Adoption Survivor

dealing with it

removing the hypocricy from ethical adoption

with 7 comments

This was a response I posted on an ethical adoption site. I have edited portions of it referring to the particular thread to make it more universal.

It is a snapshot of my current evolving view on international adoption.

As a person who can understand WHY people want to adopt, yet as a person who wants all international adoption to END, I’ve found this thread to be very interesting.

It’s interesting because this is a website devoted to integrity and ethics in adoption, and yet it still reflects all the divisiveness of the adoption issues at large. It’s also always interesting to me when children who were once so coveted and sought out grow up to be a source of discomfort and conflict.

Like most of the parents here, my views about adoption began to turn upside down only as I learned more about how it was conducted and as I explored the motivations behind its genesis. It’s not a pretty picture beneath its top layer. The deeper I explored, the more outraged I became. Is this angry adoptee syndrome a popular phenomenon? No. It does not reflect the majority of adoptions (though I do believe time brings us all closer to these revelations). I believe it is a parallel path to those who are willing to ascribe to ethical adoptions, which also do not represent the majority of adoptive parents. Both positions are the result of a deeper exploration and a belief in social justice and personal responsibility. These positions are not set, but are a journey, as we all are seeking the truth.

There is no room for (or value in) blame or assumptions or pre-judging. Especially when what’s done is done. However, more fundamental to all adoptions are the issues of desire, entitlement and all the dark alleys that can lead people down. As a broad generalization, the distinctions between ethical adoptions and the status quo often stop here.

For me, as an idealist who wants to promote the idea of village (a more expanded definition of family in a social context) and the exploration of what a genuine parent is, I don’t feel adoptions are a necessary legal construct. However, as a pragmatist, I feel I must address adoption on two fronts: Support for social services in source countries to eliminate the need for adoptions, and support for the children who have already been adopted. By support for social service in source countries, I believe most adoptions are unnecessary and very correctable if we threw as much energy into caring for one another as we throw energy into rescuing children of the aftermath of not caring for one another. By support for the children who have already been adopted, I mean helping children by helping their adoptive parents provide a more meaningful parent/child relationship. What’s done is done and I want to spare other adopted children the suffering us older adoptees had to endure at the hands of our well meaning (by their estimation) parents.

At the essential core of both fronts is the surgery that is executed for adoption to take place, and the participation of institutions or individuals in that wound. What is frustrating is that the majority of potential and already adoptive parents reject acknowledging their participation in that reality. Because these issues are so fundamental to the relationship of adopted child and parent, the denial of or unwillingness to admit their role in this surgery can lead to an unbridgeable gap of mistrust, a gap that young children are unable to verbalize. The ends do not always justify the means. If the means were ugly, but only the beauty is promoted, then children are taught that their parents are hypocrites that can’t be trusted to be honest. This lack of trust prevents adoptee relationships with their adoptive parents from fulfilling its potential for depth and meaning.

And the means does not only include adoption agencies and countries. It starts with each person, and what set them on the road to adoption in the first place. Too often progressive adoptive parents wear the mantel of truth yet still exhibit their underlying entitlement. I will put forth that adult adoptees have hyper awareness of this when it occurs. There doesn’t seem to be any good way to point out when entitlement is showing without appearing accusatory.

When you hear the “anger” or frustration in the adoptee voice, it is because we are always trying to have a conversation with people closed to any real discourse when it does not validate what they have put so much energy into building. So please be understanding and patient when you deal with adoptees – the frustration and isolation of voicing an unpopular opinion and repeatedly talking to deaf ears can make our voices shrill.

On the other hand, I think that it does not do our cause any good when we try and hammer home our viewpoints, however well argued. This is because there are too many iterations of the adoption scenario and because the ten arguments we may have do not apply to the 15 reasons people adopt. I understand adoptee frustration over ethical adoption organizations, despite being for integrity and ethics, are still advocating adoption, and more radical than that, international adoption. Yet – I think our energies can be spent better eliciting allies amongst them. We don’t necessarily need 100% support. An inroad is an inroad. A little enlightenment is still an improvement and progressive. We need thoughtful parents, like the ones who come here, to help us re-frame the dialog with the rest of the adopting world. We can not do this alone. We need to recognize those that are on this path are heading somewhere positive, just as they need to recognize that our perspectives are valuable, even if they hurt.

Me, I’m a pragmatist.

I see adoption as a great experiment gone horribly awry. I feel we can all learn from each other and all work together to stop the mistakes of the past from continuing to be perpetuated. It is my sincerest hope that for every adoption that goes through, x+ families are assisted to stay together. We should ALL work towards the elimination of the need for adoption to abandon children. Hopefully we can all agree that the need for adoption to abandon children is messed up, that there are things we can work together to eliminate this need, and that reform is a beautiful thing.

Imagine all the progress we could make if each adopting parent who claims they are adopting to save children, would concurrently support programs to save families…now that would be an adoptive parent I could believe in and endorse.

I would hope all of you can join me in open forum, enlightening popular culture as to the complexities and consequences of adoption. I would hope everyone can take what you’ve learned and broadcast it OUT to those that know little about adoption and do what we can to minimize the damage that can happen when people jump into something with simple and reckless abandon. I commend you all for pausing to think and choosing this path. Now that you’re on this path, I hope you don’t stop – but continue on – with me – working for social justice and – with yourselves – doing the hard self analysis.

For the kids

Written by girl4708

December 4, 2008 at 4:07 pm

7 Responses

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  1. BRAVO!!!

    Mirah Riben

    December 5, 2008 at 4:51 pm

  2. “Ethical adoption” is the new incarnation of adoption “reform.” Both are trying to fix, but continue, the mass redistribution of children to meet a demand.

    Those of us who speak out against current profiteering, corruption and exploitation are NOT condemning those who have participated in adoption in the past, no more than the surgeon general condemned cigarette smokers in an effort to curb that industries continuing profiteering at the expense of the health and well-being of future generations.

    I hope that you have read: “The Lie We Love” by E.J. Graff:

    And, “Feminist Lens on Adoption”:

    Mirah Riben, “The Stork Market: America’s Multi-Billion Dollar Unregulated Adoption Industry”

    Mirah Riben

    December 5, 2008 at 5:00 pm

  3. PS We also need to hear the voices of mothers who lost children to adoption and accept their pain and “bitterness” and anger as well! Recognizing that such a grievous lifelong loss was unwarranted is a hard pill to swallow.

    Mirah Riben

    December 5, 2008 at 5:17 pm

  4. Very good post!


    December 11, 2008 at 5:40 pm

  5. “Imagine all the progress we could make if each adopting parent who claims they are adopting to save children, would concurrently support programs to save families…”

    Even if the motivation to adopt isn’t ‘saving a child’ – what if every inter-country adoptive parent sponsored at least one family in their child’s birth country? Every one who is forming a new family helped keep together a family that already exists? Surely in those numbers we could make a difference?

    I now sponsor three children in my son’s birth country through various locally-run programs. All are living with one parent or with extended family, as was my son before being brought to an orphanage.

    It still doesn’t feel like enough. It’s hard to reconcile my joy in my son with the knowledge that if someone had done that for his family, they would probably still be together.

    (Just came across your blog today, btw, and I will be continuing to read it!)


    December 23, 2008 at 4:39 am

  6. hey there.. good post, I didn’t think I would find exactly what I was searching for until I came across this site on yahoo!

    Shamwow Chamois

    March 6, 2010 at 11:59 pm

  7. Thanks, tafel!

    I really applaud your effort and hope others do the same. (sorry so late in replying – I was incredibly stressed looking for work at the time)

    We can’t change the past, but we can help make the future better. At least you can be a part of that. I hope you can add your voice to others who understand the importance of family to ALL those affected by adoption. Your son is lucky – he got a real parent…


    April 9, 2010 at 1:15 am

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