Coercion and Adoption

Below are several examples of common, coercive practices carried out by adoption agents, agencies, social workers, and the church. It’s crucial we’re aware of the ways in which pregnant women in our country are targeted and coerced into losing their children so that we may effectively fight together for family preservation. 


Coercion in Domestic Adoption

  •   Labeling a Pregnancy as a “Crisis”

A pregnancy will be perceived the way it is received. When we refer to a pregnancy as a “crisis” rather than the joy it is, people will respond accordingly. When an entire family decides to embrace a baby as a welcomed addition, the panic response subsides and is replaced with the enthusiasm a new life deserves.

  •   Counseling for Expectant Parents Provided by the Agency

     This creates an obvious conflict of interest. Clearly, anyone employed or contracted by adoption agents would be unable to provide unbiased services. Additionally, fathers are often overlooked in the adoption process. Every child deserves to be raised within their family of origin if at all possible, this includes their father. Fathers have a right to parent and raise their own child, just as a mother does. Expectant parents should receive an unbiased advocate, counseling, and legal representation which has no affiliation with an agency. 

  • Withholding Important Studies & Testimonials 

     There is extensive research available for expectant parents so they can make fully informed decisions; this includes testimonials and studies from both mothers and adopted people who have actual lived experience. Mothers need to know what to expect should they decide to relinquish. By withholding critical information agencies are throwing mothers into a raging river without a vest. When making a decision of this magnitude they MUST be informed. 

  • Initial Consultation

      Adoption agents are known to provide worksheets and questionnaires for expectant mothers at the initial consult. During this time an agent will take the opportunity to point out all an expectant mother doesn’t have and all that the hopeful adoptive parents do have. (Link to actual agency worksheet below)

  • Referring to the Expectant Mother as “Birth Mother” 

     The terminology “Birth Mother” acts as a reminder to the mother of her responsibility to fulfill the adoption plan (to give birth). She should never be referred to as birth mother until she legally relinquishes her rights. ‘Birth mother’ is another way of gradually disassociating a mother from her child throughout her pregnancy. This label is dehumanizing and carries a stigma. A pregnant woman does not owe her child to anyone no matter her circumstance; a woman who carries a child in her body is a mother, not a “birth mother”. For clarification purposes, the qualifier should be added to ‘adoptive’ mother.

  • Referring to a Mother as “Brave” or “Selfless”

     Does the alternative mean a mother is selfish for keeping her baby? When we elevate a mother to hero status we are attempting to create noble justification for separation. It’s subtle manipulation. The truth is: A mother and her baby were created to be together. They are a family. “Brave” is parenting even when people tell you you’re not good enough. (See: BraveLove)

  • Creating an “Adoption Plan” 

     An “adoption plan” should never be made before a baby is born. On average, 50% of mothers with an adoption plan change their minds after giving birth (cite/source below- 10 Red Flags). When a plan is made before a mother has had adequate bonding with her baby, there is a sense of obligation to fulfill not only the adoption agreement but also the hopeful adoptive parents dreams.

  • Pre-Birth Matching 

     Typically an agency and/or adoption attorney will provide the expectant mother with profiles of hopeful adoptive parents. When she chooses a couple to parent her child and begins communication with them prior to delivery, this further solidifies her sense of obligation. This is intentional. (She “..doesn’t want to disappoint them”, she “…really likes them”, or “…they’ve been so nice  to me.”) This standard protocol also sets up hopeful adoptive parents for disappointment should a mother change her mind. (See: The Missing Piece)

  • Promises of an Open Adoption

     Open Adoption was established by adoption professionals when the industry saw a decline in available babies. They recognized that expectant parents were less inclined to relinquish if they didn’t know where or with whom their baby was going. It is a coercive tactic created in order to persuade a mother to relinquish her baby. In most states there is no legal recourse should adoptive parents decide to close the open adoption agreement and there is no state where adoptive parents face a penalty for breaking a PACA.

  • Assisted Living Expenses

     The amount given to a mother during pregnancy varies by agency, state laws, and situation. Mothers are frequently threatened that they will need to pay back adoption agents should they change their mind. By receiving monies during a pregnancy this also applies further obligation and pressures to the mother when making her decisions.

  • Hopeful Adoptive Parents Present at the Birth

     Having hopeful, adoptive parents (HAP) present at any time while a mother and her baby are in the hospital adds undo pressure to a mother and additional trauma to the infant. This is a critical time for a mother to bond with her baby. No decisions should be made until they are given time alone together. Having HAPs present becomes an added (intentional) distraction (also noted in The Missing Piece study mentioned above). An infant only knows their mother, everyone else is a stranger. Contrary to common adoption agency practices, “bonding” with strangers doesn’t create an easier transition for infants. 

  • Offering Lump Sum, Housing, or Scholarship Money once TPR (Termination of Parental Rights) is Signed

     To entice a mother with monetary gifts only if/when she signs the TPR is coercive. It’s often the determining factor for a vulnerable mother. It’s yet another incentive for hopeful adoptive parents in order to receive her signature and her baby. 

  • Calling CPS When a Mother Revokes

     Another common practice, seen as an additional attempt to get a mother to relinquish her child is calling CPS with false accusations if/when a mother revokes. This is bullying behavior. If this occurs, a mother should know she is well within her rights and should never sign any document presented to her by CPS.

“I had not realized that I had gone through a process to take away my parental rights completely,” the mother said in sworn testimony September 8, 2016. “I had all along thought and understood that the child was going to be educated and returned back to me.” -Ugandan Mother

Coercion in Intercountry Adoption

While many of the same coercive measures are used in intercountry adoption, there are some additional layers of manipulation and deceit often seen.

  • Money Exchanged

     We often hear stories of poor and vulnerable families being given  a sum of money for their child (See: Child Catchers by Kathryn Joyce). Parents in these countries are often told their children are being sent away for “education and feeding programs.” They  are promised photos, letters, and the safe return of their child. They fully believe they will see their children again. Frequently, these parents do not speak english and are tricked into signing papers (not in their spoken language) relinquishing their rights to their own children. 

  • No Word for ‘Adoption’

     In many of these countries there is no word which translates to adoption. The families have no understanding of this construct. They are, typically, illiterate and unable to read any document they have signed. 

  • Societal Stigma 

     In many countries, the deep cultural stigma attached to a young, unwed mother, let alone a pregnant woman, bring about severe consequences. With their lives at risk, their only option is to hide and/or abandon their baby.

Additional Links to Information / Resources Mentioned Above

  • Domestic

10 Red Flags That Your Adoption Agency Might be Coercive 


The Missing Piece


“Landmark Donaldson Adoption Institute Study reveals financial difficulties, social pressures and lack of support all factors in decision-making for expectant mothers.” 


The Latest! Pre birth matching as easy as a mobile app

“AdoptMatch is a mobile app and online resource that connects Expectant Parents with Adoptive Parents who are working with an Adoption Professional committed to the very highest standards of ethics and best practices in adoption. AdoptMatch is not an agency, attorney or facilitator.  We connect Expectant Parents with the Adoptive Parents’ Adoption Professional.” 


“The truth is that the adoption system is greatly flawed. It is a profit driven industry. Both adoptive parents and natural parents are exploited for what they bring to the table: money for fees and children for transfer. The children adopted are treated like a commodity with the transfer of parental rights to a child bought and sold.” – Claudia Corrigan D’Arcy


“When Jordan arrived, a counselor began asking whether she’d considered adoption and talking about the poverty rates of single mothers. Over five counseling sessions, she convinced Jordan that adoption was a win-win situation: Jordan wouldn’t “have death on her hands,” her bills would be paid and the baby would go to a family of her choosing in an open adoption. She suggested Jordan move into one of Bethany’s “shepherding family” homes, away from the influence of family and friends.”  


Utah, especially, has a long history of unethical adoption practices particularly regarding father rights. It’s no secret that expectant mothers are often sent to Utah to deliver their babies. “Under Utah’s law, a child aged six months or less can be adopted without the legal consent of an unmarried biological father unless the man has already initiated a petition to establish paternity.” 

  • Intercountry 

The Child Catchers, by Kathryn Joyce 


The Traffickers – Exposing the Dark Side of International Adoption


Why We Need to End the Era of Orphanages 


“I had not realized that I had gone through a process to take away my parental rights completely,” the mother said in sworn testimony September 8, 2016. “I had all along thought and understood that the child was going to be educated and returned back to me.” 

© 2018 Family Preservation 365, All Rights Reserved.

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