Refreshing

It is refreshing to encounter an adoptive parent with such clarity about her adopted child. Heron Greenesmith writes at Parents.com – Please stop calling my adopted daughter ‘lucky.’

She writes – I “would have given anything for her to be with her biological family instead.” It was not a newborn infant that was adopted but a 5 yr old child. “Love can be burden, particularly if you are a 5 year old who has never met these people who know everything about you.”

It was as she wrote about her experience on social media that she was told – “She’s so lucky.” – perhaps a thoughtless platitude, a senseless nothing typed quickly into a comment bar.   “Lucky girl to have such dedicated parents!” (Dedicated? Why did that word carry so much power to imply that adoption was somehow more work than literally creating an entire human in one’s body?)

And here is why she does not consider her daughter lucky – her daughter was taken away from her natural parents and siblings. She experienced indescribable grief and trauma at an age before many of us even begin to understand that level of misfortune is possible. She also sees a young child who walks through life with the burden of knowing one may lose what one loves without warning.

She admits that some parents are unable to keep their kids healthy and safe. Our nation’s child-welfare services are designed to support these families in need. They are supposed to keep kids healthy and safe while parents are getting the assistance they need. And if further tragedy strikes and parents are wholly unable to care for their children, the system turns its gears and tries to find a new home for the child.

She is also not comfortable with the reasons that some people may consider her adopted daughter lucky – Lucky to be with parents in a higher tax bracket? What does that say to the children in low-income families whose parents are keeping them healthy and safe? Does it tell them that poverty itself is justification for removing kids from their parents? And too often, poverty is the justification for removing children from their biological families.

She writes “there is nothing I would not give for her to have been safe, fed, and clean in her first home, without having to have gone through hell first.” “She is incredibly unlucky and will spend her life carrying her tragedy with her. It is our job to help her understand her tragedy and help her carry it.” She remembers that first day and a terrified kid being driven in a car by people she’d met two weeks earlier to a new house where she’d live “forever.” But she is also aware that to her daughter, “forever” doesn’t truly exist.

Kept – An Adoption Journal

This is causing some noise. They say of this journaling tool that it “has all the same heart and soul and the only change we made to this adoption version was to the pregnancy page. We now call that ‘The Beginning’ and have the prompts ‘how we found out about you,’ ‘how we told our loved ones about you,’ and ‘how we met’.”

On their Facebook page, one man writes – you obviously haven’t talked to any adult adoptees about this book. So many of us would have told you that your company name has a very obvious meaning to us. Also treating us as if our story began with adoption is effectively an erasure of our origins.

The company owner of Kept replied – Thank you for your phone call today. I really appreciate your willingness to engage and help us learn about the adoptee experience. As we talked about, we had only consulted with adoptive parents on what they would love to record from their child’s life. And we had a huge misstep with not consulting with adult adoptees on this product. A lot would have been caught. The heart was to record memories from when the adoptee was adopted into their adoptive family, but we didn’t realize how starting here would be harmful and insensitive. Thanks for your willingness to keep the conversation going with us. We really appreciate it.

Another one wrote – I’m speechless. Did you talk to a single adopted person? I’m an adoptee, a Licensed Professional Counselor who counsels adoptees, an author of adoption resources, and an adoptee civil rights advocate who led the multiyear effort to pass a 2021 landmark adoptee rights bill in Connecticut. I understand Kept is your company name, but it is beyond tone deaf, insulting and egregiously ignorant to publish a journal to document an adoptee’s life under such a name. You have seriously mis-stepped here, not only regarding adoptees but adoptive parents. I’d withdraw this product until you have consulted with adoptees (and at least some birth/first mothers) and LISTENED TO THEM.

And again, the company owner had to humbly reply – We didn’t. We should have consulted with people with exactly your experience. We should have listened to learned so much more before we launched this product. I’m dumbfounded about my own tone-deafness with the language of our brand name and how it would cause hurt related to this product. It was just a huge, unintentional, albeit hurtful misstep. We do have the product on hold until we’ve consulted with enough adoptees and can see a way forward. We are listening. Thank you for taking the time to comment.

The response from the adoptee above was this – Thank you for listening and responding. As you have abruptly discovered, there is a great deal of pain and anger in the adoptee community about how our experience has been unseen or actively silenced. I believe you are actually in a position to help adoptees, as well as adoptive and birth/first parents, given your desire to find a way to help parents hold the life stories of their children.

Yet another adoptee bluntly wrote – It’s obvious you didn’t talk to a single adult Adoptee. “Kept” is an awful name for an adoption journal. If I had been kept, I would have grown up with my biological family. Perhaps “Bought” would be a more appropriate title. After-all most of these adoptive parents dropped thousands purchasing their newborn babies.

Repeatedly, the company owner has to apologize with basically the same message over and over again.

Here is another adoptee’s response – As an adoptee this is highly insensitive. Adopted children have a very traumatic start to life, this leads to developmental trauma which affects them through to adulthood. Their life doesn’t begin when they are adopted. So much happens prior. Adoption should be for a child to keep them safe. Their journey should be honoured. The name kept is disgusting. Adoption happens because we were given away, point blank period. Please do some research and educate yourself because you are doing a disservice to every single adopted child.

Not crystal clear about the problem yet ? Here’s another – Calling a book “kept” that’s meant for an adoptee is really tone deaf. An adoptee is given away, relinquished, sold. That’s nice that you talked to some of your friends who have adopted, and some adoptive parents but did you ever talk to an adult adoptee about this? Did you ever consult what kind of information the person who the book is ultimately for might want to know when they’re older? Their journey, our journey, my journey, stared with my natural family. I have a history with them too. Every adoptee has a first family. Do better. Talk to adult adoptees when making a book for them.

And another – Just here to echo the comments of others. As an adoptee, I find using your brand/company name for this type of product incredibly tone deaf and insensitive. We are not kept. We are people who have endured trauma after trauma. Please pull this from your line and research deeper. Consult with those this actually affects.

And another – It’s obvious this journal was made for kept people — that is, people who were *not* adopted. Adopted people are quite literally *not* kept. We are given away. “Kept” is a term which refers to those who were *not* given away. The only person who could possibly think this is tasteful is one who *was* kept. Please listen to the voices of adult adoptees. We know adoption better than the people you know who have adopted.

And this – I am glad that you are now intending to speak with adopted people, but I am really disappointed that you had to be told/asked to do that. If someone wrote a book about Black people, or people who had Jewish heritage, or people who were refugees from a war, without speaking to these people or at least researching their experiences, it would be incredibly offensive and wrong. As is this. To which she added later as a reply – I am impressed, though, that you are now considering it; and have acknowledged your action’s impacts; often adopted people are dismissed or bullied when they speak of their experiences and viewpoints, or show society how damaging its actions are, so thank you for that.

Then this one made me smile – It works for me. Adoptees are “kept” in return for their services: replacement placeholder for the real child adopters can’t have/to fuel a savior syndrome/virtue signaling tool/to carry on the line of genetic strangers/to look after adopters in their old age/to provide a generic childhood so someone can acquire the title of ‘mother’ or ‘father’…Kept: having the expression of principles, ideas, etc., controlled, dominated, or determined by one whose money provides support.

Someone is working on something called “Kept” about women who were kept by their teen moms and comparing them side by side with stories of women who were relinquished for domestic infant adoption. In adoptionland, “kept” people are those who are NOT adopted.

The company prides itself on using the colors of nature for its baby memory books. One commenter wrote – This is APPALLING.I was not kept. I was TAKEN. Who the hell thought this was a good idea??? And ‘fog’ as one of the colors? You have got to be kidding.

The Anti-Adoption Movement

There is definitely a movement to reduce the adoption of newborns from unwed mothers and from people whose only sin is poverty. That’s not to say that it is not also important that children are never left in a seriously abusive situation. Unfortunately, what is “abusive” to some who insist on interfering in other people’s lives is not what true abuse actually is. Very few activists are claiming that adoption shouldn’t be an option, but the activists currently involved in the issue recognize that adoption is far from the perfect solution it was so long perceived to be. 

Already hopeful adoptive parents living in Texas are celebrating a bumper crop of adoptable babies in about one year from now. I suspected that as one of the motivations all along.

One woman describes her experience. The adoption agency had her move to another state while pregnant, purposely isolating her from friends and family who might have helped her. Though she knew who her baby’s father was, the agency told her not to tell him she was pregnant. She could have sued him for child support—he was a wealthy lawyer—but the adoption agency didn’t talk about that, only about the hardships she would face as a “welfare mom,” should she keep her child. They called her a “family-building angel” and a “saint” for considering adoption. “It was crazy subtle, subtle, subtle brainwashing.”

Adoption has long been perceived as the win-win way out of a a difficult situation. An unwed mother gets rid of the child she’s not equipped to care for; an adoptive family gets a much-wanted child. But people are increasingly realizing that the industry is not nearly as well-regulated and ethical as it should be. There are issues of coercion, corruption, and lack of transparency that are only now being fully addressed.

One issue is where an “open” adoption is promised but the adoptive parents sooner or later renege on that promise. So one reform is seeking to guarantee that “open” adoptions (where birthparents have some level of contact with their children) stay open. Activists also want women to have more time after birth to decide whether to terminate their parental rights. Given time with their newborn, many new mothers change their mind about adoption and decide to give parenting their child a serious effort. Young women who find themselves pregnant and unmarried still face pressure to choose adoption. 

Reproduce justice activists tend to focus on rights to contraception and abortion. Adoption reforms are equally important when it comes to men and women having full control of their destinies. Thanks to legalized abortion and a drastic lessening of the stigma against unwed mothers, the number of babies available domestically has been shrinking since the mid-’70s. Fifty years ago, about 9 percent of babies born to unmarried women were placed for adoption. Today that number is 1 percent. 

Adoption is too stark in its severance of the legal relationship between those adopted and their birth family, and out of line with the emotional realities for most involved. Adoption is not a risk-free panacea.  It is highly complex, with implications for all concerned that endures for decades. The identity needs of adopted people are very important and adoption, in its current form, does not recognize these.

There are other options, such as kindship placements or guardianship, which can provide safety and stability for children, but do not require such a severe break with key relationships. When we do not provide financial support to families in need but instead take their children away from them, we have to ask ourselves – Are we really promoting the human rights of all children, irrespective of background, to live safely within their families of origin? It would appear that we do not.

Some of the above was excerpted from The Trauma of Adoption. Other parts of this blog were excerpted from Meet the New Anti-Adoption Movement. Some comments are my own.

Please Be Mindful

Please be mindful of what you say about an adoptee’s birth parents and extended birth family – regardless the circumstances or how you personally feel. Remember that this person shares genes and inheritable aspects with that family of origin.

From an adoptee – As a child I internalized the messages about how I was so much better off adopted, that I was convinced my mother must have been a very evil person. I thought perhaps a witch or a prostitute and would tell everyone this. I was secretly petrified I would be just like her. (Note: she’s not, she was a vulnerable woman who was not supported to keep me.)

Of course, it is known that children have no filters or sense of decorum and will often repeat the perspectives of adults around them – thus comes this sad recollection. One of my earliest memories is from when I was 5 years old and a classmate told me I was adopted because my biological mom didn’t love me. It was so hurtful and it took me a long time to get past it.

The same advice applies to one parent or family bashing the other parent or family. Regardless of whether these are biological, foster families, adoptive family. All of these are part of a child’s history and life experience and when you do this, you are saying in effect that a part of the child is equally bad.

What If ?

Sunday contemplative question –

What if, in order to adopt, you were the ones who had to join the child’s family of origin instead of vice versa. Would you still do it? If in order to “build your family” you’d have to lose your first one, would you still do it? If there was a good chance, if it was probable you’d never see your current family again, would you still do it? If you had to join a family with different customs, nationality, country, ethnicity, color… Would you still do it?

Many might argue that babies are too young and mentally undeveloped to remember their families. A baby does spend 9 months intimately involved with their mother. I recently read that oral memory traditions are from female biology, an epigenetic transgenerational process embedded with tacit knowledge, knowing without being taught.

The Last Resort for Who ?

There is a contradiction in this statement – “adoption should be the last resort for the child” and yet adoption is the “last resort” for infertile people? It’s a selfish perspective that only serves the adoptive parent who couldn’t have children. They are only thinking about what is best for them and not what’s best for the child.

Think about how this would feel –  knowing you are someone’s “last resort.” How does that feel ?

Adoption is trauma regardless the loving intent of the people who adopt.

It’s not the responsibility of a child to heal infertility loss for anyone or be a last resort. Children are not blank slates or interchangeable. Parenting is not a right, it’s a privilege.

It’s like hoping for a bad thing to happen to the child and it’s mother so a good thing can happen for you.

How about helping young mothers keep their babies instead of hoping they will lose their baby.   The majority of babies are given up by kind loving mothers who are too young and poor to care for them.

There should be more resources and programs for single mothers with little income, so that they can help keep the child. Why should we look at helping find the child a better home, rather than taking care of the immediate problem for the mother, and helping support that mother. It’s like putting a bandaid on a dirty wound. You’re only fixing the outer problem by hiding and ignoring the problem beneath. Thus the wound becomes infected. That infection is causing trauma to the child and the mother.

A very sad example – I placed my only child after trying to raise him for nearly two years. I was an excellent young mother until two men broke into my apartment and raped me. I had a nervous breakdown and no longer felt capable. I wish someone would have been there to help me. He also ended up being sexually abused for six years, so it’s not all rainbows and butterflies, and he is messed up from it.

The 100% percent pro-adoption industry narrative, brainwashes the culture’s general view and is a very harmful form of coercion. What is the implication ?

That you are not good enough to parent your own child. Yet by giving your child up, you receive the deepest respect because you have proven that you are a loving, selfless person who only wants what best for your child. You do that by allowing someone else who is much much much more more qualified, stable, etc etc than you are, to raise your child. In other words: it’s selfish to keep your child. Be a loving mother and make a loving adoption plan with glitter and rainbows to boot. This is a very dangerous and insidious narrative and coercion tactic. It is the dominant strategy within the adoption industry.

Instead, “let’s minimize trauma and support families in keeping kids safe.” This is the healthy way forward.

PS – in case you are wondering, though generally against adoption almost all the time, the group I belong to group has never advocated for children to stay in abusive situations. They may however, support family reunification after therapy and counseling for the parents and the affected children. If the family can make it through all of the hurdles, they will be better parents due to learning how to parent better and children always prefer their original parents, they are resilient and with time and therapy may yet overcome their early challenges.

A worker in a residential treatment center noted – It’s an ugly world for some kids and their symptoms are ugly from what they suffered. Most of the kids that we worked with did come from adoptive family and were adopted at birth. The children who were adopted later in life, did have less problems. It’s never a “better than” problem. In this person’s history was their adoption at 3 days old. Her biological mother lived in the same town as she did – yet she never knew it. From her perspective, her adoptive parents were pretty selfish. Not only for that reason but the feeling was that it was her job as an infant to solve the problem of their infertility. Of course, that wasn’t possible. Not every person has the same adoption experience. The fact remains, every infant adopted has trauma from having been separated from their mother. And that feels like a life-threatening situation to a child who has no words and no language.

Adoption is actually *never* the only option. Legal guardianship doesn’t sever all genetic ties and create a false birth certificate. Here is an example of some of the complications of being adopted. She applied for a “Real ID” (you know, the one we are all going to be required to have soon, if we want to travel even within the US). The online system REJECTED her birth certificate information, because it is a FALSIFIED LEGAL DOCUMENT. This is just one of the issues adoptees face for the rest of their lives, because somebody decided they couldn’t adopt a child without altering their true identity.

Always An Adoptee

Advice from an adoptee – If/when your adopted child says anything that you deem “negative” about their adoption, instead of just throwing around frequently used adoption phrases – please please please consider the long term affect of hearing some of these phrases

1. “Would you have rather stayed in the orphanage/on the streets, been aborted, would you rather have died?”

Yes, sometimes. Adoption is complex and complicated. Sometimes I wish I wasn’t here instead of enduring nights of sadness, depression, suicidal ideation, intrusive questions, all the unknowns, the mental health problems .. I will never stop being an adoptee. It affects EVERYTHING in my life

2. “God/We saved you from your biological family.”

Let us decide that. What was I saved from? I do not know. There are many things adoption has NOT protected me from. So please let me decide in what ways I was saved. It may shift and change. Also, please don’t say negative things about our biological families. Give us the FACTS that you know and allow us to decide where to place them in our hearts and lives. Y’all don’t get to decide if our biological families are good or bad. Many things I was told about my biological family ended up being racist, unkind, untrue, and problematic.

3. “You were chosen”

Maybe. Kinda. But often, not exactly. My adoptive parents chose me between 2 babies. I was laying beside another baby and they chose me. But if they had decided “no, she’s not for us” they would have found another baby – easily. Adoptees often feel like replacements. We know a lot of our parents wanted A BABY – not necessarily “us” specifically. We have to process that – please allow us the space and time to do so

4. “They loved you so much they decided to give you up.”

No. What about desperation? Survival? Poverty? Lack of resources? Addiction? Death? Would you give up your child because you loved them? I was not given up out of love but I was raised to believe so. It made me feel awful about myself and my biological sister (she was not “given up”). Does loving someone mean sending them away forever? Would my adoptive parents do the same because they loved me?

5. “Be grateful for what you have. Be grateful you are not dead/alone/orphaned/poor/etc. You are so lucky to have a loving, stable family.”

STOP telling us how to feel and what aspects of our lives to feel good about. Especially in response to something we have said, please don’t.

Please Imagine losing your mom at a young age and when you tell someone, they say “Wow but you should be so grateful that you still have…” or “You are so lucky that you have a family that loves you!”

How about “I am sorry for your losses and pain. How can I help without overstepping?”

There are days I would rather be dead than adopted. Days when I miss my biological family. Days that I want to return to a place I barely remember. Those are not the times to dismiss an adoptee’s feelings. Imagine how you’d feel hearing these responses.

Not Of My Blood

This topic comes up repeatedly in my all things adoption group. It seems that the incidence of varying degrees of abuse is more prevalent on the part of adoptive parents. Adoptees often wonder and theorize why.

It started with this insight – So many adopted people I know have stories of child abuse by both of their adoptive parents. What is the mentality behind this, what is the psychological mechanism that results in so many adoptive parents getting a child just to abuse them? I don’t think every single case is where adults actively seek out children so they can have someone to abuse, but it’s way too common to just be a case of easy hunting grounds. Is there something that happens inside of the brains of adoptive parents that turns so many of them into child abusers?

Although, anything conceivable probably exists, I do not believe most couples go into adoption with the intent of mistreating their adopted child. There is something else going on.

One thought was this – Humans developed over millennia to raise their own biological/genetic offspring. Our biology knows whether the child is our own or not. Adoptive parents are preconditioned by social workers and adoption agencies to have expectations that “nurture” will adjust the child to be the same “as if” they had given birth to the child but it does not work that way.

Until very recently, and to some extent this remains true, adoption in the modern western version is predicated on treating adoptive parents like they are the original natural parents. Birth certificates are falsified to support that perspective. Often, in the past, adoptive parents lied to the child about their origins. Thanks to more accessible, inexpensive DNA testing and well reported adoptee reunions with their biological families, this fantasy can no longer hold dominance in adoptionland.

Raising kids is hard! They test and exhaust us. This is especially true when there isn’t shared blood and genetics. The frustration isn’t tempered by biology and deep parental bonds. My oldest son was very challenging at the age of 6, when his younger brother had had the lion’s share of my attention throughout infancy and his first 2 years. I actually would say to him, it is lucky for you that I love you. If you challenge other people the way you have challenged me, you could end up hurt very badly or dead. It was my maternal bond with him that stayed me from actually hurting him, though my anger could surprise me.

One adoptee shares – I can only speak for my adoptive parents but I was property to them. I was meant to fulfill a role and anything out of line with that expectation was punished. I recognize that they knew what the social worker looked for and how the system worked, therefore they were very good at hiding it. No one would ever believe me. It was clearly easier for them to take their emotions out on me (an adopted child) than on their own biological children.

Another adoptee shares – When I started calling my narcissistic adoptive mother out on her shit, it caused a huge fight with my whole family against me. And one of my aunts basically said it didn’t matter how they treated me, I just had to suck it up, take it, and thank them, because they “took me in” out of the “goodness” of their hearts when they didn’t have to. This implied they received a free pass regarding how they treated me. Which is obviously wrong. I think that is the mentality that a lot people have, when it comes to adoption, especially among the older generations. Like you could have/would have had it worse if they hadn’t come along, so you should feel “lucky.” It doesn’t feel “lucky.”

What happens when adoptive parents finally achieve the birth of a biological, genetic child ? One adoptee shares – we were all adopted and it was a loving safe environment until I turned 8. Then they had their only biological child and the rest of us had to scramble and grab for pieces of affection. I don’t know if it was regret for adopting, the satisfaction of finally having what they wanted, something else or a mix of it all but whatever the case, we went from cherished to easily replaceable.

Another woman adds – I think can be twofold. Either one, or a combination of, the psychological effects of infertility grief and the impact on an adopted child of emotional neglect as a result of the adoptive parent being unable to meet the needs of a traumatized, adopted child. (Note all adopted children suffer adoption related trauma, ie a belief they were rejected by their natural parents.) Chronic emotional neglect (causes more trauma) and has profound effects on an adopted child. It is worse when the caregiver doesn’t recognize or acknowledge that they don’t feel the love and acceptance for their adopted child that they expected to feel. It’s all too common then to blame the child for not meeting the adoptive parents needs, rather than looking at the emotional content in the adoptive parent. Throw in a societal saviorism belief related to adoption and there are the frustrated feelings of believing they are entitled to a child they didn’t receive.

Another adoptee shares – My adoptive parents were very physically abusive. I don’t know any science behind it but my honest thought was always that because I wasn’t flesh and blood, they couldn’t love me the same. There was no genetic connection… I don’t really know …. but that is how it has felt. I don’t think they adopted me with the intention of being abusive, but they couldn’t control themselves. It’s like if my daughter has a play date and that child is being awful, I’m like their parent needs to do something before I do…I just don’t have a motherly connection to anyone else but my own children…and it might sound super messed up but its literally how I rationalized all the physical and mental abuse I suffered … They didn’t even care if they hurt my feelings. Just like I wouldn’t care if I hurt someone else’s kid’s feelings, if they were little assholes. Of course, I know there are people who abuse their biological children…but I always think that’s generational and based on some mental health issues. The reason anyone abuses a child is complicated.

Someone else shares their perspective – I believe most adoptive parents adopt as a solution to their infertility and to “save a poor baby in need”. They are fed rainbows and unicorn stories that convince them that they are wonderful people doing a wonderful thing and that the adopted child it will be just the same as their own baby. So they treat a traumatized child just the same as they would their own. Except it’s not the same. If they don’t allow the child to have feelings, go to therapy, etc as soon as the child acts out, they won’t understand why the child is behaving that way. Most adoptive parents signed up for the “cute baby and matching sweater” they see on Instagram. Instead they get a screaming demon !! The more frustrated the parents become, the more they refuse to acknowledge their adopted child has trauma. That inability to empathize becomes more triggering for the adopted child. The parents eventually snap under the pressure and enter a cycle of abuse because “we tried love and it didn’t work”. When all they actually tried was to force the child to bond with them and pretend the child is the same as a their own biological child. It messes with the brains on both sides and often leads to the point of violence.

And finally, this perspective – every adopted child has a job. It might be to fix infertility or it might be to take the place of a dead child. Whatever it is, as adoptees we are given a job with no description and unfortunately, we don’t know when we miss the mark until we trip over it. That accounts for a lot of disappointed adoptive parents. Just as the adopted child does not recognize any genetic markers in regard to physical appearance and personality – neither do the adoptive parents. So on top of the heartbreak of infertility comes the heartbreak, disappointment and anger in having to continue living with why you adopted the child in the first place.

Maternal Grief

There is more than one way to “lose” a child. Certainly, the most obvious is the most permanent. Today, many adoptees are going through reunions with their biological families. That gives hope that the kind of loss that is giving a child up to adoption may not be a permanent one. That said, one can never regain the years the locusts have consumed. The bible promises a restoration but the reality is, those years can never fundamentally be retrieved. They are forever lost.

Adoption is, in its idealized form, is suppose to be about finding homes for children that need them, not about finding children for parents that want them. That perfect world is a place we all know we do not live in. There is nothing inherently wrong about wanting to be a parent, but it can become wrong depending on how you go about becoming a parent. Once they have achieved their goal, adoptive parents might desire to remain ignorant regarding the real loss involved for the other participants in their own path to parenthood. 

Surrendering a child can really hurt emotionally, in a way that is completely indescribable and that words could never do justice regarding, if one attempts to convey it to any other person who has not had direct experience with it.  Relinquishment can never be undone and all a birthparent can do is continue live their life throughout the time knowing that someone else is raising their child.

Hear it described by the most honest and real, courageous and brilliant adopted persons and you will learn that many of the feelings they have for having been adopted do not express feelings of gratitude, or contentment, but of loss and primal rejection, as well as confusion, anger, many unanswered questions and often unsatisfactory love, truth be told regarding the adoptive parents who settled for second best.

These unfulfilled adoptive parents also grieve – the child they wanted to have – compared to the child they settled for. All around a disagreeable situation. Adoption & Child Welfare Services were expected to bring in a revenue of 14 Billion Dollars during 2015. Even the banking and insurance industry has more regulations applied to them than adoption and some of the things they do to try and make money at all costs is unethical. Adoption is the largest, mostly unregulated, industry in the US allowed to do business.

It is human nature that if you put few regulations in the way and add to that large sums of money to be made from taking part in the industry, it is a situation that asks to be corrupted. A lobby group with a deceiving name, The National Council for Adoption (and an even more disturbing game) is paid for by the adoption agencies, pro-life groups, and given federal tax funds and grants – all to promote adoption. 

The goal is to separate families not protected by money or the Godly union of marriage in favor of giving their child to a legally married, heterosexual, Christian couple. Many mothers have truthfully lost their children to adoption and they suffer in isolation what can only be described as a very real diagnosis of “birthmother grief”. These are women who are and could have been good parents. These children were in no danger of being bumped around in foster care for years. There was no threat of them being abused.

Maybe they would have had a few first years of lean times, maybe it would have been hard but they would have parented. There is a huge difference between child protection and child surrender. Child surrender is voluntary, it is often not really necessary, but made out to be beneficial. The real “good” of the child is questionable depending on your personal interpretation of what is “better”. Often fraught with myths, and misinformation that sway the participants involved for the benefit of the adoption agency and, often, the desires of their paying clients (the perspective adoptive parents). It is finding children to fit the needs of the industry which is based entirely on transferring the parental rights from one party to another for a profit.

Adoption adds a whole bunch of baggage to any adoptee’s life. They had adoptive parents that tried their best, made mistakes, and loved them lots. The fact is though, that if a child does not need to be separated from their original family – experts agree it is a person’s birthright to be with their original family. There are enough adoptees and natural parents searching for each other that we cannot humanly deny that it is not a primal and necessary urge in many cases. It’s not a whim, not a phase, nor a sign if immaturity, nor selfishness, nor of poor adoptive parenting, or anything else might we believe. Adoptees may have the reality of having two sets of parents, adoptive and birth parents, but they need to know and have relationships with their original, biological families – regardless of how good the adoptive family was. It is also clear by how many birthmothers never quit searching for their child that being reunited is also a unrequited need in most maternal hearts.

Hope Meadows

Of the roughly 40 houses currently rented in Hope Meadows in Rantou IL – 10 are occupied by families who’ve adopted children from foster care. The rest are occupied by older adults who volunteer to help them.

I stumbled upon mention of this reading something else. It was just a little “also” paragraph at the end but I was intrigued and had to go looking into it.

On a quiet street in Rantoul sits a small neighborhood of 15 nondescript duplex houses, part of a larger subdivision built decades ago to house the families of pilots and workers at the now-closed Chanute Air Force Base. Although it’s impossible to tell just by looking, something remarkable is happening here: adopted kids from troubled backgrounds are finding acceptance and support in the arms of neighbors old enough to be their grandparents. That’s by design at Hope Meadows, a community bringing together several generations of people from all walks of life for one purpose: building a safe and stable environment for adopted children.

Started in 1994 by Brenda Eheart, a researcher at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Hope Meadows is a neighborhood of adopted children, their families and senior citizen volunteers, all working together to form a community of support and interdependence. What was started as a permanent destination for adopted children has also become a place where adoptive parents find support as they deal with often troubled kids, and where seniors can find continued purpose as they age. Hope is the first iteration of a social services model known as ICI – intergenerational community as intervention – and it is on the verge of spreading nationwide.

Families seeking to adopt move to Hope Meadows and are paired with children in need of a permanent home. Each family lives for free in one of the 15 six-bedroom homes converted from pairs of duplex apartments, and one parent is employed by Hope Meadows as a “family manager,” earning a stipend and health insurance coverage for the family. Meanwhile, senior residents at Hope volunteer for six hours each week and receive reduced rent on an apartment in the neighborhood. There is on-site counseling available for adopted children, and the whole neighborhood regularly participates in group activities that build intergenerational relationships. The secret of the program’s success is that the relationships are allowed to form naturally, which helps provide meaningful interaction and a sort of informal therapy for all involved.

The children adopted at Hope often come from situations of sexual abuse, neglect or overwhelmed parents, Calhoun says, and they often have issues with trust and abandonment. At Hope, those children find a permanent place to unpack their bags, literally and figuratively. With the seniors and staff involved, the families have constant support. The seniors have raised their own kids and can give hindsight about what might work in whatever situation. The support makes a lot of difference in the closeness at Hope Meadows because everyone is looking at what’s good for the children.

Hope used to accept foster kids but now the program focuses solely on adoption. Hope Meadows found that the bonds that were broken when those foster children eventually left were too hard on everyone involved. It was like they were losing not only the attachment to the foster parents, but an attachment to the entire community. Childhood is all about forming attachments. That’s how we evolve, and if that’s disrupted when you’re young, it makes it harder to do it again and again. It’s harder to trust and believe that this is really going to be your new family, your new home.

The community’s senior volunteers benefit from the program as well, and not just in the form of reduced rent. Seniors at Hope generally feel a sense of continued purpose because of the impact they can have on young lives, and the relationships they build provide meaningful interaction. As seniors grow older, they can rely on community members to look after them. Seniors are an integral part of Hope’s success because they provide wisdom and support for other community members.

The program is intergenerational, interracial, inter-whatever. Many of the adopted children are African-American and most other residents are white. Everybody gets to know everybody else as an individual, and when you know someone as an individual, it’s harder to put them into a category. This is it’s intentional.  The majority of children in foster care are African American.

The Executive Director at Hope Meadows is Elaine Gehrmann. She is a former Unitarian minister and public defense attorney. Gehrmann says she wanted to be a part of Hope because it “deals with the whole person and their whole situation. Being a lawyer, clearly I helped some people, but I could only help them with their legal problems,” Gehrmann says. “A legal problem may be the least of your problems, and may be a manifestation of a larger problem. This place provides a lot of the things that communities used to provide that they don’t anymore.”

This blog was excerpted from a longer article. You can read the complete Illinois Times story here – This Is The Village It Takes.