No Adoption System is Perfect
by Barbara Free, M.A.
2013 issue of the AAC newsletter, Decree, includes a lengthy excerpt from
Adoption Separation: Then and Now (Clova Publications, 2010), a book by
Australian Evelyn Robinson, M.A., DipEd, BSW. Ms. Robinson is a reunited birth
mother (she prefers the term original parent) who relinquished a son
in Edinburgh, Scotland, in 1970, and now lives in South Australia.
The article, Different Approaches,
contrasts Australias current adoption system and that of the U.S. It
quite ignores the past history of Australia with the Aborigines, attempting
to breed them out, putting Aborigine children in orphanages and
boarding schools with a lot of abuse. The Australian film Rabbit-Proof
Fence (2002) attests to some of that.
That issue aside, Ms. Robinsons main viewpoint
is that adoption is almost always a very bad thing for everyone. She starts by
stating that, Private adoptions are illegal in all states of territories in
Australia and all domestic adoptions are arranged by State Government
departments. By private adoptions, she is referring to agency
adoptions. In the U.S., private adoption often means a non-agency adoption,
arranged between families, sometimes involving doctors or attorneys.
She states that, in Australia, there are no
commercially based adoption agencies. She says that, because in the U.S. there
are adoption agencies licensed to arrange domestic adoptions, there are financial
advantages for them to arrange as many adoptions as possible and that this is
distasteful and perhaps immoral. She says that pregnant women in Australia are
encouraged to focus on raising their children and are never encouraged to
relinquish. After the birth, she says, there is a Parenting Payment available
from the federal government, which is means-tested, meaning available
to those below a certain (unspecified in this article) income level. She states
that there is no such payment available in the U.S., but tax benefits for adoptive
parents who are in paid employment. This is not exactly clear nor accurate. She
further tells us that there has been a dramatic decrease in adoptions in Australia
to the point that, in 2010, in South Australia, with a population of more than two
million, there was only one Australian-born child adopted. She says nothing about
She also strongly objects to the term birth
mother, calling it sinister, and particularly if applied to a
woman who has not yet given birth. For many of us in the U.S., this term was a
welcome one, as we had previously been called nothing. Some may prefer the term
original mother or original parent; few would prefer
natural parent, as it implies that adoptive parents are somehow
Further, she says she has been advised that, in the
U.S., fathers not married to mothers of their children have a difficult time
being heard, and compares this to Australias requirement that a birth
father be notified and included in decisions, which is actually the law in the U.S.,
also, and there have been numerous court cases when these laws were not followed.
One suspects that might be the case in Australia, too, though perhaps to a lesser
degree, adoption apparently being so frowned upon.
According to Ms. Robinson, no consent to adopt
(relinquishment, in other words) can be given until the child is at least 14 days
old. This is also the current case in the U.S., though the amount of time varies
from one day to six months. She says, Counseling after the birth is compulsory
and must be completed at least three days prior to consent being given. As a
therapist and a birth mother, I would question the term completed, as
adoption issues are life-long, and completed implies everything is over
and done with. Many agencies in the U.S. offer unlimited and ongoing counseling for
both birth parents, adoptive parents, and adoptees.
Then she says that, after the consent is given, there
is period of 25 days during which the consent may be revoked, and that it may be
extended by up to 14 days. Nothing is said about what happens to the child during
this time, other than she says the child may remain with the mother and/or father.
She says that adoptive parents (whom she calls adopters) cannot have any
contact with the birth parents until after this period of time, and is completely
horrified that in the U.S. they may meet ahead of time or that the adoptive parents
may even be present at the delivery. She sees this as cruel and undue pressure upon
Many would disagree with this, particularly in open
adoptions. If my sons adoptive parents and I could have met, or if they could
have been present for his birth, we would all have been thrilled. As it was, I was
much comforted by the knowledge that they and I had already consented, that he had
parents waiting, and that they took him hone as quickly as possible, so that he was
not languishing in a hospital or in foster care, only to be taken from foster parents
weeks or months later. She says the waiting period will prevent the long term
complexities in the lives of those children and their parents, which would occur if
an adoption took place.
As a therapist, Im not at all sure that is true.
She sees any contact between expectant mothers and prospective adopters
is intrusive and exploitative to the mother and shows a lack of respect for
and understanding of the sanctity of the mother/child bond. This may be her
opinion, but is not borne out in the experiences of many in the adoption community,
whether birth parents, adoptive parents, or adoptees. She also says that, only after
this waiting period has expired will the government department involved select
adopters for the child. Most birth mothers and adoptive parents here would
object to a government employee selecting or not selecting, as was the
case with agency employees in years past with closed adoptions.
On another facet of adoption, Ms. Robinson states that,
in South Australia, the adopters can have their names added to the
childs original birth certificate instead of having a new one issued, which
sounds like a good idea, although it seems even more sensible to just let the birth
certificate remain as it is and issue an adoption certificate with the adoptive
parents names or with both sets of parents names. She says the mother
(birth mother) has access to the original birth certificate from the time the birth
is registered. In reality, in most modern open adoptions, the birth mother has a
copy of the original birth certificate, although not the amended one, unless this
is an agreement between the sets of parents. Most birth parents from past eras do
look forward to legal changes that would give access to both birth certificates.
Open and semi-open adoptions make this less of an issue for current and future
adoptions, but it is still a huge issue for past, closed adoptions.
The author says that adoption is encouraged in the
U.S. because it is apparently a terrible crime in the U.S. to be poor. While I have
consistently written about adoption being about poverty (on the part of birth
parents, or potentially so), I do not think her viewpoint is accurate, nor does it
solve the problem by always insisting the birth parents keep and raise the child,
donations of diapers, cribs, etc., notwithstanding.
She also decries the adoption of older children who
are not safe living with their original parents, and says that never happens in
Australia, which is hard to believe, given their history and that of England, who
sent millions of young children to Australia by themselves simply because their
parents were poor or dead. She says that, instead of adoption, they are provided
with permanent legal guardians who have the responsibilities of parents, but not
the legal relationship. One might inquire of people who are or have been in
long-term foster care whether they would prefer that. Some of that may depend upon
the age, of course, and whether the guardians are relatives or strangers.
She states that the Australian system is much more
child-centered and honest, and that adoption should be replaced by other
arrangements. Again, she makes no mention of international adoption, which one
suspects must be more common, given that individuals or couples who do not have
biological children and want children usually prefer to adopt, rather than being
permanent legal guardians.
Some readers may completely agree with Ms. Robinson,
and I must admit to not having read the entire book, just this excerpt. Certainly
the U.S. system(s) of adoption are not perfect, nor is any other adoption system.
Yet, adoption does exist, even in other animals from time to time. Some
societies customs do not permit adoption, but do permit killing the birth
mother, which hardly seems better than the U.S. customs. One may find out more
from and about Evelyn Robinson at www.clovapublications.com. Wed love to
have comments from readers of this article, also.
Excerpted from the October
2013 edition of the Operation Identitiy Newsletter
© 2013 Operation Identity