To NPR, PBS, HuffPo, News Media: Don’t Quote Me, Don’t Ask Me

Reuters/NBC News recently published a troubling series called The Child Exchange, about how some adoptive parents are “re-homing” their adopted children with little oversight or transparency. I wrote about it in my blog post Treating Adopted Children Like–No, Worse Than–Dogs.

The information in the Reuters’ 5-part series is disturbing because of several elements. Isn’t adoption supposed to provide a child with a “forever family”? What was the adoption agency role in preparation? What is the adoption agency responsibility for post-adoption services, and for assisting the family in cases where a child may need (another) new family? How common is this practice of handing over a child with a notarized power of attorney to virtual strangers in a parking lot?

The adoption community on Facebook and elsewhere has been exploding with commentary. Many adoption-related organizations have issued press releases, and mainstream media is beginning to do some stories.

And who has been consulted and quoted? Adoptive parents, some of whom also work in leadership positions at adoption organizations.

Who has not been consulted or quoted in any meaningful way? Adult adoptees, some of whom also work professionally in adoption.

Off the top of my head, here’s a list of accomplished, knowledgeable adoptees who should be among the first to be consulted, way before adoptive parents:

The above list contains Ph.D’s, MSWs, transracial adoptees, international adoptees (Korea, Colombia, India), US adoptees–lots of professional publications, loads of experience.

I’ve blogged about the Reuters’ series, as I’ve said above, and I hope to be involved in some way with looking at possible reforms to our very broken adoption system.

But the folks that the media should be talking with first and foremost are adult adoptees.

Land of Gazillion Adoptees has offered their perspective on this recent PBS interview about the Reuters’ series. The interview featured the series’ writer, Megan Twohey, and Adam Pertman, adoptive parent and executive director of the Evan B. Donaldson Institute. From LGA’s Kevin Haeboom Vollmers:

I have great respect for PBS, but it dropped the ball with this interview. You should have invited professionals who are adoptees to discuss this topic because adoptees consider the kids and teens who have been rehomed as “their people.” Would PBS only invite white individuals if it was talking about an issue that impacted the African American community? I think not. PBS also should have challenged Adam Pertman because, in many respects, individuals like him who have held the microphone in adoption are very much to blame for not bringing to light adoption rehoming, disruptions, and dissolutions to light earlier.

Read the whole Land of Gazillion Adoptees’ post here.

LGA also posted the following insightful information from the highly credentialed therapist (and Korean adoptee) Melanie Chung-Sherman, about disruptions, dissolutions, and re-homing, all issues that are not news to her (unlike to some adoption professionals):

Disruption–the legal termination of an adoption prior to finalization in a court. Essentially, this termination can take place before a child has been legally adopted into a family–whether this is by the decision of the courts, placing agency, adoptive parents, or kinship family. Most of the time, the child has been placed in a home study-approved adoptive home prior to finalization in court–exceptions can be made for kinship placements within the birth family or step-parent relationships in which a child may already be living in the home. This term has been used interchangeably with dissolution, but it is different. Under disruption definitions, in most states, the child was never formally adopted and therefore name changes, birth certificates, and legal parental privilege was never officially/legally granted.

Dissolution–the legal termination of an adoption following finalization in a court of law. This occurs when adoptive parents or the courts decide to terminate parental rights of an adoptee. The adoptee is either placed into another home study approved family by legal adoption OR returned to state care through CPS or DCFS. Adoptive families are no longer legally responsible for the care of that child. However, many children may still carry the legal name of their adoptive family on their birth certificate unless they are adopted into another family or petition a name change. This creates additional difficulty in adequately tracking the number of legally recognized dissolutions because the names have been changed from the original court petition–or in many cases, there have been jurisdictional changes since finalization. There are many courts that are now requiring families who dissolve adoptions to pay for child support/foster care until the child is 18 years old.

Power of Attorney–Since Reuters dropped The Child Exchange there has been some confusion regarding POAs and legal custody. It should be noted that a POA is not legally binding in most states. A POA grants some authority of custodial needs such as medical care, educational decisions, and basic needs so long as the child is in his/her care. It does not replace the legal custody or legal transfer of parental rights to another which can only be completed in a court of law. Many law officials are unaware of this and thus may not question a POA. **It is important to note that there are many kinship placements (such as grandparents, step, and biological family members) that use POAs to ensure that they can care and raise a relative’s child when his/her bio parents cannot–and a child can maintain their biological connection to their first family. Not all POA use should be viewed as negative or with suspicion, but more needs to take place regarding universal regulation of its use–so it is not abused and officials/professionals know the questions to ask in order to recognize the difference.

Rehoming–It is dissolution and it isn’t. Rehoming is an underground, unregulated practice between two private parties (usually strangers) transferring permanent care of a child from one home to another without the legal requirements or regulations such as home studies, background checks, education, or monitoring. It is the unofficial termination of legal rights to a child and the rendering of assumed rights to another family; however, the originating/adoptive family never legally terminated rights (through the courts) and are still responsible for the overall well-being of that child. (This is where POAs have been utilized.) At this time, it is not considered “illegal,” but unethical unless there is substantiated abuse under state child abuse definitions (can vary in specificity from state to state).

So. News media looking for insights and information on adoption issues: Don’t ask me, don’t quote me–or other adoptive parents–until you have first talked to the real experts: adult adoptees, especially those (and they are legion) with extensive and impressive professional credentials.

16 thoughts on “To NPR, PBS, HuffPo, News Media: Don’t Quote Me, Don’t Ask Me

  1. If you’re looking for adult adoptees who are working in this profession and knowledgeable about attachment & trauma issues, you should include Dr. Ken Huey, Founder of CALO (www.ca-lo.com).

  2. What I am suggesting is that some adoptive parents know what it is to raise, commit to and support unconditionally to a very ill child. We want to hear form the adoptees, we want to support you. We share your concerns. We have lived through some pretty tough stuff and continue to. We would never-ever-give up on our child. Please us us as allies and supports in adoption reform. We also see the need for change and support you.

  3. Funny that power of attorney has come up in this discussion…

    I used an in loco parentis, which is a power of attorney, for my son when I sent him to stay with his grandparents. I never got him back again. They went before a judge with big puppy-dog eyes saying, “Your Honor, we can’t possibly care for this child without custody…” (according to the paperwork they sent me), which was a bald-faced lie. I had drawn up the POA in consultation with a JAG lawyer (who wasn’t supposed to cover family law but chose that one time to give me basic advice) and it should have been adequate for them. They then went on to argue they should adopt him since they had custody of him anyway. If I could have afforded the lawyer, I wouldn’t have sent him to stay with them in the first place. I had zero rights and zero protection as far as I knew.

    POAs do work IF the parties covered by the POA *respect it* and do not disturb the legal agreement made. Parents would be well-advised to only confer a POA to someone you absolutely trust–and then be ready to call the police or the FBI if they violate your trust. That is kidnapping, and if I hadn’t felt so beaten down by the situation that led me to send my son to stay with his grandparents, I would have pressed charges.

    It confuses me that some adopters who try to re-home do so using a POA. If you’re done with the relationship then you should relinquish, I would think. Not that I approve of re-homing in the first place. The premise of adoption is that you’re better for the child than the child’s original parents–and the original parents relinquished that child, most of the time. What makes you better if you’re going to turn around and do the exact same thing, often when the child is old enough to remember it later? Being given up when you’re too young to remember is traumatic for many adoptees as it is. Being able to draw up memories of it after the fact is a whole new trauma.

    I know they think they won’t be able to adopt again if they give the adoptee up to social services. But what if they draw another adoptee who also has serious problems? Is it really a good idea to take your chances with that, knowing you already have a low tolerance for adversity? Admit that adoption is not for you, and don’t do it again.

  4. Well said, Maureen.

    I would add to the point about not taking sides that when there is so much that is patently wrong about adoption, taking sides is absolutely critical, especially for adoptive parents. We have been silent on adoption corruption for too long, and need to start screaming from the rafters. We also, as Maureen does here, need to hand the mike to adoptees.

    I would also add two adoptee therapists to the list: Joy Lieberthal Rho http://adoptionechoes.com/ and Katie Naftzger http://www.adoptiontherapyma.com/.

    • I respectfully disagree. The voices of adult adoptees and of first parents are all too often marginalized in media reports about adoption. Adoptive parents, I would argue, are overrepresented in adoption media reports. For far too long, adoptive parents have held most if not all the power in adoption reform discussions, including in the media. That simply has to change. The voices of adult adoptees, especially those who are professionals in adoption work, and the voices of first parents must be heard. The distribution currently is not equitable.

      • Well the thing is, most adult adoptees haven’t raised a child that has major issues. Therefore, logically, it would be kind of pointless to interview them because they don’t know what it is like and how hard it is to raise a child that has major issues. They don’t have the knowledge and haven’t experienced what most adoptive parents have. However, some adoptive parents have. My adoptive mother and father raised my adopted brother who has extreme Bi-Polar and at times can be very violent towards us. She never once gave up on him. He also has a lot of other major problems too. My family has been with him from start to end and always got him help. My point being, adoptive parents know what it is like to raise a child like that and how hard it is and adult adoptees don’t. Just keep in mind that you don’t know what they’re dealing with, what the child has and how sever it is. i do agree, however, that parents who want to replace this child just because of what they have is extremely wrong and that it show’s they are not ready to be parents yet. For those adult adoptees who do know what it is like, then this excludes you. You should definitely have a say. I am adopted too. I am 20 years old. This is just my opinion, and as you can tell I am a logical person. If I were to write a story on this i would want people who have experienced the situation. So maybe the reason why they’re aren’t being interviewed is because they don’t have any experience with raising a child like that. And again… I am adopted too. You all have to have an open mind and think logically sometimes. The reason why they aren’t interviewing adult adoptees is because they have no experience in this subject. However i want to make clear that i am not defending that giving the child away is okay. I am not taking sides. I’m just saying keep and open mind.

      • Also, it would be very hard to contact the birth parent’s due to an agreement between them and the orphanage on a 20-30 year privacy agreement. so even if they wanted to interview the birth parents they wouldn’t be able too. Plus, the birth parents have to agree. Just keep that in mind too. How can they find them if they can’t get any information about them or if they don’t want to talk.

      • I’m responding to the comments of Ana Face. I have a different perspective. Adoptees may not have raised a child with major issues, though they well may have. Lots of adoptive parents have also not raised a child with major issues, yet they are usually the first to be consulted. The media often doesn’t even think about including adult adoptees in any discussions about adoption.

        Adoptees do have, in any case, the perspective of having been adopted, and can speak out about their experiences that way. They may have insights into some of the behaviors and experiences of the young adoptees being re-homed. There are also many adult adoptees who are therapists and clinicians, with expertise in adoption, child development, trauma, and so forth.

        There is an interesting, thoughtful book btw titled “Parenting As Adoptees,” which features essays about adoptees’ perspectives on being/becoming parents.

        As to contact with birth parents, there is tremendous variety there. Plenty of adoptees and birth families are in contact. While some states limit access to original birth certificates, Facebook and Google have changed everything, in the US and internationally. Adoptees and birth families (often siblings) connect that way all the time. I am not aware of any 20-30 year privacy agreements. Some internationally adopted children arrive in the US with their original birth certificate from their country of origin. Even those supposedly abandoned (say from China) have been able to locate their birth families. I know families who have adopted Ethiopian children, and who talk with and visit the Ethiopian family on a regular basis. US birth parents often select the adoptive parents, and have significant contact with them.

        There is a new and wonderful documentary called Closure about a young woman born and adopted from Tennessee, raised in Washington state, who searches and locates her birth family. She had very little information from the adoption agency, but used Google and Facebook and was able to figure quite a lot out. She’s since connected with her birth family, and they and the adoptive family have met and visited.

        So much has changed and is changing in adoption. I just want everyone to have an equal place in the discussions, if they want to be included.

    • They’re all important, but where it is proper to speak with natural parents and adoptees about our/their respective issues, adopters are interviewed instead and expected to speak for us. And it is way past tiresome.

    • Thank you. One of the problems of making any list is inadvertently leaving off important items/names. There are, as you suggest, many others with lots of experience and expertise, Dr. Baden among them. Let’s keep adding to the list, and insisting on more places at the table.

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