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Family Secrets

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ABC’s July 24th Prime Time airing of “Family Secrets” was an appalling example of exploitation and lack of objectivity.

Adoption is intended to find homes for orphans and children whose parents and extended families are incapable of caring for them.  It is a tragedy when a child needs to be torn from his family – for the child and the family and — as per the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child — all efforts to resolve temporary problems should be sought to help the child remain within extended family before seeking stranger adoption.  Agencies such as The Gladney Adoption Center, are in the business of filling such demands for their paying customers at the expense of the child and their families and this program televised such an exploitation for that purpose.

Loosing a child to adoption is an act of desperation, not a "loving option."  It is a very painful last resort decision and one that leaves lifelong pain, regret, and shame, less of a joyous mixed blessing gift-giving than donating the organs of deceased loved-one. The regret ripples out to the grandparents and will effect all subsequent relationships such women will ever have, and any subsequent they may—or may not—have. In this instance, their grief will be complicated by the fact their whole experienced was a televised spectacle, leaving them not even the comfort of privacy.

The show was dishonest in its selection of two young women who did decide to go through with the adoption and were still content and willing to share this publicly three years later.  It lacked any objectivity or reality in not showing a larger number of women—perhaps hiding some identities—including those who chose to parent their child and some who regretted their decision as most do in time, although they must have taped a larger number and only chose to show those who were “success” stories from Gladney’s perspective.

The term “open adoption” was used to describe a situation in which "some information" is being shared between birth and adopting family. That is not open adoption. The common definition of open adoption includes full identifying information being shared, names and addresses, as any relative would know about family members as a bare minimum. Ideally it entails ongoing contact between the child and his family of origins, and even then, no state enforces such promises which can be withdrawn at any time by the adoptive parents who maintain full custody and all parental rights.  These were not open adoptions at all but two teenaged expectant mothers—called birthmothers before they give birth, much less relinquish their parental rights— being duped by sleek professionals into surrendering their children to closed adoptions after meeting the parents that they chose from scrapbooks. They were then isolated form family in a maternity home that continued to brainwash them on the idea of adoption and feelings of obligation to adoptive parents who were footing the bill for them.

The Internet is filled with the broken hearts of women, who just like the two followed on their path of relinquishment had been convinced it was best, only to suffer serious remorse in the years to follow when 80% of so-called open adoptions are closed.

Hosting the biased view of adoption on Prime Time was Cynthia McFadden adoptee who has no interest at all in ever meeting her birth parents. This is not surprising, and further proof of the insincerity of “openness” as the Gladney Agency is one of the major players in the fight against restoring adoptees equal right to access to their birth records even upon reaching adulthood. "Family Secrets" was all about the work of the only agency in Texas to testify this past legislative session supporting such continued secrecy in Texas law. An adoption business that maintains profits by separating mothers and babies and maintaining secrecy, not openness.

The episode was shamefully was non-objective, anti family television programming.

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Mirah Riben is a human rights activist with a focus on families, children and adoption reform. She is author of two internationally acclaimed books - "shedding light on...The Dark Side of Adoption" (1988) and "THE STORK MARKET: America's (more...)

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