Friday, August 23, 2013

The "Baby Veronica Case" and My Evolving Perspective on Adoption {Part 2: Upsetting My Adoption Perspective}


Yesterday I summarized the adoption case commonly known as the Baby Veronica Case.  Today, I'm going to tell you how that case has turned my world upside down.

The Cowboy and I know that God has a very special place in His heart for children.  He also has a very special place in His heart for those who are defenseless - like orphans and widows.  With this in mind - as well as the adoption stories of so very many people we love and respect - we figured that adoption was in our future.  After all, we're called to care for the widows and orphans.  (See James 1:27)

As a Tribal Member, a natural mother, a prospective adoptive mother, and a woman who is intrigued by all things legal, the "Baby Veronica Case" was especially interesting to me.  As I researched the case, however, I began to find out some disturbing things.

See, I figured that this case was more about Father's Rights than ICWA.  While Brown used ICWA to try to gain custody of his child, I figured it was primarily legal maneuvering - he was using his most likely chance at winning.  I still think that's the case...and, after doing a little reading, I can see why he used it.

Lacking in ethics
One of the first things we discovered, as we dug deeper into adoption, was that - whether due to money, desperation, or passion to help - it's challenging to maintain ethics in such an industry.

I was amazed to discover that Brown's case is not unusual - and there are many cases that were even "worse" than Brown's in that the fathers involved had an even more airtight claim to paternity than Brown - or that the mothers of their children had been even more deceptive.

Terry Achane, for instance, was expecting a child with his wife.  Like Brown, he was in the Army.  During the pregnancy he was relocated to South Carolina and soon his wife stopped returning his calls.  He eventually discovered that she had moved to Utah for the express purpose of giving birth to his daughter and putting her up for adoption.  Like the Capobiancos, the adoptive parents of Achane's daughter knew that the Father was uninformed of the adoption and would likely fight the adoption.  Like the Capobiancos, they chose to proceed anyway.  After years of fighting, Achane was finally successful in gaining custody of his daughter.

Sadly, Dusten Brown and Terry Achane are not alone.  For more stories, search the Internet for Anthony Lingle, Cody O'Dea, John Wyatt, Chris Carlton, Jake Strickland, Craig Lentz, Benjamin Wyrembek, Jose Gaspar, Greg Johns, Robert Manzanares...the list continues...

As I saw how adoption was not always being used to provide a good home for a needy child - but often to provide a child for a needy couple, I began to question adoption as it's done in the United States.  I was reminded of some blog posts I had read a year or more ago.

While reading a news article about an international adoption gone awry, I read a comment from someone who was opposed to adoption.  Who in their right mind would be opposed to adoption, I wondered.  The commenter made reference to unethical international adoptions - poor families in other countries being tricked into giving up their children for adoption.  I figured that may happen - but it was likely very rare.

And then I came across one of the most disheartening discoveries in my research.  There are a number of Christian families who have done what I thought to be wonderful things for the Lord by way of international adoptions.  As I searched the Internet for evidence of these supposed unethical international adoptions, I came across this description of unethical actions taken by one of the couples I didn't personally know, but one that I so admired:

A clearly well-intentioned  family is acting unethically and misguidedly though an adoption process in Uganda. They found a a little girl in need, loved her, want to adopt her, made all sorts of promises to her about how wonderful her life would be, renamed her, made plans, and then...they found her family. And her mother does not want her to be adopted. Her uncle, grandmother do NOT want her to be adopted and taken away.

Shockingly, they are fighting it. They are arming themselves with lawyers and other people who would profit by the transaction (though that is a side issue), trying to convince this poor, uneducated woman that they are a better family than she is for her daughter. They are showing this mother pictures of their big house, great yard, well fed children and essentially saying "Look how much better off she would be without you."  They are trying to convince the case officer to allow the adoption, when normally, and rightly, this person investigates a child's case on his own, sans influence of American prospective adoptive parents. 

The blogger I had so admired wrote a post about these things they were doing in an effort to adopt a wanted child.  While the offending post was taken down, screen shots were taken first - and this description is legitimate.

[Let me say, though, that I do believe the couple involved is very passionate about caring for orphans - and they have done much good for children in dire situations.  Sadly, they seem to have lost sight of God's plan for families to remain together whenever possible.  Check out this awesome story, though, that ended another way!]

The realization that not all adoptions are ethical - even by Christians who seem to be the "real deal" - was just the beginning.  I had no idea how misinformed we all are about the effect of adoption on certain groups of children - and the parents who relinquish them.  Don't get discouraged though, my research didn't change our hearts entirely!

Tomorrow: the dilemmas

PS: After I had scheduled this post, I came across this lovely blog post on adoption ethics and this fabulous blog post for those considering international adoption.  I think you'd like them too.

Other posts in this series: 
Part 1 Is a summary of the adoption battle of Veronica Brown.
Part 3 is more about adoption ethics, some about the attitudes toward natural parents & the children involved in adoption, as well as the myth that "everybody wins in adoption."
Part 4 is the about the conclusions we have drawn from all of this.



  1. My heart is breaking. You don't know "the well intentioned family". You know what you read in the media and from a screen shot, which is a flash of the picture not the full picture. It's not my testimony so I will not be telling "the rest of the story", but I'm sad that you have portrayed this story and this family wrong. The blogs that you have linked to that get to tell their own story and testimony are a wonderful way to get the word out about being educated about adoption, not a snap shot of a blog post that was deleted because their hearts were not well communicated or understood.

    1. The child has family that wants to keep them. The prospective adoptive family is fighting them. What is hard to understand about that being wrong?

  2. Jenay, I love you and I am sorry that I have hurt you. It is true that I don't know the full story. I do know what they posted themselves - the post in question and their defense of their post later. The original post was "their own story" - and they have defended it. At any point they could clarify - but they didn't - they said that their actions were right and that everyone who criticized them is wrong. Perhaps they've retracted that more recently - but I followed the blog a very long time and never saw it. Perhaps there is a time and place where it is acceptable to take a child from parents who want to raise him or her - but it would be a very rare situation indeed. And, if there is extended family who want to raise the child, that should always come before strangers taking a child all the way across the world from family who want to keep their child with them.

    I absolutely believe the hearts involved appear to be good hearts - but I also saw a self-righteousness and lack of humility after that post was taken down. That would have been a really good time to say, "wow - thank you all for your concern - we didn't realize how that came across...the reason we feel so adamant is this..." Or, an admission that they had lost sight of the vision if that were the case. What I have begun to see, as I have researched, is that there are sometimes assumptions about "quality of life" of children we might want to adopt - and even assumptions about "God-given callings" that are evident in people - often good people - that I do not believe reflect what God says. (There is much more on that particular topic tomorrow.) I used this example because a) it rocked my world and b) I don't think the attitudes that I saw exhibited in that situation are all that uncommon.

    Finally, the reason I didn't link to the blog itself or the actual blog post I quoted was because I didn't think I needed to "out" this couple. God is in charge of that - but I do think the fact that it happened is certainly worth sharing. Adoption is a beautiful, beautiful solution to sad situations - when it is done the way God would have us do it. I did not mean to hurt you by posting what I did - but I did mean for it to provoke us to think about how we view "orphans" - how we view children who are subjects of adoption - AND their natural families...and challenge ourselves about if what we are doing - in each individual adoption - is what God would truly have us do.

    Thank you, Jenay. I truly appreciate you sharing your heart and it did cause me to stop and consider my actions and my motives. I appreciate that you are willing to put yourself out there for me (and others).

  3. Here is my problem in this case, their were lawyers and an adoption agency involved, and the paternity of the father was clearly known. Why did no one inform the father of the potential adoption from the beginning? Isn't this a basic, preliminary step before identifying if a child is eligible for adoption? This could have all been avoided from the beginning, if those involved had not tried to use deceitful tactics and just followed what should be standard procedure. In the court documents, the birth mother admitted she knew he would likely not agree to the adoption and informed the agency of this. This is wrong.

    1. "Isn't this a basic, preliminary step before identifying if a child is eligible for adoption?"

      You know, Anonymous, I think this is a misconception most of us (the American public) has shared: I think we have all believed that natural fathers have pretty well as many rights in adoption as natural mothers. That is just true. You're right - it is wrong. I am praying that this case wakes us up and brings about meaningful adoption reform.


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