As a “birth” mother (natural mother), I want society, but more importantly the Church to see into the window of our world.
In the wake of the Heritage Academy graduation refusal and shaming of pregnant senior Maddi Runkles, I feel its an opportune time for society to also see a glimpse of what many other pregnant women are facing in this country. The women who are considering adoption for their unborn child. I want society to see the every day emotional manipulations that occur while some women are at their most vulnerable. This post doesn’t even begin to touch on the shaming or coercion aspects that many of us natural moms have experienced at the hands of adoption professionals, adoptive parents, our families, or our children’s fathers. This post is about the kinder, gentler approach through biblical misteaching, factual omissions, and flattery.
The adoption community was recently set afire with what many considered an intimate moment made public; the very moment a mother became a “birth mom”. There were pictures posted publicly by Circle of Love Maternity Home. Though the intimate pictures were quickly removed due to overwhelming complaints, COL has graciously left an internet trail of stories and pictures presenting what many of us natural moms have experienced firsthand.
My intention is not a malicious one, but it is to draw attention to a cultural norm that is leaving a wake of complicated grief among natural moms and adoptees. Four adoptees have committed suicide in the adoption community just in the last 2 weeks. Natural moms and adoptees face higher rates of addiction, depression, and suicide. These are facts that are omitted in what passes today as adoption “counseling”, if a mother is counseled at all. I am not writing this with the intent to hurt others, but to help. I am not writing to blast any specific individuals, but a twisted worldview that cheapens the intimate bond between mother and child. My hope is that modern day adoption and its machinations can come to the forefront of discussion in the Church. It is a conversation long overdue. Does God definitively ordain the adoption of a poor and/or isolated woman’s baby? Does God consecrate the paper orphan? If the answer is no, then the Church is in a major crisis. If the answer is yes, then many of us are in a major crisis of faith.
If you’re not a “birth” mom, I would like for you to imagine yourself in a state of crisis as you read this.
Maybe your boyfriend broke up with you, or… you’ve recently been evicted, you’re a teenager with a minimum wage job, you’re struggling to feed your 2 toddlers, your husband regularly beats you, you have a court date coming up for your shoplifting charge, you just lost your scholarship, you just lost your job, you were raped, you have been fighting addiction, your family is not supportive, you suffer with bipolar disorder, you just lost your health insurance…Got it? You’re in crisis.
Now imagine yourself pregnant as well.
Let’s say that you’re a Christian. Maybe not the best. Maybe not the worst. Maybe you can quote scripture by heart. Maybe you’ve never read more than a few scriptures at all.
A family member, a friend, or a church peer knows that you are in a state of crisis, pregnant, and a Christian. They know that you’re struggling with “options”. Adoption is something you know very little about, but it seems worth looking in to. That person tells you about Circle of Love Maternity Home after seeing its advertising on social media for women like you, You make that call…
Where is Circle of Love Maternity Home?
The picture below is the former location for Circle of Love Maternity Home. COL is a non-profit run by adoptive mother Julie Samaniego, MS LMFT, in Wichita, KS. It is not licensed in adoption. It has most recently been relocated to 4 apartment units donated by another local non-profit called Carpenter’s Place in Wichita, KS. (This is not an image of Carpenter’s Place. I just thought the former home was really pretty.)
You explain that you’re interested in either learning more about adoption or you’re seemingly determined as of now that adoption is your preferable option. Pregnancy is typically 40 weeks; nearly 10 months. That’s a lot of time to waver on a profound decision. You’re 9 weeks pregnant. (I’m using real scenarios that I have loads of screenshots for, but to save the eye, I’ll mesh them into our hypothetical) If you move in today, that gives you nearly 30 weeks under the tutelage of Circle of Love Maternity Home. Some might call this support, some might call it grooming. I don’t mind leaving that to the eye of the beholder. But you are in crisis and looking for guidance.
You decide that moving into an apartment unit provided by COL by way of Carpenter’s Place is your best option at the time. So let’s recall: Crisis, Pregnant, Christian, Adoption Interest, Maternity Home. Let’s summarize these labels under the heading of: VULNERABLE.
You are in an unquestionable state of vulnerability.
Let’s take a break to touch on Kansas Adoption Law for a brief moment:
Kansas “strictly prohibit(s) any use of facilitators or intermediaries”- Childwelfare.gov
“No person shall…advertise to find an adoptive home for…no person shall offer to find a home for…as an inducement”
“Advertise means to communicate by…electronic medium.”
“Any person who violates the provisions of this section shall be guilty of a class C misdemeanor.” -Kansas Law 59-2123
Facilitate Synonyms: aid, ease, expedite, further, help, promote, simplify
Intermediary: a person who acts as a link between people in order to try to bring about an agreement or reconciliation; a mediator.
Now back to your vulnerable crisis pregnancy at a maternity home…
Who stays at Circle of Love Maternity Home?
“We are involved in the adoption process…for women who have chosen adoption for their unborn child.” It isn’t for ALL expectant moms in crisis, but for those who have specifically “chosen” adoption. But many times that choice admittedly isn’t made until after counseling with owner/ operator Julie Samaniego. Expectant mothers are always referred to as “Birth Moms” even while pregnant. Language is an important tool in adoption, remember that.
What can you expect to receive during your extended stay?
According to a letter to RiverWalk Church and additional Facebook and website posts, you can expect to receive: support, therapy services, set up obstetrics appointments, case coordination (to women who have chosen adoption while pregnant), help with housing, furnishings, jobs, educational opportunities, social services, adoption counseling with the owner/operator Julie Samaniego, furnished apartments, paid utilities, cable, internet, security, on-site supervision, casework management, life skills training, life coaching, debt relief, clearing of obstacles, dinner in your honor, a “birth” mother shower while pregnant, pregnancy and labor photo sessions, a beauty night, even in one instance a car, etc.
That’s a lot of help! Someone in crisis would probably feel extremely flattered by the outpouring of concern.
What might be covered during your adoption counseling at Circle of Love Maternity Home?
You will “explore the option of adoption” specifically as a “client” not as a recipient of charity. Client would infer payment, but its not being made by you. That question goes unanswered.
Adoption will be explained “using profiles of adoptive couples” known to the counselor. If you should then choose adoption, “and also show interest in a particular profile”, you and the profile will then be sent to a local attorney or agency to “make a match”. More on how this is handled in the next session.
According to COL ministry, it has been “involved” in 34 adoptions in the last 24 months. Of those, 29 were after adoption counseling through the maternity home. As Samaniego says, “after a birth mom has chosen adoption while counseling with me.” As a side note, the average domestic adoption costs for 2013 was $39,966. (34 x $39,966= $1,358,844)
Samaniego keeps 15-20 hopeful adoptive parent profiles on hand for “counseling” purposes. She invites her facebook and website followers to submit their profile books to COL, but she “doesn’t advertise”. COL has recently removed its star ratings on Facebook, but it had lots of 5 star reviews from adoptive parents who had used its services. Adoptive parents using the services at a maternity home? Interesting. Oddly enough, I didn’t see any reviews from actual residents or former recipients of the non-profit’s charity.
I would be remiss if I didn’t remind the reader that Circle of Love says it does not “facilitate adoption”. “We serve our birth moms and help them complete the adoption plan they have chosen. Our birth moms are matched by attorney and agencies.” At least 5 in the last 24 months were (34-29=5).
What Might Not Be Covered During Your Counseling Sessions?
A fellow adoptive parent and good friend of COL’s started an adoption agency recently in Wichita, KS. This is where COL sends those “matched” expectant moms.
“Open” adoption has been the craze for nearly 2 decades. But its evident by the agency’s website that a few legal facts are omitted.
The agency claims, “Many open adoptions require…”, “You can have…”, “includes 18 years worth…”
The only thing is Kansas Law does not recognize Open Adoption as a legally binding contract. You would have to search elsewhere to find this important legal information. Though Kansas Law states that a judge “expounds” upon this point, it is in rare cases that a mom will actually go before a judge. Kansas allows signing termination papers at 12 hours post-birth without revocation. I’m not sure how long it takes for epidural opioids and pain narcotics to clear a body in order to sign life-altering legal papers with a clear head, but I digress.
So what does this mean for you? It means that after your COL counseling and referral to the Adoption Agency, you may enter into an agreement with hopeful adoptive parents. You can discuss all the wonderful ways in which the adoption will remain open throughout the years. Your fears of not being apart of your child’s life in any way can be allayed. You can even write it all down and sign it. But you can literally wipe your nose with this contract. Its worthless. Once you sign those TPR papers, as early as 12 hours post-birth, you’ve lost every right you thought you had. And you most likely will sign those papers when everyone is sitting in the room with you, praising your selflessness, and reminding you of the help you’ve received over the last 7 months. After you sign, if the adoptive parents want to disappear never to be heard of again, and believe me it happens, they have the arm of the law protecting them.
Who Will Finalize Your Adoption?
Circle of Love Maternity Home has friends in high places. State Representative and Adoption Attorney, Susan Humphries, has finalized many of COL’s, or rather, St. Nick’s Adoption Agency’s adoptions.
What Happens When You Have Your Baby?
Not choosing adoption after a stay at Circle of Love Maternity Home is so rare, that a public post was made about it. Ironically, it happened to be a non-Christian resident. Adoption is so often chosen by the residents of COL, that it has created its own traditions for the occasion. These traditions include the owner/operator Julie Samaniego being present for births, including C-section deliveries. It includes the gifting of a book called “God Found Us You” which goes into vague detail as to why “God Placed You in Another’s Womb.” Along with the book, there is a “prayer bear” (pictured a few sections above) that appears to first be given to the expectant mother prior to birth in order for her to then gift it to the adoptive couple. COL’s photographer friend is present at birth as well; taking intimate shots of the very moment you become a “birth” mom.
The Moment of “Gifting” Your Baby
Why Do COL Moms Choose Adoption?
Of course, to save them from abortion, right? No, that would be incorrect according to COL. The reasons that COL gives on their website include: non-support from father or family, other children she struggles to provide for, fear of domestic violence and/or drug exposure, current/past legal involvement. Nothing is mentioned about abortion…AT ALL. And its interesting that its “selfless” to place a newborn for adoption, but not older children facing these same circumstances with their mothers. Why are mothers not encouraged to be “selfless” for them as well?
The reasons that COL gives happen to be the exact same reason that study after study finds to be true: Isolation and Poverty.
Let that sink in for a moment Christian friends. Mother and child are being separated because of isolation and poverty. And their loss is being called “loving” and “sacrificial”. What message is that sending to all mothers of less than desirable means? How is that message reflecting on the Church?
COL has posted a video testimonial sharing the story of a former resident/recipient. Doubling-down on the reasons mothers give for separation from their children. Samaniego says, “_________ knew that she could not afford to, or have the resources to raise twins.”
Though it might be conceded on COL’s website and promotional video that adoption is not the alternative to abortion, it is not the picture painted when COL discusses adoption with Kansas Governor Sam Brownback. So women who have come to COL, poor and isolated, are now being used as the reason to promote adoption because of the abortions they never intended to have?
I’m just trying to imagine Jesus in this dilemma. Facing a mother who is distressed about her lack of resources to take care of her children adequately. What might Jesus say on this point? If only scripture said something about how to care for the poor. If only scripture said something about taking a child from his mother’s breast.
What Does God Say About Newborn Adoption?
This was covered in a previous post of mine called “Why Newborn Adoption Isn’t Biblical.” There is no scripture condoning the taking of a woman’s child, making him a paper orphan, and then handing him over to total strangers “as if born to”.
There are plenty of mothers in scripture who were poor and isolated who kept their children: Tamar, Hagar, Jochebed, Mary, etc. There are plenty of women in scripture who faced infertility: Hannah, Rebecca, and Sarah. What suitable times these would have been for God to display the divinity of Newborn Adoption. Yet, scripture never shows adoption as the answer to infertility for one woman and the poverty of another. In fact, Sarah intervened in the matter of her infertility and God scolded her for it. It would be nearly 2,000 years after Christ’s resurrection that the revelation of the divinity of Newborn Adoption would emerge.
Whatever one thinks about the necessity or lack thereof in Newborn Adoption, it should be an act that all Christians can agree is not scripturally founded. COL mentions “God’s Will” quite often in its adoption narrative, but provides very little scripture to back it up. And the scripture that is provided is taken out of context. The word “orphan” has a meaning. One that isn’t up for debate. Encouraging a living woman’s child to be adopted because she is poor and/or isolated does not make her child an “orphan”. Unless the true intention is to pretend that she is dead. As a natural mother, sometimes I wonder if that was the intention of those involved in my story. The hope that I would just disappear and die.
The Church was never told to manufacture orphans!
What is the Future For Newborn Adoption?
In Kansas, the future is bright. Circle of Love Maternity Home has the hopes of expanding its ministry throughout the State.
According to an article titled, “Scott County Couple, Wichita Organization Helps Birth Moms Get Back on Their Feet” , Samaniego is hoping to expand into Southwest Kansas. She even gives out her number in the piece to contact her about opportunities to adopt, but this is “not” advertising. The adoptive couple highlighted in the article, state that they adopted twins from a mother who was a “victim of domestic violence” and “she was pretty much homeless because the father of the child kicked her out for not having an abortion.”
DERP? Please reread that paragraph.
A mother gets kicked out of her home for NOT having an abortion. What is the Adoption Narrative again? Adoption Saves Lives? What are we doing Church?!?!?!
US Congressman and adoptive father of four,Tim Huelskamp, awarded the couple with an “Angels in Adoption Award” for their efforts in adopting the twins. Ok. This is seriously starting to feel like a satire piece. I assure you, its not.
In a letter written by Huelskamp titled “Thankful for a Forever Family”, a board member of the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute (CCAI), he complains about the money and paperwork involved in the adoption process. He describes Circle of Love Maternity Home as a “place of refuge for birthmothers.” Again, they are referred to as “birth” mothers while pregnant. Language is an important tool!
Hueslkamp vows to work hard to “simplify the financial burden of the adoption process.” So, we have women too poor to keep their babies and we answer that with women too poor to adopt the babies. Dear Lord, come back soon. So not only do we have State Representatives legislating easier adoption processes rather than help for disadvantaged mothers, but we also have National Representatives doing the same.
Back to Circle of Love Maternity Home’s future plans for expansion. COL has partnered with a local adoption agency, St. Nick’s, and State Representative, Susan Humphries, in hopes to expand their adoption “program” to the entire State, not just Wichita. Women will come to COL, they will be given profile books and “counseling” to be matched and sent to the agency, and then finalized by Humphries. I’m certain there are absolutely no conflicts of interest that could result in the unnecessary and heart-wrenching separation of mothers from their children.
Circle of Love Maternity Home has been given access to pregnant women in the local Detention Center as well.
Yes, It is Lost On You
Anyone that can in one moment speak of the mourning of one mother and in the next speak of the “adventure” of another mother doesn’t “get it”. It is lost on you.
It is something I will never understand and frankly I don’t care to. I literally have frequent nightmares of the moment I became a “birth” mom. I sat in a room full of people, splayed out half-alive from a 36 hour labor, and they had the audacity to smile and laugh in my presence. They were witnessing the death of a mother and could only think of the “adventure” that a perfect stranger to me was about to embark on with my baby. I was told this was “God’s Plan” for my daughter and me. After years of my secret war with God and later doing Bible studies on motherhood, I cannot find the evidence for “God’s Plan” in blessing me with a child only for me to re-gift that blessing to strangers. The Lord blesses us with children. He does not qualify the circumstances. Who are we as a Church to be so cavalier about the sacred bond that He creates between a mother and her child?
What if the Church truly saw the separation of Mother and Child as a Tragedy? A deep tragedy? One of grave magnitude? I like to think we’d have a completely different approach to helping mothers and their babies in their greatest hour of need.
Thank you for taking a moment to wear a natural mother’s skin. I wish I could so easily escape it.