The Ugly History of Forced Adoptions
The ugly history of forced adoptions should sound a loud warning to anyone who supports the current immigration policy of forced family separations.
We’ll be very careful here to say that as a licensed nonprofit child welfare agency, we do not publicly advocate for any particular political party.
That said, however, we have grave concerns about any nation forcing family separations without extensive precautions to first assess and document the best interests of the child/ren involved.
Whatever one thinks of those seeking asylum and current immigration or federal fence-building campaigns, the fact is that forced seizure of Latin American children from refugee parents who seek to enter the US from the Mexican border is reprehensible, and must be stopped.
For any child from any country to be forcibly separated from their legal or biological parent without preparation, notice or a child protection purpose is undeniably traumatic and will have very serious ramifications not just for that child and his or her parent/s, but even beyond that.
Forced family separation is nothing new.
Forced family separation was done in Nazi Germany, both by Hitler’s armies in the concentration camps and by desperate Jewish parents who sent their children to hide in Gentile families in hopes of sparing them and expecting their safe return after the war. The United States Holocaust Museum has thoroughly documented the damages of this practice; despite the efforts of the International Red Cross and Jewish relief organizations to help reunite them with family members, countless Jewish children suffered lifelong losses of blood connections, medical records and faith and culture as a result.
Forced family separation was done in Australia in the twentieth century, in hopes of “saving” more than 150k Aborigine children. It didn’t work there and then, and the Australian government in 2013 made reparations by apologizing to those victimized by that process. That era in Australian history has come to be known as the Stolen Generation, and the trauma continues to impact the descendants of those stolen children as well as the nation as a whole.
Forced family separation was also a hallmark of the slave trade in America, and the effects of families being broken up, bought and sold gave rise to the Civil War, from which it has taken over a century for this nation to recover. Forced family separation was also done in America in the nineteenth century, when tens of thousands of children of Native American descent were taken from their families and raised in white-run boarding schools and by white families as part of the Indian Adoption Project. This resulted in the passage of the Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978, the intent of which is to empower tribes in matters of Indian children, to prevent further cultural genocide, figuratively and/or literally.
Forced family separation was done in Ireland, when over 60k unmarried Irish women who got pregnant out of wedlock were coerced to surrender their babies for adoption, supposedly to redeem them from the shame of have been born “illegitimate.” By some estimates, more than 2k Irish children were adopted by American families between 1940-1960 and many now live in fear of deportation, due to the repeal of the Dreamers Act. (to learn more about this sad saga, check out the movie inspired by the real-life story of one such mother, Philomena.) The Catholic Church apologized for its role in three decades of forced adoptions of Irish-born children in 2016.
Forced family separation was done in Argentina in the seventies, when over 500 babies and children of dissidents were gifted to those sympathetic to the government’s cause, and later authorities condemned the practice during the Dirty War as being what was called “perfidious usurpation,” a strong condemnation that was surely warranted. Pregnant incarcees (many of whom were impregnated by their guards) were kept alive only long enough to give birth, then their infants were stolen for adoption, and the women were put to death.
Wherever it occurs, forced family separation is child abuse and must be stopped.
Children with fit, committed parents that want them do not need substitute care.
That tens of thousands of minors from Latin American countries are being compelled to seek refuge and asylum in the US (with or without their parents) is heartbreaking.
That they are being forcibly separated from their families at our nation’s border is cruel and unusual punishment.
That refugee children are being detained in cages and jails (and now, desert tent prisons) in America is utterly barbaric.
We beg you to take action. Contact your elected officials in Washington, D.C. and beg them to take steps to stop these forced family separations, which are being done under the auspices of a political policy and not any law passed by Congress. Take your family to a protest rally in your area. Volunteer to foster unaccompanied refugee minors, and commit yourself to getting them reunited with their biological families, whatever it takes. Sign up with RAICES, and make a donation to KidsAtTheBorder, a network of eight organizations offering aid to refugee children.
As someone noted on Facebook, “is it too great a stretch to expect that it won’t be long before (the current political administration) will announce that the refugee children (at least the young ones) are to be released for adoption by Americans, rather than being returned to their Mexican families?” (Indeed, the New York Times reports that some parents are already being deported to Latin America without the children seized from them at the US border; when, how or if their children will be returned or “freed for adoption” is anybody’s guess?)
We hope this won’t happen. Yet we share vast concerns about our government’s commitment to reuniting tens of thousands of refugee children with their families of origin. The American government has already admitted that it has “lost track of 1,500 undocumented children” but denies legal responsibility for same. The United Nations has a policy on adoption that clearly condemns resorting to adoption if there is any reasonable home for family reunification. (However, the UN has also strongly condemned the forced family separations currently being done by ICE in the US and to no avail, as of yet.)
We’re all for adoption, of course. But as we’ve often said, the only adoption worth doing has to be done the right way and for the right reasons. The children of immigrants who love their families so much they undertake perilous journeys in a desperate attempt to provide their children with a safer home and a better life already have parents who will go to any length to provide for them.
Almost a decade ago, the University of Minnesota published an important study on Historical Trauma and Microaggressions, and we beseech you to read it for yourself, from start to finish. (But don’t just take our word for it: check out what doctors are already saying about the risks of irreparable harm refugee children face as a result of forced family separations at the hands of American immigration officials.)
Whatever your political affiliations or your perspective on the immigration issue, surely we can all agree that the best interests of children should be of tantamount importance to us all, whatever their ethnicity. The ugly history of forced adoptions and forced family separations around the globe should remind us always that there must be a better way, and that it’s up to all of us to find it.