28 February, 2007

Take My Baby, Please

It would be wrong of me to pretend that I wasn't having fun with these little sallies between me, Aunt B. and Sarah Moore. Because I am. Even though for some reason (i.e. my own big mouth) I have been turned into the Great Demon Mennonite who favours the random deaths of children and the selling of babies.

About that. Let's talk about that, shall we? Maybe we could even get Ned or my dad or brother to pitch in, seeing as they're all attorneys who have handled private adoptions. (Or maybe my brother, Conservative Monkey Boy hasn't yet handled a p.a. But I thought he had.)

Anyway, here's what I don't get. According to a story referenced by Sarah Moore, three Mexican nationals (more on that later) were arrested for trading a baby for $1,500 in cash and prizes.

There is apparently a charge out there called "felony trafficking in children" which means that it's illegal to sell babies. Yeah, I get that. Selling babies is wrongbad. But let's imagine for a minute that you're three poor people who are already here in the country under possibly illegal circumstances. One of you has a baby she doesn't want. The others have a small amount of cash. Because you are all trying to fly under the radar you can't seek the services of an adoption attorney for a private adoption. So what do you do? Apparently you trade the baby for a car.

From what I've picked up around the dinner table in my childhood, private adoption is a big, hairy expensive deal. It can cost anywhere between $10K and $15K. Now, granted, that money doesn't go for downpayments on Dodge Intrepids. But it does get filed into neat little piles with names like "medical expenses", "travel costs" and "related expenses".

I've personally known many families who've engaged in private adoption. They NEVER say "I will trade you a car for your baby." But they do say "fly here from Iowa and I will put you up in a fancy hotel, take you shopping for clothes, buy you an iPod, take you to dinner and stuff while we get to know each other." Sure, the lawyers call that "...and related expenses."

I call it the adoption equivalent of Al Gore's energy shell game. It seems to me from where I sit that this may just be another instance of the haves being different from the have-nots. If you can afford a lawyer who can make it all sound pretty and nice and legal you can buy yourself a baby. If, on the other hand, you're just flat broke and have no way to care for your child--that child we didn't want you to kill when it was in your belly--then you are just up the creek, my dear. And you'll have to find a way to get back down that creek without a new car.

16 Comments:

At 4:14 PM, February 28, 2007, Blogger Slartibartfast said...

I'm not sure what to make of this. We all bring our own baggage with us into these discussions, and I know you're just trying to make a libertarian point, but this post makes adoption, in general, seem so unseemly

I know that wasn't your intention, and ours was not a private adoption (although it cost us out the wazoo). But it kind of stings to be lumped together with someone who traded their car for a baby of a desperate woman. But it's almost unavoidable for me to draw that conclusion, private adoption or not.

We had to pay attourneys, and airfare from Korea for a baby and an adult escort, and the "fees" for the international adoption agency, and the "fees" for the local adoption agency, still more "fees" for the Korean adoption agency, the orphanage, the home study, DHS fees, immigration fees, a fee to get fingerprinted by the FBI, and the fee for Muriel Robinson to make it all official.

But the difference, as it is with private adoption, is that our children's birthmother went through proper channels. You don't have to be rich to do that. You walk down to an orphange and fill out the forms. I think you're confusing the b-parent/a-parent roles in all of this.

We almost never answer questions about "how much did the adoption cost?", for this very reason. It's too easy for someone not as familiar to the process to turn it around into a discussion of "how much did the baby cost?"

Sorry Kat. I think you're WAY off base on this one.

 
At 4:30 PM, February 28, 2007, Blogger Kat Coble said...

I know you're just trying to make a libertarian point,

I'm not really. I'm more trying to make a "fertility challenged" point. Adoptions are EXPENSIVE.

But it kind of stings to be lumped together with someone who traded their car for a baby of a desperate woman.

Sorry. That wasn't my intent. Although my dad'll probably say the same thing. I honestly am not meaning that at all.

But the difference, as it is with private adoption, is that our children's birthmother went through proper channels.

Therein lies my complaint. Who decided once upon a time which channels were proper and which were unseemly? It may seem like largely a rhetorical question, but I would like the answer. Which is why I really hope Dad & Ned and CMB chip in.

I think you're confusing the b-parent/a-parent roles in all of this.

Perhaps I am to a degree.

Sorry Kat. I think you're WAY off base on this one.

I understand where you're coming from and I think you and my other fifty friends who've adopted babies have a legitimate complaint with what I wrote initially, because it does look like I'm smearing all adoptions with the 'we bought a baby' brush.

That wasn't my intention, and that's why I talk specifically about PRIVATE adoption.

But I have witnessed a whole load of private adoptions, which you admit is not the same as your agency adoptions.

And from what I've seen of some of the private adoptions--other than those conducted by my dad--there seems to be very little difference other than the niceities of modern legalese.

 
At 5:19 PM, February 28, 2007, Blogger Slartibartfast said...

*Who decided once upon a time which channels were proper and which were unseemly? *

Here's my opinion, although I'm not an expert. I think they set up the "proper channels" to eliminate child trafficking. I don't think I have to tell you how couples, when they reach a certain level of (and forgive me for using this word) desperation, will pretty much do ANYTHING to get a child they can call their own, especially a baby. I've been at that point in my life as well, but we had "the system" to guide us through a way that ensured that nobody,especially our children, got hurt.

I think, in these cases, the rules are just. They ensure that the adoption is legal (therefore, the b-parents have no claims on the child, unless it has been written into the papers). This is VERY important. They ensure (at least the best we can) that the baby with go to a home where he will be loved and taken care of - this is the homestudy part. They force the a-parents to stand before a judge and say, "This child is mine, forever. I will raise it and make it an heir, come what may. I cannot 'send it back'".

A wild-west approach has none of these assurances, and does not carry the weigh of law to enforce those assurances.

This is why the system is needed.

As for private adoptions, we rejected that route because it was too dangerous - at any time the b-mom could change her mind. In our case, the form to give up all rights was already signed before we even got 'the call'. It's just a guess, but I would say that the things showered upon the b-mom are a form of "insurance", designed to keep her near so she won't change her mind.

So, in a way, I kind of agree with you. I don't really like private adoptions that much, but mainly because they're such a crapshoot, and are rarely focused on the child. But I don't find them evil. I just couldn't do it.

Sorry I went off. We all have our triggers.

 
At 5:22 PM, February 28, 2007, Blogger Slartibartfast said...

Oh, save this:

landertb dot comcast dot net

 
At 6:13 AM, March 01, 2007, Blogger Slartibartfast said...

Dangit!

In the last comment, the first "dot" should be "at" .

 
At 7:07 AM, March 01, 2007, Blogger W said...

Not to change the subject, but the lesson I learned is not to cross Sarah Moore. She plays hard ball. I bet there will be nasty comments about you worked in for weeks.

 
At 7:47 AM, March 01, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Aunt B says

Yeah, no sh*t. Who knew the continuing celebration of virtue took time-outs to smackdown the likes of us?

But I want to highlight an important point Coble raises--we all bring a lot of assumptions to situations we don't have a lot if information about (which, granted, is part of the fun of blogging) and it's important to be aware of that.

All we know is that three people wanted to make an exchange--a baby for some money for a car payment.

Moore immediately assumes that there's something incredibly unseemly going on here, not just in the manner in which the exchange took place, but in the impulse behind it.

Then, I think Coble raises a good point, which is--can we be sure the impulse was unseemly, even if the manner was?

This could be anything from "I'll trade you my baby for some money to buy a car and I don't care what you do with it." "Good because we're going to sell it to folks who traffic in child prostitution." to "Can you believe that crazy woman has a baby and she's running around doing all kinds of dangerous things. That baby could be hurt. What can we do to get it away from her? I wonder if she'd take money for it?"

See, because, Slartibartfast, I had the opposite reaction to you. I don't think Coble was suggesting at all that adoptions, in general were unseemly. I thought she was suggesting that there might be a way to understand what's going on here in a framework we're already familiar with.

I think that it's true that we all bring our baggage to these things. Moore's baggage seems to be to always assume that whatever's happening is evidence of willfully crappy parenting (which, of course, she would never do).

Coble tends to look at things through a lens of individual liberty and with the assumption that there may be some explanation other than believing that all these stories are evidence of evil parenting.

I know this kind of stuff stinks of situational ethics, which I imagine everyone but me here hates.

But I find it useful, to be reminded repeatedly that my point of view is not the only way to see things and that other perspectives can shed useful light on situations.

 
At 8:51 AM, March 01, 2007, Blogger Malia said...

I know this kind of stuff stinks of situational ethics, which I imagine everyone but me here hates.

Wasn't it situational ethics that drove the blogging community to help Claudia Chavez (is that the right name), the mother the state wanted to deport? I think we use situational ethics all the time whether we want to admit it or not.

As to Kat's arguments, I read them as showing that in adoption situations, legal, private, shady, unseemly, what have you, there is ALWAYS a trade off (payment). In legal adoptions (private, domestic/international) the adopting parents pay all kinds of fees to be able to legally say that this child is now theirs. The trade-off/payment to the mother/parents giving the child up is that they are released from responsibility for the child. In some cases, yes they get some tangible benefits but the ultimate payment is that, in the end, they DO NOT have to raise the child themselves.

It is likely that the "transaction" between the Mexicans was of similiar merit. Someone who had a child but didn't want it found someone who did not have a child but wanted one and an exchange was made. In that case not only was the "giver" absolved of parenting responsibilties, they also got some monetary/tangible benefit from it. I think Kat is saying, how is that situation all that different from what happens "legally"?

Of course we don't know what the true situation was but instead of jumping to unseemly conclusions, like some people, is it too much of a stretch to realize that these are people too, with emotions and struggles and decisions to make?

 
At 9:37 AM, March 01, 2007, Anonymous Thoughtful Codger said...

As an adoptee, I want to do everything possible to encourage adoptions. I cannot say enough how thankful I am for the life that my adoption made possible. I also encourage adoptive parents to tell your kids, they are adopted even before they even understand what adoption is. My parents did that for me and always made me realize how special being adopted was.

They always told me that, when I came of age, they would tell me who my birth mother was. Because of their openness, I never had that feeling of being incomplete that the sentimental press tries to make you and adoptees believe always happens. In fact, when I came of age, I was not particularly interested. Contrast that experience with others, whose parents tried to conceal the adoption. In those cases, the adoptee invariably found out about the adoption when they were teenagers. Add that fact to the self-confidence problems adolescents experience, and you have a recipe for big trouble.

I had an adopted cousin, whose parents broke off contact with us, for fear my brother and I would talk about the cousin being adopted. A close friend that I went to school with, from kindergarten through high school, once told me never to tell his brother that he was a “cradle baby.” As a kindergartner, I figured, why would I tell his brother something when I didn’t even know what a “cradle baby” was. In both of those cases, the adoptees as adolescents discovered the fact of their adoption and felt that they were not worthy to have the name of their family and that they could never live up to the family name. To them, the fact that their family kept their adoption is secret, made them believe adoption was shameful.

When I was married and practicing law, my mother wrote me that my birth mother wanted to know if I hated her for giving me up for adoption. My reaction was that I had never thought anything about it; but, if I did think about it, I could have no hate because what she did was the greatest act of love that a person could do short of laying down her life for me.

Later through an unusual set of circumstances, I met my birth sister and “cousins” -- half siblings. In my early 60s. When my brother called and asked if he could tell her about me, my first reaction was, what right did I have two parachute into her life at this time. I gave him permission, and we met our birth sister, who until then, never knew she had any brothers, other than half brothers. It turned out that meeting was healing for my birth sister, and we have enjoyed knowing each other ever since.

Unlike her, I grew up with a blood brother, a brother who is natural son of my adoptive parents, and adopted sister and another adopted brother. My mother, a physician, delivered each of her adopted kids at their birth mother’s home and brought us to her home straight from the delivery. Don’t worry, it was prearranged and was in each case, a solution to an “inconvenient” birth.

This background is the reason why I as an attorney have enjoyed practicing adoption law and doing everything I can to encourage adoptions. I have handled agency and private adoptions, and it is the happiest type of law that I practice. Those people who adopt are in no way, like the car dealer who accepted a baby as a down payment – or the mother, who offered her baby.

In fact, adoption statutes are strict about prohibiting payments other than expense reimbursement to parents who give children up for adoption. I have handled several private adoptions, and they are very satisfying to all of the participants provided everything is done correctly. In one case, after the adoption had been arranged, the stepfather of the birth mother called and wanted to be reimbursed for the entire expenses at delivery and prenatal care, which had been covered by the family’s insurance. I explained that the law would only permit me to reimburse any deductibles that the family had to pay. He wanted the entire cost. I communicated this demand to my clients and advised them that it was illegal and that if they gave in to such a demand, they were not only in engaging in baby trafficking, but they were also opening themselves up to repeated blackmail and I would not participate in such a transaction, because it was illegal and unethical. I also wrote the birth mother and her mother about the demand and explained why it would not be met. Fortunately, they straightened the stepfather out, and the adoption moved forward to the delight of everyone – except maybe the stepfather.

As an attorney, I make sure that shortcuts are not taken in adoptions. I require identification of the father of the child, consent of the father to the adoption or termination of the father’s paternity rights in a court proceeding. Never do I want one of my adoptions to end up with video footage of a tearful child being removed from care of his only parents that he knew and taken by birth parents, to whom the child had been the inconvenient result of unprotected lust. This is the danger in private adoptions, if shortcuts are taken or laws were violated.

Agency adoptions are much simpler, because the agency has taken care of making sure that parental rights of birth parents have been terminated before the adoption began.

I am not naïve enough to believe that no lawyer takes shortcuts or countenances improper payments. As in every profession, there are individuals, whose only motivation is money. They are so money oriented they will even jeopardize their licenses. Unfortunately, those are the same lawyers, whose adoptions are more likely to become fodder for tearful videos. If you’re seeking to adopt and the lawyer suggests shortcuts, find another lawyer.

This being said, adoptions are not inexpensive. When you consider home studies, adoption classes, agency reviews required in every adoption, attorney fees (for all parties) and uncovered medical expenses, five figure costs are not unusual. I identify with the comment about the family who had very expensive adoption costs even know they made no improper payments. There’s no way that can be compared to the baby down payment case.

Unfortunately, high adoption costs are the downside of legalized abortion. Had I been conceived, 40 years later than I was, I’m most likely would have been discarded tissue- but that’s another story.

 
At 9:41 AM, March 01, 2007, Blogger Kat Coble said...

It's just a guess, but I would say that the things showered upon the b-mom are a form of "insurance", designed to keep her near so she won't change her mind.

Well, yeah. Almost like, I dunno, a car payment.

Not to change the subject, but the lesson I learned is not to cross Sarah Moore. She plays hard ball. I bet there will be nasty comments about you worked in for weeks.

She's already broken my heart by saying that B. and I are not funny. Clearly at times we are. The grief of being denied my funny has slain me whole where I stand.

Beyond that, she can continue to celebrate my lack of shared virtues. Not a big deal. She did, after all, name a child after me.

Then, I think Coble raises a good point, which is--can we be sure the impulse was unseemly, even if the manner was?

Thanks. I could be wrong but I saw three Mexican nationals. One was a young girl with a baby. One was an older man married to a much younger woman. In a lot of those May-October romances fertility challenges are a big deal. So maybe they just wanted to have a child of their own and had no recourse.

Then again, maybe they are fronting for a child-trafficking organisation. Who knows? But I like to go with the whole 'innocent until proven guilty' and 'wait for the facts' stuff when I can.

I don't think Coble was suggesting at all that adoptions, in general were unseemly.

I wasn't. I was trying to show that through the Rule of Law there are an awful lot of wealthy white people who get away with doing the exact thing these poor Mexican people did without being called to the carpet. Our society doesn't consider it unseemly but necessary. So cutting these folks a sliver of benefit of the doubt isn't such a bad thing.

Moore's baggage seems to be to always assume that whatever's happening is evidence of willfully crappy parenting

Yeah, exactly. I mean, I know she's a school teacher, but I think she's taking the concept of in loco parentis a bit too personally.

I know this kind of stuff stinks of situational ethics, which I imagine everyone but me here hates.
...
Wasn't it situational ethics that drove the blogging community to help Claudia Chavez (is that the right name), the mother the state wanted to deport? I think we use situational ethics all the time whether we want to admit it or not.


Strictly speaking, Situational Ethics is a philosophical concept which applies to moral situations.

There are two kinds of law for two kinds of wrong: Malum in Se (when something is wrong in and of itself, like murder)
Malum Prohibitum (when something is wrong because the agreed laws of the community say it's wrong. Like driving over the speed limit.)

Since Malum in Se is based in moral code, situational ethics apply here, and those situational ethics tend to bother me a bit more.

With Malum Prohibitum offenses--like illegal immigration and adoption--I tend to see room for varied judgments. Since the law is only the law because we made it that way, I think it's not an ethical violation for us to change our minds. Our maximum speed limit goes up and down according to our whims. Our adoption rules have evolved over time. I just can't bring myself to consider Malum Prohibitum offenses as repugnant as people would like me to.

I don't think you can operate functionally with your sense of injustice always turned to eleven.

is it too much of a stretch to realize that these are people too, with emotions and struggles and decisions to make?

Yes, thank you. Exactly.

 
At 9:45 AM, March 01, 2007, Blogger Kat Coble said...

I see my dad (Thoughtful Codger) has weighed in.

As far as I'm concerned he's the original adoption expert, what with having been adopted and then continuing to perform adoptions.

 
At 9:55 AM, March 01, 2007, Blogger Busy Mom said...

You go, Thoughtful Codger.

-from, Another Adoptee

 
At 10:27 AM, March 01, 2007, Anonymous nm said...

Thoughtful Codger, as the aunt of two adopted nephews, reading stories like yours warms my heart. Both of my nephews knew from an early age that they were adopted, and seem quite comfortable with it. One of them, though, when he was in high school, used to do the "I bet my birth parents wouldn't make me do so much homework!" thing and it drove my sister straight up the wall. I don't get the feeling that either nephew (both adults now) has ever taken steps to contact his respective birth parents, but I also know that neither of them has (yet) said lovely things about the adoption, as you have. I hope they don't wait until they're your age to do it--my sister would love to hear it.

 
At 11:26 PM, March 01, 2007, Anonymous Nicole said...

I'd just like to ask some of your commenters to try reading some birth parent blogs.

I'm a birth parent, and to be frank, I DO find "adoption in general" to be "unseemly." NOT because I think adoptive parents are horrible people who just want a baby at all costs (I DON'T), but because the laws surrounding adoption need so much improvement.

Anyway. I appreciated this post. Thank you.

 
At 1:55 AM, March 03, 2007, Blogger Ned Williams said...

Interesting stuff, Kat. Sorry that I didn't pick up on the discussion sooner--but your dad said most of what I would say.

Certainly, some lawyers could attempt to fudge on what are legitimate expenses and what are payments, but the law is pretty specific and an adoptive parent must lie in at least two places if they are concealing "payments."

Simply stated, in this process of terminating parental rights or creating permanent ones for the purpose of protecting a child, the State

I'll have to admit that I'm shocked, but I almost completely concur with Aunt B's comment . . . though I do have a problem with "situational ethics." (even on that matter her comment is right--she acknowledged she was probably in the minority). Having said that, I do not think it is good public policy to condone, encourage, much less facilitate, persons treating child-people as commodities. I think these people acted badly for doing just that, in the same way that I think a birth mother in an independent adoption acts badly if she demands things from adoptive parents. With the availability of abortion on demand and with the diminishing stigma of out-of-wedlock births and single motherhood, and with the high demand for non-hard-to-place-children, it is easy for a birth mother with an unexpected pregnancy to view herself as entitled to something for carrying a child to term and giving him/her up for adoption, and that mentality is undesirable,

But, in the end, we've got to protect the interests of children, so we (as a society) try to make it hard for unseemly practices to go on, and we make it as easy as possible for a birth mother to give up her child.

Lastly, while adoptions are typically costly, the reason is generally related to the identification or location of the child for placement, plus the laborious process of helping a birthmother choose a family. Two independent adoptions I'm doing are basically costing the parents little more than a thousand dollars (the legal fees) because the birth mothers were motivated to give up the children, and the birth mothers had some type of connection to the adoptive family. So I think you misperceived the basis for the money being paid by adoptive families to an agency. Though I certainly sympathize with Libertarian principles, it is certainly appropriate for the state to prohibit and inhibit what amounts to treating people as property.

I'm glad you raised this issue.

 
At 10:13 PM, March 03, 2007, Anonymous Nicole said...

"...and we make it as easy as possible for a birth mother to give up her child."

Wow. Don't you see that by doing that, we THROW OPEN THE DOOR to unseemly practices? Hell, we put down a welcome mat, too.

 

Post a Comment

<< Home