There's a lot of perceptive writing going on this month over at the Lost Daughters adoption blog. Contributors there and on their own blogs have been responding to daily adoption "prompts" to commemorate National Adoption Awareness Month.
Originally a state-based initiative intended to raise awareness about the needs of foster-care children who need permanent homes, National Adoption Awareness Month has strayed far from its intentions in recent years.
Now it is more often used by adoption agencies to market their services than it is to spotlight the needs of foster-care kids. Unfortunately, the agencies and adoption attorneys in their eagerness to find babies for perspective adoptive couples often reinforce stereotypes about adoption, and the complexities of adoption and the voices of adoptees themselves are almost always overshadowed.
The writers at Lost Daughters, all grown adoptees, would like to change that dynamic. They are working hard to put the focus back on the adoptee herself, and they are correcting much of the misinformation about adoption that is often spread during the month of November.
All of the posts are informative and perceptive, but three of them have especially resonated with me: Deanna Shrodes' "Blogging Adoption and Everyday Life," and the posts by WP and Rebecca Hawkes responding to a prompt about the adoption stories they were told by their adoptive parents as children.
Shrodes is a writer, speaker and pastor who has just recently begun to write about adoption. As she explains in her article, she remained quiet for years for fear of offending certain members of her family and the conservative religious groups in which she was involved.
But like many adoptees, Shrodes paid a price for her silence. "I played along with a script given to me," she writes, but "staying quiet about my true feelings ... fostered a 45-year-old emotional wound." She was blind-sided by the grief she came to feel about losing her original family.
Eventually, says Shrodes, she came to realize that "silence was a horrible antidote to pain" and that silence was not an acceptable option for her either "as a human being or as a Christian." As slow as progress has been in the adoption reform movement, I am encouraged about the future of adoption every time another voice like Deanna's joins the growing adoptee chorus. These voices simply cannot be ignored forever.
Now a passionate supporter of adult adoptee rights, Shrodes has come to realize that Christianity in its more fundamental forms is "unfortunately one of the biggest if not the biggest obstacles to equal rights for adoptees." Like many of us, Shrodes is working to correct the stereotype that abortion rates are adversely affected by more transparency in adoption. As she explains, "I am pro-life. I'm just not pro-secrets."
The corrosive power of lifetime secrets in adoption is a common theme among adoptee voices. So is the concept of "playing along with the script given to us." As WP explains in her article responding to a prompt about childhood adoption narratives, "To a large extent, my adoption was presented (to me) within the framework of my parents' desires." Like WP, many of us were told, as agencies advised, that "your parents were unable to provide a stable home for you" and that "we wanted you very badly."
We were expected by the powers-that-be to be content with such limited information.
As WP so eloquently says, "I'm angry that those in charge thought I should be given so very little" when the real point should be: "It's a hard story, but it's your story and you have a right to know it."
This thought is echoed in Rebecca Hawkes' post about the stories our adoptive parents told us. "My childhood adoption narrative wasn't so much false," she writes, "as it was incomplete." Her adoptive parents were (and are) loving and conscientious people, she says, and they believed, because they were told it was so, that she would grow up feeling "as if born to" her adoptive family.
Hawkes, like many of us grown adoptees, had been told very little about her original parents. They were young and unable to care for her, and she should always understand how very much "she was wanted" and loved by her adoptive parents.
Hawkes' story is very much like my own. I grew up knowing virtually nothing about my original parents, and it was just assumed that I would have no need for such information. My parents did just what the agency told them to do -- they provided a loving, stable environment, and the idea was that the original parents just shouldn't matter.
The problem is that they did matter to me, even though I loved my adoptive parents deeply. My original parents are, after all, a part of me. For many years, I drove my feelings underground in order to meet cultural expectations and to spare the feelings of my adoptive family, but eventually I felt what I would call a spiritual need to connect with my original mother. Mine was not a Norman-Rockwell type of reunion. But it was an exchange that did provide me with a much-needed emotional closure.
As Hawkes so wisely writes in her recent post, "My true adoption narrative was one I needed to write myself." And that's the point. All adoptees as adults should have the freedom to come to terms with their own adoption narratives. No one else should be writing the script for them about their own lives and histories. Certainly no state or agency should ever be in the business of locking away for life the adoptee's own legal certificate of birth.
What is truly disheartening today is that many agencies and adoption attorneys continue to act as if original parents just shouldn't matter, and as if equal rights for adult adoptees just aren't important. Such sentiments may be what perspective adoptive parents want to hear, but they are not shared by most adult adoptees.
Secrecy and lies corrode the soul. Hosts of adoptees and original parents can attest to that truth. We can only hope that sites like Lost Daughters will continue to attract more and more readers, and that writers like Deanna Shrodes will continue to challenge the conservative church's misguided approach to the practice of adoption.
You might also like:
Maybe "Angry Adoptees" Are Just Well Informed
Adoption and Magical Thinking
Shading the Truth to Ease the Fears of Adoptive Parents
Adoptive Parents and Pro-lifers who Cannot or Will Not See the Realities of Adoption