Adoption Option Guide

Your guide to a new parenting challenge.

05 Aug

Looking At Adoption History In The United States

Posted in Uncategorized on 05.08.13 by Merlyn

In the decade between 1953 and 1962, some 15,000 children adopted from within the United States fit this bill, as did some 32,000 foreign-born children, adopted between 1966 and 1976, primarily from the Republic of Korea. Carp sees a “deep humanitarianism at work,” spawned partly by revulsion at racism and its consequences in World War II. But then other moral and cultural imperatives were loosed in the land. Interracial adoption, at least where black babies going to white families was concerned, came under fire in the late 1960s, fueled by the Black Power movement. In 1972, Audrey T. Russell, president of the Alliance of Black Social Workers in Philadelphia, called transracial adoption a “diabolical trick,” a “lethal incursion on the black family…. It needs to be stopped.” The then president of the National Association of Black Social Workers announced that black children should remain in foster homes or institutions rather than being adopted by “white families.”


Of course, one might suggest that the most “lethal” inroad into the black family in America in the past four decades has been the exponential leap in the number of children born out of wedlock and growing up without a father and without adequate mothering, despite the heroic efforts of some single mothers and many of their mothers and grandmothers. But the case against transracial adoption proved to be remarkably effective. Social workers did not defend it, even though they privately held that a “white home” was better than no home at all. The outcome was a refusal to place “black children with white parents. As a result transracial adoption declined steeply,” according to Carp, as black children languished in the twilight zone of foster care and no care. And one of the reasons for their misery was that a form of biological fundamentalism had trumped the claims of social morality.

So couples sought babies elsewhere. The results have been mixed. The vast majority of Korean adoptees seem to be faring very well indeed; but there are the horror stories about Eastern-bloc adoptions, especially about children from Romania, to which many American couples turned after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1989. Given the shortage of available infants domestically, Americans rushed to adopt children who had been cruelly warehoused by the awful communist regime–and so were troubled, even deeply disturbed, suffering from all the ills of nonattachment and “failure to thrive.” Perhaps they assumed that such children would work out as well, on average, as had Korean-adopted infants; but they failed to take into account that the preadoptive care received by Korean children was a veritable utopia by comparison to discarded children in various parts of the Soviet Empire, Romania being the most disgusting case.

Rarely held, or talked to, or even touched as infants, many of these Eastern-bloc adoptees proved to be more than their adoptive American parents could handle. The children were swamped with learning disabilities and emotional troubles of all sorts, beginning at the very beginning with an “inability to bond.” In 1996, some 3,700 children were adopted by Americans from Russia and Eastern Europe. Estimates are that about one-third of them do all right; another third develop and adjust slowly; and the remaining third remain in the danger zone–and families cannot manage angry, disruptive children who present a danger not only to themselves but also to others. It turns out that John Bowlby and the other developmental psychologists who stressed the essential importance of early infant bonding with a caring figure were right.


The “damage is irreparable,” writes one neuropsychologist who has treated 1,000 children from the Eastern bloc. Despite heroic efforts, specialists are seeing a big rise in failed adoptions, which are known as “disruptions.” It is not a new phenomenon, of course; but disruption has gained renewed attention in light of the larger numbers of failed foreign adoptions. A “normal” disruption rate for domestic adoptions runs at about 6.5 percent of all adoptions. No accurate figures exist for Eastern bloc disruption rates, but expert observers indicate that it is much, much higher. The longer a child has been in institutional care, the greater the likelihood of major cognitive, emotional, even physical damage; the more difficult the adoption; and the more likely a “disruption.”

Stories such as these only deepen our perplexity about adoption. Disillusioned and defeated parents speak of the collapse of their belief that a loving home, much care and attention, safety, material plenty, and a wonderful school could all correct for early years of neglect. A horrific early lack of nurture may defeat “nature,” so to speak, and, as a result, a child never will develop “normally.” Our American confidence that nearly every situation can be put right is profoundly challenged by the presence of these desperate and even dangerous children.

It is worth recalling an earlier era when families were spooked by bringing a child with “bad blood” into the home. Carp tells the tale, in which Progressive reformers are the main players. In 1921, the Sheppard-Towner Infancy and Maternity Protection Act provided federal funding to promote infant and maternal health. Family preservation was the rule of thumb among child-savers; and according to Carp, this ideal “remained axiomatic among professional social workers until the end of World War II.” During the first third of the twentieth century, therefore, there was not much increase in adoption. Carp claims that our genealogical obsession “stigmatized adoption as socially unacceptable”; to this was added the eugenics movement and its fear of inherited feeble-mindedness, which was more fuel to the anti-adoption fire. Between 1910 and 1925, when eugenics was at the height of its influence, “feebleminded” unwed mothers were separated from their children and their putatively “defective” children were institutionalized. This sometimes included coerced sterilization of “mentally defective” institutionalized women.

Enter the United States Children’s Bureau, headed by Julia Lathrop, a protege of the great Jane Addams of Hull House. The first woman to head a federal bureau, Lathrop mandated research to find out what was really happening to American children, especially those who fell between the cracks; she published standards for foster care; she pushed local governments and private agencies to do more with displaced infants and parents; and she moved, over time, to shut down “adoption mills” that accepted payment for babies. Far-reaching changes in adoption policy, spurred by these early efforts, continued apace, Carp claims, all the way through the 1970s.

Slowly American attitudes toward adoption changed. Eugenics was given rather a bad name by the Nazis. There was a renaissance of humanitarianism in America. A “pro-natalist mood” led to a nine-fold increase in adoptions over a thirty-year period from roughly 1937 to 1965. By 1960, adoption was “riding high”: a respected institution that expanded our understanding of the family, that was carefully regulated, and that appeared to promote the “best interests of the child” by, among other things, guaranteeing that the child’s preadoption biological connections were severed.

And so the stage was set for another upheaval. The issue this time concerned the truth about the adopted child’s origins. The child welfare reformers of the Progressive Era insisted upon the secrecy of those origins. Lathrop’s Children’s Bureau took the lead by commissioning a massive study, Illegitimacy as a Child Welfare Problem, which appeared in 1920. Not only did the study call for greater regulation of adoption by states, it also marked the beginning of the argument for confidentiality, according to Carp. The aim was to prevent public snooping by “curious and unscrupulous persons” who might want to “unmask” a woman who had given birth but relinquished the baby for adoption secretly, or to forestall attempts to blackmail adoptive parents by threatening to reveal that little Janie or little Jimmy was “illegitimate.” The official position of the Children’s Bureau was that natural parents should not be permitted to reenter the picture and disrupt an adoptive family.

Still, until around 1970, “adult adoptees and natural parents who wished to receive information could easily gain access from a variety of sources.” Privacy was not construed as absolute secrecy. The document most sought out was the birth certificate. Confidentiality remained the norm, primarily to “shield” the unwed mother’s reputation, but Carp’s research convinces him that child welfare activists never intended to prevent “children born out of wedlock, or adopted children, from viewing their own birth records” at some point safely removed from the adoption itself. But this got tricky because, by 1941, 35 states had “enacted legislation instructing registries of vital statistics to issue new birth certificates” using the adopted name of the child in place of the original one.

When they became adults, adoptees sometimes requested information on their family of origin “whether out of natural curiosity, as a matter of right, or from psychological need,” and natural parents did the same thing. Social workers, behaving like good bureaucrats, had acquired the habit of amassing huge “case files” on adoptees packed with every conceivable piece of information that they could get about adopted children and their families of origin. The question was: To whom should such information be made available? For what reasons? Under what conditions?

The available evidence suggests that, before the mid-1960s, only a small number of adoptees or birth parents sought out such information. Since the 1940s, the country had been in the midst of an adoption boom, influenced by The Chosen Baby, a book supported by the Children’s Bureau, by Dr. Valentine P. Wasson, a kind of Dr. Spock for adoptees. This book included instructions for adoptive parents on when and how to explain to the adopted child that he or she was adopted–no, chosen; and this was to be done in a way that minimized any confusion or trauma. And lessening the trauma fueled the quest for greater secrecy. What could be more traumatic than to learn that your father had been a criminal, or your mother a drunk? What could be more alarming than a biological parent turning up on the doorstep a decade or more later, seeking a relationship with a child whom he or she had relinquished? Better by far, the argument went, for adoptive parents to offer the child a version of his or her past with which the child could live: your mommy loved you but couldn’t take care of you, your daddy went to war and never came back.

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28 Jul

Adoption Remains Tricky In Many States

Posted in Uncategorized on 28.07.13 by Merlyn

Gladney decides to go into the adoption business. The fight for the “little ones” is highly sentimentalized, replete with a “Gallery of Notable Orphans” mounted on the agency’s walls. Gladney’s enemies are the “good ladies” of the town, obnoxious Nosy Parkers who traffic in stereotypes of illegitimate children condemned to live as “creatures of shame,” and quite rightly, too, in their eyes. Gladney is the force of enlightenment, calling for “love, sympathy, understanding” rather than law and intolerance. There are “no illegitimate babies–only illegitimate parents.

Then the laws in Texas are changed. Birth certificates will no longer register illegitimacy. The film opens with “America the Beautiful,” and closes with “Oh Come Let Us Adore Him” as the snow falls and two new tykes are taken under Edna’s expansive wing. Directed by Mervyn LeRoy with a screenplay by Anita Loos, Blossoms in the Dust was nominated for four Academy Awards. We may chortle at its lack of sophistication now, but the film is still good for a heart tug, because it is based on a deeply moral intuition. Anyone past the age of forty remembers that children often bore the negative brunt of society’s concern with marital order, stability, and legitimacy, as if any break in the line of biological lineage presaged social chaos.

This is not to say that the history of adoption in America is a matter of sentimentality and saintly figures. There was certainly nothing sentimental or saintly about the “orphan trains” of the mid-1880s. They were the brain-child of a child rescuer named Charles Loring Brace. (Carp’s book tells his story.) Reverend Brace organized the “most influential of charity organizations” dealing with children at risk (as we are now wont to call them), the Children’s Aid Society, in 1853. For Brace, “placing out” was superior to orphanages, almshouses, and reformatories. It promised to transform little “vagabonds and homeless creatures” into “decent, orderly, industrious children.” Beginning in 1854, some 20,000 Eastern children were initially “placed out” in the Western states of Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, and Iowa, followed by Missouri and Kansas. By 1890, some 84,000 children had been sent from East to West on so-called “orphan trains.”

Brace’s view reflected a controversial aspect of the child-placement system of the nineteenth century, which Carp describes as “a decided preference for breaking up biological families in order to ‘save’ children.” But some biological families more than others: Catholics charged, with good evidence, that the sacrosanct blood tie seemed not to extend to inner-city immigrant Catholic families. Carp calls it “an aggressive and covert form of Protestant proselytizing.” For Brace seemed to believe that, in the case of these neglected or drifting children, it was better to break up the family, if only temporarily, so that children got a proper American (read: Protestant) upbringing.

Children who were sent out on the orphan trains later told of how they were lined up at train stops, or hauled off to a church or school, to be “picked” by local farmers. Unfortunate children were kept moving from town to town, never being picked, sometimes disappearing without a trace. These “distributions” of children continued for 75 years. There were committees that supposedly checked the qualifications of potential foster parents. Children who were picked were expected to work, and adoption was by no means guaranteed. Some veterans of the orphan trains reported good outcomes, with love and eventual adoption by their foster families; but others described being treated like slaves and never entering the household at all. The separation of siblings was common. And this was the “enlightened” approach of the time.

Carp argues that the large-scale placing-out movement had enormous consequences for the history of adoption in America. Worried about the lack of regulation of adoption, state legislatures in the middle of the nineteenth century began enacting general adoption statutes. The Massachusetts Adoption Act of 1851 was the first law to establish the principle of judicial supervision of adoptions, requiring that a judge ascertain that adoptive parents were of “sufficient ability to bring up the child, before issuing the decree.” Adoptive parents were legally required to “furnish suitable nurture and education.” In general, a magistrate had to be satisfied that the adoption was fit and proper.

The law also ended the power of natural parents over the children whom they relinquished, by severing all legal bonds between them and freeing the child from all legal obligations to them. Thus the Massachusetts Adoption Act, in Carp’s words, marked “a watershed in the history of Anglo-American family and society. Instead of defining the parent-child relationship exclusively in terms of blood kinship, it encouraged adoptive parents to build a family by assuming the responsibility and emotional outlook of natural parents.” Parenting was conceived in more moral and social terms. The parent was defined not by genealogy, but by the long, hard work of loving care. A decent nurture was preferred to the claims of nature.

This preference was codified by a “Final Order of Adoption,” which read that the “parental rights and responsibilities” of the relinquishing parents are “hereby terminated forever.” The child is

hereafter deemed the lawful child of Petitioners, the same as if the child had been born to them, for all legal consequences and incidents of the biological relation of parent and children … including the capability of inheriting real and personal property from the Petitioners and their descendants, including other adopted children within the adoptive family…. The adopted child shall have the same such rights as lineal and collateral kindred of the Petitioners….

Then likely follows the new naming of the child, unless the adoption is of a newborn.

The Massachusetts statute became the model statute; twenty-five states enacted similar laws in the nineteenth century, and the half-century of child welfare reform efforts that followed upon the heels of this judicial requirement helped to bring about the professionalization and the bureaucratization of social work. Modern adoption, according to Carp, is in large part the creation of child-saving as a profession. And the professionals could point to a terrible prehistory, when private orphanages, some of them grotesquely hideous, were the rule, or when children were institutionalized with adult criminals, paupers, and the “insane,” as well as being sent West on orphan trains. Child welfare reformers believed that large-scale institutions might work for some purposes, but for the purpose of saving and placing children, foster care and adoption were the best course.

There was a larger public purpose here, as Carp characterizes the aims of the child-saving movement, namely “to produce sociable, independent, and industrious citizens at little expense.” Although the language strikes us as cloying and tendentious, it is important to remember that the alternatives for children abandoned and abused were not rosy. Nor are they rosy now. The contemporary failures of the foster care system are all around us. All the respectable research shows that adoptive parents do a better job of raising children than foster parents.

ctmdYet foster care survives alongside adoption as the way America provides for children who are not being cared for. Foster care is very expensive; it costs states about $17,000 per child per year. The average foster child lives with at least three different families, and often with many more. And with adoption currently languishing, foster care seems the only way to spare children from the not-so-tender ministrations of parents who are criminals, drug addicts, and abusers. For its justification, the foster care system appeals to the doctrine of “family preservation” at all costs, a doctrine that waxes and wanes in the favor with which it is embraced by professional childsavers.

At the moment, certainly, “family reunification” rules the roost under a federal law passed in 1980, with the very best interests of children in mind. The very best interests of children are always involved, at least in theory. It is now very difficult to take children away from demonstrably abusive biological parents, especially mothers, who now keep their children in overwhelming numbers, as they did not in the past. A full 96 percent of unmarried teenage mothers now retain the child or children whom they have borne, and many of them spurn adoption.

This is a situation that is proving disastrous for the overwhelming majority of the babies involved, and it is certainly detrimental to the overwhelming majority of the teenage mothers. Yet this terrible predicament is quite understandable, given the ways in which the superiority of biological kinship has been reasserted in recent decades, not only in law but also in politics and culture–and in the “adoptees rights” movement. Combine the new prestige of blood with the collapse of any stigma surrounding out-of-wedlock birth, and you have what might be called a crisis of care in America; and this crisis will be with us for years to come in high rates of cognitively deprived, asocialized children, and teenage girls dropping out of school with subsequent high rates of unemployment and drug abuse.

Carp cites studies that show that teenagers who give up their babies for adoption are more likely to finish school and to end up in modestly decent situations than teenagers who refuse to give up their babies, and are consequently at greater risk on every possible scale. The same studies also show that, as teenagers, adopted children are no more likely than nonadopted teenagers to suffer from major problems. Carp also denounces biological “privileging” in his book–but then, for some unfathomable reason, he chooses to celebrate the record numbers of teenagers giving birth and keeping babies as the “empowerment of unwed mothers.” This is a book that unwittingly displays American society’s own deep ambivalence about biological parenting, social parenting, and adoption.

Trying to get a clear picture of what is going on is not easy. This much is clear: voluntary, church-based, nonprofit societies that once placed children for adoption have gone belly-up across the country. Carp tells the story of the adoption home for which he worked as he did his research, the Children’s Home Society of Washington, which in the 1960s averaged 421 adoptions a year. It ceased placing children for adoption in 1973, because of a shortage of “Caucasian infants.” Carp sees this case as representative of what has happened more generally to adoption in our recent past.

The implication is that we are suffering from a dearth of “suitable” babies for adoption. This spurs infertile or charitable Americans to seek foreign adoptions. It should be noted that this search for foreign babies was abetted, in part, by the fact that in the years before Brown v. Board of Education, many of the nation’s adoption agencies “began placing an increasing number of African American children for adoption”–a kind of anticipation of the integration imperative, one might suggest. Disabled, older, and foreign-born children were also placed. Carp claims that this was the “first time in history” that “relatively large numbers of Western couples,” mostly Americans, adopted children who were “racially and culturally different from themselves.” Surely this was a kind of high-water mark of the idealistic insistence that we are called to love and to serve others, even in this most demanding and intimate way, without distinction.

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08 Jul

Orientation Equality Remains Key Issue In Adoption Debate

Posted in Uncategorized on 08.07.13 by Merlyn

The government is clearly moving in the wrong direction,” says Roy Beyer, Edmonton president of the Canada Family Action Coalition (CFAC). “It’s breaking its promises.” Mr. Beyer fears that adoption rights will soon be accessible to members of any “loving and lasting relationship.” If two men can adopt a child, he points out, why not three or more of any gender combination? He believes “the unravelling of a basic societal norm has begun.

But Mr. Oberg defended his proposed changes as “consistent” with a Tory caucus decision March 18 which asserted that the government will not support adoption by homosexuals of children who are permanent wards of the Crown unless it benefits the child. Regarding private adoptions, the caucus also agreed the “Child Welfare Act will be amended to reflect what is in the best interests of the child.” Gay and lesbian adoptions, Mr. Oberg told reporters, will “probably not” impact the children being raised. Read more

adoptionBut the Tory caucus failed to define a child’s best interest. And Mark Genuis, executive director for the National Foundation for Family Research and Education, questions Mr. Oberg’s claim that homosexual parenting has no adverse effect on children. Research on the subject, Mr. Genuis argues, is scant and inadequate. “We’re opening up doors without knowing exactly what we’re getting into,” Mr. Genuis warns. “We should hold off until more information is available.

Holding off is the last thing on the minds of two pairs of Calgary lesbians who have launched a legal challenge to the adoption law. The trial, scheduled for June, will determine if two boys, ages four and 12, can be legally adopted by their biological mothers’ lesbian partners. Both children were born through artificial insemination with an unknown sperm donor.

Consistent with its new position on private adoption, the Klein government has withdrawn from the case. But the Alberta Federation of Women United for Families (AFWUF) has asked the Calgary Court of Queen’s Bench for status as an amicus curiae–a friend of the court–that will argue on behalf of the current legislation.

Gary Courtney, lawyer of the lesbians trying to change the law, accused AFWUF of using tax dollars to fund their agenda–an accusation that was immediately echoed by the media. “We’re obviously rather frustrated,” he told the Edmonton Journal on April 22, “that a group that’s on the right-wing edge of Alberta society could roar in and pick up the flag for the government who had already basically thrown in the towel.

AFWUF lawyer Gerald Chipeur dismisses Mr. Courtney’s accusations. “An amicus is traditionally funded by the court,” he emphasizes. Furthermore, an amicus does not argue in favour of a political agenda–right-wing or otherwise–but simply questions whether the law is constitutional. “Our role,” he says, “is to ensure that both sides of the argument are voiced.”

Mr. Klein appears to prefer a one-sided argument. On April 22, he told reporters that the government is responding to Albertans’ moral support for gay private adoptions. “What we’re doing is a reflection of their opinions,” he said moments before the caucus meeting that approved Mr. Oberg’s plan. But public opinion hardly matters to Mr. Klein. “I don’t think there’ll be too much reaction because we’ve already made the decision and we’ve made it a matter of policy,” he said.

In fact, the government’s own polls show anything but overwhelming support among Albertans for the gay agenda. According to the 1998 Alberta Justice Issues Research report, only 48% of the approximately 1,000 people surveyed agree that Alberta laws should treat gay Albertans the same in terms of marriage, adoptions and foster parenting. Fifty-eight percent still believe that a “family” consists of a heterosexual couple or a single parent with children. Only 42% subscribe to the notion that any pair or group will suffice.

Even among Mr. Klein’s Conservative supporters, 45% stated that the government should take a strong legal stand against homosexual adoption, foster parenting and marriages. Forty-four percent of those polled stated that the government should not obey the Supreme Court if it mandated gay marriage or adoption.

The few studies that do exist indicate that children raised by homosexual couples are impacted by their environment. According to the Family Research Institute, an organization affiliated with British Columbia’s Trinity Western University, 8.9% of children raised in gay households will become gay themselves, compared to only 2.4% of children from heterosexual households. And 29% of children raised by at least one homosexual parent reported having an incestuous relationship with their parent, compared to less than one percent of children raised by heterosexuals.

AFWUF president Hermina Dykxhoorn says the two cases in Calgary may not appear threatening to the public because the lesbian couples involved have been in long-term relationships, making those opposed to the adoption seem heartless. But Mrs. Dykxhoorn fears that if these women are successful, many other children will lose their right to have a mother and a father. “In the snap of a finger, everything may change,” she says. “If the government thinks gay activists will stop at private adoption, it’s very blind. No amount of giving in will satisfy their agenda.

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04 Jul

Teenagers Respond Better To Certain Messages

Posted in Uncategorized on 04.07.13 by Merlyn

trbAs you get to know these young people, their lives will suggest characters and plots. Of course, you must respect the privacy of the real teenagers you know. Consider making your characters composites of real people. As you write, they will take on their own identities. Ideas for plots may be triggered by real situations, but truth is sometimes unbelievable. Try to shape any real-life situations into the kind of plots that will succeed as fiction.

When writing in any genre, your best bet is to build a plot around someone facing significant problems. Your character should be willing and able to take action to bring about the final events of the story. Don’t allow acts of God or luck to solve your character’s problems; such a resolution will not satisfy. Consider the following when you’re choosing your protagonist:

* Which character tugs at your heart and fascinates you?

* Which character will be on stage for most of the story?

* Which character has the ability to solve the story’s problems and bring about a satisfying ending?

* Which character has the most to lose?

* Which character will have changed by the end of the story?

What if, after all this, you still want to write from the point of view of more than one character?. A few wonderful books do this successfully, and you will learn much from studying them. In Gary Paulsen’s Sisters/Hermanas, for example, the chapters alternate between the viewpoints of two fourteen-year-olds: Rosa, the young Mexican prostitute, and Traci, an aspiring beauty queen from the suburbs. Paulsen’s artistry makes us care for both girls, and we soon realize that, in many ways, they are indeed sisters.

In her early drafts of Children of the River, Northwest writer Linda Crew wrote from two viewpoints: seventeen-year-old Sundara, struggling to belong to her new culture in Oregon while holding on to her Cambodian past, and Jonathan, the American boy who loves her. Eventually, Crew decided to rewrite the entire book in Sundara’s viewpoint. By doing so, she gave up the chance to write a book that would appeal equally to male and female readers, but Sundara’s character gained great power.

Give your character a secret

gycsThe most believable characters have a secret–a gut-wrenching secret. Graham Salisbury’s main character Sonny, in Blue Skin of the Sea, cannot admit his fear of deep water to anyone. Since Salisbury’s character lives in Hawaii where diving and fishing are integral parts of everyday life, this fear is devastating.

In Alias, Mary Elizabeth Ryan’s character Toby knows his mother is running away from something in her past. Yet, he knows he must never give any personal information to strangers:

Whatever story Mom made up, you went along with it. If Mom told the landlord we were gypsies from outer space, you put a scarf on your head and did your best Martian imitation. If you came home from school and there was a new junker parked in front of the building, you went upstairs and started to pack.

Travis, the tough guy in S.E. Hinton’s Taming the Star Runner, writes stories and poems. Although he’s actually finished a novel and sent it off to an editor, he thinks no one else will understand his need to do something so uncool. In Sisters/Hermanas, Rosa, an illegal immigrant, sends money home to her mother in Mexico–money she earns working as a prostitute on the Houston streets. But she separates her two lives:

She wore a simple brown dress on Sunday with straight lines that did not show any of what the men would have liked the dress to show and a black head scarf…. She did not like to wear anything the same on Sunday that she wore for work.

But today was not Sunday….

In “Hello,” I Lied, M.E. Kerr’s character hints at his secret (he’s unsure he’s really homosexual) in the first chapter.

I was seventeen going on eighteen. After school was over in New York, I’d be living there [on Long Island with his mother] full-time too. I was going to help out, do odd jobs, and five nights a week I’d be a waiter at Sob Story on the Montauk Highway. Help out, hide out, cool out, come out–all four things at once. That was the trouble that summer. About all I was sure of was my name: Lang Penner.

Develop a believable voice

Have you been listening, really listening to those young people you’re getting to know? Do you hear their voices? If your main character comes across as a real person, your book will reach out to teenage readers.

If your character has a secret, his voice will reflect it. Listen to Toby recount his nightmare in the first lines of Alias:

I am on a train, like the ones in the movies, with paneled compartments and old-fashioned seats. The train takes a curve, and I see out the window that at the edge of the track there’s … nothing. I grip the edge of the seat, knowing if I move an inch, the whole train, the whole track–everything–will fall off the cliff, into black emptiness: the end of the world.

What else can we do to give our main character a convincing voice?

Write a bio. Tom Birdseye, a writer of several popular books for young people, fills out elaborate questionnaires every time he begins a book. By the time he starts to write, he knows his characters’ hobbies, favorite foods, worst fears, best friends, favorite music, and astrological sign.

Conduct an imaginary interview. Sit down with your character and ask questions–questions that don’t have easy answers. Listen and take notes. Find out what your character’s hopes and dreams are. What frightens her? What does she love about her parents? What does she hate about her best friend? Where does he see himself in five years? Ten years? Twenty years? Which question makes him squirm? When does she suddenly stop acting so cool? When do you notice his hands get very still?

Ask your character to write journal entries. This may be so successful you may decide to write your whole book in journal form. Karen Cushman did this in her prize-winning historical novel, Catherine, Called Birdy. Birdy’s first entry is on the 12th of December in the year 1290.

I am commanded to write an account of my days: I am bit by fleas and plagued by family. That is all there is to say.

In spite of the 13th-century setting, any teenage reader today will warm to that feisty voice and will understand and sympathize. It’s clear that Birdy’s not getting along well with her parents either.

Write in first person. Sharon Creech in Walk Two Moons did not use journal entries as her book’s format, but she used such a strong first-person voice that at first we think we are reading Sal’s diary. Listen to Sal, a modern-day thirteen-year-old, in the very first paragraphs of the book:

Gramps says that I am a country girl at heart, and that is true. I have lived most of my thirteen years in Bybanks, Kentucky, which is not much more than a caboodle of houses roosting in a green spot alongside the Ohio River. Just over a year ago, my father plucked me up like a weed and took me and all our belongings (no, that is not true–he did not bring the chestnut tree, the willow, the maple, the hayloft, or the swimming hole, which all belonged to me) and we drove three hundred miles straight north and stopped in front of a house in Euclid, Ohio.

“No trees?” I said. “This is where we’re going to live?”

Notice how much information Creech gives us in just a few words. Besides that delightful voice that tells us Sal is country-bred and opinionated, we instantly have information about her age, background, hobbies, and best of all, her problem. She’s been taken somewhere against her will, and she blames her father.

Make trouble. Place your character in a tense situation. Watch for body language and speech mannerisms as she tells someone off. Listen to him as he defends himself against a false accusation. Watch her as she discovers something unbearably sad. Step back and write down what happens as someone evil dares him to do wrong.

S.E. Hinton wrote a strong voice into the very first lines of Taming the Star Runner. We go instantly into Travis’ thoughts:

His boot felt empty without his knife in it. It didn’t matter that he had never had to use it (sure, he’d pulled it out a couple of times to show off, but the times he could have really used it, he’d forgotten about it and used his fists, as usual); he was used to feeling it there next to his leg. Please look here for more info

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20 Jun

Vriend Continues To Affect Couples Adoption Plans

Posted in Uncategorized on 20.06.13 by Merlyn

Thousands of Albertans pleaded with the Klein government to invoke the notwithstanding clause in Section 33 of the charter, and override the judgment. They feared an onslaught of gay rights’ cases that would revolutionize traditional family and marriage law in the province.

hoaAt the time, Premier Ralph Klein dismissed the widely-held legal opinion that Vriend would lead to gay marriage and adoption. The premier tried to placate critics by setting up a cabinet task force to study family, marriage and education laws that would need “fencing” from future court rulings. This task force, composed of ministers Stockwell Day, Jon Havelock and Shirley McClellan, was supposed to report to caucus within six to eight weeks. After no word emerged from the committee for seven months, Justice Minister Havelock admitted October 15 that they would not be reporting before early 1999.

Meanwhile, homosexual activists are moving ahead with their agenda. The Calgary lesbians plan to challenge the definition of spouse under Section 59 (3) of the Child Welfare Act. The child-bearing lesbian in each couple became pregnant through artificial insemination from anonymous donors, and each has a son–one is 12, the other four. Adoption would provide the legal benefits of custody, access and child support for each mother’s girlfriend, as well as medical input and custodial rights in case of death.

Their chance of winning the case may be enhanced by another gay rights case currently before the Supreme Court. The controversial M. v. H. case revolves around the issue of same-sex “spousal” benefits. M. and H. were lesbian partners in Ontario who split up in 1992. They had acquired business and residential property together, and neither wanted to part with the commonly-held assets. One also wanted spousal support. The Ontario Court of Appeal held that the term spouse includes people in homosexual relationships, and concluded they should receive spousal benefits. The case was appealed last year to the Supreme Court.

hsaBehind the legal wrangling lies a potential social disaster, according to several pro-family groups. “Obviously, we are not in favour of taking children away from their natural mothers even if they are lesbians,” says Hermina Dykxhoorn, executive director of the Alberta Federation of Women United for Families. “However, children need to have the characteristics that both men and women bring to marriage and family. Studies show that families without men have children with higher dropout rates, earlier sexual activity, and an increased use of drugs and alcohol.”

Brian Rushfeldt, executive director of the Canadian Family Action Coalition, adds: “We are totally opposed to putting same sex in spousal law. Natural marriages and families are the basis for society, and we believe that the best interest of children is to have a mother and a father in a married committed relationship.”

A study last fall by psychologist Mark Genuis, director of the National Foundation for Family Research in Calgary, found little reliable data on the effects of homosexual parenting, and advocated a “kids first” policy to continue the ban on “unconventional” fostering. That report was commissioned by Social Services Minister Lyle Oberg after Morinville-area lesbian Teresa O’Riordan challenged Alberta Family and Social Services for prohibiting her from foster parenting. Her case at the Edmonton Court of Queen’s Bench was adjourned this month.

Rainer Knopff, a political science professor at the University of Calgary, thinks a stable homosexual union, in the form of legal “marriage,” is preferable to unstable relationships. “It’s possible for society at large to prefer heterosexual marriage without disapproving of stable homosexual relationships,” he says. “The crucial thing is that in return for granting societal benefits to homosexual relationships there have to be some mutual obligations and responsibilities.” Professor Knopff believes that Vriend alone will not open the door to lesbian adoptions, but that the province will proceed according to M. v. H.

The Alberta Legislature has yet to build any of Mr. Klein’s “fencing” legislation, but Liberal social services critic Linda Sloan believes the two couples should not be discriminated against. In an Edmonton Journal interview she said: “They should be treated in the same fair and non-discriminatory manner all other citizens are afforded.” But Tory MLA Ron Hierath disagrees. He plans to speak against any court decision that legitimatizes the homosexual lifestyle in public policy, and he wants the government to begin formulating its response now. “With these court cases pending we better not get caught reacting again to the court’s decisions.

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