Separating ALL Mothers and Babies Should be a Last Resort

I saw a bumper sticker that said abortion is the worst form of child abuse. I disagree. I think the worst form of child abuse is separating a child from her mother.

— Anne Heffron, Writer, Photographer

The outrage against Trump’s zero-tolerance immigration policy which separated families was swift and loud. The condemnation came from far and wide: It’s inhumane to separate children from parents!  The world is aghast, shocked, horrified, and incensed at the separation of thousands of immigrant children from their parents.

Millions of Americans marched in protest all over the country.

Worldwide, children have been taken as part of warfare in:

  • Poland – as many as 200,000 children with blue eyes and blond hair were abducted from orphanages or taken from their parents to be ‘Germanized‘ during World War II.  Another 250,000 Jewish children were kidnapped during the war and subjected to Nazi propaganda in an attempt to “cleanse” them of their Jewish heritage.
  • Argentina’s Disappeared are well known as a result of the mothers and grandmothers who have never given up searching for them. As many as thirty thousand people, mostly young Argentines, were “disappeared” during the military junta’s Dirty Wars that went on from 1976 to 1983.
  • El Salvador has documented 323 instances of children who were taken by army troops or separated from their families during the civil war from October 1979 to January 1992. At least another 500 are suspected to have been victims with no way of knowing for sure the origins of some 2,300 Salvadoran children adopted by Americans during the war.
  • In Britain, after WWII, ministers aided by respected charities, including the Salvation Army and the Catholic Church, filled orphanages with a generation of children, some as young as four, who were shipped to Australia, Canada and other outposts of the empire.  The children were told their parents were dead and when some parents sought to reclaim their children from the orphanages, they were told they had been adopted. Many now claim they “suffered years of neglect, beatings and sexual abuse by the religious orders and charities that were supposed to care for them.”
  • In Spain parents are searching for their lost children years after Spain’s 1936-1939 civil war removed children from families to be given to families considered more deserving.
  • In Serbia it is estimated some 10,000 babies were stolen from newborn hospital nurseries. It is believed that organized crime may be behind the theft of the babies who are then trafficked and sold for adoption.


Domestic Warfare

In the U.S., taking children from their families began with Native American children being taken to boarding schools, which turned into foster care.  The second wave of mass American child separations were Orphan Trains that took an estimated 200,000 urban American street kids to the heartland between 1854 and 1929.  Most (perhaps 87%) were taken as family members; others were used for free child labor.

The third wave is known as the Baby Scoop Era that began after WWII and lasted until the early 1970s. Societal and familial shame of “unwed” pregnancy and the “stigma“ of being born an “illegitimate” bastard led to a deluge of babies placed for adoption to “protect” the reputations of “wayward” girls who were shuffled off to maternity homes and expected to forget and get on with their lives absolved of their “sin” of fornication, which adoption was intended to “cure.”

Unscrupulous baby brokers such as Georgia Tann, Dr. Thomas Hicks, and Betsy Bernard provided babies for wealthy clientele, including celebrities. They worked with their high-level political contacts encouraging legislation that sealed adoption records allegedly to protect the sinful mothers and their illegitimate children. In reality it provided concealment to cover up the thievery of children by various deceptive means including telling women their babies had died. Tann was closed down before she died, but the legacy of deception and questionable ethics continued to produce the notorious Artie Elgart of Golden Cradle in PA and today adoption remains a “wild west” with little far less ethics regulations than the real estate industry.

Amidst the recent outrage at the separation of immigrant children is the irony that every day American children are removed from American citizens with accepted justification. Rather than horror, the permanent separation of mothers by Child Protective Services (CPS) is applauded and encouraged as in the child’s best interest despite the known high-risk of foster care and the fact that the suffering is every bit the same horror and trauma experienced by refugees and asylum seekers.

These domestic child removals – and the termination of parental rights – are deemed necessary based on reports of neglect or abuse. Foster care often separates children from their siblings who have caused them no harm and places them at equally or greater risk of abuse. More and more reports are coming to light that state CPS agencies are overstepping their authority and are too quick to place children with strangers in order to receive federal grant money.

In the book, Legally Kidnapped, Child Protective Services whistleblower, Carlos Morales, exposes the dangerous tactics and overt corruption that he witnessed as a CPS investigator. CPS is, in fact, a billion-dollar industry funded by taxpayers.  The Adoption and Safe Families Act of 1997 (ASFA) included Title IV-E funds, which limited funds for foster care, and instead encourages states with bonus incentives for turning temporary separations (which are traumatic and risk-prone) into permanent losses for mothers, fathers and their children, all for profit.

Profit also is part of what motivates the immigrant separations as private contractors are paid to build shelters and house the children, often in conditions that have been compared to concentration camps. Bethany Christian Services, a global nonprofit providing adoption and foster care since 1944, with links to the family of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, is being paid $700 per night for a reported 81 children taken from their parents at the U.S. border. This amounts to a $1.7 million windfall per month for the agency.

Domestic Infant Adoption

Everyone has friends and family who have adopted, want to adopt, or are trying to adopt. They long for a child with loving, caring intent and would make wonderful parents. We thus naturally view adoption as altruistic and magnanimous.

The reality of it is far less romantic, warm and fuzzy. Profit motivates all adoption, not just that which involves removals by CPS.  Adoption is a megabillion-dollar industry with the average cost of a baby being $40,000 (higher or lower depending on race, ethnicity, age and health) and involves marketing to lure expectant mothers, even offering incentives such as college scholarships.

The willingness to pay tens of thousands of dollars creates a demand that outweighs “supply” by 36 to 1. Birth control is accessible and the “stigma” of single parenthood has all but disappeared (except in small pockets of religious communities).  At the same time, infertility rates have grown exponentially as women start families later and later.  Marriage Equality has added gay men to the long queue of infertile heterosexual couples longing to adopt, possibly doubling the demand. Adding to the lopsided supply and demand is the major decrease in international adoptions over the past decades due to corruption, kidnapping, and trafficking for adoption.

It is estimated that as many as two million people in America are waiting to adopt. Eliminating stepparent adoptions, adoptions from foster care (59%) and other countries (26%) from the 135,000 children adopted in the U. S. each year, about 15% percent are “voluntarily” relinquished American babies.  That means that 1.2 million prospective parents are competing over approximately 20,000 domestic infants.

All of this has resulted in increased pressure and coercion on American expectant mothers caught off-guard by an unintended pregnancy. Every day mothers-to-be without adequate resources are pressured into “voluntarily” surrendering their parental rights and consenting to the adoption of their child without access to option counseling or legal representation without conflict of interest to inform them of their rights. They are rushed into making decisions before their babies become a reality and made promises about open adoption, the lack of enforcement of which is not explained to them. Their youth, inexperience, and state of trauma are all exploited to gain access to the highly sought – and high-priced – commodity they are carrying.

Expectant and new mothers are assured their babies will be “better off” with adopters as if home studies – paid for by adopters – were guarantees against death, divorce, abuse, terminated adoptions, and even the torture and murder of adopted children in their “forever” homes. Fathers are all too often stripped of their right to parent without their knowledge and consent. Nor are parents faced with an adoption decision told the lifelong effects on them and their children of their separation.

Recently, police officer Ryan Holets was honored by President Trump for adopting an addict’s baby.  The mother, who is now in recovery, like so many others needed temporary help, not to be permanently separated from her child and their separation glamorized and exalted.

The Consequences

The trauma experienced by children separated from their mothers at any age – newborn to teen – is permanent and costly to society in a multitude of ways.

Pro-life advocates, such as blogger Caitlin Fikes, agree with scientists who tell us that:

…fetuses can hear voices and distinguish between unique speech patterns, allowing them to recognize (and prefer) their mother’s voice over any other’s. It has also been shown that a fetus will learn to recognize a song or story repeatedly played/read to them, retaining a familiarity with that tune or story post-birth. This is referred to by scientists as “preconscious learning.

Research at Lancaster University in the United Kingdom demonstrates that fetuses will react to face-like shapes in the same way infants do.

Dr. Kyle Pruett, clinical professor of psychiatry at the Yale University Child Study Center, concurs that:

Infants are highly attuned to mood even when in the womb making them susceptible to things like parental depression….We need to help parents early on with things like maternal depression, marital conflict and violence in the home.

The pre-conscious damage experienced by newborns is delineated in Nancy Verrier’s Primal Wound. Dr. Mark Sircus, Director International Medical Veritas Association Doctor of Oriental and Pastoral Medicine explains the detriment:

Children are programmed to interact, and the quality of that interaction is crucial for their emotional, physical and mental development. …

The essence of our suffering as beings is seen in the pain of separation (rejection of our being) that cuts into this needed bond of total love.

The consequences are life-long. Glyn Hudson Allez, in Infant Losses, Adult Searches, 2nd edition, writes:

Adopted children can learn to develop a secure and confident working model of life, but they will have already constructed a LOSS circuit, which with happy and loving adoptive parents may lie dormant throughout the childhood.

But one day, a loss may trigger that circuit which had been myelinated from the earlier  years, and will raise huge emotional insecurities in the person.

This is why we, as therapists, see so many people who were adopted as children, and why so many adoptees get to the stage where they want to search for their biological origins.

Adoptees cope with their deep-seated feelings of rejection and abandonment in many ways, most constructive and some not.  The Mental Health of US Adolescents Adopted in Infancy, Keyes MA, Sharma A, Elkins IJ, Iacono WG, McGue M.  Archives of pediatrics & adolescent medicine. 2008;162(5):419-425. doi:10.1001/archpedi.162.5.419, reported:

Being adopted approximately doubled the odds of having contact with a mental health professional . . .and of having a disruptive behavior disorder . . .  Relative to international adoptees, domestic adoptees had higher odds of having an externalizing disorder.

“Study after study has found that adopted kids are more likely to take their own lives.”

In addition, American adoption laws in all but a handful of states permanently seal the adoptee’s original accurate certificate of birth and replace it with a new falsified vital birth record that lists the adoptive parents as the parents “of birth.” This is state-committed fraud and is in violation of Article 8 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) which states that every child has the right to an identity and governments must respect and protect that right, and prevent the child’s name, nationality or family relationships from being changed unlawfully.

Perhaps this is in part why the U.S. is the only United Nations member state that has not ratified the UNCRC which also stipulates other basic rights of children that America does not, including (in Article 9) that children who have been separated from their parents against their will because of abuse or neglect have the right to stay in contact with both parents, unless this could cause them harm.

Separating children from their parents is an act of violence used as a tool of war because of the lifelong pain and grief it causes parents and their children. It is also used to reduce undesirable populations while increasing those considered to be superior.

It is imperative for society to understand and accept the permanent damage done to children when they are separated from their parents, regardless of the reason or good intent. Recognizing the detrimental effects, we need to reduce as many unnecessary parent/child separations as possible and work to keep struggling families intact.  Children are not “products” for those willing to pay no more than they are blank slates who will forget the wounds of their primal separations.

Mirah is author of two internationally acclaimed books, more than 200 published articles, and cited in twenty professional journals having been researching, writing and speaking about American and global child adoption, restoration of adoptee rights, as well as contract anonymous conception and surrogacy since 1980. More at her website and Wikipedia. Read other articles by Mirah, or visit Mirah's website.