"Today, both families hope to do what’s best for Karen."
December 2, 2014 8:05 PM   Subscribe

The Limits of Jurisdiction: in Guernica, Erin Siegal McIntyre writes about her six-year investigation into corruption and crime in international adoptions from Guatemala, as exposed through the story of one little girl. "For the past six years, the child known as Karen has lived in Missouri with her adoptive parents, Timothy and Jennifer Monahan. But Loyda Rodríguez and Dayner Hernández, a young Guatemalan couple, are convinced the child is their daughter, Anyelí, who was kidnapped in November 2006. Although a Guatemalan judge ruled that Karen should be returned to Guatemala in 2011, the Monahans have kept her."

The case of Karen/Anyelí is both connected to and paralleled by one outlined in Erin Siegal McIntyre's 2011 debut book, Finding Fernanda, about another girl, Maria Fernanda, who was kidnapped as a child in Guatemala by an illegal adoption ring.

Originally a photojournalist by trade, McIntyre came by accident into her reporting on adoptions in Guatemala:
I had been in Guatemala with my little sister on vacation, and our trip was cut short because my grandmother passed away. We were in the airport leaving, really tired—it was early in the morning. It was a flight from Guatemala City to Houston, and we were sitting there just looking around, and this was December 2007, which was kind of the height of the adoption industry in Guatemala. There were over a dozen adoptive parents with their new sons and daughters, and just seeing the multiplicity of that image made me think, wow, this would be such an amazing photograph. When I got back to New York I started doing a little research because I figured, OK, I can pull some kind of story out of this, some kind of simple angle, a happy adoption story. I’ll talk to my agency, they’ll give me a couple of grand, send me back to Guatemala. When I started the basic research that you would do for any photo essay—reading old clips, that kind of thing—the same types of abuses kept on popping up over and over again, about how there was so much fraud, how things like kidnapping would happen, and I just didn’t understand why the same kinds of stories kept repeating over a ten-year period. That made me think, let’s look at the legislation and the players and the lobbying around this issue. Why has nothing changed? Why have no reforms been implemented?
posted by nicebookrack (46 comments total) 23 users marked this as a favorite
And because I always leave something out of a post: Juan Carlos Llorca, the AP journalist who investigated the story with McIntyre, died in November.
posted by nicebookrack at 8:11 PM on December 2, 2014 [1 favorite]

I stopped following the case after they defied the ruling and kept her, it was too enraging. All I could think was "Do you not realise she will be able to google her own name soon? And know what you did?" Thanks for posting this.
posted by viggorlijah at 8:26 PM on December 2, 2014 [4 favorites]

Yeah, the U.S. couple's unwillingness to do a DNA test at this point really sits ill with me.

On the other hand it sounds like there is a lot of lawyering going on so who knows. It may be seen as an admission of guilt or some such.

I wonder what would happen if some random P.I. collected a sample more informally. It might not be acceptable in court but boy would it change the playing field.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 8:52 PM on December 2, 2014 [2 favorites]

The cynical part of me thinks the US couple knows the longer they have the kid the better the argument for keeping her in the US. And the closer they get to the child being able to speak her own mind about her preferences. So just lawyer, delay, lawyer, delay, keep living their lives, and ensure the child's actual parentage will become moot.
posted by schroedinger at 8:57 PM on December 2, 2014 [3 favorites]

If you ever want to become totally cynical about the nature of humanity, start reading family law journals that deal with custody issues, especially surrogacy and infant adoption. People are TERRIBLE.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 9:08 PM on December 2, 2014 [23 favorites]

Jennifer Monahan said, “DNA is sort of viewed as a title, and we strongly feel that Karen isn’t property.”

What a mealy mouthed way of saying "We refute the results of the DNA test that proves us wrong but refuse to submit to one of our own that we couldn't weasel out of later if we so chose."

There's a special place in [metaphorical] hell for child traffickers and it seems like the Monahan's are eager to line up for their reservations there, right alongside the PR firm and former lobbyist-lawyer they hired to prove that cash truly is king.

Heaven help the child and the parents who lost her to these despicable people. I include the Monhans in that grouping as well because, as I see it, they're not saying "ok, this situation is really terrible, let us help you find truth and justice along with what is right for the child [read: her staying with us, as we see it]" instead they're just covering their tracks and muddying the waters as best they can in hopes of winning via stalemate. Possession is nine-tenths of the law should not apply to human beings.
posted by RolandOfEld at 9:19 PM on December 2, 2014 [6 favorites]

I would never ever advocate this in real life, because it's a terrible idea, but: in the thinly veiled roman à clef based on this story, what could happen, legally, if Karen were kidnapped from the US to Guatemala? Or heck, kidnapped from the US to anywhere, since she's all too close to a stateless person?

I hope Rodríguez and Hernández get the pro bono legal help they need to file suit in Missouri. This case is enraging. I can sympathize with adoptive parents' desperation for a child, even being blinded by it to a point. But I don't want to understand why the Monahans looked the other way, again and again, in the face of clear Not-Kosher Shadiness, and then refused to back down when confronted—and got away with it, because they're rich & white & American. Rich white Americans deserve children!
posted by nicebookrack at 9:20 PM on December 2, 2014 [3 favorites]

Thank you God, for giving us so many white folk who know what's best for little brown people.
posted by quarsan at 9:24 PM on December 2, 2014 [12 favorites]

So not only will she someday learn her own story and want to get that DNA test, but her citizenship could be at risk if she does? Because of all the fraudulent paperwork? Would she get deported if she found out she was Anyeli?

I know exactly what the Monahans were thinking. They had already decided she was theirs, and the situation she was in put them in the role of rescuers, and probably also there was their feeling that Guatemala was a cursed place and nothing good could happen to a kid there, so it was better to take her, however it was done, than to try to work it out. Which is the kind of thing white people tell themselves every time they steal and raise the kids of nonwhite folks. Happened in Haiti, hell, it happens in the US to Native American kids still.

But in their defense, it was clear pretty early they were dealing with crooks who had the girl, and they did try to find out who the mother was and if they could help. If they hadn't taken her, would she ever have gotten back to her real parents? Or would she have been trafficked elsewhere, or ended up on the streets?

It's a clusterfuck of well-meaning ideals resting on racist assumptions, mixed with a chaotic and criminal system, which is also at least partially due to racist US colonial policies in central America, and somewhere in there a little girl was given a "better life" with rich white people by being robbed of her rightful family. Who are still grieving. And in the process going through some trauma and maltreatment she may or may not remember.

It would be good if someone with the power to do so could step in and say a) yes she will keep her citizenship no matter what (if she wants it) but b) she has to take the DNA test and c) if she is Anyeli, then visitation needs to be arranged with her real parents, including time spent in Guatemala, in a way that protects her from further trauma.

Seems unlikely. Poor kid.
posted by emjaybee at 9:25 PM on December 2, 2014 [3 favorites]

Enraging pull-quote:
Although under Guatemalan law Karen Abigail Monahan was trafficked, her sale doesn’t constitute trafficking under US law, since the child wasn’t purchased for reasons of forced labor or sexual servitude.

Is that particular gaping loophole in US law an issue they just didn't think about? Or was it left deliberately open precisely so Americans could buy kids like collectibles on the world market?
posted by nicebookrack at 9:27 PM on December 2, 2014 [9 favorites]

I was with you until

c) if she is Anyeli, then visitation needs to be arranged with her real parents, including time spent in Guatemala, in a way that protects her from further trauma.

Because it sounds like you're saying your magic-wand, best case solution to this is based upon her birth parents getting the shit end of the stick because 'poor countries and people, amirite?'.

I admit I may be misunderstanding you.
posted by RolandOfEld at 9:29 PM on December 2, 2014

hi, adoptee here.

please stop using constructions such as "real parents". We have a set of biological parents (also called birth parents or first parents), just as all people do. they are real. we also have one or more adoptive parents. they are also real.

the issues of powerlessness on the part of the child, class, wealth, and access are also real, and in the US, adoptive parents are often socialized to prefer barriers preventing or making impractical contact between the adoptee's biological family and the adoptive one. international adoption is one way to achieve that goal in a way that can be completely invisible to the adoptive parents, because it employs native structural features of nationality and the way that laws enforce class barriers.
posted by mwhybark at 9:50 PM on December 2, 2014 [57 favorites]

These Americans have a desperate need to pose as humans. That is as respectful as I can be, with regard to them. DNA! DNA! DNA!
posted by Oyéah at 9:56 PM on December 2, 2014

One of the few ways this case could be sadder is if the DNA didn't match Karen. Because Anyeli and Karen's birth family would still be missing.
posted by nicebookrack at 10:05 PM on December 2, 2014 [1 favorite]

Jennifer Monahan said, “DNA is sort of viewed as a title, and we strongly feel that Karen isn’t property.”

I am looking at my daughter running around in front of me and am trying to imagine what it is going to be like for that little girl the day she realizes that her biological parents have been looking for her, and her adoptive parents not only didn't let them connect but actively tried to prevent it. And not because her biological parents were abusive, or she was in danger, but just because they wanted her.

Where it falls apart for me is that I can't see the Monahan's defending their behavior if the shoe was on the other foot. I can't help but wonder how the Monahan's would feel if their daughter Karen got snatched by some traffickers out of the US and ended up in, I don't know - Sweden, where the Swedish family refused to consider returning her to the Monahan's specifically and the US in general because they have a higher national income or universal health care, a longer national life expectancy and more stringent gun laws that we do. If they argued that her quality of life would be better there.

It's absurd to think that the Monahans would say: Well, we would press for our daughter's return and a DNA test to see if it's our daughter, but we understand the Swedish family's position in fighting her return to us. Instead, I suspect they would be horrified, and full a grief, and waiting every day until she access to resources that will tell her of their existence. Perhaps before the internet they could have avoided it, but one of the benefits of all that "first world country" stuff is internet access in all 50 states. Now they'll be lucky if they make it to her 12th birthday.

It's as if they are betting that when that time comes Anyelí - if it is her - is going to think that what they had to offer her was worth being stripped from her biological family. Such a risky, risky bet, and if they're wrong - such devastation.

It feels like such a ticking time bomb. Perhaps they think that every day they have with her is worth that price. But I don't see how.
posted by anitanita at 10:08 PM on December 2, 2014 [14 favorites]

International adoption is so so fraught, and it's proven time and time again. But every time you talk to patents who have adopted internationally, they always insist that their adoption was different, every single one.

Maybe they were different, I certainly think it's possible to do it right. But as an institution it's so, so problematic. And with desperate people on both sides and the scale of corruption in many developing countries, it's something I think it's very hard to defend as a broad practice.
posted by smoke at 10:43 PM on December 2, 2014 [1 favorite]

It's possible for both parents to be right. It's possible for both families to have a strong emotional and legal bonds and for this to be a messy, blurred lines, non black-and-white issue. It is possible for both families to be equally passionate about custody of their daughter and for neither to be villains. It is possible that any solution will be incredibly difficult and painful for Karen/Anyeli and for both sets of parents.

Which is why kidnapping and selling humans for adoptions is such a heinous crime.
posted by HMSSM at 11:01 PM on December 2, 2014 [4 favorites]

The calculus here is kind of awful:

1) The Monahans had reason to believe this was a legitimate relinquishment
2) It was a lie, kid was totally kidnapped
3) The scheme devised to launder the kidnapping totally failed
4) Kid is now a huge liability to the Guatemalan kidnappers and their cohorts
5) If the Monahans don't take the kid, kid's probably going to disappear.
6) If the Monahans do take the kid, kidnappers are happy, kid lives, Monahans are happy
7) What are the odds the actual mother's going to show up anyway, versus the odds this kid's gonna die? What would the mother want.

Truth is not merely stranger than fiction, it's also incomprehensibly more awful. Never really understood why international adoptions were shut down until now. It's not about the babies in the orphanages, it's about the ones that would never have been put there in the first place.
posted by effugas at 11:17 PM on December 2, 2014 [3 favorites]

Kidnapping makes for good drama and International is always good for getting an Us vs. Them vibe going, but as with all these things the only reason the story gets written is that it is out of the ordinary.

With the inclusion of DNA tests in the adoption process the issue has largely been resolved. There have been a few corruption cases like this one but I (as well as some friends who are in the queue) think the real issue is political. For a while there, 1% of all Guatemalan children were being put up for adoption and there was a stereotype that poor women were using their uteri as production lines for spare cash. That is the kind of image politicians in any country can run with.

Hopefully the country will move on soon and get back to giving their orphans a shot in the wider world.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 11:21 PM on December 2, 2014

International adoption [is] very hard to defend as a broad practice.

Not a lot worse than domestic adoption I think.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 11:30 PM on December 2, 2014 [1 favorite]

Oh please, there is a third way and I know parents by adoption who have damn well lived it. You take the kid from the traffickers and then you RETURN the child to their original family.

I have three children in my life who I could have pushed slightly and been the adoptive parent for. We stepped back, although it broke my heart because we could also and did step up so those kids could stay with their families. I had the excruciating experience of having a woman take my newly adopted toddler son out of my arms, thinking that she was the mother and I would have to return him, and weeping while letting go. Then I have had to live with the fractured joy of him being returned to me because of hideous tragedies that meant there was no family for him to reunite with.

The Monahans will have to account for what they did to their daughter. She at least unlike so many adoptees will have a paper trail that shows her parents tried to find her and loved her enough to fight against incredible odds, as well as a growing strong adult adoptee community for her to get support from.
posted by viggorlijah at 11:34 PM on December 2, 2014 [29 favorites]

Tell me no lies, "get back to giving their orphans a shot in the wider world." - uh, what?

How about: get back to supporting poor families and single mothers and running quality fostercare for children and encouraging kinship and local adoption first.

You know, what's been shown to be cheaper, faster and overwhelmingly better for children than pushing orphanages as pipelines to international adoptions?
posted by viggorlijah at 11:37 PM on December 2, 2014 [9 favorites]

My sister was adopted by a family at age nineteen so she could go on their health plan and to make her upcoming wedding less awkward "This is my DAUGHTER." She had basically been living with this other family for years. My sister died of brain cancer at age thirty three and left behind two children. At some point, those kids are going to start asking questions and Googling, wondering what happened to the biological family of their birth mother. It's no longer possible to keep secrets.
posted by mecran01 at 12:13 AM on December 3, 2014

Jesus Christ, that last paragraph.
posted by No-sword at 1:11 AM on December 3, 2014

“We want to work with an ethical facilitator, although we know in Guatemala there are always things out of people’s control,”

Oh my, this doesn't even have close to a good beginning. Anyone else put the emphasis on 'want' and then add a shrug after the comma?

And then...

"At the same time, in 2006, the reputation of Guatemala’s international adoption industry was declining fast. Stories of baby-snatching and kidnappings for adoption peppered the pages of local newspapers."

Anyone else reading that read 'anyone that had access to google knew that a prospective adopted child was probably kidnapped?'

Oh shit, my anger is going to grow as I continue to read this, isn't it?
posted by el io at 2:42 AM on December 3, 2014 [1 favorite]

After finishing the article, I'm not sure if the Monahans should be in prison or not.

But I certainly think a jury should be in charge of that decision, and that they should be prosecuted for conspiracy to kidnap.

I get the impression right now that prospective US kidnappers (or 'adopters') never face criminal charges for buying human beings overseas, the worst case scenario is that their 'property' (children) are taken from them. I would imagine it would put a grinding halt to illegal 'adoptions' if the parents were criminally charged for conspiracy to kidnap (after the fact).
posted by el io at 3:35 AM on December 3, 2014 [5 favorites]

With the inclusion of DNA tests in the adoption process the issue has largely been resolved.

This article documents systematic fraud and suppression related to DNA test results.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 4:14 AM on December 3, 2014

"please stop using constructions such as "real parents".

I totally agree with you,fiercely, all of my family is real;
and I am also an adoptee, and a mother of a child lost to adoption-

but in THIS particularly case, the child was stolen- "real parents" probably is more accurate than pretending that by having their child stolen they suddenly became "birth parents" or should be sharing custody with people who knowingly are keeping their stolen child from them.
posted by xarnop at 4:41 AM on December 3, 2014 [14 favorites]

There are state department warnings that you should not approach Guatemalan children alone, because you might get lynched by locals thinking you want to kidnap their babies. It was presented as if it were a silly local superstition.
posted by empath at 5:17 AM on December 3, 2014 [3 favorites]

Anecdata to add to the State Department warnings: When I was in Guatemala a few years ago, I (a white American woman) was repeatedly warned not to take any photographs of children, including wide-frame shots that happened to have children in them, because their parents would think I was trying to steal them. I'd heard there were reasons for that related to international adoption, but this gives me a much better understanding of what was behind it. Thanks for the links.
posted by heisenberg at 6:56 AM on December 3, 2014 [2 favorites]

Guatemala is a small, brutally poor country. Almost half of all children there—and the majority of children in rural, indigenous communities—grow up stunted by chronic malnourishment. The nation was the site of the longest civil war in Latin American history: over three decades of brutality, during which the government massacred hundreds of thousands of its citizens. People in Guatemala glean from the dump, live next to the dump, and live the most desperate lives you can, or probably can't, imagine.*

Adoption for many women is not so much a choice as an economic imperative. There are legitimate adoptions; it's a very Catholic country with no access to abortion, and some women and girls give up a child by choice. But the country has been so ravaged by civil war and corruption that choice is a loaded term. Note that the Monahans felt they were saving children from poverty. Plenty of Christians believe in 'adoption not abortion,' and some have the ability to put those words into action.

And now they can't bear to give her up. I'd love to hear from them why they can't find a way to share the child with her birth parents. I hope she gets whatever support she needs to cope with this complicated mess as she grows up and discovers it.

* Safe Passage provides education and many other resources to children and families in Guatemala.
posted by theora55 at 7:29 AM on December 3, 2014

People in Guatemala glean from the dump, live next to the dump, and live the most desperate lives you can, or probably can't, imagine.*

I wouldn't overstate the case here. I spent a month there, and I stayed at a house with med students volunteering at clinics for the extremely poor in the mayan highlands. There is absolutely extreme poverty there, but there are plenty of people who have completely full, fulfilling lives, even in relatively diminished circumstances. They have homes, jobs, families, just like everyone else.
posted by empath at 7:38 AM on December 3, 2014 [2 favorites]

Here's a good documentary on how people in Guatemala actually live. I wouldn't trade my life for theirs, by any means, but it's not the dystopian hell-hole that many people imagine. I loved it there and I loved the people.
posted by empath at 7:47 AM on December 3, 2014 [1 favorite]

I posted the linked Metafilter post three years ago.

The circumstances now surrounding this child are going to grow more complicated. As someone here pointed out, she is effectively a stateless person at this point in time. The issues surrounding her US adoption are going to pose problems for her down the line.

I am also consistently appalled by the State Department's response to this scenario. At the very least, they should be working with Guatemala about how to close our own gaping human trafficking loopholes and how to respect their laws with regards to adoption.

Since 2011, we've also had the Baby Veronica case and several other very different high profile cases surrounding adoption. It's very loud and very clear that the US needs to improve its adoption policies across the board, and even at that, it's greatly preferential that children stay with their biological families if possible. More systems should be in place to protect the rights of the adoptees as well as that of the parents giving their children up.

There are so many places in the world where there is no comprehension of severing biological ties that the actions of adoption agencies demonstrate a complete disrespect of culture and family systems in those places.

Adoption, when done right, is a good thing. But international adoption is fraught with upper middle class white couples suffering a "White Man's Burden" complex. I can't and do not support international adoption because of this.
posted by zizzle at 7:59 AM on December 3, 2014

I apologize for using "real parents" instead of "bio-parents" though if you're talking about a stolen child, it's a little less clear; you wouldn't call a kidnapper a "parent." And I certainly wouldn't equate a legitimate adoptive family with kidnappers.

The question is, which category do the Monahans fall into?

I wasn't trying to give her bio-parents "the shit end of the stick" but trying to think of what would give Anyeli the best outcome. She's been with the Monahans for years. It would be traumatic to her to just rip her out of there and plunk her back with parents she may have no memories of. She's a person, not property. Her feelings deserve primary consideration.

She ended up in this situation through no fault of her own. The best outcome for her would be one that maximizes her ability to make choices, and minimizes any further trauma, while also allowing her bio-family to be connected to her again. At some point maybe she could move back with them, if that's what she wants. (But if her citizenship is at risk, then what should she do?)

I too think the Monahans should act to resolve this. Have the DNA test and if it matches, use their money to make restitution instead of on lawyers, fight very hard for a solution that's as fair as possible to Anyeli. The longer they don't do that, the worse they look.

It's possible for both parents to be right. It's possible for both families to have a strong emotional and legal bonds and for this to be a messy, blurred lines, non black-and-white issue. It is possible for both families to be equally passionate about custody of their daughter and for neither to be villains. It is possible that any solution will be incredibly difficult and painful for Karen/Anyeli and for both sets of parents.

posted by emjaybee at 8:07 AM on December 3, 2014 [1 favorite]

She's been with the Monahans for years. It would be traumatic to her to just rip her out of there and plunk her back with parents she may have no memories of. She's a person, not property. Her feelings deserve primary consideration.

While this is true, its only true because the kidnappers (Monahans) fought her parents to prevent them from reuniting earlier. The Monahans other children will also be traumatized if their parents should happen to go to prison - but that doesn't mean it shouldn't happen.
posted by el io at 8:47 AM on December 3, 2014 [4 favorites]

posted by josher71 at 9:14 AM on December 3, 2014

international adoption is one way to achieve that goal in a way that can be completely invisible to the adoptive parents, because it employs native structural features of nationality and the way that laws enforce class barriers.

We adopted domestically, and the birthfather sought custody after we'd had the baby for awhile. During our long and very painful custody dispute, two different people who'd adopted internationally told me that they'd done so specifically to avoid the possibility of ending up in a situation like ours; they very explicitly wanted a situation where once they had legal custody, there was no chance of birth family seeking custody. I'm not actually all that judgmental about that; if you choose to adopt, one of the things you want, of course, is that the adoption not be disrupted, because the prospect of losing a child is absolutely devastating. I've also known people in the US who specifically chose to adopt in states with weak birthparent protections: short or no revocation periods, for instance, during which a birthmother can change her mind after placement.

But, of course, the flip side is that it is absolutely devastating for birthparents to lose a child against their will. One of the reasons we didn't adopt internationally was fear of ethical abuses. Domestic adoption is by no means perfect, and going through a custody dispute exposed us to disturbing things we'd have been able to remain blithely unaware of had the adoption gone perfectly smoothly. But at least we did know who the birthparents were; we knew that the birthmother's placement of the baby was voluntary (though, more accurately, I'd call it what in fanfiction is called dub-con—"dubious consent"). And, however flawed it is, the birthparents did have the protection of US law and the US courts. If the court had awarded custody to our son's birthfather, we'd have been compelled to give him up. That the parents in Guatemala, the clear victims of a terrible crime, have won a hollow victory in Guatemalan courts is heartbreaking.

In our case, I felt in retrospect that I'd ignored some warning signs, and been terribly naive about a few things. In this story, it's clear that there were significant red flags and I fault the adoptive parents for not attending to them. At the same time, I know what's it like to start thinking of a child as yours before you've even met her, to start feeling the burden of parental responsibility, to start feeling like whatever happens to that kid is somehow on you, so I understand why they wanted to ignore warning signs.

On the other hand, I have no sympathy at all for the Christian adoption movement that frames adoption in terms of "rescue" and saving souls, and it sounds like they were part of that. And as painful as it is—and I lived under the threat of losing our son for almost two years, so I'm well acquainted with the neighborhood, at least, of that kind of pain—the child they're raising is a victim of kidnapping. Their adoption is the fruit of a heinous crime, of multiple crimes. And people up-thread who've mentioned the adoptive parents wanting things to play out longer because it makes a return more difficult and traumatic for the child are absolutely right: it gets harder and harder to impose a return to her birth parents the longer she's been in the US, forming ties, speaking the language, and so on. Return becomes a new trauma inflicted on an already-traumatized kid. But if the alternative is to leave her with people who don't seem to feel that her having been kidnapped and trafficked obligates them in any way to the family she was stolen from, that's a terrible outcome, too.
posted by not that girl at 9:43 AM on December 3, 2014 [14 favorites]

I don't see why the USians feel more responsable for Guatamalen orphans more than their own stranded orphans- or why USians think their hearts alone bleed for orphans more than Guatamalens themselves, who could be encouraged to adopt the truly orphaned.

The idea that by refusing to wrecklessly barge into a nation and take children without knowing who is stolen, coerced, or pressured from the mothers first; somehow makes the US responsible for the existence of Guatemalan orphans makes little sense...

and it's amazing how we think we should be focusing on saving othernations from their own inability to care for their orphans despite how USians failure to adopt their own has lead to a tragedy here on US soil of failed abandoned children.

We don't actually know how to help other nations tend to their orphans because we are failures at it ourselves. Maybe we could figure out how to do that effectively here first before taking everyone elses exotic children somehow more desirable than our own because it's easier to fully erase and delete their entire family they lost more completely than one can do here. It's harder to play pretend that the child has no living family that yearns for them when you know they exist and are in your own country-- aching for what you have taken from them. It's complicated and messy and adoption is built out of pain but the story SOLD to adoptive parents is that it's about JOY andi t's about THEIR NEEDS and it's about THEIR NEW FAMILY!

I don't blame adoptive parents buying this delusion in their grief and pain that has often preceded the reasons they seek adoption- but the system feeding of their blindness to others suffering is gross and heinouss.

These workers know that whole women walk in and screaming empty heaps of pain and suffering, they who were once mothers, walk out, the fruits of their wombs taken by those who refuse to offer comprehensive aid to families in need of housing arrangement, emotional healing, and support services to have healthy enriching lives.

The cost, of the aid provided by adoptive parents-- is paid in blood. Flesh and blood.

A cost in fairty tales we know only a beast would require for aid that is truly need. And he has a name do we remember? R....

The wealthy have dominated the discussion and they sympathize with members of their own, adoptive parents- and they have dominated the entire discourse on the subject of how to help vulnerable and poor parents in need. OF COURSE it's not the wealthies fault the poor exist! OF COURSE they shouldn't be expected to solve all the worlds problems... why not just... profit a bit here, from someone's tragedy? A beautiful new family can be yours while anothers is destroyed for your enjoyment.

They have shut down mothers (and fathers) who lose children to this beast that is adoption and are later angry as they process the level of exploitation they experienced at a time they were vulnerable and needed real... humane... help. But I think as people in general are becoming more aware of the nature of systemic abuses like this, and they ways they are perpetuated by well meaning, very very nice seeming people-- people like you or me! It will change the tide.

And at that time, when the people who have perpetuated these abuses and who plan to go on doing so until they are literally stopped-- I will feel bad for them when the crowds- crowds the endlessly praised them before-- learn how wrong these actions are and turn on them. We must remember that the ideologies about who deserves what and why their actions are justified were societies overall beliefs and failures of insight and compassion, not just adoptive parents who acted them out alone. (Though I hold those who actually work for the institute of adoption and see the horrific pain it creates over and over, more accountable for failing to try to stand up against it or consider causing this much pain might be wrong; and those who are child trafficking or using coersion and sketchy techniques to take wanted children sometimes fits within the ideology that all these poor children are better off anyway so it's just the means to a good end, which society has been encouraging)

And again, adoptive parents who were truly in the dark about the exploitation, they are not to blamed in the same way, however often, when it's convenient to continue profiting though suspect an imbalance of power and a state of suffering you are ignoring-- there is at least a bit of responsibility there. I think humanity is growing up in many ways, before our eyes and the internet has made it a bit harder for us to blind ourselves to the harms caused by blocking out the truth of others suffering- sometimes because of our own deeds and the nature of how we profit from an exploitative system.

To quote a friend of mine on how easy philomena the movie went on the catholic church's abuses of vulnerable mothers, stealing, coercing or pressuring their children from them:
"This fall, I sat in a room full of mothers at CUB’s annual retreat—women who had relinquished children for adoption ten, 20, or 40 years before. It was a room moved easily to tears, as panel after panel included personal testimonies from women who, decades later, were still hoping to reconnect with their now-adult children, or who had found their children and reunited, only to have them later pull away, overwhelmed by the weight of emotion. No matter how many years they were removed from that loss, the women I met still mourned. And many were still angry.

Representing that anger might have perhaps made Philomena a less palatable film for many mainstream viewers, but as the Post’s review suggests, even a modicum of anger over the sacrosanct institution of adoption can prompt blinding defensiveness."
posted by xarnop at 10:13 AM on December 3, 2014

I'm not actually all that judgmental about that; if you choose to adopt, one of the things you want, of course, is that the adoption not be disrupted, because the prospect of losing a child is absolutely devastating. I've also known people in the US who specifically chose to adopt in states with weak birthparent protections: short or no revocation periods, for instance, during which a birthmother can change her mind after placement.

I do hope you will reflect on this position and grow out of it over time. The desire on the part of the adoptive parents to avoid this is certainly understandable. It is the basis of the unfortunate former practice of closed adoptions; by ensuring the adoptee had no right to access birth data, this possibility was seen to be obviated.

However, as is the case generally in adoption, this ignores a significant fact: I, as a human being, have a positive human right to my own identity. That identity includes family heritage information such as health histories, but also, frankly, the social expression of that family heritage such as stories and awareness of familial behavioral traits. United States law does not acknowledge this right, and is out of step with the rest of the world, which has been working to harmonize their HR law with the United Nations Charter of Human Rights including the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

I had as ideal an adoption as you could possibly imagine, with no disruptions due to divorce, economic need, or poor parenting. I love my parents deeply. My parents, my birthmother, and the adoption system in the Unted States failed me in a fundamental, systemic way, by stripping me of my identity at birth and working to keep my birth identity inaccessible. It was, and remains, wrong.
posted by mwhybark at 10:23 AM on December 3, 2014 [1 favorite]

One other thought:

But, of course, the flip side is that it is absolutely devastating for birthparents to lose a child against their will.

Even when a birthparent (nearly always just the birth mother, actually) believes that in the moment they wholeheartedly consent, it seems in my self-education on the subject that in hindsight the decision often comes under various forms of duress, economic or familial, and of course when it's a young person that choice may be made by someone who is not yet done becoming an adult. Adoptee psychology posits that our socialization is affected by the adoption in ways that relate to unresolved grief. I suspect this is true for the birth mother as well.
posted by mwhybark at 10:33 AM on December 3, 2014 [2 favorites]

I should clarify: I do feel the adoption system in the United States failed my parents and my birthmother as well, and that the failure was systemic. The system functioned as designed, absolutely optimally. The system was designed to deny access to fundamental human rights.
posted by mwhybark at 11:44 AM on December 3, 2014 [4 favorites]

There is definitely a push to say that poor families don't treasure and love their children as much. Money, race and class can insulate you from the consequences of bad parenting hugely.

I spent yesterday talking to a woman about an unplanned pregnancy, refusing to give an opinion on what she should choose - abortion, adoption or single parenting, because it has to be her choice, but she has about a dozen people pushing her hard to choose what they've decided is the right choice for her. In the adoptions I've been personally involved in as a support person to someone in the triad, it's been a tidal wave of pressure on the parents to do what is socially convenient for everyone else, and a huge emphasis in my experience on material lifestyle with this idea that a baby is a tabula rasa.

Fosterhood had a post recently about her daughter's adoption, where she describes the day her daughter's parents surrendered their legal rights, and it's just - I was in tears reading it because I know so many families who have lost their kids who were never given the chance of answering those questions, where that kind of legal and social support didn't exist at all.
posted by viggorlijah at 4:56 AM on December 4, 2014 [3 favorites]

I'll just reiterate what I said in the 2011 post: The right thing for the Monahans to do after finding out their adoptive daughter was kidnapped from her birth parents would have been to return her to Guatemala. That the Monahans have simply stuck their fingers in their ears and ignored that they essentially helped kidnap a child is simply unconscionable; I can't imagine the lack of empathy. Nothing would have prevented them staying involved with her life from that point on except the will of the birth parents and, while I'm no expert, returning someone's kidnapped child to them seems like it would garner a lot of goodwill.

They could have even helped out financially, since that seems to be point of much hand-wringing. A friend of mine was actually doing thesis work in Guatemala around the same time the Monahans were doing the adoption. Since she was tracking monkeys, she was out in the incredibly poor countryside. She got a to be friendly with the local kids, so you know what she did when she left? First, she didn't fucking kidnap any of them. Second, she got back to the States and held fundraisers to send them clothes and school supplies and other little sundries.
posted by Panjandrum at 12:35 PM on December 4, 2014

mwhybark, you're conflating two things: the desire on the part of adoptive patents that an adoption not be disrupted, and erasure of birth family information. As is true with many adoptions, we had an agreement with our son's birthmother about sharing information. We also reached out to the birthfather after the custody dispute was settled. Sympathizing with adoptive parents who don't want to risk losing a child is not the same thing as saying that first families and cultures don't matter. I hope I don't "grow out of" the sympathy I feel for all of the people involved in adoption: birth families, adoptees, biological and adoptive siblings, and adoptive parents. It's a very flawed system, and even when it works as well as it can, there's loss at the heart of it.
posted by not that girl at 6:31 PM on December 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

Thanks for following up, not that girl. I have other thoughts I'd like to share with you that might be valuable (or challenging, or both) and I'll go to MeMail, since I was somewhat derailly here and didn't really see that for a day or two.
posted by mwhybark at 7:58 PM on December 9, 2014

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