Adoption Survivor

dealing with it

Loving My Captor

A while back, just prior to being banned from an adoption abuse website for daring to confront a particularly Virulent Adoptive Parent who disrespected the website, I had brought up the topic of Stockholm Syndrome. The VAP took great offense to this.

According to the above wikipedia link:

Stockholm syndrome is a psychological response sometimes seen in abducted hostages, in which the hostage shows signs of loyalty to the hostage-taker…

I was comparing the act of adoption to the act of abduction, as the editors of Transracial Abductees had done previously, only adding my own spin on the relationships that form with our adoptive parents.

Also, cited in the wikipedia entry:

According to the psychoanalytic view of the syndrome, the tendency might well be the result of employing the strategy evolved by newborn babies to form an emotional attachment to the nearest powerful adult in order to maximize the probability that this adult will enable — at the very least — the survival of the child, if not also prove to be a good parental figure. This syndrome is considered a prime example for the defense mechanism of identification

The VAP didn’t like this at all.  He didn’t want to recognize that his transracial internationally adopted children didn’t come to America of their own free will.  He didn’t want to recognize that they had no recourse but to get along with these benevolent people providing so much attention and basic needs, because they were totally dependent upon them.  He didn’t want to recognize his power in that situation or the child’s helplessness.

Okay – so adoption’s intent is not to abuse or exploit in most cases.  But isn’t adoption a benevolent form of abduction?  Isn’t taking someone anyplace against their will abduction?  And in the case of adoption, isn’t Stockholm Syndrome what adoptive parents are hoping for?

I bring this all up again due to a really amazing conversation I had with my daughter last week, as she asked about my relationship to my mother, and my siblings (her biological children) relationship with her.

I described my older sister feeling hurt that my mother did not communicate, and my oldest brother feeling resentment for being ignored by her, and my next older brother getting angry because we sometimes had cereal for dinner instead of the kind of meals he expected of a housewife to earn her keep.  I described my sadness for her, for having such self-centered children, for the tedium of her days, for her frustrated fantasy life, her sense of worthlessness, and her unsatisfying roles and the lack of respect she received.  I sensed her loneliness and hopelessness.  I wanted to make everything better for her, but could do nothing but watch her retreat into herself.

My daughter, amazed, wondered how it was that I, the adopted daughter, the transracial international foreign born daughter, was the only one who seemed to have empathy for this woman.

I thought about empathy.  I thought about how helpless people can relate to helpless people.  I think I recognized my situation, though perpetrated by her, as a reflection of her own situation…

Enter Stockholm Syndrome.

Witness Natacha Kampusch, the Austrian girl who was abducted and held captive for eight years in a basement, by a socially inept man named Wolfgang Priklopil.

Kampusch has sympathized with her captor.  She said “I feel more and more sorry for him – he’s a poor soul”, in spite of having been held captive for eight years by him, and according to police she lit a candle for him at the morgue.

Ms. Kampusch was labeled as having Stockholm Syndrome, which she denied.  Later, Austrians were shocked when it was revealed that she carried a photograph of Priklopil’s coffin in her wallet.

For me, that was not shocking at all.  Eight years she lived under that man.  Not only did he tear her away from her less than ideal family, occassionally beat her, deprive her of liberty, and probably molest her, but he also showed her tenderness, brought her gifts, and tried to make her captivity more comfortable.  She was the most important human being in his life.  And everything she could hope for had to be through him.  Eight years you get to know someone really well.  You start to understand what makes them tick, what brought them to such desperate acts.  You begin to feel for them.  They become dear to you.

Yes, I am projecting here.  This is my adoptive mother I feel for.  And I weep when I think of the desperation that brought my adoption into being.  And I weep when I read of her letters to Holt, and how important my capture was to her.  And I weep when I think of all those years seeing that it didn’t fix anything for her.  And to my mind, I am a victim of Stockholm Syndrome.  And I am okay with that.  Just like Natasha’s treasured photo of a coffin, we can’t condemn her or tell her that her feelings for him, whatever they were, weren’t real.  My adoption was bad, a crime really.  My relationship with my parents strained.  But more than anyone, I saw her for what she was.  I think I was the only one who really knew her.

I hate that I was captured.  I hate adoption.  This is no way to start a relationship.

But I loved my captor.   We’re all we had.

Written by girl4708

January 13, 2009 at 12:59 pm

Posted in Infinite Longing

42 Responses

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  1. “She was the most important human being in his life. And everything she could hope for had to be through him. Eight years you get to know someone really well. You start to understand what makes them tick, what brought them to such desperate acts. You begin to feel for them. They become dear to you.”

    That… actually makes sense to me.

    It didn’t before, but this explains it really well.

    It’s like in David Pelzer’s book, he explains that he feels very sorry for the one who abused him for so long. And I thought, “How could he? After everything she did to him?!”

    But as he says – and as you write – he says that he feels sorry because she is trapped within herself. She is unable to escape being her own victim. She is “caged.”

    It all makes much more sense now.


    January 13, 2009 at 7:26 pm

  2. It’s just so striking how her own children can’t see her as a person, and only see her as their mother. Something about not being her biological child allowed me to view her with fewer entitlements than they had.

    The fundamental crime of abduction that brought me into their lives lead me to expect anything and take nothing for granted. Trying to understand a person who does this to a child was probably the beginning of my becoming a critical thinker, and consequently developing empathy for her

    This is the byproduct “gift” of abduction. I’m beginning to think it’s a blessing. But sometimes I wish my life were simpler.


    January 13, 2009 at 9:07 pm

  3. And yes, you are right.

    She was more trapped and caged than I was.
    In so many ways.


    January 13, 2009 at 9:13 pm

  4. You’ve read his book[s]?

    I don’t pretend to understand why a mother still abuses her child and sees him as an object for rage rather than a victim in pain – but David struggled to figure it out in his book. Not when he was a child, but when he’s an adult.

    He forgives her. Initially my jaw dropped open and I was like “WTF?”

    But after a few more years, something stood out to me, something like…

    “She doesn’t have control. She used to beat me and starve me because that was her way of controlling everything in her world. Now, as an adult, I watch her. She is broken inside and her control is now a piece of plastic used to switch channels in her own little world. Mother has become her own victim, and I pity who she has become.”

    (He was referring to her remote control whenever she wasn’t abusing him.)


    January 13, 2009 at 9:21 pm

  5. No. I haven’t read his book.

    My mother was just emotionally neglectful. It was my father who sexually abused me. I turned him off and mentally erased him – that was how I coped with that. I had enough on my plate processing my mother’s form of love.

    I didn’t really want this post to devolve into a conversation about abuse either. I want the post to stand about the subject matter of benevolent abduction and how we must care – and love – our abductors. But just because we are able to do this, does not justify abduction – even benevolent ones – abduction is still being stripped of free will.

    relationship should come first – and then perhaps adoption.
    relationship should never be forced


    January 13, 2009 at 9:36 pm

  6. Yeah, I realized that. Sorry; I know I tend to get off topic like that. Happens a lot when I type!


    January 14, 2009 at 3:45 am

  7. I feel this subjet is going to bring some AP and other persons to react viruntly. By the way, I like the new term VAP, it made me laugh hard. Lol.
    Some will call you angry adoptee; some others by your adoptive father will simply discredit whatever you say, they will say since you have been abused by your adoptive father that you have a good reason to think such way.

    I love you and I raise my hat to you for your courage to address the matter publicly. And I second you.

    I know some APs will say that they theirs kids were not abducted and they were willingly given up; some adoptees will say that they don’t see their adoptive parents as their captors; this subject will bring all kind of arguments.

    So, lets put aside every adoptions all adoptions that were done “legally and ethically” from the beginning to the end (given up willingly).

    Let’s talk about the adoptees who were really kindapped (some cases have reached the medias and we know many cases that have never reached the medias). We can see that in the recent cases of stolen children from India that were adopted to Australian families and other countries. (I don’t buy the argument that the adoptive parents didn’t know. There is pleny of information by adult adoptees themselves who have their birthmothers have lost them unwillingly through kidnapping or lies.) The description of Stockholm syndrome fits perfectly to all of them.

    Look at the case of children who were taken by the military during the diry war of Argentina. Maria Barragan sued her adoptive parents but who else see their adopters as their captors? Even knowing they were stolen by the military regime from their parents who were killed by military dictatorship itself, they still can’t see their adopters as their captors.

    Let’s look at the case of the Stolen Generations, the children who were removed from their families by the Australian governement. We can’t deny that they were kindapped from their families and put up into their “better” white christian adoptive families.

    Stockholm syndrom in the two latter cases.

    There are those don’t know about their stockholm syndrome and those like us and transracial abductees who came to understand about it.


    January 14, 2009 at 6:03 pm

  8. “And to my mind, I am a victim of Stockholm Syndrome. And I am okay with that. ”

    Your perception and expression are awesome.


    January 14, 2009 at 8:37 pm

  9. Thank you for this comment, Jmomma, and for your essay Kimette.

    You are right. People will discount what I say because I was abused. But this is not about my abuse or my abuser. This is about my relationship with my adoptive mother, who did NOT abuse me. This is about the archetypal adoptive parent/child relationship.

    I’m not talking about the merits or conditions of the first mother here. I’m talking about the relationship of the adoptive parents to their adopted children. We can allow their relationships to stand on their own. And they stand like beautiful houses built on poor foundations.

    This post is the most dangerous thing I have ever written. Precisely because people will feel attacked and accused. But that is not my intent.

    I am not attacking people or laying blame. I am merely pointing out the source of a relationship problem. Good people can do bad things. Good and bad are not mutually exclusive. The world is not that black and white.

    I just wanted to point out that beginning a relationship, even a wonderful relationship, under such disturbing conditions naturally effects the framework for that relationship. Is this the kind of relationship adoptive parents truly want?

    The end results of adopted or biological may look the same on the surface. There is only a child who was brought into a loving home – but that still doesn’t make abduction good or right – even if it is done in the name of saving. Two wrongs don’t make a right. And it is right that the child be disturbed by this.

    We can appreciate and love our adoptive parents and find happiness – but what is this disquiet so many adoptees feel? It is the hidden truth that they must deny, that must never be spoken of. And what is this disquiet so many adoptive parents feel? It is the source of parental insecurities about a child’s loyalty.

    This thing we don’t talk about is the cause of the underlying strain and tension that must always be checked.

    We can not solve problems if we refuse to recognize there is a problem. We can not eliminate future problems if we shove these problems under a rug. The two ton elephant in the room is abduction. The fear that terrorizes us is the paranoia of our transgressions exposed.

    It is not necessary to resort to abduction to save a child or to begin a family. It is a barbaric practice. And our privilege and power should not make barbarism acceptable. As long as this practice continues, confusion in the minds of adoptees will continue, as they try to reconcile the truth of their abduction and captivity with the appreciation they have for the care of their benefactors who perpetrated the violation of their civil rights. The equation does not add up, and chaos is the result.

    You wouldn’t do that to an adult. You couldn’t do that to an adult. Because adults have basic civil rights. But children, it seems, do not. How can anyone condemn an adoptee for expressing the anguish of having their civil rights violated so comprehensively? How?

    We need to expand the definition of ethical adoption and also talk about humane adoption. We need to expand the definition of family and include community. We need to look at saving children holistically. We need to take the time to know children as individuals PRIOR TO adoption. And love and respect them enough to not force love in return.


    January 14, 2009 at 10:52 pm

  10. “Good people can do bad things. Good and bad are not mutually exclusive. The world is not that black and white.”

    That is one of the most profound things I have read recently.


    January 15, 2009 at 11:23 pm

  11. I remember your original blog post and still believe it is an important way to look at adoption. It is not the whole answer but it is an important view point and every adoptive parent should explore it.


    January 18, 2009 at 2:59 pm

  12. I cannot really comment on your feelings about adoption, as I was not adopted. I am an adoptive mom, but that also is really neither here nor there. HOWEVER, I was also abused as a child. You say

    “People will discount what I say because I was abused. But this is not about my abuse or my abuser. This is about my relationship with my adoptive mother, who did NOT abuse me.”

    You may not realize it now, or it may not be a comfortable way to view what happened in your childhood… but your mother did, also, abuse you. She willingly placed you in the path of your father and others who hurt you. She willingly stayed with him, and kept you in a situation that was tragic and dangerous for you. Whether it was out of weakness or fear or desire for stability in her own life, it doesn’t matter. She let you down.

    I used to see my own mother as the victim, the innocent. But it doesn’t work that way. She was as culpable as any; She was responsible for protecting me, and she didn’t. I don’t know and can’t know how much adoption factored in to your relationship with your mother. But I definitely recognize in your writings much more of the archtypical “abuser’s facillitator/child” relationship than I do a typical “adoptive parent/child” relationship.

    My abuse used to rule every aspect of my life, until I was finally able to reclaim the child within me who was abused. Yes, that old “inner child” cliche!! But attachment disorder is not just an adoption-related term. Those of us who were abused as children, who learned to shut down and cope, to disassociate and survive… we can have attachment disorders with our own selves. Splitting ourselves off from the child who experienced the pain and trauma protects us for a time, but ultimately prevent us from moving forward, from teaching that child within to cope and grow and grieve and leave behind the loss of innocence that was our childhood. Understanding what my mother did not do for me and her role in the whole thing was the critical piece I needed in order to be able to become a mother to myself, one who could help me past the the grief and loss and trauma that was my childhood.

    I wish you the best in your journey.


    January 21, 2009 at 3:07 am

  13. Kate –

    I agree with you almost entirely EXCEPT for the time-line.
    At first, my mother was just like any other adoptive mother and I was just like any other adopted child. This is what I meant when I said she did not abuse me. She did not abuse me at the time. Neither did my father, for that matter. I was reacting to yet again someone discounting the points I was making simply because I reveal that I am an abuse victim.

    I fully acknowledge and hold her accountable as well for her inaction. Yet I still loved her, flawed and self-pitying as she was. But that abuse facilitator role was later.

    – It took time for her to realize another child wasn’t the answer.
    – It took time for my father to turn his attentions towards me.
    – It took time before my mother realized things were not right and chose to look the other way.

    This is just one chapter of a very complex life. It is too easy to pigeon-hole those who have experienced so many types of traumas by the most recognizable and familiar trauma. I understand disassociation, I understand denial, I understand about abuse facilitators. But this, the second trauma, stands alone. Just as the first trauma of abandonment did. Just as the abuse did later. Each are separate topics with their own layers of aftermath.

    This frozen moment is being isolated to talk about the topic of creating more HUMANE adoptions. That abrupt disruptions are unnecessary and harmful. That to a child they feel like abductions. That it changes the frame work of our relationships with our adoptive parents, and that it – by default – turns them into captors, and that beginning a relationship based upon trauma can never be as good as it could be. Yes, you can learn to love each other. But there will always be that violation between you, unspoken.

    I just want people to think about the children’s emotional well being BEFORE they act. I want adoptions to be humane. Sight unseen adoptions are abductions. “Gotchas” at the airport are abductions. One meeting in an orphanage is not enough. The child deserves to get acquainted and have some exposure to these people they are getting handed to PRIOR to being torn from everything they know and being sent to foreign lands with foreign people speaking foreign tongues. Children are PEOPLE. Adoptees are PEOPLE. They need to be treated HUMANELY.

    Eliminate the abduction from adoption and we will eliminate the disquiet under the surface in many adoptive family relationships.

    That’s what I want to talk about in this post.


    January 21, 2009 at 5:51 am

  14. Fabulous post… you have put into words things I have been trying to express for years but haven’t been quite so eloquent.

    I like the correlation between Stockholm Syndrome and adoption… how did anyone think adoption would never be perceived as abduction I could never know because from the child’s perspective it could never be anything else really… even if the life they had with their captors was possibly better than what they could have had with their parents. Thank you for this post… very thought provoking.


    January 22, 2009 at 2:35 am

  15. girl4708,

    I couldn’t agree with you more that international adoptions are unnecessarily traumatic. I regret horribly that our third son (second adopted child) could not have been provided with less of an “abduction” experience. With our second son (first adoption), I don’t think the type of transition would have made any difference. He was already “not there” enough that he hardly noticed being abducted by strangers. He was sick and so withdrawn into his own little pseudo-autistic world that I don’t think he would have noticed if aliens had descended from the heavens and snatched him away.

    But I was OBVIOUSLY seen as the evil white abductress by our third son (he was 22 months old at the time we met him). He couldn’t stand to be in the same room with me for some time and would cry if I even looked at him sideways when he was in my husband’s arm (who he grabbed onto for dear life amidst the fear of it all). He was very attached to his nanny at his orphanage in China, and it was very traumatizing the way the transition was handled. It has been two months, and still he obviously thinks that our blonde babysitter might just take him away from US. It is heartbreaking to see, and it did NOT have to be that way.

    I absolutely wish with all my heart that we could have done it differently. That he could have grown to know and trust us before being thrust into our arms and his whole world turned upside down. But not only did the orphanage not believe in a humane transition, they forbade parents to visit and he did not even get a chance to be comforted by his nanny in all this. So yes, we effectively abducted him and he WAS traumatized by it. I wish it could have been different.

    But much more than that, I wish that my childrens’ mothers had decided to (or been able to) keep them, despite their physical deformity and surgical needs. I would give anything for my boys not to have been given up as babies, even if that meant not having them as my children now. And I know dealing with that abandonment is going to be painful for them. I would give anything for them not to feel that pain.

    But despite how much I wish it could have been different, I do not believe that what we did was wrong. I do not think either boy deserved to grow up in their orphanages. I know my middle son was very traumatized by his stay in his orphanage. I am absolutely positive his life would have continued to be as abysmal – or worse – as it obviously was for his first 14.5 months of life.

    My youngest son *did* obviously have a loving relationship with his nanny at the orphanage. But they apparently didn’t have enough time there to feed him so that he could grow. He was covered in bug bites when we got him. Yes, his nanny obviously loved him. But nannies are not forever. They are employees… they come, and they go. And so many kids have come home from his orphanage with horrible stories or signs of significant sexual abuse, I am glad that he did not have to grow up in that environment.

    So yes, we did take him away against his will. I’m sure that, given how the transition was handled – by CHINA’s choice, we had none – that he would not have gone willingly with us. And I’ll bet that even with a gradual transition, he may never have gone willingly away from all he knew, even despite the care and that they were quite literally starving him. As his parents, we had to be willing to step in and make decisions for him, then, just as we do now. To choose what was best for him *under the circumstances*, that he would not have chosen for himself.

    That is where I get stuck with the assertions that we should have done it differently. That we “violated” his “civil rights”, or that what we did was wrong because we wouldn’t have done that to an adult. I may someday have to make the same kind of decisions and go against the will of my aging father, and uproot him from his home and put him in a place where he would not go willingly, but where he will get the care he requires. And I will have to suffer the guilt and the responsibility then, too, for being the one in the relationship who is designated to “decide what is best”. Being a responsible parent, or an adult child of a degrading parent, sometimes means that you have to make decisions for another person. I don’t think the act of making that decision is wrong, it is how you make it and what you do with everything else that matters.

    I just can’t agree that we should not have “participated” in the violation of our two boys’ rights. How could I? Sure, we could have tried for an open adoption in the United States instead. Or we could have chosen a country that has a “better process”. But that would not have changed anything for these two boys. If they were lucky, another family would have put them through the same thing. Or, if they weren’t so lucky (our youngest son waited at our agency over 6 months before we asked for his file) they would have grown up in the orphanages that had driven one into his own little world, or kept the both on the brink of starvation, or allowed our youngest to be preyed upon by other dangerous, mentally disabled sexual predator inmates. I fail to see how that have been better?

    As a parent, you *have to* believe that the decisions you make for your children are the right ones, or at least the best that you can make with the information you have. That is the way, and weight, of being a parent. You struggle and you agonize and you have sleepless nights but in the end those decisions are YOUR responsiblity. Abdicating them, refusing to be the adult and make those hard choices, is not an option.

    I hope to God that my children – biological OR adopted – forgive me for the decisions that I have made for them that have changed their lives forever. Each of my boys has gone under anesthesia multiple times for various special needs. Each one has been physically changed by a surgery *I* chose for them. Each one goes to the dentist. Each is subject to – and terrified – of getting shots or blood drawn. But they are all still too young to have a say in all these things, and those things cannot afford to wait until they are mature enough to desire for themselves.

    They may very well someday hate me for making those decisions for them. But I am guessing that, more likely, if hate comes it will be for what I did NOT do for them – if I fail to show them the love, compassion and respect they deserve – and not because of the particular choices I made for them.

    At least, I have to hope so.


    January 22, 2009 at 7:25 am

  16. This reminds me of a story that came out some time ago. A young man learned that his adoptive parents had actually kidnapped him. Sometime in the early 70’s this girl told her parents that she was pregnant and that she and the baby’s father were planning to get married. The father didn’t like that and wanted to make her place the baby for adoption. The poor girl thought she was signing her permission for circumsicion but it was actually an adoption consent. The child was placed with a couple called the Smilys. When everything came to light the Smilys were directed by the courts to return the child to his parents. Instead they fled to Arizona, knowing fully how he had come to be with them. The young couple spent years trying to find their son. They married and had other children but the strain of having lost their first son caused the marriage to eventually fail. Meanwhile, in Arizona the young man, now 22 applied to a police academy. They needed his birth certificate and the story came to light. The Smily’s each spent considerably less than a year each in jail. Now the young man invites them to his wedding as “parents” and snubs his mother and father. Sounds like a textbook case of what’s described here.


    January 23, 2009 at 9:53 pm

  17. Kate,

    I totally agree about the unnecessary trauma in China adoptions. And I admire the eloquence of your post. I, too, have an adopted special-needs child from China. Her “transition” to us consisted of being handed to us by someone (not her foster mom) through a hotel room door, which was then swiftly closed. I had lobbied in advance for a different transition but was told that, under no circumstances, would China alter their method. This in itself is abuse and certainly makes the adoption feel like abduction to the child.

    Would it have been better to leave my daughter in China? I will never know for sure, to be honest. She has some signs of having been neglected, even in foster care. She had elevated levels of lead in her blood. She was undernourished and underweight. She, as an abandoned baby, would likely never have gotten an education or papers that would have allowed her to workm, or to marry legally or have children herself. It is the fundamental rules of the society and the circumstances into which she was born that dictated her future (at least as we know now — girl4708 rightly points out that cultures change, and economies improve. But between now and when that might happen, our daughter could easily have wound up a prostitute, and/or abused, and/or dead). Are these basic needs — health, food, safety, the opportunity to be an official person — less important than birth culture? Only my daughter will be able to say that, many years from now. I believe so, but I am aware that this is my perspective, and my truth, not hers. And I say this with the full knowledge and agreement that it would be better for her and her bio family if China’s constraints on her very existence were not present. But the reality is, they were.

    If I had not adopted her, would someone else have done so? Almost certainly. Am I responsible for how her life has turned out? Now, I am. And I make those decisions just as you (Kate) do, to do things she wouldn’t want to do.

    girl4708 –
    I understand what you are getting at with respect to Stockholm Syndrome, though as you know, your invoking it sounds harsh (I believe you said “dangerous”). One trauma/attachment theorist has said that “all bonds are trauma bonds.” In other words, bio babies bond to their mothers — at least in part — through the same cycle of dependency and discomfort-then-relief that leads (most) adopted kids to (eventually) bond to their a-parents. This is a biologically-based phenomenon, meant to bind helpless mammals to those who can ensure their survival, since they cannot do so on their own. Typically, those adult mammals would be mothers or parents, though in some mammals fostering occurs. Human beings, endowed with cortex that lets us think through what this all means, can start to use this phenonenon for ill (abduction, abuse) as well as good (ensuring the welfare of young whom we are charged to protect through biology or law).

    girl4708 — thank you for a thought-provoking post. I wish you healing in your continued journey
    Kate — thank you for your eloquent response


    January 29, 2009 at 4:02 pm

  18. sadly i think about stockholm syndrome and my literally stolen daughter. i lost her at 16 months and she is now 9. her a mother went a great length to gain her. part of me is afraid she will think i abdandoned her when i didnt, and worried she will believe the lies she is raised with. i can only have faith, that she will want to find me. and hope i can help restore our bond and help her to understand without sort of accusing the adopters. its cruel but true your post.


    January 31, 2009 at 3:35 am

  19. Kelly,

    Maybe you were helpless before. This is not an indictment of the past, but an analysis of the past, and I wish you and all caring adoptive parents well in any struggles you may encounter as a result of dealing with how the adoption industry has affected your relationships. But you are informeded now.

    It is up to those who care about children to demand improvements to the system. It is a higher mandate to those aware to walk the higher road. To participate in unethical and/or inhumane practices once aware amounts to collaboration. This is called compromising at someone else’s expense: the child’s. This should be unacceptable to everyone who purports to care about children. And if everyone falls back on this easier path, the path of saying, “there’s nothing we could do,” then adoption will never improve and more adoptive parent/child relationships will start off on the wrong foot. There is ALWAYS something more we can do to improve.

    It is also the trend that in the absence of a regulated system, the present state of affairs, the source country pulls back. And it is also the trend that developing nations pull back as they overcome their economic disadvantages, and with economic advances, domestic social services increase, reducing the need for adoption. The time to raise these issues and demand the adoption industry respond is NOW – before the “need” for adoption has shifted to yet another struggling nation. Adoption agencies understand the tide of popular opinion because that affects their viability and profits. Witness the burgeoning “greening” of western markets…The source nations care about their image as well. WE shape market forces. WE have more power than we know to improve the practice of adoption. It is our responsibility as consumers to pressure the system to be more ethical, and in this case more humane.

    Change starts with us and our own standards. Ethica, for example, was started by adoptive parents, and ethical adoptions are gaining momentum. And as more and more adoption agencies advertise ethical practices, it will become the modus operandi of source countries. Humane practices too can follow a similar path.

    It’s about the future.
    It’s up to the adopting parents.
    But it won’t happen unless this topic is brought out from the shadows and discussed.
    Please, leave a legacy and work to spread the word that children deserve more humane adoptions.


    February 1, 2009 at 5:06 am

  20. girl4708,

    Those are a lot of great sounding words. Would you please explain exactly how people who care about Chinese orphans are supposed to “demand improvements in the system”? Or should we just not adopt from China because to do so would be collaborating with their inhumane practices?



    February 1, 2009 at 4:58 pm

  21. Kate,

    If every adoptive parent from China wrote a letter to the government talking about how the OCP has affected thousands of little girls and that China needs to step up to take care of its own citizens, then what do you suppose would happen?


    February 1, 2009 at 6:30 pm

  22. ETA: I don’t think any of this has to do with leaving orphans to rot in orphanages. It has to do with getting to the root problem.

    The OCP has a lot to do it. It is not the only problem, but it IS one of the most powerful factors as to why thousands of little girls are sent overseas. This is not even a matter of poverty or abuse or malnutrition. This is a GOVERNMENT POLICY based on a cultural mindset. It has not been around since the New Ages – it was only implemented in the early 1970s! And the government has recently been lenient about it in some regions.

    So why can’t it be decreased and completely removed IN TIME?


    February 1, 2009 at 6:36 pm

  23. Sure, I’ll write that letter. I’ll also write a letter asking the Chinese government to stop human rights abuses, free Tibet, and stop persecuting the Falun Gongstop. Perhaps I’ll also request they stop censoring of the Internet, recognize homosexuality, and legislate that mental illness must be treated under government-provided healthcare. While I’m at it, maybe I’ll through something in there, too, about how the country should stop promoting abortion as a form of population control and become Pro-Life.

    Yes, I’m being sarcastic. I frankly think it is the height of Western self-centeredness to think that the Chinese government is somehow going to listen more to a small (1.3billion) population.

    The OCP has SO MUCH MORE AND SIGNIFICANT IMPACT than just the orphan situation. The growing gender discrepancy in China is thought by many to be a ticking time-bomb for the stability of the country. I’m sure the actual impact on such a proportionally minute part of the population – orphans who are then subject to inhumane adoption processes, or inhumane treatment in orphanages – is but a “blip” on the radar screen of the powers-that-be. I really cannot imagine that they could give one moment’s thought to that population in the face of so much more monumental considerations.

    HOWEVER, I do believe that if we did manage to put together a massive letter-writing campaign to try to “force” China to see the “error of its ways” and treat their orphans better, or stop purposefully creating so many, we could cause a whole lot of damage to the “cause” of Chinese orphans. What if it became a media spectacle, that the Chinese government really just could not ignore? Then what? Perhaps you don’t remember the “Dying Rooms” documentary? Or how Chinese orphanages were practically shut down over the Hunan scandal? Making China lose face over orphans is not going to get more orphans placed in loving homes (foreign or domestic). It is going to get more orphans staying hidden safely away in orphanages, away from Western prying eyes.

    So, no, I’m not going to write that letter. I *will* continue to contribute to organizations such as Half the Sky and Smile Train. To assist organizations that are working carefully within China to help support orphans who are suffering – due to the OCP, the lack of a social security system, and general prejudice against handicaps in China. THAT is where I can make a difference.


    February 1, 2009 at 8:52 pm

  24. Well, that was strange. Part of the second paragraph got clipped. It is supposed to read:

    “Yes, I’m being sarcastic. I frankly think it is the height of Western self-centeredness to think that the Chinese government is somehow going to listen more to a small (less than 100K) foreign special interest group than it is to it’s own (greater than 1.3billion) population.”


    February 1, 2009 at 8:54 pm

  25. girl4708 — I totally agree that adoptive parents, once informed, can do their best to help “the system” improve, including by working with groups like Ethica, by sending money to countries (through ethical agencies) to enable children to stay in their birth countries through funding medical and foster care, etc. (Your original post does imply, however, that no adoption is ethical without the consent of the child, which really means no child would be adoptable until later in childhood, when the damage of poverty and/or institutionalization, including malnutrition, possible abuse, certain neglect, and deprivation would have taken root and possibly impaired that child’s ability to ever make such a decision rationally — so I am not quite sure what you are advocating. In Romania, when adoptions were shut down because the country was embarrassed about how its practices were perceived, the orphanages just started filling up again with kids who, I do believe, would have been better off being ‘abducted’ to IA than being warehoused and deprived of not only nutrition but any meaningful human contact. I have personal, close experience with a child who suffered under that particular form of neglect, so this is vivid to me).

    Mei-Ling, what you suggest sounds very rational, and very Western. The Chinese government would NOT “cave” to the pressures of foreign adoptive parents to end the one-child policy. Or to do anything else for that matter. China is not a democracy. Furthermore, culturally and politically not losing “face” is paramount, and information is controlled / censored from China’s own people to keep them from knowing what is going on. (Not that other countries/governments don’t do this, but that is the topic for another day). China edited Barack Obama’s inauguration speech in real time to keep any phrases about human rights from being heard by the Chinese people. Seriously, the idea of petitioning the government for redress of grievances is in the US Constitution, and those of other democracies, not China’s. And btw this is not China-bashing, just realism about anyone’s influence there, including her own people, and certainly us lao wai (foreigners).

    On a pragmatic note, I do think the OTP will be removed in time to, if nothing else, “fix” the gender imbalance that has resulted from it.

    Debates like these are useful, and I thank you both for your continued thoughts. If the solutions were straightforward, obvious, and achievable (“stop all adoptions immediately!” “never allow international adoption!” “never allow an unwanted child to be conceived!”), surely they would have broad support. But the truth is more complex than that, and there is more to balance in the equation than just loss of birth culture. But we can do more, with that I agree.

    Take care.


    February 1, 2009 at 9:04 pm

  26. “asking the Chinese government to stop human rights abuses, free Tibet, and stop persecuting the Falun Gongstop. Perhaps I’ll also request they stop censoring of the Internet, recognize homosexuality, and legislate that mental illness must be treated under government-provided healthcare.”

    What does the Internet, homosexuality and mental illness have to do with the OCP?!


    February 1, 2009 at 9:21 pm

  27. Okay, let me try to put it this way: Do you believe that human rights issues will never be recognized in China?


    February 1, 2009 at 9:28 pm

  28. Kelly: If China’s gov’t is keeping its own citizens oblivious to EVERYTHING, then how is it we know of all these things?

    As you have said, China edited Obama’s inauguration speech so that its citizens would not hear about human rights? Does this mean Chinese citizens are basically walking robots who believe anything they are told? Or are they led to believe they HAVE no rights?


    February 1, 2009 at 9:31 pm

  29. Mei-Ling, no I don’t think the Chinese are “basically walking robots.” I do believe that speaking out, even en masse, in China is dangerous. Look up Tiananmen Square, 1989.

    And my fundamental premise stands. The Chinese government will not do what its own people want (witness Tiananmen Square), much less what foreigners pressure them to do. I do believe the recognition of fundamental human rights in China is a long way away. I wish it weren’t.


    February 1, 2009 at 11:33 pm

  30. What I see from this article is that Stockholm Syndrome is compassion. Do you by any chance see the correlation, Blog Owner (I’m sorry, I would use your name but I don’t see it anywhere)?

    You feel compassion for your Mum for her lot in life and her acceptance of this, her suffering, her hope that adopting a child would “make her happy” and so on. You love her because you know her as your mother and have since being a young child. That’s why we all love our mothers (bio too) because they are the only ones we know. I am the bio child of my mother but I couldn’t feel more alienated from the chosen lifestyle they lead, my extended family’s attitudes to life and religion and all of the stuff that makes you uncomfortable that you just can’t put words to. I still love them of course but am so different, and have always been, that I may as well have been adopted.

    Maybe I’m missing the point!

    How does one adoptive parent (as I will be soon) go about making sure this doesn’t happen? Do we not adopt? Do we adopt and keep a careful watch on our child’s possible feelings of being captured? Then what do we do?


    February 2, 2009 at 3:05 am

  31. Actually I think that what girl4708 is trying to say that Stockholm Syndrome is a result of *forced compassion.*

    Infants are taken from their mothers without their consent. They do not have their mothers. These new moms are the ONLY people they can rely on, so of course they have no choice but to attach to that person and rely on them as a caregiver.

    (ETA: I don’t necessarily agree/disagree with Stockholm Syndrome, but that seems to be how girl4708 is depicting it.)


    February 2, 2009 at 3:51 am

  32. Hi Mei-Ling,

    Thanks for the reply :) I understand that better now. I was actually responding to the original post on the blog and didn’t read some of the comments. I appreciate reading other thoughts on how children of adoption perceive their upbringings – it helps create a rounded perspective for me to keep in mind when we have our child’s needs to consider.

    I still think there is more to this subject than labelling it with a syndrome. Too easy to put a person into a box and say “there, that’s what it is!”

    I’ll look out for more comments and blog posts in future .. this is a very well-written blog.



    February 2, 2009 at 4:28 am

  33. “How does an adoptive parent go about making sure this doesn’t happen?”

    1. If you meant literally, then the best way to avoid a “legalized” kidnapping and be certain about the fact of why your child was abandoned/placed in an orphanage… is to find out the most ethical agency possible.

    2. If you meant about how your child will feel in the future – that they may or may feel their culture/heritage/language was “stolen” from them – there’s nothing you can do about that except build a honest foundation upon which to base your relationship, and validate how your adopted child may feel.

    It’s sort of like the questions people have asked me, “How do I ensure that my child won’t feel loss? What if I take language classes and cook the food and celebrate the holidays? Isn’t that better than NOT doing all of that?”

    Well yes, but you won’t be able to do it as it is practised IN the country of origin. You can’t. And you probably know this, so the next best step is to try and imitate it as best as possible.

    As to the question about your child feeling loss, you can’t prevent that.


    February 2, 2009 at 9:00 pm

  34. This post is about me starting a conversation and dialog. Sarcasm does not help dialog, and I don’t appreciate it being introduced.

    You asked me for solutions, and I brainstormed for you. But nailing me for one brainstorm that you think doesn’t work doesn’t help the children, does it? At least I am trying. In the particular instance of China, there are other source countries with children in need of families who are on less of a power trip. And even if their trip is power, all countries understand market forces. There are many ways to skin a cat, and it usually takes multiple ways in concert. But any and all of those are better than nothing at all. I repeat. Nothing at all.

    I’m learning to teach children English right now and don’t have time for this nit-picking. I’m not adopting. What you choose to do with this discussion is up to you. The kind of relationships you have with your children is up to you. I’m just saying it can be better – and the only way we can even begin to make it better is to acknowledge ALL the aspects of adoption, ESPECIALLY the things that effect adopted children in the ways they can’t express. Those are often the most important things.

    Changing the face of adoption and reforming it so ethical and humane adoptions are di rigeur are up to all of us. I’m doing my part by starting this conversation and taking the heat for it. Hopefully you, as the driving force that fuels the adoption industry, can do more.


    February 6, 2009 at 11:36 am

  35. I don’t understand about your comment on sarcarsm. I’ve just read back over every comment and I don’t see any.

    I don’t know who you were replying to but if I said something to offend, it wasn’t my intention. My questions were ones of concern, not sarcasm. I’m asking questions of you to seek answers on how you view them.

    I want to, as much as is possible, help my future child in any way and I was seeking your help, as an adoptee.

    Please don’t be offended.


    February 6, 2009 at 11:58 am

  36. girl4708… I thought Mei-Ling was introducing possible solutions? Or are you the same person? I’m honestly confused now.

    Yes, I did use sarcasm, as a tool to point out the ridiculousness of a letter writing campaign to change China’s government. The suggestion is completely unrealistic, if you know ANYTHING about Chinese culture, government and politics. It has much more potential to backfire than any positive effect.

    The suggestion to “find the most ethical agency possible” also just doesn’t apply to China. China has one and only one agency on the in-country side – the CCAA. They are the only ones who really know what the situation is, assign the children, etc. The “agencies” we sign up with are facillitators that we hire to interact with the CCAA.

    So that leaves… not participating. Go with a better country, which has a more humane process, or adopt domestically in open adoption. So we ARE back to “leaving orphans to rot” regardless of how you want to dress it up. Maybe that is the best thing if you only see the big picture? But I don’t see the big picture… I see two little boys who never would have had a chance if left to grow up in their orphanages in China. And I just can’t accept any proposed “solution” that would have meant leaving them and others like them to rot in their orphanages.


    February 6, 2009 at 3:36 pm

  37. girl4708 is a Korean adoptee and the author of this blog.

    I’m Taiwanese and a frequent visitor to this site AND trying to figure out how to propose ANY way that would take a step in the right direction that would encourage China to stop forcing its women to abandon their children.

    I’m not sure how girl4708 would figure out how to increase awareness of the “necessary” means for Chinese adoption to be decreased. She hasn’t given any viewpoints on China’s particular circumstances. Yet.

    “So we ARE back to ‘leaving orphans to rot’ regardless of how you want to dress it up.”

    No, I am not saying leaving orphans to rot. The children who are IN orphanages RIGHT THIS SECOND need to be adopted.

    But the children who will be abandoned soon as infants? No. Their mothers need the support and resources and right frame of mind to keep their children. The problem is that these resources would, in all probability, have to come FROM the government.

    Do you think there is any possible way whatsoever to make China perhaps see alternate solutions? I don’t mean making them change their minds about halting all adoptions – I mean taking a STEP in the more ethical direction and trying to preserve family whenever possible.

    I know China’s government is corrupt and non-democratic and favours males over females and wants to keep a tight population control.

    But I will NOT give up the idea that children can someday remain within their original families and that they will have to trade one life for another.


    February 7, 2009 at 2:05 am

  38. I do think that China’s government has gone a long way towards reducing abandonments of baby girls over all. I think they’ve seen the light themselves on this regard. No, they haven’t given up the OCP, and have said that it will remain in place for another 10 years at least. BUT they’ve promoted keeping girl babies, and have loosened the OCP somewhat to help parents keep girls. And they are promoting domestic adoption. All which are seem to be making a very big difference. I believe movement is also underway to help provide social security of some form to parents who only have girls. That will go a long way towards reducing the “need” to abandon your girl and try for a boy. I just pray that the recent world-wide economic turmoil doesn’t put a stop to all the progress made in this area.

    However, I think the country itself has a long way to go before the need for international adoption of special needs children is lessened. The provision of medical care has to change, so that poor parents are not wiped out by providing necessary medical care for their kids. But the societal prejudice against the “less than perfect” needs to change, too. In this way, China is where the US was back in the 1950s, when your mentally disabled cousin grew up in the basement of his parent’s home, hidden away from the world.

    China has a long way to come and one thing we adoptive parents can do in this regard is write letters back to the orphanages and the CCAA showing how well our kids are doing, when just given the chance. We can help change hearts and minds one at a time.

    Outside agencies, like Smile Train and Love Without Boundaries could also do more to help families stay together. Right now the emphasis is so much on orphans, with the ability to sponsor known children for specific surgeries and care… but what about helping families with their children’s surgeries so that they can remain together? I personally would like to see more money going towards helping families provide surgeries for children THEY STILL HAVE rather than so much emphasis going towards getting children in orphanages surgeries, especially when oftentimes adopting parents would have rather their children wait and have their surgeries here in the States anyway. I will gladly write letters to that effect, and ask that any future contributions we make go towards assisting families who bring their own children in for surgeries to afford them. Perhaps this is an area where I CAN make a difference.

    I hope that China is changing with respect to special needs. I do believe it is. One wonderful thing that has come from so many waiting parents turning to special needs adoption is that orphanage directors’ eyes are being opened to the value in kids who don’t meet that perfect, physical ideal. I only hope that that spreads. Recently a very famous singer in Hong Kong gave birth to a child who was cleft affected. While it was very unfortunate (in my mind) that they chose to come to the States for surgery for their child rather than highlight the quality of surgery that IS available in their own country, their being open about their child has opened a lot of hearts and minds. Things are changing.

    I do wish we could do more, and I’m absolutely open to suggestions. I really don’t mean to be so critical of anything that’s been suggested. The situation is so sad and so frustrating for all of us.


    February 7, 2009 at 2:51 am

  39. I agree with Mei Ling, and I have brought this up in many other places at many other times: exit strategy.

    There is no reason to let any child “rot” in an orphanage. But it is wrong to perpetuate a market that demands more orphans, and it is wrong to ignore the source problems which create “orphans.”

    The goal should be: empty the orphanages of those who are there and don’t allow the orphanages, through everyone’s neglect and greed, to continuously be replenished.

    An exit strategy, such as Korea is trying to figure out right now, is what is needed. And in the interim, all efforts should be made by prospective adoptive parents to reduce trauma to their children by going above and beyond what is merely required.

    For five decades we have conducted and lived through this experiment of adoption on a mass scale, and the time is now to have derived some lessons from it. It is time for a new era, an era of humanism instead of barbarism. Let it begin with us.

    There is always more we can do. Touch/enlighten two people, and they do the same. Find those with influence and touch them too. Cast a net for other like-minded individuals. Join forces with adult adoptees who advocate for child placement reform. Start a conversation. One seed can spread like wildfire. And influence the globe.

    And you’re right – things ARE changing – it’s about damned time. Let’s see that we guide it in a way that focuses on the children’s emotional well being. It’s the perfect time to be propose a more humane adoption process.


    February 7, 2009 at 4:40 am

  40. It’s interesting to consider the history of international adoption in the 20th centuary. After WWI and WWII a lot of European children were orphaned. Some of them were very young and adopted into U.S. families. The same thing happened after Korea and Vietnam. Wars create war orphans. Imagine that thirty years after WWII ended someone showed up in oh, say Belgium and said. “OK we’d like to start up the adoption program again. Where are all the orphaned babies?” I think they’d be told “The war ended a generation ago. The war orphans are grown up now.” Then say the American starts throwing money around- lots of money in an environment where desperatly poor cops, judges and hospital workers could be easily bought off. I have a funny feeling a lot of “adoptable European infants” would suddenly have been “found”. Isn’t it possible that this is what’s still happening today in much of Asia?


    February 9, 2009 at 9:48 pm

  41. We must first start with the premise that the adopted child’s natural parents voluntarily gave up or abandoned the child. If the alternative to adoption then is a childhood in an orphanage, then does the writer advocate that as her preference? If so, I have to ask what she bases that on and what does she know about life in a Russian or Chinese orphanage. As I understand this, the only way adoption would not qualify as abduction by your definition is if the potential parents and child were allowed to first develop a relationship sufficiently and until the child is of an age at which he/she could make an informed decision for itself. When is that? 10? 14? 18? By then, what sort of life would that child have? Living in limbo, belonging to nothing permanent, parttime with a family and sometimes in an orphanage? And what if after the child reaches the age of 10 or 14, she decides for herself that she does not accept becoming part of this family? So no abduction. Good. But should she start over with a new family and how many will want to start with her at the age of 10 or 12 or 16? Your analogy of Stockholm Syndrome as applied to infant/ toddler adoption can be applied just as easily to your own daughter and every baby born as none has any say in who its parents will be. Each one is essentially abducted the day it is sent home from the hospital with its new parent(s). And each one is completely reliant upon the powerful adult who gave birth to it or adopted it. There are people who adopt for all the wrong reasons and who may be bad parents just as there are people who have babies for many wrong reasons and with even the best intentions will prove to be bad parents. Things may not have been as strict when Girl 4708 was adopted, but I would be more at ease letting my child stay overnight with an adopted Chinese friend in a home where the parents have undergone background checks, fingerprinting and multiple in-home interviews by a social worker than I would a little friend who lived with her un-checked birth parents. Your situation was very sad and a shame, but adoption of unwanted infants is not abduction and is still the best alternative.

    Pamela, Esq.

    March 27, 2009 at 9:55 pm

  42. Pamela’s obtuse comments make me want to pound my head into a wall. Everyone seems to have come away from my article with some morsel of understanding but her.

    I am not talking about any particular country. I am not talking about a fully formed relationship over years. I am talking about being humane. You can debate the particulars of what constitutes humane treatment of children amongst yourselves, but tearing a child from one environment to a TOTALLY foreign one feels like abduction to a child.

    I am a parent of two children. Learning to love my adoptive parents is NOTHING like having natural parents around from the beginning. It is similar to stockholm syndrome, and it also had NOTHING to do with my abuse, which came later.

    I am closing discussions on this post, because it is too frustrating to hear people have read and not understood anything at all.


    ” Your situation was very sad and a shame, but adoption of unwanted infants is not abduction and is still the best alternative.”

    I don’t see any alternatives in your limited world view. I don’t see any attempt at family preservation or strengthening society, only your opportunity. How do you know those infants are unwanted?

    The way you think is sad and a shame.


    March 28, 2009 at 1:36 am

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