Friday, June 8, 2012

A Response to an Interesting Comment

My most recent blog post on adoption ethics has spurred some interesting responses.  

First, let me say that I really do appreciate all responses, even those that don't align with my viewpoints.

Second, I love your readership!

Third, I think it's so important that we are thinking about and discussing these issues.  It makes us better, more educated, more deliberate adoptive parents!

I wanted to follow up on one comment in particular:

But how can you really speak to it, if you haven't had failed placements?

Not that I'm saying that a birthmother should have a child she doesn't want to give up ripped out of her arms, but the longer you have the child, the more attached you are going to become. That's why placement happens in the first few days... Yes, it's bad timing with hormones, but that's why you spend the prior 9 months (hopefully) discussing and making these decisions and being sure about it.

I've watched multiple couples go through failed placement through failed placement through failed placement.

Your daughters biological parents come to you NOW and say they made a terrible mistake... You'd give them back?

I hope the answer is heck no! They are your children!

What I have seen is that many birth mothers would like TPR to happen quickly so they are not forced into bonding with their children when they know they do not want to parent, or are incapable of doing so, or aren't able to, etc.

I think it would be so much harder on them and their families if there was a minimim, say, 3 week waiting period where they were forced to spend time with their babies when they did not WANT to. The shorter time periods are not just for the adoptive parents. They protect our birth mother's hearts too.

Dear Reader,

First, I believe that no matter how many failed placements a family has had, be it one or twenty-five, we still cannot compromise.  We cannot forgo doing what is right because WE are the ones who are hurting.    Again, I do not want to minimize the loss that an adoptive parent has faced which lead them to adoption.    That loss is real and raw and horrible.   I have also had friends who have experienced failed placements, and we have faced situations where we were "chosen" only to be told that adoption wasn't going to be the birth mom's choice after all.  Was it sad?  Yes.  Disappointing?  Yes.   Defeating?  Yes.

But that's the nature of adoption.    And adoptive parents CHOOSE to face these ups and downs, the unknowns, and the heartaches---all in the hopes that one day they will be placed with a baby.

Adoptive parents----adoption isn't about us!   We think it is.  The agency tells us it is.   But it's not!

You also mention the the mom had 9 months to make her choice.  True.  But carrying a baby in-utero is not the same as having the baby in her arms.   Many adoption professionals say the mom has to not only decide parenting or placing prior to the baby's birth, but the decision has to be remade afterward---because, once the baby is in mom's arms, it's really really really really real.    And that mom has every right to take as long as she needs to make her choice.   Sadly, I think too many agencies play the "minimum" card as the maximum.  Meaning, if a bio mom can sign her rights away starting at 72 hours after birth, the agencies are hovering outside, ready to pounce on the mom at exactly the 72 hour so they can hopefully get her to sign before she changes her mind.  :(   Many adoptive parents are able to be at the hospital with the mom---and though it's well-intended, the presence of adoptive parents can word as a double-edged sword.  One positive is that the adoptive parents can support the mom and bond with the baby.   But an overwhelming negative is that the presence of so many pro-adoption individuals (social workers, counselors, adoptive parents, maybe even the medical staff) puts pressure on the mom to place.

I do see your point, that shorter TPR guidelines can benefit the birth mother.   I think they can, maybe, if the mom is REALLY REALLY REALLY sure about placing.  But from my experience, many birth mothers (who aren't birth mothers until they sign TPR) aren't REALLY sure.    It's unnatural to hand your baby to someone else to parent FOREVER.  It's totally normal for the mom to have doubts about the decision to "give her baby away."     I was with a woman when she placed her baby for adoption.    There was NOTHING normal or sure about what she was doing, even when she knew and was convinced it was the best decision.    

This brings up the point that it's so important, in my view, that there is a federal TPR law, not a state-to state law.   It's crazy how some states have a 48 TPR law while other states have a 30 day law.     There needs to be extensive research done to determine what a "fair" TPR law is.    I honestly don't have a suggestion, but I don't think 48 hours is appropriate given the mom just gave birth a few mere hours ago and then is asked to sign documents which TERMINATE (strong word, right?) her parental rights.

I love that the county we adopted in requires two things of a mother wanting to place.  1:  She may sign TPR at 48 hours.  However....  2:  She has to appear in court (usually a week or so after the baby's birth), before a judge, and with her own attorney, to answer a slew of questions regarding her decision BEFORE TPR is considered official.  They question her to make sure she understands her decision and that she hasn't been coerced in any way by the adoptive family, the agency, or someone else.      She may opt to appear in court later than one week, from my understanding. 

This means the birth mother must decide 2-3 times that yes, adoption is her choice.   She might decide before birth, after the birth, and again, a week or more later.    The baby, in the meantime, goes into an interim care home where he or she is well cared for until a decision has been made.

A mom who is trying to decide, post-birth, if adoption is the best choice for her baby can opt in or out of putting her baby in interim care, which the agency pays for (so the mom has no financial responsibility in this regard). 

Finally, Steve and I discussed what we would do if the birth parents asked for their child back after TPR had been signed and officially accepted by the court.   At what point would we return the child?    The answer is, when the child had become ours, we would not return her.  Meaning, when her older sister started calling her sister, when we felt like we were truly the child's parents (which can take weeks or months for adoptive families), and when we felt that returning the child would be harmful to the child.

I know that is very vague, but I do believe it is situational.  

In conclusion, I think all the laws and rules that ultimately, I see as pro-adoptive parent and anti-birth parent, are in place because adoption is a business that only makes money off placements.   If a mom parents, the agency loses money--the time and energy they invested into counseling, into helping mom get on state aid, etc.  When a placement occurs, the agency makes a large sum of money (hello, seen the adoption bills?!?  eeek!).   The agency isn't doing placements out of the kindness of their hearts.   

And sadly, society sees birth parents as the bad ones in the situation and the adoptive parents as the saviors of the "poor needy children who need good homes."     It's so easy for us, as adoptive parents, to dehumanize birth parents because our "gain" is tied completely to the birth parent's loss.   If we can, as a society, continue to drag birth parents through the proverbial mud, we can keep them in the place we feel comfortable---beneath us, less than.  

And that is why I feel adoptive parents must pursue the most ethical adoptions possible---from every decision they make, to every word they write or utter, to every action they take or do not take.  Because we hold the power in the situation---according to the agency (the customer pays, the customer receives), according to the birth parents (we are the ones who supposedly have it all together and are fully prepared to parent), according to society (we are the good ones, the saviors).  

It's a big responsibility.    And it's life-altering. 



  1. I see what your saying, but I still disagree with some of your ideas. I think the interim home idea is not a good one for anyone involved. At least it would be in our situation. Our sons birthmom would NOT be happy with this arrangement. She refers to him as our son and always has and would not want anyone else caring for him but us. Also, as with a growing number of adoptive mothers, we plan on adoptive nursing with the full support of our sons birthmom. 2-3 weeks of bottle use would sabatoge this effort and would deny our son the opportunity to have a nursing relationship with me.

    If the birthmom would like to use an interim care provider until she feels more solid in her decision, great! Give her that option. But if that's not what she wants, how is it more pro-birth parents to force that on them?

  2. Thank you Rachel!

    I meant to reply to your previous blog and totally spaced until I saw this one.

    As a birthmom, I commend you as an adoptive parent for writing this. It gives me great hope that more and more adoptive parents are becoming more active and engaged in adoption ethics. I think it took guts to put yourself out there with your previous post especially.

    You hit the nail on the head as far as making an adoption plan and being very firm in that decision before the baby comes and once that baby is born things change. I had no bond with my son while I was pregnant. I just wanted my pregnancy to be over with so he could go home with his family. Once he was born it all changed, I fell in love. I finally, for the first time in my 22yrs, was able to put a description on the word love. Did that make me waver in my decision, a little, but I know for many women it does make their decision harder to make. My state of Washington actually allows birthparents to sign TPR before the baby is even born. I unknowingly signed these documents a week before my scheduled c-section. There was a piece of paper given to me immediately following my return to my room after my c-section that stated once I signed on this paper the legal documents already signed would go into affect and my rights would be terminated. There is no waiting period. No time to change my mind. No court day with a judge unrelentingly asking me if I was firm in my decision. I signed that piece of paper three days after he was born knowing the whole time they had those papers sitting on their attorney's desk just waiting to send to a judge. It was awful. Thankfully, his parents to be were amazing and even though I had not met them prior to his birth they were meant to be his parents and there was a peace to that. That does not mean the decision was an easier.

    For any adoptive parents hopefully waiting for their child...take a step back and realize the magnitude of what the woman on the other side of this is going through. I understand how long you have been waiting to have a family, I understand the long road it must be and all the hurts and trials along the way. Adoption is supposed to be about the CHILD, providing the CHILD with a family because for one reason or another his natural family cannot provide for him/her in the manner needed. NOT because they were not loved or wanted. It is not about the adoptive parents NEED for a family or the natural parents inadequateness to provide or parent the child. Two families come together to provide what is best for the CHILD.

    Now, I am also adopted. My birthfather signed TPR before I was born with an agency and when I was born my birthmom took off and never signed. I was placed in interim care while the state was trying to find her so she could terminate her rights(no safe haven back then). She was never found. So I spent my first few years in an amazing foster family whom I still have a relationship with today. I am no worse for wear and I am grateful the state took the necessary steps to attempt to find my birthmom. Someone cared enough to try to keep us together. That means something. I think this is a great option(and one that was provided to me for my son if I needed more time after birth to decide)to allow for longer TPR times after birth. I should never have been allowed to sign beforehand(how is a person who has never attended law school supposed to understand the legal jargon?)and I shouldn't have been pressured immediately after birth to sign the other piece of workers should have more tact and respect.


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