Profiles In Adoption

National Council for Adoption recently conducted this survey of adoptive parents. They are supposed to be surveying birth parents and adoptees next, but it’s clear from this survey who has the loudest voices and is viewed as most important when it comes to adoption. This organization is the face of what can be viewed as the adoption machine in this country.

You can read the 48 page report, based on the results of this survey, at their website. Look for the “Read the Report” link in the orange bubble here –>National Council for Adoption. The paragraphs below come from the report’s highlights, as excerpted on page 3, with some additions from my current perspectives.

Adoptive parents tend to be very highly educated and have relatively high household incomes. According to their adoptive parents, adoptees have very positive educational outcomes. Some have an Individualized Educational Plan (IEP). This is a plan or program developed to ensure that a child who has a disability identified under the law and is attending an elementary or secondary educational institution receives specialized instruction and related services. Some have a 504 Plan. This is intended to help kids who need more support in public school. This plan’s name does not clearly identify its purpose. A 504 plan makes changes at the school level, so that the child can learn. Some people mix up 504 plans with special education. They’re not the same. Special education is special instruction for kids who need more than standard teaching. A 504 plan, on the other hand, is about making sure the classroom fits how your child learns.

Anyone who has been at all involved in broad based adoption related communities (that is one that includes adoptees, adoptive parents and birth parents) would not be surprised to learn that due to the trauma involved in adoption generally, many adoptees will receive an impact diagnosis of some sort during their childhood. They will also therefore require therapeutic services after an adoption has been finalized.

The current trend in our modern times is that, eventually, adoptees will regain some contact with their original birth parents, siblings and other extended genetic family. In the best circumstances, the adoptive parents encourage and facilitate these reunions.

Also related to modern trends is that adoptive parents with a child of a different race/ethnicity will seek activities in which the child and their adoptive parents can participate so that they may become familiar with cultural aspects related to their biology and/or country of birth.

Today’s blog is simply to make your aware of this survey and resource for information you may not find through other avenues.

You Don’t Want To Parent, What To Do ?

An acquaintance is pregnant and you know they absolutely don’t want to parent that child after it is born but abortion is not option for your acquaintance. As an adoption trauma informed person, what do you suggest to this person ?

Note – decisions about pregnancy can be really complex. All-Options Talkline may be a resource – (888) 493-0092.

Deciding to not parent seems easy because of what our society has ingrained in us, but the reality is birth mothers hurt deeply their whole lives from making that decision, whether they are conscious of it or not. The same with the child, it sounds so easy to adopt out a baby because “they won’t even know” but in fact they have trauma their whole life, whether they are conscious of it or not.

For those pro-Adoption people who are also Pro-Life and believe that outlawing abortion will yield more babies for you to adopt – I have some bad news. According to The Turnaway Study, 91% women who were denied wanted abortions didn’t choose adoption. The vast majority parented their child. 

And the fact is – abortion is safer than common procedures like tonsillectomy and wisdom tooth removal. And it’s certainly much safer than going through childbirth. Far more adoptees than one would think will say “I would rather have been aborted than adopted.” 90% of American women who have abortions have them in the first trimester. I am one of those. I had an abortion in the later 1970s – after already having given birth to a daughter. At the time, she was being raised by her father and a step-mother.

In the study there was an association between abortion and mental health. But it was exactly opposite to what has been said in the popular media. It’s not that receiving an abortion was associated with worse mental health, but in the short run, being denied the abortion was – so higher anxiety, lower self-esteem, lower life satisfaction. For up until the first six months, the women who were denied fared worse. They were forced to come to terms with the fact that they were about to have a baby that they had previously felt that they weren’t able to take care of. 

What are the actual implications of giving up a living, breathing child to adoption ? Adoption is not death, but it is LOSS. The grief and trauma are life long. Birthparents cannot ever escape it. Naming that child? Loving that child? Losing that child? Living the rest of their life without their child? From a birth mother – My son is 11 years old and I have never heard him speak. I don’t know what his voice sounds like. I barely know anything about him, and it all comes through a filter. Is what his APs say actually true? I don’t know. I genuinely have no way to know if my son is being loved and cared for the way he deserves. It’s honestly terrifying. It is definitely more difficult to know the child is still out there. It’s an ambiguous grief that’s hard to understand or explain.

So the answer could be kinship! Why doesn’t anyone ever think, oh yeah, this child has family on the paternal and maternal side? At least, adoptees can then stay in their genetic family. Most adult adoptees will tell you it is better than being given to strangers to be raised. It also allows the mother time to change her perspective on parenting, have lifestyle or relationship changes while remaining in her child’s life.

In fact, I talked to an adoptee recently who didn’t know she was adopted until she was in her 30s. Attempting reunions with her birth parents yielded a mother who wasn’t interested in trying to forge a relationship but on the father’s side – it turned out that there was a paternal grandparent who did want to parent her but the birth mother had blocked it.

At least family members on either side are genetic mirrors for the child to grow up around as well as the ability to hear family stories as they are passed down. History and heritage – both matter. I know. I didn’t have either until after my adoptee parents had died and I began the search to know who my original grandparents were. Not only did I learn about my cultural heritage but I’ve been given priceless family history stories and digital photos that add value to my new sense of wholeness. That real sense of wholeness was not acquired until I was over 60 years old.

A Difference In Perspective

Within adoption reform communities, there is a deep commitment and ongoing effort to do adoptive relationships in a manner that is focused on the well-being of the adopted child, who through no choice of their own is not with the parents who conceived nor the mother who gave birth to them.

So, here’s the story of two conflicting perspectives on “doing it right”.

My husband and I live in West Africa with our 5 children. We recently adopted twin 4 year old girls in December. These children were being raised by their single Aunt who could not take care of them any longer since she was also raising 6 additional children (her own and also from other siblings), so she surrendered them to an orphanage because their mother had nothing to do with them since they were 1 year old. Unfortunately, this is a pretty common scenario here in West Africa.

We talk often about their “first mom,” allow the twins to miss her and express sadness, assure them they are loved and wanted. We keep in contact with their Aunt and have recently developed an online relationship with their mother. I send pictures and video to their family several times a week so they are able to know how the twins are doing. The twins have been able to talk with their aunt, cousins, and mother on two occasions. My husband and I had hoped to keep this relationship alive so the girls always had a connection to their African family.

Recently I received very harsh criticism from an adult Native American adoptee who was adopted into a privileged white family at birth. She has no connection with her biological family and claims she has never had any questions about them because “her parents did it right.” She insisted that the way we are referring to their mother as “first mom” and the ongoing connection we are attempting to foster will create an identity crisis and undermine my parental authority as their adoptive mother. We are a Christian missionary family (as is she) and she also told me that she believes our behavior and language will cause them to question God and fall away from their faith because of the uncertainty we’ll cause. In her opinion, we need to “squash” the connection with their mother and start referring to her as “the woman who gave birth to you” and to me as your “only mom.” She was also concerned that the girls have “romanticized” their memories of their mom, making her seem better than she was to them.

There is so much attention now being paid to issues of racial inequality and identity that I am not surprised that the first comment was somewhat harsh but here goes –

You are the definition of white saviorism. The very fact that you are missionaries in another country trying to recruit locals to your culture and belief system is white colonization. I find it disgusting and harmful. As to your adoption, it’s sad for all those involved, especially for the twins.

And the original woman’s response –

I teach at an American Christian school for North American children who have parents living abroad either as missionaries, humanitarian workers, or for business. We actually do not interact with locals in the manner you are assuming. But, let me educate you on what happens here in West Africa to children whose parents cannot take care of them…. the lucky ones are given to “schools” that use these children as slaves, abuse them, and force them to beg on the streets for money usually shoeless and hungry. Others are taken out to remote villages and left to starve or sold as human sacrifices or into human trafficking. The fact that you make such a bold statement without knowing anything about what happens here just shows your own ignorance and first world privilege.

The criticism was gently affirmed by another woman –

What was brought up is a valid point. I think your heart is in the right place, but you should always be mindful of how your actions have potentially negatively affected your adopted daughters’ natural family.

In adoption reform circles, financial and other resource support for natural families and keeping children within their birth culture (which means ending transracial adoption, which is not the same is a mixed race family birthing mixed race children, to be clear on this point) is the direction that reformers are seeking in an effort to end the need for removing children from the biological and genetic families.

And finally, an adoptee shares –

As an adoptee ALL I wanted my entire childhood was to know who and where I came from. Since I had no answers I would make up stories about how my first mom was a famous actress etc etc. I found out later in life that many adoptees made up elaborate stories about their bio families. It was literally torturous to not know. I feel now that SO much was straight out stolen from me as a child. And for what purpose???

Since I had no answers about my own parents’ origins, I “made up” stories.  My mom was half African-American – she was not.  My dad was half Mexican – he was not.  I would have preferred the reality and an opportunity to know those persons who I was genetically related to.  My parent died without ever having that opportunity.  Since I have recovered the knowledge of my genetic origins, I am thankful also to now know people I am actually related to by blood.  It has healed to wholeness something that was previously broken within me – without denying the grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins I knew as a child due solely to the adoptions of my parents.

Magnolia – Again

Magnolia – 2020 Gerber Baby

I previously wrote about Magnolia in this blog.  She is recently back in the news.  On September 7, 2020, the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute (CCAI) announced that it had named a baby called Magnolia as one of their 2020 “Angels in Adoption” honorees. Magnolia, from the San Francisco Bay Area, rose to fame in May 2020 when Gerber announced that she was the first (known) adopted Spokesbaby.

Infant adoption is not a simple story of adorable angels, even when they are cute enough to be a Gerber Baby.  The Angel award is meant to celebrate “the extraordinary efforts of individuals, couples, families, and organizations who work tirelessly to advocate for children in need of a family.”

Creating a connection between this apparently worthy, child-centered mission and adopted infants like Magnolia creates a false narrative. The truth is that there are approximately 30 waiting families for every infant voluntarily placed for adoption. It is unlikely that anyone needs to be convinced to adopt these babies. Also, these children already have a family — the family they were born to — who don’t have the resources to be able to parent their child in the way they would like.

It is true that there are approximately 100,000 youth in need of permanency in the US foster care system — but they are almost entirely older children who have experienced trauma, and there are fewer families interested in adopting them. In other words, domestic infant adoption doesn’t need a Spokesbaby — but families in poverty and foster youth without permanency do.

Obviously, it is not actually possible for Magnolia to have made extraordinary efforts to advocate for children in need of a family. It is the choices of adults (her adoptive parents, Gerber, CCAI) to cast her in this role. This highlights how the narrative is already being written and spoken for her, by individuals and organizations that want to promote infant adoption as an unqualified good. And it is deeply concerning that Magnolia, who has no voice and choice in the matter, has twice been made the literal poster child for adoption, before she can even speak in complete sentences, much less articulate her thoughts on what it means to her to be adopted.

Thanks to a Medium article from which the thoughts above were taken (because I do AGREE with every word I’ve shared as though it came from my very heart), I learned about PACT – An Adoption Alliance focused on children of color who end up adopted.

Here is their overview statement –

Pact is a non-profit organization whose mission is to serve adopted children of color. In every case, the child is always our primary client. In order to best serve children’s needs, we provide not only adoptive placement but lifelong education, support, and community for adoptees and their families on issues of adoption and race. Our goal is for every child to feel wanted honored and loved, a cherished member of a strong family with proud connections to the rich cultural heritage that is his or her birthright. We advocate for honesty and authenticity in matters of race and adoption. We strongly believe that adopted children’s and adults’ connections to birth family and birth heritage should be respected and maintained. We also strive to identify and counteract “adoptism,” an unfortunately common social prejudice that challenges the legitimacy of the choice to place a child for adoption or to build a family by adoption. Finally, as an organization committed to children of color, we feel it is essential to educate ourselves and others about the pervasive power of race and racism as they affect our children, our families, ourselves and our society.

Adoption Reunions

Maybe it’s a woman thing.  Today, I am happily experiencing a long distance (via telephone) “reunion” with my adoptee mom’s cousin.  I had previously spoken with her brother and it was all about family origins and lineage but I already had researched and discovered most of it myself.

So, today, it is some insight into the more emotional questions that have haunted me since receiving my mom’s adoption file from the state of Tennessee.  She was a Georgia Tann – Tennessee Children’s Home Society baby.

Much this cousin has shared with me was as my heart suspected already.  But it was nice to receive a confirmation and not just my wild imagination making up stories.  There have been too many stories in my immediate family already in attempts to fill in gaps that couldn’t be filled during my parent’s lifetimes.

With this cousin, I feel more complete now.  This part of my family line was less developed.

My parents were both adoptees.  They died without any reunion.  It has been left to me to find my own closure with the circumstances.  Obviously, I would not even exist had their adoptions never happened.  Therefore, I am grateful for my own blessing, including that I wasn’t given up for adoption as well.  I also acknowledge the sadness and tragedies that came before I was born.