Adoption BEwareness Month Part II

It’s that time of year again, when I can’t open a paper or glance at a web site without being innundated by how WONDERFUL adoption is and isn’t it too bad we don’t have more of it.
Sigh.
Forget the rainbows and fluffy animals. Others have mentioned this, and I believe also, that it would be far more effective to spend November analyzing the less savory sides of adoption.
Such as honoring Strange And Mournful Day, when mothers take time to contemplate how the adoption industry robbed them of their children, their dignity, and their self-respect.
Or reviewing how supposedly respected organizations like Catholic Charities can so royally screw up their (expensive) intermediary services that purportedly “help” adoptees and birth relatives reconnect. (90% success rate?! I want to hear how many applications got dropped on the floor a la the Illinois Confidential Intermediary Service. Likewise, I bet CC is also pre screening to insure success before accepting participants–skews the figures nicely.) You’ve got to wonder what CC is trying to conceal, that they’re refusing to help straighten out this appalling situation. Don’t tell me the law doesn’t allow it, that’s a cop-out similar to “I was just following orders”.
What about donor-conceived people who have no access to their medical records? What about cases like the sperm donor who passed on a life-threatening genetic condition? Doesn’t anybody give a damn that we are creating human beings willy-nilly with no regard for their rights as human beings? I don’t mean embryos, I mean the rights of real-live people who are suffering because others want to conceal errors and misdeeds.
How about discussing the strange case of the birth mother so upset at being contacted by the child-now-adult she gave up for adoption that she feels the need to plaster her story all over the place, in some kind of insane attempt to… do what? Garner sympathy? Destroy any hope of open records? Demonstrate how ungrateful we adoptees are, especially those of us who *gasp* search? Because being adopted automatically turns us into crazy stalkers, it’s right there in the Player’s Handbook. Oh, and our heads spin 360 while we projectile vomit, too. But genealogy is A-OK if you’re, say, the First Lady, or anybody else for that matter. Now, gimme back my dice so I can keep playing the D&D version of Adoption Stereotypes. I’ve got a new character to roll:
THE PSYCHO BIRTH MOTHER
Strength: Limitless
Intelligence: Questionable
Charisma: 18 (+30 to News Media)
Weapon: +10 Glaive Of Victimization
Armor: Shield Of Anti-Reflection
When confronted with the Stalker Adoptee, the Birth Mother Promised Confidentiality morphs into the Psycho Birth Mother. Not only has she never regretted her decision, she’s the one being victimized and wants only to maintain her privacy, which is why she touts her story to any News Media she can find. Her siren call is: “Don’t open the records! It’ll destroy women like me!” Ignoring her sister birth mothers, who may actually (horrors!) desire and seek contact with their offspring, she hides in plain sight, turning any adoptees who cross her path back into Perpetual Children. The Psycho Birth Mother refuses to look at herself in a mirror, because deep down she knows what she’s doing is wrong.
As I said on Osolomama’s blog, if women don’t want the offspring they gave up for adoption to contact them, then they ought to support open adoption records. Because as it stands in closed records states, the only way for adoptees to obtain info is to contact their birth mothers. (And no offense intended by my use of that term; I’m using it strictly for search engine purposes. As far as I’m concerned these women are mothers, no adjective.)

Personally, November is very hard for me. For one thing, it’s my daughter’s birthday. She is my eldest and the very first biological relative I ever saw in the flesh. That is so messed up I cannot even begin to tell you. So to have Adoption Awareness Month be the same as the anniversary of her arrival is really difficult. The last thing I need are painful reminders that she and my son are the only biological relatives I may ever know. I am also irate that the whole adoption thing spoils my ability to be able to enjoy her birthday. This month should be all about HER, turning six and getting pink princess presents. She shouldn’t have to have a mother who’s distracted by fighting the ghosts of adoption past, present and future. Adoption affects my kids, too, and they had nothing to do with it!
It’s also that time of thanksgiving, of being grateful… and I am damn sick of being told, as an adoptee, to be grateful. It’s a time of family and since I’ve been disowned from my adoptive family and denied existence by my birth family, that only makes it worse. I could tell you the reason I haven’t blogged much lately is because I’m busy with work and other things. It’s even true. But the other reason is that I am so effing sick of adoption at this time of year that I can’t think straight.

Thank goodness for Doctor Who or I might not make it through this year. I’m planning to enjoy the last episodes of the Tenth Doctor to the fullest, and I don’t need adoption casting a pall over my escapism, thank you very much. In fact, adoption is the reason for it.
Adoption might as well be a rusty knife in my stomach. It’s hard to tell what hurts worse, going in or coming out, but either way it’ll poison you for life.
Yeah, I need a whole month to be reminded of that.

Indoctrination Through Adoption

Osolomama’s recent post, Adoption: When Satan Doesn’t Want You To, brings up the disturbingly increasing trend of fundamentalist Christians who are adopting so as to indoctrinate children into their particular flavor of Christianity. Before I get into this, let me point out that I don’t have a problem with Christianity per se. I do, however, have a problem with ANY religion that attempts to impose itself upon others, especially children who have no ability to stand up for themselves.
Witness (heh) some of these quotes from evangelicals attempting to justify their actions:
  • The Lord is calling them to that ministry.
  • [God] predestined the path of the child by adoption.
  • Adoption is war because Satan and unseen beings contest it. They oppose adoption . . .
(Shouldn’t that be a corellary to Godwin’s Law: that if you bring up Satan in an argument it’s automatically over?)
But what is most horrifying is the quote in the comments, from an adoptive parent’s blog:

“we also have the advantage of understanding our host culture’s worldview and their very deep superstitious beliefs. thus, we were not surprised that sterling was given to us with a jade luck charm – a buddhist charm meant to bring good luck, fortune and protection. we, however, know that this charm is associated with spiritual forces meant to keep people in bondage. thus, we smiled and accepted it as we should, and then later went to the park, broke it, and threw it into the pond, and prayed for our sterling that all spiritual bondage over him would be broken. these spiritual forces are alive and real, and manifest themselves in more obvious ways (but with the same degree of power) than in the west, but we know that the power and grace of the God who created the heavens and the earth is infinitely greater than the forces of evil.”

On behalf of the adoptee in question, I am F—ING PISSED. These adopters had absolutely no business breaking that charm, which the adoptee might very well have cherished throughout his life as a tangible link to his past. This isn’t about “breaking the spiritual bondage over him”, it’s about imposing their own flavor of spiritual bondage, not to mention their claim on him to the utter exclusion of his birth parents. And since when is Buddhism evil? Do they even know the first thing about Buddhism? To make the child witness this… what a horrific thing to do, telling the kid his culture and heritage is evil, which by extension means his birth family and he, himself, are also. How the hell do people like this pass home studies? (Never mind. We all know home studies aren’t worth crap.)
People like this scare the, ahem, bejesus out of me. If you don’t believe exactly what they believe, you are E-VIL. Is that really what a Christian savior and a loving God would want? Don’t you think there’s room in God’s creation for a little Buddhist peace, or Jewish prayer, or Wiccan love? I pray that any adoptee who has the misfortune to be adopted by such perverse indoctrinators finds it within themselves to seek out their own spirituality, whatever that may be. As long as we all try our best to be good, kind, compassionate people, it doesn’t matter if we pray to God or Goddess or the Spaghetti Monster. Geez, didn’t you people read The Chronicles Of Narnia (written by a Christian, no less):

For I [Aslan] and he [Tash] are of such different kinds that no service which is vile can be done to me, and none which is not vile can be done to him. Therefore, if any man swear by Tash and keep his oath for the oath’s sake, it is by me he has truly sworn, though he know it not, and it is I who reward him. And if any man do a cruelty in my name, then, though he says the name Aslan, it is Tash whom he serves and by Tash his deed is accepted.

If you can’t be open-minded about the culture and religion from which the child comes, you have no goddamn business adopting!

Adoption Bias: One Sided Triangles Fall Flat

A while back I posted an item from the Chicago Tribune’s Problem Solver column in which an adult adoptee was denied her passport because she erroneously assumed her amended (falsified) Illinois birth certificate granted her citizenship. I subsequently posted the followup in which she was able to gain a passport, not from the U.S. but from her country of birth. At the time of the first article I wrote to Problem Solver Jon Yates explaining that this is not an isolated incident and that all adult adoptees with sealed records are in danger of being denied necessary documents like passports and driver’s licenses. I received no reply and the Tribune made no further mention of the case, leading its readers to continue assuming that such incidents are rare and isolated.

Today’s Trib celebrates four years of the Problem Solver column, with Mr. Yates highlighting some of his favorite cases. He describes one that was so poignant he keeps the picture in his office:

When Jill and Jason Alexander wrote me asking for help getting a passport so they could travel to China and adopt a son, I was more than happy to place some calls. Shortly thereafter, the Alexanders wrote me a thank-you note I will never forget. They attached a photo of Owen, who looked so cute I couldn’t put the picture down. So I tacked the note — and the picture — to a wall in my cubicle, where they remain today. I see them every day I come to work — happy reminders about why I became a reporter in the first place.

This illustrates (again!) a common bias when reporting about adoption, a bias that is reflected in the public’s idea of adoption as a whole. People love to help put a Poor Orphan Waif(tm) in the loving arms of prospective adopters. But when those same waifs turn into adult adoptees, our requests for help are answered with chirping crickets. Why is it, I wonder, that people are so willing to sympathize with prospective adopters and adoptive parents, while dismissing the dilemmas of adult adoptees and birth relatives? I have some theories.

  • The rescuer mentality. People view adoption as “rescuing” children. They want to participate, to bask in the glow of the Good Samaritan. Never mind that most orphans aren’t and that the adoption industry is more corrupt than a sledgehammered hard drive.
  • The stereotype of birth parents as poverty-stricken strung-out malcontents who don’t deserve their own children. When was the last time you saw the media helping to keep a child with his family of origin, especially if that family is not so perfect and there is an “ideal” adoptive family waiting in the wings?
  • The stereotype of the ungrateful adult adoptee. “Good” adoptees never question the adoption industry, never want to know their origins, assimilate perfectly into their adoptive families and insist that’s where God wants them to be. Anything less and you are branded the “bad” adoptee, the ungrateful adoptee, the bastard. The validity of any concerns can thus be dismissed, whereas if they came from anyone else someone might have to pay attention to what’s going on in the adoption industry.
  • The successful marketing strategies of the adoption lobbyists. Let’s face it, these people are very good at their jobs. They have made adoption not only palatable but desirable. They have swept all negativities under the rug with words like “adoption plan” and “best needs of the child”. Even well-researched articles pointing out the flaws in the system come under fire. They have been so successful in brainwashing the public that it’s difficult just to enter into a discussion about adoption reform.

In short, a one-sided adoption triangle falls flat. You can’t cover putting infants into the arms of adoptive parents without also covering the lifelong anguish of birth mothers and the continuing discrimination against adult adoptees. What’s a triangle with one side? A line, the definition of one-dimensional. This is one-dimensional reporting, which is all too prevalent in the vast majority of articles about adoption. I have to agree with Robin over at Motherhood Deleted… there is no adoption triad. In the public eye there are only perfect adoptive parents, perpetual infant adoptees, and no birth families in sight.

Being a reporter isn’t just about the feel-good, it’s about tracking down the truth and saying what other people won’t, even if–especially if!–it’s unpopular.

Adoption Isn’t A “Choice” For Everyone

There’s this billboard that has been ticking me off for months now. It used to be on the northbound Metra tracks. I was so happy when they took it down, but now it’s back up along eastbound Route 14. It’s sponsored, natch, by McHenry County (Illinois) Right To Life and pictures a couple with a baby and the slogan: “Adoption. The choice everyone can live with.”

I have so many beefs with this billboard I could cook a chuck roast. It’s a daily reminder to me of everything that is wrong with adoption.

  • The billboard is specifically promoting infant adoption. Never mind that there are plenty of foster kids in Illinois and elsewhere who would be delighted at a chance for a good home.
  • It pictures Obligatory Cute Picture of Healthy White Infant with Smiling Heterosexual Caucasian Couple. In other words, it promotes adoption of white infants over infants of other ethnicities, foster kids, and kids with disabilities. Get Your Tabula Rasa Here! It also discounts single-parent adoption, gay adoption, and anything other than the stereotypical “nuclear family”.
  • This ad is designed to get expectant mothers to surrender kids–in other words, to make money for adoption agencies. I don’t see the RTL groups posting ads offering help for expectant moms or brochures on where they can find support. If it’s really about fighting abortion and not promoting adoption, why not offer every alternative? Nor do I see them giving expectant mothers realistic information about adoption (PDF).
  • It portrays adoption solely from the perspective of the adoptive parents. The baby is a perpetual infant without voice, and the (birth) mother* is nonexistent.
  • It says nothing about the lifelong impact of adoption upon everyone involved, including the adoptive parents.
  • (Plus, the damn thing ends in a preposition. My English teacher is howling from beyond the grave.)

Some people, especially the RTL crowd, get bent out of shape at criticism of infant adoption, or indeed any criticism of adoption at all. This billboard’s message is clear: An expectant mother’s only choices are abortion (“murder” in RTL parlance) or Warm Happy Fuzzy Adoption. What this billboard carefully does NOT point out is:

  • Adoption is not Warm Happy Fuzzy. Adoption begins in loss. There’s no way to make that prettier or more palatable.
  • Adoption is not a guarantee of a better life, only a different one.
  • Adoption should be a last resort. All efforts should be made to keep children with their families of origin, and only if they are truly in danger and there is absolutely no other choice should they be relinquished for adoption. But most prospective adopters want unspoiled goods, the tabula rasa, not an older child or one with potential problems or one whose birth family might want (horrors!) to maintain a relationship. They pay good money and like any consumer they demand a quality product. Which is why adoption is about finding a child for parents who want one instead of finding a home for children who need one. That leads to the adoption industry snatching up as many products (read: children) as possible.
  • Adoptees grow up; we don’t remain voiceless infants forever. Adoption was never a “choice” for us, nor for our mothers, many of whom were forced socially or literally into surrendering us. It’s also not a “choice” for our extended families, friends, and significant others, all of whom are faced with the negative impact adoption has had on our lives and the lives of those around us.
  • Adoption agencies make billions on infant adoption. Adoption is a profit-making venture, not a charity, however it may be portrayed.
  • Adoption agencies get federal subsidies for promoting adoption, to the point where they push adoption to strangers over keeping birth families together.
  • Adoption agencies deliberately market in such a way to discount the negativities of adoption (again, because they make money from adoption). Which means any information about adoption from an agency or adoption “professional” should be taken as suspect.
  • Adult adoptees are routinely denied access to their origins. Birth mothers are routinely denied access to the paperwork they signed and information about their offspring. Illinois has mechanisms that purportedly facilitate contact but they’re about as effective as a walrus trying to tango.
  • So-called “open” adoptions are rarely enforcable from the biological family’s side. Once the adoption is finalized, the adoptive parents can–and do–take off with the kid, never to be heard from again. “Open adoption” is a marketing phrase to get an expectant mom in the door.
  • Foreign “orphans” often are not orphans at all, and may in fact have been stolen from their families. Adoption, international and otherwise, is chock-full of corruption.
  • Adoptees are torn not only from their families but also their countries, languages, and cultures of origin. Birth mothers suffer long-term consequences including depression, anxiety and other stressors that can diminish their health. Hollywood and made-for-TV movies gloss over these impacts, just like adoption agencies do. It’s not a pretty picture but it is the truth.

Why are we adoptees supposed to be grateful that we were not raised in our families of origin? Why are our mothers supposed to go away and never be seen or heard from again? Why can’t we promote support of expectant mothers instead of stealing their children to feed the adoption industry’s profits? Why can’t we restore unconditional access to adoption records? Why are we supposed to ignore what is wrong with adoption and simply accept the happy-go-lucky picture the billboard above invokes?

How about this as a new billboard? “Adoption is a permanent solution to a temporary problem. Support expectant mothers and unconditional records access.”

* I use the terms “birth mother” and “birth family” on this blog although some find it offensive, not because I disagree (I find it offensive too) but because it’s more likely to be picked up by search engines. Which is a further demonstration of how relinquishing mothers and adoptees are dehumanized in discussions of adoption.

The Too-Wanted Adoptee

There is a fabulous conversation going on over at FirstMotherForum on an old thread. It began with Lorraine’s remarks about a book written by an adoptive father, who joined the conversation and shared his viewpoints. In one of the comments maryanne wrote:

We all know the many terrible things that are supposed to happen to the unplanned, “unwanted” child in a family, but has anyone ever looked into the detrimental effects of being the “too wanted” child, the result of years of assisted reproduction or adoption that was difficult and expensive?

I think this might place an awful burden on a child to live up to some unrealistic expectations of the parents that the kid be superior and “worth it”, and cause problems if the child does not fit the mold set for him as the golden prize baby. In international adoption I could see this being a problem if the child did not fit some ethnic stereotype the adoptive parents had about people from “that country” , like that Russians are literary or Asian girls are passive. In any adoption or high tech reproduction, in some ways the kid has to be more than just a kid to justify how hard it was for the parents to become parents.

I left several comments including this one:

maryanne, your observations are astute. I was exactly that to my adoptive parents, a goal and a prize. In their world being childless was tantamount to social suicide. They needed the privileges being parents would bring, such as meeting “the right” families through contacts at school and other parent-related events. I don’t know if anyone has researched the detrimental effects of being the “too-wanted” child, but they should. When adoptive parents go through the expense and ordeal of assisted reproduction, plus the expense and ordeal of adoption itself, there is a strong pressure upon the adoptee to live up to that “investment.” In my case, my adoptive parents seemed to be under the assumption that by adopting me, they could mold my interests and personality–even going so far as to hire psychologists to try to force me into that mold. This backfired to the extent that we are now estranged. I can’t speak to the effects upon international adoptees, but I do know that trying to meet the unrealistic expectations of being the long-awaited and finally-attained “prize” is emotionally overwhelming and impossible to achieve.

I’d like to explore this more, the idea of the “too-wanted” child. Do assisted-reproduction facilities and adoption agencies elicit unrealistic expectations among prospective adopters? How does this affect adoptees in the long term? In my experience, the answers are yes and extensively. There are far too many adoptive parents out there who set unrealistic goals for the children they adopt. Even after we adoptees become adults, we are expected to fulfill set roles that act as strangleholds upon our emotional well-being and identity formation. People raised in their families of origin sometimes suffer that, too, but in the case of adoptees there is this unspoken assumption that we must be 100% perfect because we were so badly wanted and, not to put too fine a point on it, very expensive. (And, if we’re not 100% perfect, we can get shipped back.) When people spend tens of thousands of dollars they expect a return on the investment. But if you’re investing in a human being, you have to be very careful of your motives.

I think prospective adopters would do well to assess thoroughly and extensively the question: Why do you want to adopt? The obvious answer–I want a child–is insufficient. Why? Is it to provide social status? Be a “rescuer” of poor orphans (not all of whom are orphans or poor)? Or is it honestly and truly because you want to open your heart and home to a child? If the latter, are you sure? If your adopted child said she want to meet her birth family–that she wants to have a relationship with them–how would you react? Can you accept the idea that your child will have two sets of parents, both of whom are equally “real”? Will you put aside your own fears, assumptions and expectations to help your child form positive, personal attachments to her family, culture, and language of origin? Will you accept her birth family as an extension of your own, or are they the “them” to your “us”?

Tough questions, and ones that not every adoptive parent wants to face. In which case, I submit they have no business adopting. Because adoption is different–not better, not worse, just different. And failure to accept that difference hurts everyone.

What do you think about the “too-wanted” child?

When Adopted Parents Control Knowledge

There are too many instances when adopted parents have the ability to control knowledge necessary to adoptees, even after those adoptees become adults. Sometimes the adopted parents are in positions of power: judges, attorneys, influential members of the community. But all adopted parents, just by being present at the time of adoption, have vital information about the adoptee, and sometimes that information is withheld from the person to whom it pertains the most.

Older kids may have verbal memories, but those of us adopted as infants are left with only pre-verbal hints at our origins. Late-Discovery Adoptees, those who don’t learn their status until adulthood, often go through life feeling like they were adopted even though the people around them insist they’re not. The revelation comes as a betrayal, yet also a relief: your adopted family lied, but your instincts were correct. I’m not an LDA but I can understand those feelings.

I was always told, growing up, that I was adopted. That’s one thing my adopted parents did right, although looking back I’m quite surprised they did. I am not a transracial adoptee so it would have been easy to pretend otherwise. I was also told I was born in Chicago (we lived in Ohio). Those two snippets were the only ones my adopted parents offered and, because the subject was never to be discussed, I learned not to ask. Until I got married and discovered my adopted parents’ betrayal.

In obtaining my marriage license I had to do something I had never needed to do before: obtain a copy of my birth certificate. So my fiance and I headed over to the courthouse (we live in Illinois) and I stood in line like the normal people. I had no idea that this would be the day I learned I was not an adoptee, but a bastard. In obtaining my amended (read: legally falsified) birth certificate, I discovered not only was I born in Chicago, but in the very town where I ended up going to college years later. The realization that I’d strolled the sidewalks, shopped with friends, seen Terminator 2 across the street from where my birth mother gave me up twenty years previously was more than I could handle. Talk about Judgement Day. I demanded to know everything my adoptive father knew. He maintained he had no further information. Five years later I received a second betrayal when I found out he was the attorney who sealed my adoption file.

It’s hard to fathom the implications of these unexpected and disturbing discoveries. As the attorney, my adopted father had access to absolutely everything, from my original birth certificate right on down to the rest of my super-secret adoption file. A file, I might add, that is supposedly sealed to protect all parties. But when the adopted parents do the sealing? That pretty much demonstrates that sealed records are only for the adopted parents’ benefit, doesn’ t it?

Here’s the anatomy of a gray market adoption. My birth mother’s consent was taken by an Illinois attorney who was a colleague of the delivery doctor. The delivery doctor was college buddies with my adopted father, which is how the latter found out about me. The adoption was finalized by my adopted father in Ohio, his state of residence. He knew my name, and my mother’s name, and he lied to me about it my whole life. When adult me came along demanding answers, he had already made sure the doors were shut, nailed, and painted over.

Possibly even to the point of interfering with my adult attempts to gain access. Before I petitioned the court, my adoptive father called them “in an effort to be helpful,” he claimed. Bear in mind I was close to thirty years old and had been estranged from him for many years. He had never, ever gone out of his way to answer my questions, and I certainly did not want him barging in on what I felt was a matter between me and the court. Now, he wasn’t famous or anything but he was a reasonably well-known attorney in the area, what I think of as a big fish in a small pond. Likely the people at the court knew of him, if not personally then by reputation. Did that fact, and/or his phone call, have any influence on their decision to deny my petition? This particular court is known for never opening adoption records, possibly because the judge seems highly against it (in yet another example where a single person’s personal opinion may affect records access).

There is no other entity to whom I may go to gain access to my sealed information. Illinois has my original birth certificate but not the adoption file, and my birth mother is the one who’s blocked my access there through filing the denial of contact. (Whether she knows that’s what she’s done is a question only she or the Illinois Confidential Intermediary Program can answer.) I am therefore completely limboed, in two states by two sets of parents. I think as a middle aged woman I ought to be able to get my own birth certificate without having to ask Mom-And-Dad-Who-Disowned-Me or Mom-Who-Relinquished-Me. When I got my kids’ BCs I made a dozen copies and put them in big fat folders marked “FOR (child’s name)”. My kids won’t even have to stand in line to get what is rightfully theirs.

Here are more questions I’d like answered. According to the process in Ohio and most closed-records states, in the case of a private adoption where no agency was involved, an adult adoptee seeking non-identifying info is to ask the attorney who finalized the adoption. Except in my case that would be my adopted father. Why is that allowed? And why doesn’t anyone give a rat’s ass how WRONG is it for adopted parents to have this level of control? We adoptees are at their mercy. If they want to lie they will, and there are no checks and balances to prevent it.

When I read Vanessa’s heartbreaking story on FirstMotherForum.com, I could only shake my head sadly at the brainwashing conducted by the adopted parents on her son. He believes it’s “God’s will” that he was adopted. Truth is, his a-‘rents reneged on an open adoption agreement with his mother and skipped town when he was six. That is going to be one hell of an angry adoptee in a few years. As I remarked on the forum:

Let this be a lesson to all adopted parents: Lying is a ticket to losing your adopted adult (I won’t say child) forever. And this is why records should be unconditionally open to participants. Too many adopted parents have the ability to brainwash adoptees into believing whatever they’re told.

No one should ever be put in the position of depending upon an biased party for their information. Yet most adoptees, even as adults, are at dependent upon our adopted parents when it comes to the truths of our backgrounds. This is not only unnecessary but cruel. I would go so far to say that it creates a legal impediment to the success of adopted families, by putting adopted parents into the untenable position of being both parents and information-keepers. We need a process that allows unbiased access to records, and the only way to achieve that is to restore records access to participants. That means adult adoptee access to original birth certificates. It also means birth mother/father/relative access to records, and complete transparency throughout the adoption process. Everyone with equal access. Everyone on equal footing.

To parents, adopted or otherwise, we are only the custodians of our childrens’ pasts and we have no right to hinder their knowledge of it once they become adults. If you put your own insecurities first, don’t be surprised when your disgruntled bastards turn the tables. That is the fate of families who attempt to build relationships on lies instead of the truth. And if you are an adoptee who has been ignored, misled, denied or outright lied to… my friends, this candle is for you.

Sometimes You Feel Like A Nut

See my Adoption BEWareness Month blog for details on my November mission: exposing the things people don’t want to admit about adoption.
I would like to expand upon the discussions that have developed in the adoption reform community, concerning a recent article claiming that reformers are mendacious, stupid, and most importantly… crazy.

As I commented on another blog, this is Rule #1 In The Adoption Game. If a birth relative or adoptee questions The Game, call them crazy.

Why is one person’s “crazy” another person’s “genealogical research?” Why are adoptees not supposed to complain when they are treated in a manner that, if occuring to anyone else, would be unjust? Why are mothers expected to forget they ever had a child? If a child dies, the mother is allowed her grief; vice versa if a child loses a parent. But if you’re separated by adoption, tough, and if you speak out, you’re nuts.

Note that the people calling us crazy are, primarily, adopters and adoption “professionals,” the sole winners (and creators) of The Adoption Game. I say “professionals” in quotes because any bozo can sell babies, no certifications required. Adoption is a business, a for-profit venture, not a charity. It behooves them to make the people putting a dent in that business look like lunatics.

Because adoption reformers are just… people, everyday people you pass on the street. We run businesses, vote, go to war and patronize the same grocery store you do. I was surprised the first time I spoke with Marley Greiner, executive director of Bastard Nation and author of her personal Bastardette blog. I knew Marley only through highly skewed media articles, and was therefore expecting some kind of outre villain with Glenn Close-as-Cruella hair. Instead I discovered a well-spoken woman who seems as sane as anyone. But if you believe the latest gossip, I’ve been conversing with one of the frontrunners for the matriarchal anarchists, go figure.

Because the minute you breathe dissent, the moment you dare to suggest that adoption is not perfect, you are deemed crazy. You can’t say one word against the status quo without being branded! It’s like you’re suddenly the leper in the room, with a big A-For-Adoption-Activist tattooed across your forehead.

I am used to being called crazy; for someone who believes in dimensional transcendentalism it’s occasionally amusing. It started with my adoptive family, who considered me “crazy” because I was different from them. Kids at school thought I was “crazy” because I was adopted. Now I’m “crazy” because I, as an adult adoptee, assert my rights. But stealing babies from mothers, faking adoptee birth certificates and concocting conspiracy theories about reformers is “normal.” Uh-huh.

I am an average person, your typical middle-aged working mom. If Ms. Saxton, the author of that little piece of vitriol, or someone like her were to pass me on the street, she wouldn’t blink. However, I know that I am really a Bastard, because the world around me makes that abundantly clear. I am treated differently. I am not permitted the same rights. That is why I am an adoption reformer.

They said women were crazy for wanting to vote. They said that blacks were crazy for wanting civil rights. Now they say adoptees and first mothers are crazy because we reject what has been done to us. I happily accept the slur, because it means they are running scared from the progress we are making toward open records and transparency in the adoption process.

Sometimes you feel like a nut. Sometimes you don’t.

“Safe Haven” Laws Destroy Adoptee Identities

Questions are a burden to others. Answers are a prison for oneself.
— The Prisoner

There is a war going on over the identities of adoptees, under the guise of so-called “safe haven” laws. Take a look at this position paper from Bastard Nation, plus this impressive analysis courtesy of Baby Love Child. As Dave Barry says, no, I am not making this up. “Safe haven” laws are designed to destroy kids’ identities in order to fast-track them into the adoption market.

Please go read BLC’s analysis. Here’s what she has to say (from her blog posts on the Nebraska situation):

There is no ‘fixing’ these laws. Even should it be modified to apply only to “newborns” (define and prove that one…) or kids in ‘imminent danger’ (again proving that one will be no end of tricky) it will STILL deny infants their identity, circumvent all best practices in child welfare and adoption, and create a class of kids relinquished in a ‘paperfree’ manner.

After all, how can one have open records when there are no records to get?

(Now these boys [the tweens/teens dumped in Nebraska] being less than desirable adoption fodder, what with being termed ‘unruly juveniles’ and all, odds are pretty slim they’d be finding a new adoptive home within the week. Young, cute, and perhaps less verbal dumplings on the other hand, are in high demand, with phone calls coming in wanting to adopt almost from the first mention on many local newscasts.)

[T]he unseen and often unvoiced full horror of the law is that it intentionally encourages legalizes child abandonment AND effectively works to short circuit the fundamental identity rights of adoptees.

Do you know why international adoption is so popular? Because it’s less likely that adoptive parents will have to deal with the birth family. And what’s happening right now? Foreign countries are closing their doors to U.S. prospective adopters, and the adoption reform movement is making strides in opening records. What to do? Create a domestic subset of legally relinquished, guaranteed tabula-rasa children prime for adoption. Presto! Restock the supply chain, reassure customers, get rid of the nay-sayers, and give the politicans good election-year campaign material, all at the same time. “Safe havens” are a safe bet, politically, because it’s for the children, and you’re not against helping children, are you?

As for the lack of paperwork, baby dump advocates call it “non-bureaucratic placement.” And ANY person who has custody of the kid can dump, no questions asked. One of the Nebraska tweens was legally abandoned by his aunt. Imagine this: somebody gets ticked at you, swipes your kid and dumps him/her at a “designated safe haven.” We all know (from the recent Texas “sect” case, and elsewhere) that once a kid is in the foster care system, it’s damn near impossible without money and influence to get that kid back. As a parent, your rights are now zero. And as an adoptee, that child-turned-adult’s rights will also be zero. They won’t have any sealed records to open because no records will exist. How convenient for adopters like these who refuse to acknowledge that adoptees had lives and families prior to adoption.

Baby dump laws should be repealed. They’re not about saving kids, they’re a new twist on perpetuating the same old secretive system. Adoption should be rare and as transparent as possible. If we really want to save kids, we must protect their rights until they are adults and able to speak for themselves.

La La La, I Can’t Hear You!

A colleague recently directed me to a blog by a prospective adoptive parent, containing a post discussing politics and adoption. The author of the blog made the following remark in the comments:

I also think that by feeling that you have a right to know your bio parents you violate the rights of the bio parents who do not want to be named. Why do your rights supercede theirs?

I posted a followup comment, which was not approved for publication:

Why do their rights (or yours, for that matter) supercede ours?

She has moderation for comments turned on (as do I, to avoid spam comments), which is fine. I don’t particularly care that she didn’t post my comment, except I know a couple other people who attempted to post similar opinions, and the next thing you know, this is her next post:

WARNING
IF YOU DO NOT AGREE WITH THIS BLOG THEN STOP READING IT. NO ONE IS FORCING YOU TO READ IT

And this is exactly what we mean when we talk about the entitlement mentality of some adopters and prospective adopters.

There are some people out there who just don’t want to accept that birth relatives and adoptees have their own experiences with adoption, and that those experiences are not always positive. No one wants to admit that birth relatives and adoptees grieve, that adoption isn’t 100% happy-fuzzy. Any attempts to have an actual conversation with such people are pointless. They will immediately put their hands over their ears and refuse to hear a single word.

To the author of the aforementioned blog, I would like to ask what you’re so afraid of. Yes, talking about these aspects of adoption is a yucky business, but if you don’t clean the wound it’s going to fester. And I can GUARANTEE you, if you maintain this attitude after adopting, you will do nothing but alienate the person you adopt. The adorable child you are so eager to hold is going to turn into a damn angry adult or, dare I say, bastard, who will want to know why the people he/she called “parents” refused to acknowledge that grief.

And I’ve had this conversation with adopters before. The best of them say, “Really? I’ve never talked to an adult adoptee/birth relative before. What’s your experience? Why didn’t you like it? What can I do to make things better if I adopt?” They may be afraid, angry, bitter or confused, but the one quality they share is the ability to put aside their own feelings to listen to another’s perspective. And that is a critical quality for anyone thinking of adopting a child.

Here’s a warning of my own. If you don’t want to hear what adoptees and birth relatives really think, don’t blog about adoption–and certainly don’t adopt.

The Power Of An Adoptee’s Name

“Well, then, if I’m a Namer, what does that mean? What does a Namer do?”
“When I was memorizing the names of the stars, part of the purpose was to help them each to be more particularly the particular star each one was supposed to be.”
A Wind In The Door by Madeleine L’Engle

“The power of a name–that’s old magic.”
Doctor Who (“The Shakespeare Code”)

As is held in folktales and legends, there is great power in a person’s name. Madeleine L’Engle brought this up in her Wrinkle In Time series: to Name is to create, to Un-name is to destroy. The practice of unnaming and renaming adoptees is an attempt to assert control over us.

It’s said that if you know someone’s true name, you have absolute power over them. The very fact that adoptees’ true names are sequestered by the state is evidence of this ancient law stretching into our modern society. For if we adoptees knew our true names, we could reclaim the power that has been taken from us, the power to access our records without restriction.

Adopters and prospective adopters are often eager to rename adoptees, especially international adoptees whose foreign names serve as a constant reminder that adoption is not the same as giving birth. By renaming the adoptee, the adoptive parents assert their expectations that the adoptee will have the personality and nature desired–that they will become the person they have been named. Such attempts are doomed to failure. Adopters and prospective adopters need to get out of the mindset that adopting is like picking the exact item they want out of a catalog. Part of this is acknowledging that adoptees had names and identities before they were adopted.

Adoptees are keenly aware of the false nature of their names. Many of us never identified with our adoptive names, or have had different names during different part of our lives, much as some Native tribes take on new names in accordance with life-changing events. I’m curious to know how many adoptees, like myself, have renamed themselves upon becoming adults. I have met quite a number of adoptees who have taken back their birth names or combined birth name with adopted name. Some do so to obliterate the adopted name, that symbol of their adoptive families’ unrealistic expectations. Others do so to pay homage to their blood ties, or to synthesize a unique self based upon both birth and adopted heritage.

Is there really a need to rename adoptees? In some cases it borders on ridiculous, for those who were adopted as children rather than infants and are therefore well aware of their original names. Those who promote renaming (and who, primarily, are not adoptees) trot out that tired excuse, “privacy.” This further illustrates the power of a name: the assumption that if adoptees know their true names, they will have power over birth families (and vice versa, leading to those ever-popular stereotypes about stalker adoptees and birth relatives).

Or perhaps the greater fear is that we might gain control over our own destinies. As adoptees, I propose that we reclaim the power of our names for ourselves.