May 2, 2012
So did you watch? What did you think? Were you aware of this particular part of adoption history? Did it change any perceptions you may have had about birth mothers?
When I traveled to Kazakhstan to meet the Bee one of the books I brought with me was “The Girls Who Went Away”. (It was probably an odd choice for an adoption trip but I had already read every attachment/ child care/ adoption book I could find and by that time I just really wanted to try to understand adoption from another perspective.) The stories told in that book were riveting. The Dan Rather Reports piece last night was pretty much “The Girls Who Went Away” but with fewer voices. While I think Rather did a good job with the hour he had, I would highly recommend you read the book to get a fuller appreciation for how mothers were treated in the baby scoop era.
As far as the program last night goes, I was most interested to hear one adoption worker come forward to offer an insider’s viewpoint (I missed exactly what her role was. She started out as a clerk and claimed she was never in a position of authority but I missed what exactly she did. Was she a social worker? ) I was impressed that she didn’t try to defend what happened. She seemed believable to me when she offered (by means of explanation not defense) that adoption workers given their then understanding of adoption, psychology and the harsh social pressures placed on unwed mothers, were doing what considered best practice for the time. They believed they were providing for the best interests of all parties.
“Best Practice” unfortunately included; force, coercion, deceit and falsifying records.
This adoption worker also claimed that as adoption “professionals” gained a better understanding of how these methods negatively effected the mothers, children and adoptive families involved, practices were changed. I hope this was and remains true.
In an age of open adoptions it’s easy to judge this all as barbaric. (Cetainly many of results were.) However, I think we have to be careful not to condemn too harshly. We should try to remember that many of these girls were sent away and pressured to give up their babies by their own parents who likely acted (however misguided) out of love and protection for their daughters (I’m not saying all-but most parents try to do what is best for their children.) In the long history of parenting this is certainly not the first time a parent made a well-intentioned but ultimately bad decision for their child.
I think likewise we need to judge the institutions that participated in these adoptions based less on their misguided actions of the past which we hope were also based in a belief they were doing the right thing, but rather on how they respond to the effects of their actions today.
Do they take full responsibility for their actions? Do they express contrition and compassion for the families they have hurt? Have they truly ceased use of all high pressure adoption tactics? And what are they willing to do to make right the wrongs of the past? Are they blocking access to information that would allow reunification? Are they actively helping mothers to find their children?
Here it seems there is much left to be done.
You can find their entire statement here.
The part that disgusted me was this pathetic rationalization…
“We must not lose track of the tens of thousands of adoptive parents who will be forever grateful to birth parents for the sacrifices they make to ensure that their children’s lives will be filled with the love and opportunity they may otherwise not have received.”
As an adoptive parent I am insulted that Catholic Charities USA would dare to use adoptive parents (whom they also injured through their actions) to defend themselves. Of course we are grateful to our children’s mothers, but NEVER would any adoptive parent I know characterize coercion, manipulation, fraud and abuse as a birth parent’s “sacrifice".
Shame on you.
And how dare you still assume today when you supposedly know better that their children’s lives would not have been filled with love and opportunity without these coerced adoptions.
As an adoptive parent I disavow this statement.
On a personal note to those who were hurt throughout this awful era, my heartfelt condolences on your loss, prayers for peace and resolution and my earnest pledge to support access to the information you need to find justice.