What You Need to Know About NCFA Member Agencies

The time has come to expose the foibles of member agencies of National Council For Adoption, the organization that makes the following claim on its website (since removed):

"For 30 years, NCFA has been the authoritative voice for adoption. Our research and education programs have led the way to promoting sound, ethical adoption policies and practices that have enabled children to find nurturing, permanent families through adoption."

Spotlighting a large number of NCFA member agencies on this blog does not imply that all NCFA members conduct themselves in ways that call to question their "sound, ethical adoption policies and practices." However, a whole is always equal to the sum of its parts – all of its parts.

The issues dealt with on this blog stretch far beyond ethical adoption policies and practices. They involve public trust, credibility, authenticity of purpose, and common human decency.

As you read the accounts of NCFA member agencies here, ask yourself how they reflect the "sound, ethical adoption policies and practices" touted by the trade organization that represents them before legislatures throughout the country.

Before we begin, however, I invite you to explore the origins of this organization. We need to begin with how adoption policies and practices relative to adoptee rights morphed from being deemed "sacred" to being deep-sixed to shield private adoption agencies from accountability and liability. In the process, what was "best for the child" became severely tainted by the business of adoption. And a business it is! A multi-billion dollar annual business!

NCFA was formed to protect, enhance and perpetuate that business.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

3: When Rights Came Close to Being Restored

For one brief and shining moment thirty years ago, adoptees caught a glimpse of the possibility having their civil rights restored.

The year was 1978. Jimmy Carter was President, and Joseph A. Califano, Jr., was Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare (now Health and Human Services). Under Califano's leadership, a panel of seasoned adoption experts from throughout the country was brought together for the purpose of drafting a Model State Adoption Act. Although such Act would have no federal teeth, it would be presented to, and recommended for, passage in each of the individual states.

Unbelievably, the original draft panel had no representation from either adoptees or original mothers – the two parties most intimately and permanently affected by adoption. With some effort, our adoption reform activists were able to get an adoptee, Joanne W. Small (Adoptees in Search, Bethesda, MD) and Lee H. Campbell (President, Concerned United Birthparents, Brewster, MA) included on the panel. Others were:

Executive Secretary to the Panel:
Diane D. Broadhurst, Children's Bureau, Administration for Children, Youth and Families, Department of Health, Education and Welfare, Washington, D.C.

Advisory Panel:

Albert Burstein, Panel Chairman
Majority Leader, NJ General Assembly

Sydney C. Dunca, Executive Dir.
Homes for Black Children
Detroit, MI

Mary Lee Campbell Allen
Program Specialist - Child Welfare
Children's Defense Fund
Washington, D.C.

Elizabeth Cole, Director
North American Center on Adoption, Inc.
Child Welfare Leaghue of America (CWLA)
New York, NY

Marie W. Copher, Chief
State Placement Unit
Georgia Div. of Family and Children's Services Atlanta, GA

Willie V. Small
Director of Social Work
Children's Services, Inc.
Philadelphia, PA

Laurie M. Flynn, Exec. Dir.
North American Council on Adoptable Children (NACAC) Washington, DC

Linda Hanton, Staff Attorney
Mexican American Legal Defense & Educational Fund, Inc. San Francisco, CA

Donald Lewis, Chairman
American Academy of Pediatrics
Adoption & Dependent Care Committee
Seattle, WA

Helen Ramirez, Director
Los Angeles County Department of Adoption
Los Angeles, CA

Margaret A. Sullivan, Director
Placement Division
Catholic Charitable Bureau of Boston
Boston, MA

Kenneth W. Watson, Assistant Director
Chicago Child Care Society
Chicago, IL

Thelma J. Stiffarm
Native American Rights Fund
Boulder, CO

John P. Steketee, Judge
Kent County Juvenile Court
Grand Rapids, MI

Sproesser Wynn, Chairman
American Bar Association Committee on Adoption
Fort Worth, TX

As you can see, the panel was well-rounded, representing all aspects of adoption and all geographic regions of the country.

The panel met a number of times over the early months of 1979, and among the provisions of the final draft were these:

Title V

Would have given adult adoptees, at age 18, unqualified right of access to their records. One of the sections of Title V, §504 (f) (2) states:
"It shall not be a violation of the privacy of a parent whose rights were terminated, for a record to reveal the identity of such parent to his adult son or daughter."
Section 507
"The rights of access to records established by this Title shall have retroactive effect, and shall not be limited by reason of prior law or of assurances of confidentiality not required by this Act."

The panel expressed its philosophy in the statement:
"...that there can be no legally protected interest in keeping one's identity secret from one's biological offspring; parent and child are considered co-owners of the information regarding the event of birth."
Support for the Model State Adoption Act

Here are some excerpts from letters written in support of the Model State Adoption Act:
"I support vigorously the adoptee's right to have their records opened. For some time now, I have been opening records with tremendous success. Therefore, I support Title V of the Model State Adoption Act and urge that everything be done to insure its passage." Robert B. Watts, Judge, Supreme Bench, Baltimore City
"In the name of mental health, which is consistent with freedom, understanding and love, we would like to keep that core of the Model Law that demolishes the stonewall which has so frustrated adopted adults search for identity." Terry J. Zenner, Director, Catholic Social Services, Diocese of Lafayette, LA
"If we believe in 'one nation, indivisible with liberty and justice for all', then we should fight to the end for that group of citizens who are adopted and who are deprived of fundamental decency and justice." Wade S. Weatherford, Jr., Resident Judge, Circuit Court of South Carolina
"Not all adoptees will wish to know the birth parents, nor to meet her/him. But surely the option should be there as opposed to a rigid secrecy which can leave adoptees feeling that there is some monstrous secret in their past. We therefore applaid the concept of more open records..." National Assn. of Social Workers

War is Declared on the Model State Adoption Act

Organized resistance to the Draft Model State Adoption Act (DMSAA) materialized in the person of Ruby Lee Piester, Executive Director of the Edna Gladney Home, the country's biggest and oldest maternity home/adoption agency, located in Ft. Worth, Texas. At the time, Gladney was a member of the Child Welfare League of America (CWLA).

When Piester learned of the provisions of the Draft Model State Adoption Act that restored identity rights to adoptees, she immediately began to badger CWLA to join her in organizing national resistance to that portion of the draft. She was unable to stir up any support for her proposed attack from either CWLA's leader or its board. Undaunted, Piester managed to stir up enough of a stink at Congressional hearings on the issue. At a Senate hearing, she met William L. Pierce, CWLA's Assistant Executive Director and head of the organization's Washington office. At last she had found an accomplice.

The offspring conceived of the union of Piester and Pierce was National Committee For Adoption (NCFA) - which later changed 'Committee' to the larger-sounding 'Council.'

According to a Pierce-written tribute to Piester in a NCFA publication,
"This Act was produced in 1979 by a 'runaway' advisory committee... Because of the 'open records' provisions and other noxious elements in the Act, Ruby Lee correctly concluded that, if the DMSAA were to become law, domestic infant adoption would be snuffed out and tens of thousands of women who made adoption plans in previous decades would be betrayed."
Interestingly, three short years after insisting she must protect the reputations of Gladney's previous residents by leading the battle against the DMSAA, Piester subjected the Home's current residents to a four-page promotional spread in Life magazine, including full frontal photos, that went into news stands and subscribers' homes everywhere. (Details in a future posting.)

Piester and her agency, Gladney, provided $50,000 in "seed money" in 1980 to create a "new voice for adoption." The tribute goes on to say that Piester
"raised money and awareness, enlisted adoption agencies across America to get involved, and handpicked some of Gladney's best volunteers to serve on NCFA's board."
And she asked Pierce to head the NCFA staff. Pierce brags:
"Within two years, DMSAA was returned to its original focus on children with special needs. And NCFA was launched, a strong advocate for adoption, despite shaky finances."
Gladney Home and William Pierce both dropped out of Child Welfare League of America and declared war on the Draft Model State Adoption Act.

What Piester brought to NCFA by way of finances and opposition-organization, Pierce provided by way of Washington DC savvy. Having formerly had a leadership position with the nation's largest child welfare organization, he had valuable experience as a lobbyist, something that would come in handy in building Congressional opposition to the DMSAA, and which neither the panel nor the newly-burgeoning adoptee rights organizations had at their disposal.

National Committee For Adoption - In the Beginning

Original elected officers for the newborn "strong advocate for adoption", in addition to Pierce (President) and Piester (Vice Chairman), were:
Chairman: William E. McKay, Pres., Fort Worth Chevrolet Dealership
Secretary: Michael Barone, Political Analyst/Writer, Washington, DC
Treasurer: Dr. Frank Mastrapasqua, Economist, Portfolio Investment Strategist, CT
With that slate of officers, three of whom had neither experience with - nor expertise in - the field of adoption work, NCFA went head-to-head with the seasoned adoption experts represented on the Draft Model State Adoption Panel. Gladney's many 'auxiliaries,' comprised of its obligated adoptive parents, were urged to mount a massive letter-writing campaign through their member newsletters and Pierce set about creating and nurturing abortion fear among highly-sensitized legislators and National Right to Life activists.

NCFA's efforts succeeded in gutting the portions of the Draft Model State Adoption Act that would have restored to adoptees their civil and sacred rights.

Original NCFA Members

The minutes from the organizational meeting indicate that membership was to be limited to private agencies. Ineligible, then, were state social service organizations, the very entities which are responsible for children in foster-care. This fact alone sets up a red flag of intent. Why would an organization that purported to focus on "children with special needs" choose to exclude from its membership the very agencies whose case loads were comprised of those children?

Drop-outs from the original membership of NCFA soon included such prestigious agencies as Holt International Children's Services, Eugene, OR, and Spence Chapin, New York, NY, both of which were NCFA charter members. This, alone, says something about the lack of consensus among members regarding the organization's goals and purposes for existence.

With regard to the restoration of adoptees' rights to their identities, both of those defecting charter member agencies are in support of adoptees' obtaining copies of their original birth certificates.

National Adoption Organizations that Approve of Restoration of Adoptee Rights:

Child Welfare League of America (CWLA)
American Adoption Congress (AAC)
North American Council on Adoptable Children (NACAC)
National Adoption Center (NAC)
Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute
Parents for Ethical Adoption Reform (PEAR)
Adoptees’ Liberty Movement Association (ALMA)
Concerned United Birthparents (CUB)

More to come.....stay tuned!


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