Sunday, April 29, 2007
"Anatomy Of A Coerced Surrender"
by Pamela Jordan
THE "CHRISTIAN" ADOPTION AGENCY
After finding out that I was pregnant, and realizing that I could not go through with an abortion, I called the first number listed under the "abortion alternatives/crisis pregnancy" section of The Yellow Pages. The ad promised counseling and help.
I dialed the number and a volunteer answered. She listened quietly to my story and asked me to come in and talk to a counselor as soon as possible.
On February 25, 1999, I met with a counselor who immediately asked if I had considered adoption. Stunned, I said, "No." She proceeded to recite rates of poverty among single moms, child neglect cases, resentment toward the child for "messing up" the mothers life, etc.
She then told me about the "beautiful, win-win" option of adoption. A well-off couple of my choosing would adopt my baby in a nice, sweet open adoption facilitated by the agency.
I would have the chance to live my life free of the burdens of single motherhood and my child would love me more because he/she would have every thing and every opportunity to succeed in life. Plus, he or she would have the added benefit of being raised by a "loving, married, Christian couple."
It sounded great. I fell hook, line and sinker.
On our next meeting, she took me to the local State Department of Social Services to get me on Medicaid. (And I always thought the agencies and adoptive parents footed the bill for medical expenses. Who knew that it was really the tax payers?)
I didn't want my family to know, as they'd kill Wil, my boyfriend, and go broke trying to help me raise my child, and the agency encouraged me to "make my decisions" away from Wil or anyone else who could "influence" it.
So, on April 12, 1999, I moved in with an agency "Shepherding Family" five-hours away from my home. ....
Continued here ....
Monday, April 23, 2007
Anyway, out of curiosity, I decided last week to join a particular (new?) little message board I had heard of, rumored to be the site of frequent metaphorical "traffic accidents." No, not Adoption.con, or alt.adoption, but supposedly a kinder, gentler place where "all members of the triad" (as if there is any such things as an "adoption triad"!) could relax and converse in a positive and happy manner (dodging traffic accidents...).
Perhaps I should not mention the name of the group, as this post is not supposed to be about bashing any one message board site, but about an incident illustrating a dynamic common to all other "triad" boards and groups that I have ever belonged to.
But, as with any other triad group I have seen: traffic accident zone it is. And, for some unknown reason, I find myself coming back every day and reading there ...
The particular hit-and-run ...
Anyway, "P.," another natural mother (I use this term out of respect, to respect and honor her as being a Mother to her lost daughter, rather than using a derogatory term analogous to incubator) posted a sincere and insightful post on that forum about coercion and how most people seem to turn a blind eye to it. Why is it that no-one believes us when we speak about the coercion that took our babies from us? Why do they think that our experiences are the exception, rather than the rule? Why is there this stigma that comes up, over and over again, around mothers who have lost children to adoption?
As people-who-adopted are part of this forum -- and in-fact seem not only to set the tone of this forum but to dominate almost every discussion on it -- I was curious to see what the responses would be.
"I'm sorry you felt that way... "
Well, somehow, as i expected, very soon the dismissals began. Although the first person who responded understood, believed, and was cool-- as did the second -- the third, however, gave a mini-lecture about how it was all P.'s personal perception of the situation (stressing though that we have to honor her emotions and personal perception, right?), likening it to how some families faced with the prospect of cancer take the news in stride, while others view it as a huge disaster.
- Coercion is NOT a matter of perception, it is a matter of legal fact. Emotions, feelings, beliefs, responses .. these are different: One feels fear, pain, loss, violation ... one believes in God or in an ethical code or in the supremacy of law ... but coercion either happens or does not. To say that it is a perception, a feeling, again dismisses P.'s realization and her experience as just being a personal subjective belief rather than a fact, an experience, series of incidents adding up to the loss of her child.
Another person then chimed in with this gem: "I will just say I'm sorry you were made to feel dehumanized."
- Made to FEEL dehumanized? Again, another variant on "I'm sorry you were [made to] feel this way."... NOT "I'm sorry that you were treated in a dehumanizing manner" or "I'm sorry that you were coerced." Again, an adoptive parent puts it as, not that N. was coerced, but that she just "feels that way"! Let's use an analogy: "You were not date-raped, you just feel that way!" See how it looks?
Reminded me of a conversation I had, my one post-reunion experience with an adoption agency. While looking for a support group, they were recommended to me. So I phoned ... Part of the conversation went like this:
The Agency: "So, when did you place your child?"
Me: "I did *not* place my child for adoption. She was taken from me at birth. I was given no choice."
The Agency: "Oh ... (pause) ... Often, birthmothers *feel* this way ..." (said dismissively)
Me "This is not just a feeling. It actually happened."
Now, perhaps the participants involved don't even realize that what they have done is totally dismiss P.'s experience and reality. Maybe they posted in all innocence, thinking that they were showing support? Or perhaps their responses to her are an unconscious way to protect themselves, to deny that coercion exists in adoption and thus to protect themselves from any niggling question that the child they obtained was perhaps unethically procured for them? Perhaps they are not aware that coercion (including duress) is recognized in law:
Coercion, in law, the unlawful act of compelling a person to do, or to abstain from doing, something by depriving him of the exercise of his free will, particularly by use or threat of physical or moral force. In many states of the United States, statutes declare a person guilty of a misdemeanor if he, by violence or injury to another's person, family, or property, or by depriving him of his clothing or any tool or implement, or by intimidating him with threat of force, compels that other to perform some act that the other is not legally bound to perform. Coercion may involve other crimes, such as assault. In the law of contracts, the use of unfair persuasion to procure an agreement is known as duress; such a contract is void unless later ratified. (from Answers.com)
Aberrations, Mutants, Abnormalities ...
The stigma of being an exiled mother is another fact that P. mentions, and she is right-on with this. Why do people feel uncomfortable around us? Why do they give us looks that either dress-us-down as being unfit to be mothers, scrutinize us under a microscope as if we were some strange disease, or treat us as "cold hearted bitches who gave away" our children?
This quote is from an article on open records, but it is so true about the stigma that surrounds natural mothers:
"It is the child welfare establishment that has provided the picture of 'birthmothers' as indifferent -- as mothers who abandon their unwanted children with a wish to remain forever hidden from them. They know that this is seldom true, but it helps to facilitate their work for the public to believe this. Society does not dismiss the importance of the natural family as readily as the social planners, and so it is useful to portray relinquishing parents as different from caring parents.It is true. We are stigmatized because we are seen as aberrations. And not only that, but once you have diminished a mother to being a "birth mother," referring to her by this artificially-created term, you now speak of her uterus, her vagina, her blood and her amniotic fluid. These are not subjects of "polite conversation" with strangers. So, no wonder the people at P's daughter's school play flinched and became uncomfortable when she was introduced to them with this word by the a-parents. ("P," I will link to your blog post where you describe this event if you want me to, or if you prefer to remain anonymous, I will honor that also). She was not only defined solely by, but her role was circumscribed solely by, her reproductive organs. Plus, you can bet that some of them wonder how much she got paid for providing the gestational service: the word "birth mother" is synonymous with "surrogate mother" in the minds of many who are not "adoption-affected."
"The 'birthmother' must be different, an aberration; for if it were true that she had the same degree of love for her child as all other mothers, the good of adoption would be overwhelmed by the tragedy of it. Adoptive parents are presumably somewhat relieved of guilt if they can be assured that the [first] parents truly did not want their child; for, under those circumstances, it is possible to feel entitled to claim the child of others. Neither society nor the mother who holds the child in her arms wants to confront the agony of the mother from whose arms that same child was taken.
So, maybe not much carnage on the road today with this incident, luckily. And it is possible that many may not realize that anything actually occurred that was wrong or even out-of-the-ordinary, but once more I see one more dismissal of the experiences of a natural mother on a "triad board," even when people-who-adopt are trying(?) to be supportive. This "kinder, gentler" board is indeed not quite as bad as some boards where a mother's decision to have sex is used against her as justification for disembabyment and to say that thus she had a "choice" (as if one is supposed to lead automatically to the other!). But unfortunately, many still just do NOT "get it."
But I do have to stop looking at these on-line "traffic accidents," reading at the sites where I know they will happen, even if I do fervently pray that I will be surprised and maybe one day a "triad group" will exist where they do not happen. I'm not holding my breath though.
Footnote to "P." I do not know you, but I would LOVE to see your first post on that message board reposted on websites where people read to learn about adoption and its issues. I sent you an email. Stand strong, I hear you. WE hear you.
Sunday, April 15, 2007
THE ADOPTION SHOW: Listen to the interview with Stephanie Bennett. And please help Stephanie Bennett get her baby home: Sign the "Return Baby Evelyn Bennett Home" Petition. Help out directly to Send Evelyn Home.
It is ridiculous that a "licensed agency" can dismember a family by exploiting a mother's fears. Stephanie Bennett and her family deserved better. She was misled and exploited, never told the truth about adoption or the misery it would cause to her, the unresolvable grief and loss, depression, and PTSD. Instead, she was exploited and cast aside, her baby removed from her as she felt powerless to do anything about it. This case shows how the industry operates, how it does anything it can to obtain babies for its customers. Stephanie was not adequately counselled. She was rushed into making a "commitment" to surrender her baby. She was not warned about the emotional and psychological consequences of surrender: evidence provided by Kelly, Condon, Rickarby, Robinson, and many others.
11/05 – Stephanie found that she is pregnant and hid it from her parents until 3 weeks prior to delivery. She is tall, this is a first pregnancy and the popular baggy clothes worn by young people made that possible.
4/17/06 – Stephanie delivered Baby Evelyn Joann Bennett and named her for her Great Grandmother and her Grandmother and her Mother. The plan is that, with her family’s support, Stephanie will raise the baby.
Stephanie’s parents are not wealthy people and Stephanie and Evelyn go on Medicaid
4/06 - Stephanie told her parents that the father was a school friend, with whom she had never had sex. She was desperately trying to protect her family. She lied to her parents because she was afraid of the real father who had been making serious and repeated threats against her family. Stephanie attempted to protect them from him and what he would do to her family, to her and to Baby Evelyn.
9/07/06 – After 5 months of repeated and serious threats to her family’s health and safety and emotional abuse from the putative father of her child, Stephanie approached Thomas Saltsman, Counselor, at Glenoak High School. Stephanie originally went to discuss a schedule change, but mentioned adoption. As soon as Stephanie mentioned adoption, Mr. Saltsman turned, got a brochure from his desk for A Child’s Waiting Adoption Agency and arranged a meeting for the next day in his office.
9/8/06 – Stephanie signed the initial paperwork that began the process. Mr. Saltsman signed as witness, in his office, at the high school, this was the ONLY meeting between Stephanie and the agency people, until the agency worker came to take Baby Evelyn on 9/12/06. There was no counseling nor protection offered to Stephanie. An attorney was present, as Stephanie’s “independent counsel”, but she also handled adoptions for A Child’s Waiting Adoption Agency on a regular basis.
9/12/07 - As a policy, Medicaid demands the name of a father, or they require DNA testing on any possible ones. The young man that Stephanie claimed was the father in order to protect her family’s safety from the real father went to have his DNA tested. Stephanie was to bring Evelyn in for her test to see if they matched, but Stephanie never came. She had already run away, as directed by the agency rep in the school guidance counselor’s office, to avoid the DNA testing. The involvement of a father in the proceedings would complicate things for the agency. Proven fathers have rights that require protection. DNA evidence is proof of paternity. No proof and there are only putative fathers, who legally need not be consulted. Evelyn was not tested, as she had already been taken from her mother by the agency.
9/12/06 – Stephanie and Evelyn ran away (at the agency’s suggestion, in the Guidance Counselor’s office, to Carrol County where Stephanie’s parents could not interfere). Also the last time Stephanie saw baby Evelyn. The agency rep came to this place and picked up baby Evelyn.
10/2/06 – Judy and Ranza Bennett got temporary custody of Baby Evelyn; went to the agency in Copley Township in Summit County accompanied by Copley Police. Agency told the police that they had spoken to the 17-year-old but told her that they could not do business with her while she was a minor and that neither child was at the agency.
10/16/06 - Judy and Ranza notified by Canton police that they were to appear in court on 10/17/06. Not informed as to why.
10/17/06 – Went to court, still no information as to reason. Stephanie appeared accompanied by A Child’s Waiting. Court placed Stephanie into a Respite Home due to allegations of abuse made against Judy and Ranza Bennett by the putative father who had been making the threats against Stephanie and her family, which stated that there was neglect and abuse against both Evelyn and Stephanie. A case worker came to their home to investigate the charges of abuse.
10/18/06 – Stephanie ran away from the Respite Home and called a friend, who called the caseworker who advises him to take Stephanie to Family Court. While in court, Stephanie tells the judge that she wants to return home to her parents and her sister. The Lawyer for Child Protection told the Judge that there was no sign of neglect or abuse in the home. Evelyn’s pediatrician stated that he had no concern about Evelyn being in the home.
10/18/06 - Stephanie then told her parents who the father actually was (there is no more information about the father available beyond this as yet, as charges are pending and any information leaked could jeopardize their case).
Attempted to find an attorney who could handle the case and would work for payments that could come later, for Stephanie and the baby.
Dec. 31, 2006 – Rick Armon’s article appeared in the Akron Beacon Journal.
Early January, 2007 - Sandy Young called the Bennett family to offer help. They said that they could use it.
Jan of 07-. Hired Paul Reiners to defend Stephanie. He agreed to work on a pro bono basis, unless they won the case. In that event, they would owe him standard fees.
1-19-07 - The first time Stephanie went to court in Summit Co. with Mr.Reiners, and was not allowed in the court room. Paul Reiners came out of the court room and told Stephanie that the Magistrate, Diana Stevenson, had put a gag order on all parties involved in the case.
2/2/07 – Judge in Stark Co. ruled that the custody order of Ranza and Judy Bennett was no longer in effect; That another court had precedence.
2-21-07 - Stephanie went back to court in Summit Co, where she is still fighting for the return of her daughter Evelyn. This date was to determine if the Surrender could be overturned. The judge was to rule on this matter on March 27, 2007. The briefs were to have been turned in on the 23rd and she would rule several days later. Paul Reiners had said that he would have several witnesses subpoenaed including the putative father. He also had indicated that he would depose Joe Soll to testify to the effects of the coercion, the loss of her daughter, the psychological impact of the threats and the emotional abuse that Stephanie had been subjected to. He did none of the above.
March of 07 – Fired Paul Reiners
March of 07 - hired Jennifer Lowry, who obtained a continuance on the ruling by the judge and obtained the court transcripts. She could find no evidence of any gag order on any party to the case. She still prefers to have Stephanie remain silent, as a matter of choice, and to protect her, but her parents and the attorney are not so bound.
April 07 – Obtained copies of the complaint filed against the agency in the matter of Stephanie Bennett by her mother. The agency was found to be not in compliance in numerous areas. So far, no actions have been taken against the agency by the state, despite being out of compliance.
April 9, 2007 – Meeting with Jennifer Lowry. She was excited about the Bennetts having a copy of the complaint. Also has started to plan a reunification.
Saturday, April 14, 2007
Please listen to this show if you can. If you miss it at 8:30 (EST), you can download it from the Adoption Show website at any time after that.
We are the only species on the planet that feeds its most vulnerable mothers to predators.
THE ADOPTION SHOW - VOICES ENDING THE MYTH
Thursday, April 12, 2007
(PRLog.Org) – Richmond, VA April 12, 2007 - OriginsUSA, Inc. is organizing a Blogger Blitz for Monday, April 16, 2007, to increase media and public awareness of the coercion used to obtain the surrender and removal of five month old Evelyn Bennett from her seventeen year old mother, Stephanie Bennett, on September 12, 2006, in Canton , Ohio.
Traditional media, with the exception of Rick Armon of the Akron Beacon Journal, have largely ignored this story. As outlined by Mr. Armon in the original story on December 31, 2006, the Bennett case has many unanswered questions. Despite the lack of media coverage, the interest of the online community has not diminished and has been kept alive for months via blog articles, adoption forums and online chats.
Kicking off the Blogger Blitz will be a live stream, online, radio interview with Judy Bennett, Stephanie’s mother and grandmother to baby Evelyn. “The Adoption Show,” with Michelle Edmonds, will air on Sunday, April 15, 2007, and will be available online thereafter at www.theadoptionshow.com . The interview will break the codes of silence and gag orders imposed upon the family, while showing that this story is more tragic than even previously known.
A factual time line will be available to bloggers, along with further, as yet unrevealed, details. Links to this information and a list of participating bloggers will be available on the OriginsUSA website at www.originsusa.org . The online adoption community, other mothers who have been forced to surrender, adult adopted persons, and people who have adopted will have the opportunity to react to the new information. They then can respond as to why this case is important not just to people involved in adoption, but to all who care about truth and justice.
It is hoped that attention generated by bloggers will inspire renewed interest from mainstream media and cause widespread support for the Bennett family. To date, the Bennetts remain separated from their daughter and granddaughter and are fighting in court for the return of baby Evelyn. Sandy Young of OriginsUSA, who has been working with the Bennett family said, “Wrongly ignoring cases like the Bennett’s, and the many other stories of forced adoption that still occur in America as accepted adoption practice, allow these abuses to continue. OriginsUSA fights for justice and the preservation of natural families.”
If you are interested in being part of the Blogger Blitz or would like more information about how to help the Bennetts, please contact BOD@originsusa.org
For more information about the truth of adoption, past and present, join us at OriginsUSA.
OriginsUSA, Inc. advocates for the preservation of natural families and, as a last resort, alternative systems of child care that respect the needs and dignity of both mother and child above permanent adoption separation. We provide support for people separated by adoption, fight coercive adoption practices, and educate the public and policy makers about the effects of adoption separation. A national organization, we are internationally affiliated with Origins Inc. ( NSW Australia), Origins Canada, and other Origins branches in those countries. OriginsUSA, Inc. has also aligned with Tracker’s International in the U.K. and with Adoption Crossroads in the U.S.
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