Jump to content
Guest cheeringguy

Compulsory Adoption

Recommended Posts

Guest cheeringguy
From motherjones.com/web_exc....>

Caught between the War on Drugs and federal adoption law, growing numbers of women prisoners are facing the permanent loss of their children.

Karen knows that it was her own mistakes that got her into trouble: "I messed up," she admits. She was arrested in 1999 for intent to manufacture methamphetamine, a charge that kept her in jail for three months. Her son, then three months old, was placed in foster care. To get him back she would have to abide by a "reunification plan" that required parenting classes and regular drug testing after her release.

For several months, Karen (who asked that her real name not be printed) progressed well, according to her lawyer. Then came her second big mistake: She relapsed. She was arrested for possession of methamphetamine, and sentenced to another two years in prison. This time there was no reunification plan. Child-protection workers initiated proceedings to terminate Karen's parental rights and put her son up for adoption.

Many mothers lose custody of their children in America every year; what is unusual about Karen's story is that she lost her son even though she had never been accused of abusing or neglecting her children. The reason is a little-known -- and apparently unintended -- wrinkle of a 1997 federal law, the Adoption and Safe Families Act.

Designed to move children from foster care into permanent homes, the law called for parental rights to be terminated if the parents didn't retrieve the children after a certain period -- typically between 15 and 22 months. What no one considered at the time of the act's passage, advocates say, is that even a short jail term could cause a parent to miss that deadline and permanently lose his or her children. "The fear," says Myrna Raeder, a professor at Los Angeles' Southwestern University School of Law who studies child custody issues, "is that we're creating a class of orphans who are the children of women offenders."

Exactly how many families are affected by the adoption act is unclear: Most children of male prisoners live with their mothers, and most children of female prisoners stay with other relatives. As many as 10 percent of women prisoners, however, have kids in foster care -- which is where the adoption deadlines come into play. And the number of those children is likely to continue growing: Over the past decade, the war on drugs and tougher sentencing laws have put ever more mothers behind bars. From 1989 to 1999, the number of female inmates in state and federal prison leapt from about 40,000 to almost 91,000. Approximately 70 percent of that total were mothers, and most of them were single parents. Based on those numbers, it's estimated that several thousand women have had their parental rights terminated as a result of relatively minor offenses.

Even some of those charged with implementing the adoption deadlines have mixed feelings about the law. Debbie Williams, program manager of child welfare services in California's Madera County, home of the state's two largest women's prisons, says guidelines for terminating parental rights during a child's stay in foster care are sometimes too stringent. Unless an incarcerated mother has a long history of failed reunification attempts, she says, "I think we should have the option to offer her services and hopefully reunify her with her child."

There's a common attitude, says Denise Johnston, director of the Center for Children of Incarcerated Parents, a national advocacy group, that people convicted of drug or other offenses shouldn't be allowed to be parents. "And I might even agree with that if we had good places to put children," she says. But, Johnston notes, children's chances of being adopted wane as they grow older. By age 7, the odds of finding an adoptive family are less than 50 percent, and the child is likely to grow up in group homes -- just what the law was designed to avoid.

Karen, for her part, says she still hopes to be reunited with her other child, the three-month-old girl to whom she gave birth eight months after her second arrest last April. She expects to be released on parole this summer, is attending parenting classes, and has volunteered for drug treatment. But she has been told that child-protection workers may not give her another chance. Asked what she'll do if they don't recommend reunification with the girl, she catches her breath, and starts to cry. "I haven't even thought about that," she says.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hey, cheering guy! Thanks for posting that article... very interesting... Texas Family Code says that longterm incarceration of a bio-parent can also constitute grounds for involuntary termination of rights, but it appears from information Abrazo's attorney recently forwarded that this is probably something which could be challenged rather easily?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

A journal in England today posted an interesting article about the adjustment of incarcerated mothers in England who were forced to surrender their children to adoption, and how they've adjusted to such loss: Involuntary Goodbyes.

Over the years, Abrazo has worked with a small number of moms who were locked up at the time of their placement decisions. Most had been picked up warrants for offenses like hot checks or drug possession, and the majority found their way to Abrazo thanks to the efforts of a compassionate social worker in one of Houston's biggest county hospitals.

Whenever inmates were brought by the county to deliver there, law enforcement required that they make plans either to have their newborns picked up by family members or placed for foster care or adoption through resources found on their own. When we would get a call from that hospital, we would spring into action, to get a qualified member of our staff there at once, to offer counseling and support. We would drop what we were doing to jump on a plane, rent a car, and spend however much time helping that patient make safe plans for their baby's future.

In such cases at that hospital, a burly baliff would be posted outside the patient's room door. That particular hospital had few private rooms available so these poor women would be in a room with three others, only our patients would be shackled to the bed by four point restraints, their wrists released only long enough to sign paperwork. They weren't allowed into the nursery to visit their newborns, so we would have to plead with the baliffs and the hospital staff to let us bring their babies into the room just once before the birthmom was returned to jail, for a "hello-and-goodbye" visit. Rarely did those mothers ever get to meet the adoptive families with whom they chose to place, but we did what we could to facilitate contact afterwards, whether that meant getting the adoptive parents cleared to visit the birthmom in jail or merely forwarding the letters and photos that offered such needed assurance of their child's welfare.

In recent years, we've had fewer cases of moms forced to place due to incarceration, and many more who were compelled to plan adoption for children they were potentially going to lose to Child Protective Services, once it was discovered in the hospital that the mother had tested positive for drugs. (Texas laws empower CPS to remove all of a parent's children from their care if a mother tests positive at time of birth, whether or not the infant does.) In either circumstance, "compulsory adoption" (in which a placement decision must be made with little preparation and virtually no freedom of choice) is extraordinarily painful, with extenuating ramifications for both mother and child.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

This subject makes me really upset. I don't feel a mother should be "coerced" into making the choice to place like they are. That is mean!! Im glad at least Abrazo does their part to let the birthmother know and help her heal, however, Im sure there are A LOT of agencies who don't care about their birthmothers who don't go to the extent they do! Why can't we change the law, so that if a mother is incarcerated she can choose the AP's before she gives birth!! That way at least she made part of the choice, I think that would be easier to heal from if she had choosen the parents!

I mean come on, I got arrested for Hot Checks (not my fault, they were stolen from me while I was prego with the trips in the hospital, so It was easy to prove it wasn't me) But still. Just because a woman makes a mistake doesn't mean she doesn't have feelings or shouldn't be able to choose anything at all!! :angry:

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I understand that there needs to be a plan for children born to incarcerated women, and they may not have family to lean on. Elizabeth, do you see an alternative to basically forcing women that don't have family to help them to place their babies with adoptive families?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Unfortunately, their options are sadly limited, and time is, too, as the State is usually forcing them to make final decisions literally within hours, or forfeit their children to CPS, where they will not have the benefits that come with openness (ie., updates, photos, phone calls, visits, etc.)

Women who are incarcerated can initiate adoption planning in advance of the birth, but they cannot (of course) receive any materials with staples in it, cannot receive phone calls, can only make once-a-week phone calls that can be dialed collect and last no longer than 3 minutes or 5 minutes or whatever the facility limits phone calls to... They usually get substandard medical care at state-run clinics, and are taken to those appointments in shackles, if offsite, and accompanied by a baliff.

New moms being hounded by CPS have little defense, as well; they are given only the option of making a "safety plan" that specifies a person of their choosing who meets state criteria with whom the infant could be temporarily placed, but that person must have a clean record, be able to take in all that mother's children immediately, have state-approved housing, sign supervisory agreements with the state, and be willing to keep the children away from the parent/s at all times-- which means asking alot of a friend or relative on very short notice.

Another option for either group of women might be private foster care placement, however, finding suitable resources for which the mother can afford to pay, in a matter of days or even hours, is not easy, and that's assuming that the child/ren meet the criteria for the kind of license held by any available foster home.

There is, from time to time, discussion of the policy in some other countries, of allowing newborns to stay in prison or jail with their mothers for a period of time? but this, too, seems far from optimal...

For more on this subject, see:

Mothers Behind Bars: What Happens to the Children?

Left Behind: Virtual Orphans

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'm not sure what the answer is to this. I worked in a Women's Prison here in Indiana for 2 years and saw many women,have to sign their rights over. Many of our women came in pregnant and delivered while still incarcerated. It made me very sad. The only thing I can say about the prison I worked at was they had a program that allows the children to come into the prison for visits in a home like setting and spend time with their mother's. The mothers are taught how to care for their children and how to deal with them in stressful situations etc... As a matter of fact other prison's come to this one for training on the family program. But it still doesn't help the situation of what to do when these children are placed for adoption at the last minute etc... Just a sad situation with very little that can be done.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

We had that issue come up at the Vernon State Hospital. I quit because I couldn't handle how these women would have been treated. One of the reasons at least. Security at the hospital was filled with racists and sexists. Another story all together.

I had a bad experience with a doctor in Wichita Falls. Treated me badly. I had to take a patient to this doctor. Knowing that this fool delivered these children really scares me too. We have no environment for which these women were taught to care for their children. I think about what this kind of thing might have done to their already fragile psyche. That hurts more than the staff can begin to realize.

I heard at recent conference for the NCFA that Heidi Cox, Gladney adoption attorney, actually recommended that their member agencies go after women in these types of situations. That is scary beyond belief.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Yup-- the Big G is marketing heavily in state jails and prisons, according to the "industry grapevine."

The last Texas adoption professional to do that was Leslie Thacker, and those familiar with the history of adoption scandals in the Lone Star State may recall how that turned out! (More info: click here)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Isn't "marketing" like that highly unethical?

Is there any sort of governing body that overseas those kind of unseemly behavior?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

You know, Compulsory Adoption isn't a problem just for mother that are incarsirated but also for teenage girls too. The ones that family's make them give their child up because of embarrasement or because it might hurt their social standings. A girl I went to junior high school with was forced by her parents to give her child up for adoption because they felt like a child would ruin her chance of getting the basketball scholarship that was almost promised to her. They tried to hide her pregnancy and because her last big months were during the summer they had. But because of the emotional stress it put on her she quit basket ball, lost her scholarship. She would tell us how she would cry her self to sleep every night and resented her parents. I think that might a lot of why I chose an open adoption and made for sure that it was my choice and no one elses. Her's was a closed adoption and now her child is now 13 and she is doing better although she still has never seen a picture or heard a word of her child. She did go to college and get married and just had a baby boy nad is doing alright but she is still visited by those nightmares. I believe that because of the force of things that she is always goning to have that hole in her heart. I feel for her and am glad that in case I had a choice and got to make the one that works best for me and emotions. I also think that because my mother was a child of closed adoption she would have never made me do anything that I was emotionally ready for that's why I was giving a voice and choice.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

THat is so wrong!! My Dad is really embarrassed about the triplets and Fiona but hey at least I did that on my own free will!! (of course he had told me previously I was never allowed home pregnant or unwed with a baby!)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I know that it is wrong. I really felt bad for this girl. I think that I would have had an all out family feud if they would have tried to make me do it because of that reason.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

When I was in junior high, we had a family friend's daughter get pregnant. I remember it well because I got both talks at the same time. For whatever reason, it severely disturbed my adoptive mother. My amom in her goofy wisdom contacted this old family friend. She answered for her daughter. They placed a note in the file to never contact them. In my travels over the internet I hope that he never contacts me. She had a son. I don't want to be the one to tell him that his birthmother's family doesn't want him around.

I have tried to convince my mother that she may not have had a choice. This girl is someone that I should have been friends with. Looking back I wonder if everytime she saw me if she saw her son. I bet big bucks that it was painful for her.

I have heard so many horror stories in adoption. I try not to bring it here. This place is light and airy for me. Its been a relief for me. It gives me hope.

As I learn more and more about adoption, it has become twisted in many ways.

http://www.bastardette.blogspot.com is an excellent example of the darkside. The more I read, the more I believe adoption as a whole needs a major investigation. It needs to be targeted towards the NCFA member agencies. That will never happen though.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Isn't "marketing" like that highly unethical?

No moreso, apparently, than when they advertise on Google with a heading that reads OPEN ADOPTION to entice women seeking such services, and then state clearly on the birthparent page of their website, under "Readers Q&A" that they don't really "do" open adoption (only semi-closed, which is limited to letters and photos sent through their agency. Grrr!)

Gladney does semi-open adoption which means you are able to communicate with the adoptive parents through pictures and letters after placement.

?!?!?! :blink:

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Oohhh Isn't that False advertisting!! They better be thankin the heavens Im not one of their birthmothers otherwse I'd raise Hades!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Isn't "marketing" like that highly unethical?

Is there any sort of governing body that overseas those kind of unseemly behavior?

Ummmm...yea, I woud definitely say unethical. Like someone else posted this stuff happens here all the time, even though probably not the norm, you just don't hear about it as much as you do in international adoptions. It seems the domestic horror stories like to focus more on "scary birth mothers stalking or stealing back babies". It's just sad. I actually have met a couple that adopted domestically and they are friends with a couple domestically adopting and their birth mom is in jail and they are happy because they don't have to really worry she won't sign the consent and see it as a "bonus", my jaw just dropped. I wish they could read all the people on this forum and see how it should be done. I'm just thinking and hoping their kid never hears them comments when they are older.

Very sad situations and I too, don't know what the answer is, but I would think humany deceny and respect would be a good start.

Jenny

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

IM just wondering the AP's who adopt through such agencies, are they uneducated as far as What open adoption is and the benefits of if it? Or are they just desperate and Want a Baby Now? Or is it "cheaper" to get a baby this way??

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
IM just wondering the AP's who adopt through such agencies, are they uneducated as far as What open adoption is and the benefits of if it? Or are they just desperate and Want a Baby Now? Or is it "cheaper" to get a baby this way??

In all fairness, I really think for the most part it's a mix of media portrayals, stereo types and not being educated. There is so much I never knew about the benefits of openness till we found Abrazo and were kind of "taught" by them and the people who are living it every day on this forum. I feel agencies should be obligated to have an open adoption class and go over the benefits the adoptive parents will get, the birth mother will get and most importantly, how important it is to a child.

I know two couples who have adopted and didn't want relationships with the birthfamilies because they were probably scared. Both families now love thier birth mothers/familes and are having good relationships with them. I just think when they fell in love with the child, it hit them what is right and what no body ever bothered to tell them.

Jenny

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Angela and Audra went out today to visit a juvenile facility at the request of a caseworker there, who said they'd previously referred their cases to another local agency, one that told incarcerees they weren't entitled to know where their babies would be going and wouldn't let them see their infants after delivery. (As if their newborns are any less entitled to the comfort of antepartum contact with or future access to their birthmoms, just because of what they did to get locked up?!) Furthermore, the caseworker mentioned, that agency never had further contact with their mothers, nor provided them any further services (ie., counseling) after relinquishment. As archaic as this seems, it is apparently the norm for many other licensed agencies. My heart goes out to any inmate who must make such difficult decisions under such inhumane circumstances, with adoption "professionals" who do nothing to make the placement experience any less bleak and disempowering than it already is for them! :angry:

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Angela and Audra went out today to visit a juvenile facility at the request of a caseworker there, who said they'd previously referred their cases to another local agency, one that told incarcerees they weren't entitled to know where their babies would be going and wouldn't let them see their infants after delivery. (As if their newborns are any less entitled to the comfort of antepartum contact with or future access to their birthmoms, just because of what they did to get locked up?!) Furthermore, the caseworker mentioned, that agency never had further contact with their mothers, nor provided them any further services (ie., counseling) after relinquishment. As archaic as this seems, it is apparently the norm for many other licensed agencies. My heart goes out to any inmate who must make such difficult decisions under such inhumane circumstances, with adoption "professionals" who do nothing to make the placement experience any less bleak and disempowering than it already is for them! :angry:

That truly is so sad!! I am glad you guys are out there and will help some women not have to go through such loss and pain in such a terrible way.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Angela and Audra went out today to visit a juvenile facility at the request of a caseworker there, who said they'd previously referred their cases to another local agency, one that told incarcerees they weren't entitled to know where their babies would be going and wouldn't let them see their infants after delivery. (As if their newborns are any less entitled to the comfort of antepartum contact with or future access to their birthmoms, just because of what they did to get locked up?!) Furthermore, the caseworker mentioned, that agency never had further contact with their mothers, nor provided them any further services (ie., counseling) after relinquishment. As archaic as this seems, it is apparently the norm for many other licensed agencies. My heart goes out to any inmate who must make such difficult decisions under such inhumane circumstances, with adoption "professionals" who do nothing to make the placement experience any less bleak and disempowering than it already is for them! :angry:

That is just horrible! Glad that this facility has now found Abrazo where adoptions and birhtparents are handled the way they should be.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Angela and Audra went out today to visit a juvenile facility at the request of a caseworker there, who said they'd previously referred their cases to another local agency, one that told incarcerees they weren't entitled to know where their babies would be going and wouldn't let them see their infants after delivery. (As if their newborns are any less entitled to the comfort of antepartum contact with or future access to their birthmoms, just because of what they did to get locked up?!) Furthermore, the caseworker mentioned, that agency never had further contact with their mothers, nor provided them any further services (ie., counseling) after relinquishment. As archaic as this seems, it is apparently the norm for many other licensed agencies. My heart goes out to any inmate who must make such difficult decisions under such inhumane circumstances, with adoption "professionals" who do nothing to make the placement experience any less bleak and disempowering than it already is for them! :angry:

God bless Abrazo for bringing comfort and hope to the down trodden.

Everyone makes mistakes. It shouldn't mean you are less than human.

It makes me SICK to think how these girls were treated (girls because they're jueveniles). If anything, juvenile offenders need MORE comfort and MORE hope so that they have a chance of actually being "rehabilitated".

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Isn't "marketing" like that highly unethical?

No moreso, apparently, than when they advertise on Google with a heading that reads OPEN ADOPTION to entice women seeking such services, and then state clearly on the birthparent page of their website, under "Readers Q&A" that they don't really "do" open adoption (only semi-closed, which is limited to letters and photos sent through their agency. Grrr!)

Gladney does semi-open adoption which means you are able to communicate with the adoptive parents through pictures and letters after placement.

?!?!?! :blink:

I guess you could say we have a Big G baby, though we never worked with that agency that is in our back yard. But our birthmom lived there, chose an adoptive family through there, but after his birth she chose not to place, for fear she would never hear or see her birth son again. She tells me bits here and there about life there, and the contact arrangements. She reports being told that birth mothers could only send presents for the 1st birthday, and then Christmas yearly, all meetings were to be arranged through the agency.

and just recently one of George's therapist who adopted through there last year called me about other agency options, as they felt they were missing something because of lack of contact. I guess all my talks about our open adoptions paid off.

Loriahn, I have to say we looked there, because they are in our backyard, but after looking and hearing about open adoption, and learning that they do semi-closed, we could not honestly go through them, we wanted free contact, and openness for our children. I would say mostly it is lack of education on the AP part, because that agency is not less expensive than any open adoption agency, IMO.

I am thankful for agency like Abrazo, that take care of the birth families, and th eadoptive families they creat through truely open adoptions.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Here's another perspective on compulsory adoption, by one of the "girls that went away": NOT BY CHOICE. I do think that there are similarities and contrasts between the adoptions of children born to women who were compelled by society to place years ago, and those who are currently forced to do so due to governmental influence (be it law enforcement or child protective services) but this does provide a valuable overview of the dynamics of the experience for either.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

×