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.