- Family and Parenting
The Pros and Cons of Adoption
A Meeting of Hearts, Urged to Adopt an Orphan
Jack and Karen Bedford, having reached their late thirties, had talked for some time about adopting a child. Unlike many couples, they wished for a child rather than an infant. Both of them had careers, schedules and deadlines which would have made the commitment of baby care overwhelming.
Though having discussed all the various aspects, they had yet to arrive at a definite plan. Then, one night they watched a documentary about Russian children who had been orphaned or abandoned. While viewing this program, both jotted down notes as to some of the children’s names and histories. When the documentary ended, they both were in tears. Glancing towards one another, they said, almost at the same time, “Dina Petrovna”.
A Discouraging Host of Hurdles in the Adoption Process
Hence, the Bedfords soon flew to Russia in order to find the child they had chosen. They had known the process would be complex. First, as Dina was about to turn six, her character had begun to evolve. Despite living in harsh conditions, would she truly wish to leave her homeland? The couple’s two-week stay afforded a number of opportunities to visit with Dina, first with her social worker, then, later, on their own. They were not allowed to mention adoption directly to Dina, as it might cause her discomfort. Still, before their departure, her social worker assured them that Dina, despite some initial shyness and fear, was happy to become their daughter.
Of course, they were told, a number of forms would be sent to them, which they would need to complete with absolute thoroughness. Forms, forms and more forms. The stacks of paperwork proved monumental. In addition, the private details they were asked to provide felt like an inquisition. Still, they agreed, if nothing more, the depth of these inquiries combined with their grueling tedium undoubtedly helped screen out the half-hearted.
The Bedfords Now: A Complete Family Unit
Eleven months after they had first seen her on the documentary, the Bedfords returned to Russia to bring Dina back to America with them. Naturally, adjustments needed to be made on both sides. As Karen Bedford said, she was surprised and touched by Dina’s need for maternal affection. “She liked to cuddle on my lap a lot, in those first months. When I held her against my chest and rocked her a little, I sensed it might be the first time she had felt such a level of love and security.”
Impairment Draws a Family Closer Together
Unlike the Bedfords, Morris and Ruth Tate adopted a son who was only a few months old. They named this son Carl. Although he developed in all the usual ways, a few months after turning seven, a fall from a rock while romping with friends resulted in the loss of nearly all of his hearing. Six-monthly reviews were required by social services until the adoptee reached age twelve. Thus, when the next such report came due, the Tate’s felt compelled to send medical documentation of Carl’s injury, adding that they had begun researching high-powered hearing aids, and had begun a course in sign language.
A Child Doesn't Come With a Warranty
To the Tate’s’ surprise, within two days, the adoption agency made an appointment for a home visit. Having arrived and interacted with Carl, the social worker asked for a few private words with Mr. and Mrs. Tate. Once Carl had gone out to play, the social worker asked a series of questions which, while phrased in corporate-speak, melted down to the core: “Do you still want to keep him?” While understanding the need for this query, the Tate’s found it hard to maintain a veneer of politeness. Did they want to give their son back, due to his disability? Had they adopted him with some type of warranty which he had failed to meet? No, he was their son, and they loved him as utterly as they would if it had been a natural birth.
Developing Tenderness With a Deaf Birth Mother
Adoptee Elizabeth Cooper Allen, a middle-aged single woman with a fulfilling career, went through an intensive search in order to find her birth mother. By the time she unearthed the relevant records, her mother had become a resident in a home where she was looked after by conscientious, compassionate staff. Though her mind had remained alert, having been unable to hear from an early age, Ms. Allen realized the need to find an avenue of communication.
In her memoir, Mother, can you hear me?, Ms. Allen writes that, although she has no definitive proof of her mother’s understanding the root of their bond, she seemed to intuit its depth. Perhaps she recognized similarities in appearance between them.
A Daughter’s Gift of Herself and Her Welcome Into a Community
Ms. Allen’s time with her mother was brief, due to advancing illness and age. During the closing days of her mother’s life, Ms. Allen, by herself or with a friend, brought flowers and other gifts they hoped might bring her some joy. While she smiled her thanks for these presents, there was no doubt that having her hair washed and brushed, combined with other gentle attentions, created her deepest source of contentment.
After her mother’s demise, Ms. Allen, while learning all she could about her mother’s life from relatives and friends, was given a few mementos which had belonged to her. She also found herself welcomed into a family and community. At her mother’s funeral, the minister said that, while those assembled needed to say an earthly good-bye to a much-loved member, at the same time they could be delighted to say “Hello, Elizabeth.”
Sinners Like You Should be Grateful: We Will Sell Your Child
During the 1950s, giving birth to an illegitimate child led, if known, to almost absolute stigmatization. This condemnation was especially harsh in countries where the Catholic Church was predominant, as it was in Ireland. Hence, when Philomena Lee found herself pregnant, disowned by her family, she had no choice but to accept supposed sanctuary in a convent provided by nuns. There, nearly every nun treated each such girl or young woman as a pariah who owed the utmost gratitude for their begrudging charity.
A Continuous Source of Servants
From the time of their entry into the convent, until hours before giving birth, they were ordered to do the most arduous tasks. Thus, the convent acquired a level of toil much akin to slave labor. Once having given birth, these mothers were only allowed to leave if they or their relatives could pay the £100 demanded for their maintenance. As such a sum was almost never available, this captivity would continue until a suitable Catholic couple adopted the child. Even then, such adoption would be permitted only after the couple had been coerced into giving the convent a large donation.
Breast-Feeding: The Mother And Child Bond
As breast milk was the least costly source of maintaining the lives of these babies, their mothers were encouraged, each evening, to breast feed, hold and cuddle their infants. Hence, the natural love between mother and child could not help but develop despite the mother’s having been forewarned of their eventual parting. Philomena’s son, his name changed from her choice “Anthony” to “Michael” by his adoptive parents, was born on July 5 1952, and released from the convent on December 18 1955. Thus, he was more than 3 years old at the time of his separation from Philomena.
Searching For Ones Birth Mother
Both mother and son retained aching memories of one another. His adoptive parents decided the wrench would be eased if they could do all they could to obliterate memories of her. For this reason, they told him his mother had left the convent shortly after having giving birth to him. He found this bewildering in that he often felt certain he remembered a face, heard a voice-could these be mere aberrations?
Despite his new family’s well-meant deceit, as an adult he could have located Philomena had the Mother Superior not destroyed the birth records.
A Spiritual Reunion With Her Lost Son
Still, his persistence did result in obtaining information as to his birth mother’s probable whereabouts. Tragically, by this time he knew himself to be approaching the later stages of AIDS. Aware they could not meet in life, he determined to have his body buried in a part of the convent’s graveyard where his birth mother might find it. And so she did. Although it took some searching, Philomena, by then married with grown children, eventually found his grave. She sensed that she and her lost son had transcended their forced silence of more than fifty years and rediscovered each other.
Are Adoptees, as Adults, Unusually Prone to Antisocial Behavior?
This theory, posited by some psychoanalysts is based on their supposition that all adoptees suffer from an ongoing sense of emptiness and abandonment. This is exemplified by the adoptee in the above section, separated from his mother at an age when they had developed a mother-child core which continued to echo throughout both their lives. Michael, as he was named by his adoptive parents, realized himself to be gay during his late teens. During his fairly brief life, terminated in his fifties by AIDS, he wounded and ultimately rejected nearly all of his lovers. Despite his devotion to several of these, his tendency to engage in random intimate acts proved menacing in that, towards his end, he inadvertently risked exposing his final lover to AIDS.
Anguish Caused by Later Chemical Dependence
Both actress Jill Ireland, best-known for her role in “The Man From Uncle” and P. L. Travers, author of the “Mary Poppins” series, adopted boys who would struggle throughout their lives with substance abuse. Despite her utmost care Ms. Ireland’s Jason died of a drug overdose shortly after her death from breast cancer.
P.L. Travers, though never married, adopted Camillus, one of a set of infant twins. Later, Camillus became enraged at Ms. Travers when at age 17 he learned of this separation via an unexpected encounter with his twin brother. He also discovered Ms. Travers had misled him regarding his father’s death telling him he had died shortly after the adoption.
By the time of this revelation his father had in fact died. Both brothers were unable to come to terms with their separation and turned to alcohol for solace. Camillus at aged 20 spent 6 months in jail for drunken driving. He also sought help from a private hospital to overcome his alcoholism. Both brothers’ wives were named Frances; as widows, they spoke of the jealousy between the brothers, one being left with his true family and the other living in luxury, but comparative loneliness.
Ideas to Consider in Viewing These Tragedies
True, each of these adoptees became deeply dysfunctional adults, causing enormous pain both to themselves and those close to them. Arguably, anyone who during their formative years has experienced a sense of exclusion or loss may resort to self-destructive acts as a source of comfort. Still, many adult adoptees become interwoven into both their communities and society as a whole.
Conversely, others who have been brought up from birth in the healthiest, most well-balanced families have become deadbeats, killers and sociopaths. Thus, to claim a sense of parental abandonment as the root of illegal or unethical tendencies is far too simplistic.
How Stigmatization Can Haunt Adoptees
Almost from the moment actress Jill Ireland brought Jason into her home, she voiced her tenderness by saying, “I love you, my little adopted boy.” This was deliberate in hopes that, through the coming years, he would be shielded from children’s taunts or mockery. The thought of adoption, she hoped, would be intertwined for him with memories of warmth and nurturing. Later, despite his ultimately lethal struggle with drug addiction, there is no indication that he felt ostracized due to having been adopted.
Conversely, Michael Reagan writes in his memoir “On the Outside Looking In”, his sense of separateness when the media consistently referred to him as “Michael Reagan, adopted son of Jane Wyman and Ronald Reagan.” As his adoption took place shortly after his birth, why, well into his adulthood, must this distinction continue to force him to feel like an interloper?
- Note: Ronald Reagan was the President of the United States from 1981 to 1989.
Anger And Shame of Adoption
Jasia Gazda grew up during an era in Poland where adoption was regarded as a fact to be hidden. Sharing a profound love with her parents, Jasia always sensed some discomfort between herself and one of her aunts. One afternoon, a neighbor in conversation made reference to this adoption. Confronted by fury, Jasia’s parents admitted that yes, it was true, but there were worthwhile reasons. Jasia’s adoptive mother unable to give birth yearned for a baby. Simultaneously, a close relative believing herself to be dying of a terminal illness felt unable to care for her baby. Hence, the two women agreed upon a discreet adoption
A Fierce, Long-Term Wrath
For years, Jasia could not forgive her parents for what she perceived as the cruelest of lies. Once at university, she joined the communist party, largely as an act of rebellion against their strong anti-communistic beliefs. At the nadir of her anger, Jasia even thought of turning her father over to the communist police for voicing views contrary to their propaganda.
Still, as she matured, Jasia’s compassion combined with what she came to see as communistic hypocrisy helped the family to reunite after many tears and apologies. In addition, Jasia embraced Christianity with the encouragement of uplifting friends. Eventually, she developed a ministry to guide confused, poverty-stricken children towards harmonious and fulfilling lives.
A Court Battle With No Victor
Robby DeBoer’s memoir, “Losing Jessica” is indeed heart-wrenching. Convinced of birth mother Cara Clausen’s decision to give her newborn up for adoption, Robby and Jan DeBoer took the baby into their home and named her Jessica. When they did so, the DeBoers were aware of the section of the adoption agreement allowing the birth mother to reclaim the child within the first month. Still, human emotions cannot always conform to contractual clauses. As the end of this month approached, Cara Clausen decided to invoke her right to reclaim her daughter.
The Birth Mother’s Perspective
When Cara Clausen gave her newborn up for adoption, she had not informed her partner of his paternity. Perhaps she did not wish to coerce a commitment from him based upon obligation rather than a genuine wish for marriage and fatherhood. At any rate, apprised of his paternity, birth father Daniel Schmidt became determined to create a family. Thus, A two and a half year court battle ensued in which the by then married Cara and Daniel Schmidt warred against Jan and Robby DeBoer.
Consequences For The Child
By then a toddler, the DeBoers were the only parents Jessica had known. She seems to have understood the meaning, if not the actual words, when Robby DeBoer told her, “Mama’s so heartbroken”, due to the almost certain court finding to come. Naturally, when her birth parents came to the DeBoers’ home to carry her away, they seemed like abductors. Not surprisingly, she struggled and cried out for her “Mommy and Daddy”.
Where such emotions are stripped to their bones, no true moral judgment can ever apply. Still, had the DeBoers adhered to the terms of the agreement, a good deal of pain for both parties could have been avoided? Arguably, a more suitable solution may have been for the adoption agency to have kept the newborn until the crucial month had passed. Ideally, the anguish of this case will urge agencies to consider this more humane practice. As observers, we can only hope so.
The Dark Aspect of Adoption: Exploitation in the Guise of Compassion
Sadly, as with all interactions involving the vulnerable, there are predators eager to twist their needs to their own advantage. Christopher Spry describes such a beast in his memoir “Child C”. This title stems from his designated name in the court records; as a minor, his true name could not be disclosed.
Eunice Spry, a Jehovah’s Witness and seemingly stalwart member of her community, fostered two children, and adopted another. During a fourteen-year period, she tortured these children in a variety of ways: long periods of isolation in one room, deprivation of food, whipping with metal rods, sticks rammed down their throats, combined with the forced ingestion of bleach and other toxic substances.
She also paid a doctor a hefty fee for diagnosing each child with Attention Deficit Disorder, and other conditions based upon a physician’s observations and analyses. Thus, as sole parent in a household comprised of children with special needs, Eunice Spry’s governmental subsidies grew with the speed of a field of conifers.
Clever Enough to Instill Loyalty Into The Children
Eunice Spry may sometimes have felt a trace of kindliness towards these children. At any rate, she interspersed her acts of malevolence with enough vacations, gifts and seeming devotion to keep these children convinced of an over-all sense of family. For this reason, when her horrific deeds began to be investigated, Christopher and the others felt ambivalence when being asked to expose their “Mum” to the strictures of the judicial process.
In fact, the presiding judge, when pronouncing her sentence, stated Eunice Spry’s case was the most brutal he had dealt with during his four decades on the bench. Fortunately, during her trial, enough information was gleaned to result in a 14-year prison sentence, later reduced to 12.
- Note: Alloma Gilbert (Child A) has also written a memoir, “Deliver me from Evil”, describing her agony in Eunice Spry’s home.
Josephine Baker: The Soul of “The Rainbow Tribe”
Josephine Baker impacted upon American racial integration in numerous ways. A magnificent singer and dancer, her wealth allowed her to illustrate the potential for an America freed from the shackles of bigotry. While vaunting the principle of equality, the U.S. has sometimes allowed itself to fall behind other countries in its implementation.
Ms. Baker’s talent discovered through poverty
As her father abandoned her mother, the need to survive soon began to engulf the young mother and child. Dancing on street corners in hopes of garnering enough tips to subsist, Josephine’s ability began to bring a level of recognition which in time led to an outstanding career.
It seems certain she would have reached the apex of fame, had America, at that time, been better prepared to accept the right of an African-American woman to achieve this position. Thus, she traveled to France, where race was not viewed as an issue of any significance. Once there, she obtained her long-delayed eminence.
Mother to a Dozen Adopted Children
During the American Civil Rights movement, Ms. Baker’s maternal urges encompassed twelve children from a variety of ethnic groups. Compassion played a large part in her choices. At one point, leaving an Asian orphanage with her newly adopted boy in her arms, she noticed another boy watching, looking left-out and lonely.
Stopping beside him, she said, “I will take you home, too,”, and then made the needed arrangements. In addition to opening her home to children with differing origins, Josephine Baker’s creation of “the rainbow tribe”, was meant as a way to convey to the world that if one family could be a rainbow, then the entire globe could be free to become one as well.
In this video Matthew Guter discusses Josephine Baker and her adopted family
Threat of Adoption Used as a Tool of Cruelty
During WWII, most of the families who took evacuated English children into their homes showed them compassion. Still, there were a menacing few who used the practice expletively. This is exemplified in the Hilda Hollingsworth memoir “They Tied a Label on my Coat”
Having been taken into the home of a cruel couple, Hilda and her younger sister Patsy were divided, almost from their first day. Hilda was required to do endless chores, and treated as pariah, taken in on sufferance.
Conversely, her younger sister, viewed as cute and cuddly, was favored, even to the point where the couple voiced their wish to adopt her. In a legal sense, this would not not have been done, given the deep tenderness of their mother in England. In the end, when she came to reclaim both her daughters, this became clear. Still, during the time when their temporary parents threatened to separate them, both girls underwent confusion and terror.
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As the availability of children narrows, it has become more difficult for parents to adopt, without resorting to those mercenary enough to market infants and young children. This has compelled a rising number of would-be adoptive parents to trust the ethics of those who seek to profit by such transactions. Hence, an alarming number of brain-damaged children are being presented as having no physical or mental disorders. So rampant has this practice become as to add the term “wrongful adoption” to the legal lexicon.
Fortunately for those wishing for children they cannot conceive in the usual way, medical science is progressing towards increasingly accurate methods of inducing fertility. Given the acceleration of technology on nearly all levels, it seems probable these steps should soon increase in precision. If so, an enormous amount of anguish and heartsickness will be avoided.
© 2014 Colleen Swan