There is an age-old adage that two wrongs don’t make a right. Of course, us mothers of adoption loss understand the level of desperation that Allison Lee Quets must have been experiencing when she failed to return her 17 month old twins to their adoptive parents. And while we can support preservation of the natural family and encourages families to parent their own offspring, even to legally fight to regain custody, and nullify adoptions, understanding her feelings is not condoning the action.
What Allison did was clearly wrong. As the nation focuses on this one desperate act, let it be known that this was the final action in a long history of wrongs. Allison did not just wake up one day and decide that she wanted her babies back. She has been saying it loud and clear, for over the past year, yet no one listened. She went though the proper channels and spent huge sums of money, and still no one really heard her. In one final act of desperation, with no hope, she did the unthinkable. She took her children and ran.
It is undeniably a tragedy for all involved, but perhaps this country can take this story and find the small silver lining from the cloud surrounding it. Yes, what she did was wrong, but she was, without a doubt, driven to extremes. We do not mean to excuse the action, but to foster understanding of the motivation behind it. It is a perfect example of what the adoption industry in America does to create a “Birthmother”. Some might question Allison’s mental state, but the state of her mind and emotions was caused by the lunacy of adoption and coercion and the pain of the real loss of her children to adoption. We can use this as an opportunity to see what caused this painful tragedy, not as an apology for her actions, but as a clear demonstration of the fact that something is severely broken in the adoption industry and in great need of correction, before we have another story like that of Allison and her children in the news.
By all accounts Allison was in trouble during her pregnancy with the twins. Nine months of tortuous complications were probably much more than she had expected or could handle. This ongoing misery certainly made her doubt her decision to give birth and be able to care for her babies. Her right hand support, her partner, John, introduced her to his cousins, the Needhams, who wished to adopt the children. Whether he, too, was concerned about the physical toll the pregnancy had taken upon her, or whether he selfishly felt his own life was compromised too much, or whether, by Allison’s own account, he had another agenda, he supported adoption and pressured her to place the children. Curiously, no one seemed to care that what he wanted was not want she wanted. That Allison was betrayed by the one closest to her was and is very wrong.
While she did not surrender her infants immediately after birth, she was still not recovered from the trauma of birth due to her many medical issues. Exhausted by the non-stop hyperemisis, still recovering from the C-section, caring for two premature babies, and emotionally unsupported, Allison was not in the place, emotionally, where she could make such a major decision. The lawyer for the potential adoptive parents and the social worker involved knew this, yet continued the constant, week-long pressure and coercion and descriptions of the wonders of adoption. Unfortunately, this is standard practice in the adoption industry. Women are urged to make a life-altering decision regarding their future and their children’s lives without having proper time to think about it, and without complete information and legal and family support. Ethical adoption practice would ensure that mothers considering relinquishment have due and ample time to recover and fully consider all the information. That this time is not given to them is another wrong, perpetrated by the industry.
Pressured to sign on the potential adoptive parents timeline, before she wanted to, she left her home and traveled out of her comfort zone and away from any external support. With only her adoption-desiring partner at her side, she entered the adoption “friendly” state of Florida. Again, standard forms of subtle coercion such as this are utilized by many adoption professionals. Moving a mother away from her friends and family who might help her, creates isolation and a vacuum of information and allows control by those who wish her to relinquish. Moving the process to an adoption-friendly state where laws favor potential adoptive parents is also standard practice, but still biased and unjust….again, wrong.
Much like a prisoner of war, Allison was holed up with the lawyer and social worker for hours at a time. We know that emotional torture and interrogation works. Governments and military operations use it. People who seek to control, dominate and abuse others use emotional badgering to cause exhaustion and desperation which wears down their victims. At this point, Allison was treated as a case, a non-person to be broken down to achieve a desired result. Over and over again she was told that she was too old, that she could not care for the babies, that she would be relieved when they were removed from her care. They played on her doubts, her physical weakness, her vulnerability. With the babies and the Needhams in the next room, she was subjected to the Needham’s crying when she repeatedly refused to sign. This was a crime against humanity. It was pure, emotional coercion used to remove a mother from her children, and, as such, is certainly unethical and morally suspect…just plain wrong.
It was a private, non-agency, adoption. In Florida, signatures on non-agency adoption are immediately irrevocable. One can enter almost any contract, even with a binding signature, in the US and have a window of remorse where one can change one’s mind, but not in adoption in Florida. Allison held out for as long as she could and didn’t give in on the one thing they wanted, her signature, for a long time. But once she did, it was all over. She is not the first nor the last mother who signs under duress and while physically and emotionally exhausted and then is forced to live the rest of her life in major regret and grief over the loss of her children. There are no standard national time lines for revocation of consent and, at best, in many states, these grace periods are comprised of mere days or even just hours. Standard adoption practice enables adoption workers and attorney to push a mother into this confused and disoriented state and then swoop in for the coup de grace. More human consideration and compassion is given to a person deciding to buy a time share than is given a mother to decide the fate of her children’s lives. No one protects these mothers. This is wrong.
Immediately after giving in and signing, Allison regretted it. She notified all parties of this fact within 16 hours after they finally obtained her signature. The law in Florida supposedly gives a mother a meager 24 hours, so she was within the law. Yet, according to the powers that be, it was too late. What morality allows other people to ignore the desperate plea of a mother to be with her children just because they have an unethical law on their side? What kind of civilization are we building that allows people to keep another’s flesh and blood from them simply because they can? If an unknown stranger had kept Allison’s babies from her, then she would have garnered support and had the law on her side, but not in the realm of adoption. Once her signature was given, Allison became an unknown stranger to her own children and had no law of man or government on her side. This is wrong.
For over a year, Allison fought to regain her children in the legal way. Spending over 400 thousand dollars, she went though every legal avenue and sought out help and support in her desperate plea to regain her motherhood and self. Often, the grieving, coerced mother does not have the same resources that Allison had to fight an adoption battle. This is something that the industry counts on, but even with Allison’s financial resources, nothing was accomplished. The court system clearly is biased in favor of the adoptive parents. If that were not so, the children would have been immediately returned. The adoption industry banks on possession being nine tenths of the law and they have time on their side. The longer the adoptive parents can drag things out in court, the more leniency the courts will grant them. This makes it easy for the attorneys to argue the case of the so-called “best interests of the child” and the court to find in favor of the adoptive parents. By failing to honor the bond of natural mother and child, the adoption industry and the courts hope to eliminate that bond. What is human and morally right, not to mention that it is better for children to be with their natural families, hardly seems to matter to these arbiters of justice and this is wrong.
Imagine in a moment of weakness you were led into doing something against your better judgement and instantly regretted it. Imagine having no one hear you when you said “no.” Imagine that no one would help you. This is why so many mothers who have experienced this nightmare compare it to being raped. Imagine that you did everything in your power to undo this wrong done to you and yours, and spent every penny of your resources. Imagine that you were still denied a fair hearing and treated like an interloper by the law, the courts, the ones you trusted. Can you feel the desperation?
No one can say that what Allison Quents did was right. It is clearly illegal and, even while she was still free and running, it has caused some harm. All over the country, mothers who have surrendered their children to adoption and have some sort of open agreement where they can visit their child are very nervous. Allison’s actions have put the fragile, adoption-controlled relationships between thousands of mothers and children in jeopardy. Not only did she cause damage to her own case, but she may have, inadvertently, created yet another unfair stereotype about “birthmothers” to be used by the industry and adoptive parents who want to close their adoption agreements and reinstate secret, closed adoption. But please keep in mind that she is not the only wrongdoer in this story.
We do not condone her actions because she crossed an important line, but we understand that she, understandably, felt forced to go toe to toe with it. If we are honest, we would have to say that many mothers in her situation were cheering her on in their hearts. We cannot fix what happened to Allison and her children, but with knowledge and understanding, with national laws and ethical guidelines for adoption, with some oversight for the largest unregulated industry in this country, we might be able to prevent another mother from becoming so desperate that she is driven to such a frantic and, ultimately, fruitless act.
More links to Allisons story:
The prospective adoptive parents blog which I would like to point out..theyu are NOT adoptive parens as the adoption was never finilzed since it was contested form day one by Allison.
Also: another Press Release:
RE: “Kidnapping” Case Raises Questions About Ethics of Adoption
For 16 months, Allison Quets relied on the courts to reunite her with her
children. She retained an attorney and filed for the return of her infant
twins within hours of signing the consent forms for their adoption. Now
charged with kidnapping, Quets’ story raises a multitude of questions
about adoption, and the circumstances which led her to flee to Canada with the
Faced with intense pressure to surrender her newborns for adoption,
Allison Quets contacted anti-adoption activist Jessica DelBalzo. Through her
organization, Adoption: Legalized Lies, DelBalzo put Quets in touch with
volunteers who advised her to seek legal counsel and revoke the consent that
she had unwillingly given. “This advice, along with words of support and
encouragement, is typical of what we tell all parents who come to us for
help confronting the loss of their children,” DelBalzo says.
The activist, involved in the movement to abolish adoption for nearly ten
years, continues, “Quets’ story is indicative of many problems with the
way adoption is handled.”
DelBalzo says she has been in touch with countless mothers and fathers who
were coerced into surrendering their children. Their attempts to use the
court system to lobby for the return of their babies have been met with
legal roadblocks, media criticism, and financial strain.
“I’ve never told a mother to take her baby and run, but I’ve often thought
it,” DelBalzo says. “Justice rarely prevails in these cases. The odds
are stacked against these parents from the very beginning.”
DelBalzo and her fellow anti-adoption activists blame a culture that is
biased in favor of adoption for the unnecessary separation of infant
children and their parents.
“A mother says, ‘I want my baby.’ You don’t tell her to wait. You don’t
make her get a lawyer. You return her baby,” DelBalzo says. “The whole process shouldn’t take a week, let alone a year or more.”
DelBalzo argues, “The would-be adoptive couples who withhold a wanted baby -
those are the real kidnappers.”