Sunday, February 3, 2008

Marketing Adoption: A Timeline

The Family Research Council and the National Council for Adoption have joined forces to increase the domestic adoption rate, following a two pronged strategy. The NCFA has long utilized a legislative agenda to promote infant adoption within the United States.

Now, they have joined forces and together they have retained the services of a premiere marketing research firm, probed the deep attitudes towards adoption that Americans hold, and developed a marketing plan targeted at women and their families who are utilizing the services of crisis pregnancy centers.

For details and extensive history, please follow me below the fold.

1972. Nixon is in office. Roe v Wade has not yet been decided. The number of unmarried white women surrendering children for adoption is at an all time high. The maternity home movement in America is at its peak. Dr. Charles Kenny founds RightBrain People, a marketing research firm.

1973. Roe v Wade is decided. The National Right To Life Committee is formed in Detroit.

1973 - 1988. The domestic surrender rate for healthy white newborns plummets dramatically from a high of 19.2% of births to unmarried white mothers in 1972 to 7.6% in 1981, to 3.2% in 1988 (Bachrach, Stolley, London, 1992.)

1980. Roe v Wade has been the law of the land for seven years. The ACLU Women's Project, headed by Ruth Ginsberg Bader has successfully been suing for Women's Rights for nine years. The number of healthy white newborns surrendered for adoption has fallen precipitously since 1972. James Dobson founds the Family Research Council in 1980 to drive the national debate on what has come to be known as "Family Values." These values are based on biblical Christianity. The model for family and marriage in biblical Christianity is Christ and the Church. Men take the Christ role (suffering servant, sacrificed God, victorious resurrected Saviour) and women that of the subservient Church. This is not really a contemporary marriage model constructed for contemporary times...but it is well funded with contemporary dollars.

1981. Reagan is inaugurated. Sens. Jeremiah Denton (R-AL) and Orrin Hatch (R-UT), introduce The Adolescent Family Life (AFL) Demonstration and Research program, as Title XX of the Public Health Service Act. Congress passes it without hearings as part of the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1981. It is found unconstitutional in 1985 (Kendrick v Sullivan) ,but the decision is reversed by the Supreme Court in 1988. AFL continues to receive federal funding through the Clinton Administration. (

A history of AFLA is available here via SIECUS:
A quote from the SIECUS report:

Since 1981, the Office of Populations Affairs has administered the Adolescent Family Life Act Demonstration Grants program (commonly referred to as AFLA). Designed to prevent teen pregnancy through teaching abstinence and to promote adoption (as opposed to abortion) as the appropriate choice for teenagers who become pregnant, AFLA was often viewed as the Far Right's "alternative" to the Title X family planning program and was controversial from the start.

The ACLU sues the program.

1983. The Family Research Council incorporates as a non profit with James Dobson as its head.

1984. The pro-birth movement is in full throat. The number of pregnancy terminations has been increasing since 1978; the number of children being surrendered for adoption has been declining since 1972.

Edmund Mech, a professor and researcher at the University of Illinois at Champaign releases a 9 page report called Orientations of Pregnancy Counselors Toward Adoption, for U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Population Affairs. This 9 page document laid the groundwork for the much that follows, including the Infant Adoption Awareness Training Act.

A quote:
The aim of the research was to study counselors' attitudes, beliefs, and knowledge about adoption. Three questions were posed: (a) what are the attitudes of counselors toward adoption as an alternative for pregnant adolescents? (b) How adequate is the adoption knowledge base of counselors?, and (c) what are the main counseling methods used? ....

The intent of this section is to draw attention to the possible connections between the research findings and policy and practice. Our main focus is on identifying strategies that appear likely to promote and facilitate consideration of adoption as an option among adolescents. The Adolescent Familv Life Act has intended that adoption be accepted as a positive option.

....A five point plan was outlined for consideration. The main elements are: (1) Mandatory adoption counseling guidelines for all federally supported programs aimed at adolescent pregnancy, (2) Encouraging social influence and interactional counseling models as alternatives to "non-directive" methods. (3) Establishing procedures for certifying counselor proficiency in adoption (4) Developing outreach strategies to include (a) options counseling for adolescent clients in WIC, AFDC, and related 'at risk' programs as a condition for receiving food vouchers and/or financial assistance, (b) community education to increase adoption awareness, and (c) expansion of Residential (Decision) Center services for adolescent clients and (5) Utilizing "consumer" input from members of the adoption circle as a way of increasing the credibility of adoption for adolescent clients."

1985 AFLA is declared unconstitutional (Kendrick v. Sullivan.)

1988 The Supreme Court reverses Kendrick v. Sullivan but remands the case for further factual findings as to whether the implementation is unconstitutional. Investigations reveal "widespread constitutional violations during the Reagan and Bush administrations."

The Reagan Administration prohibits counselors in family planning clinics supported by Title X of the Public Health Service Act from providing women facing an unintended pregnancy with information about abortion or a referral to an abortion
provider, even in response to a direct request for such information

1991 Clinton is inaugurated and continues to fund AFLA, although he suspends the gag rule imposed by the Reagan Administration.

1993 A settlement is reached in AFLA that places conditions on further funding "such as requiring AFLA grantees to submit curricula to DHHS for review and "consideration of whether the curricula teach or promote religion and whether such materials are medically accurate."

1999 - 2000 Ken Connor was appointed to head the FRC, and brought with him very extensive ties to the Pro-Life Movement. The Family Research Council actively enters the adoption arena. According to the FRC History and Mission Page:

As a pro-life advocate, Connor had served as president and board chairman of Florida Right to Life, vice chairman of Americans United for Life, and board chairman of Care Net, an umbrella organization for five hundred pre-natal care centers.

Under Connor's tenure, FRC launched the Center for Human Life and Bioethics and the Center for Marriage and Family, thereby reaffirming FRC's commitment to provide the nation's lawmakers with critical research on public policy affecting the family."

In 1999, the FRC retained Dr. Charles Kenny, founder of the marketing research concern, Right Brain People. He was retained to conduct research on adoption counseling in Crisis Pregnancy Clinics. His findings are contained in THE MISSING PIECE: ADOPTION COUNSELING IN PREGNANCY RESOURCE CENTERS by CURTIS J. YOUNG © 2000 by the Family Research Council, a 40 page paper. You can purchase a copy of this paper from the FRC's website for $2.50

From the introduction:

The research was designed to identify the underlying factors that either
inhibit or motivate the consideration of adoption in both single, pregnant women
and in pregnancy counselors. The research focused on discovering the most basic
impressions that women and counselors have about adoption and on the
psychological dynamics of decision-making concerning adoption.

The first third of the report focuses on finding the resistances to the idea of
adoption within the minds of pregnant women, and ways to overcome them. The second third focuses on the resistances of pregnancy counselors and how to overcome them. The final third is composed of recommendations to aid counselors in promoting
adoption to pregnant women.

That research made the following significant discoveries:

The following emotional equations underlie how most women feel about adoption and explain why adoption is such a difficult choice:

1. Adoption = Abandonment
2. Adoption = The Big Lie
3. Adoption = An Unbearable Sacrifice

Adoption as the abandonment of a child is the most powerful of these three
equations.This is what drives women to doubt the character of those who choose adoption. While they may give an opinion that adoption is a good thing because a
child gets a family, they cannot bring themselves to consider adoption as a choice
they could make. This negative association explains why public-opinion polls that try to measure support for adoption are of little relevance. These only measure surface opinions. When personally involved in the decision-making process, the
deepseated mental equations take over and cause women to move away from adoption.
(Emphasis added)

A summary of The Missing Piece from Dr. Kenny's website :

Study author Curtis J. Young summarizes the results of in-depth interviews both with women facing unexpected pregnancies and the center staff who counsel them. The study shows what pregnancy centers can do to increase their adoption rates - and how this research will dramatically benefit children and families. The conclusions of The Missing Piece are generating new momentum for adoption nationally and around the world. Curtis Young is one of the leading founders of the national pregnancy center movement.

Concurrently, the Congress was working on legislation introduced by Tom Bliley (R, VA) and Jim DeMint (R, SC) that aimed to reinstate the abortion gag rule and continue AFLA.

The Guttmacher Institute ( wrote that this new legislation
enumerated the various options that family planning providers would be required to discuss with clients facing an unintended pregnancy, specifically excluding abortion. At the same time, it authorized funds for a grant to a "national adoption organization" for the purpose of training Title X and other federally supported health care providers in how to "promote" adoption ("Family Planning and Adoption Promotion: New Proposals, Long-Standing Issues," TGR, October 1999, page 1). From the start, the bill's language appeared geared to support the National Council for Adoption (NCFA), an organization that takes credit for having played a key role in developing the legislation and shares the conservative views of the bill's sponsors.

2000 This legislation is signed into law as the Infant Adoption Awareness Act. The prohibition on abortion counseling was removed. Funds were directed to a number of adoption providers to train health care providers regarding adoption counseling according to Title X guidelines. A 2004 study by The Guttmacher Institute on implementation of the IAATA found many clinics to be out of compliance with Tile X guidelines. An excerpt:

A fundamental complaint raised by a number of participants was the directive nature of the training. In January 2004, Charles Marquardt, the program coordinator and lead trainer for the Title X training program at the California Family Health Council (the largest Title X grantee in the nation), highlighted his concerns about the training experience in a seven-page letter to his federal regional health administrators. He wrote: "The trainer promoted tactics and techniques for attempting to persuade the client to choose adoption by (1) discouraging abortion as a viable option, (2) overly promoting adoption, (3) highlighting the difficulties [the] child will encounter if [a woman] should choose to raise it herself, and (4) encouraging counselor opinions in scenarios by having the counselor choose for the client the best option." Similarly, Kelly McBride of Planned Parenthood of Indiana noted the exclusive and "constant focus on 'child-centered' counseling" and "how to inform clients that adoption is a 'good choice for the child.'" She said she was given "tips and techniques...about how to work against [women's] resistance, make them proud of their decision and convince them that adoption is a good choice." One family planning provider from Planned Parenthood of Collier Country, Florida, said she was told to repeatedly bring up adoption as an option, even if a woman says she is not interested. These examples border on coercion and clearly violate both Title X guidelines and principles of medical ethics.

However, the federal funds kept flowing to the people cranking out the training materials, i.e., the NCFA. Page 3 of the NCFA's 2005 Form 990 ( outlines the activities and disbursements of the NCFA in 2005.

The NCFA received $1.6 million in government grants in 2005. This was about half its operating budget for that year. Line a states that in 2005, the NCFA spent $1.6 million on the IAATA, $147K on educating the public about adoption issues, and
$239K on research on all aspects of adoption practice. 2005, $1.6 M in grants, $1.6 M out on the IAATA.

Your tax dollars at work, convincing women to go against their best, if unconscious, instincts. Marketing at its finest. These dollars are being spent to talk women and families who are perfectly capable of caring for their own children to put them up for adoption. Your tax dollars are going to train counselors to persuade women to violate their best instincts, against their deeply held beliefs about who mothers are and how mothers behave

Page 3, Line 15 of the Schedule A ( page 11 of the .pdf) states that over the period 2001-2004, the NCFA received a total of 19 million dollars in grants. That puts grant allocations to the NCFA at a total at about 22 million between 2001-2006.

2007 The Family Research Council and the National Council for Adoption jointly publish a booklet titled: BIRTHMOTHER, GOODMOTHER, Her Story of Heroic Redemption was published in 2007 by the Family Research Council and the National Council for Adoption, and authored by Charles T. Kenny, Ph.D.From the booklet:

The responses of women in these interviews provided clues to powerful
associations that women carry in their minds about adoption. These associations are difficult to change because they are so firmly rooted. They are important to understand because communication designed to change how women think and feel
about adoption must be able to chip away at those associations and establish new
ones, which make women feel comfortable.

The 20 page booklet, which can be requested for free from the NCFA and FRC is a how to manual for selling adoption placements to potential customers - pregnant women. The first part of the booklet contains the results of their marketing research, and
the last page or two contains selling strategies.

Some nuggets :

Deliver the message through birthmothers that sometimes choosing adoption is what it means to be a good mother. Use the media and public relations to help potential birthmothers understand adoption in advance of unplanned pregnancy. Use article placements to establish adoption as a viable option if an unwanted /unplanned pregnancy occurs.

....Educate potential birthmother supporters such as family members and friends. Challenge the assumption that all women should want to keep their unplanned babies and/or want to parent.This strategy prepares the way for pregnant girls to choose
adoption and not be judged as bad women. Show potential supporters that choosing adoption is a demonstration of maturity and love."

2008 Conclusion: The National Council for Adoption and the Pro-Life movement headed by the Family Research Council have found that they have common interest in seeing the domestic adoption rate rise. They have joined forces and together with the services of a well established marketing research firm have identified the most common major areas of resistance to the idea of adoption that people have. They have reframed the characterization of a woman who surrenders a child for adoption from a bad woman who does not keep faith with the child she bears to one of a good woman, even a heroine. Within this frame they have developed a program to market adoption to pregnant mothers. Within this frame the young pregnant woman is both a consumer of adoption services, a supplier of commodity to the adoption marketplace, and a heroine to boot!

Some of the funding for programs developed to help crisis pregnancy center counselors counsel more effectively toward adoption have been federal funds.
The research that has been conducted regarding outcomes for women who lose children to adoption, either coercively or through marketing is disheartening. A tiny portion of it can be found here

Existing evidence suggests that the experience of relinquishment renders a woman at high risk of psychological (and possibly physical) disability. Moreover very recent research indicates that actual disability or vulnerability may not diminish even decades after the event.

....Taken overall, the evidence suggests that over half of these women are suffering from severe and disabling grief reactions which are not resolved over the passage of time and which manifest predominantly as depression and psychosomatic illness. "
-- PSYCHOLOGICAL DISABILITY IN WOMEN WHO RELINQUISH A BABY FOR ADOPTION, Dr. John T. Condon (Medical Journal of Australia) Vol. 144 Feb 3, 1986 (Department of Psychiatry, Flinders Medical Centre, Bedford Park, SA 5042, Consultant Psychiatrist)

A grief reaction unique to the relinquishing mother was identified. Although this reaction consists of features characteristic of the normal grief reaction, these features persist and often lead to chronic, unresolved grief. Conclusions: The relinquishing mother is at risk for long-term physical, psychological, and social repercussions. Although interventions have been proposed, little is known about their effectiveness in preventing or alleviating these repercussions."
-- “Postadoptive Reactions of the Relinquishing Mother: A Review.” By Holli Ann Askren, MSN, CNM, Kathleen C. Bloom, PhD, CNM. In the Journal of Obstetric, Gynecological and Neonatal Nursing, 1999 Jul-Aug; 28(4):395-400

Relinquishing mothers have more grief symptoms than women who have lost a child to death, including more denial; despair, atypical responses; and disturbances in sleep, appetite, and vigor." Askren, H., & Bloom, K. (1999) Post-adoptive reactions of the relinquishing mother: A review. Journal of Obstetric, Gynecological and Neonatal Nursing, 1999 Jul-Aug; 28(4):395-400

Results shown in Table 3 demonstrate that mothers relinquishing a child for adoption tend towards more grief symptoms than bereaved parents ... ." ... "Table 3, comparing natural mothers in both open and closed adoptions with bereaved parents, shows that natural mothers suffer more denial, atypical responses, despair, anger, depersonalization, sleep disturbance, somaticizing, physical symptoms, dependency, vigor." Blanton, T.L., & Deschner, J. (1990). Biological mother's grief: The postadoptive experience in open versus confidential adoption. Child Welfare Journal, 69(6), pp. 525-535.

Considering the findings of this research, is it advisable to continue to provide federal funding to those who, for whatever motivation, would attempt to persuade young mothers to release their children to the for-profit adoption market in the United States?