Fragility Self-Test

Before you decide to adopt or foster a child, consider your own emotional state.  Here’s some help for contemplation.

1. Do I feel defensive when an adoptee, former foster youth or birth/first mother says “adoptive parents tend to…?”

2. Do I feel angry when people tell me I benefit from adoptive parent privilege — that the adoption industry works in my favor, or that my socioeconomic class and/or race enabled me to adopt?

3. When an adoptee, former foster youth or original mother talks about adoption, do I feel defensive because they’re describing things that I do or think?

4. Do I feel angry or annoyed by the above questions?

5. Do I have a history of embracing hopeful or adoptive parent behavior that I now feel ashamed of, so I need to show people that I’m no longer “like that”?

6. Does saying “not all adoptive parents” or similar phrases make me feel better when someone calls adoptive parents out for some perspective or behavior?

7. Do I expect an apology when I feel like I’ve been unfairly accused of poor adoptive parent behavior?

8. Do I feel better when I say, hear, or read, “every (adoption) experience is different?”

9. Do I try to convince adoptees, former foster youth and original mothers that they’re wrong about adoption by pointing out people from their position in the triad who agree with me?

10. Do I feel the need to talk about my own hardships (such as infertility, a “failed” adoption, or a difficult childhood) when an adoptee or original mother talks about their pain?

11. Do I think the adoption community would benefit if people stopped talking about the hard stuff, were more supportive, learned from “both sides,” or focused more on the positive?

12. Does being told that something I say, think, do, or otherwise value is harmful make me want to shut down, leave, or express my discomfort/displeasure in some way?

13. Do I feel the need to state that I have friends/family who are adoptees or first mothers when someone points out my problematic behavior?

14. Do I feel the need to prove that I’m one of the good ones?

15. Do I feel that my opinions and perspectives about adoption should be given equal weight to that of an adoptee or original mother, that I have something unique and important to contribute to the adoption conversation, and/or that it is unfair to be told to listen more than I speak?

16. Do I feel the need to defend myself on any of the above points when commenting in a discussion?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, you are dealing with adoptive parent fragility. Take time to reflect on why you feel the way that you do. Take time to listen to adoptee and original mother perspectives.

Adoptive parent fragility is a hindrance to healing because it prevents adoptees/original mothers from being able to engage with adoptive parents in honest conversation, without also having to bear the burden of catering to adoptive parents’ emotional comfort.

At its worst, adoptive parent fragility can cause an emotionally unhealthy situation for adoptees/original mothers because of the power dynamics and the weight of being responsible for the adoptive parents’ feelings, while not being allowed the same consideration to express their own.

There is also the weight that comes with people that you care about lashing out at and abusing you (verbally, emotionally, and/or digitally).

If we cannot talk honestly about the issues surrounding the traditional adoption industry, then we cannot make progress towards creating a healthy reform.

Becoming Whole Again

Much of what I write here came as an unexpected side effect of discovering who my original grandparents were.  Both of my parents were adoptees and both of them died without knowing what I know now.

The journey began because my cousin informed me she had received her father’s adoption file from the state of Tennessee.  This came as a huge surprise to me.  Back in the early 1990s, my mom tried and failed to get her own.  I had hoped, since she had died, it might become available to me but that is not how sealed records work generally – and I have bumped up against them in 3 states – Virginia, Arizona and California.

What made Tennessee different was the Georgia Tann scandal.  There would have been criminal charges lodged against her if she had not died before that could happen.  The movers and shakers of Memphis political life were all too happy to let the wrong-doing die with Miss Tann.

The story had such potency, that it erupted on the public’s imagination in the early 1990s on 60 Minutes and Oprah.  A movie was made by Hallmark featuring Mary Tyler Moore as a convincing Georgia Tann.  Reunions of adoptees with their original parents started being seen on television and my mom wanted that for herself.  It was not to be.  No one told her that less than 10 years after her own efforts were denied, it would have been possible.

It was surprising to me how the dominoes began falling so easily, so that in less than one year, I knew who all 4 of my original grandparents were and made contact with some surviving descendants.  Only a few years ago, I would never have predicted such a result.

It didn’t end there however.  From that new wholeness, I also began to understand deeply the impacts of separating young children or infants from their mothers and original families, how this causes a deep traumatic wound in the adoptee and how even the most well-meaning of adoptive parents (my adoptive grandparents were totally that and good people in general) can not make up for what has happened to the victims of the process.

And from all that, has come this blog.  No doubt I still have more to say as soon as tomorrow.

 

Abandoned Over A Pregnancy

This happened to my maternal grandmother.  For whatever reason, she was abandoned by her lawful husband (my mom’s father) and she was abandoned by her own father.

Despite the joy that usually accompanies a pregnancy, it is one of the most stressful life events.  If a pregnancy is unexpected or unwanted, the stress compounds.

When the person coming to grips with this surprising change is then abandoned by her support system (parents, a lover, a spouse), it’s devastating.  Though either parent could be shunned, the mother typically bears the brunt of the rejection.

The expectant mother may believe some false concepts about herself – what they say about me is true, the baby is the cause of all my trouble, love is temporary and people always leave when times get tough.  Beyond false beliefs are the fears – of being abandoned again, of the judgement of other people, being spiritually condemned or being unable to care for herself and her baby

These mothers may go into denial, acting as though they aren’t pregnant. Some may attempt to hide the pregnancy. In modern times, there is a stigma if the woman chooses a legal abortion. The woman may become emotionally unavailable or wallow in self-pity or blame.  There is the worry about her ability to cope all alone and doubt about her ability to be a mother.

If the mother-to-be has decided not to keep her baby (or after she has relinquished her child), seeing happy couples caring for their baby together will be especially painful.

If this mother is unable to find support, she will realize that she can’t depend on others to help her. If it is a difficult pregnancy, it will compound the challenges.

Entitlement

It has been a long process for me of wrapping my mind around the issues of what is bad about adoption and needs reform.  Forgive me a little rant and hopefully a bit of educating for those who care but really don’t know what the issues are.  Thanks to an outspoken group of women who are adoptees, or have been in the institutional trenches, I am beginning to understand there are problems in adoptionland.

I’ll share a few as starters.

Going all the way back to the 1930s, and my own grandmothers – up through my own sisters, I believe they would have ALL kept their children – IF they had had the support they needed.

In adoption propaganda, it is often said that the original parents made the “most selfless decision” by giving up the raising of their own child.  It is not selfish to want to keep your child, even when you are struggling to do so. It is not a selfless decision to give your child to someone else, it is an act of desperation.

The determining factor should always be what matters most for the well-being of the child.  The dominant narrative in the adoption community has been stories of “selfless birth parents” who simply wanted a “better life” for their child.  Of course, they wanted a “better life” and they would have preferred to have been the ones providing it.

There are alternatives to adoption for infertile couples – kinship care, legal guardianship without lying on birth certificates or choosing the charity of giving whatever kind of assistance the original Mom or Dad need to help them parent successfully.

I seriously question the agenda of Christians who push adoption.  I suspect they are wanting to create more Christians by taking children who would not have been raised according to their own belief system, knowing that their way is the superior one of course, and indoctrinating these children into “the way” of their own religion.

And I am seriously concerned by crowd funding for adoption costs without any qualms on the parts of those donating money – while not once considering crowd funding to help a Mom or Dad keep their baby.  Our values are misplaced people.

So are adoptive parents fears that the child will NOT be theirs PERMANENTLY supposed to outweigh what is now known to be better for the children?

What is known ?

Separation should be the last resort. We KNOW there is trauma from the separation, even if it happens at birth. We KNOW children need genetic mirrors. We KNOW people have a right to know the truth about themselves. We know so much that points to a practice where, based on the best interest of the CHILD, we should avoid the permanent legal and physical severing of a child from their genetic parentage and family through adoption.

Guardianship provides all the emotional support any child needs and as much safe permanency.

And another thought – if people are really so dead set on parenting, and they can’t reproduce (are infertile), they can still act as guardians and caregivers to older kids who really do need someone.  In today’s society – unfortunately – there are a lot of kids that could use that kind of help.

Those who wish to provide a home for a child should be OK with not getting an infant and fake papers saying they gave birth to that child.  This is denial and self-delusion on the part of infertile, adoptive parents – and it IS harmful to the child.

Every baby brought into this world and then given to someone else to raise is aware and does care about what happened to separate them from their original parents.

Please realize that there’s always a situation that makes the original parents feel they have no other choice but to give up their precious child.  Whether it be finances, homelessness, the mother’s relationship with the baby’s father, or a lack of support during and after the pregnancy.

None of those “reasons” should be the determining factor leading to separation from their baby. They are all temporary circumstances which time may heal given resources when they are most needed.

Denying Reality

Our family had a very personal experience this week related to DNA that I won’t really go into with specifics here.

My point being that because of inexpensive DNA testing and the matching sites such as Ancestry or 23 and Me, pretending something that isn’t true is really a short sighted decision.

Because of my parents adoptions and this journey of discovery I have been upon, I have read more than one book about people who got unexpected and life-shattering discoveries when they had their DNA tested.  Some of these persons had been adopted, one was believed to be the child who had been stolen from the hospital shortly after birth but was actually a child abandoned on a sidewalk.  Another one had believed in a strong Jewish heritage from her father and discovered with feelings of betrayal that she was conceived by donor sperm.

Honesty is the best policy even when being honest is somewhat painful.  That was something I learned from my own parents as a child.

I am also grateful for that inexpensive DNA testing.  As I have uncovered genetic relatives who never knew about me or I them because both of my parents were adopted – our shared genetic heritage convinces them I am actually “who” I say I am.

It is a brave new world thanks to technology and families now can be created where they were impossible before.  For that, I will always be grateful.

The Right To Know

Denny Glad

My mom learned about Denny Glad when 60 Minutes did an expose in the early 1990s on the baby stealing and selling scandal related to the activities of the Tennessee Children’s Home Society’s (TCHS) Memphis Branch under the control of Georgia Tann.  My mom was adopted through that agency in 1937.

Denny was able to give my mom a tiny bit of personal information and suggested she request her adoption records from the state of Tennessee, who rejected her because the living or dead status of her original father could not be determined (who by the way had been dead for 30 years).  They didn’t try very hard.

It is thanks to the efforts of Denny Glad and her Right to Know organization in Tennessee that I now possess an extensive adoption file for my mom, with notes and letters from both her original mother and her adoptive mother as well as lots of insight into the operations of the TCHS in her particular situation.

Only about half of our 50 states allow any kind of access to once sealed records even today.  I have bumped up against solid obstacles in Arizona, California and Virginia.  Thankfully, inexpensive DNA testing and the matching sites – Ancestry and 23 and Me – have filled in the blanks, where the practices in half our 50 states would have prevented me from achieving success.

I would have thought, with both of my adoptee parents deceased and all of the grandparents (original and adoptive) also deceased, there would be no harm in myself as a descendant finally knowing the truth of my own origins.  A fact many people simply take for granted.