Review by Denise Roessle,
The American Adoption Congress, Decree, Winter, 2009, Vol. 26, No. 1, p. 7
I would be lying if I said I enjoyed The Stork Market. It is not an easy read, no matter what adoption perspective you’re coming from. I found myself gasping, squirming, and shaking my head in disbelief as often as I nodded in agreement. Yet, I was drawn in and compelled to keep reading, no matter how disconcerting.
The Stork Market provides an important perspective on adoption as it exists today. Not unlike Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth — another discomforting read, but nonetheless an important addition to our base of knowledge and the means to get us thinking about where we should go from here. Along with the works of Rickie Sollinger (Wake Up Little Susie and Beggars and Choosers) and Adam Pertman (Adoption Nation) — and I found The Stork Market more accessible — it is a must-read for every mother who is considering surrendering a child, every couple seeking to adopt, and every adoption professional and legislator in the United States.
Riben provides a concise, well researched and documented history of current adoption practices, including the lack of regulations for agencies and facilitators in 47 of our 50 states (i.e., no requirements for training, licensing and reporting), transgressions committed against both natural mothers and adopting parents (including recognizable names like Georgia Tann and Seymour Kurtz), international adoption policies which vary by country, the lack of enforcement of open adoption agreements, trends toward rushing mothers into the decision to surrender, safe havens, foster care, and sealed records.
She (along with Evelyn Robinson, a social worker, author and speaker on the long-term outcomes of adoption separation, who has lived and worked in Australia since 1982 and wrote the book’s foreword) cites Australia’s Children’s Protection Act of 1993, an adoption alternative model based on the best interests of children. In part, it makes private adoption illegal, bans commercial adoption agencies and payments of any kind connected to adoptions, encourages and supports expectant mothers in raising their children, requires counseling after birth at least three days prior to consent for adoption, prohibits consent for adoption until the child is at least fourteen days old, and includes the names of both the natural and adoptive parents on the birth/adoption certificate.
As revered as adoption has become in our country, facing injustices that have been and continue to be perpetrated by the adoption industry, where the demand for children has become the driving force, can be a bitter pill to swallow. As the author of this book wrote: “Adoption is a very personally and emotionally charged issue for those touched by it. Few can think about or discuss it without passion. For that reason, this may be a difficult or painful book for some to read. It may make you sad, it may shock you, or it may make you angry. But it is for just these reasons that you might need to read it.”
We don’t want to give up our cars, our fireplaces, beef, and cell phones, even though Al Gore and other environmentalists insist that we must in order save the planet. Likewise, infertile couples don’t want to give up the chance to build a family. Those who have adopted, or hope to, may find the book difficult to digest. I submit that the same is true of birthmothers and even adoptees struggling with whether adoption was in their best interest.
Adoption isn’t going away any time soon. But I agree with Riben that our focus has to shift back from recruiting mothers and finding children to meet the needs of prospective adoptive parents to the original intent of adoption: to provide homes for children who might not otherwise have one. Her conclusion (a view shared by Origins-USA, on whose board of directors she serves) is that family preservation is the answer — with kinship adoption and legal guardianship as alternatives to adoption by strangers, the end to amended birth certificates, enforcement of open adoption agreements, and a greater focus on finding families for older children in foster care as opposed to “blank slate” infants.
Indeed a lofty goal. But after reading The Stork Market, I believe it is an aim worthy of our consideration and effort. Kind of like world peace.
Denise Roessle is a reunited birthmother, writer, blogger, and member of numerous adoption organizations, including AAC and Origins-USA. She can be reached at