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Infant Adoption is Big Business in America


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									Infant Adoption is
Big Business in America
by Darlene Gerow, CUB Communicator Editor

   Adoption is perceived by society as prima-          Along with the fees charged by the adop-        article by Jim DeFede. DeFede reports on a
rily an altruistic act where a child is rescued     tion provider, adopters routinely reimburse        boutique adoption service in Florida and its
from a dreadful fate. The child’s mother is         relinquishing parents for expenses incurred        elite baby broker, Richard Gitelman, who
portrayed as not wanting her child and the          during the pregnancy. Although these ex-           places ads nationally seeking pregnant
child’s father as usually being nonexistent. The    penses are paid as an act of charity and are       women, and then auctions their babies to the
adopting parents are mythically portrayed as        not tax deductible, there are adoption facili-     highest bidder among the adopters on his list.
saint-like rescuers who provide a “happily ever     tators and web site sources that coach adopt-      His prices vary from $75,000 to $250,000 for
after.” In reality, birthparents anguish over the   ers as to how much they dare pay a relin-          healthy white infants. Increasingly, for-profit
loss of their children, adoptive families are       quishing mother for such things as cars,           businesses and unlicensed facilitators prom-
just as dysfunctional as natural families, and      clothes, and tuition without crossing the line     ise to connect prospective adopters with the
adoption is a huge, profit-driven industry          into baby buying.                                  child of their dreams and charge whatever
where babies are the commodity. As it is cur-          James Gritter, open adoption practitioner       the market will bear.
rently practiced in America, infant adoption        with Catholic Human Services, Inc., observes,
by non-relatives does more to meet the needs        “Birthfamilies are ostensibly given money to       Competition for Infants
of affluent adopters than to help children.         make their experience more tolerable, but the          There is a huge disparity in the supply-and-
                                                    ‘relief’ they receive may soon feel like blood     demand of infants, which creates desperate
Billion Dollar US Industry                          money, ultimately producing unspeakable            and intense competition among adopters.
   Infant adoption is big business in America.      guilt and misery.” Gritter explains that reim-     Currently, there are forty or more adopters
Approximately 140,000 adoptions are final-          bursement for expenses is coercive because         vying for every healthy white infant that be-
ized each year although it remains unclear          when adopters invest in prospective                comes available for adoption. There are fewer
how many are infant adoptions and how               birthparents, they expect a return on their        desirable adoptable infants because society
many are older children adopted by relatives        investment. The money a young mother re-           has become more accepting of single moth-
or foster parents. According to an industry         ceives during her pregnancy is coercive be-        ers who parent their children than in the past.
analysis by Marketdata Enterprises, Inc. of         cause it may cause her to feel indebted to the     The stigma of bearing a child out-of-wed-
Tampa, Florida, adoption provider revenues          adopters and prevent her from following her        lock has diminished, so the vast majority of
in 2000 were $1.44 billion with a projected         heart after birth and parenting her own baby.      today’s single mothers choose to keep their
industry annual growth rate of 11.5 percent                                                            babies instead of relinquishing them to adop-
to 2004.                                            Baby Selling?                                      tion. Effective birth control methods are
   Ken Watson, named the 1992 Child Ad-                Since the business of adoption has become       readily available to the fertile population, and,
vocate of the Year by the North American            so lucrative, it has attracted many profession-    since abortion is legal, an unplanned preg-
Council on Adoptable Children, explains that        als never previously interested in adoption.       nancy can be terminated.
the outright sale of children is illegal, but       In the last ten years, the number of attor-            While the supply of desirable adoptable in-
adopters are routinely charged fees to legally      neys involved in adoption has doubled.             fants has been decreasing, infertility in
parent a child. Watson recounts how some            Gritter contends that adoption has changed         America has been increasing. It is estimated
agencies circulate a fee schedule with children     from “a professional model, in which service       that one in six couples has trouble conceiv-
listed in categories by race and sex with prices    providers hang out their shingles and aspire       ing and that there may be as many as 5.3 mil-
proportionate to their desirability. Prices can     to suspend self-interest, to a business model      lion infertile couples in America. Many adopt-
range from $25,000 to $50,000 and upwards.          that aggressively recruits consumers on a          ers who are currently seeking babies post-
According to Watson, although adoption pro-         buyer-beware basis.” Randolph W. Severson,         poned child bearing to pursue their careers,
viders insist that the fee is not payment for a     director of Heart Words: an Adoptee Advo-          and later, when they finally wanted to con-
child, but rather money to cover the cost of        cacy and Counseling Center , cautions, “The        ceive, found that due to age they were infer-
services provided, “Adoptive parents are not        trend runs perilously close to that cliff called   tile. Unrelated to age, another cause of infer-
deceived. They know they are paying for a           selling babies.”                                   tility is chlamydia. Dubbed the “silent epi-
child.” Adopters with the most money ob-               One of the more outrageous examples of          demic,” chlamydia is the most frequently re-
tain the children considered the most desir-        the excesses surfacing in the adoption indus-      ported infectious disease in the U.S. and of-
able.                                               try appeared recently in Talk magazine in an       ten results in infertility because there are few
symptoms. Many people do not realize they         currently, relinquishing families already have     The Industry Tightens the Screws
were ever infected with chlamydia until they      two or more children who are the brothers             Other lobbying and legislative efforts of
later discover complications, such as infertil-   and sisters of the relinquished baby. Pannor       the adoption industry include supporting
ity.                                              explains, “These birthparents come from the        states to legally reduce the length of time af-
   Although adoption does not cure infertil-      poverty pockets of our country and are the         ter which relinquishment becomes irrevo-
ity, and adopting a child is not the same as      primary targets of attorneys who flood their       cable. California recently reduced the time a
having a child by birth, many of the infertile    communities with enticing advertisements.”         relinquishing mother has to change her mind
eventually pursue adopting a baby. In U.S.           Adoptive mother Ruth Reichl’s recent ar-        from ninety to thirty days.
News & World Report, Clark and Shute re-          ticle in More tells how at thirty-nine years          Some states allow no time for reconsid-
late that the majority of adopters want only      old she had undergone extensive infertility        eration. Some states have enacted legislation
healthy infants because most foster children      treatments when her doctor admitted defeat         that allows the mother to sign a binding re-
awaiting homes are at least five years old,       and suggested that she consider adopting. Her      linquishment even before her baby is born.
many have physical or emotional handicaps,        doctor recommended an attorney who was             Before birth, a pregnant woman may think
and most are of mixed races.                      “sleek and handsome” and to whom “[. . .]          relinquishment is the best solution for her
                                                  the adoption industry had clearly been good.”      predicament. Following birth, once the
A Scarce & Dear Commodity                         The attorney explained that he would target        mother actually meets her infant, her priori-
   With such market demand, the adoption          “pregnant southern women who lacked ei-            ties often change drastically. A mother needs
industry is striving to increase the supply of    ther the means or the desire to raise their        to experience motherhood and understand
desirable adoptable babies. Historian Rickie      babies.”                                           the full implications of relinquishment be-
Solinger writes in Beggars and Choosers:             Poor women are especially vulnerable to         fore she signs anything.
How the Politics of Choice Shapes Adop-           the high-pressured tactics of the adoption in-        The adoption industry aggressively sup-
tion, Abortion and Welfare in the United          dustry. Without resources or support, they         ports both anti-abortion legislation and the
States that Representative Pat Schroeder of       want to believe that their sacrifice really will   recent “baby dump” laws. Thirty-five states
Colorado claims there are too many single         be helpful to their children. Rarely are they      have passed safe haven laws in the last two
women in the U.S. having babies with too          informed about the long-term repercussions         years. These laws allow anyone to anony-
few of them giving up their babies for adop-      they and their children will experience as a       mously abandon a baby at a designated safe
tion. Schroeder labeled babies “a scarce and      result of separation.                              place. Ostensibly, their intent is to reduce in-
dear commodity.” Representative Schroeder                                                            fanticide, but inadvertently they encourage
supports the adoption industry and does not       Industry Promotes Relinquishment                   and condone the abandonment of infants.
see anything wrong with viewing babies as a          In order to promote adoption and encour-        Since the surrender is anonymous, there are
resource to meet the needs of adults.             age the relinquishment of infants, the adop-       no safeguards against fraud and corruption.
   Domestically, efforts are underway to en-      tion industry employs full-time lobbyists in       There is no way to confirm that the person
courage women to relinquish their babies for      Washington, D.C. The National Council for          dumping the baby is the parent or legal guard-
adoption; however, it is the rare mother who      Adoption is a private lobbying group whose         ian or if both parents have agreed to the aban-
actually wants to be separated from her child.    members include twenty-eight adoption agen-        donment. The “baby dump’ laws are sup-
According to the twenty-five year old national    cies and represents 3.5 percent of U.S. adop-      ported by the adoption lobby, who see the
organization,        Concerned        United      tion agencies. The N.C.F.A. and three adop-        foundlings as a source of infants for adop-
Birthparents, Inc., mothers surrender their       tion agencies just received $8.6 million from      tion.
babies due to a lack of financial resources,      the federal treasury in October 2001 to pro-          The Internet has become the tool of
lack of extended family support, and pres-        mote adoption to pregnant women at health          choice for adopters seeking pregnant women
sure by social workers or other adoption fa-      centers and clinics. In the press release from     who might consider relinquishing their ba-
cilitators. Mothers who have relinquished their   the U.S.A. Department of Health and Hu-            bies. Laura Mansnerus reported in the New
children grieve for the remainder of their        man Services, Tommy G. Thompson, H.H.S.            York Times that hopeful adopters typically
lives. Losing a child, whether to death or to     Secretary, said, “These grants are an impor-       pay $175 to be listed in an Internet registry
adoption, is a tragedy from which a mother        tant step in making sure that every pregnant       for three months. Their profiles in the regis-
never completely recovers. Her relinquished       woman who is considering her alternatives          try include photos, family histories, and lov-
child never recovers from the separation ei-      understands the benefits of adoption.”             ing descriptions of their homes, pets, hob-
ther.                                                Relinquishment and adoption is considered       bies, and child-rearing plans. The Internet
   Traditionally, most babies relinquished for    by some to be a solution for the societal prob-    allows adopters to advertise for babies, which
adoption were born to single, unwed, teen-        lem of illegitimacy and welfare dependency.        is illegal in other mediums in some states.
age mothers, but that is no longer the case.      Psychologist Lynne Reyman contends that by
According to long-time adoption reformist         viewing adoption as a cure for poverty, we         Professional Marketing
and co-author of The Adoption Triangle,           deny the humanity of birthparents. By tak-            Public relations and marketing firms with
Reuben Pannor, more than half of the ba-          ing the children of poor families, we com-         very bright and likeable marketing experts
bies relinquished today are born to impover-      pound their problems; not only are they still      have orchestrated the commercial approach
ished married couples in the Bible Belt and       poor, but additionally they have lost their        to adoption, and in their effort to make re-
other areas with high rates of poverty. Most      children.                                          linquishment and adoption appeal to preg
nant women, they have disguised the process         tion today. Domestically, adoption profes-         change their addresses, changes their names,
to make it appear as though it prioritizes          sionals use coercive tactics to procure infants.   move out of state, and sever contact.
birthparents, Gritter explains. Watson de-             Adoptive mother and adoption reformist,         Birthmothers are left without legal recourse.
scribes the phenomena as having “spawned            L. Anne Babb in Ethics in American Adop-              Allowing adopters to be present during a
ahost of ancillary exploiters, including pub-       tion relates that research on ethics in adop-      mother’s labor and childbirth is another co-
lic relations and marketing firms that help         tion shows that adoption is rife with conflict     ercive tactic employed by the adoption in-
prospective adoptive parents prepare biog-          of interest. Most adoption facilitators who        dustry. Babb cautions about the manipula-
raphies and photographs to increase their           claim to offer unbiased counseling to poten-       tive potential of having prospective adoptive
appeal [. . .] and insurance companies who          tial birthmothers depend upon the dollars          parents participate in an expectant mother’s
will write a policy to reimburse [prospective]      collected from adopters to support their busi-     prenatal care, childbirth, or even visit the hos-
adoptive parents who have paid the expenses         ness. Free counseling for pregnant women           pital following delivery. Babb maintains that
of a [prospective] birthparent who then de-         often is indistinguishable from a sales pitch      a mother who is considering relinquishment
cides against adoption.”                            for relinquishment. Another area of conflict       must have the opportunity to experience
   The National Adoption Network was one            is that in most adoptions, an attorney hired       motherhood without “[. . . .] the onus of anxi-
of the first national organizations dedicated       by the adopters purports to represent every-       ety or guilt about the feelings of the prospec-
to connecting pregnant women with adopt-            one involved in the adoption transaction.          tive adoptive parents. The potential heartache
ers. Severson recounts how Dian Jordan              Rarely does an impoverished relinquishing          of prospective adoptive parents with whom
brought her skills as an advertising executive      mother retain her own legal counsel.               [the mother] has developed a pre-delivery re-
to the National Adoption Network and em-               Lynne Reyman describes the exploitation         lationship should not be used as a coercive
ployed high-gloss polished creativity to so-        of young mothers in her recent book,               means of obtaining the relinquishment of an
licit prospective birthparents.                     Musings of a Ghost Mother:                         infant.” If the mother does decide to relin-
                                                       Fraudulent crisis lines may act as fronts       quish, the time immediately following birth
Foreign Infants Help Meet Demand                       for attorneys who broker adoptions. In          is the only time she and her child will ever
   Foreign procurement of desirable infants            the marketplace for infants, merchandis-        have as a family. If the mother decides to
for adoption helps meet the market demand              ing techniques draw in unmarried preg-          not relinquish, then her baby does not need
and is the fastest growing area of infant adop-        nant girls and women. Looking in our            an adoptive home. Adoption is for children
tion. David Tuller reported in the New York            local yellow pages under ‘adoption,’ I see      who need homes. Either way, the presence
Times that more than 18,000 children were              pictures of smiling adoption facilitators       of adopters in the delivery room or at the
adopted from other countries in 2000. Most             promising birthmothers that ‘all the            hospital is inappropriate.
came from Korea, China, Russia, other So-              choices are yours.’ One adoption facili-           Foreign adoption is also plagued with
viet Bloc nations, India, and Guatemala.               tation center promotes college scholar-         abuse. Pertman describes the exploitation
   Adam Pertman, author of Adoption Na-                ships for birthmothers, among other free        occurring in foreign adoption, “Unregulated,
tion, expresses the prevailing ethnocentric            services. The coercive nature of these          unscrupulous facilitators coerce or bribe the
justification for recruiting children from other       services is a reminder that the system is       poor and single women around the world to
countries, “With few exceptions, the ones              driven by adoptive parents, the paying          part with their babies.” Thousands of Ameri-
[children] who are adopted will live better lives      consumers to whom agencies and attor-           cans travel to foreign countries every year to
than they could have in their homelands.”              neys cater.                                     get babies with tens of thousands of dollars
Affluence does not make American adopt-             Some tactics employed by the adoption in-          hidden in their clothes because, as Pertman
ers better parents, nor guarantee that the chil-    dustry are more coercive than others.              explains, “they have decided they want a child
dren they adopt internationally will be hap-           Open adoption, the revolutionary practice       more than they want to deliberate the ethics
pier for having been removed from their fami-       of allowing and even encouraging full con-         of their actions or of their advisors.” Pertman
lies, cultures, and heritages.                      tact between adoptive families and                 continues, “Some agencies hire bounty hunt-
   One of the reasons adopters cite for adopt-      birthfamilies, has been embraced by the adop-      ers to locate babies for adoption, paying as
ing internationally is that relinquishing for-      tion industry as a tool of unparalleled seduc-     much as $10,000 per find, which is a huge
eign mothers, especially those from Third           tion to potential birthmothers. Adoption fa-       sum in the poor areas of the world where
World countries, have less recourse than their      cilitators have found that a mother is more        this is a routine practice.
American counterparts and are unlikely to           inclined to proceed with an adoption plan             Baby stealing is a burgeoning problem in
contest an adoption, or have the resources          that includes ongoing contact with her child       international adoption. Michael Riley, writ-
to seek contact at a later date. Although coun-     because the prospect of never seeing her child     ing about Guatemalan infants fueling the
tries with white populations are especially tar-    again is unbearable. Too often, openness is        adoption industry in the Dallas Morning
geted, adopters indicate that race is less of       the carrot that entices a mother to relinquish,    News, reports that with such high demand
an issue with babies because all babies are cute    and only after the adoption is finalized, does     for infants, adoption brokers are enticed to
and loveable.                                       she learn that the adoptive parents did not        use tactics of intimidation and manipulation.
                                                    intend to maintain the open agreement, which       They target poor single mothers who are of-
Exploitation is Endemic                             is not enforceable by law. Once the adoption       ten isolated from their families and support
  Exploitation of babies and their mothers          is finalized and the adopters have the baby,       systems and scour poor neighborhoods look-
by the adoption industry is endemic in adop-        they are free to have their telephones unlisted,   ing for pregnant women, sometimes pretend-
ing to befriend them. Riley writes, “Brothel       that adoption is a social construction. She said     1. (1999): 8.
owners sell the babies of prostitutes to help      that adoption has not always existed, and it       Pertman, Adam. Adoption Nation: How
offset the downtime of the pregnant em-            does not exist everywhere. She said that adop-       the Adoption Revolution is Trans-
ployees. Middle and upper class housewives         tion occurs mostly in affluent, Western soci-        forming America. New York: Basic
hire expectant mothers as servants, help ar-       eties and is a fairly recent historical phenom-      Books, 2000.
range an adoption, and then pocket the [baby       enon. Robinson pointed out that in just over       Reichl, Ruth. “To Have and To Hold.”
broker] fee.”                                      a hundred years, we have seen the end of             More May 2001: 100-133.
   Mothers whose babies were taken with-           slavery and the triumph of suffrage, and that      Reyman, Lynne. Musings of a Ghost
out their understanding or consent have filed      the reason these changes occurred was be-            Mother--Losing an Infant to Closed
dozens of complaints with the Guatemalan           cause someone drew attention to the injus-           Adoption. Oroville, CA: I & L Publish-
attorney’s office. In response to the report       tice. Robinson’s examples of the changes that        ing, 2001.
of baby stealing, Britain and Canada, among        occurred to slavery and suffrage make it seem      Riley, Michael. “Precious Lives, Big
other countries, have instituted a mandatory       possible that the institution of adoption            Business: Foreign Demand for Guatema-
DNA test for adoptions from Guatemala,             might also change, no matter how firmly en-          lan Infants is Fueling Adoption Industry
but the United States tests only sporadically.     trenched in society it is, nor how much money        that Preys on Mothers, Critics Say.”
Out of the twenty-nine babies tested by the        it generates. Perhaps, with continued dili-          Dallas Morning News 6 Aug. 1998:
U.S. last year, three tests revealed that it was   gence, the business of infant adoption can           1A.
not the genetic mother relinquishing the baby      be eliminated, and we can move a little closer     Robinson, Evelyn Burns. “Adoption and
for adoption.                                      to that perfect world.                               Loss--the Hidden Grief.” 23rd Annual
   Sally Stoecker, writing for the Russian                                                              American Adoption Congress Confer-
magazine, Demokratizatsiya, reports that                           Works Cited                          ence. Anaheim, California. April 2001.
corruption and fraud plague Russian adop-          Babb, L. A. Ethics in American Adop-               Severson, Randolph W. “Adoption as a
tion. Demand from infertile couples in the           tion. Westport, Connecticut: Bergin and            Business.” American Adoption Con-
West provide substantial profits and entice          Garvey, 1999.                                      gress Decree Spring (1996): 17-18.
criminal elements. According to the Main Di-       Bender, David, and Bruno Leone. eds.               Solinger, Rickie. Beggars and Choosers:
rectorate of Internal Affairs in Moscow, sev-        Adoption. Opposing Viewpoints. San                 How the Politics of Choice Shapes
eral cases of missing children are reported          Diego:Greenhaven Press, 1995. 69-75.               Adoption, Abortion, and Welfare in
daily. Kidnapping has become a frequent            Center for Disease Control and Prevention.           the United States. New York: Hill and
crime associated primarily with foreign adop-        “Some Facts About Chlamydia.” 25 Nov.              Wang, 2001.
tion. Underprivileged women whose babies             2001 <http://infertility.about.com/li-           Stoecker, Sally. “Homelessness and
have disappeared rarely find legal recourse.         brary/ifctr/blchlamfacts.htm>.                     Criminal Exploitation of Russian Minors:
                                                   Clark, Kim, and Nancy Shute. “The Adop-              Realities, Resources, and Legal Rem-
A Perfect World                                      tion Maze.” U.S. News & World Re-                  edies.” Demokratizatsiya Spring (2001):
   The business of infant adoption is out of         port 12 Mar. 2001: 60.                             319.
control. The affluent can buy any commod-          DeFede, Jim. “How Much for a White                 Tuller, David. “Adoption Medicine Brings
ity they desire, including babies, while at the      Baby?” Talk Dec. 1999/Jan. 2000: 115.              New Parents Answers and Advice.” New
same time, poverty is the leading cause of         Gritter, James. “The Trend of Commercial-            York Times 4 Sep. 2001, late ed:
relinquishment. Describing a perfect world           ization in Adoption.” American Adop-               InfoTrac. Palomar College Lib., San
where no babies would ever be relinquished           tion Congress Decree 1. (1999): 9-13.              Marcos, CA 4 Oct. 2001 <http://
for adoption, Barbara Eck Manning, founder         Hogan, Maureen. “Why the Federal                     www.galegroup.com>.
of Resolve, an organization for infertile            Government Must Regulate Adoption.”              U.S.A. Dept. of Health and Human
people, explains that the fact babies are avail-     American Adoption Congress Decree                  Services. A.C.F. Press Office. “H.H.S.
able reflects society’s failure to provide edu-      1. (1999): 1-5.                                    Awards First-ever Grants to Promote
cation, family planning, medical services and      Mansnerus, Laura. “Couples Looking to                Adoption Awareness.” 15 Oct. 2001
support for at-risk families. Every adoption         Adopt Find a Shifting Spotlight.” New              <http://www.hhs.gov/new/press/
represents a tragic breakdown of a family            York Times 26 Sep. 2001, late ed:                  2001pres/20011015b.html
where a mother and child have been sepa-             infoTrac. Palomar College Lib., San              Watson, Ken. “Who Cares if People are
rated.                                               Marcos, CA 4 Oct. 2001 <http://                    Exploited by Adoption?” American
   A glimmer of hope for that perfect world          www.galegroup.com>.                                Adoption Congress Decree 1. (1999):
described by Manning was offered by adop-          Marketdata Enterprises, Inc. “Fertility              7-8.
tion reformer, Evelyn Burns Robinson, au-            Clinics & Adoption Services: an Industry
thor of Adoption and Loss-- the Hidden               Analysis.” Sep. 2000 <http://www.mkt-              Darlene Gerow is currently volunteer-
Grief, during her presentation at the 23rd           data-ent.com/fertilitytoc2.html>                   ing as editor of the CUB Communica-
Annual American Adoption Congress Con-             Pannor, Reuben. “Poverty Now Prime                   tor. Darlene reunited with her daughter,
ference in Anaheim, California in April 2001.        Consideration in Decision to Relin-                Kathryn, twenty years ago. She may be
Robinson said that many people simply ac-          quish.”                                              reached at CUBeditor@juno.com
cept adoption as a part of our culture, but          American Adoption Congress Decree

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