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A Last Resort

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Excerpt of "shedding light on...The Dark Side of Adoption," Utne Reader, Nov/Dec 1991


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A Last Resort

  1. 1. A last resort Adoption should be a solution that suits children, not childless couples W e must stop glorifying adoption and recognize it for what it is: a second-best ; solution for all. Adoption is currently , being promoted as the solution for infertility and for I unplanned pregnancy. Just as divorce should not be : offered as a cure-all for every marital problem, new solutions need to be sought for infertile couples and pregnant women and couples who don't have the NovemberlDecember1991 . VtneRead£r 53
  2. 2. means to raise a child. Because every adoption ognized and dealt with as a medical problem similar begins with a tragedy, it should, like divorce, be a to a disability, not a social problem. We need more last resort to be used only after attempts to keep the preventive programs such as cleaning up the environ- family together have failed. ment and fmding cures for the newer and more resilient strains of venereal diseases that are sometimes respon- . Here are some reforms: Adoption needs to return to its original goal of sible for the rising infertility rates. Psychological counseling and self-help groups serving the needs of the children. We need to fmd homes for children who need homes, not to fmd babies for the infertile need to view the loss of fertility as a loss for the childless. There are now 36,000 children in this that needs to be addressed and grieved, perhaps forever. . Prevention of many "unplanned" pregnancies country-in foster homes or institutions--who are free for adoption. Legislation is needed to encourage could be accomplished through sex education pro- and subsidize the adoption of "special needs" children, grams and by the availability of birth control. Also, particularly in terms of medical expenses and insur- pressuring teenage mothers to put their babies up ance coverage for children with pre-existing medical for adoption may be wrong-headed. Of major con- conditions. cern in teen pregnancies are the low-birth-weight, Because it involves the welfare of innocent chil- premature, and handicapped babies born to young dren, adoption requires many safeguards. All adop- mothers who lack adequate nutrition. Adoption of tions therefore need to be handled through reputable these babies will do nothing to improve this situa- and licensed state and religious agencies. tion. Teenagers can and do make excellent parents The current practice of private, independent if they are given the proper support. In less-indus- adoption often employs the use of gimmicks such as trialized nations, women generally bear children in newspaper advertising that lure women to give up their their teens and early twenties when they are most babies by offering fmancial remuneration under the fertile and healthy, and they enjoy strong family and guise of payment for services. In one case of baby brokering, police allege that Richard Gettlemen used . community support systems. Single parents need to be recognized as capable newspaper classified ads to entice unmarried mothers parents regardless of age, education, race, or econom- to travel to Louisiana to surrender their babies, which ics. Government programs intended to offer tempo- he later sold for $10,000 to $30,000. Adoption laws, .. rary aid to those in need should be expanded, which now vary greatly from state to state, need to ~ not ended. Fifty-five percent of American be standardized and regulated. ... children have working mothers, yet Amer- ~ While maintaining high standards, licensed ica is the only advanced industrialized agencies can and should "borrow" practices, such nation with no national maternity leave. as openness between adoptive and birth parents, Single mothers who indicate a need that currently make private adoptions more ap- to surrender their children to adoption pealing. Licensed agencies would arrange the should be required to see an independent placement only after both the adopting and family counselor who considers single surrend~ring parents had received family ;ff' _ mothers and their children as legiti- . ., mate families and who would help " counseling. Foreign adoptions need to be f' /" clients to explore all their options. halted, at least until homes are /', No fmal plans should be made found for "our own children." ./ prior to the birth and for at least Many seem to believe that ,~:,.' 30, and preferably 90, days Asian and South American :1 afterwards. children are somehow "bet- When everyone involved in ter" than Mexican-American, Puerto. adoption puts the needs of Ri~, black, or mixed-race children. - the children foremost, and " ~';'," . when all those who care about ForeIgn placements are cultural //""""~ " genocide, generally severing chil- ,/ , children join hands to work together dren permanently from their roots. { toward the mutual goal of human- Americans like to pretend that:" izing adoption, the adoptioncircle angle can be softened into a tri- foreign adoptions are saving pov- . erty-stricken children from starva- oflove, respect, and mutual under- tion and/or life in the streets. If this standing. -Marsha Riben were true, and our motives were Excerpted with permission from the book truly altruistic, every effort would Shedding Light on the Dark Side of Adop- be made to save both the moth- r ~J" ." tion by Marsha Riben. Copyright @1988 by . ers and the children. Infertility needs to be ree- ". Marsha Rihen. Available for $12.95 from 45-06 Hunters Glen Dr., Plainsboro, NJ 08536 54 Utile Reader. NovemberlDecember 1991