Category — Book Club Topics
I thought growing up in a family that was completed through international adoption I understood the challenges and issues that go along with adoption. WOW, was I wrong.
First of all, we went into the process blind and naive to the fact that there was any side other than the fluffy, feel good, everybody wins side of adoption. I’m not talking about RAD / attachment disorder, or those kinds of challenges. I’m referring to the fact that it just never dawned on my that anyone could be “anti-adoption.”
I never gave much thought to the woman at the other corner of the “adoption triad,” or realized how much pain and emptiness Jackson’s first mom might be left with so that we could be happy and our dreams fulfilled. I never imagined I’d think about her everyday, or feel that someone is missing from our lives because we do not know our son’s first mother. I am embarrassed to admit the ignorant reason I never really considered domestic adoption - b/c I never wanted to be a “dysfunctional” family, or have a fragmented family unit like domestic adoption or divorce seemed to create. Not my family. We would be the only parents our children would have b/c the other set would be left far away, on the other side of the Earth in fact. That would simplify things, and that way we’d never feel threatened about having to share our kids, or scared that a birth parent wanted back in the life of our child. OUCH. I know that’s insensitive and ignorant, and I regret having felt that way.
I don’t know if I’d seen the movie “Losing Isiah” too many times, never opened my eyes, or just never paid attention to open adoption cases that really worked (check out seriously?). I was closed to the idea. To my defense, my husband and I did think long and hard about the issues surrounding transracial adoption. For one thing, we plan to practice medicine in 2 different locations: rural US until we pay off our debt, then overseas somewhere in SE Asia. We realize it will be difficult to raise a Vietnamese child in rural Colorado, but hope at some point to live in his birth country too. We decided we wouldn’t choose to adopt from a country we would never consider living in - that was our criteria. We agreed that am African American or biracial child from the US would have a difficult time living in either of those locations, so that wasn’t a good fit for us anyway, plus all the other “complications” I mentioned above. And adopting a white child from the US, well, we didn’t consider that b/c the need is not for white babies - there’s a much greater need for families to adopt out of the foster system.
I also have never, and still won’t, buy into the criticism of adopting overseas when there are children here in my own country with needs. I get the same counter argument when I say I want to practice medicine abroad. My response is that, for one, I do not feel constrained by the boundaries of my country. I’m sure good ole Georget W. would call me anti-American, but I think that’s lame to not feel equally obligated to help people who did not happen to be born on US soil. With regards to adoption, at least we have a foster system in place. It may have problems, but many studies show it’s much healthier for the child than an orphanage.
Anyway, I absolutely do not regret adopting from Vietnam. Have you seen how precious our son is?! But I deeply miss the opportunity to have a relationship with his birth family, and I realize he will likely miss that even more than I do. I have read such beautiful stories told from the perspective of both a-parents and birth parents recounting their open adoption experiences (domestic), and I envy them. I know it’s not always pretty like that, but those stories exist. I have also come to realize that with our incredible gain through adoption, someone else experiences a devastating loss. I don’t think many PAP’s, in all our excitement, stop to really think about that. I surely didn’t.
I will forever be grateful to my son’s first mother. I will always speak respectfully about her, and acknowledge that my son does, in fact, have 2 moms (and 4 parents). I truly hope someday to find her, to tell her that, to show her what a beautiful boy she brought into the world, and what a pleasure he has been to raise.
March 11, 2007 9 Comments
I have been reading a lot of literature and commentary lately from birth mothers as well as adult transracial adoptees, who provide a very insightful perspective on their own experiences, gains, and losses. Much of what many of them write challenges the literature that we are encouraged to read pre-adoption, which tends to be authored by white adoptive parents or â€œexpertsâ€ in the field of adoption (social workers or therapists). While some of what the adoptees have to say may make me squirm and can be uncomfortable to read at times, I think it is the most worthwhile perspective for myself, as the parent of a transracially adopted baby, to attempt to understand, as he may share some of these views and experiences at some point in his life.
The book I am currently reading is called â€œOutsiders Within,â€ and each chapter is a different topic written by a transracial adoptee. I have emailed several bloggers about starting a book club and suggested this as our first book to discuss. If anyone else is interested, there is a link on the right under “Adoptee Resources” where you can hear excerpts from the book and decide if you want to read it too. I think Iâ€™ll just periodically post about issues discussed in this book and if anyone else wants to do the same on your own blog or comment on mine, we can generate discussion that way.
To quote the intro, the adoptees â€œdo not seek to present either exemplary stories of successful adoptions or cautionary tales of disastrous events. Instead they reveal transracial adoption as the intimate face of colonization, racism, militarism, imperialism, and globalization. In so doing, they direct our attention to the need for long-term solutions embedded in struggles for economic, racial, and global injustices that address the root causes leading to children of color being removed from their families or surrendered for adoption. They call on us to demand justice for an entire community, rather than claiming to save a single child.â€
This is obviously calling for change on a global scale, and this view is echoed on a smaller scale by those demanding adoption reform right here in the US, as it is easier to wrap our minds around the many social injustices that lead to domestic adoption. On that front, one transracial adoptee writes on domestic adoption:
â€œTo counter the religious Rightâ€™s strategy of stripping resources from already debilitated public services while giving tax breaks to adoptive parents, we have to ask broader questions about family structures. Who gets labeled a family member and who is property? Who really benefits from adoptions? Are childrenâ€™s rights taken into consideration during the adoption process?â€
Thereâ€™s plenty to discuss here, but letâ€™s just start with something concrete like the adoption tax credit to which this writer refers. There are many sides to this one, and it’s easy to see both. On the one hand, the tax credit benefits families with an income of up to $150,000 per year, so you could have the scenario of an investment banker + stay-at-home parent who live quite well and receive a $10,000 tax credit for adopting. Or, you could have the single parent that spent years and years saving to adopt, scrapes by on maybe a teacherâ€™s salary, but is able to provide financially and emotionally for one child, and is assisted by the tax credit. One might argue it assists families who could provide a wonderfully loving home for a child, while another might argue that it just lines the pockets of somewhat wealthy adopters, and both arguments could be true. The very valid criticism Iâ€™ve read on several birth mom blogs about the credit is that the money could be put to better use funding social programs that might assist birth moms to keep their children in the first place, such as this organization http://www.advocatesforpregnantwomen.org/. Thoughts?
Sorry for choosing what might be a dull topic to start this off, but I thought itâ€™s one we can at least wrap our minds around this one before we get into heavier stuff. Feel free to comment publicly, or email me in private if youâ€™re not comfortable with that.
February 28, 2007 6 Comments
I often think about my sonâ€™s birth mom and wonder about all the circumstances that surrounded her decision to allow her child to be adopted out of Vietnam. Did she even have a choice, or was it dictated by poverty and the hope of survival? I cannot even begin to imagine what it felt like to make a decision like that, nor what it feels like now that he is gone from her. I wonder if she will ever meet our son again, maybe when he is grown, and what that will feel like for each of us if she does.
I recently came across the blog of a VERY resentful birth mom, who rejects this term and prefers â€œnatural mother,â€ whose daughter was adopted domestically by a wealthy family. She refers to adoptive parents (excuse the “negative adoption language”) as “captors” and adopted children as “abductees.” I agree she has reason to be angry, as there are many flaws in our broken social services system that does not provide adequate support to women in difficult situations for keeping their families together, but feel her anger is misdirected at adoptive parents (excuse again) rather than systemic injustices. She blogged about international adoption, as it bears similarities to domestic adoption. To quote her blog:
And the real oxymoron is that people who are aware of human rights abuses and exploitation, who are aware of how much damage the last 4 centuries of colonization has done to non-white nations, are oblivious to how they are carrying on the same pattern, the same exploitation. Happily bringing home that African, Korean, or Guatamalan baby, they forget entirely about the family whose only way of feeding their baby was to bring it to the American-funded orphanage … The cost of an international adoption can be tens of thousands of dollars paid to lawyers, baby-brokers, “donations” to the orphanage, etc. This money, if given to the natural family, would prevent their dismemberment in the first place!
Many mothers visit their children in these orphanages when they are allowed to, heart-broken about having to put them there in the first place. A REAL orphan has NO living family! No mother or father, no grandparents, no aunts or uncles. No-one. A child with family living, family who have been denied their basic human rights, is not an “orphan” and does not need another substitute family. They need their own family, and nowhere does the Universal Declaration of Human Rights state that a child is not a human and does not deserve the same rights.
Her point is well-taken. When choosing Vietnam, my husband and I had many discussions regarding the ethics of adopting a child out of poverty, versus adopting a child who has likely been orphaned by AIDS or other disease. I had a lot of anxiety over the possibility of adopting a child whose birth family truly wanted to raise their child, but either could not due to poverty, or felt their child had the opportunity for a â€œbetter lifeâ€ if they were put up for international adoption. My husband, the realist (if either of us is a realist), argued that my view was excessively idealistic, and that we cannot realistically search out all the parents who might raise their birth children if only they had the money, and locate and designate resources so that they can do so. Additionally, there is a selfish component of adoption to which I openly admit - the desire to raise and love a child that would be our own.
I realize that by this â€œnatural momâ€™s” standards, I am an oxymoron. In the end we chose Vietnam b/c of a personal connection we felt to the country, the large number of children the country itself has designated â€œorphans,â€ and the desire to parent a child who we will love, cherish, and do our best to equip with the tools necessary to combat racism, know his birth country, and return if that is something he wishes to do. While I might be idealistic and have a â€œsave the worldâ€ complex, I do believe that there are things I can do to combat global injustices, even if only on a small scale. I can provide healthcare to women in poor nations, or find ways to channel resources to poverty-stricken communities, but in the end, there will still be children in orphanages without parents to take care of them. There will also still be parents in wealthier nations who have the resources and love to give, but no child for whom to provide it. Looking at things on that smaller scale, there is no quick fix for each individual child in an orphanage outside adoption until we do achieve world peace and â€œcureâ€ poverty.
This woman, in an angrier tone, does echo the views of many adult adoptees in the book â€œOutsiders Within,â€ and I do respect that point of view. I am not trying to mock or belittle, and I, too, would consider myself an idealist in most instances. However, I would argue that international adoption is currently our best solution for “orphans,” as defined by their birth countries, until a more just world evolves. And yes, there are things each of us can do on a small scale to facilitate that process, but I donâ€™t believe boycotting international adoption is where we start.
Thoughts and comments are welcome!
February 13, 2007 5 Comments
So I’d read this piece of adoption literature somewhere that parents adopting internationally should not assume that people from their child’s birth country be happy to hear of the adoption news, and that, perhaps there’d be some feelings of resentment, shame, sadness, etc. when, for example, a Vietnamese person sees 2 white parents with a child of Vietnamese ethnicity.Â
December 14, 2006 No Comments