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.

Friday, May 31, 2013

A Act of Love Adoptions - Part One

Utah's High Profile For-Profit Adoption Agency

If you do a lot of Internet research on adoption as I do, you quickly learn that one of the most prolific advertisers, bar none, is a Utah-based for-profit adoption agency, 'A Act of Love.' I swear those ads stalk me everywhere I go!  They're horizontal rectangular ads; they're square ads; they're vertical rectangular ads. I can't even pay a visit to a recommended inspirational video without having my sensitivities assaulted by one of this business enterprise's obnoxious ads. To wit:

Notice that these ads aren't addressed to prospective adoptive parents. Nope. No, they're meant to attract vulnerable, probably frightened mothers-to-be without resources. Strictly supply-side advertising.

Now, come on. Just how do you suppose a for-profit adoption agency that can afford nation-wide obnoxious box ads like these would "help" a vulnerable pregnant woman who is genuinely seeking assistance in dealing with a crisis pregnancy? These deceptive ads touting "act of love" don't mention adoption. They're designed to cause her to assume an "act of love" would reach out to her to help her deal with a difficult life situation. How could she know from these ads that A Act of Love pays big bucks to high-power advertising companies to overwhelm the Internet for the singular purpose of procuring babies for adoption? And once a vulnerable woman clicks on the 'click here' button, her computer's browser will be inhabited thereafter by these ads in perpetuity.

Yellow-pages Internet Ads Throughout the Country - in Your State?

I haven't been able to locate (yet) the advertising entity that produces the obnoxious box ads that plague me, but I have learned how this agency gets listed literally everywhere throughout the country - a company called DexKnows. To see how A Act of Love uses this service to reach its tentacles into every geographic area of the country, click this:

When you get there, click on one of the listings and scroll down to see the coverage area for just that listing. I don't know how many pages of listings there are, but I went as far as page 12 and they continued on from there.

Notice the blurb on this one for Iowa: "Placing your baby for adoption can also mean being a good parent. - Pregnant and searching for answers?"

Where have you read that gem before? From the Mother Ship, maybe?

Mother Ship? You mean National Council For Adoption? A For-profit Agency Member in a "Non-profit" Organization? Are you sure?

Well, yes and no. And it's very complicated. Just how the puzzle goes together has yet to be determined. However, it's obvious A Act of Love Adoptions can't sustain its massive advertising budget and CEO salaries and benefits solely on "non-profit" reported income.

First of all, according to Utah's Business site, A Act of Love Adoptions is one five active DBAs under the umbrella of a corporate mother agency, Act of Love AdoptionServices, Inc. Here's the list:

So now let's look at 'Mother' Act of Love Adoptionservices, Inc.

Notice the NAICS code? Adoption? Social Services? No. Nothing to do with adoption, but 'Grantmaking and Giving Services.' This qualifies this corporation to transfer human babies from one family to another....how?

Here's an earlier listing with the Utah Department of Commerce. Notice:
10,000 shares of common stock.

So What Difference Does it Make That It's a For-Profit Agency?

The bigger questions are these:

What part does this for-profit agency play in the financing of the "non-profit" agency known as A Act of Love Adoptions?

And what financial benefit does the for-profit agency enjoy via its "non-profit" counterpart?

And if there is a financial connection between the two, how can A Act of Love Adoptions be considered a legitimate "non-profit" agency for tax benefit purposes?

And who is the person behind the curtain here? Surely Kathleen Kunkel, whose only qualification to run an adoption agency is that she is an adoptive parent, couldn't devise, maintain, and handle financing for an enterprise as lucrative as this. So if not Kunkel, when who?

If, indeed, there is a shadow for-profit entity behind A Act of Love Adoptions, it's clear that NCFA has accepted the non-profit counterpart as one of its own.

From the NCFA website:

Here's A Act of Love, posted on NCFA's current membership list.

Even given a proper welcome by NCFA in the summer of 2005

Ah, yes! The coveted Congressional Angel in Adoption Award!

How The "Non-Profit" Counterpart of this Agency Helped Kill Attempt to Apply ICPC Rules to Out- of-State Mothers Brought to Utah to Give Birth

It's no secret that Utah agencies fly pregnant women from far and wide to their state to give birth where adoption laws are 'friendlier.' 

Is Utah a 'Baby Warehouse'?

"The Utah adoption debate: Phillip Lowry, an Orem attorney who has filed lawsuits for fathers and another Chicago grandmother attacking Utah adoptions, says Utah's laws attract parents and birth mothers from other states.

"Utah has come to be known as a baby warehouse," where mothers and adoptive parents can "minimize legal hassles," Lowry said. "There are no guards at the door going in or out."
• • • • • •

Quick! Put a Plug in it!

A Act of Love Adoptions, facing the possible loss of 'products' if imported pregnant women and babies' fathers were to be protected under the Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children (ICPC), joined with two other Utah agencies to make sure that didn't happen.

Adoption Agencies Sue State Over Out-of State Mothers' Rights

Each year, more than 100 expectant mothers from other states travel to Utah to deliver their babies and surrender them to adoption agencies.

Their reasons for coming vary -- from the desire to distance themselves from an adoptive family to preferring parents who belong to the LDS Church. Critics suggest other motives in a small number of cases: attempts to avoid birth fathers or stricter laws requiring the fathers' consent in the home states.

"These girls . . . wouldn't come here if staying home was a good option for them," said Salt Lake City attorney Larry Jenkins, who represents Act of Love, Adoption Center of Choice Inc. and ATLC Adoption in the lawsuit. "This potentially eliminates an option for them." 

The state says otherwise, contending it has a duty to make sure adoption agencies and expectant mothers are making placements in the best interests of children. 


Any mother who wants to come to Utah for the purpose of giving birth is welcome to do that," said Adam Trupt, policy and planning administrator for the state Division of Child and Family Services (DCFS), "but when there is an agreement with an agency for her to come do that, that's when the compact is activated."

Provo adoption attorney Phillip Lowry commended the state's efforts to enforce the compact. Lowry is representing a North Carolina man who is trying to stop the adoption of his son, who was born and placed for adoption in Utah without the father's knowledge. 

"There is unilateral transportation of children going on, and some [mothers] come to Utah to place the children because Utah has a very strict adoption code," Lowry said. "They avoid the ICPC because that presents the chance that the natural father will find out. And if the natural father finds out, he can enjoin the mother from going out of state."
. . . . .

Three agencies sued, contending Utah is incorrectly using the Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children (ICPC), a law drafted in the 1960s and later adopted by all 50 states to protect children taken across state lines for adoptions. Applying the ICPC to unborn children effectively makes fetuses residents of the mothers' home states, and unfairly limits a woman's right to travel, they claim.
Utah officials base their position on a 1986 opinion issued by a national association of ICPC administrators. The opinion says expectant mothers crossing state lines as part of a "placement plan" should be subject to the ICPC, lest they be allowed to manipulate the delivery location to escape oversight.

Outcome of this lawsuit:

Court says interstate agreement doesn't apply to unborn children


Utah adoptions require confirmation by a state judge. But in 2001, the state Department of Human Services warned adoption agencies it was cracking down on those who begin adoption arrangements for out-of-state women without notice to Utah or their home state.
Three agencies sued, arguing the enforcement was unconstitutional, arguing that applying the law to unborn children effectively makes fetuses residents of the mothers' home states, and unfairly limits a woman's right to travel.

Larry Jenkins, a Salt Lake City attorney who represented Act of Love, Adoption Center of Choice Inc. and ATLC Adoption in the lawsuit, said the ruling would benefit adoptive and birth parents throughout the state.

• • • • •

A Act of Love in Action

Here's how this agency and others in Utah are able to bypass ICPC regulations by transporting mothers-to-be into their lairs. Bear in mind that once in Utah, these vulnerable women not only are subject to that state's agency-powered laws, but they are effectively separated from family and any potential support systems in their own states. How free would a new mother feel to decide to parent her own child when she would be dependent on the agency to fly her back home? And to whom would she turn to help her with her immediate needs and those of her baby? Yes, the agency has seen to it that she is enrolled under Utah's Medicaid to pay her medical bills, but would she know how to get additional state help for postpartum care?

And that's just the mother's dilemma. Then there is the father's battle to assert his rights.

Did Utah four-day work week cost dad rights to his child?


Shaud immediately filed with Arizona's Putative Father Registry but said he was unable to locate information on government websites about what he needed to do to protect his rights in Utah. He hired a Utah attorney, who on Jan. 12, 2010, filed a paternity petition and faxed a notice of paternity to the state records office.

Daniel Drage, Shaud's attorney, also mailed a notice that day to the records office, which marked it received on Jan. 14. With the baby due in February, Shaud thought he was acting in plenty of time.

But Tew gave premature birth to a baby girl on Jan. 15.

The records office happened to be closed that day, a Friday, because of the state's four-day work schedule, and was closed the following Monday, which was a federal holiday. A clerk filed Shaud's paternity notice on Jan. 20, a day after Tew relinquished her rights and the infant was placed with adoptive parents through A Act of Love Adoptions.

A trial court judge ruled Shaud had failed to met a statutory deadline and had no right to object to the adoption. Drage argued the lower court improperly refused to let Shaud submit evidence detailing his filings.

"In this case, Mr. Shaud ran this race, ran through the maze and initiated his paternity proceedings and filed his notice prior to the birth of his child," his appeal states. But, the office failed to act in a timely manner, a failure that was "unquestionably the result of gross negligence.

"To bar Mr. Shaud from asserting his biological right to his daughter in these circumstances contravenes all notions of fairness and due process," Shaud's petition states.

Ethics in Keeping with the Mother Ship?

Remember this: The whole is equal to the sum of its parts.

A Act of Love Adoptions is a 'part' of National Council For Adoption, which makes the following claim on its website:

"For 33 years, NCFA has been the authoritative voice for adoption. Our research, education programs, and advocacy have led the way in promoting sound, ethical adoption policies and practices that have enabled children to find nurturing, permanent families through adoption."

Uh huh. Case in point: A Act of Love Adoptions


The pieces of the puzzle may come together in my next post.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

1: Original Social Work Philosophy on Adoption & Identity

Adoption history in the U.S. is generally thought to be divided into two distinct periods of time: before records were sealed and after records were sealed. But that's an over-simplification, and it's inaccurate. Here's why.

The line was actually drawn at the precise point at which the "sacred rights" of the adoptee, as described by New York adoption supervisor Grace Louise Hubbard (See 'A Child's Identity is His Sacred Right' in next post) were desecrated by corruption of the original purpose of adoption records sealing.

You can get a sense of the original intent of adoption "confidentiality" by reading this excellent historical piece describing the early philosophy of the U.S. Children's Bureau, precursor to today's Child Welfare League of America.

A thorough examination of the corruption of original intent has been made by Elizabeth Samuels (Associate Professor, University of Baltimore School of Law; J.D., University of Chicago School of Law, 1980; A.B., Harvard College, 1975). The results of her research are spelled out in an article in the Winter, 2001, issue of Rutgers Law Review. The article, entitled 'The Idea of Adoption: an Inquiry Into the History of Adult Adoptee Access to Birth Records,' is downloadable in pdf file here.

It's helpful to go back to the period before adoptee rights were stripped from them to see the purity in the thinking of the people whose job it was to arrange for the transfer of children from their original families to their adoptive families. Purity lay in the fact that this transfer was made without destroying the children's identities and heritage.

A few years back I discovered a document that elaborates on that thinking.

Presented originally as a speech in 1946, it was published in 'The Child,' a year later. I borrowed the original printed document from inter-library loan - I don't know where it had been archived. It was four pages long, but I have condensed the most significant elements into a one-page document, illustrated with a photo that I felt fit the topic: 'Who Am I? Social agency helping a child to answer this question has a grave responsibility.'

I'm posting my condensed version for now, but may add the full four-page version at a later date.

Monday, January 17, 2011

2: "A Child's Identity is His Sacred Right"


Social agency helping a child to answer this question has a grave responsibility
by Grace Louise Hubbard
Supervisor of Intake, Child Placing, and Adoption,
State Charities Aid Association, New York

Condensed from a paper given May 23, 1946, at the
National Conference of Social Work, Buffalo, N.Y.
Printed in THE CHILD, February, 1947

Who am I? is a question that cannot be answered completely by any birth record, no matter how expertly devised or carefully handled. Every individual has a right to accurate and complete identification of himself, but he has also the right to understand his identity in its broadest meaning.

Webster's dictionary defines identity as "unity and persistence of personality" - a dynamic concept, implying something that comes from within, something made by the person himself.

A right to our identity really means the right to be able to create for ourselves that degree of unity and persistence of personality that gives us a sense of self-direction, of relatedness to people, and to our environment. It includes what we know about ourselves and about our origin, and also what we have been able to take out of our life experience.

A young person who is trying to fuse an unknown past with his present, needs more than to know his ancestry. He wants to know his heritage.

A person who as a child was placed by a social agency in a foster-family home, whether for adoption or for permanent supervised care, is assured of a record of his origin and identity, and of a source of help in finding out not just what the record shows but what human experience lies behind it.

Sometimes........they want to know about themselves, and when this happens their interest may range from a sort of general curiosity about such things as their nationality and the first names of their parents and how they looked, to an active desire to find out all they can, and perhaps even locate and meet their relatives.

My agency has always recognized the right of the child to know about his own family, if he wants to - at a time when he is adequately prepared for the knowledge - and if the foster parents sympathize with his interest and are ready to have him know. The agency knew the mother who had to choose how her child would live - with her or apart from her - and is in a position to give him not only the facts but some interpretation that led to her choice.

When a child asks, "Who am I?" he does need to know his name and lineage, but what he is really seeking is to sustain his awareness of self so that he can achieve a unity and persistence of personality, in spite of the break in the continuity of his life. This is his right, a right that we are under obligation to secure to him to the greatest extent we can.

Careful and accurate recording of one's birth is a basic step, and the right of every person. But a sense of one's heritage is also every person's right, and if a child does not have his own parents to give him a sense of his heritage as well as his birth identification, interpretation should be given by someone with understanding, as well as knowledge, of the facts.

A child's identity is his sacred right.

* * * * * *

Did you read that right? Yes, you did!

"A child's identity is his sacred right."

The above article includes a photograph of a social worker counseling a woman, who, of course, has her back to the camera. The caption reads: "Planning to place her baby for adoption, this mother hopes he need never know about his origin. But the social worker who is helping her with her planning explains that the child has a right to his identity, and that it should be preserved for him."

Another photograph shows a young man sitting at a social worker's desk examining a document from his file. The caption reads: "Ted has learned from his birth certificate that the parents he has always known are not his real parents. A member of the staff of the social agency that helped his mother to plan for his adoption 18 years ago is telling him about his original family."

Can anything possibly be clearer?

There was a time when the "best interests of a child" were considered paramount when, for whatever reason, it was not possible for him to remain with his original family. It was assumed, and carried out in policy and practice, that every child should only gain from being adopted – never lose from it. He should keep everything he had and gain more in the form of a stable home and a loving family.

What transpired in the decades since Ms. Hubbard made that speech is that the needs and rights of the child being transferred from one family to another were not just overlooked – they were deliberately destroyed. In order to be accepted by, and integrated into, another family, the child was required to forfeit, without legal representation to protect his interests, his ancestry, association with living blood relatives, knowledge of the circumstances of his birth and relinquishment, access to vital family health information, and even authentic vital statistics documentation of his own live birth.

So who benefited from this disenfranchisement? One need only study the shameful history of secret adoption to see who has been protected by denying adoptees access to their own personal histories. One thing is clear: the claim of "promised confidentiality" allegedly given to original mothers has been disproven by the failure of its claimants to produce a single relinquishment document in any state that makes such promise. What's more, surrender documents didn't even guarantee mothers that their babies would be adopted - they could end up in long-term foster care - so they couldn't even have been verbally "promised" that sealed adoption records would conceal their identities.

It isn't just horror stories like those of Georgia Tann of the infamous Tennessee Children's Home Society or Miami doctor Katherine Cole that reveal the seamy underside of adoption secrecy. Across the nation, searching adoptees and original parents have uncovered unimaginable deceit perpetrated on them by adoption brokers of every stripe: agencies, attorneys, doctors, and 'facilitators.' Safe in the knowledge that their deeds would not be uncovered, brokers have committed the most egregious of acts, from telling newly-delivered mothers their babies died to concealing children's medical histories to separating twins for double-the-money adoption fees and much more. Another common deceit, falsifying places of birth (including the state) and dates of birth – by as much as a year – on amended birth certificates has interfered with adoptees' eligibility for Medicare and other entitlements.

The down-and-dirty truth is that sealed adoption records and denying adult adoptees access to their own authentic birth certificates have formed a protective shield against responsibility and liability for those who have enjoyed total control over all facts - or fallacies - in adoption files for decades. It's no wonder many of them are engaged in a fierce battle to retain that control!

Not all brokers have enjoyed a permanent mantle of protection, however. As you will see in subsequent posts on this blog, adoption brokers' deeds have been publicly exposed and vigorously litigated in recent years. The chickens are coming home to roost! Examples in future posts.

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!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

4: Uniform Adoption Act: Thankfully Defeated

As disappointing as it was to lose our battle for adoptee rights restoration by the gutting of the Draft Model State Adoption Act (see 'When Rights Came Close to Being Restored,') we would learn in the 1990s that things could have gotten a whole lot worse! And if it hadn't been for the diligence and hard work of our adoption reform activists, adoptees' rights could have been deep-sixed for over a generation.

Predictably, National Council For Adoption (NCFA) played a significant role in the horror that was to unfold. From its website, NCFA boasts: "In 1992, we educated policymakers on the need to pass the Uniform Adoption Act (UAA), which facilitated adoption placements and protected confidentiality in adoption."

What was the Uniform Adoption Act, and how would it have impacted all of us?

Rather than expound on it here, I'll simply provide links to excellent sites that others have created in response to the Act and do a little commenting to augment them.

This page by Shea Grimm explains how the Act came to be drafted, who vigorously opposed it (besides us), and gives a brief summary of its provisions.

A good commentary on the Act can be found here.

You can read the official UAA document for yourself here.

NCFA's View of the Uniform Adoption Act

If you do a Google search for the Uniform Adoption Act, one of the sites that's sure to show up early in the list is the adoption.com website. It is to be expected that NCFA would hasten to provide its interpretation of the UAA "facts" there. As expected, then, the text provided to describe UAA was credited as "Reprinted from the Encyclopedia of Adoption," a NCFA volume written by Christine Adamec and Bill Pierce.

Here, in part, is NCFA's interpretation:
Although there are many articles and publications in print and on the Internet describing the contents of the UAA, most are extremely biased. One of the best brief objective summaries is by Joel D. Tenenbaum, who served as the ABA liaison to the NCCUSL UAA committee.

Despite the substantial differences of opinion that were aired during the drafting process, the NCCUSL aims to resolve issues by compromise and consensus. Therefore, each time the UAA was taken to the floor of the NCCUSL annual meeting, it was clear that there was a large majority in favor of the act and its recommended approaches to the controversial issues under consideration.

The most heated debates, in both the drafting committee and on the floor at the annual meeting, had to do with access to sealed records. A minority of the drafting committee and a tiny percentage of the commissioners as a whole opposed the UAA recommendation that MUTUAL CONSENT REGISTRIES be used as the usual legal means whereby persons who had been involved in an adoption in which records had been sealed could indicate their interest in exchanging identifying information.

Eventually, in 1994, the commissioners voted to approve the UAA and to promulgate it. Early in 1995, the ABA overwhelmingly endorsed the UAA. The NATIONAL COUNCIL FOR ADOPTION and a number of other organizations also endorsed the UAA.

The American Academy of Adoption Attorneys, according to one of its past presidents, Samuel Totaro, Jr, by contract voted to ". . . disseminate the Uniform Adoption Act to the various states for its consideration." A substantial number of organizations that had participated in the process were unsuccessful in each instance in convincing the commissioners to accept their views on controversial issues, among them the American Adoption Congress, the Child Welfare League of America and Concerned United Birthparents. These groups launched a vigorous campaign to keep the UAA from being adopted by any state.

The outlook for the UAA is uncertain at this writing. Although it has been introduced in several states, there has been little or no organized support for the UAA either from NCCUSL commissioners in those states or from state affiliates of the ABA. By contrast, opponents of the UAA have utilized a variety of means to express their objections, and have staged protests and overwhelmed hearings. In the face of such uneven support, many state legislatures have either backed away from considering the UAA, or, in at least one instance, passed legislation directly opposed to key principles of the UAA, such as the privacy of adoption records.

As the title of this blog indicates, the Uniform Adoption Act went down in flames. But we must not let down our guards. At any time, another attack could be launched against adoptee rights at the national level.

The time has come to change course from defensive to offensive. It's time to take off the gloves and begin exposing the character and deeds of those who seek to cover their tracks with sealed adoption records.

My next post will lay bare the character of one of the "players" in the UAA attempt.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Adoption Mafia? Adoption Cartel?

Two weeks before the United States signed the Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoption (which wasn't ratified until 2007 and enforced in 2008), a battle was raging in Washington between treaty-supporting and treaty-opposing factions. The latter insisted on the continuation of the status quo: privately-brokered foreign adoptions. The former supported the Hague Convention's agency-only provision that included the establishment of a federal authority to regulate and oversee its implementation.

National Council For Adoption, with Bill Pierce leading the charge, was a Hague Convention proponent, and for admirable reasons, but that was only part of its enthusiastic support. NCFA envisioned itself being appointed - or anointed - as the regulating federal authority. Puffed up from over a decade of declaring its tiny clutch of private agencies "the authoritative voice for adoption in the United States" (from its website), NCFA had been positioning itself to make the biggest coup yet: international clout.

The battle between factions was described in an article in The Philadelphia Inquirer on March 7, 1994. Here's an excerpt, beginning with the expressed concern of an adoptive mother who previously had adopted two children from Colombia with just the help of an attorney:
She and others expressed worry about the treaty's requirement that the U.S. government establish a federal authority to regulate and oversee each of the 6,500 annual adoptions of foreign children by Americans.
They're worried about the influence of a Washington lobbyist who represents the National Council for Adoptions, a private association that has been mistaken by at least three nations – Russia, Ethiopia and Poland – for a federal adoption clearinghouse.
Critics contend that the lobbyist, William Pierce, perpetuated that mistaken assumption. Pushed by complaints, the State Department last fall wrote to 50 nations explaining that the National Council for Adoptions was not an official agency and that governments could work with whomever they choose.
"I've been accused of running an adoption mafia, of trying to set up an adoption cartel," Pierce said. "It's absolutely nuts."
Pierce says he never misrepresented his organization, which charges 125 U.S. adoption agencies up to several thousand dollars to join. National Council for Adoptions researches and lobbies on adoption and provides information, for free, to the State Department.
Thankfully, NCFA was neither appointed nor anointed to oversee the Hague Convention protocols and enforcement. However, implementation of the Convention would eventually bite at least one NCFA member agency in the butt, as it had to desist its exportation of U.S.-born Gerber babies to Europe and elsewhere.

More on this in the next post.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Smithlawn Maternity Home: First RICO Lawsuit

Smithlawn has the dubious distinction of being the first adoption agency in the nation to be sued under the federal Racketeering and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act.

In 1980, Smithlawn became a charter member of a fledgling organization formed to defeat the proposed Model State Adoption Act, which would have restored identity rights to adoptees. Then-named National Committee For Adoption (NCFA), representing a handful of private adoption agencies, dedicated itself to protecting alleged "promised confidentiality" of mothers who had surrendered children for adoption. (See Post #3, 'When Rights Came Close to Being Restored')

A little more than a decade later:

The Dallas Morning News
April 21, 1992 (Page 17A)

Couple sue over 2 kids' health; agency declines to comment

By Tracy Everbach
Staff Writer 
In 1988, Debra and Chris Burgess decided to adopt an infant boy and girl from a private Lubbock agency. Both children, the Burgesses say they were told, were healthy and had excellent backgrounds.
     But nearly four years later, the Nacogdoches couple’s children are not in excellent health. In fact, they need constant care.
     Three-year-old Caleb Aaron is mentally retarded and autistic. His sister, 4-year-old Sarah Suzanne, suffers from a brain disorder, a personality disorder and developmental problems.
     Only recently, say the Burgesses, did they learn that Sarah’s mother had serious behavioral problems and used drugs before and during pregnancy. They also discovered that Caleb had been delivered by forceps and vacuum and had undergone severe distress during birth.
     The children are at the center of a $105 million lawsuit that the Burgesses filed against Smithlawn Maternity Center. The couple allege that the agency’s employees lied to them, withheld information and denied them access to medical and other records.
     Smithlawn executive director Howard Hulett, who is named as a defendant in the case, said last week that he could not comment on the suit. He also declined to comment for two other Smithlawn employees named as defendants: Isla Whorton, the coordinator of adoption services, and Frances Phillips, director of maternity services.
     In their suit, the Burgesses allege that Smithlawn and its employees lied and withheld information in a pattern of corrupt actions that the couple contend should be prosecuted under federal racketeering statutes.
     According to their Dallas attorney, Neil Cogan, their claim is the first adoption suit in the country to be filed under those racketeering laws.
“People go to private adoption agencies expecting professionalism,” said Mr. Cogan, a Southern Methodist University law professor. “People think private agencies will be more forthcoming (than state agencies). Unfortunately, in a number of cases, they’ve been disappointed.”
     As little as four years ago, adoptive parents in Texas were not entitled to see their children’s medical, educational, social and other records. A page or two of background information was usually all they received.
     “In many cases, no records were sent,” said Mr. Cogan, who filed a number of lawsuits on behalf of adopting families whose initially healthy children later required medical or psychological treatment.
     But in 1989, the Legislature passed laws requiring the release of specific information to potential adoptive parents. The information includes medical and psychological records and family health and criminal histories.
     “The reform allows folks to look at the records and decide if they can care for the child,” Mr. Cogan said.
     The Burgesses had previously filed a complaint against Smithlawn with the Texas Department of Human Services, which monitors 168 private and state-run facilities involved in child placement.
     Investigator Barbara Clark subsequently determined that Smithlawn had violated several state regulations in dealing with the Burgesses and other families. The agency, she said, “withheld vital information from adoptive parents, failed to provide needed medical treatment for a foster care child, divulged confidential information and pressured birth mothers to place their babies.”
     In Smithlawn’s November 1991 answer to that report. Mr. Hulett said the home admitted no wrongdoing but had made policy changes and would comply with state regulations.

Not until last month, however, did the Burgesses receive complete medical records for Sarah, the couple say. They had received Caleb’s records 10 months earlier. The children’s records revealed their medical history.
     The family’s lawsuit says that it will cost about $250,000 a year to care for the children. Mrs. Burgess now cares for them at home. Her husband, who has worked as a laborer, was injured last year in an automobile accident and also is at home. They recently moved from Memphis, Tenn., to be near relatives who could help them financially and emotionally, Mr. Cogan said.      The couple could not be reached for comment.
     They are receiving some state money to help care for the children, but it’s not nearly enough, Mr. Cogan said. “They live very, very modestly,” he said.
     In their federal lawsuit, the family also sued Lubbock lawyer George Thompson III, contending that he had a conflict of interest when he represented them during the 1988 adoptions. The Burgesses say he failed to tell them that he sat on Smithlawn’s board of directors.
     Mr. Thompson did not return a telephone call to his office.

    • – • – •
Follow up stories:

Story 2


Adoption agency to pay parents over $1 million
Tracy Everbach, Staff Writer of The Dallas Morning News

A couple who sued a Lubbock adoption agency last year, alleging that it failed to disclose the health problems of two infants they adopted, will receive more than $1 million.
   Debra and Chris Burgess of Nacogdoches, Texas,  and their children, Caleb Aaron, 4, and Sarah Suzanne, 5, were awarded the damages in a settlement approved Friday by U.S. District Judge Jorge Solis of Dallas.
   The parents had accused Smithlawn Maternity Center of Lubbock and three officials of lying, withholding information and denying them access to records about their children. The agency and its employees did not admit to any fraudulent acts, but they agreed in the settlement to pay damages for failing to provide medical information to the parents before the adoptions.
      In the lawsuit, the family said that it would cost about $250,000 a (year? - unreadable/blurry on original news clipping photocopy)...Sarah, who suffers from a brain disorder, personality disorder and developmental problems.
      Not until last year -- four years after the 1988 adoptions -- did the Burgesses learn that Sarah's mother had behavioral problems and used drugs before and during the pregnancy. They also discovered that Caleb had been delivered by forceps and vacuum, and had undergone severe distress during birth.
      Under Texas laws passed in 1989, potential adoptive parents must be provided such information as medical, psychological and family health records.
    The parents also sued Lubbock lawyer George Thompson III, maintaining that he had a conflict of interest in representing them during the adoptions because he sat on Smithlawn's board of directors. Under the settlement, he must pay the family $25,000 in damages. Three Smithlawn officials must pay $25,000 each, and the adoption agency must pay $950,000.
• – • – •



Pregnant women's home struggling with changes
Associated Press

LUBBOCK - The face of adoption has changed drastically since Frances Phillips began taking in pregnant South Plains women 36 years ago. In the years since, attitudes, laws and situations have changed, and the struggle to keep pace has meant some problems for Ms. Phillips and her Smithlawn Maternity Home.
   State regulators who put the home on probation for six months say Smithlawn has cleared up most of its problems, but what began in 1960 as an in-home foster program has seen its share of trials since.
     "Everything is in flux," Ms. Phillips said.
   Adoptive parents who recently lost custody of a 2-month-old baby girl to her birth father have sued the home, and it's not the first court battle for Ms. Phillips.
   But Smithlawn's problems aren't unusual and they aren't serious, state child welfare officials say.
     "In general, some [adoption] agencies have had a more difficult time than others in recognizing that there has been a change in our culture, that more and more women are choosing to . . .single-parent their children," said Nanci Gibbons, who oversees facilities such as Smithlawn for the Texas Department of Protective and Regulatory Services. 
     Mrs. Gibbons downplayed a report filed a year ago that said Smithlawn wasn't doing a good job of telling mothers-to-be what alternatives to adoption were available.
     The inspector also was "concerned that birth mothers are continuing to be told they do not have to name the father of the child."
   A Texas Tech student entered the home, and her baby was adopted by a Dallas-Fort Worth couple without the father's consent.
     Last week, Michael Hernandez, 19, won custody of the infant, resulting in a tear-filled courtroom scene in which the adoptive family gave the baby to Mr. Hernandez. The judge ordered Smithlawn to pay all legal fees involved in the case.
    Smithlawn settled the last lawsuit filed against it four years ago, when a Nacogdoches couple said that the home didn't tell them of their two adopted children's medical problems.
     A state investigation then found the home withheld medical information from adoptive parents and actively steered women toward adoption. The investigation resulted in a six-month probation, which Ms. Gibbons said is one step short of license revocation.
   Ms. Phillips said the autism the couple cited doesn't show up until after birth, making their suit groundless.
   Changes in the adoption market also are putting the squeeze on Smithlawn. Ms. Gibbons and Ms. Phillips agree fewer women are choosing adoption, but services offering adoption have increased more than threefold over the past 10 years, from 60 to 200.   
   "It is a business, and there is money to be made," Ms. Gibbons said. Parents who aim advertisements directly at pregnant women to bypass adoption services such as Smithlawn hurt the nonprofit agency as well, Ms. Phillips said.
     A home that once housed 16 mothers and was placing others in private homes now averages about nine mothers at a given time. But the home still plays an important community role, supporters say.
     "Frances told me that about half of the children they place are minority or mixed-race kids," said Bill Pierce of the National Council for Adoption, ". . . if you look at a lot of adoption placement folks, you will perhaps not find a similar kind of picture."

    • – • – •
Serious Ethics Issues

For an allegedly 'Christian' agency, there are issues involved here that are totally incongruous with both Christian ethics and the "sound ethical policies and practices" touted by the organization it helped to form in 1980.
  1. Exerting pressure on mothers-to-be who come to them for help to forgo their own God-given maternal instincts so that others, deemed to be more deserving, could enjoy the blessings of parenthood. It's pretty difficult to picture Jesus approving of this.
  2. Disenfranchising fathers in defiance of laws designed to protect their interests in their own children.
  3. Risking failed adoptions and creating heartbreak for adoptive parents by trying to sneak adoptions through without acquiring legal consent of fathers.
  4. Concealing and/or lying about medical backgrounds in infants it placed.
  5. Permitting an attorney member of its own board of directors to represent a couple filing suit against them.
  6. Bowing to the dog-eat-dog pressures of "the adoption market" that was "putting the squeeze on them" by lowering itself to the least common denominator of professional practice.

How objective could this agency have been in counseling women with problem pregnancies when there was an admitted decrease in the supply of adoptable babies but a more than three-fold increase in adoption brokers competing for them? When a 'live one' walked through their door asking for help, what were her chances of getting impartial advice, including parenting assistance?

I ask you to superimpose this picture over the New Testament of our Holy Bible and tell me how it fits with the teachings of Christ or His Disciples. Is this really what Our Lord taught us?

I think not.

CONTINUED: To read additional accounts of NCFA member agencies conducting unethical practices, click on individual agencies listed on archive column, under the numbered entries.