Adopted vs. Abducted: What’s the Difference?

Dawn Davenport


Ethical Issues in US baby Adoption

For people who truly believe in adoption, it’s important that we don’t gloss over the complaints about adoption. We have to accept both the good and the bad.

The Huffington Post headline last week was certainly catching, to say the least: Abducted Versus Adopted: For 1.5 Million of U.S. Adoptees, What’s the Difference? The article by adult adoptee Jennifer Lauck, author of the adoption memoir Found, likened US domestic adoptions to the case of Carlina White, the 23 year old woman who was kidnapped from a hospital in 1987 when she was 19 days old, raised by the woman who abducted her, and recently reunited with her parents.

Children don’t always get an ideal adoption

Ms. Lauck believes her adoption was similar to an abduction.  She writes:  “My mother, seventeen-years-old, was told she had no legal right to keep me. The Catholic agency who facilitated the adoption also told my mother that, with their help, a good family would raise me. The doctor who delivered me told my mother she would not be a good mother and would not allow her to hold or even see me when I was born.”  Ms. Lauck’s adoptive mother was ill and died when she was seven; her adoptive father died when she was nine.  Although she doesn’t describe in the article her subsequent growing up years, they apparently were pretty dismal.

Ms. Lauck doesn’t deserve what happened to her.  She, like every child, deserved to be valued and nurtured by parents who are emotionally, physically, and financially able to care for a child and to love that child unconditionally.  This didn’t happen to her and from this article (I haven’t read her memoir) it appears that she blames adoption.  She may be right.

There is no universal adoption experience

She takes it a step further, however, and that’s where I disagree.  She extrapolates from the tragedy that happened to her, to all adoptions.  If I have learned one thing from the interviews I’ve done over the years with adult and teen adoptees it is that there is no one universal adoption experience.  This makes perfectly good sense to me since there is no one universal human.

For example, the following letter was printed in the Dear Abby column in Dec, 2010:

DEAR ABBY: I would like to say something to my mother, but the truth is I don’t know who my biological mother is. I was adopted when I was a baby. I have looked for her online over the years, but have yet to find her. I have asked myself many times what I’d say to her if I met her. Because I know it may never happen, I’m asking you to print my message:

“Mama, I don’t know the circumstances of my birth, and I don’t really care. All I know is that two loving parents adopted me and helped to shape me into the person I am. Today I am a successful professional with a loving spouse and wonderful children, to whom I try to give the best. I imagine that is what you wanted to do for me. Therefore, I have decided that I don’t really need to find you and say, ‘Thank you. You made a good choice. I am doing fine and I love you.'” — HER THANKFUL SON

Thankful Son’s experience is no more valid than is Ms. Lauck’s.  Each adoptee will experience life and adoption in a different way. It’s the nature of being human. It is also human nature to assume that our experience is universal.  It is not.

Focusing on living

A few years ago, I interviewed a 34 year old woman adopted from Korea as a toddler. She said the following:

I hear of some adult adoptees that are angry that they were adopted.  This is not my experience, but I try to understand where they are coming from.  It’s hard not knowing your own history.  This can create a feeling of always having to prove your self-worth.  Also, not everyone was adopted into a nurturing loving family that was willing to love unconditionally.  I think the angry outcry of these adoptees is a cry for attention and validation.  They get a lot of attention because they vent their hurt publicly.  The reason that the rest of us “contented adoptees” [said with air quotes] don’t get as much attention is that we are busy living our lives.  We’re not focused on the past and playing the blame game.  We’re focused on living.

The importance of acknowledging the negative

Her point about validation is important.  For many years, adoption professionals and adoptive parents minimized the negative experiences of some adoptees and first mothers.  We believe so much that adoption can and should be a positive experience that is it hard to hear that it isn’t always so. It’s also hard to live with the knowledge that our joy is built on someone else’s pain.  Because even when adoption is clearly in the child’s and the first parent’s best interest, it is still painful.

Those of us who care about kids and care about adoption as one option for children have an obligation to hear—really hear—all the experiences, the good and the bad.  We also have an obligation to do all in our power to make sure that expectant woman who are considering an adoption plan know of all their options and are fully supported with counseling when making this decision; that poor families in foreign countries have options other than adoption when struggling financially or emotionally; and that adoptive families are fully screened and educated pre and post adoption.

Ms. Lauck laments that we “have sanctioned adoption as a moral act and have given it legal and even religious support.”  She cries out that she and her mother “are two of hundreds of thousands of separated mothers and children who struggle in near silence to regain dignity, identity and wholeness. There is no justice surrounding our story and even less recognition of the injustice done.”  At the very least, we can hear her cries and recognize that an injustice was indeed done.

Check out my review of Jennifer Lauck’s adoption memoir Found.

Image credit: missmonet

15/02/2011 | by Dawn Davenport | Categories: Adoption, Adoption Blog, Blog | 16 Comments

16 Responses to Adopted vs. Abducted: What’s the Difference?

  1. Avatar Samantha says:

    I’m sorry to the lady Von if it’s going in as reply to you it was ment to be in the comment box.

    Can I also just add I don’t think it’s easier on adopters and must be very upsetting to see young children coming from sever neglect and sadly the wrong child are being targeted at the moment. No child deserves to see any kind of abuse and why parents are given years to get them self sorted out is beyond me. I think by sterilisation if 3 or more children. But there not there’s mothers catching early she had 1 baby after the other with a year apart including children. They used her as a breeding machine, not a human being, another lady we come across on my blog and she explained she had 7! The first her mum had, then years ago the 3 siblings lived with mum also and was in and out of care and that’s no life for a child. They will be in there teens now she said but the other 3 were removed after each birth and not allowed to register the child. She had a drug addiction and think it should never have got that far 7 children 6 adopted the 3 newborn babies wouldn’t have gone to the same family. The scary thing is the separation of siblings and I admire anyone who can take all together. Where they don’t know each other in years to come there’s going to be distruction and devastating effects if 2 siblings don’t know there related and then you have insest and we are all to familiar with that. There are parents and grandparents committing suicide which we raise awareness for. That’s all I’m saying for your own families sake please research if you have to meet the bio parents if that’s what it takes. We’ve supported the American couple even though we’re in uk as little berralynn (hope spelt right) is with her new family and her new brothers and sisters and she’s been there for years. The father decided to come out of jail after everything she’s been through with the skull plate and medical sides etc and demanded her back? That can’t happen the child has been there he knew that she was being adopted the mother consented and can clearly see what he wants and it’s not that poor baby. It would be devastating for her and the family especially her mum and dad she’s know since birth. There’s a big difference between what lines you have to red into, but they clearly love that child very much and was consented like I mentioned. We’re just heart broken and I came across the adoption v abduction and I can see all views. But it is happening now and I’d never want anyone to have to go through what we’re currently going through and I wish you all well and your beautiful children/family. I’m not anti- adoption in anyway, but to be on this side of the fence and I couldn’t not say nothing. Take care all x

    • Tracy Whitney Tracy Whitney says:

      Your story is heartbreaking and I’m sorry for all that you and this child you mention have endured. Your heartbreak is obvious. Thanks for sharing “your side of the fence.”

  2. Avatar Von says:

    Dawn comments: “Most of the points you made are why the vast majority of domestic adoptions in the US are now open. The scenario you describe is from a past era. I appreciate that it still affects many people who placed a child in that time or were adopted in that time, but the adoption community, while not perfect, has tried to learn from past mistakes”
    Large numbers of open adoptions which start of open, close in under two years. That does not seem to reflect an industry that is learning from it’s mistakes.
    The adoption industry has got much cleverer at advertising and making adoption acceptable.Perhaps the energy invested would be better spent in making parenting more possible for mothers so that adoptees are not created.
    Adoption for all adoptees has long term effects, sometimes not known for many decades.You cannot write off the effects of adoption by saying they belong to a past era.There may be eras in adoption, clearly we are at present in the BeeMommie era, but there are very clear effects for mothers and for babies.It doesn’t get better the industry just gets smarter.

    • Avatar Samantha Richards says:

      Parents are not offered any help or support what so ever. This is a very sad story and can see how nothing is mentioned in foster care,only when adopted this has to open the doors to questions to be answered. People are not naive they know what’s going on and either choose to ignore it or thinks hang on something isn’t right. She referred to only the adoption like I said and the abduction. She was obviously to young. This is the part that scares me as I /we have very good reasons to. Please.please read below… Bk from the 1960s mothers were given no option to have there children and nothing has changed that much. I’m sure every parent who’s has had a newborn baby and toddlers are heartbroken. It would help if there was not so many private companies in the USA and uk and actually it international adoption with trafficking children to order. On the fact of future emotional harm in the family courts that doesn’t exist only in the family court. Forced adoption is on very high levels at the moment and the amount of money is involved is a multi billion pound industry. Child sexual abuse,emotional and physical exploitation of a child helpless to defend themselves. The government and local authorities/cos/DCS are waiting at schools and hospitals. I always brought up my children’ with unconditional love and attention and wanted for nothing in life. And because the mum had involvement,they chose to not to tell my son about the pregnancy, the allegations nobody could make them up unless desperate for a child (newborn) we had a call a day before the birth as didn’t know. He was in military training,told him not to attend the hospital as the mother wasn’t cooperating. We rang all night,we still haven’t met that social worker to this day. We finally met her at 3 months old only a hour per week working around the foster parents and the social services 5 different ppl were removed from there position and the baby sustained the first head injury. Then at 4 an 5 months old. Her dad and I wanted to take her to the hospital but wasn’t allowed to take her outside the centre. While the mother put her at risk during her contact,this was reported. They threatened if he left the centre he would be arrested for kidnapping!! We asked why we were told it had been decided she didn’t need medical attention (denying her of it) dad has no criminal record,never drank alcohol or even went near drugs and only started smoking sick with worry as any normal parent. Little did we know the local authorities already had 3 placement/care/section 31 already in place. He wasn’t partied until the 22 week out of 26 weeks time frame. He was never asked what he wanted for his daughter it was locked and loaded and they were getting that order. We used to support adoption as we seen the headache it caused I myself lost my 1 son at birth and buried him 10 days later (in reports it’s saying apparently he was on a protective register?this was impossible we all knew that as passed 17 years previously. The police contacted social services telling them to amend the papers saying apparently I done a 2 year prison sentence and I can assure you I have no reason to lie as we’ve got the evidence,and can’t say a man has a criminal record when he does not. Twice the local authorities were told and never amended any documents. In the reports they have brought 3 families into our case? We had to pay for this to find that in fact the children mentioned were actually looked after children by the local authorities?? I have no reason to write lies only the truth.. in a viability assessment by th SW apparently my son has given birth to 7 children!! In a lac review they keep referring to her as a boy.! Had to be reminded 3 times she’s a girl. We submitted revoking orders and ignored the judge had no jurisdiction to place my granddaughter we’ve since learned. The SW placed her(trafficked her across Britain) and the guardian didn’t know about it and submitted a report saying she was thriving etc and she said 2 weeks previously she was glowing in foster care.!! She then had to admit in the family court that she had only been told that day she was in fact taken to potential adopters 2 months previously Aug 2016. Then this year tried revoking order again and again and again. Was told no hearing December 2016 and to wait until January 2017. Her presents and nursery remains untouched as she never made it home. We supplied everything to the social services never had to even buy a sock. We bought everything, the judge then stamped her for adoption march this year and we filed a appeal and was turned down. We’re grieving for a child that hasn’t past away we lost our jobs etc,paying £7k in legal fees,mum had another baby by another man we tried keeping them together,she was also given seperatly for adoption 4 days after her birth also. We’d often go to see her on the generous hour they gave paying a fourtune in taxis to be told she wasn’t coming. But said in reports we never turned up. Her bangle her dad bought her was removed after 2 weeks in January 2016 apparently it was misplaced. We weren’t offered any advice,any help or trying to keep her with her father/family. Nothing had happened and went on the cause of future harm. Something that social workers/social services use in the family courts and it would never hold if a criminal case? Why as it’s not past I a criminal court as not past/present and nobody can predict the future!! We will never give up over what happened until she is brought home to her dad and family. Like I said we know the heart ache of failures WITH IVF as a family member tried 13 years and nothing. She finally caught and had twins, when they were 8 weeks old they went on holiday and she came home not realising she was pregnant, it’s been called a kangaroo case (of course we wanted to know what this ment) and we were told the case had been rushed. We’ve always supported adoption and that’s the heartbreak of it we know some children do deserve better homes,we know there are a few limited social workers that do a grand job,but it’s been done wrong. If my son was a menace or had a criminal record/drugs habit/alcoholic or drank everyday I would of taken the baby myself. But the fact a innocent mans name have been stamped all over and lies made up rather than fact I can’t stand by while I know what I know I wouldn’t be a mother if I didn’t stand by him, knowing he’s done nothing wrong what kind of a mother does that. Yes my children are older but children are for life . The love is unconditional and a grandparents love is different again. I have seen some horrific stories and thought why would they leave the child in that situation and take the newborn and toddlers separate the siblings which is awful and separation if stuck in the system if older but if a baby or toddlers there adopted. I’ve seen stuff you wouldn’t believe children being injured and murdered,conversations I’d never repeat. But that’s all I’m saying questions needs to be asked and when will it be in the child’s best interests? When will the child’s needs come first. It’s all about money and shouldn’t be. How can unborn babies be ready to order like I’ve seen and We know what is going on. We were told Jan this year that the potential adopters were having anxiety problems as to why it’s being delayed,as you can imagine it set alarm bells ringing. Which didn’t help,even her father hasn’t got anything wrong with him . But they have no medical history for his daughter and should have,it’s imperative to have them. There was no time for this life long story book,he wasn’t allowed skin to skin contact and no doubt she hadn’t got her pictures beside her cot as instructed . We haven’t got newborn pictures,even though we paid for memory sticks etc we never ever had them. When the baby was transferred from mum after birth they said she went to foster care at 3 hours old. We found out this year she was transferred to another hospital kept in 5 days and on her own. When the poor baby girl was murdered we thought it was her same age etc (currently standing trial now) it was horrific and heartbreaking for the parents of the child also they thought she would be safe) we found out accidentally she was taken out of wales in the uk. If alarm bells don’t ring when police knock a adopters door there’s something seriously wrong. We don’t even know if she is happy with this forever loving family,as they referred to the adopters little boy as her brother on 2nd intro which we know the baby was placed that’s not right surely you can see what I’m saying. Don’t be to hasty and don’t believe everything you read I can assure you if the poor adopters are reading what we her dad and me was made to listen to they will be thinking the worst as we know we would be doing the same. But we were lucky to have a half hour meeting with the SW altogether and even shorter with guardian.done the assessment in a car park on the mother in a super market car park for goodness sake. I know this will be deleted,and why because someone has taken 2 hours to write the truth? People need to think if it was your child/grandchild would you just walk away.? My husband was adopted in 1960s his adopted mum beat him while the dad doted on him. He needed answers I tried locating her but sadly died: months before when we found her. Dad we only know is from Ireland. My son isn’t on his daughters birthday certificate and questions are being asked. As why we’re social services so determined to keep him off and why denying him the files? We’ve paid for them well before adoption and still had PR. Not that it ment much as he was outed out before he met his beautiful girl. You imagine that, you imagine your children being outed,it’s something you can’t believe and no parent would do that to a child. We pray every night she’s safe,we pray she’s with good people,we also pray for all involved whose done this terrible thing especially to a child and they will answer to god for the crimes they have committed. We pray this nightmare will end for everyone involved it’s not fair and this heartache will never be able to mend the broken hearts we’ve carried for 23 months from where she was hidden for the first 3 months of her life while they got the main 3 court orders in place. I’m so very sorry if anyone is upset by me writing this but I feel you should no please please try to find out as much as you can,these are precious children not property like there being treated not one day or night goes by where we don’t cry we haven’t slept in our bedroom in 23 months and each time we get a knock on the door we fear the worst.many parents are gagged by gagging orders. They tried doing it to my son,my son is the kindest of young men had a good career ahead of him and he was made to make a choice and he choose his daughter as army wasn’t suitable (was in military training as I’ve said) he’s a broken man, he doesn’t plan on having anymore children,he only wants his little girl. So many lies told, like I said you couldn’t make this up if you tried and we’re not even sure if she is with adopters do they know? Properly not as there not the honest of people especially banardoes who are council boroughs and changed part of the company’s name after they have been linked to abduction please do check all I’m telling you another company is offering over 900 tests but will be extra to make sure that adopters have a healthy child. The more you look and search the more scary it comes what lengths these authorities are will to go to with the amount of money involved. We have stayed focused but I dare to think if we would have let this put us in a position where ppl crack it’s scary to think how far these ppl are pushing parents. Often sections 20s are used but without either parent signing it.

  3. Avatar Elaine Makiej says:

    Every blog or article I read that is anti-adoption always is talking about infant adoption. Of course it is freakin’ sad when a woman feels she needs to give up a wanted child.

    The folks who are anti adoption don’t speak to my children’s situation. Older, removed from the home for severve neglect. Parents given YEARS to get their collective act together and that adoption was the last resort by their home country to give them a better chance at life. Their story is similar to many kids in the US who are adopted from US foster care.

    I have told my adopted children that when they are grown (this would be like 9 years from now for my youngest.) If they want to search for bio family, I will help them. The oldest wants to know why/how the parents didn’t try to get them back, my middle child says she isn’t interested because she is too mad at what happened to them as kids, and the youngest is only mildly interested if the search would result in seeing baby pictures of himself. I have to say I’m with my youngest, I too would like to get baby pictures of my children. My husband at this point is of the same mind as our daughter.

  4. Avatar Von says:

    It discussions about adoption with examples being given of happy and unhappy adoptees, ‘successful’ adoptions and other full of pain and suffering it is often forgotten that it may take many decades for the loss and pain of adoption to surface.Those who claim their adoption to be wonderful do not know how they will view it in five decades from now.The American adoption industry ensures that all view adoption as wonderful and reality eventually sets in.

  5. Avatar Deb Guinn Donatti says:

    And I would add some children are more receptive to the adoptive parents (even those honoring their differences) than others.
    Good luck trying to predict which way any given adoptee will be, and no adopting an infant is no guarantee that they will feel they belong (because of course they are too small to remember anything else.)

  6. Avatar Kristina Grish says:

    all great points, dawn. thanks for this. and truly – to compare her experience to that of 1.5 million adoptees? that’s a lot to assume and frankly, project. what’s more, she’s also assuming the abducted woman – stolen by a criminal with multiple aliases and an arrest record, who raised her in a pretty dangerous area at the time – had a similar upbringing to hers. i’m not so sure this poor abducted woman would appreciate so many”known” comparisons!

  7. Avatar Sandy says:

    Malinda’s statement “What I found interesting in her comparison was the other point she made — that the kidnapped Carlina White always felt that she didn’t belong in her new family, and that, as an adoptee, Lauck didn’t feel like she belonged in her adoptive family.”

    I agree, that is the only part that in my opinion is what the title of the article was about. It is the only place in the story where she references adoption or abduction and the similar feelings. The rest was simply her story and how she feels.

    It wasn’t about anyone else. It wasn’t about foster care adoptions, it wasn’t about anyone elses stories, hers and hers alone.

    We have to remove our bias before we can really read/hear someone else.

    Also, trying to compare an adoptees feelings to a bio child’s feelings leaves out a very important point. The bio child is not adopted. Apples and oranges…

  8. Avatar Mike Recant says:

    Adoption is what it is.

    By it’s very definition, adoption is born from a tragic situation (probably with no two situation being identical). No action, from that point on, can repair the tragedy. Adoption is simply a way of coping with the pain and hopefully providing the best possible path for the child and birth-parents. Whether it achieves that lofty goal or not, I am not wise enough to pass judgement.

    As an adoptive parent I can never “fix” my daughter’s abandonment (a pain that I will carry to my grave). The reality is that our relationship started with the adoption. We never knew her birth parents and know little about her life in the Chinese orphanage. So I do what I can to love her and give her the best possible and happiest life. Whether that is right or wrong I don’t know …. it just is what it is.

  9. Avatar malinda says:

    What I found interesting in her comparison was the other point she made — that the kidnapped Carlina White always felt that she didn’t belong in her new family, and that, as an adoptee, Lauck didn’t feel like she belonged in her adoptive family.

    What did you make of that point? I’ve certainly heard that from many adoptees (though one can say that bio kids sometimes don’t feel they belong in their bio families.) And, that 19-day-old Carlina would have felt the trauma of being removed from everything familiar to her, but so would a 19-day-old adoptee.

  10. Avatar Shannon says:

    Sorry, I shouldn’t have said Moses’ situation was clearly an abduction – what I meant to say that clearly the birthmom had very few CHOICES and so an “abduction-like” situation was what she went with.

  11. Avatar Tammy says:

    I am not so naive as to think that all adoptions are pure and ethical. It seems like we constantly hear of agencies and professionals who do more “pressuring” rather than “supporting”. And I have no doubt that, especially when birth parents are young and naive, some would have chosen a different path had they felt that option was available to them. But I bristle every time I hear people compare legitimate adoptions to kidnapping. I don’t believe that the majority of adoptions are coercive or underhanded and to imply that they are does a disservice to all involved.

    It does a disservice, obviously, to our children. What kind of legacy does that leave them if we describe the adoption process as being dishonest and dirty? What does that mean for their legitimacy in their family? Considering how much energy is sometimes spent on proving their “realness” in a family, to confuse a choice made by parents with those who do criminal activities will further put adoption back in the closet.

    It also obviously does a disservice to us adoptive parents. I think this one is obvious.

    Finally, it does a horrible disservice to the women and men who did make the devastating choice to have their child adopted and raised by another family. Make no mistake about it, my son’s birth family grieves for him every day. But they couldn’t give him what he needed and they, somehow, had the strength to understand that. I know for a fact my son’s birth mother feels extreme shame about knowing that she wasn’t a “good enough” mother to parent her child. It’s not exactly something that one shares with too many people.

    Instead of making adoption sound like some dirty, underhanded lie, we need to focus more on supporting all people involved. I do not discount this author or other people’s very real and very painful realities. But the fact of the matter is that adoptions will continue because the social circumstances which lead to adoptions will continue. Instead of trying to push it back underground, we need to focus more on what we can change.

  12. Avatar Jo says:

    The story of Moses’ adoption is often used as a comfort blanket for those who see a parallel to today’s adoption. In truth, however, there is no resemblance whatsoever between the two. If Moses were ‘adopted’ as most adult adoptees in the U.S. have experienced it:
    1) His sister would not have been allowed to see who rescued him out of the water.
    2) His mother wouldn’t have been summoned to nurse him and care for him.
    3) His name would have been totally changed – perhaps his date and place of birth, too.
    4) He would not have known of his Hebrew heritage.
    5) His birth record would have been sealed in Egypt and he wouldn’t have been able to seek out his Hebrew people.
    6) He would not have been able to fulfill God’s mission to lead His people to the Promised Land.

    The treatment of past generations of adoptees with regard to their birth identities is as much of an abomination as any listed in the Old Testament.

  13. Avatar Shannon says:

    I can’t help but think of Moses and his birthmom. Clearly his story is a situation of abduction (but the alternative was hardly more desireable). Moses and his birthmom seemed to make the best of a rotten situation. One could read into his story a lot of psychological angst, which I absolutely agree was there due to the unjust society and bizarre circumstance he ended up in. BUT the cool thing is that God, despite Moses acting out his anger in inappropriate ways at times, etc. USED him and had a plan and purpose for his life all along. I’m not saying we don’t fight against corruption where it exists (I’m very pro-Hague as much as it slows things down and makes them all the more complicated in the Int’l adoption world) but I do wonder if more healing could come to kids/adults who were adopted and feel gipped if they took a step back to look at the big picture/beyond themselves. On a side note, when I recently heard about the whole Mormon “sealing” deal and thus one reason why LDSers are SO big into single moms making adoption plans, it did creap me out a bit. I’ve now read a number of blogs of Mormon birthmoms who feel the pressure to not parent their child so they can find a family the child can be “sealed to” for all eternity. I’ve not known about this theology/practice for long but it sure is interesting to see how HUGE it seems to be, with perhaps very few people fighting it?!? I’m so glad, as an evangelical Christian, I could say to ANY birthmom that I believe her child has an equally valid shot at CHOOSING HIM/HERSELF for salvation or not and a magnificent inheritance in heaven that has NOTHING TO DO WITH any poor decisions she (the birthmom) may have made. Allelujah! Okay, enough of my ramble. Great post, as usual, Dawn!

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