This article was written by Laura Godwin, Director of Carolina Hope, and originally published by The Greenville News on September 11th, 1997. Since adoption law has not changed too much since then, we thought we would recirculate this thought-provoking article to encourage lawmakers to make state laws more pro-adoption.
Make adoption wonderful choice, not humiliating ordeal
By Laura Beauvais-Godwin
Recently, The Greenville News published an article and cited the number of U.S. children in foster care: more than half a million. Most children who enter foster care do so as a result of neglect, not abuse. And this neglect is often because a single mother cannot properly care for her child due to limited resources as well as alcohol and drug abuse.
Long before these children became statistics, each mother could have increased the child’s opportunities, for each mother had a choice. In fact, each woman who becomes pregnant unexpectedly has three choices: To parent her baby, abort her baby or place her baby for adoption. Each choice is mutually exclusive, each choice is essentially permanent, and each choice will have society’s blessings, except one: adoption.
The woman who chooses adoption is often viewed as a victim. “If she only had more resources, she wouldn’t have to ‘give up’ her baby.” Also, laws often make adoption a difficult choice. First, the birth mother will most likely be required to name the birth father, so he can be found and “exercise his rights.” And if he cannot be found, he must be notified—usually in a newspaper classified ad. Birth fathers do not respond to these ads; however, they do demean birth mothers.
Neither the single mother nor the woman having an abortion is expected to name the father. Can you imagine the reaction if a woman had to give the birth father’s name to an abortion counselor, and agree to an ad in the paper if she didn’t know the man’s address?
Now it can be argued one is a fetus whose life is ending, and one is a child who is going to live, so shouldn’t the birth father have some rights? Well, it all depends on the man. Men who make good fathers don’t need to be notified; they’re already in the picture supporting the mother and child. So why does a woman have to reveal the name and whereabouts of a man whose only contribution was the depositing of sperm?
Or if the child is already in foster care, why make great efforts to find a man who is not supporting the child? The search for a dad, or perhaps a few men who might be the dad, is one more reason a child stays in foster care for months and even years.
One solution in many states (but not in South Carolina) is to have a birth father registry: a government service where a man can send his name so if a women gives birth to his biological child, he can be contacted. And if she decides to place the child for adoption, he can consent and know what has happened, or he can challenge the adoption—but only if his name is on the registry and if he has supported the woman during her pregnancy.
Here in our state a woman’s rights are further limited, for in South Carolina, unlike any other state in the nation, there is a law that forbids an infant or child to be placed with an out-of-state adoptive family unless there are “unusual or exceptional circumstances.” In other words, a baby can go out-of-state if he is handicapped, but if he is white and healthy, he needs to stay in state, so a South Carolina family can adopt him.
So if a birth mother wants to place her child with an adoptive couple in North Carolina, she must go before a judge in a courtroom (birth fathers do not have to go to court) and tell the judge why she has selected a particular couple. And if the judge doesn’t find her reason good enough, the judge simply can deny the birth mother her right to choose.
One birth mother said that after being abandoned by the birth father and rejected by her family, she had to face further disgrace by having to take the stand in court and explain the details of why she became pregnant, why she was placing her unborn child for adoption and why she chose a couple in another state.
Can you imagine the outrage if a woman had to go before a judge if she wanted to have an abortion in another state? Or if a single mom had to go before a judge before she could leave the state with her newborn baby?
South Carolina needs to establish a birth father registry so men can verify their paternity (and pay child support). And let’s get rid of the unusual and exceptional circumstances law that strips a woman of her constitutional right to select the adoptive family.
If South Carolina is a pro-life state, then let’s make adoption a wonderful choice, not a humiliating experience. Not only may the abortion rate go down, but perhaps fewer children will enter the foster care system.
*Article was originally published in The Greenville News, Thursday, September 11, 1997.
I’m 24yrs old and I am the result of a rape. My mother was drugged and raped by her husband,my father, constantly. When she was 5mo. pregnant she moved 2,000 miles away from him to Washington State and divorced him. She kept me until I was 13 then she sent me to live with relatives because I was too wild and she couldn’t handle me. I don’t regret her decision not to abort me even though my lifes been hard. Everything I’ve been through, especially her giving me up at 13 instead of when I was born, was worth it because when I turned 18 God decided to save me. I understood that he had planned it all and used it for his glory because light shines better from a cracked vase than from one thats not. I learned from the way I grew up that you can’t depend on people that only God is stable.There are other ways to teach a child this besides abandoning them but God had other plans for me and I’m very grateful now for it. I grew up without a family but I have one now in Christ, including my husband of 6yrs and my 3yr old daughter. This is why I think adoption is good because it seems to be a reflection of Christ.
Requiring paternal consent for adoption and not abortion has nothing to do with the child’s rights (ie a living child may want to know his/her father).
I think the real reason is so that the father doesn’t turn up one day and demand custody of the child he never relinquished. The aim of this requirement is to prevent disruption to adoptions.
This author (and most other authors who try push adoption) totally ignored another option that millions of families in the US are choosing, that is, family kinship or guardianship. In kinships and guardianships the parent-child relationship is not dissolved by the court system. The family remains intact while the parent(s) receives mentoring and support to raise their child, completes college, receives job training, and establishes a career.
We are the millions who learned our lessons from the horrors of the baby scoop era in the 50’s, 60’s, and even 70’s when we saw our sisters, cousins, roommates, and best friends forced into shameful maternity homes where many of them performed unpaid labor and were physically abused while giving birth. We saw the aftermath of depression, alcholism, drug abuse, and even suicide. Why do you think there are so few white healthy infants to adopt? Families who lived these horrors are turning to kinship arrangements instead and are saying “Adopion? Over my dead body!”
One very Happy Grandmother
Josh you said: When Job says “The fatherless child is snatched from the breast; the infant of the poor is seized for a debt,” he’s lamenting the oppression of the poor by the greedy/evil rich.
Josh you said: “I don’t think this is a helpful way of thinking about the issue, because it rarely reflects today’s adoption situation.”
We will have to agree to differ on that one Josh, I think it does reflect both modern overseas adoptions and it certainly reflects what is a happening in the UK at the moment. For more info: http://www.forced-adoption.com/
The Bible also tells us that “you shall not covet your neighbours house, wife, manservant,maidservant,ox ass or ANYTHING that is your neighbours.
It seems to me that people who can not or do not want their own children are coveting their neighbours children if they want to adopt. This is very clear from the way they write on the internet
The bible also tells us to “love thy neighbough as thy self”
Mothers seldom if ever give their baby’s up because they just feel like it.
They normally give up their baby’s because they feel they have no other option. I understand that they normally live to regret it. I think you are also discounting the fact that there is a large demand for healthy baby’s these days to fulfill the needs of infertile rich couples.
If we really loved our neighbour as ourselves, we would do everything in our power to keep the sacred mother-baby bond intact.
We would not covet our neighbour’s child and snatch it from her breast.
Josh you said: “The law should protect the birthmother’s rights to make this decision with minimal government intrusion”
I say what about protecting the baby’s rights.? Namely a right to a relationship with their own mother and extended family, a right to their own family history and heritage. A right to a dignified life without feeling (like the poster above) that they wished they had been aborted.
Joh wrote: Birthmothers who choose relinquishment are intelligent agents who make their decision through a combined assessment of the child’s interest and self-interest. The law should protect the birthmother’s rights to make this decision with minimal government intrusion.
Unfortunately, this is rarely the case. How can any mother understand all the complexities of surrendering a child for adoption and how that will impact her and her daughter or son. It’s impossible. Adoption agencies do not inform mothers or fathers about the long-term effects of losing a child for adoption or how losing a mother, father, family, culture, homeland and identity may effect the adopted person.
One mother I know was alone (19 yrs-old) in a hospital about to give birth, she checked-marked the “Have you cnsdiered adoption” question on the admission form. She did so because she really didn’t know what adoption was all about, and thought she would receive some help, not have her baby taken and legally adopted.
The next day an adoption agency owner and a lawyer showed up in her hospital room. They had the documents ready for to sign. She asked if this meant she would lose her child – they assured her that wasn’t the case.
She was unsure and feeling scared and vulnerable – she finally told them that she was not interested in adoption – next thing she knows she being given medication – the doctor who had delivered her baby had a family for her….so she had an adoption agency, a lawyer, and the doctor all trying to get her baby from her. She lost the fight – her baby was taken and sold. She was told she would have an open adoption – the adopters left with her child….no forwarding address.
This woman’s story is not unusual – it is, in fact, more common than people would like to think. The stories vary somewhat, but the point is that what many of these women need is support and encouragement – not to have their children coerced right out of their womb. It is not the government’s intrusion, it’s the 1.4 billion-dollar adoption industry that is intrusive. They are stealing mother’s children and robbing humans of their parents.
To learn more about what adoption has done to people around the world, please listen to some of my shows on: http://www.theadoptionshow.com
The segment on Modern-Day Coersion is quite illuminating.
Hi, Andrea. Sorry for the delay in following-up on your comment here.
When Job says “The fatherless child is snatched from the breast; the infant of the poor is seized for a debt,” he’s lamenting the oppression of the poor by the greedy/evil rich. A couple points:
(1) Job isn’t merely condemning the wealthy (Job was the wealthiest man in the region a few chapters prior), but instead is attacking economic oppression and greed. A lot of opponents of adoption try to present a picture in which rich (=greedy) adoptive parents take children away from poor (=oppressed) birthmothers. I don’t think this is a helpful way of thinking about the issue, because it rarely reflects today’s adoption situation.
(2) Job is talking about a practice in the Ancient Near East of seizing children from widows in order to receive compensation for a debt. The child becomes an indentured servant or slave. The widow has little choice if she wants to survive. Any parallels to adoption would be (in my opinion) strained.
However, I agree that adoption professionals and other counselors might not always present birthmothers with all of their options. When they do, however (and I think/hope this is what happens in most cases), many or most birthmothers are placing for more reasons that simply economic conditions, even when poverty does play a role.
I’ve witnessed several relinquishments, and in all of them, the birthmothers were given many options and repeatedly told that they could stop the process and seek additional help. Few of these birthmothers seemed to be relinquishing for merely economic reasons. Some were young and had other life goals. One was older and realized that her life choices to that point had created a home which would be (in her opinion) bad for her child. Birthmothers aren’t merely economic pawns without free will.
Birthmothers who choose relinquishment are intelligent agents who make their decision through a combined assessment of the child’s interest and self-interest. The law should protect the birthmother’s rights to make this decision with minimal government intrusion.
First of all thankyou for allowing my comments on the site.
My knowledge of the scriptures is sparse. However in answer to your comment “I know of no biblical evidence that indicates God’s disapproval of human adoption”.
I would like say it does say somewhere something about it, I think it is somewhere in Job “The fatherless child is snatched from the breast;
the infant of the poor is seized for a debt.”
The problem with adoption it seems to me is that it is about best interests of the adults.
You say “But no one here wants to argue that adoption is the default way of forming a family or the best option for most birthmothers and children. It is the best option in only a tiny fraction of all births.”
The problem is these days all to often women with very little resources are encouraged to give their babies to another family who have more resources materially. This is not in the babys best interests.
I appreciate those who have submitted comments on this post; it’s clear that the issues involved are controversial. I have already approved a few comments that disagree with various issues in Ms. Beauvais-Godwin’s article. However, I have had to disapprove two comments because of their ad hominem attacks and generally inflammatory language.
One commenter accused Ms. Beauvais-Godwin (“Laurie” as the commenter said) of being selfish, and the other accused her of being a hypocrite. The first critic signed her post with a made-up email address, and the second offered no address. This is my notice to both commenters (in the absence of email addresses) that I am happy to have their views represented here if they can moderate their language and focus on the issue rather than perceived motivations.
This is our policy for all posts and all comments on this blog. When we ourselves fail to live up to our standard, we hope that our readers will hold us accountable.
Thank you all for your interest in this topic.
I’m not a christian, but doesn’t it say in the bible whomever God has joined together, let no man put asunder?. I realise this was about marriage but surely the mother -baby relationship is even more sacred?.
I do not believe that adoption is a wonderful choice for the baby.However much prospective adoptive parents are screened, however wonderful and loving they are, they can never replace the sacred mother-baby bond.
There are many arguments against adoption in the psychotherapy world, nuroscience and the bible.
You raise an interesting biblical point. You note that the citation “what God has joined let not man separate” is said in the context of marriage.
As a general principle in interpreting any text (the Bible included) you have to make the context king. If we simply extract a “non-separation” principle, then we don’t have any way of constraining the principle’s application. For example, the family unit is joined together by God, but the Bible clearly says that marriage separates child from parents (“for this reason shall a man leave father and mother and be joined to his wife”). So the “non-separation” argument is unique to marriage without wider application.
A second point (“surely the mother -baby relationship is even more sacred” than marriage) is also not supported by the Bible. See for example, the quotation above (biblical marriage requires that the marriage relationship becomes primary and the former parent-child relationship becomes secondary). The Bible also emphasizes repeatedly the non-negotiable permanency of marriage, because a marriage is created by an oath with God as witness. Of course, this is a side issue with little direct application to adoption.
At the heart of your comment, I think you’re driving at the truth: the mother-child relationship is sacred. But in cases where that bond has to be broken, adoption is a legitimate option — I know of no biblical evidence that indicates God’s disapproval of human adoption. His use of a adoption as a metaphor for our relationship to HIm argues against the idea that God disapproves of adoption. (Dan has posted about this repeatedly here on the blog.)
But no one here wants to argue that adoption is the default way of forming a family or the best option for most birthmothers and children. It is the best option in only a tiny fraction of all births.
Thank you for your thoughtful response. It’s encouraging when we learn of people reading our blog. Thanks for taking the time to comment.
I think the point being made is not from the perspective of the child needing to know who his/her father is. You’re right, the parallel does break down. The point, as I understand it, is that if a judge thinks the decision to place the child for adoption is important enough to bring the birth-father in on it, it seems that the decision to abort ( i.e. terminate the life of the child) would be important enough to bring the birth-father in on it as well. If birth-fathers have the right to know if their child is being placed for adoption, certainly they should have the right to know if their child is going to be aborted. They are both massively important decisions. So why do judges require the birth-father to be informed of the one but not the other? Both concern the life of his unborn child.
If I’d had the opportunity to advise my mother when she was pregnant with me, I would have advised her to abort. Yes. Abort. Me. She had no other option at the time than to lose me to adoption (it was before Roe v Wade). It destroyed both of us. Abortion is a loving option too.
Who would you sentence to a lifetime of confusion and feeling all alone in the world despite being surrounded by people who love you? I’d take a quick death in a semi-conscious state every time. Every single time.
Let’s ‘get rid of the unusual and exceptional circumstances law that strips a woman of her constitutional right’ to make her own reproductive choices.
Yes, I agree that an adoptee has a bio mother and father. And I do address that a fetus who is taken by abortion is different from an adoptee.
A birth father registry would further allow an adoptee to know his bio father. The registry can provide a father the right and the means to be named. (In SC he does not need to be named by a birth mother placing her child for adoption.) It could also make a man more accountable for his actions as well as allow him to be an involved parent if a woman were to become pregnant and said he wanted to be contacted upon birth of a child. In addition, a man who is registered can also be contacted for child support payment!
Regarding Julie’s comment, I’d like to say two things:
First, it would be wrong to minimize whatever wrongs are done to individual adopted children. Every participant in the adoption debates should listen to people who’ve been hurt in the context of adoption and work to prevent harm to children — whether that means more screening of adoptive families, better education, more access to information, or whatever other factors are important (and there are many).
But, second, children are hurt in appalling ways in all sorts of contexts. Many people who grew up in their birth families wish that they’d never been born. But we cannot anticipate an adult’s future desire for non-existence before that person has even been born (and hence, contracept or abort to prevent that person’s future pain).
To put it another way, bringing children into families, whether through birth or through adoption, involves risk — risk for the family, and (especially) risk for the child. However, the primary argument against abortion says that ending a human life is not a moral alternative for eliminating that risk. We take abortion off the table from the start because we believe human life (even the life of a suffering person) is sacred because every human bears the image of God. (There are good secular arguments against abortion, too, but this isn’t a secular blog.)
I also want to argue that the risk which adoption poses (particularly the risk of future psychological harm) is a risk that should be managed, not avoided by prohibiting or discouraging adoption. Even taking the risk into account, adoption is still a better option than many of its alternatives (speaking broadly). In some particular cases adoption will be better than all the alternatives. In other cases, there might be an alternative that should be pursued first (i.e., reunion with the birthparent).
Adoption laws should give flexibility for the participants in an adoption decision to figure out the best way to manage the risks. Sometimes there will be failures and shortsightedness. But those choices should be available.
This is not a valid point. Adoption and fathers vs. abortion and fathers. With abortion there is no child/adult needing to know who its father is.
An adopted person loses a mother AND a father – and the adopted person has the right to know who their parents are. If a mother loses her child to adoption, the story doesn’t end there. A human being has been brought into this world and is a creation of the mother AND the father. We do not deny any human being the right to know who their parents, family, siblings, grandparents and relatives are and where they she or he comes from.
And, there are no stats anywhere that prove abortion decreases because of adoption. These types of statistics are not researched.