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Thursday, July 18, 2013

When Love Is A Foreign Concept : A Book Review part 2

This is part 2 of a series of reviews that I will write as I go through the book "The Child Catchers" by Katheryn Joyce.  Part one is here.  And please read Katie's comment in the comments section of part one.  She gave a heartfelt view from the realities of Haiti.

Somebody asked me why I was reading it.  I am reading it because I want to see all points of view, and hear what she has to say. 
We are not perfect people, none of us are.  And if her book reveals areas that need improvement,  then truth be told, we need to take it to heart.  Truth is truth, no matter who the messenger is.

With that said, I was less than thrilled with the first 3 chapters painting such an odd spin on Christians who are involved in adoption.  I felt words were twisted to mean something different than intended.  And this can be a problem within the church. We need to be careful to use speech that is familiar to many and not rely "Christianeese" type speech. It can be grossly misunderstood.

So, lets move on to part 2.  I am in chapter 3 now.
In Chapter 3, it starts of with God's sovereignty and suffering.  Ms. Joyce does not understand how a family can say that an adoption was meant to be, or God had chosen a particular child for a particular family.  For somebody to look into a community of people who believe that God directed their very steps, which includes me.... looking at it from the outside, outside of faith, it probably does look weird.   So, we'll go with being weird. :)

The next part of chapter 3 mentions a young lady in the states who became pregnant as a teenager. Her parents wanted nothing to do with her being pregnant and she was sent to a ministry that works with unwed mothers. 
I have a real heart for this situation, and I think we need to look closely at the programs we support.
I love Crisis Pregnancy Center's ministry to mother's and children, and Catholic Charities ministries to unwed, poor mothers, married mothers and children. 
On one hand, if a mother goes to Planned Parenthood, they are going to encourage abortion.  "You don't want to have a baby, it will mess up your life, your plans for an education, your future."
If you go to Crisis Pregnancy Center, they may say, "Don't have an abortion!  You have a life inside of you!  If you don't want the baby, you can plan for the baby to be raised by adoptive parents."
OR.... they can say, "We will help you if you DO want to keep your baby.  We will help you develop a plan."

I think some ministries have it right.  If you want to keep your baby... we'll help you.  If you don't we'll help you in adoption.
The problem comes with coercion.  Putting pressure on a  mother to relinquish her child for the benefit of the child can be short sighted;  but not always, especially if the mother is an addict or has other major issues that would prevent her from caring for a child, or would put the child in danger.
The young lady mentioned in the book seems to fit into the first category.  Pressured.

But wait.... Before I can say the ministry that pressured her was wrong, and I think there is responsibility there..... the first wrongs came long before them.  There was a breakdown in her family.
I'll skip the part about not getting pregnant... that already happened.  But where is the relationship of the parents with their daughter.  Nobody wants their daughter to get pregnant outside of marriage, but if it does happen, the problem is not the baby!  Babies are always a blessing, even unplanned ones!
Why are grand parents not willing to help establish stability so the baby CAN have his mother care for him?
THERE is the biggest issue I see. 
I have seen it work well!  I have also seen things not work well.  I have seen the heartache and disaster that happens when somebody feels coerced.  It isn't something you just "get over." 

The book went on to describe some pretty bizarre behaviors from this woman who felt coerced to give her son to another family to raise, and it seemed to me that she crossed the line from self pity to down right selfishness, certainly not thinking of her son at all! 
She was only thinking about what he would think of her!
I can see why the family took out a restraining order.   They were concerned for the welfare of their son.

Laws need to be respected and taken seriously.  We live in a country where trying to get around the law when you decide you don't like it, is becoming more common place.  And scenarios just like this one are why many people seek to adopt outside of the United States!

God's laws are perfect. There is a reason that we are not to have sexual relations before marriage.
I can't help but think that out of wedlock pregnancy was not in His plan for good reason.... the children.
BUT.... we do not live in a perfect world.  We live in a very flawed world.  Christians sin just as well as non Christians. We all do wrong.  Agencies who intend good, can have flawed practices and I think Ms. Joyce is bringing that to the forefront of conversation. 
That is a good thing.  

Chapter 3 goes on to talk about Adoption Fraud, the kidnapping of children from poorer countries to supply children for infertile richer families. 
We need to pay attention to this very carefully.  I agree that James 1:27 says to CARE for Widows and Orphans.  It does not mean to separate children from mothers.  Programs like World Vision and Compassion International help children to stay within their families. 
There will always be social orphans who desperately need adoption, due to parents who are unfit to parent or don't want to both here and abroad.  As Katie mentioned in her comment.  It wasn't hard to take in a child the parent was threatening to kill!

I don't think Americans understand the concept of "poor".  Our "poor" are richer than most in the world.  When we are talking poor, we are talking about a child  who will DIE if they stay in their familial setting.  Until something is set up to help these families, and YES there are ministries committed to do this, adoption IS the best option so the children can live!
BUT.... Parents need to fully understand what adoption means.  There should be no coercion, no lies told, not recruiting from a family who would otherwise keep their child. 
These are practices that must stop.

I would like more documentation on what is written about Crisis Pregnancy Centers. They have a good reputation and I do not believe that they are wrong in giving the opinion that women should not abort.
If any of what she says is true, for instance a woman who aborted getting a card near the due date of her baby with red paint splattered on it. I would want proof of that.
I find it hard to believe.  If it is true, that kind of stuff is wrong and needs to stop.

I have had personal experience with both Planned Parenthood and Crisis Pregnancy Centers.
I was the poor girl who was having a 4th child. Married? Yes. Poor? VERY. 
The first time I went to get a pregnancy test was with our first son.  It went to planned parenthood because I thought they helped you plan your family. I was very naive. 
I couldn't understand their hostility towards me not only for being married at 18, but for wanting the baby I was carrying!  They treated me badly and gave me all kinds of info on why I shouldn't have a baby.  I left very confused and bewildered.
However, when I became pregnant with our 4th son, I went to the Crisis Pregnancy Center run by Catholic Charities down the street. My experience was totally different.
They were excited, and happy. They treated me with respect and said, "if you need anything, just let us know. We have cribs, clothing, food, diapers." 

I mentioned to them how different my experience was from Planned Parenthood and you should have seen their faces.  They were the ones that explained that Planned Parenthood does not necessarily live up to the name! :)

Ms. Joyce talks about biased counseling from CPC's, but frankly.... each agency is going to offer what they believe to be helpful and true.  I felt strong armed by PP, and supported by CPC, so really it is all speculation.

One thing I will say is that the cost to adopt a baby in this country is ridiculous.   I don't know the answers on how to change that, but I do hope it does change.  I am thankful for the dialogue.
It is eye opening.
Chapter 3 ends with the mother in the beginning of the chapter who's son was relinquished for adoption being prayed over, and in turn relinquishing her guilt. 
I feel sad for her.  I feel compassion for her.  And I pray that mothers who have felt the crushing anguish of their past decisions would also be relieved of that guilt, and forgive themselves.




7 comments:

Kacey said...

Christie - I read katiemcgregor's comment and must respectfully disagree: I really, truly believe it is possible to keep more babies (in desperately poor places, including Haiti) with their first families -- and it can be done with great success for surprisingly little money.

I've been reading the Livesays (missionaries who have lived in Haiti for numerous years; their family consists of both bio and adopted kids) blog for years and they've had great success in keeping desperately poor Haitian mamas and babies together. They offer counseling, live skills classes and support (a teeny-tiny, time-limited and have had great success -- 250 women have been helped, of which only 1 chose to relinquish her child for adoption:
http://livesayhaiti.blogspot.com/2013/04/primum-non-nocere-first-do-no-harm.html

Paul Farmer's 20+ year old NGO, Partners In Health has had similar success. It really, truly is possible to help FAR more very, very poor families keep their kids. I agree that there will always be social orphans, that the need for adoption (and especially intenrational adoption) should be a very last resort but REMAIN an option, but that a LOT more can be done to keep first families together.

There are also very successful programs, here in the US that help desperately poor mothers keep their babies, including the Nurse-Family Partnership that sends a nurse to visit a new, poor mom in Louisiana once or twice a month for the first 2-3 yrs, and teaches moms parenting skills (and hooks them up with support that they might otherwise not realise they are eligible for). It's not a new program, and it's made a significant and SUSTAINED improvement in many lives:
http://www.newyorker.com/archive/2006/02/06/060206fa_fact_boo

I'll state up front that I am pro-choice (and have had a very different experience with Planned Parenthood), but I do believe that there is a LOT of coersion (implicit and explicit) in domestic adoption, particuarly healthy domestic infant adoption here at home. To me, calling a pregnant woman a "birthmom" in and of itself is coercive -- she's a pregnant lady until she gives birth, and birthmom only AFTER she relinquishes her child. I feel that matching a pregnant lady with a potential adoptive family pre-birth is pretty coercive in and of itself -- if only because potential adopters tend to refer to "our birthmom" and "our baby" before the pregnant lady has given birth AND because there are so many PAPs who genuinely feel "ripped off" or decieved if the pregnant lady chooses to parent their child (especially when they paid living expenses and perhaps medical costs in hopes of getting that particular kid). Allowing PAPs into the delivery room can be coercive. Laws that do not allow a pregnant woman to change her mind about relinquishing her child strike me as coercive (my state gives me 30 days to change my mind about switching to a new cell phone company, heating oil supplier, etc no questions asked; a woman certainly deserves as much time as that to make the much more emotionally fraught decision to relinquish her child).

continued

Kacey said...

continued...

...The fact that couples that hope to adopt pray for a baby, with seemingly no recognition that a tragedy must happen in order for them to receive the healthy newborn (baby loses first family) strikes me as emotionally tone-deaf. It's clearly unacceptable and morally repugnant for, say, a single woman to pray for a married man to get divorced (so she can have him herself) but okay to pray a baby loses his parents so a waiting couple can raise him? Really??

Last but not least, it's pretty clear that here in the US a not insignificant number of healthy newborns are relinquished for adoption because their moms/parents feel they do not have the financial resources to raise them. It's also clear that the cost of adoption a healthy baby are immense and that many PAPs who desperately want to be parents are unwilling/unable to save up the $25k+ necessary to adopt such a child (as evidenced by their fundraising blogs and the number of "adoption fundraisers" held at my church). I can't wrap my brain around the fact that if a young, poor pregnant woman had $25K

she would likely not need to (or be pressured to or to feel she has no choice but to, which is essentially coercion) relinquish her child. This is a whole lot of words to say that even here in the US, coercion exists and quite a lot of babies COULD safely stay with their first families, if only a tiny bit of short-term financial and logistical support was provided.

(I’m a licensed foster parent and volunteer by providing respite to at-risk families, e.g. overnight care one night a week to a very young, very poor single mom with a colicky 2 mos old, 4 hrs every Saturday afternoon to baby sit a kid with autism, so the rest of his siblings can have one-on-one time with their parents, etc. How did I become this sort of volunteer? Planned Parenthood. In my town, this is among the services they offer).

Christie Minich said...

Kacey, thank you for responding to this discussion.
I am learning a lot! :)

I totally agree that coercion should not exist every in making these decisions.

And poor should not be a reason.

I am glad to hear there are more programs designed to help poor moms. And I DO AGREE that we need to be sensitive to mothers who are in that position of decision making and respect their decision.

I have seen the devastation of coercion and also seen the devastation of a young mother keeping her baby, and then, having that baby taken from her because of continued poor judgment and drug addiction.

The bottom line. Our choices effect others, especially our children. And wealthy does NOT mean a person should be a parent any more than poor means they shouldn't.

katiemacgregor said...

yes, kacey, i agree with you. it IS possible to keep a LOT more babies & children (even in desperately poor places like haiti) with their first families. i agree 100%. & that is my hearts desire. it is why i am no longer working specifically in orphanage care (though the orphanage where i worked does a remarkable job of facilitating legal, ethical, christian adoptions, & cares for the children holistically & with great love) & am instead seeking a working position where i can, i guess, take a step BACK from the orphanage, & help support the families BEFORE they get to the point where they are essentially left with no other practical choice but to relinquish their children.

compassion is a great organisation that i have sponsored under for several years now. i have visited my sponsor child in haiti (she is now 14) & it has been such a blessing for me to watch her grow up in her family (which is her grandmother & her sister). already her mother has died, & her father abandoned her...she has lost so much already. i've seen first hand how possible it is to help keep children in their first families....however there just aren't enough organisations who can facilitate & provide for this. THAT is the greatest shame.

one of the babies i cared for in the orphanage where i worked was there 'for assistance.' this means she received medical care (as much as we could provide) free of charge, until she was well enough to be returned to her mother, who desperately wanted her. alaine had special needs. her mother had already lost 17 children, alaine was her 18th & only living child. she lives in poverty. i did EVERYTHING in my power to return alaine to her mama. some i worked with believed alaine would be better off being adopted to the states or canada...where she could receive the specialist care she will need for the rest of her life. care that she will never have access to in haiti. but alaine's mama wanted her, special needs & all, & i promised i would move heaven & earth to help facilitate that. sweet alaine is now home, & linked in with a local mission where her health is monitored. i provide finances for alaine's medication, formula, & her mother has recently used some of the money to start her own little business selling produce at the market. she is able to have friends sit with alaine while she works. i'm traveling to haiti in a few months to visit alaine & her mama, & further assist in meeting any needs. it IS possible to keep children at home with their first families...& that is my hearts desire. WHERE POSSIBLE. but it isn't always possible...& that is where writing off the possibility of adoption (which i'm not saying you are doing!) throws the baby out with the bathwater.

both can be done well. there just aren't the facilities or the resources to provide for this on the scale that is needed. & that doesn't make it right. not at all. it just is what it is, & that is why we pray fervently for change & healing within haiti (& the world). essentially, until there ARE the resources to keep more children with their first families, legal, ethical adoption into loving christian families is, i believe, a crucial part of the answer. x

Kacey said...

@katiemcgregor - Thank you for your thoughtful response. We definitely agree that MANY first families can safely be kept together, even in desperately poor places, and that MANY more efforts/supports to ensure this does happen are surely needed.

I've also worked in the field - two years with the World Food Programme in Chad - and have seen first hand how a tiny bit of support can keep families together. Like a school feeding program (literally: encouraging parents to send their kids to school by feeding them a free lunch every day AND providing take-home rations to each girl, for their whole family, at the end of each school day) that almost overnight resulted is pretty much all extremely poor children (and girls! often for the first time!) attending school every day. Digging a couple of decent wells for each community made a huge difference too (women/girls no longer needed to spend 2+ hrs each day fetching water). Micronutrient programs (providing free micronutrients to fortify the crops grown by local families at community mills, i.e. iodine, vitamin A, extra iron, folate) that cost next to nothing (seriously: 60 cents per person per year) that dramatically improve the health of the community and decrease the incidence of many preventable, and pretty much eliminated here at home, birth defects). There are so so so many ways to demonstrably decrease the number of orphans and social orphans in very poor countries - to me, this is where keeping families together truly begins. This is where efforts family preservation efforts in desperately poor places should start (and where the government's efforts efforts should be directed -- as with limited resources/capacity, this is where the biggest improvements can be made). We have the means and the ability to ensure SIGNIFICANTLY MORE kids can SAFELY remain with their first families, even in very very poor countries. And there's data to back that up.

I do believe there is and will likely remain a place for adoption (and international adoption) as a last resort for SOME kids in SOME desperately poor countries. But it is also VERY important to recognize the role that lots of $$ from foreign PAPs/adopters can actually CREATE institutionalized orphans where next-to-none previously existed, as happened in Vietnam:

http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2010/09/07/anatomy_of_an_adoption_crisis

The sad fact is when you remove the incentive (money) a large chunk of the problem (healthy babies/toddlers trafficked for the express purpose of international adoption) goes away. Even in desperately poor places, there are basically NO healthy infants/toddlers desperately in need of foreign homes.

"ethical adoption into loving christian families"

This is sort of nitpicky (and yes, I'm a Christian) but the purpose should be to get the kids that cannot find homes in their country of origin into safe, loving families period, i.e. not simply CHRISTIAN families. There are many loving Muslim, Jewish, Sufi, atheist, Bah’ai, Wiccan and other faiths who can provide wonderful homes for a child who would not otherwise have one.

Christie Minich said...

Kacey,
You may not know it, but Muslim's do not allow for any kind of adoption. You cannot give a child your name whether you are muslim or not. Muslims also do not allow Non muslims to adopt.
In these countries, orphans have the saddest of lives; slavery, sexual slavery and worse.

Christians adopt. And part of why they adopt is because all life is valued and adoption is a huge part of the Christian Story.


Kacey said...


Christie - I'm aware that most Muslim countries do not do adoption the way Western countries like ours do adoption, ie by permanently severing ties to the first family and usually (though fortunately less often these days) intentionally concealing or destroying a kid's is entry and family history. In a kafala adoption, the child is raised with the adoptive family but the tie to the first family (on paper) isn't severed, rather like a long-term guardianship agreement here in the US. It's a different, but not necessarily worse way to do an adoption.

Keeping that in mind, along with the fact that 1) it is a basic human right to know your family/medical history, 2) "closed" adoptions are a very new concept, created in large part during the "baby scoop era" and in the past 30-40 yrs in international adoptions and, for the most part, confidentiality was never promised (and which made it much much easier for trafficking/coercion to occur, and for unscrupulous persons to destroy the identity of a given child) and 3) adoptees in most states don't have access to their original birth certificates (or are required to wait until age 19 or 25 to access it), the kefala approach does have its advantages. There are, of course, disadvantages too. But it is certainly a valid approach to caring for kids who for whatever reason cannot be cared for by their first families. (And I'd be very interested to get an adult adoptee, particularly an adult international adoptees take on this).

Bottom line: This is a whole lot of words to say that, yes, Muslims do adopt.

It's true that *some* orphans who do not get adopted have the "saddest of lives" -- but the same is sadly true of many orphan/social orphan American kids today.

(The US did the industrial revolution thing decades before many currently very very poor developing countries. So it's not quite fair to compare the *current* state of child welfare in the US to the, say, current state of child welfare in, say, Pakistan).

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