More Concern About Haiti Adoptions

There is growing concern about the fast-tracking of Haitian adoptions. Read on for some excellent blogs on the subject.
I’ve seen a lot of media coverage about Haitian orphans being “saved” or “rescued” by flying them to foreign countries for adoption. But “orphan” doesn’t necessarily mean the child has no living relatives. In many countries, parents place their children in orphanages temporarily until they can get back on their feet. Even if their parents are dead, these so-called “orphans” may have siblings, extended family, or others who can care for them. In a disaster like Haiti’s, we should be focusing on helping the country recover, not focusing on the wants of prospective adopters.
Okay, here it comes… the knee-jerk reaction that those of us advocating caution would rather see these kids starve and die on the streets. On the contrary, we want these kids cared for, kept in their own families where possible, domestically adopted where not, and internationally adopted only as a last resort. And yes, that means less adoptable children, and that’s just too bad. If you are so eager for a child, there are umpteen kids in the American foster system. They’re not cute “orphans”, but they do need help. If you’re really that interested in helping a child, that shouldn’t make a difference. But swooping down on Haiti like vultures is not going to help those kids.
There is also the question of what the “pipeline” is. Those American adoptions that were already “in the pipeline” are being fast-tracked. But what does that mean, exactly? It could simply mean those prospective adopters have passed the preliminary stages. They may not have passed home study or the other qualifications of being adoptive parents. And with the records in Haiti a shambles and at least one judge dead, it’s hard to know which children have actually been approved for adoption. Shouldn’t we take those tens of thousands of dollars a single adoption costs to help the people of Haiti as a whole? Wouldn’t that help more children in the long run?
Another thing that concerns me is the possibility that sweeping these kids into adoption’s net may result in increased “disruptions” down the line. A disruption is a nice name for returning an adoptee… a failed adoption. But what expectations does the adoption mill set for prospective adopters? It’s the glossy brochure, the “adopt and your life is complete” mantra. Reality is much harder for these children. You can’t take a child who is suffering from trauma and the loss of loved ones, bring them to America, plunk them down in front of McDonald’s and Nickelodeon and expect that they will grow up with no difficulties. I am concerned that some of these prospective adopters are so relieved at having their wishes finally granted that they will overlook the needs of the child. When that child begins to suffer from PTSD, will they blame the child for not fitting in? For being an “angry adoptee”? Will these adoptees be sentenced to quack therapies or drugged into behaving? Will they be returned to a country they no longer know, or shuffled off to yet another “forever” family?
In the words of Buffalo Springfield…
There’s something happening here
What it is ain’t exactly clear…
It’s time we stop, children, what’s that sound
Everybody look what’s going down.

Haiti: Adoption Snatching In Action

Some people are trying to use the earthquake in Haiti as an excuse for a mass snatching of children for the adoption mill. I’m not even going to try to compete with the stellar coverage of other bloggers, so read on to learn about Operation Pedro Pan from the 1960s and how it is being replayed today.
The answer to this horrific tragedy is not to take these children from their culture, but to reunite them with extended family wherever possible and help Haiti as a whole regain its footing. I can’t say it any better than Bastardette:

We do not object to Haitian children, orphans and otherwise, being sent to credible and documented parents or family members in the US legally for temporary or permanent care depending on the circumstances. We do object to the unethical and possibly unlawful mass transfer of traumatized children, many with family status unknown, to foreign shelters and foster care, removed from their culture and language, with little hope of reunification. We also object to children being used as commercialized foreign policy pawns. Although Pedro Pan had positive outcomes for some, its intent and motives make it an illegitimate model for today’s Haitian earthquake child victims. Cold War politics destroyed Cuban families. Unchecked adoption industry greed, pap entitlement, and soft neo-colonial foreign policy cannot be permitted to disenfranchise a generation Haitian children.

Adoptees Should Be Able To Explore Their Roots

I made a stray comment on FirstMotherForum which I think deserves expansion. It’s something I’ve been thinking about for a while now:

Regardless of whether “natural” is the right term, non-adopted people are encouraged and even praised for exploring their heredity while adoptees are discouraged or condemned. I also think there is a difference between exploring heredity and making contact. For example, my birth mother has denied contact with me. But, if I had access to my origins, I could still explore my roots, find out where “my people” came from, etc. — all without contacting her or her immediate family. I don’t see why I should be denied that oppportunity just because I happen to be adopted.

When I originally started searching over a decade ago, it wasn’t with starry-eyed ideals of meeting my birth mother. In fact the concept scared the wits out of me. (Still does.) I did, however, want to find out who “my people” are. I wanted to know where I fit into a long chain of ancestors stretching back through time. I also wanted to feel, for the first time, like a “real” person–someone with a past, a background, a history I could point to and say, “This is where I come from.” None of which has anything to do with my birth mother in particular, but everything to do with access to that all-important document: my original birth certificate. Yet, as it stands in closed-records states, adoptees like me are forced to contact our birth mothers to gain that information.
If I had the information on my original birth certificate, I could do a genealogy search. Some people would call that stalking, but if it is, then every single person who has ever made a genealogical inquiry is guilty. I simply want to know if my vague and misleading non-identifying information is accurate. I want to know if I really am part Irish, part German, and part Polish. I want to know if I come from a family of farmers or brickmakers or blacksmiths. I want to take my children to Ireland and walk with them across the hills where my ancestors once walked. How does this, in any way, interfere with my birth mother’s request not to contact her?
Most people don’t understand how debilitating it is sometimes, being adopted. We have no anchor, no roots, no way to ground ourselves to the world around us. We struggle with that even when our adoptions are open and our information freely available, but much more so when our origins are treated like shameful secrets. What a blessing and relief it would be if we could trace our distant ancestry!
Just as I am not the first twig on my family tree, neither are my birth parents. My children and I should not be denied the right to take our places in the lineage of our ancestors. If it gives me closure to stand in a hundred-year-old cemetery and look down upon the graves of my great-great-grandparents, why not? Why should being adopted preclude me from that right?

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!

Danegeld: Severing Adoptees From Their Cultures

A thousand years ago, my Celtic ancestors were routinely attacked, often violently, by their Viking neighbors. England enacted a tax upon its citizens, called Danegeld, to finance protection from these sea-borne invaders.

I think about this sometimes because I am a modern-day Celt captured by Vikings. My adopted father, the attorney who sealed my adoption records and lied about my origins, was profoundly proud of his Scandinavian roots. He was half Swedish and half Danish, the son of first-generation immigrants. When I was growing up we had books about Scandinavia littering the entire house. In fact he was appointed honorary counsel to Denmark for our tiny little corner of the Midwest, and was even knighted by the Danish monarchy for his contributions to his culture. We went to Denmark for the ceremony, and although I didn’t participate in it, I recall my adoptive mother being very keen to try to set me up with the Danish prince. (No, REALLY. She was, shall we say, kinda wacky.) My childhood was spent listening to my adoptive father expound upon his heritage while he was simultaneously, and unbeknownst to me, denying me mine. My Danegeld was paid in the stripping of my Celtic roots. What an ironic repetition of history.

There are tons of great books, articles and blogs from transracial adoptees out there, which I enjoy reading because they enhance my understanding of my own adoption experience. I especially like Harlow’s Monkey, John Raible’s and Yoon Seon’s blogs, Gang Shik’s over at the Korean Adoptee Nexus, and the fantastic book “Outsiders Within: Writing On Transracial Adoption” by Jane Jeong Trenka, Julia Chinyere Oparah and Sun Yung Shin. I wonder, how does being severed from our cultures affect adoptees in the long term? What can be done to preserve the heritage of adoptees?

Because being “American” or “whatever your adoptive family is” isn’t enough. Our transracial adoptee friends have their heritage stamped across their faces, which too often causes them grief they don’t deserve. I have an idea what that’s like because I was the only adoptee in our neighborhood, so I was often held up as the prime example of adoptees or, more accurately, bastards. (As in, “this is our adopted daughter,” emphasis on the adjective, or “look, there’s that weird adopted kid,” as if the two automatically go hand-in-hand.) Some adoptees return to their roots by learning the language and traditions of their missing culture, or even moving back to their countries of origin. Check out GOAL’s Homecoming program. Kickass!

For adoptees like me, who were adopted into families of similar race, it’s a simple matter to deny that we have any culture at all, to assume that we can be assimilated at whim. But we are also stripped of our cultural roots, as distant as those roots might be. I think cultural roots run far deeper than most people want to believe. You can’t just take a Irish lass like me and dump me in with a bunch of Vikings and expect it to magically work out. We still KNOW, to the core of our being, that we are out of place… even if we’re not supposed to.

For example, as a teen I became strongly interested in everything Irish, although I had no way to know I was actually exploring my own heritage. This interest was severely curtailed by my adoptive parents. The more I became interested, the less they liked it. In retrospect I hope it shook my adoptive father to his balding Danish pate, the fact that I somehow knew I was Irish despite never having been told. And he definitely knew because, as I later discovered, it was one of the things he wrote down from the initial conversation with his good ol’ buddy the delivery doctor. Admittedly, our rocky relationship was due to more than just culture clash, but I have to wonder how my adoptive father could be so proud of his own heritage while actively hindering my attempts to know mine. (My adoptive mother was Irish, actually, as well as English and Welsh. She seemed to have little interest in her own heritage and certainly none in mine.)

Why are my cultural roots considered less valid because I’m adopted? Why is it okay to pursue genealogy unless you’re adopted, in which case you must be a psychopathic potential stalker? I think all adult adoptees deserve the full and complete truth of our origins. No one should ever have to pay the Danegeld of their cultural heritage.