The National Council for Adoption:MOTHERS, MONEY, MARKETING, & MADNESS

Copyright for this post goes to Claud at Musings of the Lame. Reprinted with her permission.

The National Council for Adoption: MOTHERS, MONEY, MARKETING, & MADNESS

The National Council for Adoption usually has something to say about any adoption issue. One would think they should just based on their name. After all “National Council” makes it sound as if an official governmental appointment was made. That they are the official US stance, made after long thought out meetings by a Council, on all things related to adoption. Alas, that is just a well thought out play on the name made to make one think that is what they are.

By their own Mission Statement, they are something else:

“Founded in 1980, the National Council for Adoption (NCFA) is a research, education, and advocacy organization whose mission is to promote the well-being of children, birthparents, and adoptive families by advocating for the positive option of adoption. NCFA is an adoption advocate and expert in the halls of power and the courts of public opinion, on behalf of all parties to adoption and its member adoption agencies around the country.”

It’s very clear, as noted in the bolded emphasis, that their self appointed job is to promote adoption and that promotion is benefitting the adoption agencies. They are a lobby group, pure and simple, bought and paid for to use their power and resources to sway the public in such a way that adoption is seen as positive.
How they do such things is no mystery.

Their 2005 IRS form #990 states clearly that they have the resources. Their total gross receipts for that year were $2,920,818.00. That’s almost 3 million dollars. Just for reference, if we compare similar adoption groups there is quite a difference in funding. The Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute is the next biggest competitor as an Adoption information and research group coming in at $671,296. The American Adoption Congress filed their 990 for $39,338.00 as income. Bastard Nation declared $2,872.00 and Concerned United Birthparents has 10 chapters listed with none of them having an income greater enough to be eligible for filing status. With the exception of the EBD, none of the other adoption groups have compensated employees relying instead on all volunteer activities. Simple math computes that the NCFA operates at a greater budget than all their opposition combined.

It makes sense to wonder were their money comes from.

Just over 1 million of the NCFA funding comes from “public support”. This does not including another 50 plus thousand that comes from membership dues. Once again, the National Council for Adoption members consists of non-profit adoption agencies. The Gladney Centers for Adoption and Bethany Christian Services are all members. While both are, indeed, non–profit, one only has to look at their IRS 990’s to see where the money is rolling in. The Gladney Centers in Texas have one main “hospital” group and two other big “funds”. Combined there is over 39 million dollars declared as assets and another $12,154,675.00 claimed as income after expenses. That’s over 50 million dollars.

Bethany Christian Services breaks out to three main states; North Carolina, Iowa, and Michigan with a combined income of $ 3,098,830.00 and assets of $ 1,236,37. While Bethany is not quite as hard to stomach as Gladney in terms of excessive figures, seeing these huge “non-profit” numbers makes it easier to comprehend how American adoption services is over a 3 billion dollar a year industry. It behooves the agencies to fund a lobby group that promotes their needs, causes public opinion to be swayed in their favor and facilitates an environment beneficial for their bottom line by promoting adoption.

The NCFA is also privately funded by various moral majority groups such as the Family Research Council who “champions marriage and family as the foundation of civilization, the seedbed of virtue, and the wellspring of society…. values human life and upholds the institutions of marriage and the family”. Pro-life organizations and the LDS church also support the NCFA viewpoints as they all mesh together in some absurd God fearing way.

However, the greatest portion of the NCFA’s funding is received from “government contributions/grants”. In 2005 that figure topped out at $ 1,615,588.00, but historically, 2005 was not one of their very best years:

2004: $ 5,331.093   2003: $ 8,323,973 2002: $ 4,497,484  2001: $ 1,091,555

And that total is over 20 million dollars from government grants. Tax levees collected from US citizens from the federal government and awarded to an adoption agency lobby group so that they can tell us what to think and fell about adoption. Over half their operating budget received from our tax money, but they still promote what favors the other half of their funding, the agencies.

So what do they actually do with all that money??

They have to pay their hard working staff. President and head honcho, Thomas Atwood, is a very busy man. He must keep up with EBD’s Adam Pertman, battling him head for head on NPR and in print. Dumpster diving to save babies pays well for Atwood makes a pretty penny defending the poor, scared, surrendering mothers from their annoying adoptee spawn. He worked 60 hours a week for the $150,104.00 he brought home in 2005. His benefit package seems pretty substantial at $26,046. He receives health, dental and life insurance, plus a pension plan. Interestingly enough, his pay is broken down into compensation, management, and fundraising. I do wonder if he doesn’t get a percentage of what he brings in out of fundraising. None of the other board members get paid though there are other paid employees at the NCFA. Not counting Mr. Atwood, the NCFA claims $754,122.00 in other salaries and wages.

We do have the income of some key players to account for: Daniel Resse, the Development Director gets $115K plus another15K in benefits. Lee Allen who serves as the Communication Director makes $91K plus another 16 in benefits and perks. And at last, the hard working Training Director, Charles Johnson, rakes in 88K plus 13 putting together all the national training opportunities to convince folks that adoption is swell. They do not get reimbursed for travel and other expenses but the agency pays out directly those $237,485.00in expenses.

Their other expenses are not so huge really consider that they have employees, buildings, an apartment, etc. Boring expected things like supplies, the phone, over 60K in postage, conferences, etc. are included as operating expenses. Oddly enough, nothing at all under legal fees and only $332.00spent in advertising. Likewise, only $1,088 in income tax, but I guess the whole “non-profit” status fits in there.

Being a lobby group it makes sense to see what the NCFA invests in their legislative efforts.  In their own words they “provides strategic policy briefs, expert testimony at legislative hearings, personalized briefings on adoption issues, conferences, grassroots leadership, and monitoring and reporting on adoption-related legislative activities. Policy makers in all levels and branches of government, look to NCFA for leadership and analysis of adoption policy issues.” 

Here we can see the numbers over several years:
2005:$297,611  2004: $405,814  2003: $613,703  2002: $400,234.

Adding up the four year total results in $1,717,362.00 spent on convincing our elected officials, with our tax monies that: Americans need to recognize Adoption as a loving option, more people need to be able to afford to adopt, privacy is desired and mothers need to be protected from bad fathers who might force them to parent unwanted children

They spent their lobby money wisely as the NCFA did convince the government to sponsor the Infant Adoption Awareness Initiative. All together the first federal grant was 8.6 million given to four agencies with the lion’s share of 6.1 million going to the NCFA over a four year period.

Growing out of legislation by the U.S. Congress in 2000, the primary purpose of the program was to train pregnancy and health counselors in federally funded clinics to present adoption as an option to women with unplanned pregnancies. It has since expanded to target and include anyone who might ever come in contact with anyone experiencing an unplanned pregnancy in order to present adoption as a positive option. Parenting is not on their agenda.

In more than 1,700 training days since 2002, NCFA’s IAATP has trained more than 17,000 individuals from all 50 states. They offer two and one day trainings with lodging and a meal stipend provided to all participants. The trainings continue in 2007 as the NCFA is pleased to be designated as the Infant Adoption Training Initiative Grantee for Health Region 3. In 2005, the Infant Adoption Awareness Training claims expenses of $1,657,620.00. The IAATP education is separate from other services and their expenses and looks to operate as a fiscally positive venture for the NCFA as well as its members.

Aside from the IAATP, the NCFA brings in an additional $162,175 from their “educational publications” that people and professionals must buy. They operate at a loss there as they claim $240,022 for printing these gems. Separate from that is the very similar sounding “member services” for the public at $147,687.00 in expenses and the education for agencies, charities, and more public at $204,039.00. Bottom line is that the NCFA spends lots of money telling Americans how adoption is a positive option.

Where did they get that idea?

Since the NCFA was created in order to advocate for the positive attributes of adoption, it stands to reason that a negative feeling regarding adoption had to be the predecessor. Listed in their 2005 expense category is their ‘research’ costs of $239,932.00 and the NCFA has a long history of conducting research on what makes mothers think warm and fuzzy thoughts about adoption. They do it often in cahoots with their pals, The Family Research Council, who gets credited for publishing the “The Missing Piece”.

Back in 2000, the Missing Piece found that adoption was associated as a painful sacrifice that no mother should be asked to make. Adoption was thought to be “a lie, abandonment, harmful, deceptive, and painful” They then put their heads together to try to figure out how to make mothers view adoption differently so they would look into the “loving option” and the IAATP was born.

This time around the NCFA went more achedemic, hiring CharlesT Kenny, PhD to author their newest publication. They needed “new understandings into the dynamics of birthmothers’ decisions that will facilitate better presentation of the adoption option in pregnancy counseling and through the media.” Dr. Kenny who just happens to be, president of The Right Brain People., had just the way to conduct this important research.

“Right Brain Research is an in-depth, one-on-one methodology that includes the use of visualization, relaxation and repetition to uncover the subconscious emotional motivators that are not apparent …….The Right Brain People’s methodology uncovers emotional needs and emotional barriers that drive consumer decisions in the marketplace. The nature of consumers’ emotional reactions are uncovered, rather than sampling their surface opinions. Right Brain Strategy Development works hand in hand with Right Brain Research to assist clients in translating the findings from the research into dynamic brand strategy plans. The unprecedented synergy between research and strategy development has allowed the firm’s clients to leverage their brands as never before…”

Using Mothers who had previously surrendered as guinea pigs, the Right Brain folks advertised for mothers to come forth for this research from Texas and Chicago areas. They paid 51 mothers $100 each. Mothers did not know what they were being question for or who the final “client” was. They report being blindfolded the whole time, making them relive the trauma of their experiences so that the researchers could “take an inside look at the psychological pressures that come to bear when a women decides how to address the painful question of abortion, adoption or motherhood….and understand more about how the counseling process can affect women’s choices as they decide their futures."

The results of this research became the grand NCFA publication, “Birthmother, GoodMother: The Heroic Story of her Redemption” The findings conclude that:

“After working through their fears and conflicts, birthmothers choose adoption because they believe that it is best for their children. They realize that adoption is not abandonment; it is a loving, responsible act. By choosing what is best for their children, birthmothers see themselves as good mothers. Instead of feeling like bad mothers for abandoning children or "giving them away," they now begin to see that placing their children with loving couples is what it means for them to be good mothers. They redeem themselves, transforming their mistakes into positive outcomes. Adoption allows them to recover their self-esteem, restore their identity, and renew their dreams and goals.”

This can be seen as a total polar opposite of the way mothers had been viewed and treated in the country. In the past, mothers were shamed into surrendering their children if born out of wedlock and given no choice at all.

"Illegitimacy is taboo in our society. A child born out of wedlock carries a stigma for life, while his unwed mother is often treated as a social outcast – an irresponsible, sexual delinquent who must be forced into seclusion as punishment for her flagrant violation of our most sacred principles."

Forced by their own families into maternity homes, ostracized by society, denied employment and a place to live, mothers signed away their children because they were “bad girls”. There was no redemption, just secrecy and false stories “moving on” and “getting over it”.

As society changed and it became impossible to openly treat women in such ways, the adoption industry had to find another way to keep fresh babies in the coffers. No longer could they be forced nor shamed into it, mothers had to be convinced that surrendering a child to adoption was a good idea. That becoming a birthmother meant being a “Good mother”. What has been embraced by the adoption industry is the concept of “owning“ the decision to surrender. Adoption, if viewed as a choice even if there is lack of other viable options, becomes completely the mothers’ responsibility. “Creating an Adoption plan” is said to be “empowering”.

" We actually influence [her] choices because by our questions, by the considerations we place before [her], by our examination together with [her] of [her] feelings and impulses and their relation, implicit or explicit, to social expectations, we attempt to affect [her] decision to act in ways that are compatible with society’s standards and values… [Her] choice… may well be affected by the caseworker’s holding [her] to careful considerations of [her] immediate drives and wishes in relation to social expectations and the adjustment [she] seeks, which is adjustment in [her] society. Perhaps this pervasive influence of the ‘social’ consideration has marked our major difference from other forms of helping or therapy."

In the end, it is portrayed that adoption professionals are only asking the “hard questions’ that need to be asked and asking for all to “support” the mother as she makes her decision. In this way, if adoption does turn out to be a negative or regretful situation, the mother has no one but herself to blame.

The IAATP is a training course instructing professionals on how to do this effectively. Adoption professionals are encouraged to “develop techniques” to clarify concerns that arise in a crisis pregnancy such as what their long term goals are, imagining life as a single mother, examining their current support structure, having them imagine how life would be with a six week old, never sleeping, colicky baby and homework, how they might feel knowing their baby had a loving caring, two parent home, etc.

Apparently learning to adequately council a mother with theses questions “Helps clients gain insight into their own beliefs and needs, and helps counselors assist their clients to act wisely in preparing for the birth of their babies”. It also seems to that having less than perfect answers would sway a mother to think that her baby would be “better” if “loving placed” within the traditional “God-ordained institutions of marriage and family” . That all falls right within the doctrine of the Family Research Council, the NCFA, various Pro –life and rightwing group agendas.

To recap: An Adoption Agency lobby group uses federal grant money to hire a research and marketing firm to probe into the minds of mothers developing a “birthmother brand development” to sell to the “consumers’ in order to promote a more positive public perception of adoption so that more mothers will “make the loving choice” to be separated from their babies fulfilling the needs to the clients, the agencies.

Who follows to these recommendations?

How does this translate into influencing agencies and the like? After all, they claim over 17,000 professionals who might come in contact with mothers facing an unplanned pregnancy have received the training instructing mothers that adoption is not painful, not a lie, not harmful, not abandonment and not deceitful. One only has to go to almost any agency website and see what they are saying.

From American Adoptions: 

Placing a baby for adoption, rather than ending a life, is an extraordinary expression of selflessness, requiring a complex decision-making ability concluding adoption to be a win-win-win choice. Women who choose adoption not only choose to give the miracle of life to a new human being, but also to give the gift of parenthood to families who want nothing more in the world.
When faced with great adversity, birth mothers show great courage and understanding. Out of nothing more than pure love for their baby, birth mothers choose adoption – giving not only their babies a life full of love, but parents a baby to cherish. Just as they cherish their new baby, adoptive parents will also cherish the birth mother for not choosing to "give up" on her baby.
Rather than "giving up" their babies, birth mothers do quite the opposite – they place their babies into the arms of an eternally grateful, loving family that will spend their days doing nothing more than cherishing the gift that birth mother gave them.

From Courageous Choice:

Pregnant and considering adoption?  Only very courageous and unselfish women choose adoption. The tough choices ahead are yours to make but we are here to help guide you throughout this process with love and friendship. We’re to assist you not only with your adoption plan, but also with your overall life situation. Our hope is that your experience will be one of learning, growth, giving, and perhaps a “fresh start.”

From Bethany Christian Services:

Facing an Unexpected Pregnancy with Courage
Birthparents who care would never consider adoption.
You may think that if you consider adoption for your child, you are a cold, uncaring, selfish person. Maybe you’re afraid others will think you don’t love your child. In fact, women who make adoption plans for their children are among the most courageous, for they put their child’s needs first. Your pregnancy counselor can arrange for you to speak with birthparents who have already placed a child for adoption and struggled with this issue. You will see how much they love their child. Allowing your child to be born is a loving choice. Choosing to place your child with a family that can provide a stable, loving home is an act of love and sacrifice, not an act of abandonment.

From Gladney Canter for Adoption:

Adoption is the loving act of biological parents (birth parents) who choose a family to nurture and care for their child. When considering adoption, you’re thinking about your child and what’s best for his or her life. Adoption finds forever homes for children, homes where emotional and financial support create a stable, lifelong future for your child. Adoption is not about giving away your baby. Adoption’s about making a plan for your child’s life. Adoptive parents often tell their children, even as babies, of the tremendous love their birth parents have for them. Adopted children grow up with a great deal of respect and a very special love and appreciation for their birth parents.

It is very clear that a great number of agencies and professionals have taken these techniques and recommendations to heart when providing information to mothers considering adoption. With the assistance of the NCFA, the Infant Adoption Awareness Training Program and research such as “<Birthmother, GoodMother: the Heroic Story of her Redemption”, the tools are clearly in place to coax mothers into believing that adoption is not only positive, but often best. It would not be such a terrible thing if these facts were as true as they were portrayed, but they are not.

What they ignored:

Other scientific research has also been conducted since the beginning of adoption practices and the various findings contradict what the NCFA and agencies falsely advertise.
A study published in 1999 taking in all previously published scientific studies, concluded that:

“The relinquishing mother is at risk for long term physical psychological and social repercussions. Although interventions have been proposed, little is known about their effectiveness in preventing or alleviating these repercussions”

In fact, without question, every study, the historical evidence, the anecdotal evidence, and statistics all point out, to various degrees, that mothers who relinquish are significantly altered by the surrender experience and not in positive nor redeeming ways. While “counseling” is often seen as a way to mitigate negative feelings, reassuring an exiled mother over and over again that her decision was “right” and “best”, it frequently does little but create more internal conflicts as the proposed logic of the surrender’s validity is juxtaposed with her natural maternal yearnings. Of course, none of this information is ever included when the educational information released by an agency that profits financially though the surrender. The NCFA didn’t tell them too. The real scientific evidence might be seen as “negative” and goes against the mission of “promoting a positive” feeling for adoption.

It is frequently proposed that as society and our views of adoption have evolved to an accretive and positive way, then the negative feelings of more current relinquishing mothers will also be on a decline. The Origins-USA 2007 study Mothers’ Voices, Surrender Experiences and Long-Term Effects, concludes that while the approach and methodology of adoption has changed, the internal feelings, the life long grief and the natural feelings of mothers has not changed over almost a 50 year period. It seems that the internal make up of mothers does not permanently and drastically change over time just because everyone tells her it is a good thing. Unfortunately, it does however seem, that the teachings of the NCFA do have a temporary effect.

OMG! What have I done?

The perverse marketing of positive family separation has infiltrated not only adoption professionals, but the media and general public alike. With “goodmother” and promises of continued contact via open adoption, the numbers of infants “voluntarily” relinquished has stood firm somewhere under 15,000 a year despite legal abortion, advances in birth control, acceptance of single parenting etc. By glorifying and “honoring” the good mothers, something might have back fired on the NCFA. Previously, mothers who surrendered were expected to slink back with their secrets into normal life, but now, they are taught to be proud and wear their birth mother status as a red badge of courage. As mothers talk to other mothers and share the experiences, they realize that they are not alone in their natural feelings of grief and loss. As younger mothers talk to older mothers they see their own future ahead where time will not heal this wound. The true information that contradicts the NCFA message is easier to come by.

For what ever the reason, mothers are finding out sooner, rather than later, that living through adoption is not all it was portrayed to be. No longer does it take 40 years until an adult adoptee reunites, or even 18 until they are of age for the message to come home. Not even a few years into a continuously painful open adoption, or the birth of the second, parented child, that allows a mother to see what she has lost is needed. For those who bother to notice, the cries of pain and despair are happening very soon after surrender. One mother who runs a support board just recently agreed:

“I have noticed a change in the air lately. You are totally right. I’ve had so many Moms come here as soon as they place regretting their decision. I wish we could get to more before they sign the papers.”

and then, it is too late.

Perhaps, the NCFA’s systematic and over saturated teachings are being given to women who would not have, in earlier years, been as vulnerable to the “adoption option”. Perhaps the market is so desperate for infants and the high profits that an infant relinquishment brings to an adoption business those women are subjected to this “goodmother” scrutiny when previously they would not be even seen on an agencies radar. Perhaps the professionals have polished their skills to such perfection that mothers are truly not “choosing” but getting convinced, brainwashed even, into giving away their babies.

It actually has to be expected. The bottom line is that the National Council for Adoption wants mothers to be separated from their children. Their very existence was conceived to make family separation seem like a good idea and teach others in the field the same positive view. The NCFA does this to protect their members’ interests. Their members are adoption agencies. Adoption agencies make billions of dollars in profits from family separation. They need babies to continue business.
Millions of dollars given and spent to convince the public and mothers that giving your baby away is a good thing. And for what reason?

Follow the money. Babies are the products to be sold and then be grateful. Mothers are a market to be exploited in the guise of redemption for a false sin of sex and fertility. Hopeful adoptive parents are the clients willing to shell out thousands to make their dreams come true. Agencies are the brokers, trading products to the next highest bidders and the National Council for Adoption paints the public picture of the whole thing, blows smoke, and tells everyone how good it all feels.

3 Thoughts.

  1. An amazing job!
    A tremendous informative reality. And all you gals & guys are doing justice for all the new generations of natural mothers.
    The power of being knowledgeable to a subject that was the hidden secret for so many painful years.

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