Adult Adoption

I read a review today of a TV reality show I will NOT be watching – Adults Adopting Adults. Yet I thought it would be an interesting topic to explore in today’s blog. I’ve come across the concept before within an all things adoption group I belong to as some adoptees in reunion with their biological family, wish to be adopted as adults by their original family. And in doing a quick google search – it really is a thing – and there are lots of law firms willing to help anyone through the process for a fee.

Beyond the adoptee in reunion with their original family, why would anyone else want to do this ? Certainly in that reality show, there are some sexually nefarious reasons and so, I really have no interest in watching it. By the way, the question has come up regarding immigration and no, adopting a foreign national does not automatically grant them citizenship.

Adult Adoption is very common in Japan and it actually goes back to business inheritance laws that no longer apply but tradition suggests they still hold a lot of sway as I learned in an article for The Economist. The country’s declining birth rate has limited the likelihood of a male heir for many business families. Many legal adoptions are coupled with a form of arranged marriage (known as omiai) to one of the family’s daughters—but the son-in-law (or mukoyoshi) then changes his name to hers. Today a host of matchmaking companies and marriage consultants recruit voluntary adoptees for Japanese companies.

To be selected as a mukoyoshi is to be awarded a high executive honor. This prompts fierce competition among managers, ensuring that the business has access to as good a talent pool as non-family companies. In fact, researchers have found that adopted heirs’ firms outperform blood heirs’ firms—although the prospect of being overlooked for an outsider can serve as motivation for sons to knuckle down, too.

In the US, the primary drivers of adult adoptions are where a step-parent wishes to secure inheritance rights for their step-child and in situations of disability requiring long-term care. I have a friend with an autistic daughter approaching legal age who has been informed to maintain support requirements, she will have to adopt her own daughter. I can also imagine this happening where a parent needs the legal guardianship of their child (though I do believe having flirted with that issue regarding my dad, adoption isn’t necessary to secure that support).

In June 2015, the Supreme Court ruled in the landmark civil rights case of Obergefell v. Hodges that the fundamental right of same-sex couples to marry on the same terms and conditions as opposite-sex couples, with all the accompanying rights and responsibilities, is guaranteed by both the Due Process Clause and the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. Before the advent of federally legalized same-sex marriage, some couples utilized adult adoption in order to pass on inheritance rights and medical decision making to their partners.

Family Separations and the Judge

No child should be separated from their Mother, rather we should work on means to keep them together!! No matter what. There are very few children who wind up truly unwanted. Most of the issues their parents face are temporary and, with proper support, the family can be preserved.

Republicans have suggested that one of the reasons she should be given a lifetime appointment on the highest court of the land is that she has seven kids. Constantly bringing up how many kids she has is part of an attempt on Republicans’ part to (1) draw a distinction between Barrett and what they view as childless heathen Democrats, (2) claim that any opposition to her confirmation is anti-mom, and (3) suggest that since she’s a mother, she must be a good person who couldn’t possibly issue rulings that would hurt millions of people.

One of the problems with Coney Barrett is her own worldview – according to her own opening statement in the Judiciary Committee hearing, her own biological children are super intelligent but the black children she adopted were damaged, ie she “saved” them. This is known as white saviorism.

In one of the only discussions of immigration to arise during the confirmation hearings, Barrett declined to say whether she thought it was wrong to separate migrant children from their parents to deter immigration to the United States. “That’s a matter of hot political debate in which I can’t express a view or be drawn into as a judge,” Barrett said in response to a question from Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.). Booker said he respected her position but asked again: “Do you think it’s wrong to separate a child from their parent, not for the safety of the child or parent but to send a message. As a human being, do you believe that that’s wrong?”

Barrett told Booker she felt as if he was trying to engage her on the Trump administration’s border separation policy. Under the policy, immigration officials applied a “zero-tolerance” approach to undocumented immigration and separated families crossing the border through Mexico. “I can’t express a view on that,” Barrett said. “I’m not expressing assent or dissent with the morality of that position—I just can’t be drawn into a debate about the administration’s immigration policy.”

Booker responded that, actually, he was simply asking “basic questions of human rights, human decency, and human dignity,” which one might think a staunchly pro-life individual and mother of seven might be able to answer.

Jill Filipovic described Barrett as “Pro-life until birth” which is the real problem with a lot of Pro-Lifers. Filipovic goes on to say about the Judge – “Booker wasn’t asking about the family separation policy as a legal matter. Like her views on abortion, she could presumably separate her personal feelings from her legal ones. She’s been happy to put her views on abortion forward. Why so quiet on family separations?”

Reproductive Justice

I believe in this concept – the human right to maintain personal bodily autonomy, have children, not have children, and parent the children we have in safe and sustainable communities.

The truth is – most women do not want to give up the children they birth.  Most women do not lose the children they have because they are wantonly abusive.  If the support, encouragement and financial resources were there – most children would be raised by the people who gave birth to them.

Access to reproductive health is affected by many other factors – race, religion or sexual orientation.  Also the financial, immigration or disability status as well as environmental conditions.

I have heard that families waiting in the squalor of make-shift refugee camps on the Mexican border, sleeping on the ground in flimsy tents meant for weekend camping in mild weather, are sending their children ALONE across the border in the hope of their being granted asylum.  In most cases, the parents could see no other way to get their children the medical help they need or safety from being preyed upon by gangs.

In the United States, every new wave of immigrants (from the Chinese to the Irish and Italians) has faced hatred and difficulty before being accepted as yet another kind of American.  We would do well to remember that always has it been that the resident population has feared the impacts of the arriving masses.

Each Small Death

. . . is just a season where a part of us is shed to make way for a new one. ~ Jonas Ellison

This quote captured something in my heart.  When I was already into my 60s, I lost first my mom and then 4 months later, my dad, to the normal processes of life that end in one’s death.  When they died, none of us knew who their original parents were.  They were both adopted and their adoptive parents were also dead.

Turns out my original grandparents were all dead as well.

But there is “new” life in me because I now know so much more about my authentic family history.  I know there is a lot of Danish in me because of my paternal grandfather who was an immigrant.  And there is a good deal of Scottish in me because of my maternal grandmother.

On my paternal grandmother’s side is a long history that includes an ancestor who wrote a journal that is still in print.  It is considered to be one of the best records of early colonial life in New London Connecticut spanning a 47 year period from 1711 to 1758.  Yes, before our Revolutionary War.  His home is on the national register and a museum now.

That leaves my maternal grandfather.  His own grandfather was 2nd Lieutenant in the Confederate Army from 1861 through 1864. He fought in the battles of Shiloh, Chattanooga and Spring Hill, as well as other less notable engagements.  There are actually Confederate connections on my maternal grandmother’s side as well.  Not that I take any real pride in that, it just is the honest truth.

All of this is “new” to me.  Never in my wildest dreams did I ever expect to know about these people but learning about them and meeting some living descendants has made me whole again.  Even though it was too late for my parents, losing them opened up the path for me to know these things about my family history.

All that to say, if you are in a similar circumstance by all means push ahead.  Inexpensive DNA testing and the matching sites that include 23 and Me as well as Ancestry are making it possible for many people who’s past was clouded by adoption to finally know who and from where their roots are grounded in reality.

 

Sometimes It Helps To Know

Street Urchins

The Industrial Revolution in the 1880s and the influx of 35 million European immigrants to the US swelled the ranks of the poor.  Some families were unable to care for their children.  Desperate mothers gave their babies to workers at foundling asylums. Lacking resources, these children were sometimes boarded with uneducated women who killed them with neglect.

Any abandoned children found by the police were usually already dead.

Poorhouses were filthy institutions to which abandoned children were sent if they lived to the age of 4. In these places, the children were mixed in with criminally insane adults.

In times like that, orphanages must have seemed like progress.  However, early orphanages had mortality rates as high as 50%.

Another option was a “baby farm”. These were homes or apartments where, for a fee, uneducated women housed babies whose parents were unable to raise them. Some baby farmers received periodic payments, others were paid in lump sums. Some of these farmers starved, suffocated or drowned “paid for” babies.

If the owner of a “baby farm” took out insurance on the lives of the babies in their care, the death toll rose higher. An 1895 editorial in the New York Times suggested that “life insurance for children should be declared invalid because it was a temptation to inhuman crimes.”

Understandably, children growing up in poorhouses or baby farms, who survived into adolescence, often fled as soon as they were able. Therefore, by 1872, the number of street urchins was high. These children were left to beg, steal, sell newspapers and at times even prostituted themselves for food.

They were the “apple boys” and “flower girls” who sold their goods on street corners, the “singing girls” who boarded docked ships at night to entertain the men with music (and were sometimes raped).

These children slept on steps, in filthy cellars, on the iron tubes of bridges or burned-out safes on Wall Street. Ten would pile together on cold winter nights for warmth or fight for spots near grates through which hot air blew, generated by underground presses.

Homeless children had been so poorly valued that one orphanage in Nashville was called – The Home for Friendless Children. These children were often referred to as “ragamuffins”, “little wanderers”, “street Arabs” or “guttersnipes”.

Massachusetts passed the country’s first adoption law in 1851. Looked at it historically, it would seem an improvement.  Poverty has always been – and continues to be – the reason that children are separated from their natural parents.  Sadly.

In Memoriam

I am now reading a book titled – Lost Daughters: Writing Adoption From a Place of Empowerment and Peace.  I read an essay yesterday by Susan Perry and felt such a connection with her that I was seeking to reach out to her and discovered sadly that she had died some years ago.

She is quoted as saying –

“Sealed record laws afford more rights to the dead than they do to the
living and they bind the adopted person to a lifetime restraining order.”
~ Susan Perry

Just like my paternal grandmother and paternal grandfather, she was the product of a married man and a woman not his wife.  They were both of Danish ancestry, just as my paternal grandfather was.  An immigrant, not yet a citizen, married to a woman 20+ years his senior.

Susan’s adoptive mother had no idea how often her interior thoughts had turned to her ancestors. Who were they, and what was her story ?  My own mom had similar questions.

Mrs Perry did know that her adoptive parents truly loved her, and that love
and support helped to make her the person she was in life.  I believe I can say the same about all of the adoptive parents in my own family’s lives.

Yet, our genes are some part of what makes us the person we each are as well.

It is only natural that any adoptee that reaches adulthood (if not sooner) will want to know who passed those genes down to them.

I have bumped up against sealed records in three states – Virginia, Arizona and California.  I realize how incredibly fortunate I am to have uncovered ALL of my original grandparents.  I have the DNA tests that no one saw the inexpensive cost and prevalence of even 20 years ago as well as the matching sites Ancestry.com and 23 and Me to thank for most of my own success.

So many adoptees are never that fortunate.  Sealed records are unjust and damaging to so many people.  They encourage unhealthy thinking, repression, and denial as the means for coping with life.

I wonder if, because of adoption, my own mom did not feel empowered to take charge of her own story, just as Susan wrote in her essay.

Even so, every adopted person’s journey is unique.

It is difficult for me, as the child of two adoptees, to understand why as a culture we continue to shackle adopted people to an institution that is governed by such archaic and repressive laws, when the data clearly shows that most original mothers are open to contact. Those who are not, can simply say “no”.

Once an adoptee becomes an adult – they do not need outside agents supervising their own, very personal business.

Repressive laws set the tone – either/or thinking.  There is a belief that adoptees who search are expressing disloyalty to their adoptive parents, or that the adoptee should just “be grateful” and move on.  Attitudes of this kind are hurtful and dismissive.

Here’s the TRUTH, adoptees have two sets of parents – and a unique mix of DNA and upbringing.  It is belittling and unfair to tell adoptees that they are not entitled by law to access their own original birth certificates. Every other American citizen has no such restriction.

This is institutional discrimination and there is no really good reason it exists.  Adoptee rights bills have accumulated plenty of evidence that they are beneficial for the majority of persons for whom adoption is some part of their personal story.

If Not For You

How humbling and profound it has been to learn about my family’s true origins.  If not for . . . so many things, I would simply not exist.

Had my Danish paternal grandfather not been allowed to immigrate, I would not exist.  One could say he is an example of chain migration because his uncle came first and then his sister.

Had a superflood not complicated the possibility of my maternal grandparents reuniting, my mom would not have gone where she had to go to meet my dad.  I would simply not exist.

There is a comfort in understanding that what may appear unfortunate on the surface of things eventually serves a good purpose.  There is a sense of peace and rightness about the world that allows one to take a long perspective on everything that happens.