In honor of Black History Month, MPower Alliance wanted to set out to spotlight Black birthmother experiences. We put together resources we found informative but were disappointed by the overall lack of content honoring Black birthmothers. Much of what we found had a common thread of systemic racism within adoption and foster care.
One article we have included outlines the practice of adoption agencies taking advantage of Black women in the 1960s--telling them that their newborns had died, and then placing the babies for adoption.
Two other articles--”Open Adoption and the Politics of Transnational Feminist Human Rights” and “Expectant Moms Face Cultural Hurdles with Adoption” make the same observations that Black expectant mothers face severe limitations in both reproductive decisions and choosing adoptive families for their children--limitations that are not experienced by non-Black expectant mothers.
When reaching out to find literature on the Black birthmother experience, the results came up short. The classic novel, The Color Purple by Alice Walker, has a plot surrounding adoption, with harrowing circumstances for the birthmother character. We recently learned of the book The Kindest Lie, by Nancy Johnson, whose main character is a successful Black engineer who is learning to cope with the trauma of placing a baby in her teenage years.
We will highlight these stories and more throughout the month and beyond, but our work doesn’t stop there. We must continue to acknowledge the institutional racism that Black birthmothers face, and provide culturally-competent services that reflect their experiences. We have to hold adoption practices to an ethical and equitable standard. As a women’s nonprofit organization, as a birthmother organization, we must continue to uplift Black birthmothers not just during Black History Month, but every day.