I think it must not be clear, so let me shout.
I AM NOT AGAINST ADOPTION.
I DO NOT THINK IT IS A BAD THING.
I DO NOT SEEK TO END THE PRACTICE.
I AM VERY AWARE THAT PEOPLE FROM ALL CORNERS OF THE TRIAD HAVE BEEN WELL-SERVED BY ADOPTION.
(Everyone hear that? Good, because I’m a quiet person by nature, and I don’t like to yell.)
Why do I feel the need to clarify? Because it seems that anyone who brings up the negatives in adoption is seen as a troublemaker who wants to bring the entire house crashing down. My goal in speaking publicly about this topic has always been more along the lines of calling for “major renovations.” I’m not out to burn the thing to the ground.
Now, it is true that I don’t spend much of my blog time singing the praises of adoption. Here’s why:
1. The majority of society already believes adoption is a good thing. Witness the public opinion survey from the Evan B. Donaldson Institute. Most people have positive feelings about adoption. They don’t need persuading on this point.
2. Those birthparents who are pleased with their adoption experience are also speaking out. I don’t have to speak for them – they’re doing it themselves. My voice does not contradict or override theirs – both are valid experiences.
3. Adoption agencies also do plenty of work to pitch relinquishment and adoption. Increasingly, our government is also doing the same.
From a more personal perspective, I cannot be Pollyanna about adoption because my vantage point (the side I have lived and breathed) is not so pretty. Remember, I am from the giving up half of the equation, not the receiving side. Surrender is what I know. For me, the word “adoption” is about loss, not gain, and it has involved exploitation, incompetence, unjust laws, defeat, a sense of powerlessness, and intense, lifelong grief. There have been no personal benefits to me, except an increase in empathy and the knowledge that I can now survive anything.
Yet I do realize that my experience as a birthparent differs from what most adoptive parents and a lot of adopted people feel. For them, the word “adoption” has equally strong positive connotations – love, family, hope, security, peace, comfort, joy. When I speak of my side, I do not seek to drown out the other experience of adoption. I just want both sides to be viewed at once. Can we not manage to hold two opposing images in our mind at the same time? I don’t see why not – the world really is that complex!
Most people simply do not want to hear about the ugly, painful side of adoption. The few who are willing to listen usually only want to hear it once and then have the speaker go away. “We heard you, now scram.” But experiences such as mine are valid too, and they also need to be heard, and heard often.
It always surprises me that those who love adoption are the very same people who get most offended by any criticisms of the institution. If you love it, why aren’t you open to making it better? If it’s worked for you, why aren’t you concerned that it hasn’t been so swell for others? Don’t you want to make sure it works even better for the people of the future?
I have seen far, far too many people (from all sides of the triad) get hurt as a result of the “status quo.” The status quo is not good enough. If adoption worked great for YOU, keep in mind that there are scores of people for whom it didn’t. Those are the people we need to keep trying to help.
This is why I love the folks at Ethica. Ethica is a group founded by adoptive parents who, because they love their children dearly, want to improve all the drawbacks of current adoption practice. Take a look at their statement of beliefs – it’s beautiful. The Ethica people are working their butts off to make things better, and they listen to criticism in the spirit it is given – as constructive criticism for change. They understand how a good and noble institution can also have some really rotten effects, and they aren’t afraid of that duality. Like I said, it’s a complex world.