Incognito Press

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An Open Letter to a Future Mother

Posted by E on July 6, 2007

“First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.” – Mahatma Gandhi

This entry started off as an answer to a woman who wrote that she wants to adopt, but doubts that she can find an “ethical” adoption agency. I put a lot of thought to her comment, and decided to write a response that I wanted to share with all of you.

Dear Amanda,
You mentioned that you had fears about finding an ethical agency from where you could adopt a child without feeling guilty about potentially “stealing” or “coercing” a birth mother. I want to take this opportunity to put your fears to rest.

I don’t blame you for being guilted into believing that adopting a child is somehow akin to kidnapping. There is a lot of propaganda on the internet where a small group of biased people are determined to compare all adoptions to the underground trafficking of human beings.

I need you to know that you have it wrong when it comes to the idea that expectant mothers are coerced or seduced by money and gifts to “give up” their babies. First and foremost, how can you coerce someone with expensive gifts?
If they are the type of individual who would take jewelry and a trip to Europe (as happened in a real case I’ve heard about) as a thank-you gift, then what kind of person is she to begin with??
Would you take a fur coat and a trip as price for your child?? Not if you are a “mother”.

There are women who want their child to go to a good family, and there are those (yes, they do exist) who will indeed look for profit. But the women who barter their babies to the highest bidder are not “mothers.” They are business women who profit from the pain of infertile couples.

There are – frankly – more cases of that happening, as you can see in the news and shows like 2020 and 48 Hours, than the other way around.
How can the receiving half of the adoption industry (namely the adoptive parents) be unethical and seeing the children as commodities, yet the mothers be victims who were coerced??

It doesn’t work that way. Most of the time, both parties (adoptive parents AND birth mothers) want the best for the children involved.

Yes indeed Amanda, adoption is a legitimate business, with professionals involved, i.e. social workers and lawyers. Calling it a “business” and implying that by definition it’s immoral simply because there are fees exchanged is ridiculous. All legitimate enterprises operate under a business model. Hospitals, schools, etc all are businesses – employing staff, doctors, lawyers. Making a business out of adoption by no means designates adoption as “unethical.”
If it WASN’T for agencies, I would be much more worried about the state of the children.

And by the way, let’s talk about the ethics of covering birth mothers’ expenses. These days, the feelings and emotions of A LOT of infertile couples are being manipulated because of short supply-excessive demand for children. As a result, a lot of people get second mortgages and work their asses off to impress young pregnant women who KNOW they are peddling a “commodity”. So just who is being taken advantage of here?

There are lots of well-meaning people who still see pregnant girls who wish to place their infants for adoption as the same naive waifs pre-1950’s Homes for Unwed Girls scenarios; please realize that in today’s world, the tables have turned. Women are much more educated about their rights. To think less of our capability to make our own judgement is to make us less than what we are: intelligent human beings.

The mothers who want to keep their kids, do – with support from social services, welfare, whatever. And the ones who don’t – get to pick the family they give their infants to. And yes, they do have their expenses covered.

But what is wrong with that? What some might call “selling” a child is to the rest of the world a way to recompense someone for her troubles. I mean, the woman carries the child for 9 months for another couple – why NOT have her expenses covered? Why NOT have extra money for food, or have her rent paid (as so many people have done)? Why NOT make her life as comfortable as possible?
If that is “selling”, then take it up with those birth mothers! They did after all agree to those conditions and accepted payment for their expenses. I somehow don’t think they see themselves as selling their children. Yet if they do, then they could hardly be regarded as “fit” mothers, can they?

In a perfect world, children would be WANTED, pure and simple. REGARDLESS of whether they were carried in a different person’s stomach for nine months.

You mentioned the fact that some adoptions can cost upwards of $30,000, and you couldn’t understand how that could be – unless there was something morally reprehensible about it. Or involved the sale of white children only.
So to address that query – the $30,000 fee is not just for white children. It’s for healthy children. People adopting Asian, Hispanic, Black or Bi-racial kids from overseas have had to pay that much, and sometimes more to adopt healthy infants.
Yes, fees would be much less if kids from foster care were adopted – but often they are not up for adoption, they are older, disabled, or have been traumatized by abuse and neglect. A lot of a-parents might not be prepared to handle such complexities, and they have read studies that show that bonding is less complicated with infants or very young children.

That’s not to say those children are any less valuable – but unfortunately, people may not have the emotional and monetary resources to care for traumatized kids over the span of a lifetime. I wish all those youngsters would find permanent homes, and in fact I wish the government would offer more incentives and support for people to adopt every child in the system. Perhaps if they felt they were not alone, potential parents might adopt more. As it is, it’s hard emotionally enough to adopt older kids in the “system”, and those efforts are compounded by “angry Adoptees” and other psychologically-scarred people who give a bad rap to all kids still in need of a parent.

Many people who are not adopting tend to confuse what the money is about – most of it has to do with paying social workers’ fees for those home studies, lawyers to process applications, fingerprinting fees, background check fees, psychological assesments – and in the case of internationals, having to fly to the country, stay a minimum number of days, etc etc etc. And then, yes, there are those agencies fees too. But remember, the $30,000 figure represents the ADDED cost at the end of the road. It’s not just the myth of a large envelope being passed under the table.

Certainly there have been some abuses of the process, as in any arena where there are strong feelings involved. Yes, some people have paid adoption brokers above and beyond what the adoption papers state; yes, money has found its way around the legalities of this normally well-regulated system. But those situations were extremes, the minority of cases that contravened the law and were prosecuted when the law caught up.

There have also been cases of birth parents who actively sought out “buyers” for their babies. Whether in the slums of Guatemala City, the villages of rural Romania, or a parking lot in New Jersey, babies have been sold – just as often by brokers as by their own parents.

But to be afraid of adopting because of extremes doesn’t make sense. You can’t judge a legal process like adoption by looking at those who break the law as representatives and ambassadors of that process.

The only country I know of where an envelope full of cash is demanded is China (about $3000). But guess what? Although the Chinese government undoubtedly profits from this “sale” of babies, there are no mothers who are being coerced.
Those mothers abandoned their girls by the roadside, in market stalls or on the orphanage doorstep.
That’s if they didn’t kill them first.

(And please, before someone tells me that the Chinese government created this nightmare of abandoned girls with their one-child policy, let’s not forget that the parents COULD have chosen to keep their daughters as that one child. Nobody held a gun to their head and forced them to throw their baby girl in the trash.)

So you see, Amanda, you can freely let go of your guilt and fears – all you have to ask yourself is: Will I be a loving mother? Will I be able to provide and nourish this child as if it were my own?
If the answer is yes, then welcome to the wonderful world of motherhood.

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