Gray Market Adoptions

08 Apr
(continued from yesterday’s post “Cincinnati – December 1982” )
I referenced the Independent adoptions yesterday and that there was an insert in the linked article on How to Adopt A Baby about Black and Gray Market Adoptions…in that insert titled “Baby for Sale” it explains the definitions of each, quoted below in italics with “…” indicating parts left out. 
“A “Black Market Baby” is a baby who is “sold” illegally to someone not his biological parent, as opposed to a child who is legally adopted through the proper channels.  “Black Market Baby” connotes evil and crime and someone getting hurt.”
“And it happens in Cincinnati, even though the courts will tell you no.  Amy Hansee, a social worker, affirms that periodically the Children’s Home is approached by a pregnant woman who says “They’re (and of course, the “They” is never identified) willing to pay me extra money,” or “They’re willing to provide me with special accommodations.  What can you do for me?”  When the case worker replies that the Children’s Home can do only what is legal – that is, pay state standard medical expenses and no more – the pregnant women leaves, often to never be heard from again.” …
“If, in fact, additional monies are exchanged “under the table” and the courts are unaware of this charge a “legal” adoption with all correct papers, can easily take place.  This is referred to as a “Gray Market Adoption”…. and the courts are powerless to prosecute.”…
“Gray Market Adoption” may seem a viable solution to a couple tired of waiting and willing to pay extra money to someone they’re heard has an “available baby” about to be born.  More often than not, however, such a process ends in disaster.  The biological mother, bereft of counseling agencies provide, makes a swift decision which is often reversed after its birth.  In one such case, for example, a prospective adoptive couple made arrangements with a “friend of a friend” to adopt her unborn child.  The biological mother was adamant about giving up her child.  She had to finish school and hadn’t seen the biological father since she’d informed him of her pregnancy.  Generous financial arrangements were made (of which the court and attorney were unaware).  After the birth of the child, the prospective adoptive parents came to the maternity ward of the Cincinnati Hospital for three days to feed and cuddle “their” baby daughter, stopping on the way home to buy little undershirts and diapers and Polly Flinders dresses.  To their horror, on the third day after the birth, the biological mother changed her mind about giving up the child – which she had every legal right to do – deciding to take the baby home with her after all.”
The Gray Market definition surprised me to an extent, but reading it made me realize that it actually describes many current day practices that are now legal and common place.  I cannot count the number of “failed adoption” stories to be read about on the internet.  I have always had an ick feeling about “birth mother” expenses even though I can agree in theory that providing money for healthy food, a roof over her head, etc. is in reality not a bad thing, but that it has the potential to create a “feeling of entitlement to the baby” on the adoptive parents side, and a “feeling of I have to give up my baby” on the mother’s part, is what gets my hackles up.
I got to wondering what current adoption law was in Ohio, and if it was different from in 1982 when and why it was changed.  I found it was changed and went into effect in April 2009 and allows for $3,000 to be paid via an attorney or agency in “birth mother” expenses until sixty days after birth.  I have to say I was surprised that it took that long to change based on how many other states allow expenses.  I was also interested to know “who” had a hand in it, below is the blurb provided with link to the law. 
HB 7 Adoption (Brinkman, T)
HB 7 is an indication of the importance the House placed on reducing barriers to adoptions in our state. Representative Brinkman has met with stakeholders including PCSAO, Adopt Cuyahoga’s Kids, the Dave Thomas Foundation, the National Center for Adoption Law and Policy, One Church One Child and ODJFS and other Republican and Democratic Legislators. PCSAO welcomes this opportunity to work with the sponsor, our members and stakeholders to address issues like:
Another practice that I see happening more and more and definitely gives me the ick factor is the promises of further education in grants for “birth mothers” after the adoption – have any of you see that and what do you think about it?
What do you guys think of the definition of Gray Market Adoption in 1982 compared to how adoption is practiced today, and the similarities between them that are now legal today?

Posted by on April 8, 2011 in Adoption, Ethics


17 responses to “Gray Market Adoptions

  1. Von

    April 8, 2011 at 9:16 pm

    Thanks for that full explanation, it’s all so clear now! Very interesting to note who has a hand in legislative changes, as expected of course! Isn’t it interesting how the more religious groups and ‘charities’ are involved the less ethics there are in adoption?
    I see websites often, offering incentives quite blatantly to mothers and I find it very disturbing especially when you consider the NCFA’s statement about making adoption acceptable to children and a younger and younger future ‘market’ sets up future consumers but also ensures a supply of BeeMommies. I view it as totally without ethics, humanity and solely for profit though greed.


    • Nova Reeves

      August 12, 2016 at 6:10 am

      Your comment shocks me. My comments should be listed below, in response to Dawn’s posts. I can not believe, if I am understanding your comment correctly, that you think women can be coerced via financial support in to giving their children away, or as we say in the adoption community, placing our children, or relinquishing them. Put yourself, if you can, in the situation of a pregnant woman, or a young woman- as you say that adoption is somewhere being made acceptable to children??? – and ask yourself: would you choose adoption over abortion or raising your child, if there were some money involved? Are women going to jump at ruining their lives, or as you put it, ensuring a supply of BeeMommies?


      • beth62

        August 13, 2016 at 3:21 pm

        Nova, coercion in relinquishment exists, and has for decades, often when no financial incentives of any kind or any paid expenses are even included in the picture at all.

        It’s not always easy to see.

        Throw in some money and it is no surprise that things can get real ugly, real fast. And often that is exactly what happens.

        You should know that many of the Adopted ones commenting here support our mothers greatly.
        In many, many ways.

        We will not blow smoke up your ass and refuse to discuss things completly, and in depth.
        Likely in depths that you have not dived into yet.

        One way of support is that I, and many, refuse to refer to our mothers as “birthmothers”.
        That in itself is often found to be coercive, distancing, not to mention shaming. It’s a dirty word to me, personally.

        The list is long, another issue we tend to tackle is the “incentive” of “Open” Adoption when there are no laws protecting it, when our mothers, father’s and family have no power at all. When the Adoption Profesionals use it as a marketing tool. When Adopted parents promise the world yet can legally close the open whenever they wish. Many never intend to be open, but we all know if we want that baby it is just something you have to say.

        Most likely we share support far more than any agency or Adoptive parents ever would, or would ever think to. In fact many are often our greatest opponents.

        Most likely we will reveal facts that many just don’t want to hear about relinquishment, adoption and the people involved…
        because they are facts. And yes, they are often very ugly. As ugly as humans can be. We’ve become hard and tough enough to be able to look at much of the ugly, and there is plenty of it in the past and today!
        There is no benefit to me to hide my head in the sand and paint Adoption as only beautiful, like so many like to do. Or insist that the majority of relinquishing mothers had a “choice” at all.

        It’s a known fact that Adoptees are silenced and dismissed, like our mothers often are as well.

        We know all about the shaming and horrid myths that are put on our individual mothers, believe me! LOL. For decades many of us have not only witnessed it, but have researched and studied it in depth. We’ve talked and/or typed to thousands of people living with Adoption in their lives.

        I feel like I should tell you that you will not win that argument here. We know too much about it. Go over to the ostrich park, they will love it!!! And will probably give you all the brave hero Adoption is best support compliments that you may want to hear, and a cookie. Sometimes cookie support is just what we need. Sometimes it’s just leads to a belly ache!

        I hope you hang around here and others places where Adoptees tend to dwell and listen to what so many have to say and share. Support comes in many ways.


        • cb

          August 13, 2016 at 11:14 pm

          Beth, you’re awesome 🙂


  2. dawn

    April 9, 2011 at 2:29 pm

    I agree. Theoretically I guess it’s possible for adoptive parents to provide financial support to the mother in an ethical and non-coercive manner, but realistically, even the best case scenario seems to be adoptive parents and lawyers taking advantage of the mother’s lack of support, financial resources, and access to social services.

    For college grants specifically, the price of college, in the United States especially, is so astronomical, any grants would either be too tiny to be allow someone who couldn’t afford college before to go or large enough that it would remove any ethical ambiguity, making the adoption pretty much a straight exchange of a baby for money/a college education. Which is both horrifying in itself and horrifying, that in the US especially, that we even let people get to where they feel they have to make the choice between keeping one’s child and having a chance at a future.


    • cb

      April 10, 2011 at 7:14 am

      “Which is both horrifying in itself and horrifying, that in the US especially, that we even let people get to where they feel they have to make the choice between keeping one’s child and having a chance at a future”

      Totally agree, Dawn.


    • Nova Reeves

      August 12, 2016 at 6:05 am

      I am glad this discussion is going on. Do the people who’s comments I am responding to, Dawn, for example, have any direct experience in adoption? I would like to know. I am a birth mother who placed via Adoption Connection in 2010. I did not have a lawyer. The adoption was conducted professionally. I arranged it beginning in about my second month of pregnancy, in other words almost right away. As to the comments on education: I am a member of a committee that is part of On Your Feet Foundation, Northern California. We are a birth mother advocacy group which provides educational grants to birth mothers post placement. The grants are only $2000, and can be reapplied for one time. In answer to Dawn’s comment: 1) These grants are somewhat symbolic, because of course it is a drop in the bucket towards the cost of a higher education. However, as a recipient of other services On Your Feet provides, such as counseling, retreats, mentoring, and ways that birth mothers can network with each other and support each other, I can state that any support is powerful. It is not the dollar amount that is important, it is the fact that someone deemed you worthy of support. A woman who places her child for adoption does not feel that about herself. Support ends up having a very holistic and life changing impact on women. 2) The ethics of supporting birth mothers financially and with education grants or other forms of financial support is being debated here. Birth mothers receiving educational grants with our organization receive them sometimes years and years after placing. Birth mothers are largely ignored and anonymous, and we are isolated. Women are coming to our organization after years of self-loathing, self-abuse, poverty, or simply heavy shame and an inability to succeed in life, even if we are educated and middle or upper class. Thus 3) when i read an insinuation that women are being/were being INCENTIVIZED to give up their children, I am angered. This seems like the abortion debate, which seems to claim that if all barriers to abortion were removed permanently, women would just go around having countless abortions. Think about this, people. Really. If you have children, would money have encouraged you to give one of your children away, permanently? Obviously, I understand the ethical difficulty in all of this. I feel that California law is the best way to deal with it, which I was a recipient of. California law states simply that no material compensation can be given for a child. A mom can’t be paid for her child. (So how does that work with surrogate mothers?) I received gift certificates for local grocery stores from the adoptive parents, and a monthly supply of iron supplement. I had already arranged to be on food stamps and Medi-Cal/Medicare, so all my medical expenses were paid for by state and federal programs. I worked part time, paid rent as I always have, wore thrift store clothing, and used public transportation. The two things I received which were definitely extras, were that the adoptive parents agreed to pay for a doula, and they also ended up paying for 10 weeks of post placement counseling. The latter was unfortunate, because my adoption agency offered counseling, so I assumed they were footing the bill, when in fact, they were making the adoptive parents pay. Had I known that, I would not have accepted the counseling. Later, I received counseling through a grant provided OYFF.

      I think ideally, there would be no support whatsoever for a birth mother, unless it came from a non-profit. I don’t think adoptive parents should be allowed, expected, or asked to fund additional costs outside of the cost of their adoption. The way my son’s adoptive parents looked at it, was that they were ensuring that our baby would be born healthy, by supplementing my food stamps with additional groceries, and with the iron supplement.

      I have heard of an arrangement that sounds like the gray market adoption, and I told the adoptive mother it sounded unethical and not a good idea. The birth parents were manipulating her to pay for whatever they wanted, such as gas and eyeglasses. In my opinion, that adoptive mother was not doing the adoption legally and professionally, except to have a lawyer finalize it. This was her fault that she got in a situation that became exploitative. It is particularly worrisome that a woman could change her mind after receiving any kind of financial help. This is why, I reiterate, non-monetary forms of support make sense, and California’s law makes sense. And despite having greatly benefited from that support, I don’t think any birth mom is owed anything, and I would have been fine on my own, although it would have been a struggle.


      • TAO

        August 12, 2016 at 2:22 pm

        Nora, this conversation occurred in 2011…

        1. Yes people commenting here have far more years in adoption than you do.
        2. The agencies (some) are the ones offering scholarships to mothers that go through with the adoption.
        3. Adopting parents are paying out anywhere from a couple thousand to well over 10K in “birthparent” expenses. So, yes, incentives.
        4. All 50 states have laws that say you can’t sell your baby, that happened in the 50’s.
        5. “It is particularly worrisome that a woman could change her mind after receiving any kind of financial help.” Of course, every single mother can change her mind after receiving “birthparent expenses” – if she couldn’t then that would be wrong, because it would indeed be payment in kind.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Nova Reeves

          August 13, 2016 at 2:23 am

          Thank you for your reply. My name is Nova, btw. It would be helpful if people who comment, list their experience or affiliation with the adoption field. That would ease communication. Regarding number 2, I would be interested to find out which agencies offer scholarships. I am always trying to expand my knowledge of adoption issues.
          Regarding number 3- I detailed what I received. I am not denying that material support exists. I am questioning regarding it as an incentive. This is extremely important.
          Regarding number 4, I am confused, since the info about Ohio mentioned above lists a monetary compensation- apparently I did not understand the legal language. What is the current Ohio law, amended since 1982?
          It seems what I am hearing is judgement towards birth mothers for being in the situation that they are in. Do people who take issue with non-monetary support (educational grants, etc.), take issue with food stamps? Medicare? Any aid to low-income people? What is the difference?
          And lastly, please don’t claim that having more years in adoption means that people are more qualified to comment than I am. I am not only in the situation myself, which should be enough, but actively involved in open adoption. I am part of a speaker’s bureau that educates adoption professionals, I meet and work with birth mothers, and I go to adoption related events, and do reading on adoption, such as reading research through the Evan B. Donaldson Institute, on a regular basis.
          Again, not negating that any type of support is an ethical gray area: hence the last few sentences of my first comment, which states that I don’t think adoptive parents should pay for extra expenses for birth mothers. This seems to have been overlooked.

          Liked by 1 person

          • TAO

            August 13, 2016 at 3:15 am

            Nova – wow, you waltz in and want people who comment on my blog to start listing their qualifications because it would be helpful for you?

            Google is your friend Nova, google “adoption agency+scholarship”.

            Look up the Ohio law to find out the current wording. Read the sentence I wrote. It’s not compensation, it’s birth parent expenses, hence #4 which is why even after having “birth parent” expenses paid, she has every right to change her mind after birth and parent. If she didn’t have that right, then it would be compensation, and illegal.

            Nova, did you, in fact, read the post so you understood that the words in italic and surrounded by ” “‘ were in fact taken from an article posted in the Magazine in 1982? Or did you just skim the post?

            I’d have no issue with scholarships for mothers offered by adoption agencies if placement wasn’t a mandatory requirement to apply for the scholarship, if they change their mind and parent, they can’t apply. Can you not see the difference between that and social safety nets for all?

            Again, with your demands Nova. This is my blog. Heck you don’t even know agencies are offering scholarships, want me to get you the Ohio law, and think you know more ????


        • Nova Reeves

          August 13, 2016 at 2:49 am

          Tao- I guess the only thing I would like to know from you, lets stick to just your views and knowledge, not that of the whole group, is whether or not you think women are giving up their children at a higher rate than they would if they received no support. Do you think that support encourages placement? If you, and in number 3, you use the word incentives, you and I seriously disagree, which is fine. I don’t think anything in the world, no matter what the dollar amount is or what the support is, would increase a woman’s chances of placing her child for adoption. I am speaking as a birth mother. And I also think that the debate should not be blaming the victim, for lack of a better term. The system should be examined, not the morality of the recipient of the assistance. I am not sure if the comments are only criticizing the system, or if they also are moralizing against the birth parents, such as Von does, in her April 8, 2011 comment.


          • TAO

            August 13, 2016 at 3:16 am

            “Nova, I was using YOUR words “Thus 3) when i read an insinuation that women are being/were being INCENTIVIZED to give up their children, I am angered.”


          • beth62

            August 13, 2016 at 8:19 pm

            You might want to study/read Vons comment again honey, you are obviously reading it wrong if that is what you think it means. You’re way off in projection on some of the things you’ve commented on.


      • cb

        August 13, 2016 at 1:38 pm

        Nova I don’t like birthmother expenses at all either (they aren’t legal where I live (more about that later)). Having said that, the “golden rule” with birthmother expenses is that one shouldn’t spend what one can’t afford to lose. “Birthmother expenses” are considered a “gift”, i.e. they cannot be used to influence an adoption otherwise that would be baby buying/selling.

        As for your AP friends: “The birth parents were manipulating her to pay for whatever they wanted, such as gas and eyeglasses. In my opinion, that adoptive mother was not doing the adoption legally and professionally, except to have a lawyer finalize it. This was her fault that she got in a situation that became exploitative. It is particularly worrisome that a woman could change her mind after receiving any kind of financial help”

        Your adoptive mother friend was obviously expecting that by paying whatever the bparents wanted, they would be guaranteed a baby. She is just as culpable as the expectant parents.

        It is interesting that you also say “It is particularly worrisome that a woman could change her mind after receiving any kind of financial help”. Those expenses cannot be used to influence an adoption. This is something that PAPs must be aware of. Any money that they do pay towards “birthmother expenses” is money that they should be prepared to lose regardless of the outcome.

        As I said, I personally dislike birthmother expenses. We don’t have them where I live (Australia) – any help that an expectant mother needs is provided via either welfare channels or NGO charities – if after birth she still wishes to relinquish her child, then that is handled separately by the adoption arm of said charities (or gov dept). The only fees that are paid by APs are for the actual adoption-related fees, eg for education, legal fees etc (about $4,000 in total (a reasonable fee)). That does mean very few domestic infant adoptions take place because there is no influence from supply vs demand. Demand is no doubt just as high out here but the difference is we don’t give into that demand. (at present anyway, there are those who are trying to change the focus more towards those wishing to adopt rather than the children)


        • cb

          August 13, 2016 at 1:39 pm

          Also, Nova, read again what Dawn said:
          ““Which is both horrifying in itself and horrifying, that in the US especially, that we even let people get to where they feel they have to make the choice between keeping one’s child and having a chance at a future”

          That is indeed sad is it not? Do you not think that you and your fellow bmothers deserved better than that?

          All in all, I dislike the whole way you do adoption in the US. I believe that you as a birthmother have been badly served by your system over there where the foxes are in charge of the henhouse. You may think that living overseas means that I can’t know anything about your system, however, having that outsider perspective has meant that I can see how exploitative your system is. People say that “adoption has changed” in the US – actually, it is society that has changed but the system is not that much different. In some ways, it may be worse because there is more of an emphasis on the psychological side of things.

          (btw I am an adoptee)


  3. Gary Brown

    June 5, 2011 at 3:11 pm

    I have been researching the many theories of the Holy Grail, and filling in the open gaps of the DaVinci Code novel. My recently released novel, Bastard Legacy, was inspired by the Grail myth, my unlawful adoption after birth, and through my experiences as a pro-se plaintiff during Discovery phase of my litigation in the Federal District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania. The pre-trial evidence uncovered the existence of hospitals in numerous States engaged in illegal gray-market baby adoption services. The hospitals are also protected by the coordinated fraudulent cover-ups committed by the federally regulated/certified DNA Testing Laboratories.


  4. Cynthia A. Nelson

    April 18, 2013 at 3:38 am

    I am a grey market adoptee. I reside in New Orleans, Louisiana and am now 55 years old. I’ve known I was adopted since before I entered first grade. This site is very useful in providing information on searching for birth families. An attorney, Harold Ainsworth, handled my adoption which took place when I signed an “Act of Adoption” when I turned 18 in 1975 but I have learned that my parents had custody of me from 4 days old. Southern Baptist Hospital (now called Memorial) is supposedly where I was born. Please keep up this blog, it has helped in my search.



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