White Flag Realities

“We cannot, we will not, choose the path of surrender” – Woodrow Wilson

“Hello, Janie, come in.  Sit down. You and that baby should be comfortable.  Do you want to put your feet up?”

Janie  smiles a weak smile, hiding it behind long bangs. She takes the seat offered but declines the need to put her feet up.

“I understand you are considering surrendering your child to adoption? Is that correct?”

Janie nods.

“Alright then. Why don’t we get started?  There are a few things I would like you to consider before you surrender your child.

Your child’s adoptive parents may divorce. Divorce rates in the United States indicate that a marriage today has a 50/50 chance of ending in divorce.  Marriages that have been strained by infertility sometimes have a greater chance of divorce IF the couple has not worked through the infertility issues and of course, if infertility was even a reason for their adoption.  Not all couples adopt due to infertility. Just keep in mind that if you are surrendering your child due to your single motherhood status, there is NO guarantee your child wont end up being raised by a single mother.  Additionally, more and more agencies are placing children with single adoptive mothers. Unless you meet your child’s adoptive parents, you have no way of knowing.

Adoptive parents are permitted by law, to give back, abandon your child for any reason. They can state the child was not a good fit, did not eat the foods they wanted the child to eat, whatever they desire. This can be done immediately (often called a disrupted adoption) or many years after your child has been with the adoptive family.  Important to note the child will NOT be given back to you. No matter your child’s age, if the adoptive parent changes their mind about the quality of your child, the state, the agency, or other will take your child. You will never be told.

Now, this might make you think you can change your mind.  While many states offer revocation periods, few truly honor it. If you surrender your child and within a month or sooner decide you made a mistake, you should be prepared for a possible long legal battle. Legal battles are often drawn out for years so that the agencies and adoptive parents can then claim the child is better off staying with the adoptive parents. Do you understand that? Adoptive parents can change their mind but you cannot – at least not without a good arsenal of attorneys, money, time and the reality that in the end your child may still stay with those that adopted him or her.

If your child dies, of natural or unnatural causes, you will never be told. You may spend your entire life waiting for reunion but will have no way of knowing your child died years prior. Passive adoption registries will offer no hope to you as your child must be alive to register. Yes, I know that is a horrible thought, that your child may die but it does happen. No only do they die of natural causes like disease but are often killed in accidents or even murdered by their adoptive parents.

On the subject of diseases, keep in mind that due to closed records, if health problems occur for you or your child, there will be no way for you to notify each other. If your child needs an organ, and you are able to provide it, chances are they would never contact you.  Medical history is terribly important and it changes daily. The history you provide to the agency today may be very different in ten years. Can you trust your agency to provide those updates to your child’s family? Will the family even want to receive them?

Adoptive parents, just like biological parents, also abuse and molest children. If you are surrendering your child due to abuse in your family or your life, you should know that surrendering them to adoption does not prevent that from happening to them. Adoptive parents abuse and molest just like natural families do.

Your child may not behave (due to being genetically different) as adoptive parents want them too. They may have different temperaments, tolerances, talents, thresholds for pain.  Your child, when misbehaving, may be told by the adoptive parents that they will be given back.  We are not exactly sure where adoptive parents who threaten this believe they are going to give them back to but as you saw above, this is allowable.  This is important for you to note as many adopted children suffer with serious abandonment issues due to being placed for adoption.  Being later threatened by their adoptive parents to be abandoned again reopens a primal wound that began bleeding usually three days after they were born.

Your child may never understand how you could given them away. No matter what financial, legal, emotional challenges you are under today, it may never negate your child’s feeling that their mother abandoned them and threw them away like yesterdays newspaper.  They may demonize you, even hate you. If they were indeed abused by their adoptive parents, they may find that to be your fault as you put them there (or so they think). Many adopted adults have no conscious desire to know their mothers. Most children that feel this way believe their was something wrong with them versus something being wrong with the world they were born into. I note this because if you choose to search for your child, your child may not want to be found. Alternatively, they may be so blinded by the pain and trauma of losing you, they are not strong enough to let you into their life.

On the topic of emotional strength, it is very important for you to know that many adoptees suffer from serious emotional disturbances as a result of being separated from their mother.  These disturbances are often labeled bipolar, borderline personality disorder, manic depression and other.  Sometimes those labels can be true but in many cases they are not. Many times a child is suffering from the unrecognized or incorrectly treated trauma of losing their mother.  Many adoptees are put on strong, mind altering drugs that permanently damage their organs.

The family that is adopting your child may be extremely wealthy. Their family values may be vastly different from yours. You may want your child to grow up with a mother who bakes cookies and tends flower gardens around the white picket fence. However, it is possible he will be adopted by incredibly wealthy individuals who believe in sending children off to boarding school and retrieving them once a year around the holidays for the yearly photo op.  They may also feel they are being treated like an nice accessory, similar to a Luis Vuitton bag.

Conversely, it is also possible; the family that adopts your child will be poor. Maybe even less well off than you.  There are families who live in two room apartments in major cities that adopt.  My point is, be very careful what you fantasize about.  That may not be what your child ends up with.  The only way to truly know who is parenting your child and under what conditions is for you to do it yourself.

If you are surrendering your child with the expectation that it will be confidential and no one will ever know, you should know that there is no such legislation that guarantees you confidentiality. Additionally, open records movements are making great strides in insuring all adopted children and adults have access to their information. I encourage you to review the open records movement data and understand why it is so vitally important to adopted adults to have access to their information.

Of course, open records assumes your child knows they are adopted.  Many children are not told. Still others are told very late in life and it is very disturbing to them. Again, keep in mind the power over your child’s mind rests with the adoptive parents. If they want the child to know they are adopted, they will tell them. If they don’t want to, they won’t. You have no control over that.

Janie, are you okay? You look a little confused.  Should we take a break? Do you need some water?  We still have material to cover… specifically what might happen to you after you experience the loss of your child to adoption. Yes? Okay. Why don’t we break for now…”

20 Thoughts.

  1. Just how many children would be placed if this were the norm? Not too many, and definitely NOT my son to be sure!! As always, I am left saying…if only!!!

  2. Suz this is a very USEFUL post. I love useful. Simple practical guide for counseling any mother considering adoption. I wish there was a scene in Juno where this was used.

  3. I’m a little scared to post that I work in an adoption preservation unit as a social worker…but I faithfully read your blog and this post is SO SO SO true. They are words that need to be spoken. Thank you for your strength

  4. As an adoptive mom, I hope you don’t mind me respectfully saying that — while I understand the sentiment behind this post — I believe that much of this information is outdated. In this new era of open adoption, the chances that a first mother will not be told anything about her child after placement is a rarity. (And yes, I understand that most open adoption agreements are not legally binding — and that some families unfortunately do cut off contact — but I believe that most adoptive parents now believe in the importance of maintaining contact with first families, and do everything in their power to keep up these relationships for the benefit of their children and their childrens’ first families.)
    Your points about divorce and rich/poor adoptive parents are certainly well taken — but I know a lot of adoptive parents, and feel that all of them are genuine, caring, people who would never send their long-awaited children off to boarding school or threaten them with being “sent back.” I’m not saying these things never happen, but I genuinely believe them to be rarities. Yes, divorce certainly happens among adoptive parents — and I certainly understand how devastating that fact could be to a first mother.
    I am also concerned that you imply that revocation periods for adoption placement are not respected — I have found the reverse to be true. In general, I have seen that legal battles only happen after the hearing which terminates a birth parent’s rights, which is after the revocation period. (Although that time period certainly varies dramatically from state to state, and that is not a good thing.)
    And yes, I do understand that adoptees frequently experience trauma and psychological problems associated with the fact of their adoption. As adoptive parents, we can only work to make a child feel as loved and secure as possible, to not be threatened by these understandable feelings, and to help them through these issues as they occur.
    I understand the main point of this post is that most potential birth parents are not adequately counseled in the potentially negative aspects of adoption — and I agree with you! However, I must gently disagree with your overall approach.

    • To Jenny, Suz may have lost her child many years ago, but it hasn’t changed. You are correct to point out “open” adoptions hold no more legal rights for natural parents, and therefore the withholding of such said information still stands in effect; I know this from recent experience. You are choosing to ignore the reality and remain naive about the truths that are withheld from pregnant girls.

      To Mary, there are agencies who pride themselves on being the “one stop shop” so to speak. But it’s skewed. They provide graphic, horrific information on abortion, and happy-go-lucky information on adoption, while mentioning government and community assistance but never actually providing facts.

      To Suz, beautifully written as usual. “Talk about what might happen to you after you experience the loss of your child to adoption…” but how could they? No words express that emptiness.

    • Why all the thumbs down? I’m a first mother so it’s not about being on anyone’s side, but this poster was being sincere and honest. She made good points. She was being respectful.

    • Ahhhhhh, Jenny……. not sure if you’ve been paying attention, but everything that Suz posted here is EXACTLY what needs to be presenting in the EXACT same fashion. It is COLD, HARD TRUTH. These points are NEVER brought up to mothers considering being separated from their children. I disagree with you. I am living my only regret of my life – losing my son to adoption unnecessarily. If THIS would have been presented to me – in any fashion, my son would never have left my side. My daughter and my significant other would never know the anguish, ache and feeling of being thrown away like trash and cut off from a member of our family that I entrusted them to raise, only of course under the guise of ‘open adoption’. Open adoption is a lure for the adoption industry professionals to use as a ‘best case scenario’. But, as you stated, there is nothing that the natural family (including the adopted child who cannot speak for him/herself) can do about being cut off. You think this is far and few between. Send me a message and I’ll connect you with more women that this has happened to than you will be able to count.

      Suz, keep on posting the TRUTH and REALITY of adoption!!!

  5. Jenny – My approach? I assume you refer to my creative writing, for that it what it is. Interesting how you made it into an “approach”. Feel free to gently disagree. I am quite accustomed to adoptive parents having difficulty admitting there are negative aspects of adoption.

  6. Suz,
    You and I have spoken and you know that while I see your point of view, I think you also know that I see more potential for good. But here is my ideal view…..
    It should be a one stop shop for moms who need help. All in one office there should be information on adoption, abortion and assistance that the mom would be eligible for. In addition to general info there should be someone to talk to one each side of the issues. Someone who has relinquished a child and been upset by it as well as someone who has relinquished and feels comfortable with that decision. An adult who was adopted as an infant and feels comfortable with their life and happy as well as someone who was adopted as an infant and has a hard time with that fact. Someone who has had an abortion and is content and someone who has had an abortion and has regrets about it. Also, someone who has kept their baby and feels that was the right choice and someone who feels that their life has been significantly harder and thinks about that a different choice may have been better.
    How this would be funded I have no idea? How we could manage to make sure that the workers in each department (not the experienced people but the information workers) would be non-biased, I have no idea! However, I think that if we could accomplish this, then everyone could walk away at least feeling they made an educated choice. Some people would inevitably still have regrets, life changes and you feel differently later, but at least you would know you made an educated choice and you were not tricked or misrepresented.
    Anyway, just a thought I haven’t been able to get out of my head since I read this.

  7. If prospective relinquishing moms were given this information, heard this as you have written it, which is the truth, despite variations and updates (as a-mom says), domestic relinquishment would come to a halt, And YES to that. As for international, it will thrive as long as other countries continue to shame their unwed moms, children are relegated to orphanages, and there is a profit to be made. We can’t protect them all, but we can start right here.

  8. A wonderful post, and really how long would it take to tell a woman these things?
    My son was one of the boarding school statistics – rare indeed!

    • And my daughter was one of the ‘divorce and raised by a single mom’ as well as ‘raised for right years by a pedofile father’ statistics. Rare indeed is right!

  9. Oh, goodness. We can only hope that one day this information will be outdated. Can’t tell you how many homestudies I typed when I worked for a well-known agency, wherein the “parenting” plan (made by exceedingly high-income couples) was to place the infant into full-time daycare at six weeks. (The minimum time allowed at that time by the agency.) That fun fact, along with others, prompted my leaving said job.

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