Book Review: Adoption: Uncharted Waters

Published Date Written by Erik L. Smith

Adoption: Uncharted Waters [1]describes the theory of Adopted Child Syndrome (ACS)  [2] and makes a case for it being a cause of, or major factor contributing to, serially killing and parricide [3]committed by adoptees. Uncharted Waters presents several case studies from the author's experience in his work as a consulting expert for criminal defendants.


The book's only problems are procedural. Uncharted Waters offers no operational definition of "adopted child" or of ACS. Instead, the reader must construct a definition from descriptions throughout the text. And while "adoption" has a definite legal meaning, Uncharted Waters offers no psychiatric definition for ACS. What does "adopted" really mean in the mind of an adoptee? Is a child in permanent foster care an adopted child under ACS theory? While the author has a healthy distrust of the DSM-IV, [4](a diagnostic manual of mental disorders) he could at least try to formulate a hypothetical DSM entry, or similar operational description, for the reader.


In any case, possible elements or identifiers of ACS seem to be abandonment at birth, fear of rejection in relationships or cumulative trauma of rejection, [5] feelings of being disfavored in regard to siblings, early lying, stealing, or pyromania, assuming false identities, drug abuse or suicide, and a thwarted quest to locate the birth mother. [6]The syndrome is often fed by a "compulsion to repeat." The serial killer, for example, has surrogate and symbolic victims for his one true target, his parents. [7] ACS is then exacerbated by a family climate of denial, secrecy, and lies regarding adoption issues. [8]Accordingly, prevention of ACS lies in having an atmosphere of openness in the adoptive family, which, by validating feelings of loss, prevent the harmful fantasizing, proneness to "self-splitting," unresolved grief, and resulting "fatal quest" of killing seen in the extreme cases of adoptees who murder. [9]


Uncharted Waters also defends against past and predictable criticisms of ACS theory too late in the book. [10]The author excellently rebuts those criticisms and concerns. But the reader's own concerns and critical questions remain unanswered until after the evidence closes at page 250. The power of the case studies is reduced, though they remain intriguing and fascinating in their own right.


Substantively, however, Uncharted Waters is well done and effective, considering that it is foundational. Before his execution, Ted Bundy reportedly opined that society should do more to try to figure out why people kill serially. I agree. Uncharted Waters is a major step both in that direction and in understanding the psychology of adoption. Whether ACS is misused by experts in the courts is an irrelevant--or at least subordinate--haggle. To discount Uncharted Waters simply upon personal disagreement about the theory is to shortchange a needed inquiry in society: whether and to what extent do adoption beliefs, policies, and characteristics cause or exacerbate harmful human behavior? Thus, neither Uncharted Waters nor ACS should be rejected simply because one disagrees with, or suspects the true breadth of, its application. The author was obviously limited in his choice of people to study and in the degree of interaction with those persons. That does not undercut ACS theory, but simply emphasizes the need for more controlled study. We still need answers to questions. Is there a qualitative difference between a serial killer or parricide and one who repeatedly enters destructive relationships? Are the criticisms of ACS theory arguments of misnomer or semantics, or representative of a fear of truly discovering what makes us tick, or tick wrongly? 


That is what fascinated me about Uncharted Waters: How did the rejection from my own mother when I was a child motivate my actions as an adult? Did it make a difference that my mother raised me in wedlock and loved me? Is there a crucial variable that keeps me from engaging in crimes of the law rather than in just crimes of the heart? 


Your fascination with, or view of, Uncharted Waters may be different. Put politics aside and read Uncharted Waters for what it is: an important, and perhaps unprecedented, inquiry into the causes of human behavior--in the adoption context. Adoption: Uncharted Waters is a must read for anyone interested in psychology. 

 Kirschner, David, Ph.D. Juneau Press. 2006. 322 pgs.  
As yet unrecognized by the DSM, a diagnostic manual of mental disorders.  
 Killing one's parents.  
See pg. 62.  
See pg. 307.  
See pg. 60.  
See pgs. 87-89. 
See pg. 303.  
See pgs. 303-307. 
Chap. 14, pgs. 251-268.  

The Ohio Putative Father Registry–the WHAT?

I am a single man. Yet I had been in Ohio for over a year before hearing of the Ohio Putative Father Registry, and then only in a Probate Law class. The professor was covering how a child could be adopted without the birth father's consent. "ORC 3701.061: A man who has sexual intercourse with a woman is on notice that if a child is born as a result and the man is the putative father, the child may be adopted without his consent pursuant to division (B) of section 3107 of the Revised Code." That section required the man sign the Putative Father Registry within thirty days after the birth to get notice of the adoption.


Ohio Putative Father Registry: The Basics

Unwed fathers are entitled to notice of petitions to adopt their biological children. Yet many fathers lose this right by not registering timely with the Ohio putative father registry (PFR).1R.C. 3107.062. Because adoptions are probate proceedings, lawyers practicing juvenile, domestic relations, or traditional probate law may not understand how the Ohio PFR applies.  At initial consultations then, attorneys may omit counseling fathers about the registry and refer them to attorneys with more specialized experience. But the strict registration deadline, and often unknown deadline date, demand that the father register immediately. Thus the attorney should consider counseling the client about the PFR and help him register that day before referring him. This article gives the information needed to do that.

Preventing Your Infant Child From Being Adopted Without Your Consent


Consult an adoption law or family law attorney. Otherwise: An unwed father has no absolute right to veto an adoption. You must take action to preserve your rights. Whether the mother is considering adoption or not, an unwed father should, as soon as possible and preferably before the birth:

Disclaimer: The information on the website is not intended to be a source of solicitation or legal advice, the results obtained in any legal matter discussed in any articles or examples are not typical. The information discussed on this website should not be construed as a certain result will occur in a similar situation, the reader should not rely on the information on this site as the sole source of information to make a legal-hiring decision. The reader should not consider the information on this website to be an invitation for an attorney-client relationship. Readers should not act or decline to act based on the content from this site, and should instead contact an attorney or other appropriate professional. Articles and information on this website may discuss law in multiple jurisdictions, as laws and regulations differ from one jurisdiction to another, it is important to discuss your particular situation with an attorney in the jurisdiction where your legal matter exist. Erik Smith does not represent that he has any particular expertise in any area of law. You may email Erik Smith, but to the extent allowed by law those communications shall not be treated as privileged unless Erik Smith represents you, as such do not send confidential information until you have established a formal attorney-client relationship with him. Where applicable on this website, you are informed that we are an interactive computer service that enables access by multiple users and should not be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider. Where applicable Copyright ©2022 Erik L Smith