Recently, when talking to an adoptive parent and explaining a talk I will be doing in November about supporting adoptive families, the parent exclaimed loudly, “I LOVE ADOPTION!!”
It really took me off guard. He was practically cheerleading me to go out there and promote adoption. I think I burst his bubble when I then explained that my presentation comes from an adoptee viewpoint first. Dead silence. With rare exceptions, most people are silent when I mention that I have a different view as an adoptee, or they look at me funny as if to say, “There is another view?”
Of course, this parent was not adopted. And it’s his right to love adoption. But his comment has weighed on me. And whenever something weighs on me, I begin writing blogs about it in my sleep, so I decided to get out of bed and put my thoughts on paper (so to speak).
This may come as a shock to some, but I don’t love adoption. I am adopted and I don’t love adoption. Some days I don’t even like adoption. (oh no, here she goes, getting all angry about her “bad experience” . . . . .)
I want to explain why I don’t love adoption and why I love permanence for children instead.
If somebody LOVES adoption, by default, they are also implying that they love everything that led up to the reason that child needed to be adopted. Not true, you say? Well, at least consider that when you tell an adoptee you love adoption, that is what they may hear you saying.
I have a suspicion that when somebody loves adoption, it is because of the love and joy it brought to their lives, to their families lives and to their child. And that is noble.
However, I can guarantee you if you asked that adopted child, once they were old enough to reason this out, it is not adoption per se that they love. They love being loved, having stability, being safe, having their needs met within a family. This is what they love, not adoption.
Adoption was the result of not being safe, not having stability, not having a family that wanted to parent (or couldn’t parent for whatever reason).
Adoption gets too much credit.
Adoptees can love their adoptive parents and still not love adoption.
When I was thinking about why exclaiming one loves adoption didn’t sit well with me, I had to think about what I loved instead. I love permanence. Permanence gives everything that children need (love, safety, stability, needs met), but does not require a legal relinquishment (sometimes), a long drawn out case file (sometimes), could potentially include adoption, but may not need to include adoption.
For example, when a child can grow up with a loving biological family, that is one example of permanence. Or if that is not possible, the child grows up with a loving aunt, uncle, grandparent, adult sibling, etc. To me, that is better than adoption because the child has her family unit on some level, even if the first family (mom/dad) are not in tact.
Then there are other forms of permanence such as an informal adoption (biological family raises child together without involving courts), guardianship and legal custody that can give a child a loving family without the need to relinquish, change a child’s name and sever all ties to the biological family and culture.
Adoption by non-relatives should be the last resort. Adoption by non-relatives implies that there was NOBODY AT ALL IN THAT CHILD’S BIOLOGICAL FAMILY who could successfully parent and that is heartbreaking to an adoptee.
So, please understand I don’t love adoption and many days, I don’t like it one bit because it sets me apart from the majority of people who grew up in the families they were born to. It makes me different than most people. Adoption makes me sad on many days. One of the reasons, I recently shared with my husband is this:
If I could have back all the hours and hours I spent digging up bones and spent searching for my birth family, I could have learned an instrument, a language or gotten a master’s degree with that time. I can never have that time back. And I can never stop feeling the anguish from being a child and adult who was kept in the dark about their family (and continues to not know half of my parentage).
I am not asking you to feel sorry for me; however, please understand why I do not love adoption. Adoption took away my original name and hid it from me. Adoption took away any knowledge of my biological family growing up. Adoption delayed my identity development. Being adopted made me feel less than others when I reached an age to understand how much I lost and that those around me had it right at their fingertips.
I cannot and will not promote adoption as a way to save orphans (I strongly dislike the term orphan because of its negative connotation but that is another blog) when I know that most “orphans” have biological family living close by and are not in fact orphans at all.
So why even bother with all this adoption work if I just don’t love adoption?
Because people need education about adoption from an adoptee viewpoint – desperately. We have become an adoption-loving country without understanding that when you announce you love adoption, you are also implying you love relinquishment, trauma, coercion, loss, secrets, discriminatory laws, etc.
Maybe you don’t love adoption as much as you think you do.
In any event, please be sensitive to the adoptees in your lives who may not love adoption as much as you do. Of course, we love our families (whether birth or adoptive); however, I have never one time ever heard an adoptee exclaim, “I LOVE ADOPTION!”