So Sophist Six over at Tolerant People invited folks to write guest posts for her and since I’ve had some ideas kicking about in my brain to post here, her invite seemed as good an opportunity as any to get some of it out. Now as I have started to write, I see this is probably going to be a series of posts because, well, adoption is a very complicated matter. And I don’t think Sophist Six really wants a dissertation on her blog. So here’s part 1 of hopefully many more to come. The rest will probably be posted only here.
Pause here to add the disclaimer that the opinions below are mine and mine alone. I do not pretend to speak for all adoptive or prospective adoptive parents, much less other folks touched by adoption. I am familiar with and sympathetic to the perspectives of others in the adoption web. And I especially try to see things from the potential viewpoint of my own son, who is nearly 4, adopted from China, and has barely even had an idea about what those things might mean to him. Please don’t assume that because I don’t address a different viewpoint that I am not conversant with it.
I also acknowledge that my view is one of a person of pretty major privilege, being well-educated, upper middle class and (although actually bi-racial) benefiting from the assumption that I am white. I know this. I own this. I try to hear and allow other perspectives to inform and change my opinions. But ultimately my views are what they are based on my own lived experiences. They are subject to change. But this is where I am now.
And I should probably add trigger warnings for a wide range of issues from infertility to abandonment to child abuse.
So a little background on me and how I came to be an adoptive parent.
Much of my adult life I was child-free by choice. I have never had a desire to be pregnant and for a long time I didn’t really want to be a parent. I still think this is a valid choice. Being a parent is a major undertaking and not everyone has the desire to do it , which is NOT a “lack” in the person in question. One is no less of a whole person simply because one chooses to seek other challenges than becoming a parent.
A lot of the reason I was not interested in being a mother was due to family health history. I won’t get into the details because the stories aren’t mine to tell so it’ll just have to suffice that there are major health considerations that have stopped me from wanting to bring children into the world. I do not want to be responsible for passing those issues along.
As an aside this caused some tension between me and my mother for a long time. I think she thought I was judging her choice to have children. I was not and still am not. Mom and Dad had kids somewhat in the dark and somewhat in knowledge of our genetic illnesses but I trust they had some idea of what they could handle. I certainly knew what I could handle – or rather, couldn’t handle – and made a different choice. My brother, who used to feel the same way I did, has since made the opposite choice and I am thankful for the blessing of the niece that resulted from that change of heart. I would never say he was wrong, either. He made the right decision for himself and his family. But I still choose not to have children of my own body.
Now although I was pretty firmly in the “no kids” camp, I had long ago formed the idea that if I ever did decide to be a parent that I would probably adopt. I had only vague ideas of what that meant. My parents had been official and unofficial foster parents and we
knew a number of families that were built by adoption. But few people who haven’t adopted really know what it involves.
Fast forward many years, a marriage, a divorce and crazy whirlwind of relationships later and I found myself with a man I love and respect and in a place in my own emotional development that, hey, kids actually sounded like a great idea. My husband, too, had concerns about biological children and we just naturally came to the conclusion that we would adopt. (If you want to read how and why we chose international adoption and China in particular, here is what I posted when we were early in the process.
Here’s where it starts getting political.
Adoption is a very, very fraught issue. Oh my gods and goddesses! I had no idea when we first stepped into this arena just how fraught. I had only one perspective when we started researching – that of wanting to build a family – so I was really and truly shocked to see how deep a subject it became in a hurry. Adoption triads/webs. Ethics in adoption. International vs. domestic vs. foster adopt. Race and trans-racial adoption. Privacy concerns vs. needs of adopted persons. Child trafficking. Domestic and local politics effects on adoption. Attachment and trauma therapy controversies. Even choosing an agency became a political act as everyone in the adoption community weighed in on which ones were “good” and “bad” and why. And which programs were “ethical” or not was a whole ‘nother level of drama. Yikes!
Being a research aficionado and a political animal, it was like second nature to wade into it all. I won’t call myself an expert by any means but having lived neck deep in the issues for almost a decade I think I’m at least qualified to say I have an Informed Opinion.
To keep this from getting to be too long (too late?) I’m going to focus in on one issue: the way our prejudices about family, specifically the notion that “blood is thicker than water” shape public policy on adoption and can lead to some bad consequences for children.