I give my adoptive parents a free pass for not better understanding the complexities of adoption. I am 62 years old, and my parents adopted during an era when social workers actually believed the adoptive family was just like any other. Infants were viewed as "blank slates," and there was little knowledge or understanding then about an adopted child's need to know anything about his or her birth family and origins.
I give myself a free pass for not pushing the issue harder with my adoptive parents. I loved them, and I could tell they felt threatened by my desire to know my birth history. Also, as a child and young adult, I didn't have the confidence or the social resources and support that I have now.
I give my original mother a free pass for not wishing to meet with me face-to-face. Her decision hurt me, but she relinquished during a different time that presented different challenges, and I can understand how she might have used denial as a tool to cope with her experience.
Today, during these times, I'm no longer distributing free passes when it comes to ignorance about adoption. We have the data and research to support the fact that secrecy does not serve the best interest of the child. Think tanks like the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute have published numerous research studies recommending that every state allow adult adoptees unrestricted access to their original birth certificates, and showing that there is no link between the rates of abortion and more openness in adoption.
However, ignorance about adoption is still widespread, and in many cases, it is fueled by agencies and attorneys who facilitate adoptions, and the lobbying groups that represent them, such as the National Council for Adoption and state bar associations. Right to Life groups likewise promote ignorance about the complexities of adoption when they present it as a simple win-win solution to the abortion problem.
Should adoption exist as an institution whose primary mission is to serve adults? Or should it exist as an institution whose primary mission is to serve children? When those who facilitate adoptions infer that a child's birth history is irrelevant and unimportant, they are clearly defining their message to serve the adults, not the children involved. And as a result, we get thinking like that of the adoptive mother whose comments were recently cited at the iAdoptee blog site. Here is what this adoptive mother had to say:
"Honestly, I want NO attachment to the family of origin. None. I want to adopt children who are ready to move on."
"If a child has delusions of being reunited (with) a parent from whom she was severed legally, that child does not need me. They need therapy ..."
"To create a fantasy world for a perspective child, or to accommodate a teenager who has given birth out of wedlock is wrong and counter productive."
And finally -- ..."The US social service system is why people such as myself go abroad."
First of all, I grieve for the Korean child placed with this family. What chance will she have to develop a positive self-image when her very beginnings are so devalued? She will never feel free to explore her roots in a family that clearly feels her roots are none of her business. Worse, she is likely to feel that there is something very wrong about her roots. And talking about creating a fantasy world, isn't it a fantasy to expect that a child, for the entire duration of her life, will accept the fact that she has only one set of parents when in fact she has two sets? We know from social science research that such attitudes are in fact harmful to adopted children. So how on earth was this family ever approved as an appropriate placement?
This kind of ignorance is beyond discouraging, as is the mindset of many members of pro-life organizations. Last month, I commented on a Huffington Post adoption story and received a response from a pro-lifer that led to a rather depressing exchange. I'll reprint it for you here:
Well, at least we ended the exchange in a civil manner, agreeing to disagree! But honestly, getting some pro-lifers to believe that allowing adult adoptees access to their original birth certificates will not increase the rate of abortions is like trying to move a mountain. The choice is not as easy as adoption on the one hand, or abortion on the other, and some in the pro-life community recognize that fact. Referring to a then-recent study, President of LifeNet Services Paul Swope wrote in 1998: "A pressure to end a pregnancy with an adoption does not save a child from abortion, but may in fact, be a determining factor in a woman choosing to terminate the pregnancy. ... A woman desperately wants a sense of resolution to her crisis, and in her mind adoption leaves the situation the most unresolved ... This study suggests that in pitting adoption against abortion, adoption will be the hands-down loser."
As I've said before, if the pro-life movement is serious about promoting adoption, then it should join the nationwide movement to reform adoption so that it better serves the needs of all the people it touches. And better serving the needs of the people involved means putting the child's interests first and facing up to the fact that adoption involves losses and complexities that must be addressed.
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