What Is Wrong About Adoption ?

As a society, we don’t really take care of one another.  Lately, it may seem to people hoping to adopt that the whole possibility has been hijacked and beaten up.  Adoptees and their original family feel they were sold out and ripped to shreds by those who’s financial interests took their parents or children away from each other.

The methods by which adoption has been practiced in this country are a shackle upon the most vulnerable members of the triad.  Sealed adoption records, hidden indentities, have kept people genetically related apart and have treated adoptees like second-class citizens who are denied the same basic civil rights so many people without adoption in their family history take for granted.

The rainbows and unicorns IDEAL of the adoptive experience is scarred now by battles waged by those who the practice has hurt the most.  Families formed by adoption are only seen through the smoke of lies and deception.  But that is changing and in no small part because of adult adoptees who are speaking out about the damage and about their rights to a genuine and authentic identity, even if it is a sorrowful and tragic beginning to their own life.

Back in the late 1980s, the origins of an adoption story may have started this way – An 18 year old girl becomes pregnant from an affair with her employer.  She denies she is pregnant until it is too evident to conceal.  Maybe she looked in the Yellow Pages, where she found what looked like help for her situation.  She moves to a large city and lives with a “host family” (strangers who she’ll lose contact with once her baby is born).  At birth, her child is handed over to a couple she knows only as a photograph.

By moving this young woman to a different state, she was isolated away from family and friends – those who cared about her and may have allowed her a different outcome.  Though she knew who her baby’s father was, the agency may have advised her not to tell him about his child.  She was encouraged to surrender her child by being told how deficit she was to raise that child.  This kind of practice went on for many decades, certainly in the 1930s when my parents were surrendered to adoption and as recently as the late 1980s, when Roe v Wade and the emergence of single mothers as an accepted aspect of society reduced the number of babies available for adoption.

So if you have begun to sense that there is simmering an anti-adoption movement you are not mis-interpreting the noise.  One could even call this the next frontier for reproductive justice.

Then and Now

Back in the 1930s, when my parents were both adopted, they first spent as long as 6 months with their original mother.  As I have come to know more about the impacts of adoption on adoptees, I have learned about the pre-birth development and bonding that takes place in the womb but is not complete at the time a baby is born, but continues during the first year of a baby’s life.

Knowing my parents had these precious first months with their original mothers matters to me since I have learned about the importance of that to any child’s development.

By the time my sisters each gave up a baby to adoption, the adoptions occurred immediately after birth.  The adoptive mothers did not have the pre-birth preparation that my sisters had as the original mother.

However, each of these children have been supported in their need to know the families they were originally conceived within and I do think that is valuable because my parents died knowing next to nothing (perhaps some vague names and location details) about their own birth and adoption experiences.

The unmistakable fact was and is – unwed mothers need help.  My sisters needed help and my parents were not going to step in with a long-term commitment to use their financial resources supporting either of them and their children.

Many adoptive parents have been comforted by the secrecy of closed adoption and sealed birth records.  Many have felt threatened by their children’s reunion with their original parents

Social workers believed that to save children they had to deny them information about their past. To help them, they unintentionally hurt them.  Some social workers believed that keeping adoptees’ identities secret allowed the adoptee to make a clean break with their past.  Secrecy protected adoptive parents from intrusion by birth relatives.  It protected the privacy of single mothers.

Social workers believed that after surrender, the mother would simply go on with her childless life as though nothing had happened.  It was believed that “normal, healthy” adoptees would have NO curiosity about their roots.

Both of these were myths and never true.