TRANSCRIPT OF THE FILM
"OUT OF THE FOG"
MOTHERS SPEAK ABOUT ADOPTION

Documentary by Suzie Kidnap

Transcribed by Ron Murdock, a Canadian adult adoptee living in Amsterdam who strongly advocates for open adoption records.
Posted with kind permission of Suzie Kidnap and Ron Murdock.

 

Sandra Jarvie
Reunited Mother.

"Record numbers of temporarily unsupported pregnant girls and women surrendered their babies to adoption in the 1960s and the 1970s. Very little research is available on what was done to these mothers who conceived, carried their babies within their wombs for nine months, gave birth, and then surrendered their babies for adoption. In most cases, these mothers are rendered invisible to society and to their children.

Adoption legislation that supports a closed or monitored system for adoption disclosure has denied the mother who gave birth and her child access to and information about each other for decades. It has also facilitated the denial of the reality of familial, systemic and social practices that separated these mothers and their newborn babies. These practices have victimized, dehumanized, stigmatized, and marginalized many mothers who have lost their babies to adoption. As those who have lost a mother or a child to adoption search for and find each other, these mothers of the 1960s and 1970s are reclaiming their 'voice', their socially denied motherhood, their reality and truth. They are deconstructing the socially created distorted reality of the past."

Karen Wilson Buterbaugh
Exiled Mother , Activist

"Today, the stigma of unwed motherhood may be gone but the perception that these women willingly gave away their babies is not. Exiled mothers are now coming forward in record numbers. Having walked out of the fog of enforced silence, we are angry, and we will be heard. We are here to set the record straight."

Elisa M. Barton,
author
"Confessions of a Lost Mother"

"I have lost several precious things which I can never hope to replace or regain. I have lost my firstborn child. I have lost a great deal of trust in basic human decency, especially with regard to the system of adoption as it is practised in this country."

Laura Watkins-Lewis

on "PERSPECTIVE":

I see adoption in a larger perspective now. It goes way beyond my personal experience and I think that as my knowledge about adoption has increased my anger has increased and it has gone way beyond the anger of a mother who has been robbed, exploited of her child. I think it developed for humanitarian reasons and people had the best of intentions, but it devolved into something that is now a for-profit industry, and it is based on exploiting very vulnerable women and children and serving the needs of people who are what I would call consumers. They have the money, political influence, the ability to get attention in the media and they're getting all that now.

Those prospective adoptive parents overwhelmingly would prefer healthy white infants. If they can't get that, they go overseas to get children as close as possible to what they would have biologically. Children in foster care, children of mixed race, sibling groups are overwhelmingly under-adopted and that is reflected in what I can only call price lists that I have received from adoption agencies and from friends who have sent them to me as well. Adoption agencies and adoption lawyers in these price lists show very clearly that children who are seen as undesirable go much more cheaply or for free than children who are closer to that healthy white infant ideal.

The social problem of the commercialism of adoption, the profiteering that goes on, the mythologizing that the whole system is based on, secrecy of course, the conflict of interest in adoption counseling because most of the people counseling single pregnant women toward adoption are either pro-life agencies, anti-abortion type organizations or profit making institutions.

The counselors get a cut of the profits if the baby is placed. If the baby is not placed they don't get profits. When you can look at the dollar signs and see how these children are valued I think that says a lot because it shows that they are valued by society in that way. And if adoption is seen as a solution for everyone, then why is it based on dollar signs, on who has the most money, on which children are the most desirable according to a very clear set of expectations.

One brochure even listed the costs of various sorts of adoptions from special needs children to newborn, healthy white infants. And then it said if none of these options suits you then we can provide the services of women who are willing to become surrogate mothers. I think that just shows really clearly what is going on in adoption.

The children are being bought and sold like just so much merchandise and that this is not acknowledged publicly but the whole process, the whole institution is seen as a positive, something that benefits children, something that moves children out of terrible circumstances into idealized two-parent homes and America, land of the free, home of opportunity, at the cost of families who are in temporary difficulty. And that is how I see adoption-as a permanent solution to a temporary problem in most cases. As I became more and more involved, more aware, and I read the research and I talked to a lot of very experienced adoption activists including Jean Paton and Hal Agner and others who'd been in it for years and years-Margaret Lawrence-I realized that there was a lot more going on and that it is going to continue, indefinitely, until the underlying causes of adoption are researched and eradicated. And I basically believe that adoption is an immoral, corrupt institution and that it needs to be eradicated."

Karen Wilson Buterbaugh
Exiled Mother
Activist

 

"Many of these women were never told about government programs nor were they advised about child support. They did not receive psychological counseling or legal advice. They were not directed to read surrender documents nor asked if they understood them. These mothers never spoke to a lawyer. Instead, they signed legal papers drafted by adoption agency attorneys. These exiled mothers now question the ethics of this arrangement and raise issues of signing under duress, lack of informed consent, and conflicts of interest."

Sandra Falconer Pace

on "PRACTICE":

"It is important to me that we recognize, when we counsel young women, that they deserve the simple, plain level of informed consent that we would apply to any medical procedure, or anything else. For example, what treatment could you give to a woman that gave her a 40 to 60 percent chance of never having a child, that gave her a 30 percent or greater chance of severe recurrent depression, that affected all her subsequent child rearing (if she was able to have another child)? Baby brokers should have to tell women-as happens in Australia-exactly what the effects of this potential course of action are. What are the demonstrated outcomes, consequences, sequelae, to doing this. The demonstrated results of separating a mother and child are lifelong pain for the mother. All of the adoptive parent's joy is built on the lifelong pain of the mother who loses the child. These are the kinds of information that are given to mothers contemplating losing their children to adoption in Australia and, of course, their adoption rate has plummeted considerably as a result.

Name one adoption agency that tells any girl or any woman that before they take her child from her. I've talked to adoption brokers and when I say to them do you tell women this, they break off communication. They stop talking to me. I don't think that the women today who are poor and in unsupported situations and pregnant are provided that information. And I think that it is malpractice and coercion not to do so."

on "RECORDS":

"So the legal issues around open records are quite clear. When I was sixteen and losing my child I didn't have an advocate there helping me by saying this is what you need to know. I didn't even get a copy of the document that I was signing. What (other) legal contract (would you sign and not) get your own copy of the document?

There is no other contract that a minor can sign without legal representation and a representative, an advocate for herself, but I could sign at sixteen. And yet at twenty, when I was worried because I discovered that my child's father had celiac disease, I didn't have the right to contact my son or his family and have him checked for a serious genetic disease. There are adoptees today who come close to or die for lack of genetic and medical information. But they have no right to contact the people who could give them that information? Even though they are adults and the people they would like to contact are adults? And there is no bar in place, under freedom of association? I lost the right to raise him but I didn't lose the right to know him all his life, and I didn't lose the right of free association with him.

The specter that is often raised is that we were promised confidentiality. I am here to tell you that nowhere on my surrender papers does it tell me that my identity is to be kept confidential from my son. When the government changed the law in the province he was born in and he was able to get his birth name, nobody informed me that my son was being given the name that was his name at birth-which was also my name at the time he was born and which was sufficient information for him to track me down.

Where was the confidentiality promised me, exactly? I am a little unclear on this. So I'm here to say I wasn't promised confidentiality. I understood that I wouldn't know anything about my son and that was part of the price of losing him; that was not the reward of losing him. Children who are relinquished, surrendered, lost to adoption, but who are never adopted-well, guess what-those records are never sealed. So it's not for "our" protection, this confidentiality issue."

on "LANGUAGE":

"The words that are used for women who lost their children are limiting, at best. The term "birth mother" is in common use now and for many of us it has come to be a word that limits our role in our children's lives to their birth. It is not a word we chose for ourselves.

Let's go back to where politically correct language came from. It came from the right of the people to determine how they would be referred to themselves, and not have others impose it on them. So we don't talk about "Eskimo", we talk about Inuit. We don't talk about "Ojibway" we talk about Anashinabe. We use the terms that people choose to call themselves. I don't choose to call myself a "birth mother". My role in my son's life is not limited to his birth.

Those of us who've lost children to adoption-how do we refer to ourselves? I usually refer to myself as a mother who has lost a child to adoption. And I try to use that language, following exactly the same terminology that's used for children who have handicaps or other kinds of difficulties. They talk about the person first and then it's a characteristic that also applies to this person-a person with brown hair as well as a person who has lost a child to adoption. It puts the person first.

Other terms that many of us prefer are "first mother" because in point, plain fact we are the first mother this child has, but not the only mother. Other people prefer the old term "natural "-and too bad for how other people think that means they feel.

The point to me is, we have the right to name ourselves. Adoptive parents do not have the right to name us. And how we choose to regard ourselves is our right. The obligation of the rest of society is to accede to that, just as the rest of society chose to change how they referred to handicapped children and now refer to children with disabilities or children with challenges or Inuit instead of Eskimo or whatever. It is our right to say and it is your job to follow.

A lot of the adoption friendly language I think really needs to be changed. We are talking about people who are losing their children. They are losing their children not often because they have been demonstrated to be neglectful or abusive parents. When we are talking about taking a healthy newborn at birth we're not talking about situations of abuse. We're just talking about separating a mother and child so that "I can raise your child". That's really what we're talking about.

It's one thing to say this child has been in a situation where his or her parents have demonstrated they can't manage it well. That's one thing. It's quite another to say "you might not do as well so therefore we're going to take your kid away" which is what we are doing with the healthy newborn adoption. And people who seek those children need to realize they are not prospective adoptive parents. They're parents who want to take someone else's child to raise. That's the plain, bold fact of the situation. They need to view themselves that way because that's really what's happening.

When we talking about making an adoption plan what we're really talking about is helping someone to realize they should lose their child and suffer lifelong consequences for themselves and their child. And so all of adoption seems premised on the fact that blood kin should not have the same freedom of association that all other people have. And the language that's used around that reinforces that. This 'pro-adoption' or 'adoption-friendly' language is really anti-natural family language."

 

Dian Wellfare
Mother
Adoption Reformer

"Adoption practice works on the premise that, in order to save the child, one must first destroy its mother. "

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