Conflict of Interest ?

I got seriously triggered with my husband yesterday. I need to work through my thoughts and I’m sure this is going to prove a lengthy process of contemplation.

Some background –

Both of my parents were given up for adoption in the 1930s. Their circumstances were somewhat different and somewhat similar. My mom’s genetic biological parents were married but at 4 mos pregnant after 4 mos of marriage for reasons I’ll never really have reliable answers to (but a few theories given what I have learned), her husband left her. He didn’t divorce her for 3 years, so there is that as well. With no husband in sight, she was sent to Virginia from Memphis TN to give birth and I would assume expected to leave the baby there but she did not. Instead, after her return to Memphis with my infant mom in tow, she became a victim of Georgia Tann.

My dad’s mom was unwed. She had an affair with a much older married man. Then, she went to a Salvation Army home for unwed mothers to give birth. After about 2 or 3 months, she was released with my dad still in her custody. It appears my dad’s father never even knew he existed. When my grandmother found no support for her and the baby with her cousin, she returned to the Salvation Army seeking employment and was transferred with my dad still in tow to one of their homes in El Paso Texas.

My mom’s adoptive parents relocated to El Paso Texas and in high school, my adoptee mom met my adoptee dad. Probably during the summer after my dad’s graduation from high school before entering a university my parents had sex and my teenage mom discovered by Autumn that she was pregnant. My dad’s adoptive parents supported him marrying her and quitting his hopes of a university degree to go to work and support his new family. I’m pretty certain my mom’s adoptive parents, had they had a chance, would have sent her off to have and give me up. Thankfully that didn’t happen to me.

So the truth I cannot deny is that had my parents NOT been adopted and had they both not ended up in El Paso TX and attended the same high school where they met at a party through mutual friends, I would not exist at all. I owe my very existence in this life to ~gasp~ adoption. I think I once described this situation as imperfectly perfect.

Until about 5 years ago, when I was able to uncover the identities of all 4 of my original grandparents (something that both of my parents died still not knowing), I thought adoption was the most natural thing in the world and that my parents were orphans. I had no idea there were people I was actually genetically biologically related to living out lives as unaware of me as I was of them. I knew nothing about the mental and emotional impacts of the trauma of my parents being separated from their mothers may have caused. I’ve learned a LOT about that since then – as this blog very frequently shares. To be honest, I now would prefer to see vulnerable women supported, so that they could raise their own babies.

So what is my conflict of interest ? My husband’s desire that my writing add some revenue to our family. Of course, I would love for that to happen as well. I have developed a negative attitude toward Christian Evangelical saviorism as it applies to adoption. My husband wants me to make my next book oriented towards Evangelical Christians (I have just finish a revision of my parents’ adoption stories for the 3rd time and will go about trying to obtain a literary agent for that work).

What !?! I accused him of asking me to betray my values for monetary reasons. He spoke of “witnessing.” That stayed with me all afternoon. I reflected on the kind of people my adoptive grandparents were. 3 of the 4 were religious. My dad’s were fundamentalist in the extreme. When one church wasn’t as strictly interpreted per the bible as they wanted, they changed churches to a stricter one. My mom’s adoptive father has been described as morally ethical but not religious. I see that same characteristic in my husband. My mom’s mother however had a surprisingly enlightened spirituality – especially when I consider what I have heard of her own very bible religious mother (to the extent of neglecting home and family). This grandmother’s spirituality was not far different than my own (which was what surprised me when I discovered it). My husband has a negative perspective on religion in general and believes vulnerable people are exploited by it. So I could not believe that HE would suggest such a thing to me. He admits that he is a bit like Mr Krabs in the SpongeBob episodes – all about the money (only really he is incredibly down to Earth, he just worries about supporting this family as he ages).

Yet, aside from the last 5 years of having it banged into my consciousness through my favorite adoption triad group, where the voices of adult adoptees are given preference and describe all that is wrong with adoption and foster care in general, what is it that I actually know from my own experience ?

My parents each felt differently about their adoptions. My dad never spoke to me of his but cautioned my mom against her efforts at locating her birth mother – who had already died by the time she was actively seeking that. One of the last things she wrote to me before she died was an explanation regarding why she couldn’t complete a family tree at Ancestry.com – “it just wasn’t real, because I was adopted but I’m glad I was.” Though I cannot say that she truly was “glad.” She didn’t know any other life.

Both of my sisters gave up a child to adoption. I cannot honestly say that my niece or my nephew would have been better off being raised by my sisters. They are good solid people – both of them – now married in their own adulthoods.

So the question is – can I find a way to target a Christian Evangelical audience, who is going to adopt anyway – regardless of how much I might preach to them about all of the impacts of trauma in this child they desperately want for whatever reason (I do believe there is a bit of missionary purpose in those desires) – and gently prepare them for reality and hope this brings about better outcomes for the adoptee ? Honor fully my evolved values in the effort ?

Re-Adoption and Inheritance

The answer can be complicated and it is advised to consult an attorney. Here’s the backstory.

My Mom called today and asked if she could re-adopt me back. She and my biological siblings want to include me in family legalities/trusts/wills/etc. I am not opposed at all and delighted that she and my siblings want this to be. I will be 38 in a couple weeks and live in the US but we live in different states. I do not talk to my adopted family except my adopted sister, due to some horrific abuse and continuous support by the biological family of the abuser/s over me and others (surprise, surprise). I will be inheriting some of the estate from my adopted family (they think it’s shut up money/absolves their guilt possibly?) I have quite a few medical/psychiatric bills from well….everything about them and feel reimbursement for that is the least they can do, and anything extra will be used to help families hire decent lawyers to keep their own children from the broken system. So my question is, will being adopted back into my biological family cause any legal ramifications for me? Or can I move forward and add another band-aid to my soul??

I have been aware of inheritance rights for adoptees in Texas, especially regarding my mom who had a sizeable inheritance involved. I found this pro-adoption advice site article (Adoptees and Inheritance) which includes a bit of disclaimer – while the following information isn’t legal advice, it may offer you a better understanding of the inheritance rights of adopted children.

Especially this section but other parts of that linked information may be useful –

Can an Adopted Child Inherit from Biological Parents?

Sometimes. Because your biological parents’ legal parental rights to you were terminated, you have no automatic legal rights to their inheritance or assets. That legal connection is instead transferred to your adoptive parents.

However, birth parents can choose to include any biological children, including you, as a beneficiary in their will. As long as none of their other family members contest the will and your inclusion, that request is honored. Birth parents will need to be clear in their will about how to contact you, so their estate manager can get in touch with you about inheritance.

If your birth parents die without making a will, or if they don’t include you in their will, then you will not automatically inherit from them, unlike your adoptive parents.

Although you can be listed as a beneficiary in your biological parents’ wills, you may not always be able to contest their wills, as you don’t have a legal connection to them (unlike your adoptive parents). But this all simply depends on your individual situation and your personal relationship with your birth parents, so consult your attorney if you think you need to contest a birth parent’s will.

And there was this opinion from the all things adoption group –

The legal ramifications of being re-adopted vary from state to state (in regards to inheritance, it would be the deceased person’s state or wherever the will is probated). The document linked below covers the very basics regarding adoption and inheritance, but may be helpful. In some states being adopted does not sever inheritance rights, so the adoptee can inherit from both “natural” (in original case above, the first adoptive parents) and adoptive family members estates, so long as relationships have been maintained, which I didn’t realize, but it just depends on the individual state…

Intestate Inheritance Rights for Adopted Persons

I Wish I Hadn’t

I wish, I wish, I wish…I wish I hadn’t adopted.

~ Donald Craig Peterson

Like a majority of families who’ve adopted children, I wasn’t mentally prepared for the surprises. You know, the chaos inside Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. The manipulation and triangulation inherent to attachment disorders. The invisible insanity associated with developmental trauma.

When the bad seemed destined to overshadow the good, I quietly questioned my decision – as well as my worth. It wasn’t exactly the wonderful life that I expected. What would have happened to your children if you hadn’t opened your home and your heart? If you hadn’t adopted? I’ve given that “what if” question serious thought more than once. The possibilities are dark – when envisioned through real stories of children that were never given a chance.

He goes on to detail what each of the 6 children he adopted would have experienced, at least as he imagines the not unbelievable outcomes for each because it is the fate and outcome for some children in the system. Clearly, he still believes in adoption. He admits – They were never perfect children and I was never the perfect parent. But together we meticulously and mindfully built a forever family in every sense of the word.

He writes – “My three youngest sons (22, 23 and 24) still feel safe after 20 years in my care and appreciate living under my roof. They desire independence yet aren’t ready to take on for the world. Someday perhaps.” And I am happy to read that his perspective on parenting is much like my husband’s and my own – we don’t care if our sons never leave their childhood home nor would we trap them here. We’ve said as much directly to them.

Donald Craig Peterson has stories to share about his successes as well as learning experiences in raising his six children to adulthood. It has been his goal to convey unconditional love throughout the years. He understands the ups and downs of learning challenges, special education, psychotropic medications, ADHD, Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, Bipolar Disorder, Reactive Attachment Disorder, sexual abuse, juvenile justice, residential placement and more. His blog is here: https://adoptingfaithafathersunconditionallove.org/.

Related Issues

Two articles came to my attention yesterday that I believe are related. One was titled The Baby Bust: Why Are There No Infants to Adopt? The subtitle was – Declining birth rates and other factors make it difficult for hopeful adoptive parents to create their forever families. In my all things adoption group, it has become obvious to me that many prospective adoptive parents have become more than a bit desperate.

I actually do believe that the Pro-Life movement is driven by the sharp decline in women either not carrying a pregnancy or choosing to be single parents. Our society’s norms have changed since the 1930s when my parents were adopted.

The other article was Why is the US right suddenly interested in Native American adoption law? In this situation, laws meant to protect Native Americans who have been exploited and cheated out of so much, including their own children, is being challenged by white couples wanting to adopt as being a kind of reverse discrimination against them.

So back to the first article –

The number of adoptions in general has been steadily declining over the years. U.S. adoptions reached their peak in 1970 with 175,000 adoptions tallied. That number had fallen to 133,737 by 2007. Seven years later, the total sank further to 110,373, a 17% decrease.

Reports of a 50% or more decrease in available birth mothers are coming from adoption agencies all over. As a result, some agencies have folded. Those still in operation are compiling long waiting lists of hopeful adoptive parents.

Even so, the demand for infants to adopt remains high. The good news is also that fewer teenagers are becoming pregnant. Teen birth rates peaked at 96.3 per 1,000 in 1957 during the post-war baby boom. However, with the widespread acceptance and use of birth control, there has been a dramatic decline in the teenage pregnancy rate.  This rapid decline in teenage birth rates was seen across all major racial and ethnic groups. 

Estimates indicate that approximately half of the pregnancies in the United States were not planned. Of those unintended pregnancies, about 43% end in abortion; less than 1% of such pregnancies end in adoption. Adoption is a rare choice. The pandemic shut-down also reduced places where meetings could occur that tend to lead to casual encounters, which often result in unplanned pregnancies.

On to that second article –

A 1978 law known as the Indian Child Welfare Act or ICWA tried to remedy adoption practices that were created to forcibly assimilate Native children. Last April, an appeals court upheld parts of a federal district court decision, in a case called Brackeen v Haaland, that found parts of ICWA “unconstitutional”. The non-Indian plaintiffs (mostly white families wanting to foster and adopt Native children) contend that federal protections to keep Native children with Native families constitute illegal racial discrimination, and that ICWA’s federal standards “commandeer” state courts and agencies to act on behalf of a federal agenda.

The thinking that non-Indians adopting Native children is as old as the “civilizing” mission of colonialism – saving brown children from brown parents. In fact, among prospective adoptive parents there is a dominant belief that they are actually saving children. Native families, particularly poor ones, are always the real victims. A high number, 25-35%, of all Native children have been separated from their families. They are placed in foster homes or adoptive homes or institutions. Ninety percent are placed in non-Indian homes. Native children are four times more likely to be removed from their families than white children are from theirs. Native family separation has surpassed rates prior to ICWA according to a 2020 study.

The fact is that there is a dark side to foster care. Some state statutes may provide up to several thousands of dollars a child per month to foster parents, depending on the number of children in their care and a child’s special needs. Why doesn’t that money go towards keeping families together by providing homes instead of tearing them apart?

It Was Not The Easter Bunny

That baby was not brought in a basket by the Easter Bunny. Though I love this one . . .

“I think I’m the Easter Bunny.
I don’t know where the eggs come from,
and I have no idea why I feel a compulsion to hide them.”

Sadly, some adoptees are actually found in a dumpster. It can be hard to understand the world we live in. I believe in Reincarnation and so the Easter Story about Jesus represents an interesting twist. He died but didn’t have to go the usual route of being reborn a baby. However, birth and death are both necessary to human evolution and continuance. Death clears out life that is no longer viable. I (for one) am grateful there is a way out and that I won’t be stuck in a body that is more like a tortured living hell for eternity. I believe each generation of new human beings improves on the previous version.

The stork did not bring babies to a family’s home either. A common meme when I was a child in the 1960s. I heard the birth mother profiled in American Baby by Gabrielle Glaser – the latest in reveals related to adoption talk about “no sex education.” The birth mother says she didn’t know how babies were made. I think I remember my mom saying something similar – that her mother didn’t talk to her about sex. No wonder these women ended up pregnant in high school.

I came of age with early 70s Feminism. Heard a snippet last Sunday on NPR Witness History about Our Bodies, Our Selves. There wasn’t a transcript but I did find something about that extraordinary effort in the NPR archives. The book was the first comprehensive book on women’s issues ever published by women for women.

By middle school, I had boyfriends. And I had been given the nice girls don’t do that (have sex) until marriage talk by then. I’m certain my mom’s only intention was to save me from repeating her own experience. About that same time, I discovered that I was conceived out of wedlock. Clearly, the message had been delivered to me that woman had the sole responsibility of preventing an unwanted pregnancy because I was angry at my mom but not my dad and I think that is why.

Heck, while I may have had more of a birds and the bees talk than my mom had by high school, I didn’t even know how to find my own vagina to insert a tampon. I’m certain that my own young daughter may have questioned my sanity when I felt compelled to demonstrate for her where to find her own. She probably knew much more by then than I gave her credit for. I remember her once saying something about boys having been “dirty” for years by the time she was in middle school.

Happy Easter. Happy Spring Renewal. Happy life ever returning and reminders that it does.

The Blind Side

I have not seen this movie but after reading a critique of it in Robin DiAngelo’s book White Fragility, I won’t watch it.  Sandra Bullock won an Academy Award for her performance.  The Blind Side is a movie based on the true story of a Memphis family, the Tuohys, who take in a poor homeless black boy.

Sandra Bullock plays the surrogate guardian of Michael Oher, a real-life African American pro-football player for the Baltimore Ravens who escaped homelessness and found success playing in college.  It is a “white savior” movie.  Some critics are torn by its depiction of race. Many critics are drawing comparisons to “Precious,” a controversial film that explores the struggle of an obese, abused African-American girl. Opinions on “The Blind Side” are similarly mixed.

The film has been accused of pacifying Oher, molding him into an unrealistically noble and non-threatening “black saint.”  In the movie, Oher takes on the trappings of a stereotype that emerged in the 1950s (when white, liberal filmmakers sought to change negative perceptions of African Americans). Ultimately that take is a patronizing one.  He is never angry and shuns violence except when necessary to protect the white family that adopted him or the white quarterback he was taught to think of as his brother. In other words, Michael Oher is the perfect black man.

“Our films are loud, overbearing and ultra-violent or they are uncomplicated, heart-wrenchers, which jerk at tears in a manner which they have not earned,” judged Ta-Nehisi Coates.  There are few black people shown in that middle space, in that more human world between the extremes, he concluded.

The kindest assessment is that The Blind Side uses a double metaphor – alluding to both a football player’s vulnerability and racial color blindness – to dramatize how people can overcome race and class barriers to achieve their fuller humanity.

I believe DiAngelo’s criticism was the dis-empowered way Oher is presented as though only this white woman could save him.  I really can’t judge the Tuohys.  Michael Oher, the NFL player who was portrayed in the 2009 drama, told reporters he feels that the film has negatively impacted his athletic career by putting extra scrutiny on him.

“I’m not trying to prove anything,” Oher said. “People look at me, and they take things away from me because of a movie. They don’t really see the skills and the kind of player I am. That’s why I get downgraded so much, because of something off the field.  This stuff, calling me a bust, people saying if I can play or not … that has nothing to do with football.  It’s something else off the field. That’s why I don’t like that movie.”   At a media event just prior to Oher’s 2012 Super Bowl win with the Baltimore Ravens, he told reporters that he was “tired” of being asked about The Blind Side.

What Will The Future Bring ?

I’m not good at predicting the future.  Sometimes I misread my intuitions.  Even so I trust a kind of momentum and tendency in Life to bring about whatever my heart desires the most as well as protect me from my fears and misunderstandings.

I’ve been writing this blog daily for almost a year now.  It amazes me that I usually find something to say.  Certainly, my journey over the last two years has been remarkable.  Not everyone affected by the erasing of their personal history is able to make the progress I have.  My compassionate sympathy for all of those who like my own mom have been rejected when they have made the attempt.

What made the difference for my own self ?  I believe it has been a combination of undeserved luck and persistence not to give up.  Doors have opened in almost miraculous ways at times that I did not see ever coming into my own reality.

What kind of advice can I give others ?  One is to educate yourself as close to reality as possible for stories and delusions do not serve the individual or collective good.  Another is to be gently persistent.  Furthermore, if someone becomes upset with you, try your best to understand where they are and allow them to work through their own wounds and traumas at their own personal speed and willingness to accept.

I am grateful for all the progress I have made so far.  I have no idea where I will find myself next on this journey but I do have some hopes, goals and dreams.  I wish you all the best of good fortune and protection for your vulnerable parts as we journey together into the next new decade and the next yet best to be and hopefully with not too many hurts and disappointments.