What causes adoption? And other issues that arise from The Daily Beast article

It’s been said that adoption is demand-led, that adopting parents create the pull for children. That without it we’d have dramatically fewer children separated from their biological parents.

“Europe’s Growing Crisis of Abandoned Babies” from The Daily Beast looks at the other part of the equation — the supply or the push side of adoption. Economic issues in Europe are leading to higher rates of newborn abandonment via “baby hatches.”

As has happened throughout human history, severe economic problems are causing parents to take drastic measures — sometimes even more drastic than placing a baby in a form of a safe haven. Some may say the rich should step up and care for the weakest in a society, that no one should have to face giving up a child because of poverty. Some may say that failed socialist-type policies have led to the economic crisis that is causing those on the edge to fall off it. No matter. Whatever causes it, to be faced with such a choice is, well, heartbreakingly Sophie-ic.

Chicken or egg? — this article makes me think. Is adoption the result of babies needing homes or of homes wanting babies? Or of an interrelated dynamic between the two?

The article brings forth many issues besides just what causes adoption.

To hatch or not to hatch: The Daily Beast reports that “Supporters of the hatches argue that their existence offers desperate mothers a safe option that will inevitably give the child a better life by decreasing abortion, preventing infanticide, and stopping other forms of more reckless abandonment—such as leaving children on doorsteps or killing them and dumping them in garbage bins.”

On the con side of baby hatches is the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, which, according to Time magazine, claims “the right of the child to be known and cared for by his or her parents.” Or, as stated in The Daily Beast, the hatches “deny the child the basic right to know who his or her parents are.” Instead, the agency told The Daily Beast, “struggling mothers should be given resources and support to keep the child, even if that means eventually giving it up for legal adoption.”

But from whom will the resources and support come in a system that can barely sustain itself already? And I don’t understand how the first part of that sentence goes with the second part.

Identity and legitimacy: My friend Torrejon says:

I think we all agree that dropping off a baby in a baby-hatch or at a fire station is better than dumping him/her in a trash dumpster to die a horrible death. However, it is my contention that the women who DO dump their babies in dumpsters are suffering from a serious, medically significant disassociation from their pregnancies…denial to the point of temporary insanity. Those women are simply never going to take advantage of the safe haven laws because that would require accepting the fact that they were pregnant and delivered a baby who is a living human being. As a result, other people use the safe havens for mere convenience. My greatest concern about safe havens is there is absolutely no way to confirm that the person relinquishing the child is even the parent!

Anyone who wants to relinquish a child can do so at any time. There are methodologies and procedures in place to do so. And those methodologies and procedures protect not only the birth parents, but also the child. It is inconceivable to me that intractable anonymity of the birth parents could remotely equate to and/or trump the human and civil rights of the relinquished child.

Daycare becoming permacare: From The Daily Beast:  “But sadder still is the growing number of cases of abandoned young children who do know their parents and are being left at schools and daycare providers.” Sometimes a child will show up at daycare with a note pinned to her saying that her parents can no longer feed her and will not be picking her up. Sometimes there is no note and no parent at pick-up time. The child has been abandoned.

Which begs the question, then what? Who is custodian for the child, making decisions on his behalf at that point? What are the procedures in place to find the parents or find the child a permanent home?  What happens if the parents are found?

LostInTranslation, who blogs from France, asks: “What kind of daycare center is it that (a) they do not have full contact details of the parents so they can trace them down and (b) they do not see a note pinned to a child’s sweater when the kid is dropped off in the morning? The article could have been a bit more specific on what happened exactly.”

No end in sight: The reports says that in Greece and Italy alone there were nearly 2000 infants left at safe havens last year. Since the economic crisis is still worsening, I fear what the numbers will be in the future.

So pick an issue, any issue. What say you?


Lori Holden's book coverLori Holden, mom of a teen son and a teen daughter, blogs from Denver. Her book, The Open-Hearted Way to Open Adoption: Helping Your Child Grow Up Whole, is available through your favorite online bookseller and makes a thoughtful anytime gift for the adoptive families in your life.

18 thoughts on “What causes adoption? And other issues that arise from The Daily Beast article”

  1. These questions are so big – the enormous socio-cultural-economic structures that feed into poverty, all these inequities – I have a hard time broaching them. We live in Albania, neighboring Greece and a short ferry ride from Italy. When Albania opened up in the ’90s, thousands of people surged across the borders into those two countries looking for work. They do the jobs that Greeks and Italians won’t do. A lot of migrant farm labor and under-the-table domestic work. Economic problems in those two countries severely pinch expatriate Albanians. Many of them come back here, where the unemployment rate is already 40%.

    I just wonder how many of those abandoned babies and small children were born to Albanians – or other immigrants – living and working in the EU? Because that complicates things even further.

    I think in terms of the “hatches” – the point raised about not knowing whether the person relinquishing the infant was even the bioparent – excellent and very sobering point.

  2. Lori, you do such a great job bringing light to the many facets of adoption. Thank you!

    This post provides so many things to think about, situations where there really are no “right” answers. It reminds me of something my husband learned about last year while earning his Masters in Strategic Studies: VUCA — Volatile, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity. I just looked up an article on this concept by Apex Performance, Inc. (I found this site: https://www.apexperform.com/uploads/leadership%20in%20vuca.pdf through a Google search on “VUCA”).

    As I read, I found some things that might help when facing VUCA situations similar to the ones presented in your post:
    Volatility calls for vision.
    Uncertainty calls for understanding.
    Complexity calls for clarity.
    Ambiguity calls for action.

    These issues may not be solvable, but perhaps when people like you, Lori, bring them to our attention, they can be improved through vision, understanding, clarity and action. Thanks again for your post.

  3. Lori – there is no valid reason to have baby boxes (or Safe Havens in the US). I would imagine that in Europe just like in the USA if you go to the hospital to give birth you can request a social worker and surrender your baby. I was surrendered to the state – that is how it was done if the mother did not go to a maternity home or agency. Today the hospitals have associations with adoption agencies and or the state. A mother who would use a baby box would use the hospital if she knew it was available – it’s education that is needed – not baby boxes or safe havens. If you can’t surrender at the hospital in all European countries then that really is an easy fix…not baby boxes.

    Baby boxes were called revolving cradles, foundling wheels and probably other terms in history. I wrote about this in June. https://theadoptedones.wordpress.com/2012/06/17/lessons-learned-are-lost-and-history-repeats-itself/

    Not only does the child have the right to know who they are – European countries have signed onto the UN Treaty on the Rights of the Child (a treaty only the US and Somlia have not signed onto) that explicity states that as a tenant. Not saying all countries who have signed have completely aligned their country’s laws yet but they have all agreed to do so.

    As to the demand driving the supply – I don’t think it is part of the conversation here – I would dig deeper into “who” came up with the idea of the baby boxes and what their agenda is.

  4. More questions than answers here – I wish I had any idea how to solve the problems.

    On face, I think the hatches are a good idea, because someone who gives up their child in the face of economic woes is certainly going to be ashamed for not being able to make it work. At some point, I think they might be able to get over it, and want a connection to the child they couldn’t afford to raise, but, in the moment, the hatch probably looks like the cleanest, easiest way. I sort of reject the idea of people putting other people’s babies into the hatches – the public outcry over missing children these days kind of makes that next to impossible – especially for an infant. I don’t know how it works in Europe, though, so maybe it’s possible.

  5. a – your assumption that the public outcry over missing children is compelling yet only 13 states require a check to ensure the child has not been reported missing and 5 require checking the putative fathers registry. Just a couple of the obvious flaws in the safe have laws in the US.


    “Once the safe haven provider has notified the local child welfare department that an infant has been relinquished, the department assumes custody of the infant as an abandoned child. The department has responsibility for placing the infant, usually in a preadoptive home, and for petitioning the court for termination of the birth parent’s parental rights. Before the baby is placed in a preadoptive home, 13 States require the department to request the local law enforcement agency to determine whether the baby has been reported as a missing child. In addition, five States require the department to check the putative father registry before a termination of parental rights petition can be filed.”

  6. Theadoptedones is absolutely right that these devices have existed for centuries – probably millennia – and I agree with a that some women will use baby hatches who would not request to place at a hospital because they are too ashamed to have a conversation. I’m also flummoxed about how a daycare provider or school can find it impossible to track a parent, unless the parent has fled the vicinity (and even so).

    I wish I had answers instead of more questions. I do believe that the best solution is to reallocate our resources so we are providing better support, as a society, for women who want to parent, and I think we could do that (at least in the US) without spending more money. Early childhood education and parental support programs actually *save* money because we spend less on incarceration and remedial education later in the child’s life. But I don’t know Europe well enough to know what to suggest.

  7. But I’m not talking about a required check – I’m talking about people who are missing a child getting huge amounts of press coverage. I think that’s what makes infant abduction so rare. Regulations might be good, but they may not be absolutely necessary, due to the intense media coverage that can be easily garnered if your child is missing. And if you’re not seeking the press coverage or the aid of law enforcement…well, there’s probably something else going on.

  8. I found myself searching for the right words to actually put into words every thing that the article and your post triggered for me.

    Parallel to this post submission in prompt-ly, was a news article I read in the local paper about a newborn dumped through a train’s toilet. She was found on the tracks, and taken to the hospital where she died a few hours later. It makes my soul curl into ugly shapes to read that thing…a ‘hatch’ suddenly seems a way better idea.

    A child’s right to know who he/she is…why was he/she abandoned, and the actual dilemmas about the right way to give up a baby…I am far too under-qualified to speak about it.

  9. I find it easy to imagine circumstances in which babies could be quietly relinquished without the parents’ consent: traditionally patriarchal societies where the family reputation counts more than the feelings/wishes of a girl who gave birth to an illegitimate child.

    The big question of where adoption comes from: Since no two adoptions are exactly the same, there simply cannot be a once-size-fits-all answer. However, I do think that most relinquishments are caused by vulnerability: youth, lack of education, unemployment, financial distress, limiting political policies, natural disasters, etc. In my mind, how we (as a society) respond to the individual situation of vulnerability is what allows us to characterize the outcome….in this discussion, the adoption.
    Do we support people in a moment of vulnerability? (win – win)
    OR do we encourage and profit from someone else’s vulnerability? (win – lose)
    OR do we actively create situations of vulnerability? (lose – lose)

    1. I have read in articles that sometimes the babies places in boxes in Europe are the children of prostitutes who do not have legal status (and/or were possibly victims of human trafficking). The babies are placed by pimps or by the woman herself because she can’t access other options.

  10. Here is a place where I would start with research, in countries where there is more assistance provided by the government to ensure that those in need have the means to parent, more social welfare programs, more support, more education for new parents, is there a difference in the number of children needing a home within the country for domestic adoption? If there is a difference, what is the difference (looking not at the actual number of children since other countries may be larger or smaller, but the percentage of children in that country that are needing an adoption plan)? Assistance is always floated out as a solution, but would assistance truly eradicate the need for adoption or lessen it? Does more assistance lessen the need more, or is there a wall a country hits where no matter how much assistance is given, there would still be children who would need adoption?

  11. Mel – you can look to Canada, or Australia, or Germany to start with. Canada offers one years mat leave paid through unemployment insurance and your job to return to. They also offer universal health care (some provinces do have a fee for example I pay $116 per month (others pay less based on income) to cover my husband and I, but it does not include dental or perscription costs (pharmacare (federal) is available if you don’t have private insurance and a set amount based on income to be spent by the person to start with) etc. I think those two items make the biggest difference.

    There is also a monthly stipend – used to be to cover milk costs – no idea what it is called today or what the amount is. Some provinces (many?) have day care subsidies etc as well as your typical welfare avenues to explore.

    I am sure I am missing several other points…

    Infant domestic adoption is very limited in Canada, although just like the US the exact number is unknown. In Australia it is almost nil and they have similar structures in place – which I think is most likely what Canada is as well. Australian and German domestic adoptions I believe must be done through the state approval process.

    At the end of the day of course there are some children / babies that need to be adopted but financial reasons should not be one of the reasons especially in a developed country.

  12. I didn’t even bother reading the Daily Beast comments (well, just enough to know not to) because I figured dialog would be much more circumspect and precise here.

    And I was right. You all have not let me down. Thank you for sharing your perspectives here in a respectful way. You are expanding my views.

    I am listening.

  13. What a facinsting and overwhelming post/conversation here in the comment section Lori! My brain is fried right now, so like Kristen said, I want you to know that I read this and am thinking about/processing it. Thank you for putting this out here and inviting such an interesting discussion.

  14. Oh my goodness. Lori, thank you for asking these questions. They need to be asked. I don’t have answers either, but I am paying very close attention to this discussion…

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