As National Adoption Awareness Month comes to a close, I felt compelled to get some things down on to paper (so to speak). Mirroring our political climate, the adoption community has had many divisions as of late which have caused me to pull back on the multiple commitments I have had in past years. I disabled my Facebook for most of November and stayed away from my I-phone, the news and tried to focus on non-digital projects in the safe cocoon of home.
While working on an organization project of documents, I came across some information related to my reunion I had forgotten about and felt triggered by. In response, I created my own personal pity party (which mirrored the collective trauma that many adoptees experience during National Adoption Awareness Month).
Over the holiday weekend, I received a wake up call from the Universe that there is something bigger than just my/our own personal and individual experiences of adoption.
And it is this: we need to have an eye toward the future. What do we want adoption to look like 10, 20, or 50 years from now?
How do we want the next generation of adoptees to be treated differently than we were? What do we want clinicians, social workers, teachers and adoptive parents to know about our experience and what is the best way to communicate it?
I believe we have reached a tipping point in our advocacy efforts. We have successfully flipped the script. Adoptees are being heard by others and there are people acting on the information that we have so openly and transparently shared.
Yet, there are limitations to sharing about our individual pain, trauma and search and reunion stories.
Without evaluating what specifically we would like to be different, adoptee suicides will continue at a rate of four times greater than the general population. (4x greater in both attempts AND completion).
Adoptees will die without knowledge of their identity, regardless of how many times we post on social media demanding our original birth certificates.
Separation trauma will continue while we pay out of our own pockets for adoption competent therapy.
What do you see when you look toward the future of adoption? What kind of change are you willing to put both money and sweat equity toward?
I don’t believe adoption abolishment is a realistic expectation. There are certainly many situations when adoption is warranted. However, there are also many mothers who could parent if they had the financial means and independent legal representation.
I think we can all agree that if a child cannot be raised by their biological parents, kin or close friends is the next best thing. But when there are no relatives or friends to raise a child, adoption has its place.
Wait, what? We can’t agree? You mean guardianship is better than adoption? Wait, you think two year olds care that their birth certificates are sealed and amended? Your cousin’s step-sister is adopted and doesn’t care about searching for her birth parents?
Viewing adoption issues as black and white is one of the biggest downfalls in adoptionland and in the public arena.
Could it be time to accept that every adoption story is individual and we will never agree on everything?
Adoption is not always better, beautiful and wonderful. It’s painful and traumatic to some of us.
Yet, we do ourselves no favors by being unwilling to admit the advantages adoption gave us, even if the only positive we can say is that we arrived to adulthood alive and able to tell the world what we experienced.
We are doing ourselves no favors by denying that there are some people in the world who are unable or unwilling to parent.
At some point we have to shift from victim to victor.
It’s not our fault that adoption affected us in a way that society still cannot fully recognize. It’s not our fault when our first moms or dads cannot or will not acknowledge us.
Truly, our circumstances and our trauma are not our fault.
Yet, they are our responsibility.
We must actively work toward our own personal healing first to be able to then critically evaluate what we would like to see different in the future of adoption.
Then we must pro-actively work toward those goals.
That means action. Not just posting on social media in the echo chamber, but getting to know your legislator, sending money to an adoption-related non-profit, supporting conferences or zooms with change makers in our communities, speaking out on podcasts, blogs, and books.
It’s a lot of work and sometimes we do not feel up to it. I haven’t felt up to it all month, which is why I have been silent until today. Burnout is a real thing in community activism.
Yet, as NAAM comes to a close, I accept the responsibility to my fellow adoption community members as well as the next generation of adoptees, birth parents and adoptive parents to work toward a kinder and more ethical future adoption.
That means, putting time, money and effort into making change. And sometimes that time, money and effort will be put into my own healing and growth so I can better understand what is a me-issue versus an adoption-issue.
Can we all agree that moving toward truth and transparency, leaving adoption stigma behind, and respecting our fellow community members who disagree with us be a starting point?
Can we accept that even though we will never agree on every stance, we can still collectively work toward education and post-adoption support for our community?
I believe we can.