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|Unwanted Adoption (Part Two of Three)|
Apr. 28th, 2014 at 8:08 am
The story and events you are about to read are true. Names have been changed, location omitted. To read Part One: click here.
“No. That’s not an option in my case. We have joint custody.”
He then asked what that meant. In short: my ex-husband and I shared legal custody of my daughter, but I had main physical custody simply because she lived with me.
“There are things that as a single parent you cannot provide, and if it truly means your daughter will end up with him, then it is best she stay with you.”
“It wasn’t an option in the first place.”
“Well, you are young, and your daughter is also young too. She might have a better life than you alone can provide. Spiritual nourishment is something frequently lacking in single-parent homes. A couple could provide a stable situation.”
“No. Adoption is not an option.”
“Just consider it.”
That concluded our meeting.
I came home to my Mom watching Susie, and asked where Dad was. Mom replied “downstairs”. When Dad saw me he asked how it went.
“Bishop Smith wants me to consider adopting out Susie.”
My parents and I had two completely different takes on the situation. Mom and Dad were hurt and angry that somehow a married woman with a child born into the covenant is now not able to be a single parent because she is divorcing. I was not a teenager. This was not an unwanted child.
I felt hurt and angered that I said ‘No’ and it was not only ignored but the very thing I objected to was brought up twice more. To me, it felt like ecclesiastical bullying.
Mom and Dad suggested I email the Bishop to clarify what it was he meant. I did. I also wrote in Feminist Mormon Housewives’ private Facebook group of the situation. I wanted to get community support, along with advice. The group contained around 1,000 members at the time and was filled with people who were active in the church and knowledgeable about the system. Immediately the response was I needed to push it up the chain and report it to the Stake President.
I also received a response to my email from Bishop Smith. A part of that email contained the following paragraph.
“Also, regarding what I said about adoption, I believe that in general circumstances, children are better off in a two-parent home than in a single-parent home, and that in general terms, an infant and a young mother having gone through a divorce such as yours would both be better off in the long term if the child were placed for adoption. Certainly such an act would be extremely difficult and heartbreaking for all parties, and I am not trying to convince you that that is the course that you personally should pursue. If doing so would mean that she would go back to Ex-husband, for example, that is one of the things that you have to consider, since I completely agree with you that Susie is better off with you than with him. I brought it up because I wanted to make sure that it is one of the options you have at least considered, since if it were done in the best of circumstances, it would mean a clean break and a fresh start (and possibly better circumstances) for both of you. I will respect whatever decision you make and will not try to persuade you one way or the other, for only you know your specific situation. But I would encourage you to at least step back and give prayerful consideration to the idea. I think she is still young enough that this is an option worth giving thought and prayer to.”
I called the Stake President’s Secretary who said he was out of the country for two weeks. I went ahead and scheduled an appointment for when he got back. My worry was when I saw the Stake President he would feel the issue has been resolved or blown over because of the time that has passed before being able to meet him. My parents had the same worry, and emailed our Area Authority.
“Dear Area Authority
…I apologize for contacting you through email, but time is of the essence in this matter and I think sending you an email is the best way to communicate. Attached to this email is a series of emails my daughter, NewlyHousewife has had with her old bishop in her previous ward and our current bishop in her new ward. As you read from the bottom letter to the top, you will understand our current situation.
I have an appointment with our bishop at 6:30pm tonight to further discuss his recommendation that NewlyHousewife give serious thought to putting our one-year old granddaughter, up for adoption. My questions for you are:
1. When did it become church policy to recommend that women who married in the temple and had children under that covenant to put those resulting children up for adoption when their spouse has chosen to be unfaithful and has broken his covenants?
2. When the mother and child are living at home with her family, thereby insuring the grandchild is surrounded by the Priesthood and extended family who will take care of them physically, emotionally and materially and there is no risk of the mother being on government or church assistance, how is that not appropriate care of a child?
3. The bishop has counseled NewlyHousewife to not seek a temple cancellation because it is a blessing for her to still be under the marriage covenant even if her ex-husband has broken those covenants (repeatedly). If their child, Susie, was born under that covenant, doesn’t that give Susie the same protection/blessing and how would severing her relationship with her mother be a better solution?
I apologize again for asking you these questions, but our Stake President is currently out of the country and I need clarification on these questions before I meet with our Bishop this evening.
PS. Having experienced this same situation with your daughter and darling grandchildren, I am sure you have further advice and insight that my husband and I would appreciate.”
My parents used to be in the same ward as our Area Authority when he was a Stake President. The Stake President has a daughter who also went through a divorce after her husband developed an online relationship with an old girlfriend through Facebook. She had young children, and kept them all after the divorce was final. His family circumstances became well-known in the ward, and in my case it helped.
Magically, before getting a response from the Area Authority, the Stake President’s Secretary called me. Apparently he was coming back sooner than expected and was able to meet that night, at the same time my mother was meeting with our bishop.
When I walked in with the support and encouragement from the group, his first line was “Thank you for meeting with me, I was just praying in the Thailand temple this morning.”
Our appointment was scheduled for an hour’s length. We ended up talking for two.
I came in with a list of questions revolving temple cancellation and clearances. The same questions I wanted answered when I met with Bishop Smith but did not receive due to the adoption push.
The majority of our conversation has already been shared here.
The last ten minutes of our appointment, I asked specifically why Bishop Smith would suggest the idea of adoption. “The church is neither for nor against adoption.” He replied, then he told me a story.
There was a family in the stake with four boys and a girl. The girl was the youngest of the group. Eventually the family realized they did not have a suitable environment for raising her, and gave her to another family in the stake for adoption. Since then, both families have thrived and the girl has grown into a blossoming woman.
He didn’t get into specifics of what ‘suitable environment’ he was talking about. The story did not relate to my circumstances, so I didn’t ask.
He then talked some more about how hard it is to raise a child, and it became clear the advice my bishop gave me was originally from him.
He did not apologize. He did not admit wrong doing. He was not apologetic in any way about the harm his advice caused. If anything, he was confrontational when I asked if he felt what was said was appropriate–he said yes.
That concluded our meeting. My mother’s meeting with our bishop was very different than mine.
The bishop stood in the hallway outside his office with tears in his eyes. As soon as he saw me round the corner towards him, he called out, “I’m so sorry, Sister. I hope you and your daughter forgive me.”
expect that. I was ready to go to war, armed with a lifetime of experiences that I was going to use to crush the error of the bishop’s ways. As we sat down, the bishop continued his profuse apologies. He said he received phone calls at work that day from church authorities that corrected his improper comments. He said, “The church absolutely does not have a policy of ever recommending adoption in any situation. The official church position is one of support for whatever choice a mother makes. The church is not in the business of telling mother’s to give their babies up for adoption. I was taught in leadership training that adoption should be discussed with a mother, but that is not church policy.”
I was amused by that last part, recalling through my life that I had read plenty of articles in the Ensign specifically telling teenaged, unwed mothers to give their babies up for adoption. I also remembered when my husband and I were attending BYU and living in a family ward, that a senior high school girl had gotten pregnant and decided to keep her baby. The shunning that girl took from the ward and her own family made the Amish and Jewish religious versions of shunning look like child’s play.
I replied to the bishop, “Thank you for your apology and clarification of church policy. I don’t fault you for a misunderstanding, which this obviously was. My point is, a teenage girl impregnated by her high school boyfriend, without the maturity and means of taking care of a baby, is a very different situation than a temple-married woman who got divorced. In my daughter’s case, I can’t believe than anyone would seriously expect her to give up her child just because she left a terrible situation. In fact, I would have expected the opposite, that she would have been applauded for getting herself and her child out of it before anymore damage was done.”
The bishop sorrowfully agreed. I then acknowledged that he didn’t know our family well. We hadn’t lived in the ward long, and he had no idea of our history, especially mine. I spread out on the desk between us, a series of photos from my childhood and I proceeded to tell him my story,* which included me and my brother being taken away from my biological parents and adopted into a horrific situation. My parents fought to the doors of the US Supreme Court to get me and my brother back. It didn’t happen, but laws regarding children’s rights in court were changed because of our case. I don’t take the idea of adoption lightly, and I don’t think any church leader should, either.
I cried, he cried and after an hour long meeting, we parted as friends. I knew in my heart that the bishop was only trying to follow council from his leaders and that he meant no harm to my daughter or granddaughter. It was thoughtless and he regretted it. I also doubt that he will ever make the same mistake again.
I went home, thankful for a kind bishop who was willing to correct himself and very, very thankful for the blessing of technology that made the email I sent the Area President that morning be effective beyond my wildest expectations. I knew that knowing the AP and his family, including his adult daughter and her children who moved home after her divorce, made a huge difference in the speed that my email was attended to and that the instructive phone call the bishop received at work that day was a direct result of my email.
What’s that saying- “It’s all just policy until it happens to you. Then it becomes either a stick to beat you with, or a helping hand to save you from drowning.”
For me, the issue was not that adoption was suggested in the first place, but that I clearly stated it was not suitable for my situation and my statements were ignored. It was hurtful that the topic of adoption didn’t die after my first negative response, especially after I explained that it wasn’t possible. For my mother, with her own adoption story, it was an inappropriate suggestion at every level.
*To read more about my mother’s story, go to ezraandhadassah.blogspot.com or buy her memoir, “Ezra and Hadassah: A Portrait of American Royalty” on amazon, b&n or any online retailer.