Why do adoption social workers have a bad reputation?

This weekend I’ve been exposed to some very unpleasant news about why adoption social workers are looked upon as “child stealers.” I’ve always felt pride in being an adoption social worker and an advocate for adoptive parents and their adopted children.

Now, I feel sick to my stomach because of the history of social workers forcing young women to place their child by coercion and threats. The major period they did that was from 1945 to 1972.

There was a lot of fear by parents that their daughters had committed a great sin by getting pregnant. No one blamed the birth fathers. It was the young girls with no access to birth control and little sex education, who were blamed.

There was a huge increase in adoption agencies using maternity homes after World War II. The findings from adopted children and their biological mothers indicate that there is almost always a feeling of loss on both sides.

Gabrielle Glaser in her book “American Baby” January 26, 2021, explained the pros and cons for adoption and how it affects infants and their unwed mothers. It did not surprise me that infants separated from their birth mothers often experience loss and so did the birth mothers.

What I found most interesting was a comment about how the adopted children suffered from anger, several different RAD behaviors, and uncontrolled crying. No one called it RAD, but it probably would be now.

I was really bothered by the way young single pregnant women were treated. Maternity homes were poorly run. The birth mothers were treated like inmates of a prison with strict rules and were never told what would transpire when she gave birth.

The agency social workers used all sorts of coercion tactics to get the birth mothers to sign away their rights to the child. If none of them worked, they would get the birth mothers’ mothers involved to explain how keeping the baby would ruin the whole family’s lives.

As a former adoption agency director, I did everything in my power to have open adoptions where there was good communication between birth mothers and adoptive parents. The adoptive parents were the most difficult to get them to agree to openness.

The sad thing is that even if there were ethical agencies in the United States by the early 2000s, there were still agencies using coercion to force birth mothers to place their infants.

In Utah, there were at least 3 agencies that did just that. They brought the birth mothers to Utah, paid their travel expenses, put them up in hotels – the new maternity homes, and gave them funds to help them once they agreed to place their infants.

The most disgusting thing that always made me angry was that the adoption agencies would charge the adopting families $50,000 for a Caucasian baby, $25,000-$35,000 for a bi-racial baby and $19,000 for an African American baby. It’s called supply and demand. These prices could be more now. There are two of those agencies still in business in Utah.

How many more agencies like these in Utah are still operating in other states? I don’t know, but it makes me concerned that babies are thought of as a commodity, not as individuals and once the birth mother has relinquished her child, she becomes a nobody to the agency.

What I uncovered in my research also gave me insight as to why adoptive parents are not respected by, what I call, the big five group of professionals: teachers, therapists, social workers, police and medical personnel. It’s not pretty!

Adoptive parents have been seen as unreliable parents due to long standing issues of children with RAD. The inability of professionals, who have no knowledge of what childhood trauma before adoption can do, hinders them from being empathetic to parents and families of RAD children.

A statement I heard over 20 years ago after the shootings at Columbine High School in Colorado has stuck with me these many years.  Two reporters were discussing the histories of the two shooters. One of them made the statement that “It’s odd, neither one of the boys was adopted.”

I thought that was a weird statement to make. After learning how long adopted children have had a reputation of being “bad kids,” I can see where it comes from.  These “bad kids” were suffering with undiagnosed Reactive Attachment Disorder!!!”

Learning the real reason for all these cases, is of course, something people in authority don’t have any desire of knowing.  Since the RAD diagnosis was only begun to be used in the late 1980s, most therapists, teachers, social workers, doctors, and police have no real clue. They don’t recognize that the troubled child is a victim of trauma.

I had an undiagnosed RAD child. She was a difficult child. She pushed me every step of the way. She wanted no part of me and considered me just another caregiver.

The people in power tried to intimidate me by telling me I didn’t love her enough or I wasn’t a good parent and should take parenting classes. I knew I was a good parent and wasn’t going to let these power people run my life.

The worst thing I’ve seen over the years is that people in power over other people do have a tendency to enjoy wielding that power. An old statement came to mind, ““Absolute power corrupts absolutely” which is a very true statement first made by John Dalberg-Acton. This quote describes why people in authority don’t always respect the lives of adoptive parents of RAD children and refuse to listen to their issues.

I’m on a crusade to “Open the Eyes” of professionals that use their power to intimidate adoptive parents. I’m in the middle of creating a course that will be directly targeted to the so-called helping professions.

N. Ann Lamphere, MSW, CSW

Here’s a link to my book “My Adoption Life: Living with a Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD) Child. Amazon.com : my adoption life

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