Growing up in the US, we are told that if you are not able to have children you can simply adopt a baby, but rarely do we really consider the ethical implications behind infant adoption and how these babies came to be within the privatized adoption system. According to the US adoption network, 140,000 child adoptions take place per year in the United States, with about 10,000-20,000 of those adoptions being privatized infant adoptions and 59% of overall adoptions being from the child welfare system (Foster care and CPS). The amount of infant adoptions that take place in countries where privatized infant adoption is legal (The US, China, and Russia) are astronomically higher than the rest of the world, where privatized infant adoption is illegal and children are only adopted out at toddler age and older (this includes international adoptions by US citizens).
It is extremely rare for a woman with the necessary resources to raise a child to willingly give up her infant for adoption, and the vast majority of birth mothers would have kept their children if they had been given the resources and financial support necessary to do so. We tell women that they have options when it comes to childbirth, however we back them into financial corners and do not provide the resources that these women would need to sustain a child. The privatized infant adoption industry not only sets prices on infants up to $100,000 (With white children on the more expensive end of the spectrum) but they also keep the majority portions of the adoption fees which has led to the privatized adoption industry having a $14 billion revenue.
Children who are separated from their parents -especially in infancy- can be affected by this trauma for the rest of their lives, and the same goes for the birth mothers who are often coerced or forced (by CPS) to give up their children. It’s a common misconception that women who give up their children simply don’t want them, and this argument is commonly used to justify the ethics of adoption, especially by adoptive parents. However this is almost never the case, the vast majority of women see adoption as their last resort when they do not have the financial or physical means to take care of a child and do not have abortion as an option, meaning that poor women are far more likely to have to give away their children than someone who possesses the privilege of being able to fully financially and physically support a child. The privatized adoption industry capitalizes off of women not being able to financially support their children and instead of offering them the resources they need to be able to keep their child, they sell their children for tens of thousands of dollars to make a profit.
Women are told that their three choices are: abortion, adoption, or raising the child, and when you do not have the financial, physical, or emotional means to support one, those options are narrowed even further. This is also why abortion is such an important issue, because when we take away that option as well, women are only left with one choice: giving away their child to a stranger.
Parents who are struggling to support their children, be it because of financial struggles, abusive situations, substance abuse issues etc. should be given more resources and the help they need to be able to raise their children in a loving and supportive environment; but instead of being offered support, their children are forcibly taken away from them by CPS for at least one year if they are not able to appeal within 14 days.
Foster care is also often an even worse environment, due to the fact that foster parents are paid for the children they care for, giving them financial incentive to participate in a system that aims to separate children from their parents. If the goal of foster care is reunification and rehabilitation for the parents, why do 59% of adoptions occur from the child welfare system?
An estimated 1 million families in the US are seeking to adopt infants, but where do they expect these infants to come from? The answer has unfortunately been overwhelmingly poor and black mothers. CPS has extreme issues within their system when it comes to targeting families of certain races. Racial disparities exist at every step of the child welfare system and black children make up 36% of the foster care system despite only being 15% of the child population.
One study found that despite similar rates of substance use between Black and white pregnant women, Black women were 10 times more likely to be reported to child welfare authorities for substance use during pregnancy. The child welfare system, like every other system in the US, racially discriminates and because of this black families have become the targets for CPS supervision, removal of their children, and termination of their parental rights.
A disturbing video recently went viral showing a black woman who is identified as “Ms. Sellers” attempting to leave the hospital with her two day old infant before being intercepted by CPS and multiple police officers in August 2021. Ms. Sellers repeats multiple times throughout the video “I am leaving with my baby, you will not take my baby,” disregarding her pleas, the police officer on video violently rips the baby carrier -containing her infant- from her arms while Ms. Sellers screams and struggles to hold onto her child. Ms. Sellers was choked by hospital security, arrested for 2nd degree disorderly conduct, and baby Zepidiah was brought into foster care. You may be wondering what horrible thing Ms. Sellers could have possibly done to have her two day old child literally ripped from her arms- but investigations show no evidence that she neglected or abused her child, instead she was reported by a hospital staff member for wanting to stay with her child at all times, and refused to have him taken to the nursery alone due to covid concerns. The hospital staff that reported her described her as “angry and overactive” and that the baby was “at risk for neglect”. First of all, what is “Risk of neglect”??? There is either neglect or there isn’t, second: Ms. Sellers had just given birth days prior, being over-reactive and overprotective of her child are not reasons to have said child ripped from her arms. Baby Zepiniah is still in foster care as of October 2021, and Ms Sellers has been struggling to retain her parental rights.
Ms. Sellers is only one of many recent examples of stories that have gone viral surrounding CPS targeting black families. However this is a systemic issue that has existed within the child welfare and privatized adoption systems since their founding. Those with the privilege to protect themselves from CPS can, while the marginalized are left to fend from themselves and attempt to escape the moving target placed on their back by the child welfare system. Not only do these families have to protect themselves from CPS themselves, but also their neighbors, doctors, and anyone else they interact with. It only takes one false report for a child to be taken away, and with the racial biases that exist in the US, this is a constant fear for many marginalized families.
Baby Zepiniah sources:
Operation bring Zephaniah home. Operation Bring Zephaniah. (n.d.). Retrieved October 28, 2021, from https://www.operationstopcps.com/Operation-Bring-Zephaniah.
Jennn, B. L. (2021, August 18). Police snatch baby from Black Mother’s hand, after refusing to tell her why. AllHipHop. Retrieved October 28, 2021, from https://allhiphop.com/news/operation-stop-cps-zephaniah-sellers-kidnapping/.
^Documented footage of the event
CPS targeting black and low income families:
Keith, D. (2021, July 27). CPS disproportionately takes custody of black children, report says. FOX 26 Houston. Retrieved October 28, 2021, from https://www.fox26houston.com/news/cps-disproportionately-takes-custody-of-black-children.
Roberts, D., Sangoi, L., Weill-Greenberg, E., Fassler, E., & Moritz-Rabson, D. (n.d.). Black families matter: How the child welfare system punishes poor families of color. The Appeal. Retrieved October 28, 2021, from https://theappeal.org/black-families-matter-how-the-child-welfare-system-punishes-poor-families-of-color-33ad20e2882e/.
Child services targets poor families for biased reasons. Futurity. (2020, December 16). Retrieved October 28, 2021, from https://www.futurity.org/child-protective-services-welfare-parents-poverty-2488042-2/.
Gottlieb, C. (2021, March 17). We must stop separating black families with child welfare. Time. Retrieved October 28, 2021, from https://time.com/5946929/child-welfare-black-families/.
Bland, M. (2020, June 2). Poor parents are held to a different standard when it comes to CPS. Scary Mommy. Retrieved October 28, 2021, from https://www.scarymommy.com/poor-parents-held-to-different-standard-cps/.
July 16, 2019 | E. B., July 11, 2019 | L. D., July 1, 2019 | R. M., June 28, 2019 | P. G., & June 27, 2019 | B. C. (2020, July 10). How child protective services can trap the parents they’re supposed to help. Talk Poverty. Retrieved October 28, 2021, from https://talkpoverty.org/2019/07/16/child-protective-services-trap-parents/.
Ethics of the privatized adoption industry:
Root, T. (2021, June 3). Inside America’s murky private-adoption industry. Time. Retrieved October 28, 2021, from https://time.com/6051811/private-adoption-america/.
White, T. (2020, November 11). Covid-19 has had significant effect on Foster and adoption rates. Verywell Family. Retrieved October 28, 2021, from https://www.verywellfamily.com/covid-19-affects-foster-and-adoption-rates-5086425.
US Adoption Statistics: Adoption Network: Adoption Network. Adoption Network |. (2021, March 10). Retrieved October 28, 2021.
A comparison in adoption – the United States vs. Europe. Musings of a Birthmom: The Honest Ramblings of a First Mother. Retrieved October 28, 2021, from https://musingsofabirthmom.com/2015/04/16/a-comparison-in-adoption-the-united-states-vs-europe/.
“it’s The wild west”: Private domestic infant adoption in 2020. Mathematica. (n.d.). Retrieved October 28, 2021, from https://www.mathematica.org/blogs/its-the-wild-west-private-domestic-infant-adoption-in-2020. The adoption industry and the Adoptee Rights Movement. Commodities Conflict and Cooperation. (n.d.). Retrieved October 28, 2021, from https://sites.evergreen.edu/ccc/carebodies/adoption-industry/.