Does Voluntary Adoption Relinquishment Save Children from Abuse?

Does adoption save children form abuse? NO!

Adoption as a Solution- Does Adoption Prevent Child Abuse and Neglect?

There are some people that come to this blog with the idea that all birthmothers had their children removed from them because of some failure on their part as mothers. There are many thoughts and messages portrayed in general society that echo these views.  The basic message that has been accepted by so many is that adoption will prevent children from a lifetime of abuse and a life of poverty and neglect.

Somewhere along the line the connection has been made that young, unwed mothers with unplanned pregnancies are destined to live a life of poverty and drag their children down with them by abusing their children, resenting their existence, and failing to provide an adequate life. The simple answer is given that if more of these women made adoption plans when facing these unplanned pregnancies then we could prevent future involvement by Child Protective Services and keep these children in  ideal homes from the get go, removing the need for Foster homes, and prevent the damage created by the initial abuse.

It’s a lovely concept, but like so much in adoption, it is seriously flawed and this belief is not based on fact.

Who Abuses Children

I’m not so naive or so ignorant or so idealistic that I claim that child abuse does not happen. Like any normal person, I am horrified by the thought of hurting a child. I know the numbers are terribly high and I am completely disgusted by the same horror stories present to us by the media:

  • Perpetrators of child abuse or neglect are most often the child’s own parents. (I believe but am not 100% sure that abusive adoptive parents are included in this category and not line itemed out since legally, they are the child’s parents. )
  • According to NCANDS, in 2005, 79.4 percent of perpetrators were parents and 6.8 percent were other relatives.
  • The largest remaining categories of perpetrators were the unmarried partner of a child’s parent (3.8 percent) and other perpetrators (4.1 percent).
  • In 3.6 percent of child maltreatment cases the perpetrators were missing or unknown.
  • In under 1 percent of child maltreatment cases the perpetrator was a foster parent, residential facility staff, the child’s daycare provider, a legal guardian, friends or neighbors, or other professionals (USDHHS, 2007).
  • Approximately 40 percent of child victims were maltreated by their mothers acting alone; another 18.3 percent were maltreated by their fathers acting alone; 17.3 percent were abused by both parents (USDHHS, 2007).[i]

What we also need to remember though is that child abuse occurs at every socioeconomic level, across ethnic and cultural lines, within all religions and at all levels of education though reporting and involvement from CPS is more likely in households of poor families, in part because they have more contact with and are under greater scrutiny from individuals who are legally mandated to report suspected child maltreatment[ii].  The greatest indicator of possible abuse was previous abuse as about 30% of abused and neglected children will later abuse their own children, continuing the horrible cycle of abuse, but of course, not always.

Do Risk Factors Equal Child Abuse?

I will not argue the facts that there are many risk facts that contribute to the possibility of abuse that are present in many adoption relinquishments such as lower economic status, lack of social support, and high stress levels.  However, a risk factor, such as a younger mother or economic status does not guarantee that a mother will be abusive to her child.

If we look at all the risk factors of child abuse and based the removal of children off of just that, a risk fact, then many people should have their children removed preventively:

  • All single mothers, especially dating mothers
  • All single fathers
  • Families that have step children
  • “Younger mothers”
  • Anyone who was abused as a child
  • Anyone with any substance abuse issues at all
  • Parents with higher expectations of their children and who are uneducated regarding child development
  • Children who live with their parents who have a bad marriage or any kind of domestic abuse
  • Parents who have stressful lives including when they face unemployment or a death in the family
  • Parents who believe in harsh discipline
  • Parents who are unemployed
  • Families that live in violent neighborhoods
  • Children born with low birth weights and/or premature
  • Any child with disabilities
  • Families that are isolated from others
  • Children under the age of five

It’s a pretty extensive list of risk factors and there is documentation that these all contribute to the likelihood of a maltreatment of a child.  Of course the question then would be, who would be ALLOWED to have children? I don’t think that there would be many people that would be exempt of ALL these child abuse risk factors. I am sure that many people might have found themselves in one or more of these categories at one or more times in their lives and the idea of taking their children away because of that would be met with great revolt and rightfully so. Can you image now, with the currently unemployment rate, “saving” children from abuse by promoting their parental relinquishment because one of their parents lost their jobs, are feeling stressed and might be bickering more than usual in their marriage?

So why are the children of  Birthmothers the only ones targeted for “saving”?

For one, I think that the marketing message from the adoption industry has encourage this school of thought. It helps support their goals of obtaining children for adoption for their own profits.

The media also helps support this concept as they, rightfully, call attention to cases of child abuse and most people are, also rightfully, horrified  by the stories.

The reality of adoption itself, rightfully, as well, also supports this as there ARE many children who were adopted with horrible unforgivable pasts.  Again, I do NOT deny this. I KNOW it to be true.

However, there is a HUGE difference between a child removed by CPS and placed for adoption and a infant relinquished at birth.

The Difference Between A Child Removed from its Mother and  Baby Relinquished by its Mother

Before I begin, let’s get the disclaimers out of the way:

CPS is NOT perfect. There is known corruption in the system. They do target some families and remove their child unnecessarily usually demand that the youngest child be “voluntarily relinquished” so a mother can get back or keep her older child, less adoptable children. The federal and state incentives and subsidies have a huge part to play in this.

There ARE children “voluntarily” relinquished at birth who WOULD have faced much harder lives if kept by their natural mothers.  Maybe mom is in jail, or has a drug problem, or mental health issue or faces extreme poverty and  no intervention would really come into effect in time to prevent the child from being affected.

But, just as I must disclaim and accept the fact that THERE ARE ALWAYS EXCPETIONS, I take great offense to those that assume that ALL Birthmothers who relinquished were at risk of abusing their children.  The greater majority of moms that I know are extremely similar to myself: white middle class girl from regular hard working families. Yes, we might have been younger, unwed, and hard personal economic issues and problems with family support, but again, they are only risk factors.  Risk factors that did NOT turn out to be indicative of abuse. Overall, we went on to have other children sometimes we even raised those children as single mothers and did not abuse them. We did not end up living a life in poverty, but continued to be exactly what we were; nice middle class hard working women from nice middle class hard working families. We pay our taxes, we vote, and we contribute to the good of society.

What is not attributed to the concept that losing our children “saved” them from abuse or neglect  is the fact that we often relinquished, even while knowing that it would be a huge personal hardship, because we were willing to do so because we WANTED “the best” for our children and believe that WE were the obstacle preventing that from happening.

Now that might be seen as a good thing IF it was true, but it’s not.

I Was Never, Have Been Ever, in Danger of Abusing My Children

For instance, if while I was pregnant with Max, I had overwhelming urges to set kitten on fire, then I might have been a danger to my child. But I loved babies (still do) and I had huge amounts of experience dealing with babies and young children. In fact, right after relinquishment I went on to get my associates degree in early childhood education and had a very successful career as a nursery school teacher and high end babysitter..until I went and had my second son.. and was a single, non abusive, mother.

The greatest danger I personally felt to my motherhood was that I would somehow resent that I had a child when, say, I wanted to go “out”. That the responsibility of being a parent would be so overwhelming and I would not have the skills to handle that. Which makes perfect sense considering, again that right after  came home, I took on the responsibility of caring for multiple  infants children, sometimes for days while their parents were away. And you know what?  Sometimes, now, I feel annoyed that  my lids interrupt me when I am writing or do things like finish the milk and don’t tell me or, egads, sometimes I can’t get a baby sitter and go “out”.  Like so many other “normal” parents, I deal and my kids are not abused.

Even the concept that IF I had decide to take the risk and parent at 19, that we would have been stuck in poverty or whatever  is, in reality,  pretty stupid. Again, like most of the relinquishing mothers that I know, we did not COME from poverty and that kind of life was NEVER acceptable. Hell, I have been broke many times over the last 25 years and I have struggled, but NEVER  have my kids gone without the important things  ( OK, so a Disney vacation every year might be missing from our itinerary, but guess what.. that’s what I know.. my parents never took us either!). The fact is, even at my lowest economic points, I have been able to maintain my normal middle class standards because I am motivate, I have goals and I work hard.. just like the great majority ( I would say ALL but that gets us in trouble with the generalization police) of birthmothers I know. In fact, if I had to classify us as a group at all; I would say that we are above average intelligence and work harder than many of the “normal” people I know. OK maybe I am biased and maybe we are all still overcompensating for our past mistakes of getting pregnant and then getting duped by the adoption industry, but I think we are  a damn impressive group of pretty remarkable women.

And that’s the thing. None of us were going to abuse or neglect our children. We might have had to struggle a bit the first few years.  We might have had to go after a few dads for child support as it would have been our right. We might have had to deal with the looks of judgment from family for a bit , though I m sure that it would be nothing like the crap we hear now being one of “those” women. We might have had to work and put our kids in day care like the greater majority of American Families do. We might had to take a bit longer to finish school or had some extra support form extended family, but gosh, what’s so horrible about that?  Maybe, worse case scenario, we might have had to have  WIC or food stamps or subsidies daycare or educational grants for the first years, but  I doubt that any of us would have been content to stay at that place. Again, motivated women we are.. movers and shakers. Getting pregnant  does NOT turn a women , risk factors or not, into a parasite of society and abusive parents.

And the question remains, IF we had parented, would any amount of personal struggle, hard work and sacrifice be worth it to have kept and parented our children?

Hell yeah. I might still have ended up a blogger and activist, but I might be working on something else like national health care or climate change or animal abuse. I certainly wouldn’t be abusing my kids and sitting around smoking crack wishing I had not become a mother.

What Did Adoption “Save” My Son From?

He was saved from knowing his father, his grandmother and extended family on his paternal side. As the only son of a wealthy man, he was saved from private schools in NYC and trips to South America.

  • He was saved from knowing my mother, his great grandfather and extended family.
  • He was saved from having a real relationship with his other three siblings.
  • He was saved from having his birth certificate with both our names on it.
  • He was saved from knowing that his passion for Ska, Dr. Pepper and Mohawks were natural.
  • He was saved from identifying NY as his city.

I can’t think of much else and if I begin to think about all that we lost, I will begin to cry.

Adoption does not save children from abortions, dumpsters, abuse or neglect. Considering adoption does not make one a bad mother.  We did not lose our children to benefit ourselves and they were not removed forcible or willingly to benefit them.

A good portion of mothers who have voluntarily  or been forced to relinquish newborns at birth only contributed, often unknowingly to the adoption baby selling machine. And until the world can see that and accept it as fact, every single statement about adoption preventing child abuse only contributes to the money in some adoption agency pockets and the unnecessary separation of mothers and children.

[ii] Plotnik, R. (2000). Economic security for families with children. In P. J. Pecora, J. K. Whittaker, A. N. Maluccio, & R. P. Barth (Eds.), The child welfare challenge: Policy, practice, and research (2nd ed., pp. 95-127). New York, NY: Aldine de Gruyter


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About the Author

Claudia Corrigan DArcy
Claudia Corrigan D’Arcy has been online and involved in the adoption community since early in 2001. Blogging since 2005, her website Musings of the Lame has become a much needed road map for many mothers who relinquished, adoptees who long to be heard, and adoptive parents who seek understanding. She is also an activist and avid supporter of Adoptee Rights and fights for nationwide birth certificate access for all adoptees with the Adoptee Rights Coalition. Besides here on Musings of the Lame, her writings on adoption issue have been published in The New York Times, BlogHer, Divine Caroline, Adoption Today Magazine, Adoption Constellation Magazine,, Lost Mothers, Grown in my Heart, Adoption Voice Magazine, and many others. She has been interviewed by Dan Rather, Montel Williams and appeared on Huffington Post regarding adoption as well as presented at various adoption conferences, other radio and print interviews over the years. She resides in New York’s Hudson Valley with her husband, Rye, children, and various pets.

7 Comments on "Does Voluntary Adoption Relinquishment Save Children from Abuse?"

  1. No, it doesn’t. That is just what the baby brokers and their paying customers will have everyone believe.

  2. For those who know next to nothing about adoption the logic goes like this. A child was given up for adoption because s/he was unwanted (they know little to nothing about coercion, manipulation, force) therefore, if s/he had been kept, she would have been abused.

  3. I really don’t believe foster to adopt situations should be compared at all to voluntary relinquishments. The former is usually involuntary and usually happens later in the child’s life; whereas the latter is mostly voluntary and relates to infants.

    Parents who abuse or neglect and cannot be rehabilitated, whether adoptive or natural, will likely have their rights terminated and/or a relative will take custody at some point. These situations are completely different than a person who is dealing with a crisis pregnancy and is feeling compelled due to circumstances to place their child in an adoptive home.

    In infant adoption, the natural parents never have the opportunity to parent that particular child, but whose to say they wouldn’t have done a comparable -if not better – job than adoptive parents. In some situations, this would be true; however, in my own birth family, I would have faired as well or better depending on how much weight you want to put on money, family connections, etc. My birth family was far wealthier than my adoptive. My original mother was a college graduate and could have raised me. She raised my two siblings. The problem was only that she didn’t believe she could or should raise me. My grandmother pressured her to relinquish me. But she proved she could raise two law-abiding citizens with good careers after me. Nobody should be surprised by this.

    Keep on speaking out, Claude. The problem as i see it is that the myths surrounding adoption are so entrenched that people do not want to look deeper into the issues. It’s so much easier to just say that it’s always a good thing that a child is adopted because people want to believe it is BETTER, when it is a trauma, first and foremost, and not necessarily better at all – just different (like you say).

  4. will people ever see that adoption is child abuse

  5. Your website has been very informative, if horribly tragic. I work in human services, specifically in the domestic violence and child welfare fields and try to get various perspectives on client issues.

    On one hand, it’s very easy for me to say you and other functional mothers shouldn’t have been coerced into giving up your babies. I want mothers and children to stay together.

    On the other hand, I’ve seen so much damage come from the ‘it’s -my baby and he/she should be with me and I’m the best thing for my baby’ attitude, that part of me cringes. There are the mothers, the mothers you mention here, who have no intention of putting their children first or shielding them from neglect and/or abuse. (I get progressively less sympathetic when a woman is, for example, on pregnant with her sixth child and her others have been in and out of foster care and have suffered horribly.) In my experience, these women don’t question themselves and what would best for their babies. That is what makes me a little afraid to associate the ability to produce a child with the automatic divine right to raise him or her. Parents, as you noted, are not always the best or even a remotely safe option for their children.

    I’m not entirely sure how to balance it out in society. There are parents like you as well as parents that recover from substance use, domestic violence and more that go on to be amazing women and mothers (if they weren’t already). I don’t know how to protect your (their) rights and not encourage the entitlement of the parents that hurt so many children so, so badly.

    • Completely understand your POV.. and wouldn’t it be so much easier if there was a real litmus test?

      I think so much of it comes down to the profits; if there was no money changing hands in domestic infant adoption, then the coercion would have no purpose. Then the focus could go instead to the children that need the help and the systems that are supposed to be there for them.

  6. I would -love- a test. I don’t think there could or would be put in (people would magically find a way to target mothers of color, single moms, etc.), but I would love one. I also dream of mandatory parenting classes with a magical ethical implementation.

    Agreed re: profits or at least the excessive amount. Some degree of them is necessary to keep the operations funded and employees paid, but billions goes beyond basic operating costs. Beyond the concerns you mentioned ? It also seems somewhat sadistic to take such financial advantage of people desperate for a child. The system may favor them, but isn’t kind to anyone.

    And yes! for seeing funding shift to child welfare. The chronic under funding and under staffing feeds into the issues in the field. Children are less safe, families less likely to be reunited where it’s possible and the workers suffer burnout.

    The one caveat I’d add to your goal of less adoptions (or even the adoption abolishment idea I saw mentioned) is sometimes infant or young child adoptions need to happen in some of these cases (both families can be -that- unsafe or unavailable with histories of incest, etc.), though it goes through the roundabout route of child being taken, case established, then termination or relinquishment. This should be rare though, likely much more rare than it is.

    Sorry for the side tracking, I know child welfare and child abuse cases aren’t your areas of focus. 🙂 I’m also sorry to hear you’ve and so many others have been stereotyped that way. It’s just not comparable.

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