Earlier this month, the US Department of State, published its annual report on inter-country adoption, and for the 10th year in succession, the number of children adopted from abroad dropped.
Much has been written in the last decade, about this decrease in inter-country adoption, and while it is a real phenomenon that can be observed in all receiving countries, there is more to the story than just a decline within the last decade.
When American mainstream media reports news about the decline in inter-country adoption, they usually use 2004 as a starting point, when the US alone received 22,972 children from abroad.
Any recent figure will pale in comparison to this figure. For instance, the 6,441 children adopted from abroad in 2014 is less than one third of the number reached in 2004.
January 3, 2014 marked the departure of Mary Landrieu from the national political scene and with that, her 18 year tenure as leader of the adoption lobby within congress.
During her years in the Senate, the Congressional Coalition on Adoption (CCA) grew out from a caucus that promoted adoption from foster care, to a full fledged lobbying arm of the adoption industry.
Most notable in that regard, was the foundation of the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute (CCAI), in 2001. This tax exempt, charitable organization, went far beyond the original intent of the adoption caucus, and became a front office for the adoption industry and religious organizations,.
The State Representative, and owner of Growing God's Kingdom, a Christian preschool in Westfork, Arkansas, has been in the news ever since the Arkansas Times started an investigation into the sexual abuse of one of the girls adopted by Rep. Harris.
That abuse came to light in April 2014, when Eric Cameron Francis, a head teacher, and former employee of Harris, was arrested for the sexual abuse of a girl in his care.
Harris, at the time was questioned about the case and responded: he was "devastated and sickened" by the news, and was quick to point out that nothing had happened to the children at Growing God's Kingdom, thanks to a continuously operating camera that generated a permanent record.
So, six months later, how's the whole "aftermath" thing coming? Well there's me, and there's me-and-them. Let's talk about me first.
I got pretty stressed out around the end of the year. Come January, I wasn't stressed at all. I felt drained, a little fragile, very mellow, and extremely lethargic. I had started reading Dr. Seligman's book Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-Being; at one point he talks about helping clients work through their depression. "I wanted to make them happier, but all I did was make them emptier." That fit me like a glove. But when you've spent a lifetime full of pain, sorrow, and anger, empty is a big improvement, and a necessary first step to anything better.
There's all these little fractures in my psyche that used to be full of poison. Now it's gone, and I can feel all the little abrasions the acid of pain wore into my psyche. They need time to heal, and I don't need to let more poison settle in.
I stared angrily at the scale. Where had all my hard work gone?
Four years ago I started an exercise program to get my body back in shape. Two years of steady, constant exercising later, I was feeling fit and fine -- so fit, my subconcious deemed me able to handle a huge heap of repressed childhood horror. The next two years were taken up with nothing but repairing damages done to my mind and my soul. The work was so intense I could do nothing else. Some days just making it out of bed was all I could manage. In the process I've lost all the fitness progress I made over the previous two years. My weight is back up and my stamina is nonexistant. Physically I'm right back where I started. I've got all this psychological stuff seen to but -- I know the metaphor of life being a great big spiral but I don't need it to play out so literally, darn it.
"Have you ever heard of people saying, “this feels like it’s happening to someone else” or something to that effect? Now I can completely relate to that. I kind of feel like. Well, I don’t know exactly how to quantify it. It’s a new sensation. Extremely weird, but not entirely unpleasant." - my newly-discovered maternal half-sister
"I have to admit, this is incredibly awkward, but I am happy to get to know you." - my newly-discovered paternal half-sister
"That is a picture of your grandmother. If you want to know what she looked like when she was younger, look in the mirror. You look just like her." - a great-uncle
"Who the Hell are you, where did you come from, and what's this nonsense about a Promised Land?" - the Canaanites
For eighth year in a rows, Pound Pup Legacy has asked its readers to choose the worst person or organization in Adoptionland as the
recipient of the Demons of Adoption Award. Today we announce this year's recipient.
Something was very wrong with this picture. Abuse in adoptive families and re-homing often are the result of bad screening practices and insufficient preparation of prospective adopters, if not the result of withholding information about the conditions of the child, important to make a proper decision whether to go forward with an adoption. Coerced relinquishment often is the result of having no well-defined protocols to guide the adoption process. Child trafficking is often the result of working with unreliable partners in sending countries and the profit motif that can easily become the driving factor behind the adoption process.
Members of Congress should worry about these issues and provide regulation that curtail what is wrong in Adoptionland. Unfortunately they much rather look the other way and sail on the feel-good sentiments that surround adoption.
The Angels in Adoption Award gala is mostly an adoption agency's love fest, organized with congressional allure It openly shows the intimate embrace of special interest groups and federal government, more so than in any other field of business.
Congress is often said to be ruled by special interests, but nowhere is the intimate embrace of politics and business so blatant as in the field of adoption.
There are no congressional awards for members of the petrochemical or financial industry, nor is there a defense contractor of the year award. When it comes to these branches of business, members of congress at least presume to maintain a certain distance.
Adoption is an entirely different matter. Members of Congress don't view it as a business, after all, as defined by law, no children are being sold. And even if viewed as a business, it dwarfs in comparison to Wall Street, the oil industry, insurance, and the pharmaceutical industry.
For members of congress the political value of adoption is not economical, but sentimental. Members of congress like to present themselves in favor of adoption, because it superficially shows a virtuous side, something as much needed to get elected as having well filled campaign coffers.
For members of the adoption industry, adoption certainly has economic value. Their livelihood depends on it. Of course the industry likes to present itself as virtuous and charitable, but at the end of the day salaries need to be paid and the cost of doing business needs to be recouped.
The Angels of Adoption Awards shamelessly shows the exchange of sentimental political capital for the economic and religious interests of the adoption industry. Members of Congress get the opportunity to demonstrate their virtuous side, and the industry gets Congress's seal of approval,and minimal federal oversight.
This cynical trade of feel good sentiments for economic and religious interests made us start the Demons of Adoption Awards, seven years ago.
As a parody of the Angels of Adoption Awards it only highlights the worst. Just like no agency or attorney is as angelical as Members of Congress want us to believe, neither are the demons of adoption exceptionally evil. For every nominee there are several others equally guilty of unethical practices.
The Demons of Adoption Awards shine a light on the darkest corners of Adoptionland, but they don't tell us much about the overall darkness of the adoption industry.
Business methods, used by the worst agencies of our time, are the same as those used by "demons of adoption" a century ago. Coerced relinquishment, fraudulent paperwork, the use of jurisdictional mazes, illegal payments, all of that is not a recent invention; it has been part and parcel of the adoption business since its inception.
This year's recipient of the Demons of Adoption Award is a good example of being among the worst in an industry that thrives on bad practices.
In that case Adoption by Gentle Care placed a boy with an Indiana couple, in November 2007, knowing that the paternity of the child was not established. Benjamin Wyrembek, the father of the child contested the adoption and after a long court battle, the adoption was dismissed.
As a result, the child was officially in custody of Adoption by Gentle Care, which was ordered to show the child to his father on February 8, 2010. The agency failed to comply with the court order and through it's executive director John Cameron was held in contempt on July 2, 2010.
The Indiana couple appealed all the way up to the US Supreme Court, but eventually October 30, 2010, the boy was handed over to his father.
Adoption by Gentle Care quickly dismissed executive director John Cameron, who was replaced by Trina Saunders. This change of leadership however didn't change the way Adoption by Gentle Care operated.
In March 2014, Adoption by Gentle Care was involved in the placement of Camden, the son of Carri Stearns. Carri Stearns found herself in a crisis situation after getting pregnant as the result of a one-night-stand. Her partner wasn't exactly pleased and told her to choose between the baby and their life together.
Carri Stearns contacted Adoption by Gentle Care days before she was due, to discuss the placement of the child. Adoption by Gentle Care was very eager to assist in the placement and their counseling was geared to only one option, to make sure the child was being placed for adoption.
In the process Adoption by Gentle Care ignored all red flags. The mother was financially capable of raising the child, she herself wanted the child, and she had proven to be a good mother for her other children.
When the issue of paternity came up, the agency coached Carri Stearns to list the father as "unknown" on the birth certificate, even though the father was known.
The case worker, having learned her lesson from the case of Dusten Brown (baby Veronica) asked if Carri had any Native American blood. When she answered truthfully that she did, the case worker responds: “Carri, you can’t say that. If we name Native American blood, then this adoption won’t happen. He’ll go to foster care.”
Apparently the fear of the child going into foster care was enough for Carri Stearns to lie, something Adoption by Gentle Care apparently found entirely acceptable.
Three days after the initial intake and only counseling session, Carri gave birth to her son Camden by means of a c-section. Four days later, she signed off on the adoption.
During the relinquishment she had to testify that she was of "sound mind and body". In such testimony one must state that they are not under any mind altering substances and are making this decision of their own free will, independently of any coercion of duress. At the time Carri was still under doctor’s prescription for Vicodin and Dilaudid, but was advised by Adoption by Gentle care worker to say "no" to the question whether she was using any medication.
Three days after the relinquishment, reality what has transpired set in and Carri came to the conclusion she had made a terrible mistake.
Adoption by Gentle Care refused to revoke the consent and pushed through with the placement of Camden. However, the family chosen to adopt the boy, returned him to the agency and he has been in foster care ever since.
Adoption by Gentle Care, with this case proved to be anything but gentle, and it seems all they cared about is the quick placement of children. They didn't seem to care about proper procedures, proper counseling and it wasn't even beyond them to instruct someone to lie.
We believe our readers made an excellent choice by declaring Adoption by Gentle Care this year's Demon of Adoption, and with sadness realize next year we will most likely have another recipient just as deserving.
Now that autumn has started, the Congressional Angels in Adoption have been awarded and National Adoption Awareness months is not far from the horizon, it is time for us to start the nominations for Pound Pup Legacy's Annual Demons of Adoption Awards.
With such an impressive line-up of villains, comes a daunting task to come up with an equally deserving candidate for 2014.
We invite our readers to nominate and decide who eventually has the dubious honor of actually receiving PPL's 2014 Demons of Adoption Award.
You, our reader, can make your voice heard. Who should receive the most critical recognition in Adoptionland? Until October 10 the nomination process will be open. After that date PPL will post a poll where readers may vote for the nominees.
After a couple weeks of "phone tag" I got up with my mother. She talked a bit about being at the maternity home with me, even though she couldn't remember the name. Apparently her mother wrote either Ann Landers or Dear Abby for a recommendation as to where to send her. I may have made the paper before I was even born. Thanks Ann -- not!
So after she got pregnant she and my father talked about getting married. She's Protestant and he's Catholic. They went to see the priest, who would only marry them if I was reared Catholic. My mother balked at that, and the wedding was off. Thanks Roman Catholic Church -- not!
But she says my father knows about me and is a real nice guy, and offered to call him for me if I gave her his number, which I did. That's a relief off me. It felt good, until everything slotted into place.
"Fracture reduction" is the fancy term for resetting a broken bone that's healed the wrong way. Somebody breaks a bone. They should lie up and have someone else take them immediately to the doctor, but that doesn't always happen. Maybe they can't get to the doctor, maybe there's no doctor around, maybe they have to use that broken bone anyway just to get by until they can find a doctor. Whatever.
So when they finally get to the doctor's office, what happens? The doctors get out the bone saw and the knives and takes the broken bone back apart. They "break" it again into at least as many parts as the first time, if not more. They have to do this in order to set it properly. It's the only way they can ever hope to restore the limb to full functioning.
But the pain is out of this world. The patient screams and struggles, fighting to escape from the excruciating suffering. Knowing it's the only way to regain the full use of their body does nothing to spare them from the agony they are going through.
Usually things get easier to write about over time. Not this time. It's getting harder.
My First Cousin (technically he's not, but he'll always be my Very First Cousin) was eager to help me. He's an elderly man in poor health, who needed the mental stimulation such a puzzle provided. He's been very encouraging, even as my moods have swung like a weather-vane in storm.
I'm one of the least emotional people you'll ever meet, although I'm self-aware enough to realize that for me this symptom is a sign of an underlying problem. But here I was obsessively combing through genealogies and bursting into tears at every photograph. I desperately wanted to know who these people were, what their stories told about them, and how their stories related to my stories. I craved the stories grownups swapped while visiting and told to the kids on the porch during long afternoons.
I cried the first time I spoke to First Cousin on the phone. It was the first time I'd heard the voice of a blood relation I hadn't given birth to.
Earlier this year, the US Department of State published its annual statistics on inter-country adoption. Again a significant decline in the number of children adopted from abroad could be noted. The year 2012 had already been a low-water mark with 8668 inter-country adoptions. In 2013, the number went down even further, to 7094.
Over the years the church and its daughter organization LDS Family Services had been involved in various dubious adoptions, showing a lack of respect for the rights or unmarried parents. On top of that, LDS Family Services has been the least transparent adoption agency in the world. Unlike other adoption agencies, it is registered as a church and therefore it is not required to submit any financial information to the Internal Revenue Service.
LDS Family Services resembled the type of hush-hush operation one would have expected during the 1950s and 1960s, an anachronistic organization out of touch with the societal make-up of the 21 century.