January 2017

Reuniting Families

Sarah Burns

We thank our friend, journalist Kathryn Joyce, for bringing to our attention a small non-profit working in Uganda to reunite families. REUNITE UGANDA is a direct intervention to reunite families where children have been separated from their families. Reunite has reunified children who were lost in the orphanage system, trafficked for international adoption, kidnapped or separated because of their mothers' treatment in the Government Psychiatric Hospital.

Reunite works with families to make sure that the resettlement is sustainable and has every chance of being successful by providing social work services, economic empowerment, school fees (means-tested) and in some cases emergency support (food, medical services etc.). Reunite believes that the only long-term commitment to the families working with Reunite is social work monitoring and support. Reunite also has a foster care pilot scheme that has so far proved very successful.

Reunite dreams of a Uganda where every child has a family who loves and cares for them. Reunite dreams of a Uganda where institutional care is a We thank our friend, journalist Kathryn Joyce, for bringing to our attention a small non-profit working in Uganda to reunite families. REUNITE UGANDA is a direct intervention to reunite families where children have been separated from their families. Reunite has reunified children who were lost in the orphanage system, trafficked for international adoption, kidnapped or separated because of their mothers' treatment in the Government Psychiatric Hospital.

Reunite works with families to make sure that the resettlement is sustainable and has every chance of being successful by providing social work services, economic empowerment, school fees (means-tested) and in some cases emergency support (food, medical services etc.). Reunite believes that the only long-term commitment to the families working with Reunite is social work monitoring and support. Reunite also has a foster care pilot scheme that has so far proved very successful.

Reunite dreams of a Uganda where every child has a family who loves and cares for them. Reunite dreams of a Uganda where institutional care is a memory of the past and instead a country wide resettlement program is implemented and where foster care is used for families in crisis instead of 'orphanage' care. Reunite hopes to be able to continue to play our role in fulfilling this dream.



memory of the past and instead a country wide resettlement program is implemented and where foster care is used for families in crisis instead of 'orphanage' care. Reunite hopes to be able to continue to play our role in fulfilling this dream.


 

read more...

The CUB Communicator Team

Dear Readers,
  • Welcome to the latest edition of the CUB Communicator. We invite you to share with us your ideas and hope that you will contact us with information, news and updates. Here is your team and we look forward to hearing from you! - Sarah Burns, VP for Media and Communications
CUB Communicator Editor: Sarah Burns
CUB Communicator Support: Jennifer Wachowski and Kat Stanley
CUB WEBMISTRESS: Kat Stanley    
TWITTER: Reanne Mosley and Kat Stanley
FACEBOOK: Sylvie Makara and Jennifer Wachowski
REDDIT: Joan Joyce
MEDIA LIAISON: Sarah Burns
Technical Assistance: Renee Gelin
None of this work is possible without the support in all communications endeavors of our CUB President Patty Collings. 

Adoption Books and Films we recommend

CUB Editor

ADOPTION BOOKS WE RECOMMEND:

"You Don’t Look Adopted” by Anne Hefron: Here’s Amazon's description: Hefron was born in Manhattan in 1964 to a young college student who gave her up for adoption. Fifty-one years later Anne returned to Manhattan to find the roots of her story, the story that began with her birth instead of the story that began "The day we got you." This journey is the subject of her book, an account of the perils and blessings of adoption. 
 
“Call Me Ella” by Joan Kaufman. Here's Amazon’s description: “Call Me Ella” is a memoir about Kaufman's twenty-four year search to find her roots. More than just one woman's search for information about the biological mother she believed had died in childbirth, this book explores the mind and feelings of an adopted child. “Call Me Ella” is a heartwarming and uplifting story about an adoptee who considered her adoptive parents her "real parents," yet wanted to know more. She wanted to know her roots. Her heritage. With a burning desire to have someone who "looked like her," she couldn't wait to marry and have children of her own. She had no idea that her twenty-four year search, which did not begin until after both of her parents had passed away, would involve Sopranos-like tales of organized crime, gambling, and infidelity.
 
ADOPTION FILMS WE RECOMMEND:


“LION” with Dev Patel is reviewed in detail in this issue of the CUB newsletter.

“Three Days in August”  with Mariette Hartley and Meg Foster. These two well-known actors star as the adoptive and birth mothers in this new independent film about an adult adoptee who wishes to reunite both families for one weekend in the summer. Much is learned in three short days by all members of the triad, but not without some pain and heartache along the way. The strong performances by the two mothers, Hartley and Foster, are at times riveting and at times predicable (in an adoption kind of way) and that is due to the hard work and commitment of artist and adoptee Shannon Kinkaid, who produced the film with her director husband, Johnathan Brownlee. The script was written by Chad Berry and David Langlinais, and tell the story of a woman who was relinquished at birth by her 16-year-old mother and is searching for her identity and her birth parents, and what happens when she finds them. Barry Bostwick also stars, and the film is screening currently at Studio Movie Grills across the country. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt4405532/


“Father Unknown” – We have also heard that the independent film “Father Unknown” subtitled “Our Bravest Search is For Ourselves” is highly recommended and available through www.fatherunknown.com. CUB members viewed it in November and gave it a thumbs up.  It captures on film as it happens, the true story of a man's struggle to face the emptiness he carries inside. It is a record of the true search for connection with his father.

 
 

CUB Board Members


President
Patty Collings
Winter Haven, FL


Vice President, Media
Sarah Burns
Los Angeles, CA


Vice President, Membership
Denise Schnelle
Los Angeles, CA



Treasurer
Arlene Donovan
Palm Springs, CA


​Secretary
Chelsea Greco
Stuart, FL


Director (Region 1
Kathy Aghajanian
Boston, MA


Director (Region 2)
Linda Clausen
Washington, DC


Director (Region 3)
Pat Glisky
St. Paul, MN


Director (Region 4)
Sally Macke
St. Louis, MO


Director (Region 5)
Deborah Myers
Seattle, WA


Director (Region 6)
Betsy Holt
Ventura, CA


Director (Saving Our Sisters / SOS)
Renee Gelin
Nationwide

The CUB Communicator

The CUB Communicator is a quarterly newsletter published by Concerned United Birthparents, Inc.
Please send submissions (max.800 words) to: editor@cubirthparents.org  
Visit our website at www.CUBirthparents.org  
Find us on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/ConcernedUnitedBirthparents  
The opinions expressed by individual contributors in this publication are not necessarily those of Concerned United Birthparents, Inc. ©2017 Readers are encouraged to copy and share, but to credit The CUB Communicator.

Who We Are and What We Do

CONCERNED UNITED BIRTHPARENTS (CUB) is the only national organization focused on birthparents – their experiences, healing and wisdom – CUB serves all those affected by adoption and all who are concerned about adoption issues. Although our focus is on birthparents, long the forgotten people of the adoption community, we welcome adoptees, adoptive parents, and professionals. We find that we all have much to learn from each other and that sharing our feelings and experiences benefits all of us.

Each year, CUB hosts a healing retreat for all members of the adoption triad, and all who are interested in learning more about the adoption experience. We usually meet by the shore so there is beauty and space for reflection and rest in between sessions. You won’t find the schedule packed with too many choices. At the retreat, we focus on a core program so we can make the most of our annual time together.

 

CUB Retreat 2017

Mark your calendars and start planning for the CUB Retreat 2017!

CUB Retreat 2017
October 6-8, 2017
Hilton Garden Inn
Carlsbad, CA
 

My First CUB Retreat

Amanda Eshelman

Editor's Note: Every year CUB holds an annual retreat for all members of the adoption triad. We invited a young birthmom who was attending her first retreat this past October to write about her experience for the CUB newsletter. What follows is Amanda Eshelman's summary of her experience. And come join us this year in Carlsbad, California from October 6-8, 2017!

MY FIRST CUB RETREAT by Amanda Eshelman

I was delighted to be able to attend my first Concerned United Birthparent’s Retreat this year, but I decided in advance to limit my expectations. To begin with, I am not one for crowds, and with such a sensitive subject matter, I did not want to become overwhelmed and later regret having gone. I wanted to see this as a learning experience more than anything else. I wanted to “stay in the moment” as much as possible so I could be aware of my emotions at all times. And, I have to say that I think I did fairly well, with all the credit to many of the board members and regular CUB members making me feel welcomed and supported from the moment I arrived.

The first presentation was given by Lynn Johansenn, birth mother and founder of “Saving Our Sisters” or SOS. SOS is a volunteer grassroots movement that has recently become a partner and program of CUB, and its goals are to help women who have been affected by adoption, and in particular young mothers who have been coerced by adoption agencies to relinquish their babies at birth. The goals of SOS are to stop unnecessary adoptions, and build networks through social media to spread the word about the life-long impact of adoption. Johansenn is passionate and forceful about her cause. SOS puts the focus on family preservation and Johansenn has become a strong advocate for SOS inside and outside of CUB. During her presentation, she shared “success” stories of young mothers she and SOS supporters have helped. The goal is for them to keep their children and help them protect their children from possible unnecessary adoption.  The “success stories” about the young mothers, made me wonder whether Johansenn might focus in the future on how to solve the challenge of educating prospective adoptive parents about the life-long impact of adoption.

I think my absolute favorite presentation was given by author and birth mother, Amy Seek. Amy recently published a book entitled God and Jetfire: Confessions of a Birth Mother. It is an honest portrayal of her experiences becoming a birth mother in a fully open adoption with her son and his adoptive parents. She was extremely candid in her talk, acknowledging that she’s still very new to the whole idea of adoption and other experiences by other birth mothers. She said that is why she was more than happy to come to the CUB retreat: so she could talk to us and learn from us rather than having us learn from her.

After her talk, Amy Seek held a writing workshop where she had us do prompts about what we remember specifically about becoming a birth mother based on a significant detail. I found her honesty inspiring, as a birth mother and as a writer. Just being able to hear her tell some of her story and how she is doing now was soul-opening. I felt like I could see myself one day being able to talk to others about my story, whether it’s at a CUB retreat or some sort of public forum. Even now, the simple question Seek posed to us, “What are you waiting for?” rings in my head every day.

Another presentation was by a human rights activist, Loretta Ross. She’s spent 40 years fighting for social justice and women’s rights and she helped found the term “reproductive rights.” She spent most of her talk sharing her story of almost becoming a birth mother, and changing her mind at the last second to keep her son. Loretta is a very inspirational, strong woman, and next time I hope there is more discussion as to how adoption is seen as a human rights issue and how we can educate others about it as a human rights issue.

Another presentation that touched me was Cathy Koley’s “Trauma and Healing.” She is an adoptee who is in reunion with her birth mother, who also attended the retreat. She spoke on how her trauma growing up adopted affected her at different stages in her life, even after being reunited. She found healing through yoga and spiritual meditation.  I was not “into” her discussion until she asked us what we [birthmothers] know about our birth stories and if we could find any similarities with the birth of the children we surrendered. It hit me like lightning: when I was born, the doctors thought there was something wrong with me even though there wasn’t; the same thing occurred with my daughter. Suddenly all the little connections began to click together between my childhood and the possible childhood my daughter could be having or will have. I am not one to put faith in mystical fateful events, but I hope that the connection I feel for my daughter, she feels too, whether she realizes it or not.

I also participated in a project called “Six Word Memoirs on Adoption” held by Andrew Tash and Derek Frank, who encouraged some brave souls at the retreat to consider participating in their film project. I volunteered for the project and so I had to choose six words that expressed my adoption story or how I felt about my adoption story. Then, they filmed and photographed me as they asked about the six words I chose. There were no formal questions or scripts. Everything was based on what I wrote. Some people were not comfortable with the idea of being filmed in such a vulnerable and raw way, especially since their open adoption might suddenly become closed because of it. I, too, have that constant fear, but I chose to do it anyway for the same reason I started a blog: I want my name out there for my daughter to find me. I found the experience heart-wrenching but exhilarating at the same time. I was nervous being so exposed emotionally, but I used it as a way to really dig deep inside of myself and share the personal demons I’ve been hiding since surrendering my daughter.

Everyone agreed that another highlight of the retreat was the staged reading by playwright Suzanne Bachner of her one-woman play, “The Good Adoptee.” Suzanne and her husband and dramaturg, Bob Brader, produced and presented the play for our special CUB audience, who sat enthralled by her performance. Even her birthmother attended the play! Suzanne carefully enacts her own adoption story, filled with surprises and exciting developments along the way. Bachner also took her show on the road this fall throughout the state of Connecticut as a benefit for ACCESS CONNECTICUT. Suzanne and her performance of The Good Adoptee did an amazing nine-show tour and Suzanne very generously donated all proceeds from the ticket sales to Access Connecticut to fund their 2017 legislative effort to guarantee adoptee’s right to their Original Birth Certificates. (If you’d like to learn more about The Good Adoptee, please visit:  http://www.thegoodadoptee.com/
)

To summarize my experience, I’d say the CUB retreat was very emotionally challenging, but I would go again -- and again and again. I felt more in touch with myself because I was suddenly in a space where I felt it was okay to be myself, plus everyone around me was going through it in their own way. There was connection, understanding, and support that I cannot find anywhere else. When I got back home and people asked if I had fun on my trip, I could not say I did. While the CUB retreat was not exactly a place for “fun” it was a place to learn about others and about myself in a new and meaningful way.
 

 

A Marriage Made in Heaven: CUB and SOS

Sarah Burns and Renee Gelin

CUB and SOS: A Marriage Made in Heaven

As many of our readers know, in 2015 Concerned United Birthparents officially welcomed “Saving our Sisters” (SOS) as a program of CUB.  Since then, the SOS program has blossomed and grown, and we are pleased to provide a brief update of their work here.
 
SOS is made up of parents (primarily Moms) including many who relinquished their children for adoption due primarily to financial pressures, and who are now experiencing the pain and unresolved grief associated with losing a child.  SOS members share a goal of helping other women in situations similar to what they experienced, and to support them before relinquishment, hoping the women will be able to avoid the same unhappy fate of losing a child to adoption.  The broad network they have created includes mostly women who have experienced adoption separation first-hand and are in different stages of their adoption journey.  Some are mothers who have lost their children recently due to a temporary financial crisis, and some are mothers from the “Baby Scoop Era” of the 1960s - 1973 who were forced to give up their babies.  Some are adoptees themselves.  Some are in reunion, others are still searching for their lost families.  All of the mothers lacked the support necessary to keep and parent their babies, as they all so desperately wanted to do. 
 
Happily, they have found a way to come together and channel their pain and the unresolved grief associated with adoption separation in order to help women who feel they may not be enough or have enough or never will have enough to parent their babies.  SOS helps them learn that they can be competent parents. SOS provides education from the perspectives of birthparents and adoptees – perspectives that are usually glossed over when discussing adoption.
 
In May, SOS held a “Summit” in Kansas City that drew supporters from all over the country. Representatives traveled from Florida, Washington, Nebraska, Iowa, Wisconsin, Illinois, Missouri and Kansas.  Many of the women had been supporting each other online through social media for many years and all came together and met for the first time face-to-face.  
 
In October, SOS Director Renee Gelin gave a presentation at the CUB annual retreat in Safety Harbor, Florida.  She shared the following facts about SOS since its inception and the success that SOS has had since it started 5 years ago:
 
The majority of those who have contacted SOS are mothers considering adoption who:
  • are already mothers and are successfully parenting other children
  • are facing temporary financial hardships
  • have already connected with an adoption agency or attorney
  • have not been fully informed of their rights 
Typically, for example, the expectant mom does not know the laws regarding her rights. For example, she might not know that:
  • she can (and should) hire her own attorney to represent her without the involvement of the adoption professional
  • she is often pressured to sign away her rights immediately, sometimes only hours after giving birth (she should not be forced to to sign at that point!)
  • she does not have to allow anyone in or near the hospital delivery room
  • she does not need to leave the hospital without her baby.
Most of the women have already experienced some form of persuasive coercion by an adoption agency.  Many, for example, have:  
  • been encouraged to ‘match’ with a prospective adoptive couple as soon as possible
  • accepted financial ‘expenses’ or ‘gifts’ which in turn create a feeling of obligation that they must follow through with the relinquishment
  • been led to believe that they are required to pay back the ‘expense’ or ‘gift’ money and if they do not, they will be sued or arrested for fraud
  • been told that CPS/DCFS may be involved if the adoption agent feels that a child is in danger, instilling fear in the mother that she could risk losing her newborn as well as her other children if she changes her mind
  • not been educated on the various degrees of ‘openness’ in adoption and that an “open adoption” is not just about receiving pictures and letters.
To date, SOS has been able to provide support and information to more than 30 mothers in the last 3 years to ensure they make an informed decision to keep their children and preserve their families. The type of support SOS provides for expectant mothers includes:
  • educating them about their rights in relation to adoption laws in their state
  • connecting them with a local volunteer to assist with locating local resources for the mom and her family
  • providing an advocate if the Mom wants to revoke her consent in order to assist with recovering her child from the adoption agency and/or the adoption agent
  • assisting with drafting a formal revocation letter including state laws regarding her right to revoke making it clear to the adoption entity that mom understands her rights
  • providing minimal financial assistance while mom is on maternity leave, usually about $500
  • educating mom on the trauma that she and her infant will endure from being separated
  • locating an attorney to help navigate her revocation if necessary
  • informing her that if she is unmarried, it's imperative that the father be listed on the state’s Putative Father’s Registry and/or on the baby’s birth certificate, if he hasn’t been already.
Every year since 2012, SOS has held a ‘Sponsor a Saved Family’ event just before the Christmas holiday for parents who thought they'd never be able to give their children what they want for Christmas.  SOS sends a meal from Honey Baked Ham or local grocery store to each of the families, along with gifts for each of the children, and of course, the moms.  Christmas 2016 was no different and volunteers spread joy to seven families and 15 children!

SOS works because there are volunteers who provide whatever they can.  Some provide donations through the CUB website, some provide gently-used clothing, some hold diaper drives, and some are "Sisters on the Ground" who go out and meet moms in their area. 

SOS wants to spread the word about its services to as wide an audience as possible, and we need your help.  If you want to help support this mission financially, you can make a donation via the CUB website.  If you want to donate goods, or gently-used items for the children, or take up a collection of gift cards for diapers, please feel free to do so!  For further information, please contact us via email at: sosdir@CUBirthparents.org

Below are the women whom SOS has helped “save” since its inception in 2012:
Kristina - Nevada
Katelyn - Washington
Angelique - California
Summer - Ohio
Crystal – North Carolina
Lily - Georgia
Gloria - Kansas
Jonathan & Sheila - Missouri
Elizabeth – New York
Andrew & Cheyenne - Wisconsin
April - Kansas
Rio - Kansas
Kaleigh – New York
Sarah - Oklahoma
Greg & Felicia - Florida
McKayla - Tennessee
Anthony & Dawn - Florida
Ben & Amanda – Florida
Dwayne & Karly - Texas
Jaime - Arizona
Jonathan & Kalen - Georgia
Rachel – Florida
Juan & Brittney - Arizona
Joseph & Dallas - Colorado
Becky - Indiana
Emily - Indiana
Ruth - Arkansas
Amanda K - Florida
Katie - Michigan
Ashley - Tennessee
 
 
 

 

"LION" Comes Roaring into Town

Sarah Burns

“Lion” Comes Roaring Into Town!
 
If you can bear the pain of watching a child become lost and separated from his family, then you can sit through the first hour of the new film “LION” with the lovable young child star Sunny Pawar, as the five-year-old Saroo Brierley. The story is simple yet all too common: Saroo gets lost and separated from his family at the age of five, gets picked up by Indian authorities and sent to an orphanage. Unable to locate his family, Saroo is ultimately sent to Australia where he is adopted by an Australian family.

One evening, twenty-five years later, while dining with friends, Saroo, (in later years portrayed by Dev Patel as the grown Saroo) has a “gastronomic epiphany” and decides to begin to search for his long-lost family using Google Earth. It is a quest that many, if not most, adoptees will understand and support: the search to find and know one’s own identity and original family. The film depicts that “hero’s journey” while taking us on a visually exciting voyage across India, as we root for Saroo to find his home/mother.  The film is based on the true story by Saroo Brierley, “A LONG WAY HOME,” and adapted by screenwriter Luke Davies.  At its heart, the film illustrates the deeply emotional drive to find wholeness by searching for and finding his mother, for only in that way can he find out who he really is. Screenwriter Davies, an author of fiction and poetry and a journalist, immediately connected with Brierley’s story, and he has brought that story to life in a magnificent and touching way.

There were two interesting and important asides or sub-plots to the film: the filmmaker acknowledges the emotions of all of the parents involved, and he also describes the unhappy and painful existence of another adopted sibling. There are some facts about adoption that even films cannot ignore.

To properly portray Saroo’s birthmother, screenwriter Davies describes how he traveled to India, went to the train station, visited the orphanage and the hometown, and met Saroo’s birthmother. “That was an amazing two or three hours, but I felt really bad because she wept the whole time! I kept apologizing through an interpreter after every question I asked, and she kept saying ‘No, it’s okay, I really want to do this.’ You could feel all that grief and trauma that lasted for twenty-five years that was contained inside her. That powerful mix of grief, sorrow and suffering that stretched across twenty-five years was in her, as well as her joy – my God, to be in that room it was impossible not to cry!” 

During the making of the film, Saroo admitted that literally every night for twenty-five years, in the privacy of his mind and his heart, he would lie awake and in his mind, walk the steps back through the alleyway to his home and shout out to his mother, brother, and sister, “I’m here, I’m here!”  For the filmmakers, that repression and guilt was a very vivid fact that they wanted to capture and develop. But for Saroo, part of the journey was about suppressing his guilt.  Since he had a good life, he assumed – wrongly – that he would hurt his adopted mother if she knew that he was obsessing about this “other mother.” (In a pleasant side note, Saroo’s adoptive parents are kind, supportive and understanding. Nicole Kidman, herself an adoptive mother, plays Sue Brierley, Saroo’s mother.)

As many adoptees know all too well, guilt and repression are genuine emotional and psychological experiences that many adopted people go through. When that guilt is unleashed, all that has been suppressed suddenly bursts open because it can’t be contained anymore, and Saroo’s obsessive journey begins. As often happens, there is collateral damage from his obsession, and during his search, he is unable to be present in his own life, and pushes away the people who are closest to him.  Actress Rooney Mara plays Saroo’s girlfriend who suffers through that challenging relationship.

The good news is that GOOGLE EARTH worked! So go see the film and you will be reminded of the fact that family bonds cannot be severed, despite however many thousands of miles and despite twenty-five years and despite having very little information. Yes, reunions, blessed and miraculous reunions, can still occur, and can even be recaptured in film. Do not miss this film, and remember to watch all the way to the credits at the very end. You will not be disappointed.

 

The Triad

James Alfano

Forty six years have come and gone 
Faster and faster life moves on 
I have matured into a man 
Proud today of who I am 
 
Nurtured and loved 
All my youthful days
I have been shown 
All the righteous ways
 
My parents who raised me
They loved and adored me
Life can be unfair
They are no longer with me
 
All these years
I have never known
That another person
Was left alone
 
Alone to love a child
Who has matured into a man
Separated at birth
From how it all began
 
A little secret was kept
Through the years
Each of my birthdays
She held back the tears
 
Fate has now
Brought us together
Giving us a chance 
To make it better
 
She is now
A part of me
Completing the Triad 
For this Adoptee
 
The days and years ahead
Will have more joy
For a  mother has found
Her little boy
 

 

New Research Project on Options Counseling in Adoption

From the Donaldson Institute on Adoption

"UNDERSTANDING OPTIONS COUNSELING EXPERIENCES IN ADOPTION"
 
The Donaldson Adoption Institute (DAI) released a new research report on November 29, 2016, on Options Counseling in Adoption. We recommend you read it and we have copied an excerpt and a link to the full report below.
 
"Understanding Options Counseling Experiences in Adoption:
A Quantitative Analysis of First/Birth Parents and Professionals
"
 
This research was conducted by Dr. Elissa Madden, Assistant Professor at the Diana R. Garland School of Social Work at Baylor University; Dr. Scott Ryan, Dean and Jenkins Garrett Professor at the School of Social Work at The University of Texas of Arlington; Dr. Donna Aguiniga, Associate Professor at the School of Social Work of the University of Alaska-Anchorage; and Marcus Crawford, Doctoral Candidate at The University of Texas of Arlington.
 
“The decision to relinquish parental rights to a child for the purpose of adoption is laden with many practical considerations, and even more importantly, a range of complex emotions and feelings for parents. It stands to reason that best practice in this area would dictate expectant parents who are exploring options surrounding an unintended pregnancy would receive unbiased and thorough counseling that explores the full range of options available. This practice has been referred to as “options counseling” in the field of adoption, and similar to other regulations in adoption that vary drastically by state, the practice of options counseling can be dramatically different based on state statute and/or agency practices. In fact, only about half of all U.S. states include references to options counseling in statutes that guide adoption – most of which are vague in nature and advise, instead of require, that expectant parents are made aware of counseling opportunities.
 
Given the negligible regulations surrounding what should be one of the most critical aspects of the adoption process, combined with scant research that explores the nature of this experience for expectant parents, further investigation into this process is critical if services to expectant parents are to be informed and ethical. This new study specifically sought to investigate the decision-making experiences of women and men who relinquished their parental rights to adoption as well as the standards that guide professionals who provide options counseling.
There are two phases of this study; the first that is currently being released is a quantitative analysis of a survey with first/birth parents and adoption professionals. The study specifically sought to analyze individuals who had relinquished their parental rights to a child for adoption after 1989 in an effort to explore more current experiences in adoption, particularly given more recent trends towards openness in adoption. Ultimately, 223 first/birth mothers responded; unfortunately, due to limited numbers of responses from first/birth fathers, this population could not be included in the study. For the professional respondents, 141 adoption professionals from 38 different states participated in the survey.
 
The second phase of this study, expected to be released in early Spring 2017, is a qualitative analysis of first/birth mother experiences as well as professionals who provide services in this area. The analysis is based on individual interviews that were conducted earlier this year.
 
A variety of detailed findings have been uncovered in this work which ideally will assist in creating best practice standards; standards that ultimately ensure an expectant parent is duly informed of all options surrounding an unintended pregnancy and is meaningfully and unbiasedly supported in whatever decision he or she ultimately makes. Only then can we say that informed consent has been given.

Major findings specific to first/birth parent experiences have been captured in key areas that informed their decision-making as they deliberated about the options surrounding an unintended pregnancy. This includes practical and emotional considerations, levels of perceived and available support, as well as knowledge and access to services and resources surrounding the full options available to them. Relationships with their child and adoptive family after relinquishment as well as the ongoing impact in their life were also explored.
 
There are many key areas to highlight in this study – some of which include findings that indicate a vast disparity in information women received, with the greatest concern being that the majority of women reported that they received very limited information about parenting their child. Financial and housing concerns as well as a perceived lack of emotional and social support were reasons many women had for ultimately relinquishing their parental rights to adoption; notably many women reported that the greatest lack of support came from family and friends. One first/birth mother poignantly stated, “It was a confusing time. I did all the wrong things, but it was no one’s fault. I needed someone to help me realize I could do it and have the courage and have the help. Without that, I guess I turned against myself. No one did anything wrong. But I just didn’t have someone who said it’s okay to keep him and I’ll help you.”
 
For many of the first/birth mothers who participated in this study, the findings demonstrate that the process was traumatic in varying ways. There were also mothers who expressed a more positive experience and successful outcomes. Many women, even those who felt positive about their decision, did still indicate some level of regret, with one mother aptly stating “knowing you did the best thing doesn’t mean you never get to feel regret.”
 
One interesting aspect of this study was the disconnect that appeared at times surrounding the services adoption professionals perceived themselves to be providing robustly and the perceptions from first/birth parents who often reported wishing they had more access to supports and resources along the way, most especially with regard to options surrounding parenting decisions. This point is not to argue that professionals as a whole are not necessarily providing services in a certain manner; rather, it is to say that there is something lost in the communication of this information that is not being understood and received appropriately by expectant parents. In that regard, it is possible that the overall lack of standards that inform options counseling combined with the manifold differences in state laws blur the information and services provided. This can have the unfortunate impact of leaving many expectant parents in a position to feel further confounded during an experience that is already rife with complexity.

DAI decided to release this report during National Adoption Month because this aspect of the adoption experience cannot be left out of the narrative, yet historically has been. It is critically important to ensure that all voices connected to adoption are heard from equally during this month and throughout the year. At the same time, for those of us who are connected to adoption, we must be open to learning about each other’s mixed experiences within the complexities that adoption yields.
 
This research study surrounding options counseling experiences is the first of its kind to truly gather perspectives from those most closely connected to this experience – many of whom have struggled in various ways in the absence of meaningful services while they were expecting and after the decision-making process. Practice in this area should not lead any expecting parent to one particular outcome; rather services should be geared towards supporting parents in making decisions that are fully informed and represent their choice for what they believe to be the best solution for themselves and most especially their child. This is what ethical options counseling represents and we all have a responsibility to make certain it occurs ethically.

DAI noted its debt of gratitude to James Stevens, responsible for creating the Lynn Franklin Fund in honor of Lynn C. Franklin, and they additionally acknowledged Brenda Romanchik (LCSW, ACSW, CTS and author of A Birthparent’s Book of Memories and other publications) who served as Project Lead on this study, as well as the Lynn Franklin Fund Advisory Council who provided invaluable insight throughout this research. Read the full report here:
http://www.adoptioninstitute.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/Understanding-Options-Counseling-Experiences-in-Adoption-Phase-One-Report.pdf

 

 

"Options" Counseling?

Let's Adopt REFORM!

The Donaldson Adoption Institute

“Adoption in America Today: The Good, The Bad, and a Path to Reform.”

The Donaldson Adoption Institute (DAI) released their report this year, entitled, “Let’s Adopt Reform Report - Adoption in America Today: The Good, The Bad, and a Path to Reform.” The report highlights many years of DAI research, as well as what they have most recently learned from the American public and adoption professionals, as they took their Reform campaign on the road. It also includes recommendations for changes needed on the path to reform. For more information visit DAI at: http://www.adoptioninstitute.org/) Here are the report’s five takeaways:

Adoption Is Not a One-Time Transaction. 
It’s a lifelong journey for the entire family. In order to encourage healthy identity development and strong relationships, it is important to understand adoption as a transformational experience that lasts a lifetime.

A Human Rights Framework Is Needed 
Adoption is in urgent need of a cultural shift; this shift requires first and foremost to make decisions in adoption through the lens of human rights and to practice adoption in a way that primarily and fundamentally respects and upholds the humanity of all who are connected to this rich and complex experience.
 
Market Forces Create a Variety of Concerns
It is critical to develop uniform standards and regulations in order to remove the influence of money as it relates to the practice of adoption. Children are not commodities.
 
Adoption Practices in America Lack Uniformity
Adoption policies and practices vary widely by state and type of adoption. The consequence of these inconsistencies can lead to fraud, coercion, and undue stress of families and ultimately leaves children vulnerable.
 
No Reform Without Education
One of the greatest impediments to meaningful reforms in adoption and foster care are the societal misperceptions and general lack of knowledge surrounding the experience. We must all foster understanding in society as well as in the systems that serve families if needed changes are to be made.

Join Us!

Would you like to join CUB and/or make a donation to CUB or SOS?
Please CLICK HERE to learn more!

Do you want to Support Family Preservation?

Do You Know a Birthmother or Birthfather in need of Support? 

CUB was founded forty years ago to be a source of support for birthparents who had relinquished children during the “Baby Scoop Era” (primarily from the 1950s through 1973). The Baby Scoop Era was a period characterized by an increased rate of pre-marital pregnancies over the preceding period, along with a higher rate of newborn adoption. An estimated 4 million mothers in the United States had children placed for adoption during that time, with 2 million babies born and placed during the 1960s alone. Today, while the face of adoption and birthparenthood has changed, CUB continues to offer support to birthparents through online and in-person groups around the country.
 
There are many ways to support CUB and one way is through your membership. By joining CUB, you can help guarantee we stay strong and continue to be a voice for women considering relinquishment, for women and men in need of counseling and support, or for those who have relinquished and need a place to process their decision and their grief.  There are many reasons to support CUB with a financial contribution, and now there are two new ways to do so: By donating to CUB through SOS and /or the CUB Scholarship Fund.
 
Saving Our Sisters:
 
Through your membership (and/or your personal gift), you can contribute to the support of family preservation and help women who lack the financial resources to keep and raise their child. You can donate through the SOS Program: Just designate your gift to go for SOS: Saving Our Sisters. Click here to donate to SOS:
 
CUB Retreat Scholarship Fund:

Another way to support CUB is to fund a scholarship to the annual CUB Retreat by donating to the CUB Scholarship Fund. Simply let us know you want to designate your donation to be used to bring new birthparents to a CUB retreat where they can get the support and understanding they need and deserve. To mail a donation, make your check payable to CUB and send to:
Concerned United Birthparents
PO Box 5538
Sherman Oaks, CA 91413
or
Click here to make a donation by credit/debit card

 
 
 

CUB'S PAPERS AT THE SCHLESINGER LIBRARY AT HARVARD UNIVERSITY

Sarah Burns

A VISIT TO THE SCHLESINGER LIBRARY at the RADCLIFFE INSTITUTE AT HARVARD UNIVERSITY: Home of the CUB COLLECTION
 

In late October, we had the opportunity to visit the The Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts.  This library is the home of the CUB papers, which include research, surveys, newsletters, and educational materials that date back to 1976, as well as pamphlets, posters, and published studies starting from the very beginning of CUB’s existence. CUB is proud and fortunate to have our work recognized and housed in such an esteemed institution.
 
When Radcliffe College and Harvard University officially merged in October 1, 1999, the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard was established. On January 1, 2001, noted historian and now president of Harvard University Drew Gilpin Faust became founding dean of the Radcliffe Institute.  The Library is part of the Institute. With the finest collection of resources for research on the history of women in America, the library's holdings are strong in Women's rights and feminism; Health and sexuality; Work and family life; Education and the professions; and Culinary history and etiquette. CUB’s work would seem to fit into all. (With perhaps the exception of the culinary history!)
 
The full name of the Library is “The Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America,” and was built in 1908 with half the funding provided by Andrew Carnegie. Since then the library has continued to expand and has been renamed to honor Harvard University historian Arthur M. Schlesinger Sr. and his wife Elizabeth Bancroft Schlesinger. Schlesinger Sr. was also an advisor to President John F. Kennedy. Its collections are a documentation of the lives of notable women of the past and present for the future. The Library also furthers the Radcliffe Institute's commitment to women, gender, and society. One of the priorities of the Schlesinger Library is to “mind the gap between the long-hidden history of women and the more visible history of men,” and also between materials that the archive holds and subjects that remain under-represented. It is the nation’s leading special collections library, and it documents the history of women and gender in America.  CUB is proud to have had its letters and founding documents selected to be housed there. CUB members are proud to be recognized for who we are, and for the significance of the battle CUB waged to represent birthmothers in the generations when reproductive freedom was unattainable for most women.
 
CUB documents the stories of birthmothers from the 60’s and 70s and through today, who have been struggling to have our stories told and our voices heard. We are delighted that our letters and stories and the record of our many CUB accomplishments have been chronicled and preserved in this hallowed repository of letters and papers. We are proud to be included among such major female figures, including Julia Child, Judy Chicago, Dorothy West, Florynce Kennedy, Lucy Stone and Susan B. Anthony!
 
The Library is open to the public, and welcomes all researchers who wish to use the collections, view exhibitions, and attend events. (As one of the special libraries within the Harvard Library, specific policies may apply.) 

Access the Schlesinger Library here
 
CUB owes a special debt of gratitude to Mark Vassar, the Lead Archivist at the Library, who gave us a private tour of the many special collections in the Library, and who gave generously of his time and expertise.  Thank you, Mark Vassar!
 

 

 
CUB Communicator - January 2017