So many times I have heard first moms arguing among themselves in support groups about how things are different now than they were during the baby scoop era. I beg to differ. While the procedures, tactics and policies of agencies and attorneys are definitely very different, the end goal is the same and the tactics are just as shameful, for the most part.
First, for context, let’s take a look at some definitions. Keep these definitions in mind while you continue to read.
verb (used with object), intimidated, intimidating.
the act of coercing; use of force or intimidation to obtain compliance. (1)
Since the words intimidation and compliance are also used in the definition of coercion I feel it necessary to also post those definitions.
to make timid; fill with fear. (2)
the act of conforming, acquiescing, or yielding.
a tendency to yield readily to others, especially in a weak and subservient way. (3)
So what do we really have here, then? Coercion is using force, making someone timid, or filling them with fear so they conform to what you want in a subservient way. I don’t believe I need to define subservient for you.
In regards to domestic infant adoption there are some glaringly obvious facts that cannot be denied and they are as follows:
(A) In order for a woman contemplating an adoption plan for her unborn child to go through with that adoption plan she must be convinced or convince herself that this is the only viable option for herself, her baby, and sometimes her other family members, such as other children.
(B) A woman who is ambivalent or has mixed feelings about whether or not adoption is the best solution MUST be coerced (see my definition above in bold) in order for those ambivalent feelings to be suppressed.
(C) A woman who has no feelings of ambivalence or doubt whatsoever about handing her child over at birth is a rarity, if she even exists.
(D) Some women are not coerced, they are forced, to surrender their parental rights to their child.
So where does the baby scoop era come in? The atrocities committed against the women of that era were horrific. Legally, their babies could be taken from them, usually by ways of a maternity home, and given to adoptive parents while their “consent” was forced by threats usually in the form of jail time, burning in hell or homelessness. Those mothers were not given any rights to make any decisions about their pregnancies, deliveries or what happened afterwards. Their mental and emotional well-being was never considered or cared about because of their pre-marital predicament and the stigma that was attached to it. They were simply vessels for which adoption agencies and maternity homes used to provide newborns for infertile couples.
Today, the stigma of pre-marital pregnancy has diminished significantly and it is no longer a social “faux paus” to find one’s self pregnant and unmarried. Because of this, children born out of wedlock are accepted by the majority of society, even if they aren’t by the grandparents (stuck in the past) of those same children. Using the tactics employed by agencies and homes during the baby scoop era simply would not and could not work in the 70’s, 80’s 90’s and today. While maternity homes still existed (and a few still do) during these years, they were slowly going out of business and diminishing.
So what is a social worker, religious institution or attorney to do when an expectant mother finds herself pregnant and contacts them seeking options for herself and her child? Since they cannot force her hand by using societal threats (since these societal threats are now non-existent) they will use other tactics in order to obtain the child that is yet to be born. Often times an expectant mother seeking information from an adoption agency will be asked how her parents (if she lives with them) feel about the situation. This is because there is hope that while society is accepting of her circumstances that maybe the people who are responsible for clothing her, housing her, and feeding her won’t be. This can be used to the advantage of the social worker as it would be difficult for a woman to keep her child if she knew that after its birth there would be no home to go to. Add this to the list of other things an agency will counsel an expectant mother on. Here are some of my favorite lines (insert bad joke: “You know you might be being duped by an adoption agency if….) Sometimes they are commands and not statements (under the guise of “counseling.”) Something along the lines of, “Think about – insert something coercive here – and then decide if adoption is an option for you.
“The child would have a better life than what you can provide.” – This reminds you that wealthy, waiting adoptive parents can give your child more “things” than you can. It makes you feel unworthy.
“The choice is all yours. You must decide. But we’re here to help you no matter what you choose.” – After being made to believe, subtly, over and over again that you cannot take care of your child and you are probably not what is best for your child. This makes you believe you are NOT being coerced.
“We have some wonderful couples that would cherish the gift of a child.” – This makes you feel sympathetic to the adoptive parents making you less likely to change your mind because it will hurt them. And any time anyone calls a human being a gift that you give to someone red flags should be raised.
“You must consider the challenges you will face as a single parent and decide if that’s something you’re willing to take on.” – This implies to an expectant mother that the task of raising a child may be more that she can take on. It makes her insecure in her ability to be a mother. In reality, every mother is able to be a mother. There may be challenges and difficulties but you cannot fail with the right support system in place.
“Your abusive boyfriend will have a link to you through this child and will always be around to abuse you and that child.” (okay, maybe they’re more subtle and say something like, “You should understand that a baby will not automatically heal the relationship, nor is it a good environment for your baby to be raised in.”) – This makes an expectant mother fearful that she will be abused further and no one can offer her or her child protection from her abuser. Simply not true. Again, with proper support, this does not need to be.
“Think about how adding another child will impact the lives of your other children.” – This implies to an expectant mother that parenting her baby will be a BAD thing for her other children. That this baby will take away from the ones she already has at home. Since a mother is already bonded to her parented children it makes her think of the one she is carrying as a burden and potentially harmful. In reality, surrendering your child may be harmful emotionally to your parented or future parented kids.
“A baby may impact your ability to continue with school.” – While having a baby is surely not ideal for college life, many single (or married) moms can and DO go to school. It is more challenging but it is possible. This statement is also to put fear into an expectant mother’s heart. Again, fear of her child that is yet to be born.
“Choosing adoption is the most selfless thing a woman could do for her child.” – This implies that if you decide to keep your child that you are being a selfish person.
“Open adoption is a great option because you will always know how your child is and see them.” – This helps to alleviate any fears that you could not go through with an adoption because you would not be emotionally well not knowing how your child is. It makes you think that even though you are “choosing” adoption you will still have a relationship with your child. Unfortunately, in most states, open adoption contracts are not legally binding and if the adoptive parents decide to disappear off the face of the planet there is absolutely nothing you can do about it. You may be all fine with that but, believe me, you won’t be later. In fact, statistically almost all open adoption will semi-close (or sometimes totally close) in some way or form.
There are many more but you get the idea. So let’s re-visit our definition of coercion.
Coercion is using force, making someone timid, or filling them with fear so they conform to what you want in a subservient way.
If you were an expectant mother in a tough situation would any of the above statements fill you with fear? Would any of them make you timid? Would they make you conform to a way of thinking? Maybe that way of thinking that you are not what is best for your baby and the only right thing to do is to give that baby up for adoption?
If so, you have just been coerced into permanently terminating your parental rights for your newborn, or infant, child forever severing your relationship with that child in any mother-child fashion. 18 is not a magic age. 18 does not make you their mother again. Even the best open adoptions and reunions all acknowledge this.
I know, I know, I’m getting to the point. My point is this. The tactics implied by the baby scoop era were brute force tactics. No one had to be nice to the expectant mother because the decision wasn’t really up to her. It could be forced. The tactics implied by what I call the “Coercion Era” have to be way way way more subtle because society accepts the unwed struggling mother. You must “woo” her and subtly make her convince herself that adoption is the best thing for her child. The end result is the same, the tactics are just more stealth-like and, to me, more pervasive.
Adoption is a business. Even non-profit agencies are in the business of getting babies for people. Don’t assume non-profit means the agency and its employees work for free. That is not the case. They make very good salaries, even as non-profit. All non-profit means is “not operating primarily to make a profit.” As long as their secondary purpose is profits one can legally and for tax purposes be considered non-profit.
To run a business of finding babies for infertile couples you must be able to obtain these babies.
In order to obtain these babies you must market yourselves to these expectant mothers.
In order to market yourself to these expectant mothers you must coerce them to believe that giving up the goods is in everyone’s best interests.
A VERY small number of adoptions that occur are not coerced at all. I realize and acknowledge this. But it is a rarity. There are also a number of women who are not willing to accept help in order to be able to safely parent their children. I understand this as well. The resources that are pooled behind and raised for adoption agencies run into the millions. The resources for expectant mothers, almost non-existent if you take out government welfare programs.
What do you do if you’re reading this blog, considering adoption for financial reasons, and need resources to parent? Facebook is a wonderful place to find support groups for birthmothers and most expectant mothers are also welcome if they are considering adoption. In these groups you will find a sisterhood of women willing to help you financially, emotionally and every other which way to preserve your family.
If you don’t feel comfortable with this, contact me. Yes, me. I will make it possible.
Edit: I mention “with proper resources” a couple of times. I do mean government resources and law enforcement protection. I can also direct you to the proper place to find those.
6 thoughts on “Baby Scoop Era Vs. Coercion Era”
So very sad but so very true.