Georgia HB 159: Adoption and Human Trafficking

So, I have my night cut out for me. I will be emailing every Representative in Georgia that voted for this ridiculous Bill. It was a unanimous vote of 165 Yeas. In the name of Modernization, Georgia has ironically regressed. Perhaps, our State is competing with Utah to attract Adoption Tourism. I shiver at the thought. Please feel free to forward this letter below or better yet write your own! But if we could all include something similar to the title of this post: Georgia HB 159: Adoption and Human Trafficking.

We’ve got to be a movement moms and adoptees, or we’re going to find ourselves back in the Baby Scoop Era.

nun

 

Dear ______________,

Recently, HB 159 sponsored by Bert Reeves (34th), passed with the stated purpose to “modernize” adoption. The bill passed unanimously. See it here:

http://www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/en-us/display/20172018/hb/159

Unfortunately, I became aware of this bill shortly after it passed. If only.

It would mean the world to birth mothers and adoptees if you would take a moment of your time to learn how this new law is in fact regressive, not “modern”.  If you could take a moment to understand how it dangerously flirts with Human Trafficking. I am a birth mother who has suffered from PTSD due to a coerced adoption that took place right here in our beautiful State of Georgia. I am a functioning and productive citizen; as are most birth mothers. Regrettably, our voices are rarely heard. In fact, it seems more often than not, that there are aggressive attempts to silence us. On behalf of many birth mothers, please allow me this brief portion of your time to speak on matters important to us; mothers and their babies.

With HB 159; the major issue I contend with is the “fast-track” to adoption by providing a mother with the ability to revoke her 10-day waiting period and making the adoption final 24 hours after birth.

HB159 Sub (4)

(d)  An individual A person signing a surrender of rights pursuant to this Code section shall145 have the right to withdraw the surrender revoke such surrender within ten days as provided146 in subsection (b) (a) of Code Section 19-8-9 and, if he or she is at least 18 years of age,147 shall also have the right to waive the ten-day revocation period by executing a separate148 waiver as provided in subsection (c) of Code Section 19-8-9, so long as it is executed at149 least 24 hours after the birth of the child.

In a world being ravaged by human trafficking- someone in a position such as yourself might want to take note. There was human trafficking happening in adoption prior to this new legislation. My daughter and I are living proof. This law WILL lead to more human trafficking. Not if, but when. Guaranteed.

The passing of HB 159 just lifted one of the very few protections that the State of Georgia actually provided for young and/or poor mothers who are most often the unsuspecting targets of the Adoption Industry.

The United Nations defines Human Trafficking (Article 3, paragraph (a) of the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons) as the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation.

That in a nutshell is Adoption in America. That is Adoption in Georgia.

The Adoption Industry is the Wild West. There is very little regulation placed on authority figures or practices within the business. Workers in the Adoption Industry actively “recruit, transport, transfer, harbor, use coercion, fraud, deception, and the abuse of power” daily. Some would even argue agents use “abduction” and they can make a very good case for it. There is currently a situation of “abduction” where a Utah-based adoption agency has thumbed its nose at a Georgia Judge who demanded a baby be returned to her father. That was 3 months ago. Still, the father is working diligently to get his daughter home to him. One example of an all too frequent event. Yes, there is much lacking in Adoption “modernization.”

Not only do fathers fall victim to modern adoption practices, but a mother who is either contemplating adoption or has been coerced into the decision by her intimates is certainly vulnerable and in a position of exploitation. Georgia should see to it that these fathers, mothers, and their children are protected. Their well-being should be at the center of Adoption Law. Georgia Representatives, like yourself, should protect existing families; not be in the misguided business of “creating new families” as Rep. Bert Reeves suggests.

In an MDJonline article, Bert Reeves spoke about the pain of hopeful adoptive parents after a mother decides to parent rather than place her child, “Anybody that’s ever seen this happen up close will tell you those are the 10 hardest days that a person can imagine because they have taken this child home, but there is a chance that the birth mother could change her mind.” First of all, as a birth mother, I can attest there are many harder days than those specific 10. Every SINGLE day that followed my daughter’s placement comes to mind, but I digress.

Adoption agencies can and will provide interim homes during the 10 day waiting period so his concerns for adoptive parents’ pain can be easily eliminated. He follows it up by saying,  “Most birth mothers want to be able to do that [shorten the waiting period] because they want finality just as much as the adoptive parents want finality.” The article states, “The new bill will give birth mothers the ability to decide they do not want the additional time to rethink their decisions.”

So which is it, Mr. Reeves?

These statements are incompatible! If mothers are indeed changing their minds in the 10 day waiting period, then why would any mother demand that she wants immediate finality? I want evidence. Produce these supposed birth mothers claiming they want 24 hour finality, Mr. Reeves. I am a birth mother with plenty of birth mother friends and I promise if anything, we all wished we had longer than the 10 day waiting period. We were in crisis! If we had a list of demands, shortening the waiting period would fall just after returning to the days of enemas prior to birth. I do not believe for one moment this is about mothers demanding a shorter waiting period. It is certainly about a business demanding a shorter waiting period. Every revocation within the allotted 10 days costs tens of thousands of dollars to these businesses.

Challenge: For every 1 birth mother that Rep. Bert Reeves can produce claiming she wants a 24 hour waiting period; I can produce 10 birth mothers claiming they want longer than a 10 day waiting period.

I cannot say this any clearer

As a society, we have lost reverence for and the purpose of Adoption. Adoption is supposed to be a compassionate response to children in NEED of parents. Shamefully, it has become a response to  hopeful parents in WANT of a child.

I am sympathetic to the plight of infertile couples up to the point that their demand for a womb-wet baby treads on the rights of existing families in crisis. These families need your protection, Representatives. Bills like these serve to protect the moneyed and well-connected interests, not the mother and child that should be at the heart of Adoption Law. Rep. Bert Reeves claims there will be no “incentive” or “pressure” placed upon these mothers to sign at 24 hours, but how is anyone to keep it so? There is something rotten in the State of Denmark.

Adoption is a business in Georgia as well as the rest of the Nation. It relies on supply and demand just like any other business. Except the supply and demand is human flesh in the form of our youngest, most vulnerable citizens. We should always err on the side of caution when protecting the existing families of these little ones. We should not be so eager to destroy one family to create another.

Very quickly; I would like to explain to you how I believe myself and my daughter to be victims of human trafficking in Georgia. I would like to point out some oversights in this law. I would also like to point out suggestions that could truly “modernize” adoption in Georgia.

I placed my daughter for adoption through a Thomaston, GA based agency in 1999. I was pregnant at 18 and delivered at 19. I had every intention to raise my daughter. Adoption nor abortion were ever considered. Like many young men, my daughter’s father chose to take no part in her life. After our break-up, my parents told me that my daughter and I would not be welcome in their home. I was unwed and it was a great shame to them.

I was an honor student finishing my Freshman year at a highly respected Georgia University. I was working full-time. A hit and run totaled my car during my pregnancy and would leave me temporarily dependent on those who had shut the door on me. Even so, I did all I knew to do as an unworldly teenager to keep my daughter with me. I saved every penny I earned, though meager. I began collecting baby items earned through a local crisis center’s parenting classes. I was eagerly searching for places to live that were affordable.

In a moment of self-doubt, I made the worse decision of my life by contacting an adoption agency. For months, my parents reiterated that I was doing a disservice to my daughter and reminded me that we would have no where to live and no one would take us in. A parade of adults and authority figures were brought into my life to prove to me that I would be an unfit mother; from counselors, adoptive parents, and even my own pastor. My pastor literally offered to BUY my daughter for his childless brother and sister-in-law. The pressure placed upon expectant mothers in crisis is engulfing to say the least.

Feeling completely overwhelmed, I decided to speak with an agency only to use adoption as a last resort. That is when the campaign to un-child me became aggressive. I would liken it to being groomed. We read stories of children being “groomed” for sexual exploitation. I would argue that vulnerable mothers are being “groomed” for adoption exploitation on a daily basis in Georgia. This is akin to the “recruitment” process of human trafficking.

I never received any literature about adoption. I never received counseling of any sort. It was not required and 18 years later that regrettably hasn’t changed. My agent would only meet with me if my mother, who eagerly wanted my daughter to be placed, was with me. I was never asked by the agent if this choice was of my own volition. I was told time and time again that I was helping “build another family.” I was being used by God Himself by “gifting” my daughter to others. I was providing a “blessing” to strangers. I was crowned with accolades of bravery and selflessness. It was insinuated that I was “selfish” to even consider parenting, so discussions were immediately dismissed. I was encouraged to pick out a family and befriend them prior to my daughter’s birth. I was encouraged to develop an intimate relationship with them over a matter of weeks.

I was promised an “Open” adoption from the agency. It was explained in the most minimal language. I was told that it would be like having “extended family”. I was told that I would get to see my daughter on major holidays such as Christmas or Thanksgiving. There was never a written agreement made nor a contract signed. In the 18 years since my daughter’s adoption, we have kept in contact through occasional emails and phone calls, but there has been only one actual visitation. I was never given a contract to sign detailing the specifics of our communication, but some mothers do at least get something in writing. They just aren’t told that Georgia does not enforce such contracts. So these agreements are essentially based on an honor system. I have come across variations of my story too many times to count. This is GROOMING. It is  RECRUITMENT, COERCIVE, DECEPTIVE, FRAUD, ABUSE OF POWER, and EXPLOITATIVE. If it looks like a duck and walks like a duck…

Pregnancy in itself is a great time of emotional and hormonal upheaval for a woman. Obstetricians are required by Georgia Law to ask mothers about their mental health during pregnancy. It is common knowledge that a woman is more susceptible to depression  and suicidal ideation during pregnancy. Add additional stressors such as financial and/or familial struggle to this hormonal chaos; and you will find a very scared and malleable mother. She is coming to an agency out of fear or coercion and she is met with happy faces promising rainbows and unicorns for her child. In the State of Georgia, there is almost guaranteed assurance that she is being told that her uterus is being used for God’s sacred purpose.

She will not be told that birth mothers suffer higher rates of chronic depression. She certainly will not be told that adoptees face a 4-7 time higher rate of suicide. Or that adoptees are represented in juvenile facilities at higher numbers. There is no required information regarding the mental health for both adoptees or birth mothers. There is no requirement for pre or post adoption counseling. A woman is giving her child away; not a puppy, a purse, or a cardigan. Her child. And Georgia just passed a law making it perfectly legal to finalize that colossal decision 24 hours after childbirth. That is NOT modernization. That is a throwback to the Baby Scoop Era of the 1950s. In the spirit of Jonathan Swift, perhaps we can induce these mothers when the baby is viable and speed up the adoption process.

I have no recollection of signing the papers in the hospital for the adoption of my daughter. I chalk it up to trauma, sleep deprivation, pain medication, and physical fatigue. The only remembrance of the following 10 day waiting period I have is that of my mother keeping me constantly busy so that I wouldn’t think of revocation. How much I wished I had longer than 10 days.

Rep Bert Reeves speaks of the “pain” hopeful adoptive parents face in those 10 days of waiting. But babies aren’t brought here by storks. They are carried in the wombs of their mothers for 40 weeks. In my case, I carried my beautiful daughter for 41 weeks. To borrow from a birth mom friend, it is “the most intense bonding experience possible to feel a new life growing inside of you.” So forgive me if I find little sympathy with someone who has needlessly spent 10 days with a baby when that baby just spent nearly 10 months bonding with his mother. Both mother and baby are flooded with Oxytocin, the “bonding” hormone, throughout and after labor. That is why so many mothers and fathers “fall in love” with their children upon seeing them for the first time.

But, Georgia chooses to pass regressive laws denying the Science of childbirth and natural bonding. Not to mention the unethical practice of allowing a mother to sign legal papers hours after the most intense physical exhaustion her body and mind will ever experience. She more than likely still has Fentanyl, an opioid used with epidurals, running through her veins. Not to mention any other pain relief medication. Add sleep deprivation and the stress of an adoption agent at her door; it is a perfect storm that leads to signing papers under duress.

What are some legitimate ways Adoption could be “modernized” in Georgia?

Here is a small list of suggestions:

  1. Extend a greater than 10 day waiting period. Adoption agencies provide interim care as the system is now. There would be no need for adoptive parents to “bond” with children that are in interim care.
  2. No pre-birth matching of hopeful adoptive parents. This is a coercive measure used by agencies to form an emotional bond and place pressure upon a mother already in crisis.
  3. No pre-birth signing away of rights for mothers or fathers.
  4. No signing of adoption papers on hospital grounds. Childbirth is an intimate event that should be respected and protected by hospital staff. Many hospitals already have this policy in place.
  5. No signing until opioids and/or other mind-altering drugs have been cleansed from a mother’s system.
  6. Required counseling for infertile couples to address their infertility prior to adopting.
  7. Required counseling for an expectant mother considering adoption provided by a third party.
  8. Required presentation of mental health studies pertaining to adoptees and birth mothers.
  9.  For adoptees to access their Original Birth Certificate.
  10.  The legal enforcement of Open Adoption contracts.
  11.  A requirement that a mother is asked if she is acting of her own volition; perhaps in front of a judge where she and her child are guaranteed safety and shelter.
  12. The prohibition of agencies telling women that their bodies are being used by God to fulfill hopes of adoptive parents. The prohibition of  coercive terms such as “brave” and “selfless”. They should be presented with facts and facts alone.
  13. A requirement that adoption agencies provide information that would assist a parenting choice; financial aid, assisted housing programs, medical coverage, etc.
  14. Greater regulation and oversight of adoption practices by State agencies.
  15. Regular studies on adoptee and birth mother populations to better serve future families in crisis.
  16. Third party legal protection not connected to adoptive parents or agencies.
  17. A State-assigned committee of birth mothers and adoptees to assist lawmakers in ethical adoption legislation.

This is a quick list of starters. Many birth mothers and adoptees are in agreement with Rep Bert Reeves and company. Adoption does need “modernization” in Georgia. This just isn’t what many of us had in mind.

When Adoption Law is being written for Parents in want of Children rather than Children in need of Parents; it can never be considered modernization. Only a regression to darker days in adoption reminiscent of The Baby Scoop Era.

Thank you for your time. I promise to follow Adoption Law in Georgia more closely from here out. I hope in the future I can write my State’s Representatives congratulating them on faithfully protecting fathers, mothers, and their babies.

Sincerely,

 

 

 

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