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National Council for Adoption celebrates 30 years of opposing adoptees’ human rights- part I

Tonight the National Council for Adoption (NCFA) has been living it up in style in Washington at their 30th anniversary gala.

Their “Bow Tie and Pearls” gala at the Willard Hotel is a fundraiser schmooze and booze chance to rub elbows with politicians, agencies, and of course, major donors.

The event is also somewhat of a pre-publication party for the forthcoming latest propaganda tome from NCFA “Adoption Factbook V,” due for publication (and freebee distribution if it follows in its predecessors footsteps, to politicians, various government agencies, think tanks and other opinion influencers) in 2011.

All through the awards and the toasts the adoption industry will take the time for some self congratulatory pats on the back.

As I wrote in an earlier post by way of a basic introduction to NCFA,

As for NCFA itself, it is an industry trade group and lobby founded in 1980, (Originally as a the “National Committee for Adoption) as a direct reaction to the 1979/1980 Carter administration’s Draft Model State Adoption Act (DMSAA) which had called for restoring records access by adoptees to their own adoption records. NCFA was created very specifically by industry interests to derail and defeat the open records provisions of the DMSAA.

Similar to NCFA’s reactionary founding, Pierce and NCFA became early promoters of baby Moses laws in the wake of Oregon’s historic Measure 58 (passed in 1998, tied up in legal challenges until 2000), the statewide referendum that restored records access to adult adoptees, as a strategic means of circumventing the open records victory.

After all, how can one have open records when there are no records to get? Baby Moses laws ensure that children, particularly newborns and infants, are relinquished in a ‘paperfree’ manner, and made available almost immediately for fast track adoptions.

NCFA can thus be viewed as  the adoption industry’s reaction to the open records recommendations and other recommendations of the DMSAA.

Rather than accepting the restoration of adoptee’s civil rights, ensuring they be treated just as anyone else under law, portions of the industry chose instead to fight against adoptee equality and for the then sealed records hegemony, working to maintain industry secrecy and preserve the industry’s ability to fabricate and at times outright falsify adoptees’ documentation.

Simply put, the industry wanted to maintain their control and ability to continue conducting their business in the dark, utilizing the state support of the sealed records system to provide cover for their actions.

Bastardette has documented the gratitude those in the industry felt toward NCFA’s founding president Bill Pierce,  and the organization’s work. She recently blogged about it in a piece entitled National Council for Adoption Saves Adoption in the US!

NCFA’s co-opts of the voices of adoptees and even language such as adoptee’s rights, reframing such as some new found supposed “right to be adopted”, rather than the human/civil/identity rights of adoptees to authentic personal history, identity, equal access to our original documentation, equal treatment under law, ethnicity, original nationality, etc.

Let’s be clear, the National Council for Adoption is an industry trade group that lobbies on behalf of its member agencies, their interests ARE its interests.

DocumentThus when NCFA publishes its “Adoption Factbooks”  and distributes them to legislators, governmental agencies, media and others these are materials produced by an industry trade group designed to further the adoption industry’s interests and agenda, not some “non-biased” research volume.FB3

NCFA has made a point of pulling the “Fox/Faux” news trick of leaving an impression of having “hearing both sides” in some effort to maintain the FB-4pretense that what they offer is in some way to be considered “fair and balanced” but for NCFA, just as for Faux, such is merely a tactic.

NCFA, similar to other adoption industry trade organizations like the Joint Council on International Children’s Services, or JCICS is ultimately of the industry, for the industry.

Key chapters in their “Factbook III”, similar to sessions held at the NCFA annual conferences make it abundantly clear, NCFA not only understands their industry stands vulnerable to lawsuits over its behaviors, but sees its role as helping agencies protect themselves from those whose children were taken illegally or those who have come to understand their placements had more to do with crimes than child welfare.

Discussion of “Wrongful adoption” suits  are covered in a number of places, for example, under chapters titled:

FB-3-liabilities1

  • Emerging Liability of Adoption Agencies and Attourneys
  • Protecting Adoption Agencies from lawsuitFB-3-protecting-agencies

The day to day work of NCFA has everything to do with industry viability, marketing the concept of adoption itself and protecting the industry from both criticism and investigation.

pentagon1.gifTheir place on the adoption pentagon is that of industry,  that is, industry holding a very special relationship to the State, and representing their clients, adopters. While they may employ the occasional adoptee or Parent, they do not and cannot speak for others of us most directly affected by adoption every day of our lives.

As for those of us adoptees and parents, NCFA doesn’t even think we should use such words for ourselves.

Document-2

“Real,” “Natural,” or even “biological” Mothers  become “birthgivers” or “Woman who gave birth” or the backhanded “Genetic Mothers” in the world of NCFA speak. Don’t even dream of simply calling them Mothers unmodified.

Likewise, Fathers, “Real,” “Natural,” or “biological” are also reduced to “Man who shared in the conception”  or “Genetic Father.”

Both are very specifically,

…not the child’s “parents”…

according to NCFA’s “Factbook III”

The only “parents” in NCFA speak are those who adopted the child. (They must remain without modifier at all times.)

Similarly, “adoptee” is dismissed as

a negative term

we are now supposedly simply

“sons and daughters”

or “an individual who was adopted,” as in NCFA speak, adoption is a one time occurrence, clearly in the past, and certainly not any form of ongoing status.

This linguistic obliteration of adoptive status aims to prohibit any form of class consciousness of adopted people as having an ongoing identity as a result of having been adopted.

It disempowers and diffuses even our own ability to self identify, let alone speak about the structural aspects of the circumstances we are forced to live out the rest of our lives within the confines of.

There are no adoptees within NCFA’s notions of what the world looks like.

Bastard reality is simply erased.

In NCFA speak, there are no “blood relatives.”

This phrase can carry symbolic weight, but it can undermine the adoption bond.

Watching NCFA’s own lists of approved terminology change over time makes quite the study.

NCFA-factbook-p145

The 1989 version of the “Adoption Factbook,” for example, terms “biological” Mothers and Fathers makes for “Positive language” a decade later in “Adoption Factbook III” the entry for “Biological Mother/Father” is listed as a “No” (or do not use.)

In fact, NCFA believes any language that might validate Bastard experience or lead to what some Bastard rights activists have termed a “Bastard moment” are to be eliminated.

That has been a core focus of its work.

When adoption language culturally falls in line with the industry’s imposed standards rather than the language Bastards and our Families use to describe our own experiences we are marginalized and hidden even by discourse or legislation allegedly “about us.”

Our voices are co-opted, and our rendered voiceless existence used to validate the industry’s schemes for what it wants done.

Over time as language is intentionally changed across society the terms in which people think begin to change as well.

Thus when NCFA rebrands restoring records access and ensuring equal treatment under law to “mandatory openness” people begin to falsely equate adoptee equality to something forced and as coming at some kind of cost to others.

Instead of discussing genuine personal medical history privacy and proposed legislation (such as NJ’s bill) under which mothers would be forced to register with the state keeping both health information and their current address on file,  NCFA rebrands state sealed records as “mothers’ privacy” and intrusive measures such as these, which would compel mothers to hand over their personal medical histories as a means by which they can “maintain their privacy.”

Restored records access of course is not an interpersonal matter pitting mothers and adoptees against one another. It is instead a matter between adoptees and the state and between parents and the state.

Yet due to tangling states up in knots over blatantly false notions of “competing rights,” states have gone on to make matters even worse by trying to build structures predicated upon those false models, such as confidential intermediary programs, medical history exchanges, and contact vetoes.

No matter what effects adoption has in the long term to the individuals most directly affected, the National Council for Adoption cares first and foremost about maintaining the viability of the industry itself, a mission that has taken on even greater importance as the international adoption market has felt the full brunt of both American economic woes and other countries closing to adoption in the wake of vast adoption related crimes being uncovered.

NCFA is firmly invested in both “next quarter” short term thinking, and in preserving the viability of the industry itself over the long term.

Long term consequences to adoptees and their families, on the other hand, are both considered dismissible and dismissed.

Take for example, this from the “Adopted Children’s Issues” section  of the Factbook published in 1989, written to teen adoptees themselves (clearly written before terms like “biological parents” and even “adoptee” fell into NCFA’s list of no nos terminology-wise.)

Most adopted kids have some curiosity about their biological parents.

It is natural for teenagers to wonder about their biological parents, what their lives may be like now, whether they are still alive, and what circumstances made them decide to place you for adoption in hopes of giving you a better life. Usually these things remain as curiosities, sort of like people wondering what life was like for their great grandparents in the old country before they migrated to America to start a new life. For many of you, this curiosity will have been pretty well satisfied by now, and you have more immediate concerns, like struggling with math, buying the latest record, developing a new friendship.

NCFA’s “solution” is of course to resolve such feelings by reading, from their recommended list, naturally.

But Bastards will not be deterred from their desire to understand their authentic origins. We are not so easily distracted by quests for “the latest record” or our struggles “with math.”

Also note how NCFA ascribes motivation to parents, “in hopes of giving you a better life” as a way of framing the experience for adoptees. Yet years later, some adoptees have found that far from intentionally giving over their parental rights in hopes of giving their children some form of “better life,” a number of mothers were coerced, their children taken often without their consent. Some were even told their children died after childbirth only to be secretly placed into sealed records adoptions.

FB-3-best-option1For NCFA, though, adoption is always the “Best Option.”

“Factbook III” takes aim at both “Family preservation” efforts and “family reunification” as archenemies of both the industry and adoption as an institution itself (never mind the fact that the vast majority of foster kids will be reunited and that many adoptions in this country are kinship adoptions, not adoptions by strangers.)

NCFA disdains the very concept of, and all practices related to family preservation.

In one of the key essays in “Factbook III”, “Twenty-One barriers to Adoption to Address in the Twenty-First Century” William Pierce, the founding president of NCFA goes to far as to compare family preservation services to “kudzu” vines.

FB-3-p5761

The books also take aim at the Indian Child Welfare Act or ICWA repeatedly as well, calling for its outright repeal:

9. Repeal the Indian Child Welfare Act because it is an unconstitutional discriminatory law

“Discriminatory” to NCFA means the law prevents adoption agencies from selling off native kids to white would-be-adopters at will.

ICWA instead, recognizes First Nations’  peoples tribal sovereignty and independence, particularly in regard to native children, particularly in light of the history of how native children have been criminally removed from tribal contexts in efforts to “de-indian” them.

Pierce, in typical Piercian fashion, reframes enforcement of ICWA as a form of “discrimination” against “children with Native American blood” depriving them of their “right” to be adopted by whites. Worked up into a full froth, he begins tossing about terms like “racial and ethnic apartheid in America.” All because these are marketable kids he and his industry have some difficulty getting a hold of.

All genuine rights, such as the right of the child to grow up within a tribal context are “barriers” to be overcome for Pierce.

NCFA’s demand for access to saleable children is not limited to First Nations kids though. Just as much ire is in store for parents and others abroad who might not wish their children disappear into American adoptions. See “Factbook IV” published in 2007, in which NCFA brags of:

Fighting nationalistic opponents of adoption who would keep children trapped in foreign orphanages

NCFA shows none of the nuance of what role “orphanages” play in other societies, where they are often marketed as more of a “time out” option for short term child care for those parents or families unable to afford to care for their child at any given point in time.

The American impression of the word, that of “orphanages” as child warehousing operations misses much of the nuances to the roles these institutions play in other cultures.

What NCFA decries as “nationalistic opponents of adoption” are sometimes nothing more than those objecting to the way American adoption marketers have moved into countries such as Guatemala and had adopted out 1 out of every 100 babies born in the country. When babies become a primary export product of any given country, no one should be the least bit surprised when some raise an objection.

But again, to NCFA, adoption is always the “best option.”


Rather than cut this post short, I have decided to break it into two pieces. Tomorrow I will continue on to part II.

But I leave readers with Bastardette’s parody post about NCFA’s festivities at the Willard in DC this evening, Exclusive Video from the Willard: What the American Adoption Industry Doesn’t Want You to See

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