Making A Career Of It

Dougherty Children

So I do wonder about couples who start adopting and keep adopting until their family size is large. We live in an era of self-promotion and the Dougherty family seems to be an example of that. Sometimes it becomes a kind of calling – as it seems to have become with this family. They believe they have developed a good method of dealing with an issue that does cause some children to end up in foster care and/or adopted – Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Disorders. Likewise, it is also true that managing a large family requires a great deal of organizing every aspect of family life to even make it possible to cope. And their are joys and benefits to belonging in such situations.

Though they call themselves the Dougherty Dozen, I could only count 10 children in any photo – maybe the parents, Josh and Alicia, are including themselves, which I could justify. “We figured, if we’re already doing this for one kid, what difference will another one make?” Josh says as an explanation. Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD), a group of conditions that can occur in a person whose mother consumed alcohol during pregnancy. FASD can cause a lineup of physical and learning disabilities as well as behavior problems.

The couple claims that one of the reasons they have so many children is that caseworkers, impressed with their dedication and success, have continued sending complicated children their way. “We became known as the parents who could handle the difficult behaviors,” Alicia says. The couple also has four biological children between the ages of 4 and 10 as well as the 6 children than have been placed with them.

It’s hard to judge but I do cringe at their admission that they cameras in every room except the bathrooms and that they lock the kitchen food cabinets and the refrigerator at night. As to self-promotion the couple has TikTok and YouTube videos about their family life. I can appreciate their stated perspective that “a person is not their diagnosis” and belief that they’re doing their best to help the children move forward with their lives.

Adoption TikTok

I will admit to being a bit of a Luddite (sometimes defined as a person opposed to new technology or ways of working – which certainly applies to me LOL). I’d still be back in Microsoft 3.0, if it wasn’t for my husband pushing me forward. I don’t do TikTok or Instagram or any of the many other platforms available today. I hate apps. I view them as multiplying clutter that I don’t need. However, I did come across notification in my all things adoption about an article in Teen Vogue (which as I am almost 68 would probably have not come to my attention otherwise). The title is Adoption TikTok: Building Community and Critiquing the U.S. Adoption System.”

The young woman wrote – “Myself and an another adoptee were featured in this TEEN VOGUE article! Such an exciting opportunity to be heard and I think the journalist did a wonderful job.”

One woman describes meeting her birth mother in Brazil (she was adopted as an infant by a New Jersey couple). “My mother pulled me into her house and pulled me onto her couch and into her lap, even though I was probably almost twice her size. She looked at my fingers and looked at my toes and, like, it was just so primal to me. Like how you would look at your baby.”

Her adoption, the country she had to leave behind, the shape of her life: All of it could be traced back to poverty. “We are all indoctrinated into this overly positive narrative about adoption, right? We see it in movies and kids’ movies, this trope of adoption being a beautiful thing,” she said. But her story didn’t feel beautiful. Her birth mother’s pain had transformed her already shifting understanding of adoption. While some women choose adoption because they don’t want to be a mother, others lack the emotional support or financial resources to raise children, even though they very much want to. 

TikTok hosts a growing community of adoptees who use the social media platform to shed light on the trauma and economic pressures that have shaped their adoption experience. The hashtag #adopteesoftiktok has garnered tens of millions of views.

You can read the rest of this article at the Teen Vogue link above.

One reader in my group commented – “Research also suggests that open adoption can reduce the grief that many birth mothers experience after giving up a child for adoption.” My only feedback is where it says that research supports that open adoption reduces grief, that doesn’t sit well with me. The study only went to 20 years post placement – yet time and again I am finding in natural mother’s groups – it’s at 20 plus years that things start to unravel, as their relinquished child starts to form and share their own views surrounding their adoption, outside of the influence of their adoptive parents. ~Natural mother 26 years into an open adoption

Not The Same

Someone was asking adoptees if it’s OK to identify as “half adopted.” They were raised by their biological mom but their biological dad was absent. Then they were later legally adopted by mom’s next husband.

She goes on to note – The amount of tone deaf, “Of course, you were adopted” by non-adopted people and one adopted person was really irritating. They have their own loss and trauma, but they had their mother and only learned their father’s name when they were already in their teens.

The responses in my all things adoption group were interesting and somewhat surprising. The points chosen seem valid. I think what might be different is the degree of trauma that accompanies an infant or young child being separated from their mother.

If you were legally adopted, you’re an adoptee. I was adopted twice (blogger’s note – so was my adoptee dad) and not raised by birth parents, but it feels weird to tell someone who was legally adopted that they can’t call themselves adopted.

The person who was adopted gets to identity however they want to, in my opinion. Your identity is valid.

They were adopted, so they could decide – adoptee, half adoptee or not as an adoptee. It is their choice.

Half of their stuff was still changed. They are still not involved with the family of half of them.

Step-parent adoption or kinship adoption –  I do see them as different than a stranger adopting an infant. (Same as the point I made above – less trauma effects in these situations.) Another one added – I’m a kinship adoptee (adopted by maternal grandma) and I identify as a kinship adoptee.

Yet another response – Step parent adoptions are in no way equal to full adoptees. In most cases, step parent adoptees got to stay with their biological mother – therefore not experiencing the “primal wound’ trauma that connects so many adoptees or the trauma of being completely separated from your biological family.

Sure they are “technically” adopted – but not at all in the same way.

The issue arises when they try to say they’ve experienced the trauma discussed by full adoptees or try to say they are privileged voices in spaces where they really are not because they don’t have that shared life experience. Some of these “half” adoptees have even misrepresented themselves in order to dupe hopeful adoptive parents and profit financially as “consultants” or the like.

It really bugs me when those who were adopted by a step parent try to say they are “adoptees” in the same way that I am. Because they just aren’t. Full stop. I’m pretty surprised by the other responses here so far actually.

And a last valid point – Part of me wants to know to what purpose, to what end? A lot of people are just trying to find their identity, to explain some of their trauma responses, to understand how to describe their situation to other people.

But if the purpose is that they want to come into adoptee spaces and converse about adoption as a privileged voice to elevate their own opinions–which has happened before in the adoptee community on TikTok–they most likely will be schooled on that before too long.

I see it as a facet of adoption just like any other. There is a LOT of intersectionality here. People can be adoptees but not infant adoptees, or transracial adoptees, or late-discovery adoptees, all of which come with unique sets of issues. No two experiences will be identical. I recognize I cannot speak for transracial adoptees, for example, and so, I know not to minimize their experiences by pretending mine is just like theirs. I don’t have x, y, or z issues.

It’s A Small World After All

I am constantly amazed at how many people have some connection to adoption or foster care. It isn’t much talked about. I am proud of an all things adoption group I belong to on Facebook because they do some really good work.

Some examples –

We (as a group) helped mom financially with legal fees to revoke consent and get her daughter home. Because of this, several members of this group had to testify in court. We were accused of “child trafficking” and only helping get “O” home, so we could “sell her.” Clearly, DSS and the judge thankfully could see through that BS and “O” was returned home to her mother. Months later, the hopeful adoptive parents are still periodically calling Dept of Social Services DSS. They even created a TikTok and Instagram to slander her parents – months after she went home to her original family.

Every single mom with or without agency involvement has had Child Protective Services CPS called – out of spite. Hopeful adoptive parents HAPs have even told CPS “if you remove the baby, I’ll take her/him.”

Moms have received numerous text messages, phone calls, emails etc from HAPs. When mom blocks them, HAP’s family members continue the harassment.

The online adoption community is a small, small world. We’ve had HAPs find out that we have assisted moms with legal fees, baby registries and it is used against them because “they can’t afford” a baby. Obviously, when a mom has planned adoption for 9 months – she only has days or even less to get everything her baby needs. This is why we do baby registries. It’s also why we now do them anonymously. We will not let it be used against a mom because she simply doesn’t have everything her baby needs, when CPS comes knocking. And they always do, thanks to spiteful HAPs.

Shaming mom online because she has ruined their entire life, comparing their loss to a stillbirth. Yet, they miraculously recover, when the next baby comes along. Because the truth is – any baby will do.

Not only are some of the things above, what the community I am a part of has done but also what we have seen. When a hopeful adoptive parent enters the community, they often don’t stay long because this community’s mission is original family preservation. No rah rah rahs for the whole industry of adoption – though it is acknowledged that sometimes adoption cannot be avoided. Many HAP leave this community angry. Adoptees and former foster care youth are privileged voices in the community and speak their trauma and pain and what it is like to come out of the fog of believing adoption is a beautiful thing. I was in that fog when I first arrived there and quickly learned my place and then, by reading and considering the point of view there, they won me over to their side of the mission – hence this blog.

Chosen ? Special ? Really ?

In my adoption group, one woman wrote –

How are adoptees “chosen” and “special” and “soooo wanted” when hopeful adoptive parents would literally pick ANY baby under the sun?

Partially prompted by A Million Little Things when their adoption agency offers a replacement baby the *same day* they learn the natural mom they had bought decided to parent.

I only watched one episode. The natural mom decides to keep her baby, hopeful adoptive parents are upset, next thing the adoption agency calls saying another woman is in labor and they got “bumped to the front of the line” which sounds like a McDonald’s drive-through lane that dispenses babies. Thankfully, the woman says no… for that episode…

This same woman goes on to explain –

I’m French and was relinquished at birth. I went to an orphanage, for 2 months the birth mom has the right to come back for her baby, and nothing can happen, then legal initiates. I was legally free around 6 months by then they put me in a family that had paid $0 (adoption is always free) and vetted by social services for months.

Now they provide even more help for birth moms to parent, so the number of babies like me is only 700 per year, which discourages adoption as a way around fertility. That would be around 3,500 babies for the whole US, 50 per state.

And instead of foster homes we have a paid social worker taking kids in his home with a stipend on top of salary going to the kid’s needs. It doesn’t prevent hopeful adoptive parents from shopping for a kid abroad and is far from perfect but there is no commercialization of domestic babies, and even surrogacy is illegal.

An adoptive parent shared her perspective –

I am an adoptive parent that is still constantly learning and working through my own insecurities, I believe it all stems from the “meant to be” or “God’s plan” narrative that many/most adoptive parents feed into.

Like any disrupted match (in the eyes of the adoptive parent) is just not the child God has waiting for you. The one that worked out was the one all along. When one really thinks about it, it’s like the adoptee stated – any baby will do and becomes “chosen”. This group has helped me see the issues and concerns with this way of thinking. I am still always reading and learning though.

Another adoptee added –

As an adoptee I never felt chosen or special I felt sadness and confusion. When we were forced to adopt our foster baby we didn’t do any celebration and we didn’t announce it on Facebook etc. we didn’t start a Go Fund Me or beg for money on TikTok or share his journey. Only immediate family know.

Thank god it’s an open adoption and for the first year it was much like a divorced couple but the last year since his mom got married and has a new baby, visits and time with her have been less and less – at her request. My hope is once she settles into a new normal, she will spend more time with him. But I’ve never used those words with him.

And this came from South Africa –

I totally agree an adopted child should never be burdened with the “chosen”, “special” etc narrative. I had a domestic infant adoption with a private social worker. At the time I adopted, I tried to make sure I did NOT “choose” a specific child. The first child I was matched with luckily went home with his aunt. I was so happy for that child.

I was then matched with a different child, and again I tried to keep my heart from attaching to this specific child, in case his parents were able to parent. I was trying to keep in mind that what is best for the child is their family. I felt I was trying to offer a home for a child who needed it, and not attach and try to hold on to a child that could go to their family.

So many hopeful adoptive parents mourn the parents changing their mind – but surely that is the ideal situation.

Finally, this question – what birth mother actually doesn’t “want” her baby?

And this response – they exist but they are FEW and FAR between. The narrative of the droves and droves of unwanted babies in the US that are languishing away for help really burns me. (And I was one of those few, actual unwanted babies).

So what do adoptees actually feel ? We are not chosen. Quite the opposite. We’re discarded.

So It Has Come To This ?

This was occurring as recently as yesterday. A TikTok Live baby auction. Tiktok username ambrva put out a video seeking adoptive parents. The video she posted yesterday had 1,800 comments. Most of them begging for her child, some actually bidding on her baby. (I don’t do TikTok but oh my !!)

 TikTok is not any kind of licensed agency. This has a horrifying trafficking situation written all over it. She has no idea who is trying to get her baby.

One woman echoes my feelings – Omg I can’t even. My first thought is she’s not being serious, she’s only trying to get attention. If she is serious what kind of person will she find on tic to to mistreat her and possibly her child ? Why the hell are videos like this even allowed !?!

Another woman’s comment I am totally on board with – I’d love to know who told her that she couldn’t provide what her baby needs.

Another woman expresses the hopes of many – I desperately hope this girl is just trolling. This is a horrifying way to find a family. Anyone willing to get a baby from TikTok shouldn’t have one…

Corky Jane

I do want to be very clear from the beginning – I do not recommend you turn to this wannbe celebrity preying out there in adoptionland.  She cares more about raking up followers on TikTok than about the families torn apart by adoption.  And she is everywhere.

Someone wrote in a FB group called Hopeless Adoptive Predators – “Why do so many narcissistic adopters blog about adoption like they are some type of saint? She claims to “help adoptees” but then blocks them after they comment. My expectations were low, and they were met.”

Another woman asked a logical question – “So I have no idea how tiktok works but how is she choosing her audience? Is she focusing on her videos on pregnant women?”  Count me among the TikTok clueless.  All I know about them is that our president hates them.  They have a lot of company in that regard.

Here’s the answer – TikTok’s user base is younger. Like many of the users are teens compared to other social media sites, such as Facebook. “TikTok has really hit the nail on the head when it comes to engaging with the youngsters of the world. It might be a bit of a head scratcher for the older generations, but TikTok is no news to the teens of the world. 41 percent of TikTok users are aged between 16 and 24 (Globalwebindex, 2019)… To start off, the popularity of TikTok with the younger generation could be explained by the fact that the app creators decided to choose under 18 as their target audience from the very beginning.”  Yep, I am “older” – like 66 – no wonder I’m not “into” TikTok.

So the issue isn’t focusing Corky Jane’s content on pregnant women but more that she’s using a social media platform that is primarily for younger people and especially teens, meaning she is essentially being predatory and trying to find pregnant teens/young adults.

I went to her website (something easier for an old lady like me).  First of all, she cluelessly uses the term Birth Mother in a “Dear” letter.  Women who conceive and give birth to a child are that child’s MOTHER.  Period.  “Birth” when added to “mother” is viewed as a derogatory term by many woman who have lost their child to an adoptive couple.  I didn’t know that myself, until I began educating myself about all things adoption.  So, right there this woman loses all credibility with me as some kind of “informed” source.

These are the arguments often used by the adoption industry with expectant mothers to pry their baby away from them – “You are strong, you are brave, you are unselfish.”  All to make her feel better about the worst moment in her life which will haunt her for the rest of her lifetime.  Good ole’ Corky Jane goes on to admit that she worries about the woman when she doesn’t hear back from her, “I don’t know if you are grieving, or busy, or what the reason is, but I will always reach out to you until you ask me not to.”

It is an awful catch 22 for the mother.  Reminders of the child she isn’t raising.  Triggering grief and regret.  It is like rubbing salt into the poor woman’s wounds.  She probably ought to tell Corky Jane not to reach out to her but the morbid fascination of what is happening to her precious child won’t let her not look.  My heart breaks for her but not for Corky Jane.