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Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Adoptive Parents and Pro-lifers who Cannot or Will Not See the Realities of Adoption

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:

Adam, please keep writing about the media's portrayal of adoption, and please keep advocating for the right of adult adoptees to secure their own legal documents of birth with no strings attached. We have a long way to go, especially in the legislative arena, and the institution of adoption continues to be tainted by the fact that adult adoptees are still treated like second-class citizens in most of the US.
03:31 PM on 09/14/2012
As an adult adoptee myself, how on earth are adult adoptees being treated like second class citizens? What about the birth parents' right to privacy? Is that unimportant?
11:52 AM on 09/17/2012
Would you not agree that our genes are part of who we are? In my own case, I was denied access to a medical protocol as a cancer patient because I had no ready access to my family health history. Is that not second-class treatment? I eventually found and contacted my birth mother, and she shared medical and family history with me, although she did not wish to have a continuing relationship. I have respected her wishes and her privacy. I think you are confusing privacy and anonymity from your own offspring. A woman's wish to keep secrets should never trump the physical and emotional well-being of the child, now grown-up. Also, statistics from states that have re-instated adult adoptee access to original birth certificates show that very few birth parents elect to have no contact at all. I believe your fears are unfounded.
12:05 PM on 09/17/2012
"A woman's wish to keep secrets should never trump the physical and emotional well-being of the child, now grown-up"

OK, and look how many woman are now aborting rather than giving their babies for adoption due to very real fears about their anonymity.  Anytime a woman is willing to give birth and place that baby for adoption rather than aborting, I think we can and should promise her whatever she wants.  I personally know women who have aborted rather than given birth because of stuff like this.  I think your views are quite selfish.
22 hours ago ( 2:35 PM)
Please take a look at the article at It presents a lot of research that should put your mind at ease. I encourage you to read it with an open mind. I'm not interested in continuing this argument with you personally, but I do encourage you to look at the available studies. My contact with my original mother has hurt nobody, and frankly, whether or not we choose to have a relationship when we are both adults is none of your business.
22 minutes ago (11:45 AM)
Agree to disagree.

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.

You might also like:

Adoptee Rights and a Woman's Reproductive Choices

Why do State Bar Associations Oppose Adoptee Rights?

Pro-life Ideology and Adoptee Rights

Gov. Chris Christie, Adoptee Rights, and Political Games


  1. "I want to adopt children who are ready to move on."

    This has to be one of the most outrageous statements I've ever heard in my life. What is she going to do? Interview different children and see which one is ready to move on? I guess the potential adopted kid would have to be old enough to talk and understand the question. Of course, we all know what will happen. This poor adopted child who has already been moved half way around the world will have to deny her own feelings to keep the peace and remain secure in our adoptive home. I mean, really, does any child ever completely lose their tie to their original parents? I don't think so.

    And then you ask, how were these people approved to adopt? It doesn't surprise me at all. Given that there are plenty of less than stellar adoptive parents out there it certainly doesn't seem that the requirements are terribly stringent to qualify to adopt.

  2. Yes, Robin,
    The ignorance about adoption realities in some circles is just appalling, and I do reserve special blame for adoption facilitators who should know better, but who ignore adoption research in their efforts to appease adoptive parent insecurities and to close the deal. We have to remember that there are plenty of less than stellar biological parents out there too, but presumably, adoptive parents have been screened for their suitability. Obviously, comprehensive screening is not occurring in some cases. It is those adoptive parents who truly want the best for their children and who listen to adult adoptee voices with open minds who give me hope.

  3. It seems so obvious that the child's best interests should always be the most important, but I know that's rarely the case.

  4. Ready to move on? Guess I wasn't. I'm 49, and in reunion with my family for 2 1/2 years, the only happy years of my entire life. Adopters who think that we will "move on" and forget our families are deluded and sick.

  5. In my opinion, it's still the adoptee’s right to know where they came. It is really hard to move on when there's something missing in your life. I think that's reason why adoptees in general are very sensitive with regards to this matter. The most important thing that we should consider is paying them respect with their privacy.

    Aiko Dumas

    1. Agreed, Aiko. We should be trusted to approach original parents in a private and sensitive way, if we desire to connect. There is a big difference between relationship and contact, and adults should be left alone to address their very personal business, without agency or government interference.

  6. Well said! Your call to serve the interest of all involved will fall on deaf ears, of course, because adoptive parents (backed by lawyers and others who profit off the industry) have all the power in this triangle. NOT the low-resource, often young, birth mothers. And certainly NOT the children. The system is the way adoptive parents want it. Legally enforced open adoptions, registries, and (gasp) open records laws are what THEY don't want and it sickens me that they're the first ones to speak FOR BIRTH MOTHERS, claiming to know how BIRTH MOTHERS think and feel about such things. If adoptive parents really wanted more adoptions to happen, they'd do their own grief work and quit insisting that their need to deny the reality of their childrens history run this show. And again, that'll never happen because with power and money come all the denial you need.


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