Them Before Us is categorically against third-party reproduction. We are also whole-hearted supporters of adoption. Both adoption and donor-conception involve loss for children. In both situations a child is living with at least one non-biological parent. Donor conceived children as well as adopted children are more likely to struggle with diminished outcomes compared to their peers raised by their biological parents. Yet these two situations are different.
Adoption- seeks to mend a wound. Third-party reproduction- inflicts a wound.
Adoption is born of brokenness. Whether placed with their adoptive parents at the hospital or after living in an institution for years, an adoptive child must lose their first family before finding their “forever family” inflicting a primal wound. Adoption should take place only when every option of keeping the child with her birth family- the best case scenario except in circumstances of abuse, neglect or abandonment- has been exhausted. And even then, there has been a recent shift toward open adoption because social workers recognize that kids benefit from connecting with their first family whenever possible. Anyone who has undergone the mandated adoption training will tell you that their adopted child will likely go through a process of grieving, adjustment, and may experience feelings of rejection and abandonment. Adoptive parents are not responsible for the child’s wound, but are seeking to remedy the wound. Adoption says, “Let me help.”
Donor-conception on the other hand, creates a wound. The adults intentionally produce children with the express intent of raising them without one (or both) biological parent. While adoption has moved away from anonymity, there has been an explosion of anonymous gamete donation in the fertility industry. Children created through sperm and egg donation also mourn the loss of their missing parent. But the difference is that the adults who are raising them are responsible for their loss. Third-party reproduction says “Let me have.”
Adoption- the child is the client. Third-party reproduction- the adult is the client.
The guiding premise in adoption is that children deserve parents. Therefore the state or placement agency is primarily concerned with finding parents for every child, rather than finding a child for every adult. While there are cases of adoptive parents or agencies overlooking the “best interest” of the child for the sake of the wants of adults and/or financial gain, state, federal and international regulations have been developed over decades to curtail those scenarios. When adoption is done right, not every adult has a child placed with them, but every child is placed with loving parents. Because granting guardianship of a child to a biological stranger is risky, adoptive parents rightly undergo screenings, background checks, physical/mental evaluations, and training prior to placement. They also receive post- adoption supervision. In adoption, the adults sacrifice for the child.
With third-party reproduction, the adults are the clients. The fertility industry operates under the mistaken notion that adults have a right to a child, even if the adults are single or in a non-procreative relationship, have a criminal record or are physically/mentally unfit to be parents. The fertility industry, which operates virtually regulation-free, exists to deliver a child-product to any adult. The cost to the child is the loss of half/all of her biological identity, a relationship with one or both natural parents, sometimes a dual-gender parental influence that kids crave, and perhaps a safe home. In third-party reproduction, the child sacrifices for the adult.
Adoption- adult supports child. Third-party reproduction- child supports adult.
In both adoption and third-party reproduction children need to be supported through their loss. In an adoptive home, the child is more free to grieve the loss of their biological parents because they know that their adoptive parents are not responsible for their missing parents.
Here are some responses from adoptive parents when their child says “I miss my birth mom:”
- “One of mine has said he wishes he could have stayed in China. Any time this comes up, we validate and tell him, “I know! I’m really sorry you didn’t get to grow up with your birth family. Of course you miss them! At the same time, I’m SO glad you’re our son. We can’t wait to go back to visit China together and hopefully visit your foster mom.”
- “My oldest (11) has said periodically that she misses her birth mom for as long as she could speak it… Our response has always been in line with… of course you do…because you were designed to be with them. Both of them… So your ache is real and legitimate. ♡ We’ll do this together and we’ll never leave you. But we know your ache is real baby…but..you don’t have to “live there” because we have a great God that put us in your life as the Divine Plan B.”
- “I think what [my adoptive son] thinks about and what affects him most deeply is the knowledge that his birth father left his birth mother once she became pregnant, causing her to have to make an adoption plan. He expresses a lot of anger about that, which we’ve always validated as appropriate…..I mean, who wants to be abandoned?”
These adopted children receive support through their grief because the adults raising them didn’t choose for them to lose their birth parents. They are simply trying to mend the wound.
In contrast, donor-conceived children are living with the adult responsible for the loss of one/both parents. As a result, they may feel pressured to support their parents feelings, even if it means suppressing their own. Because of this parent/child dynamic, simply voicing their loss may be interpreted as blame and that makes it difficult for the child to be honest:
- The psychological risk to DC people is an unrecognised element because our existence is tied up with someone else’s pain (the recipient). We risk rejection from our ‘parent(s)’ if we disagree with their decision. We grow up walking on eggshells, lest we hurt them. We grow up emotionally numb because everyone tells us that we shouldn’t feel something for our biological parent(s), grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, siblings, language, culture. In so many ways, we parent our parents…. We exist for someone else’s happiness. That’s a very heavy burden to bear. –Anonymous
- Growing up without a father sucks. I can’t really have this conversation with my mom without hurting her. If my mom and I ever have a disagreement I have no one else to talk to. I feel so alone. I feel like I have missed out on all of the little things, like having your dad give you piggybacks or teaching me how to ride a bike or getting over protective when I show an interest in boys. I don’t miss my donor personally, i mourn the loss of a childhood without a dad. https://anonymousus.org/or-is-it-me-being-selfish/
- No matter how kick-ass my mom is, I will think about the siblings with my same donor’s blood rushing through their veins. No matter how kick-ass my mom is, I will still not have the courage to tell her that I found my biological father, like many other donor-conceived offspring, through nothing more than a few google searches. She can never know that I felt unhappy enough to the point where she (the one that paid thousands of dollars to bring me into this world) is not enough to satisfy me. https://anonymousus.org/parent-thinks-donor-conceived-child-simply-doest-care/
- “Why don’t you just talk to your mom about it?” they ask. I shake with fear. How do you talk to your mom about how hurt you are when her effort, drive, and passion to have you brought into this world is the reason you can even speak? How do you sit someone down and essentially tell them that they are not enough of a “family” for you?… This is the moment I feel my entire body tense up as they utter the all too familiar and famous words: “You should be grateful that she wanted you here so badly that she went through this whole process and literally payed to ensure she could love a child.” https://anonymousus.org/why-i-stay-quiet/
Adults are supposed to be understanding, accommodating and supportive. This is possible in adoption because the parent isn’t responsible for their child’s trauma, but is seeking to remedy it. In third-party reproduction, it’s the child who must often be understanding, accommodating and supportive. Even though both situations involve child loss, one situation allows a child to grieve, process, and heal.
The impact of this dynamic- being raised by the adult responsible for the child’s loss- is reflected in the massive study My Daddy’s Name is Donor which compares outcomes between donor-conceived children, adopted children, and those raised by their biological parents.
- Nearly half of donor offspring (48 percent) compared to about one fifth of adopted adults (19 percent) agree, “When I see friends with their biological fathers and mothers, it makes me feel sad.” Similarly, more than half of donor offspring (53 percent, compared to 29 percent of the adopted adults) agree, “It hurts when I hear other people talk about their genealogical background.”
- Forty-three percent of donor offspring, compared to 15 percent of adopted persons and six percent of those raised by their biological parents, agree, “I feel confused about who is a member of my family and who is not.”
- Almost half of donor offspring (47 percent) agree, “I worry that my mother might have lied to me about important matters when I was growing up.” This compares with 27 percent of those who were adopted and 18 percent raised by their biological parents. Not only are the donor conceived more than two and a half times as likely as those raised by their biological parents to agree with this statement, they are about four times as likely to agree strongly. Similarly, 43 percent of donor offspring, compared to 22 percent and 15 percent, respectively, of those raised by adoptive or biological parents, agree that “I worry that my father might have lied to me about important matters when I was growing up.” Compared to those raised by biological parents, the donor offspring are more than four times as likely to agree strongly.
- …many donor offspring agree that “I don’t feel that anyone really understands me.” Twenty-five percent agree strongly, compared to 13 percent of adopted and nine percent of those raised by biological parents.
Adoption is sometimes necessary. Third-party reproduction never is.
In a perfect world, no child would need to be adopted. Ideally, every man and woman who participate in a baby-making activity (sex) would be ready and willing to commit their lives to one another and any child created through their union. That is and always will be the best-case scenario, because it’s the only scenario where the child won’t suffer loss due to their parent’s choices.
But the evidence of this imperfect world is all around us, so we know that there are times when adoption is not only optional, but critical.
As an adoptive mom myself, I can honestly say that it would have been better if my son’s birthparents had kept him; sparing him the trauma of separation from his mother at birth, months of institutionalization, and the identity questions that he will face as he grows in our home. But they didn’t. So he gets the the next-best thing: a mom and dad who underwent background checks, training, supervision and who commit to raising him as if he had been born to them. We love our adopted son with everything that is in us. Our son is a gift to our family. He is brilliant, handsome, intuitive… and he never should have needed us.
A just society cares for orphans. It doesn’t create them.
Both adoption and third-party reproduction involve life-long loss for children. However, Them Before Us supports adoption because it seeks to remedy brokenness by fulfilling a child’s right to a mother and father. We oppose third-party reproduction because it inflicts brokenness by denying a child’s right to their mother and father.
One requires that children sacrifice for adults while the other requires adults to sacrifice for children.
One supports children’s rights, and one violates them.
Wow, interesting reading. I am a mother of a donor conceived child & it’s insightful to read how people feel. I have thought of all aspects, potential and real, but I cannot know what it’s really like for the child. I thank you all for your honesty.
Thanks for your comment!
Donor offspring and adoptees are more alike than different. I have never met adoptive parents that said they adopted to help heal a child’s wounds. They sound like characters straight out of “The Chosen Child” story. Although we didn’t cause our adopter’s infertility, those of us with infertile adoptive parents know its our job to take away their pain. The majority of adoptees I know said they were adopted to restore their adopters’ marriages. Since the divorce rate is the same for adoptive and non-adoptive couples then a lot of adoptees are failing to meet their adopters’ needs. Those that do are high risk for being re-homed in these times.
Very interesting insight. Sadly this perspective was left out of the article. Seems to be a good amount of bias IMHO.
your comments appear to have hit home with the author. Katy Faust seems to have thanked everyone but you.
I have to disagree with your statement that adoption heals wounds. Many infants are relinquished only after pressure from adoption agencies who need to continually source fresh products for their customers. These agencies employ staff who go out of their way to convince pregnant women that their child will be better off with someone else. Their aim is to break any confidence a woman has in her parenting skills to ensure they can supply their customers with a womb fresh product. Here in the USA adoption agencies offer “advice” under the guise of Pregnancy Crisis Centers with the sole aim of persuading the woman to sigh over her rights to the infant. They will them match pregnant women to would be adopters so that they two can use emotional blackmail to prevent the woman changing her mind. In 3rd world countries children are collected from their families and taken to “orphanages” to meet the demand for adoptable children. Most genuine orphans are either too disabled or too old to be appealing. Westerners pay tens of thousands to “rescue” these children who were perfectly fine until the middle men showed up looking for stock. Adoption, when not from foster care, is a multi million dollar international business and it’s not about helping children in need. It is there to source babies and children from poor parents to sell to comparatively rich people to fulfill their needs to either “own” a child or to present themselves as “rescuers”. Even adopting from foster care is fraught with traps as child protection teams in several countries will target “adoptable” children and remove them from families while leaving older or less appealing children behind. Adoption is rarely the only way to provide a safe and secure place to care for a child in need. It is a cheap way for government as it passes all the expenses on to the new family. Even with home studies and checks adopted children are often not safe in their new families. There is plenty of research that shows children living with people who are not biologically related to them are more at risk of abuse. Adoption doesn’t take that risk away.
What you are doing about donor conception is wonderful, but please don’t suggest adoption as a better route. It really isn’t. We need something better that doesn’t dent our real heritage, that doesn’t give us a new and false identity, but that allows a safe, loving home with regular oversight.
Maggie, many thanks for your comments. Yes. There are problems with adoption and yes, coercion has been a factor with infant adoption and some countries overseas which was one reason that the Hague Adoption Convention was enacted. I was a part of bringing our adoption agency into compliance with those best-for-kids mandates. Yes, it’s risky placing a child with biological strangers, as outlined in our post “Biology Matters” https://thembeforeus.com/biology-matters/. You can see that children living with “Neither Parent” and “Adoptive Parents” suffer worse outcomes than those living with both biological parents.
And yet, when rightly understood as a service provided to a child “only when every option of keeping the child with her birth family- the best case scenario except in circumstances of abuse, neglect or abandonment- has been exhausted” then adoption supports children’s rights. As outlined in the post, adoption isn’t a fix-all as many adopted children will suffer from life-long wounds. That’s why it stated that adoptive parents “are seeking to remedy the wound.”
Thank you again for your comments!
Adoption is actually a muli-Billion dollar industry, a true cash cow for middle men. And that’s just the money which is able to be tracked. As an aside, I would like the term “adoption triad” to be abolished. There is a fourth party, the one pulling the strings, manipulating pregnant women, counting the cash and calling the shots– the agencies.
I’ll disagree with a lot of ur assumptions that are false about adoption .. if u research u will find a huge amount of parallels between adoption and surrogacy and that surrogacy is the new adoption because of the massive decline in intercountry adoption in particular. Both markets are driven by demand of people wanting to become parents .. please don’t perpetuate the myth that adoption saves us or fixes our wounds .. it shows ur ignorance of the adoption industry particularly in intercountry adoption where trafficking and corruption is the norm. Majority of us intercountry adoptees find our bio families give us up out of poverty and lack of choices .. look at domestic adoption with all the forced adoption eras .. those children did not have to be adopted out except for stigma of single mothers or racial discrimination against families of Colour …
Thank you for your comments. I want people to understand that adoption is not a zero sum game for kids. It costs them something precious and that’s why it’s important that it’s always child-centric and always a last resort. Love your website.
Single motherhood is toxic
“The internet revolutionised the world of the adoptee after years of growing up in isolation within the adoptive family – we met online for the first time and the revelation was instant: adoptees around the world, no matter how picture perfect our adoptions, no matter how loving our adoptive parents, no matter how early we were removed and placed in adoptive homes, suffered the same things, the same issues, the same emotional and psychological problems.
Adoptees live their lives trying to manage in a myriad different ways the debilitating lifelong impacts of premature maternal separation, – that is, the loss of their mothers at or near to birth, as well as multiple identity disruptions and disconnection from family, kin and ancestry.” Dr Catherine Lynch JD.
I agree with this statement. I have a very loving adopted family. My parents could not have made me feel more loved or secure if they tried, but there is something missing, it is not their fault, I am so lucky to be a part of their family, but I know that I have lost something, and it impacts my life in many ways.
When we hear that there are 100s of people who want to adopt, it poses the Question why can’t these people care for children in need and offer support for the duration of the child’s life time without the need to change the child’s Identity and cut legal ties to its brothers, sisters, grandparents and the rest of its extended family, heritage and blood line. By the introduction of a post adoption Birth Certificate that states a legal lie that they are now the natural parents. “As If Born To” Why it is those Adopters must own a child before they will commit to a lifelong caring relationship with a child in need Is it the child’s needs that they are truly wanting to fulfil or is it the needs of the person/s that seeks to adopt that they want fulfilled instead?
As an adoptive mother once said
“I think that in future it will also change the nature of the type of person who adopts.”
“Prospective adopters will have to be prepared to be even more open with their adopted children and to take an empathetic view of the parents, “Otherwise they are not going to make it when the crap hits the fan when the child is 15. We don’t always know what will be dished up to us. But the important thing to remember is that we are caring adoptive parents and have responsibilities and duties to our children, but we don’t own them. And quite often this feeling of ownership really trips us up. Issues Paper: Establishing an Institute of Open Adoption RFT ID FACS.15.58 notice
Understandably for many people it’s a profound commitment, but it doesn’t have to be based on ownership
The overarching principle which is meant to govern adoption is that the ‘welfare and interests of the child’ are the ‘paramount consideration’.
This puts the child’s welfare and interests above the interests of the, people wanting to adopt adoptive parents and the child’s natural parents
Very well said William, I’m happy that my own adoption over 50 years ago was much more enlightened. My adoptive parents were never given a false birth certificate to pretend they were my parents but were issued with a Certificate of Adoption that named me as their adoptive daughter. The adoption order said nothing about “as if born to” but instead defined their responsibilities towards me. They more than fulfilled them.
Brilliantly said William now I don’t have to say it and frankly I’m not used to someone making my point exactly!
I’ll just go on to say that I am a huge supporter of people whose parents were gamete donors and I think that the parallels to adoption are important to make but we should not jump to the conclusion that they are treated fairly. Donor offspring and adopted people have less rights than the rest of the population. They are ‘bastards’ who are second class citizens and can be treated like blank slates, identities falsified, trained to pretend not to be part of their own families all in service to the people willing to feed and shelter them while they are minors. It’s not enough to give people access to the truth of who their parents are we simply need to permanently hold people accountable as the parents of their own offspring even when they don’t want to raise their kids, their names should never be removed from their offspring’s birth certificates and their offspring should always have inheritance rights and a right to financial support while they are minors and a right to military and social security death benefits if their parent dies before they are 18. Let someone else have custody and give them parental authority without calling those people parents without selling off a minor to serve as someone else’s child. Permanency is a big word in the adoption industry and what it means is the government does not want to financially support the children of poor people and would prefer to get children into the care of private people with a low likelihood of ever needing public assistance.
Adoption is supposed to vet the circumstances of relinquishment and ensure that there is no incentive for abandonment but the courts are doing a crappy job of enforcing those rules. At least the rules exist and yes all people should be afforded those protections before being handed over to some stranger to be raised.
So William you feel that these adults should just be legalized babysitters until the child turns 18? You feel they are not family unless they have a biological connection?
I have raised 4 kids from CPS as a legal guardian. Adoption as recently used for the past 60 years or so is a failed experiment.
Ok Kathleen so you babysat them until they turned 18 you weren’t a parent and you are not family to them.
Where do you stand on the issue of a couple that for medical reasons cannot carry their own embryos so they must have a gestational carrier help them? They are both married, heterosexual, biologically related to their future child. I’m just curious your stance on this since you stated that you are categorically against third-party reproduction.
Our perspective is that surrogacy is wrong even if straight people do it. https://thembeforeus.com/yes-surrogacy-is-wrong-even-when-straight-couples-do-it/
I’m there with you on third-party reproduction.
But disagree with everything else.
With 20 years under my belt as a birth mom and a number of years researching the roots of the modern adoption industry- this piece is incredibly naive.
The modern adoption industry is adult-centric and I have rarely seen it even conceded that children have lost anything. Adoptees are currently defined as either “grateful” or “angry” depending on their response to family loss. They are given no room to be anything else.
Open adoptions are a bait and switch. They are the result of studies carried out by pro-adoption outfits like The Family Research Council to figure out the best ways to talk disadvantaged mothers into relinquishing. It is a system based on elitism and misogyny. Wealthy families deserve children; poor families owe their children to society.
Open adoption is not legally defined nor enforced. There is no formal study, but most seem to close within 5 years. Leaving a child without bio connection and adoptive parents have the ability to lie and say there was never an open adoption at all.
Lynelle touched on International adoption above. But both domestic and int’l adoption are rife with corruption. Everyone wants the “blank slate” baby and agencies are ruthless in their attempts to supply the voracious demand.
The whole reason third party reproduction exists is because the Baby Scoop Era laid the foundation that mothers and their babies don’t need each other. This is disappointing to read as one of the industry’s victims.
First of all, how dare you, an AP, sit there and diminish the suffering experienced by adoptees. AP’s aren’t adopting to “heal” a child. They want a kid, so they get one. That’s that. Don’t play games about it.
Second, are we really gonna use AP quotes to explain why adoption is good? Heaven forbid you tell the truth about how adoptee’s feel.
“No, I couldn’t EVER say to my adoptive parents that I missed my MOM and DAD! My mother would get extremely upset anytime I would bring them up, so I learned that it wasn’t okay to discuss. They also denied me the right to know my eight siblings.”
Yet you’ll quote donor-concieved individuals in order to counter how horrible life is for them?
Talk about child centered, you can’t even include an actual adoptee voice in an article comparing us with DC individuals. You use AP’s to represent us. Just like we always are. Silenced by the voices of the ones who stole our identity from us in the first place. Changing my name didn’t heal me, it ripped me into two beings for eternity. Falsifying my birth certificate didn’t heal me. It hid me from the world.
AP’s need to STOP SPEAKING FOR ADOPTEE’S! We have our own voice! Quit drowning it out with your self. Allow us to speak for once!
There is so much wrong in the assumptions of this article! My son’s adoptive parents were infertile and looking for a. newborn. They were serving their own needs in a church that promotes family so strongly it leaves out couples and singles. I and my fiance had no thought of adoption or abortion. A priest shows up. Short version is,I am drugged to not recall the birth, not allowed to see or hold my son, and the priest takes my son over my objections. The priest is,the adopters close friend. Women are almost always,able to keep their own children with help. It is extremely rare that a child is unwanted with adopters to swoop in to help the child. I also have 4 other kids raised since,young from CPS. Their mother loved them and they loved her. She was never offered help till too late. And no one should adopt from foreign countries. Many nations are banning American adoptions. To remove a child from a parent then from their country or culture is wrong. Most parents lose their children these days because of lack of funds and support. Just send those funds to foreign countries to keep their own children…just like Native Americans have objected to the loss of their children. Adopters,are not saviors, children are not clients. Adoption is about filling a need for the adopters and using vulnerable people to get it. Try funding families, funding health care, funding drug addiction treatment to lower the need for removing a child and placing with strangers to begin with.
You bring up a great point how the church promotes family so much it leaves out the childless and singles. Much of society is this way and it’s whats driving the demand in donor conception and adoption.
In my experience, many adoptive parents are not supportive of their child’s longing for his or her birth family. I lost my mother at the age of four, so I have some understanding, I think, of the longing adoptees feel. But, I was surrounded by people who knew my mother and loved her. They told many stories about her. I have photos of her. Adoptive parents must understand and accept that they share…and will always share…their child with his or her first family. A child should feel no guilt or shame for wanting to know his or her parents, for wanting to connect. Adoptive parents should only be concerned with their child’s emotional welfare and happiness. Anything else is selfish. Adoption might help ameliorate the pain of infertility or of parental loss, but it will not cure it.
Same wound for both. Removal from birth mother. If done in the first 30 days: irreversible neurological damage that replaces the brain pathways for love and attachment with cortisol induced anxiety and trauma.
You are an interest group. Children are not clients and you can not speak for them.