Secondary Rejection In Reunion: An Adoptee Perspective

Claudia D’Arcy has written an excellent post on her Musings Of The Lame blog: Secondary Adoptee Rejection In Reunion: Hearing The Rejected Adoptee’s Pain.

Claudia is a first mother, adoption rights activist, and all around groovy person. It may be one of the best things she’s ever written. And it was also the most difficult for me to read, because I live it each and every day.

Secondary rejection happens. It’s one of those things adoption dissolution (aka the “returns department”) that the adoption industry doesn’t want to admit.

Claudia reminds us, rightfully so, that adoptees who are rejected twice are not rejected for ourselves. We are rejected because our mothers simply can’t handle being mothers. They were told to go on, to forget it (us!), that their lives would “go back to normal.” Some of them need to believe it so much that they must deny anything that threatens it.

But there is no normal in adoption. And, despite understanding on the philosophical level that it isn’t about me… I don’t think I will ever be able to convince myself of that.

To understand my perspective you need to read my story: Caveat Emptor On Confidential Intermediaries and Case Closed! Another Adoptee Becomes A Confidential Intermediary Statistic (which has a timeline of events).

To be surrendered for adoption is one thing. To be rejected twice – to be rejected as a person, not a theory; to be rejected as an adult and not as an unexpected pregancy is something totally, utterly, abhorrently different.

When your contact is limited by laws and intermediaries, you feel like you have to pack a lifetime into a brief window of opportunity. You’re afraid you won’t have another chance to ask the questions to which you’ve always needed answers. It’s a horrible Catch-22 and one of the reasons I despise intermediaries and compromise legislation (that, and the fact that they criminalize us for demanding rights that are basic to all human beings).

I may never know why my mother chose to deny so abruptly and completely. But I know how it feels to me. It’s so much worse than simply being adopted. It is to say to your mother, “I exist” and for her to respond, “I wish you didn’t.”

It wasn’t like I was expecting some kind of rosy reunion. Upon hearing my story, some people think I was demanding that she come and be my mommy. Believe me, after my experience with my adoptive parents, the last thing I wanted was another parental unit. All I wanted were answers. All I got was a door slammed shut. Worse – a door partially cracked, then slammed shut. Which only makes me feel all the more like it was something I did, something I said, something I **AM** that makes me unworthy of the same basic rights – identity, heritage – that other people take for granted.

It does no good to hear people, even someone I admire and respect as much as Claud, say “it’s not you.” My brain understands that. My heart never will.

Some may not like my use of the word “rejection” (see Claud’s post for the reasons  why she chose to use it). I’m using it because that’s how it feels to me. Yes, I know, my first mother didn’t really reject me when she surrendered me for adoption, but it’s another one of those brain-heart matters that adoptees understand on the philosophical level but not on the emotional level.

How can we? Breaking the mother-child bond is the most destructive thing that can happen to either mother or child. We shouldn’t be cavalier about it and invent euphemisms that make it sound less bad. That’s the adoption industry’s party line, to make adoption more palatable.

The truth is, adoptees often feel rejected, no matter how good their adoptive circumstances are and no matter whether they eventually reunite, happily or not, with their original families. We have to deal with issues of rejection and abandonment every moment of our lives (and no, I’m not saying first mothers abandon, I’m saying this is how adoption makes many adoptees feel). Getting rejected twice feels like a confirmation of all those bad feelings.

To me, it was proof of what my adoptive mother used to say when I would come home crying because the other kids teased me for being a weird adopted nerdy girl (and yes, some of the teasing was specifically due to being adopted). I would be sobbing and she would roll her eyes and say, “You must have done something to make them not like you.”

I must have done something to make my mother not like me.

To all you first mothers and adoptees out there who may be considering a secondary rejection: Don’t. However you may feel, whatever happened to you – we’re not to blame, and rejecting us again hurts so very much. We’re not trying to “out” you or make your lives miserable. All we want is existence. All we want is for someone to say, “Yes, you were wanted. Yes, you were loved. Yes, I will answer your questions.”

My first mother may one day change her mind, but I’m not holding my breath. I think she is in such a state of denial that she simply can’t accept my existence without her entire world falling apart. It’s as though, by denying contact, she erased me from time and space – if I was ever there to begin with.

Sometimes you have to back away from a relationship if it’s toxic. I know some first mothers and adoptees who have had to do this because the other party overstepped or refused to accept boundaries. That’s a different matter. I’m talking about rejecting to keep the blinders on, to maintain the falsehood, to pretend the big nasty A word never happened. All that does is foist your baggage onto someone else. We all have to deal with our own shit, no matter how much it stinks, and we are better off for it once we do.

And, for the record, those denial of contact vetoes that are so helpfully mislabeled “preferences”? They put a permanent ban on the adoptee’s ability to gain access to their original birth certificate, which may prevent them from renewing drivers’ licenses or getting passports (or, in the latest twist, running for public office). There is a real and legal implication for the adult adoptee that the Powers That Be may not have explained.

Please have some basic human compassion when – not if – your adoptee or first parent seeks you out. You don’t have to embrace them wholeheartedly into your lives, but don’t send them back out into the cold with no answers. It’s cruel and unnecessary on top of all the other cruel and unnecessary aspects of adoption.

UPDATE: Claudia’s started a listly on this topic, you can read more here and be sure to add your blog if you’ve posted on this topic.

Image courtesy of dan / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

How Conditional Birth Certificate Access Rewards “Good Adoptees” And Punishes Bad Ones

In her classic book Lost And Found: The Adoption Experience, renowned adoption expert and adoptee BJ Lifton describes how adoptees are classified, by the adoption industry and by society, as Good Adoptees and Bad Adoptees.

“We have seen that adoptees played the Adoption Game in various ways… Some were aware that they were trying to be the Good Adoptee, while it seemed to others, in retrospect, that they were always trying to be the Bad Adoptee… The Good Adoptee was placid, obedient, didn’t ask too many questions, was sensitive to his parents’ need to make believe he wasn’t adopted. The Bad Adoptee was rebellious and constantly acting out at home and in school.”

Here is how she describes the Adoption Game. She quotes author R. D. Laing in his book Knots:

“They are playing a game. They are playing at not playing a game. If I show them I see they are, I shall break the rules and they will punish me. I must play their game, of not seeing I see the game.”

I am an advocate for clean adoptee access laws – laws that restore the rights of adult adoptees to access their original birth certificates in the same manner and for the same modest fee as non-adopted adults. The reason I refuse to accept compromises like passive registries, confidential intermediaries, and mandatory counseling is because conditional access is specifically designed to reward Good Adoptees while punishing bad ones.

Here’s how the game works. Good Adoptees aren’t supposed to search for their origins because doing so questions (and threatens) the Great And Powerful Adoption Industry. So the way you weed out Good Adoptees from Bad Adoptees is to find out which ones want to search badly enough to defy that industry – and then punish them when they do.

Adult adoptee access is in its naissance in many states. As a result, adoptees who are early adopters (ha!) of their state’s access procedures pay the price for those who follow. There are no mechanisms to redress this injustice or to go back for those adoptees who had the misfortune of being their state’s beta-testers.

The Bad Adoptees who prove their disloyalty by being too eager for their information get the dregs of access: whatever the adoption industry feels like trying to shoehorn into whatever conditional crap legislation they come up with.

This is a disgusting and evil mindgame that has gone largely ignored in adoption reform circles, just as left-behind adoptees go largely ignored by those who either don’t realize or don’t care about clean access. What boggles my mind is that some people (deformers) are perfectly willing to continue to play this game as long as they get to reap the rewards of being the Good Adoptees.

This insidious industry strategy pits adoptees against one another, and is a cause of the infighting and backstabbing we see in adoption reform. You have one set of people who want to pass legislation that’s almost-but-not-quite-good-enough-we’ll-fix-it-later, and people like me who insist upon holding out for a clean law each and every time, even if it means yanking bills if they become tainted.

As an adoption reformer you typically don’t end up on the clean-law-or-bust side unless you’ve had personal experience with the system in its most broken form. Or, in other words, if you’re a Bad Adoptee. So once again, the adoption industry turns us against one another by pitting conditional-legislation advocates, the Good Adoptees, against the clean-law advocates, the Bad Adoptees. We might as well have team t-shirts.

(You could also say that the same process turns mothers into Bad Birth Mommies and fathers into Bad Baby Daddies – at least those who question the adoption industry or try to assert their rights within it.)

Great And Powerful Adoption Industry, this is Dorothy on speakerphone. I call shenanigans on your bullshit.

See, I’m already labeled as a Bad Adoptee, so I can get away with this. I was an early adopter of Illinois’ conditional access. I paid thousands of dollars and spent over a decade of my life attempting to assert my rights using the legal procedures provided to adoptees in this state. I played by the rules of the game and I lost, my first mother lost, other adoptees and mothers who went through that system lost. Today adoptees can get what I strove for, but I can’t because the system that was in place when I tried prevents me from doing so. I shone a spotlight on the flaws in Illinois’ system by forcing them open their procedures to adoptees born in Illinois but adopted out of state. Mine was the first Illinois Confidential Intermediary case of an adopted-out-of-state Illinois adoptee.

(more on my story here and here)

And I was punished, like other Bad Adoptees in this state and elsewhere, because by asserting my rights I branded myself a troublemaker, a bad seed, a naughty girl trying to buck the system.

This is ancient thinking about the psychology of adoptees which is completely outdated and yet still guides legislative decisions about adoptee access. It’s why adult adoptees are constantly referred to as “adopted children”, even (especially!) in legislative session. If an adoptee speaks out, shut ’em down. If a bastard tries to act like a human being, put them in their place.

When you support conditional legislation, you support this. You aid and abet an industry which doesn’t care one whit for you, and will turn on you as quickly as a rabid dog. And you assist that industry in dehumanizing your fellow adoptees and first mothers/fathers.

(Comments welcome but moderated against spambots and trolls. Bear in mind if all you’re trying to do is convince me why conditional legislation works, don’t bother. After my own personal experience I refuse to support anything less than clean legislation.)

My Response To Negative Comments About The Avengers Adoption “Joke”

Well, hasn’t this been interesting. Two weeks, thousands of hits, and hundreds of comments to my previous post… and the overwhelming majority of people think adoptees are nuts to be angry over the adoption “joke” in Avengers.
Well, boys and girls, put on your flameproof undies because I’m responding to those comments and more on my fantasyworld blog. Come over and read it… if you dare.

I must have struck a nerve because people responded in droves, primarily to tell me to fuck off. What you fanboys may not have realized is that I am a fellow fangirl. I’m such a big comics fan I close every plastic bag in sight with two small pieces of Scotch tape. Comics are a regular part of my world, as adoption is a regular part of my world. This is my rebuttal to the snarky remarkers…. (read more)

Avengers: Why Is Making Fun Of Adoption Still A-OK?

[Updated 05/19/2012: I’ve written a response to the many, many comments I’ve received to this post. You can find it on my fantasyworld blog: An Angry Adoptee Fangirl Responds To Avengers Adoption “Joke”]

Ah, adoption. Is there anything you can’t spoil? My husband took me out on a very nice date to see the Avengers movie. You’d think that would be safe from adoption triggers. You’d be wrong.

Background: Avengers is a group of kickass superheroes who, uh, kick ass. They’re in the same universe as the X-Men, Spider-Man and the Fantastic Four. In the Avengers, Thor’s god of thunder. Loki’s his brother – adopted, a point which becomes crucial – and Odin’s their God father. They’re Asgardians, a supposedly more advanced race (whom you’d think would be more civilized than to have sealed records, but there you go.)  The rest of the Avengers, for the purposes of the movie, are Captain America, Hulk, Iron Man, Hawkeye and Black Widow, with Nick Fury (everybody’s favorite badass Samuel L. Jackson) as the leader of military organization S.H.I.E.L.D.

[Very minor spoilers ahead…]

So there I am, forgetting my woes, laughing at the gang and drooling over Chris Hemsworth, when we get this lovely little tidbit. Thor is trying to explain to the others that Loki is his brother and his responsibility.

Black Widow points out, “He killed 80 people in 2 days.”

Thor explains, “He’s adopted.”

Cue entire theater laughing…. except for me. (And my husband, who knows better.)

I missed the next 15 minutes of the movie because I was seething. Joking about adoption isn’t funny. Joking about being adopted isn’t funny. Making fun of a late discovery adoptee is especially not funny.

Because that’s what Loki is. In the movie Thor, Loki finds out he was adopted as an adult. Odin All-Father (ha!) kept the truth from him, because he thought it was better for Loki, because he wanted adoption not to matter. Sounds all too familiar, doesn’t it? And it always, always backfires.

What bothered me is that this is a prime example of how adoptees are one of the last fair sources of discriminatory humor. We can have a black Nick Fury, we can have a female assassin, but the bastard remains the accepted butt of any joke. Think about what that one dismissive little line says: “He’s adopted.” In other words, it’s not Thor’s fault that Loki is such a jerk. Loki’s not a real member of the family. He knows it. His brother knows it and feels guilty. His father knows it and wants to make sure his “real” son is the one to inherit his throne.

Worse – Loki is not only adopted but he’s actually a Frost Giant, the Asgardians’ ancient enemy.  In other words, his birth family is the sworn enemy of his adopted family. His birth father is the enemy leader. His birth mother is nonexistent. His birth family are ugly monsters whereas his adoptive family are beautiful, blond, and godlike. Stereotype City!

Loki is also a textbook example of “bad blood”. He’s destined to turn evil, and he can’t get away from it no matter how much he tries. Think Damien from The Omen, another textbook example.

“He’s adopted.” Why is this joke acceptable? Why did the audience laugh? Why didn’t they rise up in HULK SMASH anger like I wanted to and scream, “Hey! That’s not funny!”

Because they don’t get it.

Why don’t they get it?

Because the adoption industry doesn’t want them to.

Look at Loki’s character from another perspective: You’ve grown up all your life with this strange feeling that you don’t quite belong. Your older brother is literally the golden boy, the one who will inherit your father’s legacy. You’ve lived all your life in his shadow, struggling just to be acknowledged by your family. Then suddenly one day your dad lets drop that you’re adopted. Would you, perhaps, be upset? Would you, perhaps, be angry?

It’s far more difficult to sell the idea that adoption is perfect when there are human faces on the victims. If we felt sorry for Loki, that might imply that not telling him the truth of his origins was wrong. If we accept that, we have to accept that concealing the truth from all adoptees is wrong. People might start to put themselves in the shoes of adoptees and their first families. They might start to question why adoption agencies are so vehement about keeping the records sealed. And if adoption isn’t perfect, and if families are hurt by it, then maybe there is another reason why the agencies want the records sealed – something they want to hide.

If Odin had told Loki from the start, the plots of Thor and Avengers would never have happened and Marvel would have been making money off Dazzler or Longshot or some other unfortunate Marvel superhero. If the adoption industry allowed people caught in the adoption trap access to information, the world might find out what they’ve been hiding: the coercion, the corruption, the lies.

Did Marvel think of all this when coming up with that joke? Of course not. The problem is that nobody ever thinks about it. It’s not even on their radar. If I had tried to explain this to the majority of people in that theater they would have thought I was nuts. How could that silly little joke possibly be upsetting or dehumanizing?

But it is. And mostly we just have to suck it up. I sat in that theater, furious, gripping my husband’s hand and growling under my breath. It’s like being under surprise attack. You never know when your enemy, Adoption, is going to jump out at you with a nasty-looking weapon and try to take your head off. And the people around you think you are fucking crazy because you keep ducking all the time.

Until our society as a whole decides these supposed “jokes” are unacceptable, we are not going to make any headway fixing what’s broken about adoption.

Dreading Birthdays III: Descent Into Despair, Restarting The Search

It’s that time of year again… my own personal descent into despair. I’ve written before about adoption depression and birthdays:

I didn’t really start dreading birthdays until I started asking questions about my adoption, questions that were misdirected or answered with (as I later discovered) outright lies. Before that I just had this vague unease that got worse as the calendar crept toward January. I wonder if my birth mother suffers like I do, from what the shrinkwrappers call “seasonal affected disorder” but I believe is simply part of the human experience. One of the most shocking moments during my brief contact with my birth mother was her revelation that depression runs in our family, in fact one of my uncles suffers severely from it. Don’t ask me what that means because it’s all I’ve got. To be given that tidbit and then left in the dark makes me feel like spring will never come. Maybe depression was imprinted on me in the womb. It’s in my blood, an unknown poison.

I don’t tell casual acquaintances about my birthday. People always want to know, put it in their calendar, send you an e-card or invite you to a little office celebration with stale cake. But adoptee birthdays invoke too many well-intentioned questions that are conversational for others and heartbreaking for us, like”Where were you born?” (some of us don’t know) and “Are you celebrating with your family?” (which one?) In short, birthdays are stark reminders of what may be our most traumatic experience: losing our mothers, our blood relatives, our cultures, our heritage. I don’t mind sharing with people who know my adopted status and understand that trauma. What I don’t like is the automatic dismissal of the uninitiated: “Oh, you’re adopted! You must feel so lucky.” And I’ll admit, I’m no fun. When people ask me straight out I give them a straight out answer: that I’m adopted, that my birthday is traumatic, that it brings up a lot of feelings of loss and I don’t really like talking about it. Talk about putting a damper on the party.

I didn’t even write a birthday entry last year, I was so fed up with it. This year feels… different. Still depressed. Still descending into despair, and I’m not going to say there’s hope at the bottom. It’s more of an icy determination.
I’m starting up the search again, trying to find not only my origins but the details of my adoption. So many lies and misdirections, so many half-truths and hunches, I don’t even know what’s real anymore. So I’m laying it all out, trying to discern fact from fiction. By Illinois law I am forbidden from contacting my mother – a total joke, as I have next to nothing about her yet she has my complete contact information due to the Illinois CI program’s screw-up. But I’ll be damned if anybody tries to tell me I’m not allowed to piece together my own past within the confines of the strictures placed upon me.
The holidays were harder for me this year than January is now, which is odd. Maybe it’s the weather. There’s been very little snow and with temps in the 30s it feels more like November. I can handle November. My pansies are still blooming and there’s lettuce in the cold frames in the veggie garden. But there’s always that awful feeling in the back of my mind that the hammer will fall, that November will become December will become January and the world will lock into ice and cold and loneliness.
Among the adoption paperwork (that is, the paperwork my adoptive father deemed acceptable for me to see, as opposed to the papers he lied about/destroyed/concealed) is a yellow sheet of legal paper. It’s a transcript my adoptive father (aka the lawyer who sealed my file) took of a phone call he had with his old college pal (aka the delivery doctor). I feel sick just looking at it. I decided to post this because it’s a little piece of BSE (Baby Scoop Era) history.

(Sorry if Blogger is sucky about embiggen. You can find it full-size here.)
Words jump out at me. “Nov Dec Jan,” reflecting the personal countdown to hell I still experience every year. “Girl very reasonable.” Of course she was, she had no resources or support! “How could it be done in Illinois?” That is the man I once called Father, concealing my origins.
Note carefully what is going on in this transcript (which has been edited by me for my own privacy). My adoptive father was told they had to go with a private adoption, presumably because they’d been rejected by all the agencies they approached. Private adoption was legal in Illinois, but that they couldn’t adopt me there because it was limited to Illinois residents. So they found a loophole by finalizing the adoption in Ohio, their state of residence. My adoptive father was an attorney licensed to practice in Ohio and arranged matters there himself. Because of this, he ended up controlling the process of my adoption as well as the contents of my adoption file, including my original Illinois birth certificate. I am told this would never be allowed today due to conflict of interest. Later, he became the person to whom I had to apply for non-identifying information, according to revised Ohio state law regarding private adoptions. You can imagine how well that went.
The sickest line, to me, is this: ““Have to arrange to have mother take child w/her & physically turn child over to us & take to Ohio.” To my understanding, my mother was forced to walk me out of the hospital (to fulfill laws saying only she could do so) and turn me over to the delivery doctor, who kept me for the first week of my life then turned me over to my adoptive parents. Elsewhere there is a notation about having to hold off on finalizing the adoption because of the waiting period for my mother to change her mind. It’s all so reprehensible: the careful application of law contrary to its supposedly intended purpose of giving a mother the chance to make an informed choice.
My adoption is gray market, legal as far as I know. But no one could look at the above scenario and consider it objective or ethical. This is the heart of the Baby Scoop Era: legal and illegal separation of children and parents. Except it never ended, because the same tactics continue to be employed today. They get you coming and going, both when the child is first adopted and later when the now-adult adoptee attempts to reclaim his or her birthright.
Icy determination and anger; that, to me, will always be January. This year I’m depressed but I’m also refocused. Adoption will not stop me. Depression will not stop me. Discrimination and stereotypes of adoptees will not stop me. Deformer laws, apathetic reporters and disdainful politicians will not stop me.
All adoptees deserve the same equal, unfettered access to their original birth certficates as the non-adopted. Nothing less is acceptable. Nor is our society’s prejudicial treatment of adoptees acceptable. I have had it with people speaking for adult adoptees and first mothers, putting words in our mouths, refusing to listen to our voices even though we are STANDING RIGHT HERE, blogging and tweeting and making ourselves heard.

Steve Jobs And Offensive Adoptee Stereotypes

Steve Jobs was one of my personal heroes. I probably wouldn’t have gotten into IT or started my own business without his influence. But my grief at his passing was marred by the constant references to his adoption. And the adoptee stereotypes I’ve encountered made my jaw hit the floor with the speed of the Tevatron. (Not the LHC, because I live near Fermi so I’ll give some love to the home team.)
What scares me is that I didn’t even notice myself at first, and trust me, my adoption-BS meter is finely tuned. We all saw what the news coverage was like. Steve Jobs, gone! Such a visionary! Such a genius! And did you hear he was adopted?
Even adoptees mentioned it, talking about Jobs as “one of us.” I started to do the same thing. I was proud of Steve for being adopted, for showing the rest of the world we’re worth something.
And then I realized, holy shit, what we’re really saying is, “Steve Jobs succeeded even though he was a bastard.” We’re praising him, not because he succeeded, but because he Succeeded While Adopted (SWA).
Bastards have to work harder. We’re never good enough. Not even Steve Jobs was good enough.
It’s even more obvious in the Walter Isaacson biography, which has more adoptee stereotypes than an NCFA convention. The first chapter is the incendiary “Abandoned And Chosen,” loaded words which epitomize the primary adoption stereotypes: that birth mothers abandon and that adoptees are “chosen” for “a better life”. Notably, a biography of an adoptee begins with the lives of his adoptive parents. The adoptee is always a secondary character in his own story.
Steve’s first mother found out he hadn’t been adopted by college graduates as she stipulated, and refused to sign the papers. “The standoff lasted weeks,” Isaacson writes, and describes that Jobs’ mother eventually “relented” (read: gave up after constant pressure and coercion) but made the a-parents “sign a pledge” that they’d send him to college. Yeah, about as enforceable as any of today’s supposedly “open” adoptions. Then Isaacson goes on to interview Steve’s friends about his feelings about being “abandoned” (even though his mother obviously fought for him). Like many adoptees, myself included, Steve internalized abandonment because everyone in his universe told him he was abandoned. The rest of the chapter is equally repugnant. Steve Jobs lived the adoptee stereotype and, in death, he’s become the epitome of it.
This is a best-selling book! What the hell kind of message is this for adoptees, especially young ones, that a wildly popular book about a wildly popular person is riddled with stereotypes? I’m not talking about a stray remark here or there. I’m talking screaming misogynistic anti-adoptee lunacy. If anybody brought us to the 21st Century it was Steve Jobs, yet his authorized biography reads like a 19th Century handbook on social work. Go read even just the first few pages and you’ll be as appalled as I am.
In the vernacular, OMG. *deep breath*
Another underlying message I heard in the buzz surrounding Steve’s death was that adoption redeemed him: that if he had been raised by his birth mother he wouldn’t have succeeded. We don’t know that. Maybe he would have been an even greater success. Adoption is trying to take credit, when the credit is due to Steve for fighting the societal restrains of being a bastard.
Steve Jobs succeeded despite adoption, not because of it.
Many of the less-desirable personality quirks attributed to Steve, in particular his control issues, are traced back to his adoption. As adoptees our lives have been controlled for us. Is it any wonder we want to take that control back? Why is that seen as a bad thing? Is it because allowing us to do so might acknowledge our humanity, and the inherent problems in adoption?
Words are powerful. If you say something it is likely to become true. (Or, as Wang Chung said: “The words we use are strong; they make reality.” Profound advice from 1980s pop.) I thought we were making some progress on adoptee stereotypes but now I’m realizing we’ve only scratched the surface. It’s so ingrained we can barely get people to acknowledge it much less treat us with some level of respect.
Jaw still on floor, gathering neutrinos.

My New Adventure, My New Blog, And Some Snarky Adoption Remarks

Most of you 73adoptee readers know of my passion for fantasy and science fiction, and I mentioned in my previous post that I’d taken a sabbatical and decided to focus on writing full-time.
Now I have a brand-new blog where you can follow my (mis)adventures in writing and fandom. Find out more at www.trionaguidry.com/blog.
And yeah, there’s gonna be adoption stuff. Of course there is. You can’t be adopted without adoption stuff oozing over everything like toxic waste. Maybe I should make it a game. You guys can have fun giggling over all the subtle and not-so-subtle adoption subtexts on my other blogs. I’m sure there are some there I’m not aware of myself. Like the old Internet drinking games… one sip for snarky remarks only an adoption insider would get, two for deliberate jabs at the adoption industry, whole drink for full-blown rants about corruption and failed reform. Substitute your favorite beverage if you don’t drink, fun for the whole adoption community!
Case in point: The other day I was halfway through a short story I’m working on, when I suddenly realized that the ENTIRE plot was a veiled potshot at adoption. Maybe veiled with transparent wrap, because it was dead obvious when I re-read it. Is it just me or do other people find themselves inadvertently incorporating their anger/angst/frustration at adoption into other aspects of their lives?
As the 7th Doctor’s companion Ace said in Survival (as she was transforming into one of the Cheetah People): “I don’t even realize it! I don’t even feel myself go.”
Anyway. Come read my new blog. I’m going to be unabashedly nerdy over there, and hopefully I can keep the snarky adoption remarks here where they won’t unnerve the uninitiated.

Setting Adoptive Parents’ Expectations

(Where have I been? I think I got adoption burnout. There is so much crap going on out there that frankly it’s depressing. That, combined with my birthday, which as most of you know I detest as a reminder of my own adoption baggage, made me want to take a serious vacation from adoption. But I’m back now and hoping to blog at least a little more frequently.)
The papers are full of the baby Vanessa case, in which a prospective adopter “won” against a birth father who was never informed of his child nor his rights. I say “won” in parentheses because the only “winners” in this case are the permanent guardian (dubbed adoptive mother), the lawyers, and the adoption agency. You can read the highly subjective LA Times article about the case here.
First of all, I was offended by the LA Times reporter’s coverage of this matter. The print edition of the Chicago Tribune (same parent company as the LA Times) headlined the article as “Baby Vanessa stays at home,” an implicit bias that the adoptive family is “home” and the biological family is not. I also didn’t like the repeated emphasis on “the only parent she knows.” Vanessa knew her mother; perhaps she is unaware to express it verbally, but all children, even (especially!) newborns, are well aware of the existence of and need for their biological mothers. In yet another example of serious media bias about adoption, this article the reporter did her best to make the putative adopter a saint and the biological parents the villains.
As I remarked on Facebook:
I think the process of adoption leads many adoptive parents to think that way [that adoptees are objects to be possessed rather than human beings with feelings]. They are encouraged to pick the “best” products (eg children with less of a possibility of birth parent “interference”), the mythical tabula rasa they can shape as desired and which will make up for not being able to biologically procreate. Just look at the amended birth certificate, which shows adoptees “as if” born to the adoptive parents. Our society is already consumer-driven and the agencies and private facilitators play on that. It sets impossible expectations for the adoptee because no one can ever live up to those perfect standards.
Which makes it clear that the adoption agencies and facilitators are really all about the money and don’t care what happens to people or families after they get paid. Because if they did care they would make sure to set appropriate expectations on the part of the adoptive parents, since this scenario inevitably leads to family disfunction and perhaps even dissolution (whether via the “adoption returns department” or the adoptee deciding as an adult to dissolve the relationship as I did). I think most adoptive parents are reasonable people that get sucked into the adoption industry mindset. You’ll always have some crazies who have to have a child no matter what but I don’t think it would be the rule rather than the exception if it weren’t for the fact that the adoption industry grooms them into believing that they MUST have a child at all costs, and that if they pay enough money they can erase their infertility and re-establish their status in our parent-centric society.

Doss seems to have overlooked the real villain in this case: AdoptHelp, which neglected to check the Ohio Putative Father’s Registry, allowing Doss to believe she would be able to adopt Vanessa without Mills’ consent. Doss claims to have spent $400,000 on attorney fees (which seems excessive) and has made public pleas for contributions to help her pay these costs.

So then the question becomes: Why don’t people go after adoption agencies when they falsely set prospective adopters’ expectations? Why do they go after the biological family instead? Answer: Because vilifying the biological parents ensures continued supply (children for adoption). It’s hard to fight a profitable industry with lots of lawyers and lobbyists to give it teeth, but it’s easy to fight a resource-poor individual, especially when the media and the court of public opinion is likely to side in your favor.
Doss wants to enact legislation that would, as Jane puts it,

give prospective adoptive parents a sort of squatter’s rights to children although they couch it in terms of preventing “reactive attachment disorders,” promoting bonding, or whatever psychological lingo carries the day.

Lorraine, Jane’s co-blogger at FMF, points out:

Doss is not adopting Vanessa; she will be her permanent guardian at this point, not her ADOPTIVE mother.

Speaking from an adoptee perspective, adoptees are neither objects to be owned nor fodder for touchy-feely newspaper articles written about them when they are too young to claim the ownership and privacy of their own origin stories. How would you feel to find out that the public knew about the intimate details of your life before you were able to understand them yourself? Many of us have also wondered how Vanessa is going to feel when she is old enough to understand that her “adoptive mother” (permanent guardian) deliberately prevented her biological father from claiming custody. Will Doss lie about it, in which case Vanessa will find out the truth through casual research? Will Doss bias Vanessa toward her own biological origins in order to preserve adoption attachment? I can tell you that either scenario is likely to result in Vanessa recoiling from the woman she has been groomed to call “mother” and struggling to discern her own identity sans the foundation of origin she should have had, except for a profit-hungry adoption agency and a prospective adopter whose expectations were falsely set.
But back to the question of prospective adopter expectations. What should those expectations be? I think we should treat prospective adopters in the same way Douglas Adams fictionally treated the President of the Universe: anyone who wanted the job was automatically disqualified. Again, from comments I made on Facebook:

There really needs to be better setting of the expectations of prospective adopters. Too often it’s all about them obtaining a child as a status symbol as opposed to actually wanting to reach out to a child in need (because if the latter was the case, why aren’t they taking in the foster kids who actually need help as opposed to taking children from families who lack resources to raise them). Every time I think about how the tens of thousands people pay for one adoption could go to helping a family stay together, it infuriates me.

Prospective adopters would do well to understand that any information they get from adoption agencies or facilitators about adoption is, in itself, biased. You don’t ask the person selling cars whether the brand his dealership sells is better than the brand across the street. You go out and ask people who have actually bought the car you’re considering. Some of them will tell you they like it, others will tell you they don’t, and you base your decision on a synthesis of the two. In this case, prospective adopters need to get out there and ask advice from biological parents and adult adoptees who have no ties to agencies or adoption profits. That’s the only way you’re going to find out the truth about adoption, and unfortunately a lot of it isn’t as pretty as the glossy brochures or biased media articles would have you believe.

The Critical Difference Between Foster And Infant Adoption

It’s National Adoption Awareness Month, and many of us in the adoption community are writing about adoption–not the feel-good articles you’ll see in the press, but writing that gets to the truth of what adoption actually is. And some of it, perhaps even most of it, isn’t very pretty.
A number of folks have pointed out that NAAM, which started as a way to promote adoption of kids already in foster care, has turned into a gigantic singalong in favor of infant adoption. So I thought I’d explain the difference between infant adoption and foster adoption.
  • Foster adoption is adoption of kids who have already been separated from their families, and are living in foster care.
  • Infant adoption is adoption of children, often newborns but sometimes slightly older, whose mothers are unable (either by choice or, more often, through clever coersion and familial/societal pressure) to care for them.
Do you see the critical difference? In foster adoption, family separation occurs BEFORE adoption. In infant adoption, separation occurs FOR adoption.
Foster kids are desperately in need of homes. But they’re older and may have suffered abuse or other situations that deem them, in the eyes of some prospective adopters, less than “ideal.” They often come with inconvenient birth families and awareness of their own origins. There is also a stigma attached to adoption from foster care, as if adopting a foster kid means taking on “damaged goods.” An infant, on the other hand, is considered a tabula rasa. In fact, healthy white or pass-for-white infants are such a prize commodity that they go for tens of thousands of dollars. While there is also stigma attached to infant adoption (indeed, adoption of any sort), it’s more likely that neighbors and friends are going to congratulate you on adopting an infant than adopting an eight-year-old out of foster care with, say, medical issues and birth family members still in the picture. That might take *gasp* reordering of one’s life on a massive scale. It’s “not what we signed up for.” (Never mind that life is full of things we “didn’t sign up for.”) Infants are cute and cuddly and, above all, malleable. As I’ve said before, why rent when you can own?
NAAM should be about finding homes for foster kids, the ones who truly need it. Instead it’s become about infant adoption: how to encourage it, how to advertise it, and how to convince as many expectant mothers as possible to surrender their top-quality tabula-rasa infants, because that’s what the market wants.
That’s not to say that there aren’t infants in foster care who need homes. And that’s not to say that there aren’t adoptive parents who open their hearts to children who are actually in need, infants or otherwise. But there is also the side of National Adoption Awareness Month that most people won’t see or don’t want to see–the adopters with entitlement mentalities, who think they deserve a child simply because they want one, and who turn that want into an obsession that drives them to go to any extreme to fulfill it. (Try the Vaughns for one despicable example.) These are the people who drive the market for infant adoption.
Infant adoption is rarely needed, certainly not the number of infants who become available for adoption. Think of all the time and money that is spent on infant adoption. Now, imagine that time and money being used to get as many kids out of foster care and into loving homes as possible. Also imagine that time and money being used to help expectant mothers who find themselves without resources. Oh, but then they might decide to raise their own children, meaning less available product and therefore less money made by adoption agencies. Infant adoption, not foster adoption, is where the real money is. And adoption agencies, despite their “charitable” reputations, are in it for the money. Anyone who tells you otherwise is, ahem, selling something.
Next, think about the efforts made to recruit infants from other countries, to the extent of lying and outright stealing children. Imagine if, instead, the resources spent on these expensive and unnecesary adoptions were spent instead to provide safe, effective, affordable care within such countries, to promote extended family adoptions when parents are truly unable to support children, to promote in-country adoption to preserve the children’s heritage, leaving international adoption as a very last and rare resort.
In the current atmosphere, this would never happen. There’d be an outcry from agencies, prospective adopters, and the general public, ostensibly on behalf of the poor “orphans.” What is not known to most people is that a lot of those kids have parents and/or families, and are designated “orphans” for the sole purpose of making them more adoptable/profitable. Again, that’s not to say there aren’t true orphans in need of help, but there’s also a whole industry that has been built on marketing children from other countries to Westerners. Which is why so many adoptees, upon expressing discontent with adoption as it is practiced today, are scolded with, “Would you rather have been raised in an orphanage?” or “Would you rather have been aborted?” as if the logical choice–being raised in one’s original family–was never an option. The adoption industry needs the perception that there are more orphans languishing out there than there actually are, in order to keep the profits coming. And, let’s be honest, there are some prospective adopters who get off on the idea of being the “rescuers” of “orphans.”
The unfortunate fact is, not everyone who wants to be a parent is going to get that opportunity. There are other ways to matter to children besides obtaining a child by any means necessary. Is it really that important to own? Has our society become so materialistic that we can’t put aside avarice for altruism? Why can’t we help children stay in their families of origin instead of wasting all those resources on unnecessary adoptions? The way adoption is currently practiced only encourages unethical and illicit behavior.
This is one reason that adoption agencies, private “facilitators” and some adoptive parents try to diminish the voices of adult adoptees, first mothers and fathers, and those scant few adoptive parents who dare to speak out against corruption in adoption. First mothers (and fathers!) can speak to their experience of being coerced into giving up their children. Adult adoptees like me (I was adopted as a newborn) can speak to the fact that no infant is a tabula rasa. Adoptive parents can speak to the corruption that they have personally witnessed.
No, the adoption agencies and those adopters who consider themselves “entitled” would be much happier if we keep National Adoption Awareness Month as squeaky-clean as possible. Let’s put these myths to rest. Foster adoption is about finding homes for children who need them. Infant adoption is about selling children to people who want them.

Vote by Oct 30 for Demons Of Adoption Awards 2010

Don’t forget to cast your vote for Pound Pup Legacy’s 4th annual Demons Of Adoption Awards. Votes are due by October 30. You can cast your vote here, and (if you have a strong stomach) read more about the nominees here.

From the web site:

Each year Pound Pup Legacy presents the Demons of Adoption Award to raise a voice against adoption propaganda and the self congratulatory practices of the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute’s annual Angels in Adoption AwardsTM

Until October 30 you will have the opportunity to vote for the recipient of this year’s award.

The nominees are:

* LDS Family Services: for being the most secretive of all adoption agencies, using coercive tactics in obtaining infants for adoption and having no respect for father’s rights;

* Gladney center for adoption: for being one of the most profit-centered agencies around and blocking open record efforts in Texas;

* Christian World Adoption: for their involvement in “harvesting” practices in Ethiopia and their blind ambition to “save” each and every “orphan” in this world;

* Larry S. Jenkins: for his involvement in nearly every case where father’s rights were violated;

* Joint Council on International Children’s Services: for promoting the interest of adoption agencies at the expense of children, and pushing agency friendly legislation in Congress;

* Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute for giving their seal of approval to persons and organizations that promote the interests of the adoption industry and pushing agency friendly legislation in Congress;

* Council on Accreditation: for their lack of research done on inter-country adoption agency histories prior to giving out Hague accreditation;

* American Adoption Congress: For failing to remove state reps who were openly working against open access for adult adoptees;

* American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey: for opposing open records for adoptees and “protecting” closet moms, based on a “stack of anonymous letters” claimed to be from “birthmothers”.

* Christian Alliance for Orphans: for promoting the business interests of adoption agencies through churches.

* Southern Baptist Convention: for passing resolution no. 2 , pushing the business interests of adoption agencies to the members of their church;

* Adoption.com for systematically banning voices that oppose current adoption practices and their continuous pro-adoption propaganda;

* Scott Simon: for his vomit-inducing book “Baby, We Were Meant For Each Other” and his grotesque crying and blubbering about his purchasing of another human being;

* WE tv: for their hideously exploitative series ‘Adoption Diaries,’ turning what is a highly emotive and complex topic into ‘reality’ show fodder.