Coerced Adoptions: Evidence from Research

Study after study shows that the majority of women who have surrendered babies for adoption were coerced into surrendering.  These are findings from some of these studies.


  • In a PhD dissertation study by social worker Michael DeSimone (1994), 46.1% of mothers surveyed stated that the surrender of their child was “not at all” their decision, and 17.5% stated it was “a little.”  Only 23.7% stated that it was “considerably” or “completely” what they had wanted (p. 79), leaving a coercion rate of 76.3%.


  • Susan Wells (1993) found that most mothers of the 262 respondents to her survey indicated they had no choice about the surrender.  86% surveyed stated there was coercion from adoption professionals and their parents.


  • Ninety-eight point nine percent (98.9%) of respondents to a Trackers International survey of 1000 natural mothers said they did not want to surrender their babies.


  • Sixty nine percent (69%) of respondents to a survey by Deykin et al.  cited coercion from physicians, social workers, family, or financial coercion as being principle reason they surrendered.  Only 14% stated personal factors such as age, education, shame. (17% stated other factors).


  • In an online survey conducted by OriginsUSA, 84% of mothers were forced to surrender, feelingt they had “no way out of their situation” other than to surrender their babies (Wright, 2007, p .31).  Only 12% of the mothers surveyed were informed of any options other than surrender by the staff or caseworker.


  • Historical Rickie Solinger states:  “Almost everyone believes that on some level, [mothers] made a choice to give their babies away. Here, I argue that adoption is rarely about mothers’ choices; it is, instead, about the abject choicelessness of some resourceless women.” (Solinger, 2001, pp. 55?56)


  • 69% of respondants (Weinreb, 1991) felt that their “choice” was strongly to extremely “influenced” by others.  43% reported emotional coercion, that their “choice” was forced by the fear of losing the love of someone important in their lives.


  • On financial coercion, a human rights abuse: “Most infants placed for adoption come from poor families.  Check with any of the adoption agencies and their adoption lawyers to verify that the number one reason for relinquishment today is the inability to afford to raise the child. This is a sad commentary on the richest and most powerful country in the world” (Reuben Pannor as quoted by Susan Love, 1998).


  • Dr. J. T. Condon states:  “most relinquishing mothers feel that relinquishment is their only option in the face of financial hardship; pressure from family or professional persons, the stigma associated with single motherhood or illegitimacy; and a general lack of support.  Their perception of ‘informed consent’ is that it is a charade designed to obfuscate society’s guilt at ‘forcing’ them to relinquish.”  (Condon, 1986, p. 117)


  • “ … interviews revealed a more complex situation characterized by lack of choice, lack of alternatives, and coercion suggesting that in reality relinquishment did not necessarily reflect personal choice.” (Logan, p. 615)


  • “ … lack of support from their families and from the agency involved in the adoption was reported by the majority …   counselling was striking by its absence and there were disturbing stories about the manner in which the actual parting had been conducted and the attitude of some of the agency staff involved. … for the majority, the decision to adopt was made by their mothers who were perceived as being harsh, unyielding and controlling.”  (Logan, p. 618)
  • Eighty-nine percent of mothers who had subsequent children, and 67% of mothers who did not, reported being coerced (Carr, p. 343).


Carr, M. J. (2000). Birthmothers and subsequent children: The role of personality traits and attachment history. Journal of Social Distress and the Homeless, 9, 339-348.

Condon, J. (1986). Psychological disability in women who relinquish a baby for adoption. The Medical Journal of Australia, 144, 117-119.

De Simone, M. (1994). Unresolved grief in women who have relinquished an infant for adoption.  Doctoral Dissertation.  New York University School of Social Work, New York, N.Y

Deykin, E., Campbell, L., & Patti, P. (1984). The postadoption experience of surrendering parents. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 54, 271-280.

Logan, J. (1996). Birth mothers and their mental health: Uncharted territory. British Journal of Social Work, 26(5), 609-625.

Love, S. (1998).  “Interview with Reuben Pannor.”  PACER newsletter. (Winter 1998-1999). Post Adoption Center for Education and Research.

Solinger, R. (2001). Beggars and Choosers – How the Politics of Choice Shapes Adoption, Abortion, and Welfare in the United States.  New York: Hill & Wang.

Trackers International. (2000).  Survey 1000Trackers International Survey of 1000 Unmarried Mothers 1950 – 1975.  Trackers International (U.K.)

Weinreb, M.; The psychological experience of women who surrender babies for adoption. Dissertation Abstracts International, 52(6-A), Dec 1991.

Wells, S. (1993a).  Post-traumatic stress disorder in birthmothers, Adoption and Fostering, 17(2), 30-32.

Wells, S. (1993b).  What do birthmothers want?  Adoption and Fostering, 17(4), 22-26.

Wright, B. (2007).  Mothers’ Voices:  Surrender Experiences And Long-Term Effects. OriginsUSA, Richmond, VA. Retrieved January 13, 2007 from