Rewarding States for Adoptions Part of the Problem, Rather Than a Solution

“Fear and outrage” reportedly permeated the stories heard by the Iowa Commission on Native American Affairs during a recent two-day meeting held at Four Directions Community Center in Sioux City.

The Committee included attorneys, Indian Child Welfare Act specialists from the Ponca and Santee nations, as well as representatives of the Governor, Siouxland Human Investment Partnership, and the Native American Unit of Iowa’s Human Services Department, the Huffington Post reports.

“If you’re having problems, they’ll take your kids anytime they want,” said Robert Wabasha, of the Santee Sioux Nation, whose granddaughter and grandniece both died after being adopted out of his family. His granddaughter died at the hands of her adoptive father while a baby, and his grandniece recently drowned at the age of five.

Read that again so that it all sinks in.

They are among countless children who have been rescued to their deaths by the authorities entrusted with their protection.

Even as the federal government doles out financial bounties rewarding the states for permanently destroying natural families, and adopting out their children, the evidence continues to mount that this is little more that another phony solution to the seemingly-intractable problem of too many children being removed from their rightful homes.

In commenting on the Sixties Scoop in Canada – during which “thousands of Aboriginal children were removed from birth families and placed in non-Aboriginal environments” – Raven Sinclair explains that the literature indicates adoption breakdown rates in the range of 85-95%.

Quite clearly adoption can be every bit as deadly as foster care. Indeed, Kansas lawmakers introduced legislation in 2003 aimed at opening the records of children who die while in state custody. That followed on the heels of the death of Brian Edgar, a 9-year-old boy who “suffocated after his adoptive parents bound him head to toe with duct tape and stuffed a sock in his mouth,” the Journal-World reports.

Then there was Anthony Bars, who died of child neglect in Indianapolis. “Authorities said the boy was deprived of food and had suffered head injuries and a broken collarbone,” TheIndyChannel.com reported.

His caseworker, Denise Moore, had arranged the adoption and falsified her reports, claiming that she’d conducted background checks on the prospective adoptive parents. Had she actually done so, she would surely have noticed the three substantiated abuse complaints against the couple.

In a September 3, 2003, posting on his web site, Cook County, Illinois, Public Guardian Patrick Murphy wrote:

    Four children’s cases were closed through adoption. Everyone believed this was another success story. However, the children were taken back into custody by the state. It was determined that the adoptive/foster parent began using corporal punishment on the children after the adoption was finalized. She beat the children with belts over their bodies and kicked one of the children in the face. That child received a busted lip, countless bruises on her face, and a shoe print on her right cheek. The case went to trial and abuse findings were made. The agency is seeking to reunify the children with their adoptive mother. The children do not want to return to her care. DCFS officials say that if the children go back to their adoptive mother the foster parent will begin to receive adoption subsidy payments for the children. Does it make sense for the state to pay a known child abuser to care for the children she abused?

Of more recent vintage is the case of two adoptive parents “arrested after their 9-year-old son spent a month in Doernbecher Children’s Hospital for multiple fractures and an untreated burn that physicians said were the result of abuse.”

Rodger and Alona Hartwig are being held in jail on charges of assault and criminal mistreatment. “The Hartwigs were the boy’s foster parents before they adopted him and two siblings five years ago,” The Oregonian reports.

“The Department of Human Services’ Critical Incident Response Team will evaluate the Hartwigs’ case. The team reviews serious injuries and deaths of children who have had some association with the state’s child welfare system,” the paper explains.

I have never been one to judge either a book or an individual by its cover, but dare I say that in this particular case it is glaringly obvious that what “went wrong” with this adoption is that children were handed over to two pieces of human garbage?

Someone please let me know when the “Critical Incident Response Team” figures that one out.

In another case of recent vintage, the Oklahoma County District Attorney’s office filed child abuse, neglect and enabling abuse charges against Alibra Nichols and Donald Miller. Nichols was the adoptive mother of 3-year-old Larandon Nichols and Miller is the woman’s boyfriend, News On 6 of Tulsa reports.

“The boy was found dead in a northwest Oklahoma City apartment July 11. Police reports noted multiple bruises, open wounds and burns on Larandon’s body. He also had a large knot on the back of his head with some sort of fluid coming out,” the report explains.

There they are – Donald Miller and Alibra Nichols. Don’t they make for a lovely couple? Aren’t they just the kind of people that you’d want to hand children over to for adoption?

By no means am I suggesting that all adoptive parents are child abusers or killers. Some of them are only greedy. “Adoptive parents accused of stealing inheritance,” blares a recent story in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Prosecutors said that a couple had taken $1.4 million from the orphaned children that they had adopted to support their “lavish lifestyle.”

From New York: “Scamming parents of disabled foster kids pocketed more than $200,000 in taxpayer aid — even though their children had long since died,” the New York Post reports.

“The ghoulish windfall claimed by the parents of two dozen dead kids was uncovered during an audit by state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli into the state’s $494 million-a-year adoption-subsidy program,” the article explains.

According to the audit report, released in August 2010, one family collected payments until December 2007 to the tune of $32,550 even though their adopted child had died in March 2006.

Another family had a child who died in January 2006, however the state continued to dole out $24,809 in adoption subsidies.

The auditors also identified a household that received $33,360 due to an error that incorrectly listed an adopted child’s year of birth.

The audit “found $214,593 in payments that appear to be inappropriate and may be recoverable. Of this amount, $180,783 was paid to provide support for 25 children who are reported as being deceased per various government records.”

The ghoulish mentality of the people who would continue to collect checks for adopted children that are no longer among the living astounds even me – and, I thought I’d heard everything.

How can such things happen? Foster parents and adoptive parents are held to far lower standards than are biological parents, who frequently find themselves targeted for the removal of their children on the most trivial of grounds. And that is a major part of what is wrong with the adoption industry.

Another part of the problem are the ludicrous case records, according to Pia Menon, formerly an attorney with the Illinois Public Guardian’s Office.

“I know for a fact why adoptions fail,” she says. “It is because of lousy record keeping and useless evaluations of children. You can’t give a caregiver a good assessment of what’s wrong with a child without a good case history. People adopt children assuming everything is OK, and then the problems start coming out and they can’t deal with them.”

Another part of the problem is that even when the adoption agencies do have background information, they often refuse to pass it on to prospective adoptive parents.

Invariably, child welfare agencies and their service providers raise public policy concerns in their defense against claims of fraudulent concealment and fraud in adoption cases. In M. H. v. Caritas Family Services, service providers Lutheran Social Services of Minnesota, Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, and Children’s Home Society of Minnesota joined the defendant as amicus curiae, arguing that the deliberate withholding of information about an adoptive child’s background makes for sound public policy. In Roe v. Catholic Charities, the defendants argued that disclosure of the requested information to the adoptive parents would have violated public policy evidenced by Illinois statutes. In Meracle v. Children’s Service Society, the defense argued that public policy precluded an action against an adoption agency for negligent misrepresentation. Similar arguments were raised in Michael J. v. Los Angeles County and in Mohr v. Commonwealth, a Massachusetts case in which Special Assistant Attorney General Owen Gallagher advanced the argument on behalf of the Commonwealth, and John T. Landry, III, Special Assistant Attorney General, argued the case on behalf of the social worker who was charged with misrepresentation and fraudulent concealment.

It is doubtful that the adoption industry can be completely purged of its deep-rooted corruption, and this is particularly so when you find an Attorney General and his Special Assistant arguing that misrepresentation and fraudulent concealment make for sound public policy.

This was so even before Richard Gelles dreamed up the Adoption and Safe Families Act – that most insidious piece of federal legislation that rewards states financially for ravaging natural families and adopting their children into ostensibly “better” homes.

In the final analysis, it all boils down to the perverse financial incentives that fuel the child removal and adoption industries. They have created and continue to perpetuate what Seth Farber, Ph.D., has branded as “a kidnapping racket run by a gang of greedy politicians, social workers, and other white collar criminals oblivious to the anguish of the children whose lives they destroy.”


Pia Menon’s comments from Disposable Children: America’s Child Welfare System, by Renny Golden.

Farber’s observations are to be found on the rear jacket of The Politicization of Foster Care in New York City, by Trevor Grant.