Adoptive parents aren't second best

A Quebec proposal to preserve the legal bond between child and birth parents risks undermining the whole idea of adoption

By Robert Leckey

October 9, 2009 /  The Globe and Mail

This week, Quebec's Minister of Justice, Kathleen Weil, tabled a draft bill proposing (among other things) sweeping changes to the province's adoption law. The minister framed the changes as a progressive response to societal changes.

The proposals are complex and call for careful study during the consultations by the National Assembly. A key feature of the draft bill is a distinction between “open” and “simple” adoptions. Intentionally or not, the proposal for simple adoptions marks a serious departure from Quebec's established family law and advances a conservative view of family.

In open adoptions, adoption would still cut the legal tie between children and their birth parents, replacing them with the new adoptive parents. But the adoptive parents could sign an agreement allowing for continuing contact between the birth parents and the child.

Open adoptions reject the traditional model of confidentiality and secrecy that mattered much more when society stigmatized children born out of wedlock as illegitimate. Many children adopted today have been in child or youth protection. These kids know their birth families. They know that they're being adopted, so the secrecy of the old closed model can't apply.

The proposal for open adoption requires an examination of its potential to undermine the adoptive parents' relationship with their child. But at least it responds directly to the minister's concern about social changes.

The more troubling proposal is the option of simple adoption. Simple adoption would give a child a new adoptive parent or parents, who would assume the primary responsibility for caring for the child. But it would also preserve the legal bond connecting the child to his or her birth parents and birth family. The minister suggests that this model would be especially suitable for children placed in child protection.

What's the rationale for this idea? It's not the practical reality that many children being adopted already know about their birth families and wish to keep contact with them. Open adoption deals with that. Simple adoption aims at something else.

This proposal risks undermining the idea of adoption. When birth parents can't or won't care for a child, adoption provides new parents and establishes the child in a new family. Since the first adoption law 90 years ago, adoption has created new bonds of filiation or legal parentage. It gives the child a new identity.

By focusing on the genetic tie, the call to recognize simple adoption undermines the established legitimacy of adoption as a source of new, fully equal family ties. It implies that adoptive parents are second best.

Simple adoption suggests that, while it's fine for a new adult or adults to take on legal and financial responsibility for a neglected child, filiation and family belonging are matters of blood.

The minister's proposal departs from an idea that has underpinned Quebec's family law since the legislature abolished illegitimacy 30 years ago: All children whose legal parentage is established are equal.

The proposal's timing is unfortunate. A major change to the practice of adoption in Quebec in recent years is the increase in international adoptions. These adoptions are usually interracial, matching children with adoptive parents who are visibly different from them in ethnic origin. Another recent change is the opening of adoption to same-sex couples. There, too, a child is obviously not the offspring of both adopting adults.

Quebec's current law views the children of interracial adoption and of adoption by same-sex couples as equal to any other children. It assumes that their adoptive families give such children a wholly valid identity.

Calling for simple adoption shores up the importance of genetic connection over bonds of adoption. Might it not hint that those adoptive parents increasingly prevalent in recent years are never true parents?

The minister justified her proposals as “responses to an incredible change in Quebec society” and societal changes across North America. The irony is that the most troubling proposal comes from elsewhere.

Open adoption comes most obviously from Ontario. It has been the law in the province since 2006. But simple adoption, which sustains the child's tie to the birth family, comes from France.

Whatever the cultural and historical ties with France, Quebec has not followed the conservatism of French family law for decades. On the rights of married women, illegitimate children and same-sex couples, Quebec has repeatedly adapted its law to changing social practice without bothering about French debates. Why turn back now?

Ms. Weil says her proposals recognize that there is no longer a single model of family and that diverse families present diverse needs. But the minister's emphasis on genetic connection actually reinforces a single family model.

There's truer diversity in our current law that, whether by birth or adoption, parents are equally parents.

Robert Leckey is professor of family law at McGill University, and the author of the IRPP study Families in the Eyes of the Law: Contemporary Challenges and the Grip of the Past.

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Making a connection

As an adoptee, I found it confusing enough to have one set of parents who theoretically abandoned me (didn't want me, for a variety of reasons given to me by my AP's), and one set of parents who claimed me as their own.  I could not imagine the difficulty of having four "legal" parents, through adoption.  Which were the "more important parents" -- the ones who gave me life and chose an adoption plan, or the ones who agreed to accept that child that came with an adoption plan?   Imagine being the child in the middle feeling as if he/she should "choose" which set of parents is best.  

Since I was adopted from Canada, I always saw my AP's as being "lucky".  They never had to worry about a birth parent living within the same town or state.  They never had to worry about me being in class with a biologic sibling (raising both my eyebrows, I'm sure.).  They never had to worry about me not being seeing as "theirs" because they had the amended paper-work to prove who my parents were.  [Oh to be an adoptee, and not know who birthed and fathered you!]  The way I always saw it, adopting from another country made it easy to deny a child his/her true family identity.

A major change to the practice of adoption in Quebec in recent years is the increase in international adoptions. These adoptions are usually interracial, matching children with adoptive parents who are visibly different from them in ethnic origin. Another recent change is the opening of adoption to same-sex couples. There, too, a child is obviously not the offspring of both adopting adults.

Quebec's current law views the children of interracial adoption and of adoption by same-sex couples as equal to any other children. It assumes that their adoptive families give such children a wholly valid identity.

Calling for simple adoption shores up the importance of genetic connection over bonds of adoption. Might it not hint that those adoptive parents increasingly prevalent in recent years are never true parents?

What's missing in the above article is a trend that is taking place in popular sending countries like Korea and Ethiopia.  The trend is called "harvesting", and it can be done in a couple of ways.  For some, harvesting for adoption can take place between unwed mothers recruited by those affiliated with a maternity home.  In these home-centers, the new-mom-to-be is led to believe adoption is the best plan for her and her baby.

" from the 1980s and even more since the 1990s, the absolute majority of children who are nowadays sent to foreign countries are born by young and unwed girls attending high school or college. These young girls in their teenage of early 20s, often from a middle-class background, are locked in secretly at maternity homes belonging to the adoption agencies as soon as they get to know that they are pregnant. At the maternity homes, they are persuaded to relinquish their children to save the honor of their families and in reality to feed the adoption agencies' need of a steady supply of children for overseas adoption. In other words, a combination of patriarchal attitudes and economic greed lies behind today's overseas adoption from Korea, and thus the rights of both women and children are completely ignored. "  

[From:  International Baby Harvesting and Adoption-Abduction]

This practice takes place in America, as well.... Bethany Christian Services and Gladney Center for Adoption being two notable names within the international adoption industry, with spreading interest.

The other way in which harvesting is done is, in my opinion, even more disturbing.  Groups associated with an adoption agency will go to a poor region, gather locals with young children and offer the chance of a life-time -- home-life in America - or Canada - complete with full education, will be provided, if the parents agree to an adoption-plan.  Meanwhile, PAP's are led to believe these children put in their care are relatively healthy orphans, without parents or families.  

There are virtually no government regulations or policing of the process. Many international adoption agencies flashing Christian credentials are taking advantage of the situation. Corruption, fraud and deception are rife.

Foreign Correspondent follows a Florida couple in their mid fifties as they travel to the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, to pick up their three adopted children, aged three, four and six. It’s a gut wrenching moment when they meet the birth mother who has come to the orphanage to say a final goodbye to her children. This transaction appears above board but it’s all too common for Ethiopian parents to give up their children for international adoption after being coerced by adoption agencies.

Foreign Correspondent investigates the activities of one of the biggest American agencies operating in Ethiopia. In a remote village in the country’s south, the agency openly recruits children with parents. Each child offered for adoption is then filmed for a DVD catalogue which in turn is shipped out to potential adoptive parents.

A world away in California a mother of one - looking for a brother for her son - chooses from a CWA DVD catalogue. The agency’s sales pitch promised a healthy, abandoned child, but that could not have been further from the truth. Her story is tragic and disturbing and exposes the callousness of the profit oriented international adoption business

[From:  Fly Away Children ]

I strongly urge readers to watch the video that goes with the Fly Away Children article.  At 16:52 - 19:15,  viewers can see and hear how one of the mothers who agreed to relinquishment is still waiting to hear from her child adopted through a Candian adoption agency that recently went bankrupt. The agency "responsible" is Kidslink, which is documented as doing work with Ontario's own Imagine Adoption... an agency that's has current PAP's agreeing to $4000 in added fees so their adoptions won't collapse.  [It seems many would rather pay additional fees because it's a better alternative than starting over with another agency.]

As ethically-correct or incorrect these types of adoption-plans may be, neither of these two harvesting examples include practices known to be associated with child traffickers who will kidnap/abduct a child in order to provide a paying couple-in-waiting. 

Since the early 1990s, more than 80,000 Chinese children have been adopted abroad, most going to families in the United States.

The conventional wisdom has been that the babies, mostly girls, were abandoned by their parents because of the traditional preference for boys and China's restrictions on family size. No doubt that was the case for tens of thousands of the girls.

But some parents are coming forward to tell harrowing stories of babies taken by coercion, fraud or kidnapping. Parents who say their children were taken complain that officials were motivated by the $US3000 ($3447) per child that adoptive parents pay orphanages.

Doubts about how babies are procured for adoption have begun to ripple through the international adoption community.

''In the beginning, I think, adoption from China was a very good thing, because there were so many abandoned girls. But then it became a supply-and-demand-driven market, and a lot of people at the local level were making too much money,'' said Ina Hut, who resigned last month as head of the Netherlands' largest adoption agency because of concerns about baby trafficking.

[From:  Lid lifts on the anguish of China's stolen generation ]

Note how this practice is not limited to international adoption, either:

Deng Huidong lost her 9-month-old son in the blink of an eye as a man yanked him from the grip of his 7-year-old sister near the doorway of their home. The car did not even stop as a pair of arms reached out the window and grabbed the boy.

Sun Zuo, a gregarious 3 1/2-year-old, was lured off by a stick of sliced mango and a toy car, an abduction that was captured by police surveillance cameras.

Peng Gaofeng was busy with customers when a man snatched his 4-year-old son from the plaza in front of his shop as throngs of factory workers enjoyed a spring evening. "I turned away for a minute, and when I called out for him he was gone," Peng said.

These and thousands of other children stolen from the teeming industrial hubs of China's Pearl River Delta have never been recovered by their parents or by the police. But anecdotal evidence suggests the children do not travel far.

Although some are sold to buyers in Singapore, Malaysia and Vietnam, most of the boys are purchased domestically by families desperate for a male heir, parents of abducted children and some law enforcement officials who have investigated the matter say.

The demand is especially strong in rural areas of south China, where a tradition of favoring boys over girls and the country's strict family planning policies have turned the sale of stolen children into a thriving business.

[From:  A desperation for sons ... even someone else's CHINA: Age-old gender biases feed ]

In addition, these child trafficking examples do not include what has been done by certain governments known to have armies/police kidnap children of "undesirables", so they (the little-ones) could be sold to those wanting young children.  Examples include Spain, Nazi GermanyGuatemala, and those countries that have been known to have had falsified paper work through the ages.

Given this rich history of deceptive practice within the so-called legal adoption industry, one has to wonder just how harmful it is to make open adoption even more transparent.... more "simple".  After all, if a child is adopted from a foreign country, doesn't that child and the AP have the right to know that child was not abducted, kidnapped or stolen?   Would so-called "simple adoption", or joint-parenting, (or as I see it, legal guardianship), be agreeable to many PAP's?  Or would most PAP's want to be the ones who decide/control what family connections that adopted child keeps?

Utterly Ammazing!

I m sitting here with my jaw dropped in utter in amazement at the dichotomies of this man's totally illogical and self contradictory and arguments.

"By focusing on the genetic tie, the call to recognize simple adoption undermines the established legitimacy of adoption as a source of new, fully equal family ties. It implies that adoptive parents are second best."

Hello? Fully equal, yes. How can it then be second best if it is fully equal?? OOOOH...he's saying that the adoptive family as it is now is fully equal to biologically formed families? NOT! Try getting a blood transfusion or organ transplant from your "totally equal" adoptive parent! Not so equal are ya?

It is precisely the equalizing of the biological and adoptive families through simple adoption that Leckey opposes out of fear and ignorance, as well as entitlement and need to see parenting as ownership - totally ownership with no strings attached - as if the kids come from the notorious cabbage patch.

"A major change to the practice of adoption in Quebec in recent years is the increase in international adoptions.

Is that recognition of fact not direct conflict with the absolutely false notion that: "Many children adopted today have been in child or youth protection. These kids know their birth families."

I am not not a an expert on Canadian law, but in the U.S. so-called "open adoption contact agreements are unenforceable promises.

Children are not property or commodities. Adopted children HAVE FAMILIES they were born into and are related to. Those who cannot accept that reality need not adopt. As the demand outweighs the supply (by four to one, I believe) there is no harm if those who cannot this fact of life chose another option.

Laws do not need to yield to every fear of prospective adopter since adoption is intended to provide what is in the best interest of the children. A child's right o know his progenitors is recognized in divorce custody law and must be equally recognized in adoption.

Mirah Riben
author The Stork Market: America's Multi-Billion Dollar Unregulated Adoption Industry

http://www.AdvocatePublications.com

Mirah Riben

Pound Pup Legacy