Updated: Sep 24
When I was born closed adoptions were common. In more recent years safe-haven laws have been enacted to decriminalize the leaving of unharmed infants with statutorily designated private persons so that the child becomes a ward of the state. Police stations, hospitals, and fire stations are typical locations to which these laws apply. Both of these approaches, closed adoptions and safe-havens, were intended to promote the safety and health of the child as well as the anonymity of the biological parent(s).
In this third installment of my series on adoption and foundlings, I want to begin a discussion about rights and laws in theory and in practice. Before Texas passed the "Baby Moses Law" in 1999, there was a string of infanticides in Alabama. In spite of these laws, there are still cases in which babies are being left in garbage dumpsters or bathroom stalls.
Nov. 5, 1984: "...in a dorm at San Francisco State University, a student gave birth to a daughter, dropped the placenta down a garbage chute, and stowed the infant in a box in the laundry room before slipping away."
October 19, 1988: "...a newborn baby girl survived four nights without food or water after her 16-year-old mother left her naked in a garbage can near her Carson home, officials said Tuesday."
November 21, 1889: "...Robin Barton was rescued from a dumpster by Santa Ana police officer Michael Buelna. 'I noticed the umbilical cord and he was covered, he still had all the mucus and stuff and all the trash and gravel was sticking to him,' Buelna said. 'I tried to give him a tiny little bit of breath and he reacted a little bit.'"
These are only 3 examples of the fear, despair, and hopelessness that drive people to make horrible choices. In spite of our best efforts to make the difficult decision to give a child up for adoption one which is safe for all parties involved, things don't always work out as planned. Another thing that all three of these stories have in common is that the children survived and all three eventually found their birth parents through DNA testing. I bet you didn't see that coming, did you? You see, we can pass laws that promise privacy (and we should), and we can pass laws intended to prevent injury to babies (and we should), but we humans are nothing if not resilient. Life is tenacious and Life finds a way. Never under estimate the tenacity and patience of seekers. In the last year, I've lost count of the number of people who have found their birth parents after the age of 50. These are adults who've been searching for 30 or 40 years and are now finally solving their riddles through DNA testing.
The purpose of this post is not to frighten parents who become pregnant unexpectedly - Heaven forbid that! By all means I encourage and advocate for safe and legal adoptions as I am a very grateful beneficiary of such a blessing myself. The purpose is to encourage discussion and reflection on the factors involved. No one has ever been accidentally adopted. Unintentional conceptions happen all them time, but unintentional adoption is comparatively non-existent. You're not a bad person if you make a selfless choice for the welfare of another living soul. To the contrary, that takes a whole lot of courage and a very good heart. It's not fair of us (anyone) to lead biological parents to believe that they can remain anonymous indefinitely, however. It's much more healthy and positive for everyone if we begin preparing these parents for the inevitability of future contact by the children they give up.
Parents considering placing a child for adoption should prepare themselves for the possibility that the child will eventually want to find them and with every passing year, technology and evolving culture (which affects laws) make that possibility increasingly likely. Closed adoptions in the 60's and 70's were pretty iron-clad. Many states had laws that prevented the disclosure of identifying information unless both biological parents consented in writing or were both proven to be deceased. DNA testing and the internet have combined to shine light in every corner. Don't let this inhibit you from doing the right thing, however. Simply prepare yourself psychologically and spiritually for the day that your phone rings or your inbox chimes. Most adoptees are hoping that they'll find someone who was simply not ready to provide a decent standard of living for them. They're hoping to hear someone say that she or he wishes things could have been different, but "I'm glad things worked out for you." Have a network of friends, faith and health professionals and live your life well so that when your child finds you, you can be proud of the choice you had to make long ago, and you can be equally proud of the people you have both become.
My next post will approach the same topic from the perspective of the adoptive parent(s). What are your thoughts? Have you given a child up for adoption or are you looking for your birth parents? Leave a comment and let's see where it leads us. Love and be loved.
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