Raising an adoptive child is not the same as raising a biological child. It's not better, it's not worse, it's just different, and it requires from prospective adoptive parents a prepared and educated mindset. Why is this simple truth so hard for some people to understand?
I suppose it boils down to the fact that people really want to believe the simple concept that "love conquers all."
Certainly the adoption industry and attorneys who place babies for adoption want to promote that concept -- it's good for business to present adoption as an uncomplicated and "beautiful way to build a family."
Adoption can be an appropriate way to build a family, if all other options have been exhausted, and if all members within the adoption circle are treated fairly and with respect. But adoption is rarely simple, and someone is almost always treated unfairly and without respect. It is all too easy to strip identity rights from infants, who cannot speak for themselves. And it is all too easy to placate the desires of adoptive parents, the paying customers, without educating them about the psychology of adoption in a responsible way.
Adoption is a complex process that demands extra empathy and understanding, and for adoption to become a respected institution, free of the scandal and controversy that now plague it, that complexity and the inequities of the system as it is now practiced must be acknowledged.
First Mother Forum just ran a beautiful commentary on this issue from adoptive mother Gale Thompson. Many adoptive parents in her church, Thompson relates, do not want to face the fact that raising adoptive children presents some unique challenges. Thompson says her views are too often discounted when she attempts to share what she has learned as the mother of two older, adopted youth. Other adoptive parents, she finds, want to believe that "their kids won't have issues because their love will be 'enough.'"
The myth that "love conquers all" in adoption dies hard. As Thompson so eloquently explains, "An adoptive mother has to accept that her child's desire to reconnect with his or her birth mother has nothing to do with her personally."
This is a key point that every adoption practitioner should be addressing. But instead many practitioners -- the National Council for Adoption and state bar associations representing adoption attorneys -- continue to advocate for sealed records, to "protect the privacy of birth parents," they say.
Many original parents have come forward to say that they were never promised anonymity from their own children and that they do not desire it. A thorough academic study of the history of sealed records has revealed that the sealing practice began to protect the adoptive family from "unwarranted intrusion," not the original parent from later contact from her offspring. In states that have released original birth certificates to adopted adults, fewer than one percent of original mothers have signed contact preference forms saying they prefer to remain anonymous.
Yet business professionals in the adoption field continue to use the privacy argument as their rationale for denying adopted adults access to their own legal documents of birth. Their real motive, I think, is this: They want adoptive parents to believe that adoption is an uncomplicated and beautiful way to build a family. They want them to believe that if they love the child enough, the identity of the original parents will never be relevant or important. They want them to believe that in adoption, "love will conquer all."
What a disservice such attitudes render to everyone affected by adoption! For those of us who have been denied access to our medical history and the most basic information about ourselves, love has not conquered all the inequities of the adoption system. The adoption industry has not served my "best interests" well. And it hasn't served the best interests of adoptive parents, either, when it has insisted that raising adopted children is just the same as raising biological children.
As adoptive mother Gale Thompson writes, "Knowing that your love alone isn't 'enough' can strike at a woman's core values (as a nurturer) and sense of identity." Why set adoptive parents up for a sense of failure by refusing to inform them that adopted people will most likely want to know who gave them birth? Why not share that that desire is perfectly normal and in no way diminishes a child's love for her adoptive parents?
Sealed records throughout an adoptee's lifetime are demeaning, discriminatory and wrong. Period. All the love in the world can never undo that basic fact.