Celebrating Mothers' Day: Reflections
5 weeks ago
Talking about adoption, birthparents, abandonment, race, and China with my kids. That's not all we talk about -- but reading this blog, you'll think it's all we do!!!!!
A legal tug-of-war is playing out in Utah between adoptive parents and the father of a 21-month-old girl.But this story is far from ordinary, as the next paragraph makes clear: "The birth father says Tira Bland, his wife at the time, traveled from their Texas home while he was away on military service in South Carolina and gave birth in Utah. She signed off on an adoption in Utah to the Freis without his knowledge or consent, Wiser said."
A Utah judge recently ordered the adoptive parents to give the child to the biological father, Terry Achane of South Carolina, said his lawyer, Scott Wiser.
The adoptive parents, Jared and Kristi Frei, have countered with a legal motion to keep the girl, whom they've raised since she was born, attorney Larry Jenkins confirmed.
That sets up months, if not years, of more legal wrangling and uncertainty about who will raise Leah Frei.
The Freis, who live in a Provo suburb, legally adopted her through an agency in 2010. They have four biological children and two adopted children, including Leah.
The significance of the biological connection is that it offers the natural father an opportunity that no other male possesses to develop a relationship with his offspring. If he grasps that opportunity and accepts some measure of responsibility for the child's future, he may enjoy the blessings of the parent-child relationship and make uniquely valuable contributions to the child's development. If he fails to do so, the Federal Constitution will not automatically compel a State to listen to his opinion of where the child's best interests lie.So when it comes to unmarried fathers, and whether they have any legal rights when their biological child is adopted out, we ask what they DID to grasp their opportunity to be legal fathers. Did he support the mother financially and emotionally during pregnancy? Did he live with the mother and child as a family unit? What has he done to develop a relationship with the child? Has he supported the child financially and emotionally? And in more recent times, we ask, did he file in the putative father registry of the state in which the child is being placed?
Q: What's Gladney's biggest challenge today?So, Gladney needs to endorse projects like Brave Love to counteract a flat market in domestic adoption? Doesn't seem like the problem is not enough parents wanting to adopt (the demand side), it's not enough mothers wanting to place (the supply side). So, imagine your 6th grader – adopted or not – being involved in this project. Your little darling gets to help Gladney develop the supply side!
A: Growth in a flat to declining market. Domestic infant adoption continues to shrink overall. On the international side, countries shut down or slow down adoption and we have to contend with the volatility. But we believe tough times create opportunity. We have a game plan and the will and capability to see it through.
Q: How does Gladney set itself apart from others in the field ?
We are working hard to lead our field toward greater collaboration and away from the mindset that we need to view each other as competitors. We believe that "a rising tide lifts all boats."
Q: What are the trends in domestic infant adoption?
A: More and more young women are choosing to be single parents. Combined with those choosing the abortion option, that leaves less than 2% who decide to place their baby for adoption. We have to do a better job of educating the public that adoption is a wonderful option.
Reproductive health academic and activist writing contains no shortage of articles devoted to untangling the various intersections between access to abortion, abortion stigma, and poverty. The same thoughtful commentary and analysis has been applied to parenting and motherhood, exploring ways that different mothers are subjected to stigma and societal judgment for their reproductive choices based on race and social class. Yet, when it comes to adoption, the intersections with poverty are just as complicated and deserving of analysis yet less examined by those who care deeply about reproductive health, rights, and justice. Since November marks the beginning of National Adoption Awareness Month, we decided to come together to review some new research on adoption and poverty.
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It remains true, however, that the women who relinquish or place children for adoption are almost always of a lower socioeconomic status than the families that adopt their children.
How, then, do the intersections between adoption, poverty, race, and class play out today? How are birth parents—most likely living in open adoptions, where they have ongoing contact with their child and his or her adoptive family—affected by these social differences? A new paper by sociologist Kathryn Sweeney examines perceptions of birth parents held by their counterparts: their own children’s adoptive parents.
Sweeney’s primary thesis is that the way our culture understands poverty broadly influences the way adoptions are lived individually. She relates the culture of poverty (that is, the socially-conservative American model for explaining inequality which attributes poverty to an inherent laziness or lack of personal responsibility in low-income communities) to adoption by saying:
“[adoption] perpetuates culture of poverty arguments by assuming that removing children from families is a solution to poverty; removing children implies that the families they are born into are inadequate to raise them… The focus on failures means that connections are lacking to larger economic systems that lead to placements by disempowered birth mothers and give privileged adoptive parents access to children.”Through 15 in-depth interviews with White adoptive parents, Sweeney examined how they perceive their child’s family of origin, and how those perceptions are influenced by broader ideas of a culture of poverty. The narratives of adoptive parents – even those adoptive parents who recognize the structural causes of poverty—focus on individual choice, individual responsibility, and courage and altruism in making adoption decisions. Many viewed birth parents as making “bad choices” that led to their pregnancy, and described a “pathology of poverty” in which the negative traits associated with poverty were viewed as contagious—and, consequently, the adoption was a redemptive way out. Not so different, then, from the type of “redemption” that Solinger describes as being available to women 50 years ago.
Though a small study, the implications here are profound. Sweeney’s findings represent challenges for those in the adoption community: agencies that unwarily allow culture-of-poverty discourses to influence discussions of adoptions; adoptive parents who view their child’s family of origin as substantially different from their own; birth/first families who attempt to negotiate ongoing openness in their adoptions across a cultural divide that is both real and manufactured; and adoptees who must develop an identity that reconciles both their adoptive parents’ ideas of their original families and their own feelings about their origins.
Children’s lives depend on the renewal of the adoption tax credit. Most adoptive families need it in order to afford adoption, which costs an average of $30,000. Most of our applicants at Helpusadopt.org spend $30,000 to $50,000, and sometimes more depending on the circumstances and travel involved.Please comment on the New York Times site, and whatever your opinion, please compliment them for including multiple voices not usually included in these debates. This is really a HUGE DEAL!
Many American families seeking to build their families through adoption can provide for a child on a day-to-day basis but cannot pay these fees in full and up front. So these large costs present insurmountable financial obstacles.
The Adoption Tax Credit originated mainly as an incentive to find families for special needs children who needed homes. (At the time it was nonrefundable, meaning it would only offset any taxes owed, but would not apply to families with too little income for a tax liability.) Lobbyists from the adoption industry pushed to expand the credit.
This increased the demand for adoptable children and adoption agencies responded by finding more mothers at risk to increase their own profits. Historically, as the adoption tax credit went up, agencies followed suit and raised their fees as well.
For a mother facing relinquishment, that same credit could very well be the bit of certainty she needs to parent her own baby. She would know how to pay off medical bills, or pay for day care, or take time off from work to enjoy her child.
The adoption tax credit should not only be renewed, but Congress should once again allow it to be refundable – available even if an adoptive family doesn’t have an income tax liability to apply against -- as it was in 2010 and 2011.
A refundable credit would ensure that more families of modest means can provide homes to vulnerable children. When children are adopted from foster care the credit can help care for children with special needs, and keep brothers and sisters together. A 2007 study showed that families who adopt from foster care have, on average, lower incomes than other adoptive families.
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Unless the tax credit is refundable, many children would remain in expensive foster care. Analysis has shown that each adoption from foster care saves the government up to $235,000, so legislation encouraging adoption from foster care — like a refundable adoption tax credit — can both help vulnerable children and save taxpayers money.
The original intent of the adoption tax credit was to help families adopt through foster care, because, as Senator Mary Landrieu, Democrat of Louisiana, said, those parents “are of lower income than those adopting with an agency or internationally.”
But extending the tax credit to families who wish to adopt internationally, in 2001, was a misplacement of resources and effort. It benefits American families, often upper middle class and white, but not struggling families overseas.
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Many children adopted internationally, said Mary Martin Mason of the Minnesota Adoption Resource Network, have post-traumatic stress disorder or fetal alcohol syndrome, “as well as traumatic orphanage experiences that are overwhelming to parents who try to parent with traditional techniques. These children are in jeopardy of adoption dissolutions if their families can’t find adoption-competent therapists. Funding post-adoption supportive services such as therapists for adoptive families is truly needed.”
Allowing the adoption tax credit to cover international adoptions only adds to this problem.
As an adoptee who’s just begun to learn about my birth family, I can honestly say adoption saved my life. If my biological mother had raised me after I was born, or if I grew up in foster care, I cannot imagine where my life would be.
There are more than 100,000 children in foster care. They can live in three to as many as 12 different homes before they age out of the system. When they do age out, they have no parent’s arms to run to when life has the best of them. They have no place for guidance, financial assistance in case of an emergency or help in fulfilling their dreams. Just 2 percent of foster children earn a bachelor's degree or higher, and studies have shown that most prison inmates have been in foster care at some point in their lives.
These children deserve and need a place to call home, but the high cost of adoption deters many families from considering it. The adoption tax credit is one of the most important resources for them.