MY ADVICE YOUNG PREGNANT MOTHERS:
KEEP YOUR BABY !!!
Whatever it takes . . .
Whatever you have to do to make it work . . . KEEP YOUR BABY!!!
Studies on Adoptees
The Effects of Adoption on Relinquishing Mothers
Common Clinical Issues Among Adoptees
Alternatives to Adoption(support)
Honesty for Adoption Terms
Things NOT to say to an adopted person
Things NOT to say to a Birth Parent
Research and Studies on Adoptees
The results are in; the great human experiment failed! The effects are hardly noticeable with some, but extremely so with others.
Moreover, for those whom the system was supposedly designed to benefit, the children, were failed the most. Many adoptees do not realize that their difficulties, at least in part, stem from simply having been adopted. All adoptees have effects from their adoption experience. The degree of the effects and symptomatic behaviors vary a great deal.
There are vulnerabilities shared by all adoptees. In those most vulnerable, a distinct pattern of behaviors can be seen. Some have labeled this the "Adopted Child Syndrome." (Kirschner)
Adopted 'children' are disproportionately represented with learning disabilities and organic brain syndrome.
(Schecter and Genetic Behaviors)
Mental health professionals are surprised at the alarmingly high number of their patients who are adopted. Studies show an average of 25 to 35% of the young people in residential treatment centers are adoptees. This is 17 times
the norm. (Lifton, BIRCO--Pannor and Lawrence)
Adoptees are more likely to have difficulties with drug and alcohol abuse, as well as, eating disorders, attention deficit disorder, infertility, suicide and untimely pregnancies. (Young, Bohman, Mitchell, Ostroff, Ansfield, Lifton and Schecter)
Adoptees are more likely to choose alternate lifestyles. (Ansfield and Lifton)
Alarmingly high numbers of adoptees are sent to disciplinary/correctional schools or are locked out of their homes
[adoptive]. (Anderson and Carlson)
60 to 85% of the teens at Coldwater Canyon's Center For Personal Development, are adopted. That is 30 to 40
times the norm. The center is a private acute-care psychiatric hospital/school in Southern California. (Ostroff)
50 to 70% of the teens at The Haven in New Trier Township, Illinois, are adopted. That is 25 to 35 times the
norm. The Haven is a resource center for street kids. (Henderson)
The secrecy in an adoptive family, and the denial that the adoptive family is different builds dysfunction into it. "... while social workers and insecure adoptive parents have structured a family relationship that is based on dishonesty, evasions and exploitation. To believe that good relationships will develop on such a foundation is psychologically unsound" (Lawrence). As John Bradshaw, the well-renowned therapist, says, "A family is only as sick as its secrets."
Secrecy erects barriers to forming a healthy identity. Sealed records implicitly asks for an extreme form of denial.
There is no school of psychotherapy which regards denial as a positive strategy in forming a sense of self and
dealing with day-to-day realities. (Howard)
Adoption is a psychological burden to the adoptee. The effect of this burden is known, but the origin is confused. Secrecy plays a part in it, but Nancy Newton Verrier, Ph.D., sources the difficulties to the separation of the newborn from the mother. The Primal Wound is the most recent and revealing work done on the effects of adoption on the adopted. In the author's own words, "I believe that the connection established during the nine months in utero is a profound connection, and it is my hypothesis that the severing of that connection in the original separation of the adopted child from the birth mother causes a
primal or narcissistic wound, which affects the adoptee's sense of Self and often manifests in a sense of loss, basic mistrust, anxiety and depression, emotional and/or behavioral problems, and difficulties in relationships with significant others (21)."
Verrier has been criticized for her work, but her response says it all, "The only people who can really judge this work, however, are those about whom it is written: the adoptees themselves. Only they, as they note their responses to what is written here, will really know in their deepest selves the validity of this work, the existence or nonexistence of the primal wound" (xvii).
Secrecy, denial, and the primal wound have all played a role in the effect adoption has on the adoptee, but there is still more.
Having spent nearly eight years studying and working as a volunteer with over 1000 people affected by an adoption (nearly all
adoptees and birthmothers); I have seen the effects of adoption.
Humans have a basic need to feel they are individually whole, yet part of a whole. For the adopted this can be difficult. Often adoptees feel they do not belong (Kirschner). It is very lonely and isolating to feel different from those you should feel the
closest to, your family. Edin Lipinski, M.D., brings insight to these feelings:
In an existential sense, the past is as important to adopted people as their future. It is the present that is most troublesome. Not knowing where they fit into the spectrum of happenings is a great problem for them.
Research and Studies on Birthmothers
Research tells us that the birthmothers I worked with were not exceptions. In 1982, Edward Rynearson, Ph.D. described the experience of twenty of his adult patients who, as teenagers, surrendered their first child to adoption. "Nineteen of them
established an intense private monologue with the fetus (during pregnancy), including a rescue fantasy in which they and the newborn infant could somehow be "saved" from the relinquishment" (Chesler).
The pressure upon these mothers was one they could not stop. Sixty-nine percent of 334 birthmothers surveyed felt they were pressured into surrendering (Deykin). Another study reports forty-four percent of 350 birthmothers surveyed surrendered against their will. The study revealed the reasons for surrender centered around being single, poverty, young age, and parental pressure (VanKeppel). Some birthmothers told me they were shipped off to a home for unwed mothers, and told not to come
home until they rid of the problem. For them there was no choice; they had no where to go.
The adoption experience for most birthmothers leaves a large emotional scar. According to the authors of "The Adoption
Triangle: The Effects of Sealed Records on Adoptees, Birthparents and Adoptive Parents," most birthmothers expressed feelings of loss, pain and mourning that remained undimmed with time (Sorosky). A University of California, at Los Angeles, psychiatrist and author, Arthur Sorosky, M.D., likened the emotional scarring from surrendering a child to a psychological amputation (Sorosky).
The pain of the experience was hard to bear. As time went by the pain did not diminish, it increased. Robin Winkler, Ph.D. of the Institute for Family Studies, Melbourne, Victoria, reports that ninety percent of birthmothers surveyed felt deeply harmed by the adoption and the pain increased with time (BIRCO-Winkler). Drs. Harriet Ganson and Judith Cook found, "Birthmothers expressed deep anguish over adoption" (BIRCO-Ganson). Phyllis Silverman, Ph.D., who has studied birthmothers for twenty years, on behalf of Mary Beth Whitehead testified that ninety-five percent of the women she has studied found their loss shattering and worse than they imagined (Chesler).
The effect of the pain felt by birthmothers manifests itself in many ways. Sorosky tells us that most birthmothers do not enter psychotherapy because they surrendered a child; they push that experience to the subconscious. However, it often surfaces as the key to their inability to cope (Sorosky). Birthmothers seek therapy for numerous reasons:
Kaiser-Permanente Health Care conducted a study in 1979 of birthmothers who surrendered babies. Forty percent reported depression as the most common emotional disorder. Sixty percent reported medical, sexual and psychiatric problems. (BIRCO-Kaiser)
In another study 20 of 22 birthmothers sought psychotherapy for problems including depression alienation, physical complaints with no biological basis, sexual difficulties and difficulty making commitments (Millen).
Phyllis Silverman, Ph.D., interviewed fifty birthmothers and found many were not aware until years later they were grieving. "They all reported a sense of malaise. Still other birthmothers become weepy, restless, anxious and forgetful" (Silverman).
Birthmothers were not prepared for the aftermath of the surrender. They were told by the adoption professionals involved thatit would be over soon; they would forget the experience; go on with their life and have more children. It worked that way for very few, if any. In the thousands of reunions I am aware of, there is only one birthmother who does not remember the experience. That one was in an accident, resulting in full amnesia of all personal history before the accident.
In time birthmothers do go on with the day-to-day tasks, but it proved impossible for most to pick-up where they left off before becoming pregnant. In Lost and Found: The Adoption Experience, Betty Jean Lifton, Ph.D., describes what birthmothers were told. "The social worker said it would hurt for a while, and then they would forget, as if they had experienced nothing more serious than a nine-month stomach ache. They found they could not go back to the life they had left behind because they had become different people in the process of becoming mothers" (Lifton). Carole J. Anderson, M.S.W., J.D., in her booklet,Eternal Abuse of Women: Adoption Abuse, explains this in another way. "Adoption is not the end of a painful chapter, but the beginning of a lifetime of wondering, worrying, and missing the child. It is a wound that time cannot heal...it is a limbo loss"
(Anderson). A limbo loss is what the families of MIA (missing in action) soldiers experience. There is no finality; not to know whether the loved one is alive or dead. Always waiting and hoping he or she will be found.
True some birthmothers did marry, and have other children. However, according to research, far too many did not have
another child, 20 to 30% by choice (Anderson, Deykin), and others suffered a secondary infertility rate 170% higher than the general population (Deykin).
Ninety-six percent of birthmothers want a reunion (Ganson, Deykin).
The Effects of Adoption on Relinquishing Mothers
Out of more than 170 birthmoms who have participated in various surveys pertaining to the relinquishment of their children, not
one was able to escape adoption without severe scars, most of which have persisted throughout the rest of their lives. They all
suffered at least one of the following symptoms of Birthmother Syndrome, though the majority felt an impact from 6 or more of
-- Long-term regret
-- Long-term guilt
-- Trouble establishing relationships with a spouse
-- Difficulties in later parenting
-- Feelings of worthlessness
-- Distrust for adoption professionals, adopters, and other birthparents
-- Distrust for society in general
-- Symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
-- Medically diagnosed depression
-- Various other diagnosed psychological problems, including, though not limited to unnatural phobias
-- Low self-esteem
-- Secondary infertility
-- Dreams and nightmares about the relinquished child
-- Sexual disfunction
-- And other life-altering problems directly related to the loss of their children to adoption.
Although the majority of studies have been done on the ways relinquishment affects mothers, I took a look at birthfathers in a
survey of my own, and found that these symptoms were by no means limited to women only: in cases when the father knows
about the child and the relinquishment, men are equally as susceptible to "Birthmother" Syndrome as are women.
In either case, relinquishment has proven itself to be an intolerable loss for one or both parents. Many parents have compared it
to rape, murder, and abuse, all punishable by law, yet adoption remains legal and acceptable. This is the exact reason why
myself, and others who share my opinions are ready to stand up and fight this deplorable system.
Common Clinical Issues Among Adoptees
1. Disrupted attachment of feelings of disconnectedness (especially in delayed adoptions). With infant adoptions there is a sense of ambiguous attachment, a tenuous sense of attachment. Even if loved, an adoptee may feel like they don't fit in or belong in the family.
2. Splitting of good/bad self and good/bad objects. Around 8-11 years of age, adoptees have trouble integrating nurturing punitive parts of self and parents. They may switch the fantasy back and forth. Birthparents are rejecting parents as nurturing and vice versa. Black and white thinking can become prolonged. Ambivalence towards parents.
3. Damaged self image, low self-esteem. Thinking, feeling, acting rejected, sees self as "damaged goods." "I must have done something horrible to have been sent away from my (birth)- mother."
4. Feelings of rejection. Understanding concept of relinquishment.
5. Feelings of shame and guilt. Shame that they were so "bad" they had to be given away. Anger towards birth/adoptive parents, guilt about anger. Feeling overly grateful/protective towards parents.
6. Problems in identity development. Physical/psychological similarities and dissimilarities. Who am I like? Where do I belong? Fit in?
7. Difficulty in differentiating from family of origin/birthfamily culture.
8. Perceived lack of control. Increased oppositional behavior, stubborn, pouting, temper tantrums. Things have been "done" to them. They had no choice/control in ending up in their family. Ambivalence - no choice of parents /wish to be with birth family. Anger that the parents made them feel the loss of their birth family. Not knowing their back ground they struggle to find some sense of control in their lives. The issue of control is crucial. Many adoptees feel over-controlled by simple home/school rules other kids easily accept. Help regain some control for them by answering questions, making adoption rituals, giving choices / decisions to child . Get them involved in rule making too.
9. Loss and unresolved grief. With the loss associated with divorce and death, people get comfort, support and recognition for their grief through accepted universally known rituals. With adoption, the child experiences a loss (like a divorce or death) of an unknown person, and doesn't know why. There is no social context in which the loss is recognized. There are no adoption rituals to help you cope and grieve. It seems there is no one who understands your loss.
10. Active fantasy life. With no knowledge of one's past, there is an emptiness, a void, that the adoptee "fills" with an active fantasy life. With the loss being an on-going issue and never fully resolved, reunion fantasies increase.
11. Learning disabilities. Learning disabilities are more common in adopted children due to genetics, prenatal care, teenage birth mothers, birth trauma (drugs, the use of forceps in birth, induced labor, prematurity, low birth weight, etc. ) . Boy babies are weaker at birth and more vulnerable to birth trauma (as well as the genetic factor of Lid.) Learning disabled children feel different, depressed, angry, confused about the learning disabilities. They need help dealing with this as well as their adoption issues,which may be put "on hold" until they can understand it.
Alternatives to Adoption(support)
ALTERNATIVES FOR INFERTILE COUPLES: that do not encourage them to separate children from their mothers and mothers from their children.
CHANGES IN SOCIAL POLICY: that removes financial incentives for separating children from their families through adoption.
COUNSELLING: and other help for families facing serious problems.
EDUCATION ABOUT ABUSE ISSUES: abuse is a serious problem, but adoption is not the answer. Many adopted people have been abused by their adopters most certainly emotionally abused but also physically and sexually as well. They are also abused in foster care, on their way to adoption, and are most certainly emotionally abuses by the Social Services or other place that took the babies during and after the removal from their home. Adoption itself, even under the best conditions, leads to many of the same dysfunctional emotional problems for adoptees that abused children experience. Adoption is abuse!.
EDUCATION ABOUT ADOPTION: the negative effects on adopted people and their parents to increase public support for keeping families together and generate more alternatives to adoption.
PUT AN END TO THE NOTION: that losing a child to adoption is good for a mother.
FAMILY VALUES: definition that actually values families and does not support the separation of families through adoption.
GUARDIANSHIPS: for children with absolutely no living family whatsoever that do not lie about a child's parentage and for children in unsafe situations with the constant goal actively pursued to reunite the family.
MEDICAL TREATMENT: for needy children without removing them from their families into adoptive homes.
NEW ATTITUDE: about adoption that takes the focus off adopters and acknowledges the problems created by loss of family for the other people involved.
NEW DEFINITION: of the term the right thing to mean keeping your children and overcoming all obstacles to raising them yourself in a healthy environment.
PARENTING CLASSES: in school -- early and intensive because no matter what occupation a person goes into, parenthood is the most common destiny of all those school children.
RECOGNITION OF FATHERS: connection to their children and increased social endorsement of their responsibility to care for them beyond financial support.
SUPPORT FOR MOTHERS: who would otherwise lose their children simply because of their age and/or financial state -- both are temporary problems. Adoption is permanent and damaging for both mother and child.
SUPPORT FOR GRANDPARENTS: who help keep their children and grandchildren together.
TAX MONEY: paid to adopters for adopting would be better spent helping families stay together.
WAR ON DRUG PROBLEMS: not the troubled victims of drug addiction. Drug addicted mothers need HELP NOT MORE TRAUMA.
An Adoptee's Perspective: an adoptee has never touched the hand of kin or seen a face that looked like their own.
A Birth Parent's Perspective: a birth mother or father has never stopped grieving for that part of themselves they relinquished years ago.
An Adoptive Parent's Perspective: an adoptive parent has never stopped fearing that one day their adopted child, for whatever reasons, will seek their roots and true identity and leave them for another.
Honesty for Adoption Terms
In recent years, the subject of "positive adoption language" has cropped up in discussions about adoption issues.
As parents who have lost their children to the adoption system come out of the woodwork and prompt a more open conversation about adoption, words are needed to describe the roles and acts of those involved. Of course, since adoption continues to be profitable for agencies, states, and individuals, pro-adoption language has been invented and promoted.
Look at some of the terms involved in adoption and their purpose:
"Birthmother" -- as a woman who has conceived a child, carried this child to term, and given labor, only to lose her child into a system that has lied to her and will continue to lie to her baby. Of course, this term is inaccurate, limiting her to one act in relationship to her child. It presents a woman as nothing more than a vessel used to bring a child into the world it portrays her without emotion, without any true connection to her baby, while the exact opposite is true. This term denies the lifelong connection between a mother and her baby, and also promotes the lie that there could be some other kind of mother. The term is used to distract from this lifelong connection and reduces normal family relatedness to a secondary or unimportant status. It leaves the woman stuck in a period of suspension -- as if she exists for the solitary purpose of birthing, and providing a baby for possible adoption.
Although it is convenient for the adoption promoters and the adopters to believe that she is a disinterested, disconnected incubator -- it is completely untrue. The term "natural mother," "only mother," or simply "mother" describes her role correctly -- the only mother that child will ever have, connected to her child by nature -- a connection that is life-long. To talk about her in any other way is degrading and concealing
Mothers deserve more respect than that.
People who adopt may object to the term natural mother saying that it implies that adoption is unnatural. Well, it is. It IS unnatural for children to be raised believing that they have "parents" who did not give birth to them. It is unnatural for children to NOT be raised by their parents. And, it is unnatural for children to be separated from their families.
"Birthfather" -- is a word that is entirely inaccurate and also very limiting. For starters, a father might not even be there for the birth -- fathers do not give birth to their children! This word intentionally denies the life-long connection between a father and his child. And again, he also has been reduced to one moment in his child's life, as opposed to his honest and natural role in the child's life. Fathers don't need any more social pressure to feel disconnected from their children. "Natural father," "only father," and simply "father" is the accurate terms for his position as well.
Moreover, both terms describe the parents of the child in reference to an adopter's notion of adoption, which is affirmed by the propensity of adopters to take possession of the mother of the child they have or wish to have by rudely calling her "our birthmother." By restricting these parents to the birth process, they are both defined as providers of children. Looking at these parents as individual human beings unconnected to the adopters, they can be seen, not as providers of children, but parents who have been deprived of their children.
"Adoptee," represents adopted people only in comparison to being adopted and the people who adopted them. It completely ignores large portions of whom the adopted person is. These people have not only been adopted, but have also lost on entire family. They did exist before they were adopted. They are as much a product of their genetic makeup as any other human being. Calling them "Adoptee's" ignores all this. "The term Adoptee' says nothing of the rights, history, kinship, and freedom taken from such individuals." A term such as "relinquished" that expresses the losses of an adoptee would be more accurate. There seems to be no-good term for an adopted person. Each leaves out an important part of his/her life.
Of course, "adopted child" also brings significant anger, presenting adoption as if one is, by that act, ALWAYS a child. I can't tell you how many adults are referred to as "adopted children" long after their 18th birthdays, in addition to those who are treated as children when trying to obtain information about their natural parents. As a whole we prefer to talk about "adopted people" while seeking a better term.
"Adoptive Parents" is the most inaccurate adoption term. It implies that childcare plus denial of reality equals parenthood, which is so wrong. However, agencies have sterile couples, gay/lesbian partnerships, and even just plain "do-gooders" lined up at their doors, all wanting to become "parents." Adopters are only parents to their own children. They do not become the parents of other people's children. The only accurate term for people who adopt is "adopters." That word explains their action and does not make the child's natural parents seem any less than that -- parents. The word "adopter" reflects the legal relationship between them and the child they adopt, as well as not fostering the myth that a legal act has the godlike power to create a "parent."
"Relinquishment," "Adoption Plan," "Loving Option," "Best Possible Thing," "Choosing a Family," "Responsible Choice," "The Right Thing" etc. -- are all used to make the loss of a child seem more pleasant in order to convince mothers to part with their babies. What they really mean is "we want your baby." It would be more accurate if they asked her if she wanted to be "excluded" from her child's life or "replaced" or if she wanted to suffer the "loss" of her child, but that wouldn't be very good for business.
"Best Interest of the Child" is a term used to bias society in favour of adoption, but the truth is that adoption is only in the best interest of the adopters. They are the only ones who lose nothing through adoption.
The word "adoption" itself is deceptive. Merri am Webster's Collegiate Dictionary describes the word adopt as to "take" the "child of other parents." That's accurate as far as it goes. Adopters are taking other people's children, which action everyone should agree is terribly wrong. However, the word "adoption" has become so steeped in a one-sided, "positive" interpretation and unexamined assumptions that this taking of children' is seen as good.
Another word that describes adoption is "Assimilation" -- to absorb into a system, to alter by assimilation, to take in and appropriate. Certainly no human being would venerate the concept of being assimilated, yet that is exactly what happens in adoption. This word could help subdue some of the sacred cow status that the word "adoption" has assumed. But like the word "adoption," the word "assimilation" is also incomplete.
Both terms refer only to the appropriation of children: adoption strictly from the vantage point of adopters. And up too now, adoption has ONLY been considered as it pertains to adopters. Everyone else in that triangle is ignored by current definitions of adoption.
Adopted people, for instance, are not in the position of taking' children. They are in the position of being taken.' While natural mothers and fathers are in the position of having their children taken' from them. Adoption is about so much more than the taking of children.' It's also about loss, loss of family. Defining adoption in terms of adopters ignores the losses experienced by adopted people, their parents, and the rest of their natural families.
The term "Terminal Adoption" has been suggested because it better describes the loss, gain, legal status, ad abuses of the adoption procedure.
While it would be helpful to incorporate the words "Terminal Adoption" and "Assimilation" into the vocabulary of adoption, it would probably be easier to get people to associate the hidden and painful aspects of adoption with the word, than to replace it with another term.
The terms for the people involved however must be replaced: natural mother or mother, natural father or father, and adopter. And, a term that describes both effects on the adopted person (the loss and the assimilation) must be found.
Not one of these adoptees murdered their real parents, but many have killed their adopters.
I am convinced that a completely open and honest method of meeting the needs of children, rather than adoption, would have made a difference in the lives of these adoptees. At the very least, access to their records would relieve some of the stress that these and other adoptees must try to deal with in their lives.
"I have to agree . . . adoption and crime are related in a lot of ways . . . shutting adoptees away from their natural families, their identity, their heritage, contributes in a big way to their criminal activity . . . it has been a huge factor in the course my life has taken." Michael Getty, incarcerated adoptee; from "Born Losers" by Lori Carangelo
Joseph Atkins, adopted as a toddler, killed the man who adopted him; he also killed a 13 year old neighbour -- both in North Charleston, South Carolina on October 27, 1985. Fifteen years before that, Joseph killed his half brother Charles, also adopted by the Atkins family, after first being stabbed by the victim. This adopted killer was abused -- by his adopter not his parents. Also, Joseph's racial heritage was not known; he may have been Native American, African American, or Puerto Rican. He was adopted by a white family.
Like many adoptees who kill their adopters, Joseph has no idea why he killed the man who adopted him.
This adoptee was executed on January 22, 1999 by lethal injection in Columbia, South Carolina. Joseph offered no final statement, and no one from the family he was adopted into attended his execution.
Info from APB Online
and The Post and Courier
David Berkowitz is the serial killer known as Son of Sam. Relinquished by his mother -- who had been arranging for his relinquishment during her pregnancy because, like many women who lose their children to adoption, she could get no help from society, her family, or even from David's own father David was adopted at birth in 1953. There is no pre-adoption abuse to blame his behaviour on.
His adopters loved him and took good care of him. Yet as a child, he was a neighbourhood bully with a mean streak. So, whatever happened to David happened very early, and the only thing abnormal about his childhood was that he was adopted -- separated from his family and raised by genetic strangers.
David always felt different and uncomfortable around people. He also felt unattractive, though neighbours described him as a good-looking child. Certainly this suggests the low self-esteem and identity problems experienced by many adoptees. Could his distorted self-image have resulted from being raised by people who did not look like him?
Adoption reunions are not enough to undo the damage that adoption creates. David found his mother Betty Falco. She and his sister Roslyn did everything they could to make him feel at home. Initially, David was happy in reunion, but he eventually drifted away from this family of his that he'd been forbidden to know as he grew up.
David was also an arsonist, setting more than 1,000 fires. Arsonists, like serial killers, gain a sense of control from committing their crimes. Adoption can instill a feeling of lack of control in many adoptees. It could very well be this adoption related need to achieve a sense of control that lead David to the arson and eventually, to murder.
Just before the murders started, David wrote to his adopter, "You wouldn't believe how much some people hate me. Many of them want to kill me. I don't even know these people, but still they hate me." Of course, people did not hate him; they probably didn't even notice him. So where did this feeling of being hated by people he doesn't even know come from? Could it be the feeling of being rejected by his own mother before he was even born?
In 1976 when he moved out of a house where he'd been living, he had this to say about his ex-landlords: "When I moved in the Cassaras seemed very nice and quiet. But they tricked me. They lied. I thought they were members of the human race. They weren't!"
Examining that statement in connection with adoption, it could be surmised that this is more likely a buried feeling about his adopters. They where "nice" to him. His adopters were "quiet" people. But, they "tricked" him and "lied" to him by saying they were his parents, when in fact, they were not. The Berkowitz's were very much members of the human race, but as adopters they were unable to give David that sense of connection to the human race that we get from being raised within our families by parents who share our genetic characteristic. Many
adoptees experience this feeling of being disconnected.
When David called himself the Son of Sam, he was referring to Sam Carr, a neighbour. Could this be a reflection of adoption related identity problems and confusion about what constitutes parental relationships? Confusion caused by being told that genetic strangers are your parents?
In a 1997 prison interview David admitted that the demon dog story was for protection if he was caught -- a preplanned insanity plea. The interviewer, Robert Ressler, states that "his real reason for shooting women was out of resentment toward his own mother."
So tell me -- who did he resent? His mother for giving him up? or his adopter for not being his real mother?
It seems obvious to me, in just this superficial examination, that adoption most likely had a great deal to do with turning David Berkowitz into a serial killer. A more in-depth study of adoption's connection to David Berkowitz's murderous rampage is needed, but it will not happen. Because the psychological community is as subject to the sacred cow image of adoption as the rest of society, they will continue their minimization of the damage adoption does to adoptees. Their denial is even less excusable than that of the general population because people in the
mental health field are fully aware of the negatives affects of adoption on adopted people. They just refuse to admit that low self-esteem, identity problems, abandonment issues, problems forming close relationships, and more -- can be harmful if it results from adoption.
Information about David Berkowitz from The Crime Library Information about adoptee issues from NAIC and Being Adopted: The Lifelong Search for Self
Ken Bianchi killed several women in LA and two in Washington state. He was also adopted as an infant. So there is no pre-adoption abuse to blame his killing spree on, either. Unless you would consider the trauma of separation from his mother abuse, which I do. I consider it to be an abuse perpetuated by a society that encourages and honours the separation of mothers from their children in the form of adoption. As a side note, Bianchi's partner in the killings was Angelo Buono, a member of the adopter's extended family. Buono was not adopted, but he had been
separated from his mother at the age of five.
James B. Clark , 39, was convicted of the 1994 murders of his adopters in New Castle, Delaware, 4 weeks after being paroled having served 22 years of a 30-year sentence for kidnapping of a 16-year old girl. He had asked NOT to be paroled saying that he could not cope with release, but was paroled anyway. Within a few weeks of his return to his adopters, James fatally shot them both. At his trial in 1994 he asked for the death sentence, and after he was sentenced he was put in the psychiatric unit of the prison hospital where he was reportedly treated with anti-depression medication. He refused to eat and was force-fed until July 1995. He was often on "suicide watch." James was executed just after midnight, April 19, 1996, in Delaware. I'm going to try to find more information about the kidnapping and his adoptive experience then post it here. Also, I can't help but wonder what was it about being returned to his adopters that was so traumatizing for James.
Henry Lee Dreyer during his childhood his mother had been having problems and left Henry Lee in the care of his grandparents who then put him up for adoption. He was adopted at the age of seven by recently divorced 38 year-old Carol Dreyer. Ten years later on January 29, 1998 at 5: am, he killed his adopter and her boyfriend as they slept in their Carlsbad, CA condo. The motive for the crime was said to be Henry's resentment toward her and her boyfriend.
The bodies were found on January 30, 1998 stuffed in the trunk of a car in their garage. Investigators found bloody bedding, a metal baseball bat, and a knife in the car. Carol was stabbed four times in the head and neck. The throats of both victims were slashed repeatedly, and Engleman's head was bashed in with the bat.
The trouble began when Carol Dreyer adopted Henry Lee. Relations between them, along with her 52 year-old boyfriend Gary Engleman, had been strained. There were many arguments between Henry and his adopter, and he ran away from her home several times. Neighbours describe the relationship between Henry and the woman who adopted him as contentious. The boy stole from his adopter, her father, and her boyfriend. Henry was on probation for a 1996 residential burglary at the time of the killings.
Before his arrest, Henry bragged about the murder to friends. He and a friend gave the adopter's jewelry to their girlfriends. Henry then withdrew $520 from her account and spent the night at a motel. He had so much contempt for his adopter and her companion; it is reported that he joked about the slayings and defecated on Engleman's body. Henry was caught on security camera at ATM machines while using Carol Dreyer's card -- several of the photos, show him laughing as he withdrew her money.
Two days after the murders, Henry Lee turned himself in. His friend Daniel Scott Whitlow was arrested that night, after police had interviewed Henry for several hours. It is said that he slit the throats of his adopter and her boyfriend while his friend, allegedly, bashed Engleman's head with a baseball bat. But, according to DNA tests, the blood on the baseball bat used to beat Engleman belonged to Henry, not Whitlow. After the killings Henry is said to have exclaimed: "Anybody alive in here? Raise your hand. Oh no, too bad for you!"
He told fellow inmates that he was implicating Whitlow in the crime to hurt his friend for trying to talk him out of the slayings. Whitlow said he saw Henry stab both victims to death and then bash Engleman several times in the head with a baseball bat. Henry told at least two people that he alone killed the victims, while Whitlow was asleep
in the bedroom.
Henry was calm, composed and quiet during initial court hearings. At times during one hearing, Henry smirked and smiled while witnesses detailed his role in the killings. He held up his handcuffed hands to shield his face from a 15-year-old female witness, and at another point, coldly stared at another female witness. However, when Henry Lee was ordered to stand trial as an adult by San Diego Superior Court Judge Michael Wellington, he cried.
A jury found Henry Lee guilty of murdering his adopter and her boyfriend. Because he was a juvenile when the acts were committed, he could not receive the death penalty. Superior Court Judge John Einhorn sentenced him to life-without-parole.
After his sentencing, Henry apologized to the families of his adopter and her boyfriend. He then criticized the media for describing Carol Dreyer as his mother. He stated that Carol Dreyer and Gary Engleman were not his parents.
Thomas Hamilton was raised like an adoptee. He was lied to about who his parents were. The woman he believed to be his sister was, in reality, his mother.
Age 43 and single, Thomas killed 16 first-graders and their teacher. Two other teachers and 12 children were wounded. He started shooting in the playground and ended up in the gymnasium. There he moved around the room shooting the terrified children, chasing some as they ran. Then he killed himself. It is no better for grandparents to pretend they are their grandchild's parents than it is for genetic strangers to pretend to be the parents of someone else's child. But at the same time, much better idea then to have the child raised out of the family entirely.
Matthew Heikkila did not murder his parents. He didn't even know his parents, had never even seen his parents. On January 29, 1991 in Basking Ridge New Jersey -- twenty-year-old Matthew murdered Dawn and Richard Heikkila, the people who'd adopted him as an infant. He shot them each in the head with shotgun shells that he'd personally hollowed out and labelled "Mom" and "Dad" respectively. A year before the killings Matt had threatened Mr. Heikkila with a handgun. He had a long history of emotional problems beginning in his childhood.
About the time that the adoption was finalized, Mrs. Heikkila became pregnant with a son of her own. Mr. and Mrs. Heikkila had strong hopes of more pregnancies and more children of their own. I'm sure these desires were no secret to Matthew and had a tremendous effect on how he felt about himself and his adopted status with the Heikkilas.
Dawn Heikkila had a habit of complaining about Matthew to friends and co-workers, though she seemed reluctant to go to her extended family for support concerning the adopted boy. On the day she was murdered, she had started a letter to her son Joshua in which she complained about Matt. There didn't seem to be anyone she was acquainted with who had not listened to Dawn complain about the boy she had adopted. She may have even encouraged Matt's antisocial behaviour out of an emotional need in herself to gain sympathy from her associates, to react to the crises he created, and to continually rescue this adoptee throughout his life. At times, Mr. Heikkila, too, felt compelled to cure Matt of problems that he considered biological defects. It's not likely that Matthew was unaware of those feelings towards him.
Other times, Mr. Heikkila believed that Matt just wasn't suited well to the Heikkila family. And, he was correct in that assumption. Matthew had the genetic characteristics that suited him to his own family, not the Heikkilas. Matthew believed that the Heikkilas did not love him, especially Mr. Heikkila who he hated. He also believed that the Heikkila's gave preferential treatment to their own son over Matthew, and I tend to believe it was so. It was as if the tall, fair-haired Josh could do no wrong and the medium, dark-haired Matt could do no right. Richard, Dawn, and Josh were all athletic over achievers with many awards -- unlike Matt. They were tidy; he was messy. They looked like each other and not like him. Sometimes Josh would tease Matt about him being adopted and his inability to measure up to the family academically. I think it must have been very painful for the Matthew to grow up in this family with which he had nothing in common. Like many adoptees, Matthew was unable to bond with anyone, even in school. How could he possibly bond with this family who were all so dissimilar to him?
Matthew had a habit of lying, but consider his upbringing. He was raised with the lies that Dawn and Richard were his parents and that Josh was his brother. They had pushed the fabrications that he was "special" and "chosen," when in fact they had taken the first baby they could get their hands on. To explain why Matthew looked so different than her and her son, Dawn would say that he'd inherited Mr. Heikkila's looks an outright and obvious lie.
Matthew was sentenced to two consecutive life terms for the murders of the people who adopted him. In New Jersey, that means a minimum of 60 years before he's eligible for parole. The mitigating circumstance that saved him from the death penalty was Adopted Child Syndrome.
Joshua Jenkins is another killer adopted at birth.
In Vista, CA on February 2 and 3, 1996 -- using a hammer, knife, and ax, the sixteen year-old killed his adopters, their parents, and another child in the household. Then he cleaned the murder weapons, took a shower, changed his clothes, set the place on fire, and left.
Joshua always wanted to know about his parents, but was never told. His adopters said they had a letter from his mother but refused to show it to him. Because of their desire to replace parents and because society authorizes it -- adopters typically hide info about their parents from adopted children.
For years, he had been hostile toward his adopters. In the summer of 1995 he was arrested after a fight with one of them and placed in a school for disturbed kids. He said he thought his "parents" had abandoned him. Did he mean his adopters, or was he expressing the pain of losing his real parents?
Four psychiatrists agreed that the boy suffered from chronic depression.
According to David B. Chamberlain ". . . the boy's spread of illnesses and disabilities point directly to the prenatal period . . . in the womb of a mother who did not plan to keep him."
Should mothers be encouraged to give their children up for adoption?
Joseph Kallinger was adopted as an infant in 1937. This adopted serial killer was abused -- by the people who adopted him, described as cold, emotionless people. He moved out at the age of 16, married, and had several children. Then he was abandoned again when his wife left him. On January 23, 1972 he branded his oldest daughter for running away. He drowned one of his own sons (his second victim) and brought another son along for his killing spree. For several hours on Jan. 8, 1975, they terrorized then murdered eight people. Near the end of his life, Joseph felt remorse and attempted suicide refusing to eat. He died at the age of 59.
I have to repeat this he was taken from his family at birth, denied any relationship with his parents, and beaten by the replacements. This is another adoption story that contradicts the sacred cow perception of adoption.
John William King , adopted at 3 months, was convicted and sentenced to death by lethal injection for the racially motivated dragging death of James Byrd Jr, whom he dragged for 3 miles behind a pick-up truck.
His 68 year-old adopter, Ronald King, made some interesting choice of words when talking about John. For instance, he and his wife had "invested" a lot of love in "that boy." He also said referred to him as "a boy I raised." Rather than seeing his death sentence in terms of John, the adopter showed a sense of possession of the boy he adopted saying, speaking in terms of himself, that he hated to think that he was "going to lose" John, rather than that John would be losing his life. Of his deceased wife, Ronald King said, ''She loved that boy."
This murder was not John's first run-in with the law. At the age of 17 he was sent to prison, where he entertained dreams of starting his own racist group, the Texas Rebel Soldiers.
Prosecutor Guy James Gray observed that it's obvious that a person could not commit a crime this "heinous" without "a lot of hate and anger." Which John demonstrated after the trial when asked if he had any words for the victim's family he uttered a crude reference to oral sex. If you doubt that being adopted can lead to anger, go spend some time at alt.adoption. There are some adoptees there who will be more than happy to demonstrate how much anger an adoptee can possess.
It's interesting that a former inmate of King's, William Hoover, said that belonging in a racist group required a "blood tie," meaning to kill someone. It has been theorized that gangs function as families for members. Is it possible that this sense of belonging by a "blood tie" was unusually compelling for John King because he had absolutely no familial blood ties in his life whatsoever since the day he was born?
Karl and Walter LaGrand , brothers adopted by their step-father. They are both scheduled to go to the gas chamber (their choice) at the Arizona State Prison in Florence for the murder of Kenneth Hartsock.
Their German mother, Emma married a U.S. Army soldier, who adopted the children rather than raising them by his true relationship to them as a step-father. They were born in Germany and moved to southern Arizona in 1967.
Karl was a troubled child who first got in trouble with the law at the age of 9. Karl bounced between home, programs for troubled youths, and juvenile centers. He and Walter were convicted of armed robbery in 1981. The murder took place on Jan 7, 1982. Hartsock's throat was slashed, and he suffered 23 other knife wounds. They also stabbed a 20 year-old woman -- 7 times in the head, side and shoulder, but she survived.
Aaron Lindh a 19-year-old adoptee, carried a .22-caliber rifle into the Madison Police Department detective bureau and opened fire on Jan. 15, 1988. Prosecutor John Burr told jurors that Aaron was "angry and vengeful." A Wisconsin jury convicted Aaron of fatally shooting coroner Clyde Chamberlain and secretary Eleanor Townsend. In a separate trial, he was found to have been sane at the time of the killings and was sentenced to two consecutive life terms in prison, and an additional 35 years, for the shooting deaths and wounding of Erik Erickson, who was paying a parking ticket when Aaron went on his shooting spree.
At the age of 29, he was serving his sentence at Columbia Correctional Institution when he got a new sanity hearing. Prospective jurors were questioned about their beliefs concerning mental illness and interracial adoption. Aaron, who is black, was adopted by a white family. His adoption does play a role in his defence.
"To understand what happened on Jan. 15, 1988, you have to understand Aaron's whole life," defence lawyers said.
His life of crime began at age 4 with shoplifting, setting fires, stealing, fighting, fantasizing about murder and, trying to kill himself according to the woman who adopted him. She told the court that her adpoptee had tried to hang himself with a belt in a closet. Mary Ann Lindh said despite her family's love, their adoptee told them that he would rob them, burn down their house, and kill them. Several therapists, doctors and others treated or analysed Aaron during his troubled childhood. He told doctors he wanted to be recognized.
Defence lawyers maintain that he was a tragic loner -- depressed, unable to bond with anyone, unable to grasp the importance or meaning of truth, a thief from age 4 who also later set fires, and confused about his identity as an interracial child adopted by a white family. Burr, who prosecuted Aaron the first time, agrees with that description.
Aaron's adopters, Mary Ann and John Lindh, were among the first to testify. Years of private counselling and treatment programs and punishment through the juvenile courts did him no good, Mrs. Lindh said. Child psychiatrist Martin Fliegel, who treated Aaron for three years, said that he seemed incapable of intimacy.
A Madison psychologist indicated that Aaron's lack of opportunity to bond with his parents marked him for life. He suffers from "reactive attachment disorder,'' stemming from family disruptions during infancy that make it difficult for children to ever connect with people. Aaron was taken from his mother when he was 11 days old, by Milwaukee County social services. The Lindh family of Madison adopted him when he was just 4 months old.
Yale psychiatrist, Dr. Ezra Griffith, testified that Aaron had a lifetime of mental problems -- suffering from anti-social personality disorder, borderline personality disorder, and narcissistic personality disorder. Fifteen previous witnesses described Aaron as having a life-long battle with mental problems. He continued to exhibit signs of mental illness throughout his childhood and was treated by various counsellors and doctors, and spent most of his teenage years in juvenile court-ordered treatment centres, foster homes or group homes.
Griffith said that Aaron's impaired logic perceives problems as rejections. Events before the shootings were seen as a series of abandonments. Those events included his credit union's refusal to grant him a loan unless he had a co-signer, his adopters' refusal to co-sign, a second burglary of his home, his view that police didn't care that he was burglarized, his belief that a former roommate stole his belongings, and a dispute with his landlord. While at the City County Building complaining about the second burglary, he was told that a new detective assigned to the case was unavailable. Aaron went out to his car, got his gun, came back and began shooting, which ended when he was shot and wounded. The retired Sheriff's Deputy, who shot Aaron, said the adoptee kept repeating, ``Shoot me. Kill me. I'm going to shoot you.''
In the second sanity trial, he was again sentenced to two life terms, plus 35 years, in prison. Aaron was silent as he was resentenced.
Capital Times & Wisconsin State Journal
Things that are NOT to be Said to Adoptees:
1. You're special because you're adopted.
2. You were chosen.
3. Your Birthmother loved you so much that she gave you up.
4. You're lucky.
5. It doesn't matter.
6. You shouldn't be angry.
7. You shouldn't be sad.
8. You should be careful what you ask for -- you might get it.
9. By finding her, you're invading her life.
10. Why are you interested in someone who didn't want you ?
11. Why do you want to find someone you didn't ever know?
12. Ever since you started searching you have become obsessed.
13. ...but your adoptive parents love(d) you so much.
14. ...but you're hurting your adoptive parents
15. Babies don't remember anything.
16. You're being ungrateful!
17. You have no respect for your adoptive parents.
18. Get over it!
19. If she loved you, she wouldn't have given you away.
20. You're being over sensititve
21. Forget it and get on with your life.
22. Why would you want to find her?
23. It's the past, you can't change it.
24. You have no right to disturb her life.
25. ...but your adoptive parents really wanted you.
26.What's wrong? Weren't your adoptive parents good enough?
27. You're being selfish and disrespectful!
28. Didn't your parents do a good enough job?
29. How many mothers do you need?
30. Oh...you're one of them?
31. You adopted children should respect her privacy.
32. ...but you look like you come from such a good family.
33. ...but you don't look adopted.
34. Well, maybe that's the way it was meant to be.
35. If she didn't want you then, why would she want you now. You'll get rejected.
36. You might be opening Pandora's Box
Things that are NOT to be Said to Birthparents:
1. Forget about your baby and get on with your life.
2. Leave well enough alone, s/he has another family now.
3. You did the right thing.
4. You will destroy/disrupt her/his life if you make contact.
5. You would have been unable to provide for your child.
6. It was better for the baby to have two parents.
7. Let sleeping dogs lie.
8. She has her own family now.
9. But you've had other children and you should be happy now.
10. Why don't you just let it go?
11. She or he was better off.
12. It's water under the bridge now.
13. If she needs you she'll come searching for you.
14. You made the decision and you can't change your mind.
15. But you're not really her mother.
16. That was a long time ago. What's the matter with you?
17. She's turned out to be a nice person, so you should be grateful.
18. I don't know how you could do it... I could never give up my child.
19. If you really love her you will give her up, otherwise you are selfish.
20. No one will ever want to marry you with someone else's child.
21. There is no way you can work and care for your child properly. She will have to spend most of the day with a babysitter.