Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Should I have the right to choose?

I'm a mom, in Ghana. I love my children, but I just can't care for them anymore. I've tried. I make kenke when I can, and sell it on the side of the road. The kids dad never accepted them as children--never even attended the naming ceremony. My parents are dead and my siblings are all struggling to feed their own kids. They won't help me with mine.

I got in touch with this NGO, and asked them for help. They told me that they could help with the kids' education--could find sponsors. That would be great, but it's not enough. How do I know that the sponsors won't stop sponsoring? That doesn't help me with food in the pot at night. And the thing is...when I get really stressed out...I beat the kids. I love them, but life is just too much. I need a permanent solution.

The NGO told me that there are people in America that would adopt my children. I would lose them forever, but they would be safe, and loved. Here in Ghana, I can love them but I can't keep them safe. I have decided to make an adoption plan for my children. The NGO said they will take me to Social Welfare so that everything is above board and legal.


A family has been found for my kids. The NGO called and said that I need to go to another appointment, before the court case. I'm nervous, but I know I'm making the right decision.


I went to Social Welfare today. It went horribly. The person asked me if I knew what adoption is. The person asked me if I intended to profit. The person asked me if I understood that I will have no rights to my children if they are adopted. I know all of these things. I think I answered the right way. But then...then the person shames me for my decision. They say that if I don't want my children, it should be fine if they are sent to a huge government orphanage. I don't want my children there. Children die there. Children fade away there. There is no hope of adoption for them there.

Why is this happening? Should I not be allowed to make an adoption plan for my children? Have I broken laws in truthfully admitting that I would like another family to raise them? Why should Social Welfare try to punish me for making the best choice I know how to make? I know I am not the best mom, but shouldn't I have the right to choose what happens to my children? Choosing adoption for them is choosing hope. It is not the same as choosing to put them in an orphanage where they will be nothing to nobody. My choice has been taken away.

Social Welfare told me to bring my children back tomorrow--so that they can ship them off to an orphanage. What am I going to do? What am I going to do....


Based on a true story.


Chantelle 6:21 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Chantelle 6:21 PM  

Chilling. :(

Chantelle 6:21 PM  

Chilling. :(

Chantelle 6:21 PM  

Chilling. :(

Chantelle 6:21 PM  

I have no idea why it posted my comment 4 times. Sorry!

Lisa Olsen 6:33 PM  

Why would the kids have to go to a state orphanage if there was already a family match?

A. Gillispie 7:50 PM  

Because the government official wanted to "punish" the mother for making an adoption plan rather than keeping her children, or because the official didn't have a hand in finding the adoptive family for the child and that official want to have control. Everything to do with personal glory and NOTHING to do with the children.

The Last Crusade 8:57 PM  

That is horrible. Adoption must be the hardest decision a birth mom EVER makes. So sad to be punished for trying to make life better for her kids.

Lisa Olsen 10:53 AM  

Sigh... how sad... It never ceases to amaze me how people can be so very heartless. Heartbreaking.

Nikki 3:51 PM  

The part that makes me most sad is that there was no NGO to support her family, aside from simple school fee sponsorship. It is clear to me that this woman wants to keep her kids. I think we need to start paying more attention to the WHY behind these issues. Why aren't there more NGOs offering permanent solutions and support to these families?


mommajeane 4:05 PM  

Oh Anita...now I understand you fb comment. So very sorry and sad for this mom.Prayers for her and her children are being offered up.

A. Gillispie 9:36 PM  

Nikki, thank you for commenting! It's really interesting to me that your reaction was to the NGO, and that you feel like the woman wanted to keep her children. She made an informed decision to place her children for adoption. She confirmed that decision to Social Welfare. She didn't wish to parent her children any longer. She loves them, but that is not always the same as feeling able to parent. Stepping away from the "based on a true story" thing I wrote, I can tell you that the primary NGO we work with in Ghana does the best they can with the resources they have. Sometimes a bit of extra food, or an educational sponsorship, or medical sponsorship IS enough to help a family get over a rough patch. This NGO also assists struggling parents with job training and business start-up. They can't do anything without money, and that is sometimes very hard to come by. This NGO does everything it can to assist families to stay together. Sometimes, that isn't possible, despite best efforts. Sometimes, the parent simply doesn't want to parent. Sometimes, the parent realizes their issues (abuse, addiction, etc.) are not going to go away, so they make the next best choice they can for their children--adoption. It's not at all ideal, but it is reality. A job (or education, or medical help, or food) won't help in every case.

Again, I do appreciate your comment because I would have never read that angle into what I wrote! Interesting! =-)

Nikki 8:57 AM  

Hi Anita!

It is interesting to me reading thoughts on this. I am pro adoption (and do plan on adopting one day) but my background is in international development, which is perhaps what leads me to my thoughts that focus more on prevention, what the NGOs are doing, etc. My concern is that a lot of her reasoning seems to be around money- not having enough food, primarily. I have so many mixed feelings around economic orphans. For the most part, I think it is completely preventable, totally different than a true orphan, and something that NGOs should be focusing on more- giving this mother tools to better her relationship with her kids, supporting her in training so she can get a job and provide for her family. Of course, all way easier said than done, but that was my thought process. It just seemed like the option of adoption was presented to her so easily, without really working with her first to find options to keep the family together.

I also think it's important to add that I know very little about adoption in Ghana. My boyfriend is Ghanian which is why I have an interest, however most of my knowledge of adoption is from Guatemala, Ethiopia, and Haiti- all countries in which there are high rates of adoption corruption. Obviously there is no corruption in this story shared, but my first thought definitely went to how the idea of adoption was presented to this mother and what could have been done to keep the family together. More specifically (with my international development background) how this family could be supported not only to stay together, but to succeed and allow the kids to become healthy, educated adults that will stop the cycle of poverty in their family. Huge questions, not too many answers, but definitely a focus of mine.


Cindy 2:13 AM  

Knowing the way your agency handles things in Ghana makes this story sad. BUT. I have heard the same question put out for lawyers that go out into the slums in Uganda and find babies for adoption. Shouldn't those poor mothers have the right to choose America for their children?
I have heard the same question placed about families that destroy their children's true histories so they can leave the poor Ethiopian countryside and go to America. Shouldn't those families have the right to tell whatever lies they want about the children so that they can have a family in America?
It is tough. SO may Ethiopia families are told that the parents are so desperate for their children that they place them in an orphanage with no idea if they will ever be adopted. That of course is so far from true it is laughable.....but thousands of PAP's bought the lie. Sigh.
Anyway...rambling...and sad for everyone involved in this case that seems straightforward but is tainted by all the other bad ones out there.

A. Gillispie 8:23 AM  

What's funny (or not funny exactly...but something...) is I did a really poor job of writing this down. The words I've used didn't portray what I meant to portray. The NGO in the case is a good NGO--one of the good guys. The family knows that they cannot choose whether or not an American family adopts their child. An American family comes into it because Ghanaian families know that unless they have perfect infants to place for adoption, there are very few Ghanaians that adopt unless they are hoping for more of a servant. When families relinquish their children they are made very aware that their children could be adopted by either Ghanaian or American adoptive parents--they don't get to choose. Lots of families first hear of adoption and come to an NGO for help with that. It's the NGO the councels the family BACK TOWARDS hopefully keeping the family together--who offers other solutions through food/education/medication/job-training.

Blech. I wrote that on the fly right before I walked out the other day. Since I was writing from the POV of the Ghanaian parent, I didn't include background/cultural information. However, my audience needed that information! =-)

My point is, should a parent have the right to place her children for adoption? I do NOT think they should be able to choose which country or which family (in international adoption--too many problems with that). But should they be able to make an adopton plan if that's what they think is best? I wonder if American moms who choose adoption are told by the non-profits that assist about government program or tried to be "talked into" keeping their children? For better or worse, I definitely see a double standard there.

fullplatemom 6:25 PM  

Women in the U.S. have the right to make this decision. I kept telling people that ALL the way through our adoptions in Ghana. People on the street constantly questioned our kids on WHY their birth mother was doing this. If she has been counseled, then it's not my place to make her explain the whys to me over and over. Leave the poor woman alone in her grief. She doesn't want to parent anymore. It's as simple as that.

If a birth mother makes this choice here, it is completely legal for you to pay her rent for the last months of her pregnancy. You can pay for her maternity clothes, food, medical appointments. You can pay A LOT of support. Over there, you can't give ANYTHING. I had to find an NGO to feed my children when it would have been so much easier to hand their birth mother $40 for food for the week. I understand that there is harvesting, and corruption, but then make the standards the same.

This REALLY bothers me!

all our tomorrows 9:32 AM  

The reasons for adoption are as complex as human nature itself. Poverty is always the underlying factor. The argument about where to place resources is ongoing. Should you sponsor the family in country? Is education the answer? How about simple things like clean water to combat disease?
Here is my opinion, having been to Africa many times.
It is imperative that families understand the nature of adoption. I liked that the explanation in Anita's narrative clearly outlines that the children would be gone forever (sort of like a death, in some respects) because Africans had this innate belief that the kids would get an education and "come back" for the rest of the family some day.
Here is the real clincher...the PROFIT off of others demise. Now Anita..being an agency person, I know you will jump on this. it is TRUE that adoption agencies provide a service and should be paid for that service. But when you pay "in country" reps thousands of dollars a month for a service that the average person would make 30.00 a month for..the incentive to "create" adoptable children increases and the "chance" that the "line" gets crossed magnifies. This isn't unheard of and it is reputable agencies that have to pay the price for greed and corruption..and ultimately, as you see in this post, parents who clearly and concisely know what they want and need for their children.
ellen from allmybeans

Dozen Senses 9:44 AM  

Technially speaking, yes, American Birthmothers have choices & rights in place which are official/legally supported. So American Birthmothers do have it a little easier than Birthmothers of certain countries. If Birthmothers choose to give the child they gave birth to the gift of a healthy family that they aren't able to provide themselves, they have some legal support in the USA. But if it is a transracial adoption, particularly situations of Caucasian families adopting African American children, Birthmothers' decisions are often inhumanely criticized, some eventually hampered & changed due to the influence of a few outspoken members of society or even some members of their own families. The historical effects of prejudice mantras have residual effects still alive today. An African American Birthmother, or a Caucasian Birthmother who is carrying a baby with African blood, may decide adoption is wise for her child and she is content with the adoptive families who are available to her. Not that everything about this fact is a good thing, but the the majority of adoptive families are Caucasian. So, the Birthmother embraces that. But in some states, she faces anti-interracial adoption advocates who organize legal picketing (aka freedom of speech) against "whites adopting blacks" with accusations such as genocide intentions on the part of Caucasian families who adopt African American children. The African American Birthmother has little to no choices at an adoption agency of family profiles from adoptive families who are African American. Many African American Birthmothers feel at peace about choosing a Caucasian family for their baby. But the shame inflicted upon them by anti-interracial adoption advocates causes them to cave. It is more than a Birthmother can bear to follow through on her adoption plan PLUS lose the support of her family and/or those of her race who say claim she is betraying them by even thinking about allowing a white man & women to raise her child. Although the opposition doesn't just stem from a select few of her race but comes from all angles from a select few. There are anti-interracial adoption advocates who are African descent (those who protest because they believe the adoptions are intended with genocide-outcome). AND there are anti-interracial adoption advocates who are Caucasian. They believe it is wrong to mix races. I define this as white-supremacist at best. It bothers them that if a caucausian family raises an African child, that child will have more relationships with Caucasians than Africans, hence is likely to marry a Caucasian = mixing races. It makes me feel ill. But I didn't mean to change the subject. My point is, worldwide, Birthmothers who wish to place their children for adoption have it very hard when it comes to following through with their adoption plan. There are many legally-supported actions that occur in America and in other countries that add complication on this topic instead of ease an already complicated sitatuion. I say most Birthmothers sincerely want to raise the children they bring to this world. Most don't just decide they don't want to parent. They either never received proper parenting, support & instruction themselves, or live in poverty or have never been given opportunity to learn what it takes to be a mother. There are some straight-up incredible mothers worldwide who live in poverty & have few resources to overcome, but they know how to love, how to nurture, how to work, how to teach. It's not about not wanting to parent when a Birthmother chooses/decides an adoption plan. It's about wanting to give a child the gift of parenting if the she lacks skills, ability & resources it herself.

A. Gillispie 3:11 PM  

Ellen, you know me! Yeah, I have to comment about the agency thing because I work for an agency and we manage to find a way around what you assume most/all agencies do. It can't be something where all agencies are put into the same barrel.

I'll speak for the program I assist with, because that's all I KNOW.

Thousands of dollars a month? Nope. I don't make thousands of dollars a month, and neither does anybody working with an NGO in Ghana that we partner with for adoptions. I just recently did the numbers and averaged out what the folks get "per adoption." For one NGO it was $1200, and for the other is was about $1500--this money split to pay the salary for more than one person. Each adoption takes on average 12-15 months, so you're looking at like $100 a month (again, split between three people). At any given time maybe they have 10-15 adoptions in process. Maybe that's $300-$500 per month.

Higher than the average Ghanaian? Yes. Higher than a mid-class Ghanaian living in Accra? Absolutely NOT. And for that pay they get to work 14-16 hour days, wait in offices for hours each day with nobody to meet them, travel to the outskirts of the country to deliver food and supplies to a family that needs it, or to meet with a family who has ASKED THEM for help.

The folks I work with don't know who is waiting for what children here in America. They don't know if there is 1 family waiting, or 15 families. They don't now what age is "popular" to request. They simply assist the children and families that they can assist--the FIRST step being to see if they can help the family stay together. They aren't facilitators (in our situation). They aren't AAI staff. They are independent workers for NGOs that specialize in family preservation and orphan care. Adoption is one peice of the work they do.

Is our program perfect? Not at all. But there is no "harvesting" of children. Nobody is getting rich, although all of us work our tails off. All of us are degreed professionals that could make much more money doing other work, but that isn't where our hearts are.

I'm not trying to make my team and I out to be some sort of saints. It's not like that. It's just doing what we were called to do. Without that, there would be no peace, so it is in a way quite selfish!

Do some agencies pay people thousands of dollars to process a single adoption? Absolutely. But that's not me. That's not my team. Now...if we want to start talking about government officials who want to profit off of these children, let me know. THAT is a huge issue.

all our tomorrows 9:12 AM  

Let me qualify-
I have great respect for your agency and the way you personally do business. FOR THE RECORD...I was simply trying to say how this mother is facing the discrimination she is because official's attitudes get influenced from BAD APPLES and for that, many many suffer.
PLEASE know that although I do have a "concern" across the board about adoption, money and corruption, I NEVER meant to imply it was YOUR agency and am sorry I made you feel a need to defend that. Truly.
I was simply trying to make a comment about how attitudes and ideas can influence things to a point of no return. Corruption can form adoption processes and eventually, adoption LAW.
Peace, my friend, we are on the same side...

A. Gillispie 11:39 AM  

Oh Ellen, I didn't think you were targeting me specifically. I just saw it as an opportunity to explain to anybody who is reading that it isn't always "that way." I absolutely agree with everything you commented today. Corruption affects us all. It makes it extremely difficult (sometimes impossible) for those of us working towards ethical adoptions to succeed. I absolutely know you are a friend (!). Even if we do disagree on some things, that doesn't change the friendship!