Adoption and Alternatives
Origins-USA supports family preservation and opposes policies and practices that separate mothers and their children unless necessary for the safety of the child. In such cases, every effort must be made to place children with extended family members before placing them with strangers.
Origin-USA’s vision is that:
* every mother receives the support she needs to nurture her children,
* mothers and children are separated only after all efforts to keep them together have been exhausted, and
* children separated from their mothers are provided with stable living arrangements that honor and maintain their connection to their families.
Supporting evidence for family preservation
The success of any society depends on its ability to support women in bearing and nurturing their children. Throughout history, cultures have honored this natural connection between mother and child through art, literature, and music.
Since its beginnings, American law has protected the right of parents to raise their children, which can be abrogated only where necessary to protect the child.
“Even when blood relationships are strained, parents retain vital interest in preventing irretrievable destruction of their family life; if anything, persons faced with forced dissolution of their parental rights have more critical need for procedural protections than do those resisting state intervention into ongoing family affairs.” (United States Supreme Court) Santosky v. Kramer, 455 U.S. 745 (1982)
“The rights of parents to the care, custody and nurture of their children is of such character that it cannot be denied without violating those fundamental principles of liberty and justice which lie at the base of all our civil and political institutions, and such right is a fundamental right protected by this amendment (First) and Amendments 5, 9, and 14.” (Federal District Court in Michigan) Doe v. Irwin, 441 F. Supp. 1247; U.S. D.C. of Michigan (1985).
“Short of preventing harm to the child, the standard of ‘best interest of the child’ is insufficient to serve as a compelling state interest overruling a parent's fundamental rights… To suggest otherwise would be the logical equivalent to asserting that the state has the authority to break up stable families and redistribute its infant population to provide each child with the 'best family.' It is not within the province of the state to make significant decisions concerning the custody of children merely because it could make a ‘better’ decision.” (Supreme Court of Washington), In Re Custody of Smith, 969 P.2d 21, 30, 31 (1998)
The cultural values which spawned these rights are affirmed by experts in the field of child welfare, including the National Association of Social Worker Policy Statements, which have promoted family preservation as the best way to care for children. (NASW Policy Statements, Foster Care and Adoption, 20th Edition, 2006-09, p. 165)
Did you know....?
* The U.S. and Somalia are the only two United Nation member nations that have not ratified the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child, which supports family preservation. (Amnesty International, "Protect Children's Human Rights"). While UNICEF is using the Convention on the Rights of the Child to combat unfair adoption practices in several countries around the globe, mothers living in the United States do not have these protections.
“The child shall be registered immediately after birth and shall have the right from birth to a name, the right to acquire a nationality and, as far as possible, the right to know and be cared for by his or her parents"--Convention on the Rights of the Child, Article 7.1.
"States Parties shall respect the right of the child who is separated from one or both parents to maintain personal relations and direct contact with both parents on a regular basis, except if it is contrary to the child's best interests”--Convention on the Rights of the Child, Article 9.3.
“The child, for the full and harmonious development of his personality, needs love and understanding. He shall, wherever possible, grow up in the care and under the responsibility of his parents, and, in any case, in an atmosphere of affection and of moral and material security; a child of tender years shall not, save in exceptional circumstances, be separated from his mother. Society and the public authorities shall have the duty to extend particular care to children without a family and to those without adequate means of support. Payment of State and other assistance towards the maintenance of children of large families is desirable.” (Principle 6, http://www.unhchr.ch/html/menu3/b/25.htm)
"Adoption should always be the last resort for the child. The CRC (Convention on the Rights of the Child), which guides UNICEF's work, states very clearly that every child has the right to know and to be cared for by his or her own parents, whenever possible. UNICEF believes that families needing support to care for their children should receive it, and that alternative means of caring for a child should only be considered when, despite this assistance, a child's family is unavailable, unable or unwilling to care for her or him."-- UNICEF. Press release: "Adoption should always be the last resort!" Kathmandu, March 10, 2007.
* In the United States, when a child is adopted the original birth certificate is permanently sealed; a new birth certificate is issued falsely listing the adoptive parents as the parents who gave birth to the child.
The practice of sealing original birth certificates began in 1917, when Minnesota passed the first U.S. law requiring secret records, and similar laws were passed in most states by the end of the second World War (Department of History, University of Oregon, The Adoption History Project, "Confidentiality and Sealed Records").
"Birthparents, like the public at large, generally understand that they are surrendering a child to be adopted and raised within a substitute family without interference. They do not realize, however, that they are de facto, as the child's legal guardian, also surrendering the child's right to know and be part of his or her original family. They do not understand that their signature will, following completion of the adoption, lead to the permanent sealing of their child's original birth certificate, well beyond the scope of their parental rights, which normally 'expire' when the child becomes an adult. The adoption record, including the original birth certificate, will remain sealed against the adoptee for the rest of his or her life... None of this is explained in the surrender documents the birthparent(s) are given to sign. Indeed, the attorney for the adoptive parents has no reason or obligation to explain it." (Meld, William H. "Due process in adoption? Hardly." NJESQ, Vol. 1. # 14, May 18, 2009)
Even the relatively modest goal of giving adult adoptees the right to see their original birth certificates has been an uphill battle in most state legislatures. At Origins-USA, we seek policy changes far more dramatic than this. We seek a world in which permanent separation between any parent and her child as a "solution" to being young, single, or poor is unthinkable.
* Alternatives to adoption exist that provide permanent homes for children while acknowledging and honoring original family ties.
The modern institution of adoption began with the passage of the first adoption law in Massachusetts in 1851 (Department of History, University of Oregon, The Adoption History Project: Timeline). In contrast, permanent legal guardianship is an alternative that, unlike adoption, does not terminate parental rights. Some states provide subsidized guardianship programs for caregivers of children from foster care ("Permanent legal guardianship," Policy for Results.org). In Native American tribes, where termination of parental rights is often considered abhorrent, legal guardianship is consistent with the traditional practice of customary adoption, in which the tribe as a whole takes responsibility for child-rearing and individual members fill various roles within the child's life. Simple adoption, present in some Latin American countries and former French colonies, does not lead to a complete dissolution of ties to the family of origin. Informal adoption has always been practiced when people raise other people's children without government involvement.