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Psychology of Adoption, Quotes

The psychology of adoption is complex and interesting. Mothers and fathers who are considering relinquishing their infant son or daughter for adoption should take special note. Those who develop public policy should as well.

Maternal Instinct – Noun 1. maternal-infant bonding – the attachment that forms between an infant and its mother beginning at birth; “maternal-infant bonding influences the child’s psychological and physical development”

“Adoption is an aberration'” quoted from Linda Cannon Burgess, adoption social worker,1992

Adoption – Voluntary relinquishment?

“…How many child relinquishments have resulted from something other than a conscious, voluntary decision? The answer is deeply disturbing. For by delving extensively into the matter, it is possible to compile a sustantial body of evidence identifying the troubling influence traditionally exerted upon child relinquishments by such forces as punishment, coercion, shamings, biased counseling, legal disenfranchisement of parents from their offspring, and numerous other forms of manipulations and pressure. As the available data is assembled, one very unpleasant conclusion eventually stands out: that the reigning myth of American adoption has been that of the voluntary relinquishment of children by their [natural] parents for placement in new families.” p.41-42 Adoption in America:Coming of Age, Hal Aigner (Paradigm Press,1992)Larkspur,California

A baby won’t know the difference?

What psychologists should make generally known:

Just how at ease is the new baby who goes to live with strangers in an adoptive home?

“Day-to-day life with a new child, who is scared and perhaps angry or rejecting (and who has apparently lost the ability to sleep at night), can make even the most self-confident parent lose that perky edge.” – From “Dealing with post-adoption depression,” by Jean MacLeod , Adoptive Families Magazine

And what about the feelings of the adopted child (or adult) later?


Psychologists and adoptee insights:

“For adoptive couples, adoption is wonderful. For the natural mothers and families of adoptees, adoptees themselves and their progeny, adoption is profoundly painful. …

“No matter how much they want and can love a child, most adopters are blind to the child’s pain of separation. This does not make for good parents. Think, for a moment, how you would feel if you were expected to join in the “celebration” as everyone dances on your mother’s grave.” Julie A. Rist, adoptee – “Is the U.S. Promoting Pain?”

Adopted children “feel they were unwanted and unloved by their natural mothers” – Prof. Rachel Levy-Shiff

Many adopted children experience “emotional problems, including fear of close relationships, negative ways to be in control, low self-esteem, anger, and immaturity that produce behavior problems, including lying, oppositional behavior, school underacheivement and quick temper. These problems often do not respond to rewarding, punishing, and consequences, producing much frustration in parents and teachers.” Dr. Michael Katz, profile in Psychology Today.

“the ego of the adopted child, in addition to all the demands made upon it, is called upon to compensate for the wound left by the loss of the biological mother.” Clothier,F. MD. 1943 Psychology of the Adopted Child

“the child who is placed with adoptive parents at or soon after birth misses the mutual and deeply satisfying mother and child relationship, the roots of which lie deep in the area of personality where the psychological and physiological are merged. Both for the child and the natural mother, that period is part of the biological sequence, and it is doubted whether the relationship of the child to its post partum mother, in its subtler effects, can be replaced by even the best of substitute mothers. But those subtle effects lie so deeply buried in the personality that, in the light of our present knowledge, we cannot evaluate them.” Clothier,F. MD. 1943 Psychology of the Adopted Child

What about the fitness of the adopters to raise a child (“parent” a child)?


“Adoptive parents are deprived people. Almost all of them have experienced the pain of infertility or inability to bear a live child. They have gone through much disappointment, waiting and uncertainty, all experiences which tend to reduce people’s confidence and self_esteem. When they first acquire a baby their natural instinct is to salve their wounded feelings by denying any difference between the two kinds of parenthood, yet they also have to live with the fear of losing the child up till the time of legal adoption.” – PARENTS, CHILDREN AND ADOPTION, 1966, Jane Rowe

[Adoption] breaks the ties between generations; and there is no guarantee that some stranger can and will love your child as much as you will. – DUBIOUS CONCEPTIONS, The Politics of Teenage Pregnancy, (1996) Kristin Luker

“The adoptive parents have regained faith in themselves as citizens by restoring social respectability, psychological ‘unwantedness’ and legal protection to the otherwise unwanted and outcast child…” – PROFILE OF UNWED PREGNANCY TODAY, Private Agency Point of View, Lillian Bye, Executive Director, Crittenton Hastings House, Boston, Massachusetts to the National Conference On Social Welfare, San Francisco, California, 1959

For older adopted children “There is often a big gap between parents’ high expectations of their adopted child and the problematic reality,” Prof. Rachel Levy-Shiff.

“I hear this [from adopters] all the time. ‘We’re the real parents…’

Do you know what adoptive parents really mean by that? What they really mean is, “We’re not real parents, and if our child searches for and finds her [ ]parents, she will abandon us and we will be what we were before we adopted: childless.”

People who have to assert who they really are don’t know who they really are. ” Adoptive Parents: Fables, Facts, Fears by L. Anne Babb, Ph.D.

The childless become pathologically obsessed with obtaining babies. A few even personally murder a pregnant woman to get a baby. Yet society validates the infertile woman’s delusional grief for a phantom baby, a dream.

Regarding fathers and their responsibility

“..should we expose the natural father to where he under all circumstances would have to face his responsibilities towards his child, acknowledging the fact that all children have a father and that we do not have to give some children a father through the artificial process of adoption?” PROFILE OF UNWED PREGNANCY TODAY, Private Agency Point of View, Lillian Bye, Executive Director, Crittenton Hastings House, Boston, Massachusetts to the National Conference On Social Welfare, San Francisco, California, 1959

What about the mother’s or father’s right to make decisions for the good of their own child?

“Yet parents are sometimes denied the opportunity to make this decision. We social workers sometimes stress the advantage of placement, hoping that we can keep the parent satisfied with an arrangement he does not understand and which is not really his. It is beside the point to say that such placements are doomed to failure.”

“To assume that we know best is to take liberties with the complicated relationships between children and parents. This not only denies parental rights but is contrary to the agency’s duty to provide services that parents are free to utilize or reject so long as their legal authority concerning their children remains intact.”

“If I labor the point that children’s agencies do not have the authority or function to control the lives of children whose parents voluntarily bring their troubles to an agency, it is because of the widespread misconception in this area. Furthermore, if we are clear on the rights of parents who retain full authority over their children, I think we can see more clearly the rights of parents and the responsibility of agencies when a court steps in to alter the natural status of parents and children.”

“There is no justification for generalities that the child needs love and affection and we will place him where he can get it, or that any home is better for him than his own. Except in the rarest cases of physical danger we might go so far as to say that no home is any better than his own unless he is able to use it. It is our responsibility to help him use it. We have sometimes leaned on sentimental platitudes and indulged in wishful thinking about children’s need for emotional security. Scientific knowledge has stripped us of this kind of justification. We know what separation means to children; that it is akin to death and carries with it anger, disillusionment, despair, and a deep sense of ‘badness.’”

“… we reaffirm the right of parents to make decisions in behalf of their children as long as they retain their legal rights.” – UPHOLD RIGHTS OF PARENT AND CHILD, Inez M. Baker, (Parish Supervisor, Children’s Division, Orleans Parish Department of Public Welfare, Louisiana, Condensed from paper given at Louisiana, State Conference of Social Welfare, Baton, Rouge, March 1948) The Child, Vol. 13, No. 2, August 1948

“We were mislead, uninformed and certainly taken advantage of. It is inhumane to think we were not informed of the basic options, nor given anything in writing!” – a Natural Mother.

A Mother from the 1960’s era baby scoop:

“It didn’t matter whether signed the relinquishment papers, we were going to lose our children, one way or another. We were a targeted population. If we didn’t sign our babies would still have been taken, involuntarily, thru court termination – and possibly with criminal penalites for us. If we did sign, they would be taken. Same result, different legal processes.”

“The reason I mention the ‘signing’ so much is because I meet so many mothers who feel guilty for signing and they think if they didn’t sign they could have kept their children.”

“The truth is, it didn’t matter whether we signed. In some ways it was like rape. you could fight, but the man would probably overpower you, and he could easily threaten you. If you stopped fighting him, you weren’t ‘giving in” or “going along with it”. You were being raped. The legal defintion of rape includes threats of harm and force. Only the threat has to exist, for it to be considered “non-consensual sex” or “rape’.”

Is the real issue the “unwed” mothers, hatred of single parents and their “bastards” or the market for babies?

“The bastard, like the prostitute, thief, and beggar, belongs to that motley crew of disreputable social types which society has generally resented, always endured. He is a living symbol of social irregularity, an undeniable evidence of contramoral forces…” – quote from The American Journal of Sociology, article by Kingsley Davis, 1939

“Because there are many more married couples wanting to adopt newborn white babies than there are babies, it may almost be said that they rather than out of wedlock babies are a social problem. (Sometimes social workers in adoption agencies have facetiously suggested setting up social provisions for more ‘babybreeding’.)” SOCIAL WORK AND SOCIAL PROBLEMS, National Association of Social Workers, (Out-of-print) copyright 1964

“… the tendency growing out of the demand for babies is to regard unmarried mothers as breeding machines…(by people intent) upon securing babies for quick adoptions.” – Leontine Young, “Is Money Our trouble?” (paper presented at the National Conference of Social Workers,
Cleveland, 1953)

“When the environment gives support and reassurance, a new mother is most often able to relax and interact pleasurably with her infant, feel less lonely, and gain perspective on her situation. Often a person in the midst of a crisis, overwhelmed by the stresses, cannot see the process of it or its meaning.” – Psychological and Emotional Problems of Pregnancy In Adolescence, THE TEENAGE PREGNANT GIRL, Jack Zackler, M.D. and Wayne Brandstadt, M.D.(1975)

Adoption Counselors Training

The following quote shows how moms are coerced to hand over their own sons and daughters for use in adoption:


“Counselors must be trained to give women sound reasons that will counter the desire to keep their babies. One example is to reinforce the notion that it takes a strong, mature woman to place a child for adoption. Honestly addressing the issue of financial survival can be compelling as well. Counselors must communicate that adoption can be an heroic, responsible choice and that the child benefits tremendously …” – From The Missing Piece: Adoption Counseling In Pregnancy Resource Centers by Curtis J. Young. Family Research Council (2000).

Adoption as “illegal plunder” or “legalized kidnapping”

Adoption services get babies for infertile and gay people to adopt, and may transfer children from one culture to another to wipe out a culture.

“The war against illegal plunder has been fought since the beginning of the world. But how is… legal plunder to be identified? Quite simply. See if the law takes from some persons what belongs to them, and gives it to other persons to whom it does not belong. See if the law benefits one citizen at the expense of another by doing what the citizen himself cannot do without committing a crime. Then abolish this law without delay ……. If such a law is not abolished immediately it will spread, multiply and develop into a system.” – Frederic Bastiat, French author of “The Law” (1848)

In Reunion – Will the guarantee of a “forever family” made by social workers to the adopters hold up?

“Many times since our reunion, my son’s a-mom has told him ‘I am your ONLY mother!’. She even told him that he was forbidden to love or regard us, his natural relatives, as family. Because this is what she paid for, a child of her own, not a child to ‘share’. The ironic thing is that my son, 3yrs later, now considers me to be his only mother, having been advised by the police 2 yrs ago to escape that household due to the level of abuse there… we’re now living together. this proves that the ‘lifetime guarantee’of the broker is total false advertising!” – A Naural Mother

“I like to use the word “repatriation” rather than “reunion” to describe the return to my family. Repatriation is to restore or return to the country of origin, allegiance, or citizenship – like prisoners of war going back to their country. Few in our society comprehend what it’s like to experience and survive something like war and few in society comprehend what it’s like being separated from family to be used for adoption.” – An Adoptee

Is there really an “adoption triad” comprised of natural family, adoptive family and adopted child?

“… social work has normally conceived of adoption as a
decontextualized triangle, composed of adopters, adoptees, and relinquishing parents. … Triangularization removes a range of institutions and actors… from the primary picture of adoption, encouraging the misrecognition of adoptions as a private consensualtransaction between, and in the interests of, members of the triangle. Important dimensions of the social location and function of adoption are thereby denied or blended out of analysis.” – Tim O’Shaughnessy, ” Adoption, Social Work and Social Theory: Making the Connections” (p.21).

What about all the secrecy in adoption and lack of interest in mothers whose children have been adopted-out?


“A cloak of secrecy usually surrounds the unwed mother and, therefore, little is known about her… the agencies which work with unwed mothers have too long operated behind closed doors. Concern can grown only where there is knowledge.” Mothers Out Of Wedlock, Bill Pinson – CRISES IN MORALITY, Edited by C.W. Scudder, 1964

“The woman pregnant out of wedlock suffers despair and loneliness. A feeling of helplessness, coupled with that of severe guilt, sometimes leads to suicide. Denial and a desire for concealment are frequent first reactions; this is dangerous because a lack of proper care may be the consequence.” Mothers Out Of Wedlock, Bill Pinson – CRISES IN MORALITY, Edited by C.W. Scudder, 1964

Quotes by psychologists, sociologists, social workers and professionals are one thing – what do natural mothers have to say?

“Everytime I speak up about our loss as mothers and adoptees, someone starts talking about adopted person’s right to medical information, as if that is the only loss that exists in adoption. I feel like I am being cannibalized and used for bone marrow, kidneys, … At first, I was “only good enough” to be used to provide a baby for infertiles. Now I am “only good enough” to provide medical information. Our humanity as mothers still goes unnoticed…..” – A Natural Mother

“It was inhumane and unethical to subject anyone – most especially the vulnerable minor – to this such trauma. But to ensure she was silenced and abandoned her whole life was to ensure her dehumanization was permanent.” – A Natural Mother

“I have come across articles by nurses who arrogantly think if they just ‘counsel’ the mothers right in the hospital we’ll go away whistling and dancing happily.” – A Natural Mother

“So, we’re incredibly strong to not only continue to live through this but to fully face it and feel it. But what a crappy way to waste one’s precious life!” – A Natural Mother

“Remember the days when we were young and people would say to us, “Don’t do something to ruin your life?” I finally understand what ruining a life means.” from “One Woman’s Reflections” by MW, moderator of Empty Arms Support Group

“Moms [whose children were adopted-out] are portrayed most of the time as sad and tainted and never the same. Society acknowledges their horrendous suffering, but likes it. It’s a source of amusement to them, like there is some sadistic flaw in the human psyche. It’s disheartening that it continues. It’s so uncivilized and primitive, some throwback feeling from times long past.” – A Natural Mother

“Adoption is a window through which we see all types of injustice… I empathised with the plight of indigenous people here without realizing for a long time that my issues were similiar…. Yes its difficult to heal. But to heal in a climate where there is no validation and where there is continuation of the very thing which causes one’s suffering is even harder. I venture up the mountain and go for walks with my dog which keeps my sanity.” – A Natural Mom in Australia

The breakdown of “family” leading to the belief that unrelated persons who purchase a child (or the raw materials to make one) are more “family” than related persons are.

From the book “1984” by George Orwell: “Already we are breaking down the habits of thought that have survived from before the Revolution. We have cut the links between child and parent, and between man and man, and between man and woman. No one dares trust a wife or a child or a friend any longer. But in the future there will be no wives and no friends. Children will be taken from their mothers at birth, as one takes eggs from a hen.”

Intercountry Adoption

“Some people take adoption very lightly. A considerable number of Americans have gone to Europe to find children. Sometimes their decisions are made under the stress of emotion and then regretted. International Social Service reports many instances of children brought to the United States and then casually shipped back home by plane.” – THE BATTLE OVER CHILDREN FOR ADOPTION, Why You Can’t Adopt the Child You Want, Joseph H. Reid (Executive Director, Child Welfare League of America), Woman’s Home Companion Magazine, June 1956

Social workers who discuss changed attitudes toward family separation for adoption

“The authors… have… been provoked and disturbed by the recent evidence of the dark side of adoption, and have come to re-assess, after many years, the work they and other social workers have done in this area… For example, they discuss the… the practices that formerly put many of these mothers under pressure to give up their children for adoption.”

“These women have rightly demanded that serious attention be given to their ongoing grief and what they now see as society’s betrayal of them at a time for them of great vulnerability and powerlessness.”

“There is now much evidence of the psychological effects of unresolved grief on the mothers following the loss of their children. There was a cover of denial put on the wound but, for many, the wound continued to fester.” – THE MANY SIDED TRIANGLE, Adoption In Australia, Audrey Marshall & Margaret McDonald (2001) [both long time social workers]


Ultimately, the transfer of babies has a genocidal purpose – the purpose is most often the decimation of families which are not of the “family-unit” type. This is true even when few families are actually decimated, because the terroristic threat remains for other families.

“This story of [ancient] ritual sacrifice of a virgin closely matches a ritual sacrifice practiced in the United States and in some other countries – that is the ritual sacrifice of a family that is not of the ‘family-unit’ type. In a patriarchal culture where people believes it is inevitable, a pregnant mother is lured into the trap. She is ‘counseled’ and groomed for the sacrifice. She is called a ‘not-mother’ or ‘birthmother’ (sacrificial ‘offering’ ) well in advance. The people she trusts believe they must go through with it or their ‘people’, their culture, will perish. If they do not sacrifice this mother-and-child, there will be more instances of family that are not ‘family-units’ – there may be grandparents helping to raise their grandchildren, there may be single fathers taking responsibility for their children. The mother who does not comprehend the real truth behind the biased ‘adoption language‘ – and who does not have the opportunity to overhear the true motives of the ‘adoption counselor’ – may not extricate herself from the situation in time. The ‘birthmothers sacrifice’ will please the gods and the people will profit from a great harvest – the harvest of a human baby for adoption. ” – From “Ritual Sacrifice of ‘Birthmothers’ and Ritual Sacrifice of VirginsAdoption Blog

“When a mother is forced to choose between the child and the culture, there is something abhorrently cruel and unconsidered about that culture. A culture that requires harm to one’s soul in order to follow the cultures prescriptions is a very sick culture indeed. This ‘culture’ can be the one a woman lives in, but more damning yet, it can be the one she carries around and complies with within her own mind…..” — Women Who Run With The Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estes

Psychology of Adoption?

Social workers, psychologists, sociologists, adoptees and natural family members have all made some interesting observations. The psychology of adoption and psychological affects on adoptees and natural family is worth thinking about before encouraging a young mother/father to relinquish parental rights.

There are still people who want someone else’s child to adopt. So, some say the “fix” is to provide “open adoption”. Read how “open adoption” may affect a natural family and adopted child.

Author: Kate Stewart

Radical Acceptance. Supportive therapy by Kate Stewart.