Not So Permanent & Irrevocable After All

A little over a year ago, the daughter I had not seen since just a few months before her second birthday was in my arms again. You can catch up on that BY CLICKING HERE ON THIS HYPERLINK.

I never would have imagined we’d be where we are now. Without going into too many details, I’ll just say that the same rights a parent has to their minor child have been returned to myself and my husband via a permanent order of custody.

I spent last week reading IKL the story of my pregnancy, her birth, & relinquishment by way of the book I wrote covering it, Whispers of Grace.  How surreal to read the book I wrote about her, written just before we had contact with her, while she was sitting next to me, living with me, her bedroom just across the hall. I made it through almost the whole thing without shedding a tear. But there is no way to read aloud about what it’s like to permanently and irrevocably surrender your rights to your newborn TO that once newborn who is now beside you without shedding some tears. Her arms flew around me fast and she said, “It’s okay. I’m here now.”

How did I get this lucky? Why does my luck have to come at the expense of her leaving her friends, her culture, her home? How does she handle all of this with such grace?

I don’t know. I just know that I love her. It doesn’t feel like she’s been gone all these years. At the same time it’s so obvious she has and that hole where those years are can never be given back. We can only move forward. One day at a time.

 

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A Comparison in Adoption – The United States Vs. Europe

While all countries differ in political climates and cultures, the United States can be lumped into a category with other countries that we can generalize as “civilized.” Countries such as Canada, France, Germany, Australia, Ireland and others would all fit into this category as we have similar ethics and cultures in a broad sense of the word. Since domestic infant adoption has been seen as something that is necessary to “save” babies from a life of poverty and no opportunities, thousands of babies, each year, in the United States, are relinquished to adoption from perfectly capable mothers. I was wondering why the babies in this country needed to be “saved” and decided to take a look at other countries, like ours, to see if the same theories and ethics applied, in regards to domestic infant adoption. Certainly, because we are all human beings, the same situations of what we consider a “crisis pregnancy” would exist in other countries. How do other countries handle crisis pregnancies? In America, the solution seems to be adoption, at all times. That is what is encouraged. That is what is socially acceptable as the “selfless and right” thing to do.

First let’s take a look at the number of adoption by country with an image that was borrowed from the United Nations. As you will see, the number of adoptions in America is WILDLY disproportionate to those in other countries of similar cultural values.

The adoption industry, in America, has jumped through enormous hoops over the past several decades to assure that infants become easier to obtain. The focus has been on a cultural acceptance of separating mother and child as the “best” thing to do as well as lobbying Congress with hefty funds that are generated, and then in turn donated, from the adoptions of these children. Do not be fooled; Adoption, even the “non-profit” kind, is a BIG money-maker. The profits are given to other “non-profit” firms (tax-free I might add) who then use those “donations” to lobby for law changes that will assure the easiest road possible to keep the industry running. And as long as there are people who are “in want” of those babies, this is how it will always be. Why is it that a mom can sign away her rights hours after birth in this country? Why the rush? Because it lessens the time period she has to change her mind. Why do most states allow for no revocation period? Because it makes it impossible for her to change her mind. These are not laws that protect mothers and their children. They protect the agency and the agency’s clients – the hopeful adoptive parents. The cycle just keeps going while the adoption machine gets bigger.

France

Domestic infant adoption in France is scarcely heard of these days. In the past 15 years, domestic infant adoption rates have declined 63% while the people wanting to adopt infants domestically has risen 65%.(1) In 2003, 4500 children were adopted in France and only 500 of them were FROM France – and most were not infant adoptions. The rest were adopted via international adoption.(2) Why is this? Certainly if it is thought necessary to save a child from a life of poverty then there must be a reason for the sudden drop of available infants for adoption. Did everyone suddenly become rich or did the cultural thought process behind adoption change? Well, we all know it isn’t the latter. A huge cultural shift that focuses primarily on family preservation has been up and running in France for the past 15 years and it has been widely successful. What about revocation periods in France? The biological parents have TWO MONTHS to revoke consent. That is what is in the best interests of the parents and the child. And probably a big reason adoption rates have declined so much. I cannot find anything about the waiting period after birth before a mother can relinquish her rights and I’m apt to say it’s because no adoption plans are made when a mother is pregnant. It just doesn’t happen this way, as opposed to the U.S. Mothers are encouraged to try parenting and adoption is an option if it doesn’t work out. Another road block to successful adoptions in France is the fact that in must be approved by the parliamentary system. A mother cannot simply sign a piece of paper in a hospital in front of a social worker and her rights are terminated. That is also as it should be. Finally, in France, there are two types of adoption. One is a simple adoption and the other is a full adoption. The simple adoption is most common and instead of severing rights of one set of parents it simply adds to the rights already in place. Adoptive parents are granted full rights and custody to a child in ADDITION to the rights the biological parents already have.(3)

Germany

In Germany, a parent cannot consent to the adoption of their child until the child has reached 8 weeks of age. Similar to France, with their 2 month revocation period, Germany is centered on family preservation and a mother making a truly informed decision. The law allows for her to make sure her mind is fully recovered from having given birth. Also like in France, the courts will have to approve of the adoption plan. A mother cannot simply terminate her rights without the courts approval. Unlike France, domestic infant adoption is sometimes planned during pregnancy, but it is very strictly monitored by the Adoption Placement Act of Germany. This act places regulations on adoption agencies and pretty much outlaws all the standard agency practices that exist in the United States – including advertising. Agencies CANNOT advertise. You can read the full act here if you so wish (4)

Spain

Spain’s adoption practices are very similar to America’s with a few differences. Spain does not consider any consent for adoption given by a mother less than 30 days after birth to be valid. 30 days must have passed since she has given birth before she can consent to the termination of her rights and subsequent adoption of her child. Like France and Germany, a court must approve this decision.(5)

You get the idea. This goes on and on and on for just about every European country. As a matter of fact, international adoption is THE most common form in Europe. Between 70% and 90% of all adoptions come from other countries, not domestically. Consent cannot be given for months and/or can be revoked for months. Let me remind you of that chart from the beginning of this article. The United States allows parents to sign their rights away HOURS after birth and sometimes before. See, I believe that when consent is signed is the key. I believe that a mother cannot fully understand the decision she is about to make without first taking the time to attempt to parent her child.

There will be some who may say, “Well, that may be so. But I’d rather see a child given up for adoption than to live in a home where it will be abused, neglected or unwanted.” Let’s address this, shall we?

The rate of child abuse fatalities in the United States is three times the rate of Germany’s, more than twice the rate of the UK or Japan, and almost twice the rate of France.(6) We can just throw that argument right out the window. Besides, what do you expect from a country who treats children as commodities?

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(1) http://www.uea.ac.uk/swp/icar2/pdf%27s/Halifax99.pdf

(2) https://www.ined.fr/fichier/s_rubrique/18712/publi_pdf2_pop.and.soc.english.417.en.pdf

(3) http://www.uea.ac.uk/swp/icar2/pdf%27s/Halifax99.pdf

(4) http://www.adoptionpolicy.org/pdf/eu-germany.pdf

(5) http://www.adoptionpolicy.org/pdf/eu-spain.pdf

(6) http://www.childabuseintervention.org/child-abuse/statistics

Women That Relinquish To The Famous or Prominent

Every time you turn on the news or stand in line next to a tabloid it seems you cannot avoid being told about how this celebrity or that celebrity has just adopted a baby. A quick search on Google will bring up famous adoptive parents, famous adoptees, even famous birth parents. Some part of me had always wondered about the other side, the side that you cannot Google and come up with a list…or a single name at all. At least not without some serious digging. What about the women who have relinquished to the famous or prominent?

Certainly being a first mom to a child adopted by celebrities would present its own unique feelings and challenges. Typical support groups, while I’m sure are helpful, would always leave out that one issue not covered for these women. Their children and/or their children’s adoptive parents are in the lime light. Some days I want to avoid adoption altogether and I have that luxury. What if you logged onto Facebook and in your news feed was an article about your child or their parents. What if your child’s adoptive parents were very open about their adoption experience and you find they are relaying how they interpreted your feelings in an article by People Magazine? They have spoken for you and you have no voice. How do you avoid things like this? How do you handle it when it comes up? How do you find others that can relate on that level to what you are feeling?

A couple of years ago I had the pleasure of meeting, and have now become close friends with, a woman in an online support group who had relinquished her son to two pretty famous people. This couple have adopted other kids as well and one of her greatest wants is to find the other first moms….just for support. Just to talk to someone who truly knows and understands what it is like to be the person who relinquished a child to a celebrity. I wondered what makes these first moms not seek each other out. I have asked this dear friend to help me with this post and I hope I can do her justice.

Fear

The most obvious reason for not going public about who you are is fear. With fame comes lots of money and that means the possibility of being sued for defamation if you tell your side of the story. Another thing to fear greatly is the relationship with your child. What if you are in reunion with this child? What if it was an open adoption? What if speaking out and revealing yourself put all of it at risk? What if the adoptive parents became angry with you for going public and cut you off? All you wanted was to find others like you. All you wanted was a type of support only a handful of other women can give you. Once again, the adoptive parents hold all the cards.

Another reason that these women do not have each other is purely numbers. When compared to all other first mothers, the number of women who have relinquished to famous or prominent people are quite low. Most have the fear we spoke of earlier and finding them is seemingly impossible. One of the reasons I am writing this blog is to call these women. You need each other and I know my dear friend needs you as well.

Birthmothers who are public…

We all know who Angelina Jolie is (if you don’t you’re living under a rock). The birthmother to her daughter, Mentewab Dawit Lebiso, went public and countered a story that she had died of AIDS. And then there is the birthmother of her son, Pax. She came forward about how she wanted her son back. Admittedly, she had a heroin problem and fled the hospital after her son was born because she couldn’t pay the bill (this isn’t the US, it’s Vietnam..not paying your bill will get more than the collection agencies after you). But, she is unaware that her son has been adopted. As is Zahara’s birthmother. They think their children are simply living abroad. Because of the cultural differences it makes me wonder if their naivety about the possible outcomes of going public work to their advantage in having the confidence to do so.

And let’s take a look at Madonna. Again, an international adoption, and again, the birth family coming forward in the same naivety as we previously talked about. They thought they had more rights than they really did. Madonna closed the adoption.

Another very famous adoptive parent is Hugh Jackman. Because of the very sad ending to her story, everyone knows who his child’s birthmother is. She is no longer with us after committing suicide. She was promised an open adoption and it was closed on her. Some claim she had drug and depression issue beforehand and others claim it was directly related to the pain suffered from relinquishing her child, but I can’t imagine having her child removed completely from her life helped matters any. As a matter of fact, there is a blog post about mother’s who have lost their life to adoption as well as a Facebook page dedicated to those who have lost their lives by their own hand because of adoption.  I can’t help but think, “What if she had been connected with other mothers like her?”

Ladies, if you are or know someone who is a first mom who has relinquished to celebrities, we are looking for you. You need each other. Private, confidential and secure. But you need each other. I know I have one friend that needs you desperately.

If you would like to be added to a secret birthmother support group and you are a first mom that has relinquished to famous or prominent adoptive parents please send me an email at: musingsofabirthmom@gmail.com