Guilty For Being Honest

AITA

I had to google the meaning when I came across this today. It is easy enough to find so I won’t repeat it.

The adoptee story today is about a transracial adoptee who has the unique physical characteristic of having blue eyes which is unexpected given her nationality. Her adoptive mother also has blue eyes and this causes some understandable misconceptions but she will always offer the explanation if it seems relevant.

It is amazing how often people see into other people what they want to see. My sons do not have my DNA and they know the whole story about how and why they don’t. We’ve often had strangers remark that one of my sons favors my husband and the other favors me but the truth is that they genuinely can and do favor their dad in some way or other but neither is a carbon copy of him. The funniest one I get when I am with my sons is about being their grandmother. Since I am ALSO a grandmother, that is what I answer, while correcting the misconception, saying that I AM their mother. I carried them in my womb, I nursed them at my breast and I have been here for them 24/7 all of their lives (they are now 18 and 21).

So this adoptee’s very young cousin said he wished he had his mom’s eye color like this adoptee got her adoptive mother’s eye color. She told him honestly that the woman who gave birth to her didn’t have that color of eyes either. That it was just a coincidence. Her cousin asked further questions and she answered honestly. That she had come from a different country and that is why she looks different from him and from her adoptive family. She explained that their DNA was different. He was young enough that after her explanation, he just went back to playing with his Legos because he was satisfied.

Later, her aunt (this cousin’s mother) expressed her disapproval to the adoptee. She said that the adoptee didn’t have to tell the boy that she was not her mother’s “real” daughter. The adoptee affirmed that she didn’t say it that way. The aunt was unhappy that the adoptee would admit to other people that her unusual eye color (blue) didn’t come from her adoptive mother. That separating herself that way from the rest of the family was hurtful to all of them.

This story reminds me of the Toni Morrison novel – The Bluest Eye – that I read (it is a very sad and disturbing story). This adoptee says that her adoptive father used to sing Elton John’s song Blue Eyes to her. The adoptee said AITA for saying I’m adopted ? I didn’t know this song until today.

Guilt

Today, I’ll let the feelings and thoughts speak for themselves. (Not my own personal experience.) From blogger – At The Willow Tree.

Today marks one week since I had to give him away.

You’ve probably heard that being a foster parent is rewarding. You’ve probably heard that it is challenging. You’ve probably heard that there is grief in saying goodbye. You’ve probably heard that there is joy in knowing we were there when it counted.

But have you heard of “foster parent” guilt?

I hadn’t. In fact, since I’ve been fostering, I still haven’t heard anyone mention it. This is the first I’ve spoken of it.

You see I had this sweet little love until Thursday of last week.

He came to us at three weeks old. He had to have an extended stay in the hospital to help his little body detox, followed by two failed placement attempts with relatives… they gave him back to CPS, TWICE.

I remember his perfect little face, fingers and toes on the day he came HOME. Now he’s almost six months old. He’s finally sleeping through the night, two weeks ago he rolled over for the first time and he’s almost sitting up on his own! He’s devouring any solid food he can get his cute, chubby little hands on. He is a real smiler, it literally goes from ear to ear. He can’t help it. He is my happy boy. He looks to me for comfort and security. You see, I was his constant. I was his safe place. I was his everything, until last Thursday.

My home was the only one he’s ever known. My arms were the ones that he’s happiest in. My voice is the one that calmed him. My family was his family. He trusted me totally, completely, utterly, unquestionably.

And what shatters my heart is that I had to betray his trust. He wasn’t mine to keep. I know that – BUT HE DIDN’T.

This last week has been a blur. The long awaited court hearing has come and gone. I found out that the home approval had last minute been approved for another relative. The judge approved moving my boy again to yet more relatives. I had two hours after the court hearing to pack what I could, say goodbye and drop my baby off in an unfamiliar town, in a strange parking lot with more caseworkers. I watched as they drove away with him searching for ME! The guilt is crushing.

I had to give him away.

And as much as that hurt me, the thing that I can’t bear is how it has hurt him. How his little innocent heart, which believed I would protect him from everything, is now so deeply and irreparably hurt by me.

Please don’t be quick to jump and tell me not to feel guilty. Don’t say it’s not my fault. Don’t remind me of the good I’ve done and how that will set him up so well. Because in my head I know these things. I know them. But however true they are, they can’t change the facts.

Foster care will always, always be second best. And moving these already broken little people on to yet another home will always, always cause even more trauma. It’s unavoidable. It’s not my fault, yes – but I am still caught up in the process. And it is still me who had to look into those sparkling, big brown beautiful eyes, so full of trust and love – and then hand him over to strangers, and leave.

I’m sure he has cried for ME. He has searched for ME. He feels abandoned by ME.

So yes, I am guilty. And I am heartbroken. And so incredibly sad and sorry for the unfairness of this world.

But there is hope. And faith. And love. And in the truest, wisest book ever written we are told that love is the greatest.

Colorblind Idealism

There seems to have been an evolution among some citizens in the United States to realize that racially colorblindness isn’t really the answer to racism. In the evolution of adoption and in an attempt to get some children in foster care placed in stable homes, transracial adoption was seen as the answer. As some of these adoptees have reached adulthood, they are increasingly speaking out about why growing up black in a predominantly white community and school has proven challenging, even difficult for them.

Recently The Washington Post had an article by Rachel Hatzipanagos that focuses on transracial adoptees – I know my parents love me, but they don’t love my people. A few years ago, there was a Medium piece – The Myth of Colorblindness by Rosa Perez-Isiah.

For adoptees, their adoptive parents couldn’t see and rarely talked about the racism they experienced. Classmates’ racist comments about their hair and eyes were dismissed as harmless curiosity. America’s racial dynamics were explained in the language of “colorblind” idealism. 

In her Medium piece, Perez-Isiah says – Colorblindness is the belief that we don’t see color or race, that we see people and that we are all the same. These beliefs are widely held by well intentioned people, including educators and school leaders. These are idealistic beliefs and there are a number of issues with this ideology. Colorblindness negates our diversity, race and culture because we all see color and we all have biases. When we identify as colorblind, we are suppressing our authentic views and in the process, perpetuating systemic racism. Race matters and it has impacts on opportunities, education and actual income (as well as its future potential). Colorblindness oppresses people of color. When you fail to see color, you fail to acknowledge the current narrative, a system of injustice for many non-white people.

Cross-cultural adoptions have been debated for decades. In 1972, the National Association of Black Social Workers took a strong stand against the adoption of Black children by White parents. Several years later, the federal Indian Child Welfare Act was passed to address the wave of Native American children being separated from their tribes and placed with White families.

The growth in transracial adoptions from foster care in recent years has far outpaced the growth in same-race adoptions and transracial adoption is now 28% of all domestic adoptions in the United States. More recently, the national conversation about systemic racism (driven by George Floyd’s death in 2020) has cast a new light on interracial adoption and prompted transracial families to confront the unspoken cultural divides in their own homes.

For adoptees, there is a transracial adoption paradox. Growing up, they experience many of the privileges that come with Whiteness because of their adoptive parents. When they then enter the school system or move out of the family home to live independently as adults later in life, they’re confronted with the reality of being perceived and treated as a racial minority. Not so subtle is the experience of white students putting their pencils in the hair of a Black student and marveling at the way the texture makes them stay in place.

When adoption agencies take on a color-evasive approach with hopeful prospective adoptive parents, they signal to these white parents that race does not need to be a significant factor in their decision-making. Then, by extension, it is no surprise that these adoptive parents might not think that the race of their adoptees is a significant factor in raising their child. Often these parents naively hope their support will make up for racial difference, even when they acknowledge there are challenges in raising a child of a different race.

From a transracial adoptee – “I believe that a lot of people think that adoption is this beautiful, magical, straightforward process. And also when they think of adoption, that they are centering around this “White savior” image and focusing on adoptive parents more than adoptees. And/or birth, biological parents — those two seem to get left out of the narrative a lot. I also believe that adoption from a birth mother, birth parent perspective can be very intense, very complex, very emotional. And I believe that we need to lean in and listen to adoptees and birth parents more.”

Today, many adoptees have their DNA tested, either at Ancestry or 23 and Me. For an adoptee that was raised white, it can be an amazing experience to discover their father is Black and see somebody that looks like them, finally a true racial mirror. One mixed race adoptee notes – “I think a lot of White people think that they have a good handle on race … and have what they would call a ‘colorblind’ kind of mentality. But I don’t think they understand that when you say the word ‘colorblind,’ what I hear is ‘I see you as White’.”

Another transracial adoptee suggests – “I think first acknowledging that your child is not White is, like, a huge step for a lot of White adoptive parents is to, like, see outside. Because a lot of parents see their child as, this is just your kid. They don’t see them in racialized terms. But in seeing them in that colorblind way, you are not protecting them. You are not preparing them to grow up and be an adult.”

Adoption is a trauma. Every adoptee has a different response to their trauma. Often it takes therapy to understand what was experienced as a pre-verbal infant and more importantly, how it continues affecting the adult adoptee. Therapy can help an adoptee get over feeling defective simply because they were given up for adoption. It can require learning that babies are placed for adoption for a number of reasons and that none of those reasons have to do with the baby or the value of that baby regardless of their skin color. The adoptee, not the adoptive parents, needs to be the center of their own life and story. Much of the narrative around adoption centers on the adoptive parents and frames their actions as selflessness and saving a child.

One Black adoptee admits –  I longed, and continue to long, to understand why I needed to be adopted, why I needed to be shipped across the country, why I couldn’t stay in the South, why I couldn’t stay with Black families, why I couldn’t have stayed with at least my biological extended family.” And though I am white and my mother was white too, this is a universal need in adoptees. My mom’s genetic, biological family was in the rural South and she was taken by train from Memphis to Nogales Arizona by her adoptive mother. For a long time, my mother believed she had been born in Memphis, a belief her adoptive mother was also led to believe by Georgia Tann, until birth certificate alterations made clear my mom had been born in Virginia which just made my mom believe she must have been stolen from her mother because things like that happened with Georgia Tann’s adoption practices.

Sadly, the saviorism of white adoptive parents is just so prevalent. Unfortunately, there is a deep-seated belief that white people can take care of Black people better. I have been learning a lot about this in overall society by reading White Tears/Brown Scars by Ruby Hamad.

I end today’s blog back where I started with the issue of colorblindness – Why is the colorblind narrative popular? The Medium piece notes – it is easier to identify as colorblind than acknowledge differences that make us uncomfortable. This is easier for people to handle, especially in schools where we may lack the information and guidance to have difficult conversations about race. Another reason is simply not knowing…you don’t know what you don’t know. Many people also repeat what they’ve been taught and fail to reflect or question those beliefs. In the end, we don’t realize how harmful the myth of colorblindness can be.

Adoption is a challenging situation regardless – add in racial differences and it becomes doubly so. It takes courage and practice to shift from a colorblind to a color BRAVE ideology.

Common Adoption Issue Books For Kids

Someone mentioned a book about a rabbit couple who adopted a squirrel and then take the squirrel to meet the other squirrels. Living in a rural area, rabbits and squirrels are everywhere. I searched but could not find it. There are some books that I did find that do not God or glorify adoption.

Pink Flamingo by Jane Porter is not about adoption per se. It is about a Lion raised by Flamingos. He meets his Lion family and ends up being the best parts of both the lions and the flamingos. Descriptions of the book say is about learning to be yourself, even if that means you are different from those around you. And truly, adoptees very often DO feel different from the rest of the family they have been embedded in.

The Mulberry Bird by Anne Braff Braff Brodzinsky seems to touch on some of the issues that tear apart some mothers and their child and end in adoption. The mother bird is looking after her baby bird in the forest, when a huge storm scatters her nest. Try as she might, she just can’t give him the protection he needs. She faces a choice: continue to struggle on her own, or give her precious baby bird to another family who can care for him in their strong, secure nest. The book addresses common issues in adoption such as the enduring force of a birth parent’s love and contact post-adoption to the importance of nurturing an adopted child in his or her new environment. It is a timeless and enduring tale of sacrifice, wisdom and love.

While not about reunion per se, a school assignment to complete a family tree can be painful for a child who was adopted. Lucy’s Family Tree by Karen Halvorsen Schreck tells the story of when Lucy comes home from school with a family tree assignment. She asks her parents to write her a note to excuse her from the task. Lucy’s adoption from Mexico makes her feel as though her family is too “different,” but her parents gently and wisely challenge Lucy to think some more about it. By the conclusion, Lucy feels better about her situation and has devised a way to create a family tree that honors both her birth parents and the parents who are raising her. 

It is fairly common for adoptees to fantasized about their original parents. In Oliver, A Story About Adoption by Lois Wickstrom that issue is addressed. Oliver gets angry at his parents when he is sent to his room for playing in a tree that was too young to be climbed. Oh, if only he still lived with his birthparents! What could he do if he were with them? Be a scientist? Or a trapeze artist? Do other people wish for other parents when they are angry with their own? The adoptive parents let Oliver know that when they were children and got angry at their parents, they fantasized that they were adopted and that their natural parents were more fun to be with.

Jazzy is a transracial adoptee who is the heroine of her own story. In Jazzy’s Quest – Adopted and Amazing by Carrie Goldman and Juliet Bond issues of identity, the challenge of fitting in and seeking an answer to the question of special vs different are validated. Jazzy, loved and supported by both her birth and adoptive families but still struggles. Where do interests and talents actually come from ? Your adoptive family, your birth family or truly, from somewhere deep inside yourself.

Adopting To Create Converts

I have 3 new books related in one way or another to adoption and was holding off the mention of any of them but I have long suspected that evangelicals are adopting to create converts.  Similar to my blog yesterday related to overpopulation, this is another way that a child is objectified to accomplish a mission that is not actually related to the child’s well-being.

So, I haven’t read this book yet but I will and after I read it, I may have more to say from my own perspective.  There is so much wrong with this.  Transracial adoptions are by far even more damaging and complex than same race adoptions and I recently wrote about one of those as well.

“Evangelicals felt that they had kind of unfairly lost a claim to the good works side of Christianity, the social gospel, the helping the poor,” the author tells Fresh Air‘s Dave Davies in an interview, “and so they wanted a way to get back into doing something for poor people’s rights, and adoption and orphan care came about as something that, I think, they could really invest themselves into without challenging or changing their stances on the other social issues that they care about.”

Joyce says that the connection between abortion and adoption is also key in that many Christians see adoption as a ready answer to the longstanding abortion debate.  Conservative evangelicals have helped orchestrate a boom-and-bust adoption market in countries where people are poor, regulations are weak, and families are vulnerable to these agencies that are sending representatives abroad to recruit “orphans.” It is not uncommon, says Joyce, for these orphans to come from caring families who have a different understanding of adoption than Americans do: They agree to send their children away, thinking it’s temporary – for a better education and opportunities – and that the child will eventually return.

These evangelical Christian couples believe that God has destined this child to be in their family from the beginning of time.  There is absolutely a missionary or evangelizing angle. A lot of the leaders in this movement, who have written some serious books talking about the adoption of children, describe this as the way that Christians can best mirror the experience of their own salvation – that Christians were adopted by God – and so Christians must reflect that experience by then going and adopting children.