Every couple of years or so I go through the folder in my filing cabinet labeled “adoption.” This is where I store all pertinent papers in regards to my relinquishment of IKL. It is a “keepsake” folder of sorts, as I literally put every paper I received during that time in it. For 14 years a little purple book entitled, “A Case For Adoption” has remained in that folder and I’ve never even read it. I didn’t read it when I was pregnant and I didn’t read it after relinquishment. I acquired it on accident. Among some hand-outs and other “informational” paperwork I was given by my agency, this was left behind, in my home. I assumed it was meant to be left, and have all these years. Several months ago I decided to skim the pages with my newly “out of the fog” eyes. It appeared to be some sort of handbook on how to convince expectant mothers to relinquish their babies. Tonight I decided to read it from front to back and I just had to share it with you all.
There is no author for this little book, only a production company. On the back corner of the jacket, as well as in small print on the inside corner of the front page, it says: Bethany Productions, 901 Eastern NE, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 49503, (616) 224-7413. A quick Google search confirms that this was published by Bethany Christian Services in Grand Rapids, Michigan. This was published by them in 1996. This was the beginning of the mainstream open adoption era.
Upon further investigation,
this book is still available for purchase in the Bethany store. (EDIT: Shortly after the publishing of this post, Bethany has changed their store so that you must have a username and password to shop their resources rendering the link above non-functioning – going to store.bethany.org will redirect you here. I signed up for an account and FOUND the book in their store. However, the description for the book was no longer there. In fact, there was no description at ALL. Hmm……)
On the website it is described as: “This booklet is written for people who counsel women and men who are experiencing unplanned, untimely pregnancies. Its purpose is to educate counselors about the option of adoption. Both the counselor (directly) and the client (indirectly) will benefit from this booklet, as the counselor becomes familiar with today’s adoption practices. Includes the eight myths about adoption, presenting the option of adoption, adoption planning options, role of the birthfather, and post-adoption services information.”
However, this is the “edited” summary of what the book is about. As with the changing dynamics of unplanned pregnancies, and adoption agency tactics, I’m pretty sure the original wording, used originally in 1985 and then re-published in 1996, would not be acceptable. I’ll let you read, for yourself, what that was. I will show the change of language in bold.
“This manual is written for those who counsel women (men left out in this version) experiencing unplanned (untimely left out in this version) pregnancies. Its purpose is to show how adoption can be presented as a positive, life-giving choice.“
The use of the word “manual” is the most troublesome to me. This is, essentially, a manual on how to coerce a woman into surrendering her child for adoption. They even say it’s a manual. Then there is the word, “presented,” not used in the new language they have on their website. A manual on how to present adoption one way – the positive way. How is a woman supposed to make an educated choice, in regards to her unborn child, if she is only presented one version of things? This is the “counseling” women are getting from Bethany Christian Services?
Did you read the first page? The Foreword? They even admit to calling an expectant mother a birthmother, regardless of whether or not she ultimately parents. This is also a manual passed out to every crisis pregnancy center in order for Bethany to acquire more clients (see: more babies from expectant mothers who are facing a less than ideal situation). This manual was made, as is stated, to address the frustrations counselors were having “presenting adoption as a loving, responsible, and mature choice that MUST be considered as seriously as parenting or marriage.” (see: counselors were having a hard time coercing young mothers out of their babies so Bethany wrote a brainwashing manual)
This manual is, literally, distributed nationwide to crisis pregnancy centers to serve as a guide into talking a woman, facing a difficult time, into surrendering her child for adoption. Or, at the very least, planting that first seed of doubt in her mind. “I’m in no position to raise a baby. Adoption seems like a great choice.”
Let’s look at some excerpts in this manual.
“To relinquish a child for adoption can be a very loving and mature choice. A woman experiencing an unplanned pregnancy must be encouraged to understand this fact.” Oh boy. This is a fact, eh? I thought a fact was something that could be proven. Ask the many birthmothers and adoptees out there that have been hurt by adoption if they agree that this is a fact. They will disagree. This is an OPINION. Yet, they are encouraged to present this as fact to young vulnerable pregnant women.
The introduction goes further by saying, “Those who work with these women must present the alternative of adoption in a positive and knowledgeable manner. Society as a whole must recognize adoption as a legitimate choice, affirming it as something good for birth parents and their children.” This is a loaded statement indeed. Essentially, this is emphasizing that adoption MUST be brought up as the POSITIVE choice and that in order to keep obtaining babies for adoption society has to also see it as something that is good for birth parents and the children they relinquish. In other words, the illusion of how great adoption is will be key in its continuing success. Yes, I used the word illusion. How many adoptees out there view adoption as something that was positive for yourself and your birth parents? Smoke and mirrors, my friends…and a handbook to be successful with it. Here IS a fact, everyone. Adoption is not always something good for birth parents or adoptees. A lot of the time it is downright traumatizing. But, remember, they have to give the positive spin so they don’t go out of business. Also remember that Bethany was the same agency bragging that their “birthmother dorms” were completely full on their website. They were overjoyed that all these women, who were facing uncertain situations, were living on their property about to hand over their babies. Nothing about helping these women if they didn’t hand over their infants.
I’d like to categorize this excerpt under “Why is it so important to talk a woman out of single parenting when many have been doing a find job of it.” I let you read these two pages for yourself. You can see my comments at the end.
So, Bethany’s solution to the disadvantages a single mother may have is to take their babies from them instead of actually doing something to help the mother. Sounds about right to me. Exactly what I have been saying. The adoption agency wants the baby. A good Christian agency should be helping the single mother, the fatherless child, instead of taking the child and discarding the mother. Tell yourselves this is Christian all you want, it isn’t. Its self-serving.
The manual goes on to dispel “myths” in adoption. It guides the counselor through addressing concerns the expectant mother may have about “choosing” adoption. I’ll list the myths here:
1. A birthmother who cares about her child would not consider adoption.
The manual goes on to explain and emphasize (to the expectant mother) that choosing adoption is the most loving choice. It uses words like “be a birth parent resource” “affirm their choice” “affirm their love” “facilitate contacts (with prospective adoptive parents).” Yes, this is definitely a manual on how to coerce. This section right here should be entitled, “How to convince a mother that adoption is the loving choice and parenting is not.”
2. Birth parents will never know anything about their child and his or her adoptive parents in the following years.
As expected, this section goes on and on about open adoption and how secrecy is no longer preferred because we now know that it isn’t healthy for the adoptee or birth parents. This, as we know, is true. But then they lie. “The counselor can correct the misunderstanding about secrecy by educating the client about the range of openness common in adopting today. (goes on to explain different levels of openness) Exchanging non-identifying information, gifts, and pictures are activities that can also be suggested to birth mothers struggling with secrecy conerns. These will be discussed later.” Nowhere, anywhere, does it say open adoptions can close and there is nothing a birthmother can do about it. Nowhere in this manual that was made to help people “counsel” expectant mothers into the choice of adoption. Lies.
3. Adoption is an irresponsible solution to an unplanned pregnancy.
This section goes on to explain that getting pregnant before being ready to parent was the irresponsible thing to do and can be redeemed by doing the responsible thing – adoption. Bleck. Ugh.
4. A birthmother will eventually forget the child she released for adoption.
This myth is accurate. The explanation on how to counsel a woman worried about the pain of relinquishment is sickening. Phrases such as “Explain the pain” “Show you care” “Focus on her needs” “Accept her sadness” and “Encourage bonding” are included for this myth. Remember, this is a manual on how to get a woman to relinquish her child. Doing the above makes her more secure in a decision to relinquish her child.
5. All adopted children will grow up to have serious psychological problems.
I don’t even need to address this one. I love how the words “all” and “serious” are used. That’s because a lot of adoptees DO have serious psychological problems. No not ALL have SERIOUS psychological problems. If you’re only concerned about SERIOUS problems, the odds are okay because not ALL will have them. If you’re not concerned about minor psychological issues…go for adoption! It will be interesting to see how my adoptee survey turns out in regards to this question.
6. A birthmother will have serious emotional problems if she relinquishes her child.
This is a myth? Seriously? Are they really saying birthmothers don’t have serious emotional problems after relinquishment? They didn’t even bother to add “not all.” They just said a birthmother wouldn’t. And that’s a straight up lie. Of course it is. Who in their right mind would relinquish a child if they knew it may cause them serious emotional problems. As we learned in my birthmother survey this is the rule and not the exception.
7. A child really doesn’t need a father.
Yeah, two parents are preferred…sure. And adoptive parents aren’t immune from divorce. Didn’t see an quips in there about that.
8. No one can love a child as much as the birthmother.
I have no doubt that most adoptive parents love their children tremendously. But I say they can never love their children in the same way as the person who gave birth to them. They simply can’t. It’s not possible. They did not carry them for 9 months so the bond is different.
Oh this manual.
The next section of the book is entitled, “Developing Adoption Positively.”
Essentially this is all about how to spin adoption as the best and most positive choice. It even includes a section on using appropriate terminology. Yes, agencies know that the terminology you use has an influence on how positive you see adoption. They use it to their advantage. It’s called coercion. Here’s those pages.
Oh and then there is the pressure they are encouraged to put on. On page 34 it says, “When birthmothers do not initiate a discussion of adoption, the counselor will have to reintroduce the concept. The following introduction should facilitate a nonthreatening discussion:
We’ve spent the last few weeks talking about your plans to parent. Because this is such a tremendously big decision, I think it’s important for you to be informed about all your choices. So I would like to spend part of our time today, if it’s okay with you, talking about adoption.
Most birthmothers will agree to this.”
So, even when the mother is making a parenting plan, counselors are coached to introduce adoption. Sick, sick, sick. Again, this should be a manual called, “How can I guilt a mother into giving her baby to someone else by making her think parenting means she’s a shitty mom and doesn’t love her child and is irresponsible.”
And then they talk about birthfathers.
“Birth father’s rights are taken much more seriously now than they have been in the past. Although laws may vary from state to state, courts today generally make every reasonable effort to secure a birth father’s voluntary termination of his parental rights before a child can be legally released for adoption. For this reason alone, it is essential that a counselor discuss with the birthmother the birth father’s interest and intentions regarding their child.”
Um, ya think? For this reason alone….not because it’s right, just because the birth father may end up being a pain in the ass.
The end pages go on to encourage using birthmothers (ones who have actually placed, not expectant mothers) in order to convince uncertain young moms to place.
It goes on to say that one year is a good time period for contact to continue from the birthmother. Ugh.
The conclusion states, “There is no magical way to present adoption so a birthmother who lacks the ability or desire to parent will view it as an acceptable solution. However, a change of heart often begins when a counselor who recognizes the advantages of adoption presents it in a knowledgeable and sensitive manner as an excellent choice.”
Need I say more? What, again, is the definition of coercion?