21 June 2009

The Case Against Adoption: Part 3: Alternatives to Adoption

As promised in my last post in this series, I am following it up with what I feel are sufficient alternatives to adoption.

Before I begin, I want to say I do get there are needs in our world to provide homes for children that are stable because a child has suffered abuse of all sorts, been orphaned, in some cases abandoned or for whatever other reason not mentioned, removed from their parents care. It saddens me to see and hear about these cases. Not because of the separation necessarily but because of what led to this separation. I feel in these cases, children have lost twice over. First, they have lost the normal relationship between a child and their parent. They have been hurt, abused or neglected. This has then become so bad they have then lost their family... but their whole family, not just their parents. Sometimes they are separated from siblings so they lose this relationship, the loss of grandparents they might have known. It is a huge tragedy and I grieve for these innocent little souls who have had to grow up so quickly; in such a cruel and hurtful way.

I acknowledge there are fabulous people in our world with an amazing capacity to love and nurture children who are not theirs biologically. I have had the privilege to meet a handful of these people and it is heart warming to know there are people like this in our world of pain, evil and greed. These are not the sort of people who need titles, recognition of being the only parents who matter etc. These are the people who know what love really and honestly means and will give without expecting in return.

These are the kind of people this world needs more of. These are the kind of people children like those I mentioned above need.

So what does this have to do with adoption? Over the past 11 years since I have been unwillingly submerged in the world of adoption where I have lived, breathed, tasted it every single day, I have learnt one major thing: Adoption is not, has never been and can never be, about love. Love for a child does not need a title. We can nurture without one. Love doesn’t need to eradicate a child’s past or dismiss a child’s heritage to care for a child. We can only truly love a child if we learn to accept and love a child’s family... with all their faults.

If adoption was non-existent, what could we place in its stead? How could we see children are given what they need? How could we see a child be kept in a stable environment? I don’t have complete answers but what I do have are ideas and alternatives that I believe could work, if we all bothered to step outside our cosy little boxes and saw past our adult needs and into the eyes of the child who needs us to be responsible, mature and there for THEM in THEIR time of need.


Guardianship

This already exists in today’s law. It is when a parent relinquishes custody but not parental rights and they still get varying amounts of contact and say in their child’s life. I am only going off what I know about guardianship in my country so if you want to know for sure the ins and outs in your own, contact a lawyer for more details.

This option I think needs to be changed a little. If I was to be a child’s guardian, I would want to make sure I did have custody and from what I understand currently, custody is always able to be challenged. I like this option because there is no guillotine to a child’s previous life and the parent gets a say in their child’s life. I would promote this option in cases where it would be possible for a child to return to their parents.

Foster Care

Currently this is an overworked system with not enough carers. There seems to be much competition between some carers and parents which I feel needs to be worked on. If a child is in care for any reason, where possible, parents and carers need to work together to do what is best for the child. This means taking special steps to recognise each situation is unique and not applying a generalised ‘solution’ i.e. one size fits all kind of mentality.,

Permanent Care
Out of all actual current legal alternatives to adoption, this one appears to be the best. Apparently it is also only available in Australia at this time but is a step in the right direction. It is for children who have been permanently removed from their parent’s care and there is no option for them to return due to mental health issues, abuse, neglect and other issues. From what I understand and I am not totally clear on this but the child is not adopted therefore does not have a new birth certificate issued and the order expires once the child reaches 18. This is a brilliant step in the right direction as it recognises children need permanency without the need to wipe out their past, name, identity and family of birth.

My Alternative
Personally, I would like to see the removal of all adoption agencies. Take the money making out of the equation. Profit should NEVER be made from a person’s pain and suffering and usually right from the start there are two people suffering: mother and baby. To make money off what is happening to them is cruel.

Women facing crisis pregnancies should be counselled about their options; and parenting should be their FIRST option, not the last as it is currently presented. If they are struggling, they need to be given support, ways to combat their struggles and not manipulators who want to benefit from their struggles. We sponsor children we don't know in other countries to be given basic needs (and in some cases they get those needs met in others the only way of knowing is by going to see for yourelf) so why can't we sponsor a mother and her child in our own country to stay together? A way for her to have a future?

If, right at the very end, once they had baby and are convinced they cannot parent then wider family is the first option before permanent care options are sought. Whilst permanent care orders are currently not voluntary from a parent’s perspective, in the small number of cases where a child is sadly unwanted, then there needs to be an option for a child to go to a family who wants to love a child without removing from them their past.

I think we need to start with the prevention of crisis pregnancies... more information in schools of how to protect themselves and what to do once it happens. There is still a huge stigma attached to teen pregnancies... I have seen it firsthand. There is an assumption that once you have a child, your life has ended. This needs to be changed and facts put in place to dispel the myths, even the cold hard facts. I am not talking about glamming-up single parenthood... but I don't feel demonising it helps either.

In stuations where a child goes into care, a child would be issued with only one birth certificate; the one with all their natural parents details. Names given at birth would be kept and only changed should the CHILD desire it. Where possible, visits would be set up according to each situation; and the parents would have a varying degree of input in the child’s life where it BENEFITS the CHILD. All paperwork issued would recognise the previous life and natural family of a child whist also giving recognition to the guardians and carers of the child.

At the end of the day though, I would like to see more people parenting; more families rallying together to support their family member in need. Any care options should be reserved for children who are in true dire need. We need to inform people; arm them with knowledge to help them live their lives in the best possible way without causing hurt in another's life. The world as a whole needs to embrace their fellow human being and instead of being in the wings waiting for them to trip up, step up and be actively supportive. We need to identify those who are in trouble early on, to help, wherever possible, prevent the issues that lead to foster and permanent care. I have noticed a trend of people saying they don't want to become involved so they sit back and do nothing. People appear to be content to watch their fellow human beings suffer instead. This needs to change. Heroes today are defined when people do normal human things like stepping in to assist rather than standing back. If normal reactions are so extraordinary today, it shows how far we have sunk as a human race.

Of course not all alternatives are fool proof and not all situations would work perfectly... but any system that is wide open, that is completely honest and built on a foundation completely dedicated to doing what is really best for the child has to be better than what we currently have in adoption. You just cannot have a bright prospect for an institution that is solely purpose built for an adults need when you are dealing with children and family separation. It can’t work. History shows us it hasn’t. And won’t.

So whilst some may think these alternatives are idealistic, simplistic etc, I have yet to see anyone else trying to put together an alternative. I have yet to see anyone put forward a new picture, a new idea to stop the pain and suffering that occurs every day an adoption takes place. Maybe my solutions are not the best... but at least I am willing to stick my neck out and try. I am not happy to sit with the status quo. It is said that all that is needed for evil to prosper in this world is for good people to stay silent. I will not be silent. And if all of us out there advocating for a better world, a happier place for our children and the children of tomorrow, then we would all be trying harder to come up with ideas. You can call me idealistic and unrealistic. But what can you offer? Anything?

From an early age, children have fascinated me. That is why I went into early childhood education. They are our future. And this is how we have thus far treated them... by ripping them from their families. Any wonder our world is so screwed up?


Useful links:

Permanent Care

More permanent care info


Foster Care in Australia

9 comments:

  1. Myst,
    I understand why you see infant adoption as being incredibly harmful and wrong. I agree with you. I also see lots of problems with the currently options available for children who are in need of alternative family care. As you describe Guardianship and perm care last only until the child is 18- the second family then ceases to have any legal relationship with the child- this can cause problems with such things as medical care, migration issues etc The child also does not have the option of a name change to recognise the relationship (and quite a few change their names as adults after having wanted the name change through childhood). Children who have been screwed around and abused before being placed in a new family often strongly desire to absolutely belong in their new family. But as you describe, adoption seversthe legal relationship between family and child and creates a legal fiction complete with new birth certificate- it's abominable. My view on what is needed is a recognition that a child can have more than one family relationship. A system where the adoptive family is recognised as having the daily care and responsibility for the child- including the option of name change- while simultaneously it is recognised that the child also belongs to the family of origin though they do not have responsibility for day to day care- they are still their family and there is no amended birth cert. I see it much like the situation with marriage- when we marry a new legal relationship is created, a new family unit is made- but you still belong to your family of origin.
    I know that many mothers whose children were stolen from them because someone wanted their babies for adoption hate the word adoption even. Maybe there is another word to describe what I am suggesting?

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  2. OOps, forgot to add my name. I am Dawn.

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  3. Hi Dawn,

    Thanks for your comment :)

    I think the fact a Perm care order ends once a child turns 18 isn't too much of a problem as they will still have their original birth certificate which is all that is needed for medical things and passport applications. Once a child turns 18 they don't need the signature of a guardian/parent anymore so I can't see how not having the order in place will cause any problems.

    Really, I don't think there needs to be a piece of paper to tie a family together. If the attachment is strong enough, a piece of paper will not make any difference.

    Once a child has lived in a family and if they feel like a part of that family then they will always have a relationship there. Name changes are already in place by this time and all they need is the paper that is issued with this name change. At this stage, anything is better than adoption. Adoption is all about recognising the adult in the relationship... all about what the adult wants.

    I don't just detest the word adoption. I hate and detest anything related to it...

    Myst

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  4. Hi Myst,
    The legal relationship ceasing at 18 is a problems for things like next of kin when it comes to things like medical treatment and also things like immigration. With quite a few people I have known who have been in permanent care it is a real issue for them that their family is not recognised as such legally once they are adults. It's not the piece of paper it's what the piece of paper means- there are some significant implications.
    I think it would be worth inviting some adults who grew up in foster care to give their view on this.
    I totally get why mums like yourself hate anything that's associated with adoption- as I said, maybe another word is needed? Do you see an inherent problem with a legal setup that allows lifelong recognition of an individual's belonging in two different families?
    Dawn

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  5. Hi Dawn,

    Just to let you know, I am not inviting people to have a debate on this topic. There are plenty of forums where one can debate it. This is not a forum but a blog and my views are that we don't need a piece of paper to tell us what family is or is not. End of story. Comments are welcome and encouraged even if they don't agree with my views but debates can get to a point where they get hung up on minor issues and other issues which are far more important get lost by the wayside.

    When one goes to the Drs or anywhere that asks for next of kin, you don't have to prove who they are, at least not in the places I have been which means you can put anyone's name down.

    I can see what you mean when it comes to things like switching off life support machines etc however and yes, there needs to be some recognition for carers... just not sure what exactly this could be.

    At the end of the day, family separation, when it occurs for any reason, is traumatic. My blog post was about what to have instead of ADOPTION; not to argue the finer points of permanent care. Nothing is ever going to be perfect as the perfect situation has already been lost; taken away when a child lost the oppotunity for whatever reason to live with their real family.

    So yes, compared to the harsh guillotine of adoption, Permanent Care is the best bet out of a traumatic situation.

    Myst

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  6. Hi Myst,
    That's fine. I only posted because I would also like to change things and you invited comment.
    Dawn

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  7. No worries Dawn... I was just a little concerned when you said we should invite other parties to the discussion and I don't want to unecessarily get into a heated debate... that was all I was trying to say, sorry if it came out too harshly. And yes, I did invite comments and thank you for yours :)

    Myst

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  8. Excellent post as always Dear Myst. You hit the nail on the head and have given me much food for thought. As you know our son is still not speaking with us, and while it causes me much pain, I am slowly getting to a place where each day feels a little less raw than the day before. We have sold our home and are moving on July 15, 10 days after Matt turns 20. I have told hubby that I am going to investigate how we can use our new home which has 2 more bedrooms than we need, and sadly our "expertise" as first parents, to help young women who find themselves in an unplanned pregnancy get the support they need to keep and raise their babies. I may not have my son in my life right now, and sadly there is little I can do about that. But I can do my part to ensure that 20 years from now some other mother and her son or daughter do not have to live with the pain that my family lives with today.

    Wish me luck,

    Luv and hugs,
    Denise

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  9. Oh wow Denise, that is a wonderful, fabulous idea! Any young and scared e-mom who comes across you will not know how lucky she is. I have been wanting to do this too since I lost Amber... I have grand ideas of a big house, like those maternity homes only ones where you walk out of them with your baby intact and armed with information on how you can make it work to have both your dreams and your child. I don't see how one has to rule out the other.

    I hope through the next months or sadly, years, Matt will come to see how wrong he has been and will see your love for him in what you do for others... and he will eventually return home. We have to keep hoping and praying; even in our darkest moments.

    Big hugs,
    Myst xxx

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