"I never gave them hell. I just told the truth and they thought it was hell."
Harry S. Truman
“One child, one teacher, one book, one pen can change the world.”
Malala Yousafzai, activist for female education and the youngest Nobel Prize laureate
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~Since 1979 I have been researching, writing and speaking about the need to reform, humanize, and de-commercialize American and global adoption, and restore adoptee rights.
I am author of two internationally acclaimed books and more than 200 published articles.
- 2009. Nominated National Association of Social Workers (NASW) Public Citizen of the Year
- 1997-1998. Who’s Who in American Women, 20th edition
- 1989. Recipient “Outstanding Achievement Award to an Author”, People Searching News
THE STORK MARKET: America's Multi-Billion Dollar Unregulated Adoption Industry (2007).
Excerpts of The Dark Side appeared in:
- Utne Reader, "A Last Resort," Nov/Dec, 1991, Vol. 4, pp 53-54
- Social Issues Review Series, 1991, Vol.
- Macrocosm USA, "A Last Resort," 1992, p 147
- "...a must read." The American Adoption Congress
"...challenges the commonly held idea that adoption is a winning solution for
everyone...this book is to be recommended as one of the few available which balances the more usual happy-ending adoption stories with a birthparent's reality...it is recommended for those who prefer the truth, even if unpleasant, to unquestioned adoption mythology." RESOLVE Newsletter
- "Although not an easy book for an adoptive parent to read, this is certainly an important book for anyone striving to understand all sides of the adoption triangle. The good news (for adoptive parents) is that Riben is not slamming adoptive parents...her really big guns are leveled at The System. I recommend that adoptive parents read this book." Gigi Wirtz, Families Adopting Children Everywhere (FACE)
- "A terrific book...it is dynamic! I will be asking my members to...purchase your book...I am constantly rereading sections." Parent Finders, Ontario
As a proponent of social justice, equality, and human rights with a focus on the rights of mothers, fathers, children, and families in crisis, for more than 30 years I have been researching, investigating, and writing to:
- Expose the corruption, coercion, exploitation, commodification, and trafficking of children in the mega-billion-dollar adoption industry.
- Oppose all profiteering in adoption
- Oppose pre-birth matching and "expenses" paid directly from prospective adopters to expectant mothers. These currently allowable practices are simply a rues for human trafficking and have no place in child welfare.They enmesh expectant mothers considering adoption with those seeking to adopt, creating false expectations for hopeful adopters and feelings of obligation and indebtedness on the mothers-to-be. Such practices open the door for adoption scams and are the cause of most all contested adoptions.
- Restore equal access for adoptees to their original birth certificates.
Risking imprisonment, I reunited hundreds of families separated by adoption and helped mothers prevent unnecessary loss by providing temporary shelter in my home.
In 1980 I co-founded the original Origins, a New Jersey-based national organization for women who lost children to adoption. I was among the very first pioneering mothers to publicly address the lifelong pain of losing a child to adoption and confront the myth that birth mothers asked for or were promised anonymity from their children.
I am former Director of the American Adoption Congress, Past Vice President of Communications of Origins-USA, and a lifetime member of Bastard Nation.
In 1987 Michelle Launder's daughter was murdered by Joel Steinberg who illegally adopted the child he called Lisa. In the Steinberg apartment which was called a "house of horrors," a toddler boy - also illegally adopted - was found in a state of neglect. I worked with authorities to reunite the child Steinberg and Nussbaum called Mitchell. with his original family, who had agreed to his adoption under duress.
I organized a Candlelight Vigil to honor Lisa and to bring attention to the need for adoption reform and adoptee access. It was covered on WNBC-TV New York.
In 1989, I organized a speak-out at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington DC. It was the culmination of a walk from New York City to Washington DC of adoptees, adoptive parents, and mothers who had lost children to adoption.
Below L - R: Mary Anne Cohen, Sherry Chait and I
Also, that year, at the AAC national conference in NYC, I organized a “red tape” event that garnered media attention to the issue of adoptees being denied access to their birth certificates.
My presentation at the AAC Region 3 conference in October 1989 was entitled “In the ‘Best Interest’ of All: Equal Rights for Adopted-Separated Persons.” The presentation addressed the need to reframe the issue as one of equality.
In 2006, my article: "Dear Bastards Demand Equality" which was published in the Spring/Summer Vol. 8, No 1, BastardQuarterly. I explained why asking for 'open records' - as had been done for decades - was not the best language, and why the approach should be one of equal, human and civil rights.
In April 2009, at the AAC in Cleveland, I presented: "'Open Records' versus 'Equal Access: Reexamining our Goals" again encouraging adoption rights advocates to stop asking for “open records,” and to frame their argument as one of equal rights. I had the button shown here made.
I have been keynote, invited speaker, and panel member at numerous national and state adoption conferences such as:
- The Association for Research on Mothering Conference, York University, Toronto, Canada 2009. "Mothering and the Environment."
- The 6th Annual PLI Adoption Law Institute Conference panel, “Costs of Adoption: A Survey and Ethical Considerations” 2009.
- The 7th Annual NJ Research Conference on Women, Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey
- The 2007 Adoption Ethics and Accountability Conference sponsored by The Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute and Ethica, Inc., Arlington, Va.
Bloggers at the Ethics in Adoption Conference 2009.
L-R: Claudia D'Arcy, Suz Bednarz, Bernadette Wright, Mirah Riben
I have appeared as an adoption expert on Russian-American TV numerous times to discuss the abuse, murder, and abandonment of Russian adopted children that led to the ban on Russian adoptions.
I have also appeared on several national television programs including The Morton Downey Jr. Show and The Joan Rivers Show to discuss the Steinberg/Nussbaum murder of their illegally adopted child.
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BELOW: Governor Christie signing The NJ Adoptee Birthright Access Bill, 2016
I was born and raised in Brooklyn, NY and lived in Greenwich Village, Manhattan from the age of 17. I waitressed in many of renowned coffee houses such as The Wha and The Why Not where I met and became a lifelong friend of Richie Havens.
In 1968 I was pressured to lose my firstborn child to adoption receiving no support to keep my family intact. Like so many women of my generation I was assured it was the loving, unselfish thing to do, for the "best," and I was assured I would "put it behind me" and get on with my life. I never forgot!
In 1969 I became Associate Editor of three magazines at Volitant/Histrionic Publishing, 21 West 26 Street, NYC.
In 1971 I married and moved to New Jersey. I was a full-time at-home mother to three children and a La Leche League Leader. I was class mother and active in PTA and with scouts.
During the 70s and 80s I took in foster children, co-founded Origins, housed expectant mothers in need, reunited hundreds of adoption-separated families, and wrote my first book.
In 1995, more than a decade after I began my research, support, and activism in adoption, my first daughter succumbed to depression. It was then I learned that adoptees attempt suicide four times more often than their non-adopted contemporaries.
In this old blog post, I share my thoughts on whether my involvement in adoption is an Obsession or Commitment. This video speaks to me.
Last updated 1/12/2020