing one's self. Perhaps this explains why adopted children are over-represented at both in and out-patient psychological treatment facilities.
As if it's not bad enough that every adopted child is at risk for the complex psychological problems that seem to come with the territory, these children are also more likely to be physically or sexually abused. One fact that the adoption industry would love to ignore is that children are more likely to be abused by people other than their true parents. Perhaps we should evaluate this as common sense. Mothers especially have a primal instinct to care for their children and ensure the survival of their family trees. For true families, a baby is not valuable for profit but for the fact that he is living proof of a connection to the past and future. As parents, our instinct is to protect, rather than abuse something so precious and rare.
However, the abuse of the adopted child is not the only crime committed against him. Adoptees, stripped of their families, given new names and even falsified birth certificates, make up a new generation of slaves in America. In a society where the average cost of a private adoption is $60,000, agencies and social workers see infants only through the dollar signs in their eyes. The child's welfare takes second place to the profit he can bring in; otherwise, parents would be informed of the risks of adoption before they could surrender their babies. Instead, children are sold like miniature slaves. Their birth records are altered to reflect the names of their purchasers rather than their parents, and their true birth certificate is sealed away. They are the only Americans who are denied the right to know their own name and the names of their parents.
Some are abused, tortured, or killed at the hands of those who claim to love them. Others, like the "fortunate" slaves of the 19th century, are treated well by their adopters. But we all know that once you've been stripped of your rights, taken from your family, and forced into an uncomfortable lie, there's no such thing as being fortunate. In their adopter's homes, children are the ones expected to do the care-taking, to compensate for the babies they couldn't have, to fill a void in the marriage that's gone stale, or to guard them emotionally from the harsh realities of the world. Adoption's smallest victims become slaves to the lies that surround them and protectors of the only caregivers they have been granted. Denied knowledge of their true parents' whereabouts, they have nowhere to run. And they know what's expected of them: to be "as if born to" their adopters, to act out the role they were purchased to play.
Investigating why any parent would knowingly surrender their child to abuse and enslavement, we learn about a third crime in adoption. Since the 1950s, fathers have been exiled while mothers have been raped of their infants. Their bodies have been used as incubators, and once their purpose has been served, they are expected to fade silently into the shadows. The common defense of the rapist is the simple statement, "She asked for it," and the same has been said of the woman who dared to experience her sexuality outside of marriage. Adoption is the punishment she "deserved" for getting caught in defiance of our puritanical ideals. A life-time of grief, regret, depression, and trauma to make amends for one night of passion (which could have just as easily been a physical rape itself). Used, abused, and discarded, these mothers have been raped of their children and their souls.
Unlike the victim of a physical rape, the mother of adoption loss is not permitted to grieve. She has been told, by the same "professionals" who spied her baby with dollar signs in their eyes, that she is doing the "best thing," the only thing to do, and if she truly loved her baby she would do it. No one tells her what's down the road for her, or for her child. No one mentions the grieving that both will endure. No one speaks about the immense gap that will fill their lives once they've been separated. Instead, she is told that she is "giving a gift" to an infertile couple, as if it is her responsibility to meet the demands of a barren stranger. Like something out of Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale, she is expected to quietly serve her purpose and promptly disappear.
The tactics that are used to rape the new mother vary. Without anyone to tell her otherwise, and wanting to fulfill her child's needs, she may believe the social workers when they tell her about the "loving institution" of adoption. After all, they work in a helping profession, and wouldn't they want to help her? She isn't told how much money will change hands along with her precious child. If she does become suspicious or recoils at the idea of adoption, she won't be left alone to care for her child. Instead, they will pressure her when she's most vulnerable, when she's just delivered and is groggy from labor or medication, when they lie and tell her that she can't revoke the pre-birth consent that she signed, when they batter her verbally and accuse her of being selfish for wanting her own baby. Selfish! Yet the adopters, standing at the door with their wallets open, begging to take home someone else's baby—they are regarded as saints.
Once a mother has been raped of her child by the adoption industry, her torture is just beginning. Every time she turns around, she'll be reminded of society's stereotypical "birth" mother; the drug-addicted, child-abusing tramp. In reality, she is none of the above. Yet, when reading the newspaper, she will be confronted with offensive language, labeling her a "birth" or "biological" parent, degrading her by tearing away her right to be regarded as her child's true mother. Television shows will present sappy stories of happy adopters, and she'll watch, knowing all the while that for every gloating adopter, there is a mother who grieves over the loss of her child. Mother's Day will come and go, and while other mothers receive cards and home-made gifts from their children, she receives nothing. At the mercy of the adoption industry, she gave away all her love and has only heartache to show for it.
These raped mothers and their enslaved, abused children are secrets in America. To report on them is to damage a sector of our economy, an industry that earns $1.4 billion a year through coercion, dishonesty, and suffering. We don't like to recognize that there are people in this world who put on the facade of a helper while working behind the scenes for their own benefits. We shy away from acknowledging pain and suffering, especially when it appears on the face of someone who "should" have gone on with her life. We are cowards when it comes to allowing the truth to disrupt an easier, fantasy life. But continuing down this path will only lead to further destruction of children and their families. We must prosecute those responsible for the crimes of adoption, and we must work harder to ensure that these abusive practices are discontinued. These secret crimes cannot be hidden forever at the expense of our mothers, fathers, and children. The adoption industry may be a money-maker, but the value of family cannot be measured in dollars and cents.