March 22, 2013

I Want An Apology!

I am an adoptee from the Baby Scoop Era. (BSE)

Photo Credit: Butupa, Creative Commons

I’m accustomed to getting weird looks when I mention the BSE to people. I have discovered that most people have no idea about this huge event in our nation's history -- and our world history, that affects millions of people.

Notice I said affects.
Not affected.
Present tense.

When my birth mother became pregnant, she was kicked out of the house by her father.

She was forced to move across the state to the Florence Crittenton Maternity Home and live in hiding. 

She was ostracized. Shamed. An outcast of society. 

She went through what she describes as "nine months of living hell" before I was birthed, placed for adoption and went off to foster care before my a-parents adopted me. 

After birthing me and returning home to live and try her best to fit back into society, she was kicked out yet again six months later. What did she do to cause this? Nothing. Her father just couldn’t handle the fact that she had given birth to me six months earlier. The shame was too much for the family to bear that my birth had happened, although she had moved several hours away to live while pregnant, and deliver me in secret.  So out she went. Unmarried. Jobless. No money. Nowhere to go. 

Photo Credit: Joe St. Pierre, Creative Commons

I have learned, this was not unusual for the 1960’s.

The adoption industry in what is now known as the “Baby Scoop Era” of the 1940's through the 1970's was particularly corrupt.  From approximately 1940 to 1970, it is estimated that up to 4 million mothers in the USA surrendered newborn babies to adoption -- 2 million during the 1960s alone. This does not include the number of infants adopted and raised by relatives. To give a comparison of present day numbers, the National Council for Adoption estimates that 20,000 infants are placed for adoption in the USA every year.  

Unfortunately, the treatment my birth mother endured was not unique. During the Baby Scoop Era, it was unthinkable for a young lady to walk the halls of her high school pregnant or let anyone in the neighborhood know of her situation. Upon the revelation of her pregnancy, she was quickly whisked away to a maternity home or went to live with a relative in another state. These young ladies were not just “encouraged” by parents, relatives, pastors and other authority figures that they needed to “consider” adoption. They were told it was THE option. They were coerced. Most were told outright, adoption was simply a consequence they had to bear.  Keeping their babies, and living as single mothers was out of the question.

Adoption was a mandate given to them to “redeem” themselves and the child from the scourge of unwed pregnancy and “illegitimate” birth. (I put redeem in quotes because none of us can redeem ourselves. As a Christian, I believe only Christ can redeem us. Adoption redeems no one. I placed illegitimate in quotes because all of us are legitimate. God has no illegitimate children.) Unwed pregnant women were told they could be redeemed by giving the “gift” of a child to a childless couple. This nonsense is STILL being perpetuated by groups like the National Council for Adoption with their articles like this one: Birth Mother, Good Mother, Her Heroic Story of Redemption.

The birth mothers would never "get over it" as they were told they would.

Photo Credit: SabienMaggy, Creative Commons

The babies were thought to be blank slates, feeling nothing and having no lasting side affects from being removed from their mothers. “What can a tiny baby know?” they wondered.

The horrors of the Baby Scoop Era not only included young women being banished from their homes and sent away and being told they couldn’t bring their children home. It also involved tactics some of which included but were not limited to: drugging the women and restraining them on beds during birth,  putting them under general anesthesia during delivery - promising them they would see their child after waking up from birth and then breaking the promise, their baby gone upon awakening. Most of them signed relinquishment papers under duress. When living under these circumstances and the reaction of society, how could they be in the right frame of mind to make such a life-altering decison?
Much of this was sanctioned by the church, even planned by the church in millions of cases through the maternity homes affiliated with churches and denominations.  Their belief was: What could be better than God “redeeming a young woman’s mistake by giving a gift to a couple who couldn’t have children”? 

The mothers and babies never got over it.
 And now they cry out. 
 Not only in America, but all over the world they cry out.

I am often asked by non-adoptees and particularly Christians: “I don’t understand…what are adoptees so upset about?” Injustice. Not only the injustices of the BSE, but the continuing injustices of being denied equal rights with open access of our birth certificates, continuing unethical adoption practices and more. We are passionate for change and we do not want today’s and tomorrow’s children to go through what we have endured. 

Wednesday the Australian government answered the cries of the first mothers and adoptees of their nation. They stepped up and did the right thing. They issued an apology. Not just a mere, “I’m sorry” or a brief, token apology -- but a lengthy, deep, absolutely soul-stirring apology. The church was also included in the apology. If you have not seen it or heard it, I beg you, read it here, and watch it here. They not only apologized but declared their commitment to equal rights. 

Now, it is time for the USA.
And it is time for the church.

Photo Credit: Alan Jennison, Creative Commons

Why does our nation -- including the church -- need to apologize? 

Countless adoptees want nothing to do with God or church because of a plethora of hurts related to adoption. 

What kind of hurts?

The Role The Church Played in the Baby Scoop Era

Churches and clergy played a huge role in the BSE. For every girl who was sent away, for every pastor or priest who helped the parents arrange the sending away and the adoptions, for every clergy member who said, “Of course you have to do the right thing and give the baby up for adoption,” for every Christian who threw shame a pregnant girl’s way but offered to do nothing to help them through their difficulty by offering a helping hand and preserving a family by keeping a mother and baby together --  an apology is due. Adoptees feel  pain when you come to mind. They see you as a people and a place largely responsible for breaking up their first family. To add insult to injury, after the breaking up of their first family, the church celebrated and called it beautiful as they were given to absolute strangers. Christians continue to harm by their lack of support for equal rights for adoptees by indifference to help us gain equal rights, or backing organizations that fight our freedom.

Breaking Families Apart

Pastors, Christians…are you truly for family preservation?  At times families have rocky starts. What are you doing to help?

Please do not assume you are doing the best thing by assisting in tearing a baby apart from their mother and placing them with a couple of strangers.  I absolutely beg you to read The Primal Wound, or the other articles on my Resources page to see what babies and mothers face when they are torn apart. 

How much do we value motherhood? God Himself has created an amazing bond that is not even fully describable between mother and child. The way He created us to even feed them with our own bodies, the physical and psychological ways in which we are attached is nothing short of amazing. When my children were infants and we were several hours between feedings, I was physically affected by hearing their cry. I could be in another room entirely, yet upon hearing them, I would soon discover the entire front of my shirt was wet from my milk as I let down in response to their cry. 

 The separation of a mother and child is a traumatic happening beyond words. A bond that is not broken simply because of relinquishment and adoption papers. Many who advocate separation of mother and child as preferable to single parenting have absolutely no idea the traumatic chain of events set off in the life of mother and infant by separating them.

What do you do when an unwed pregnant girl or woman shows up, in your life or in the church? For every one of you who immediately responds with “Have you considered adoption?” instead of, “How can I help you?” -- you perpetuate the pain. The continued push for adoption vs. practically helping young mothers to keep and raise their babies is a stumbling block to the adoptee community seeing God clearly and viewing the church as a safe place.

Continued lack of understanding toward adoptees

Millions of  Christians are clueless about post-adoption issues and adoptees continue to be wounded as they share their stories and their feelings. 

Many don't feel safe in church, the place they should feel the most welcome. I have chronicled just a few of their stories here, in this series.  

There are 6-7 million adult adoptees presently in America. Many of them were raised in church but want absolutely nothing to do with it now, for reasons aforementioned. If you want to know how to reach out to one of the most unreached people groups in America, I encourage you - start by reading these 8 tips to reach adoptees. 

What do I want?

Let's start with a true and heartfelt apology from the United States government and The Church at large, for the unspeakable injustices perpetuated upon babies and mothers of the Baby Scoop Era.

It is time.