I’ve spent the past 2 years researching adoption, having heart to heart conversations with adoptees, and writing down every thought and feeling of my own. Today I’m sharing 10 personal thoughts/things I’ve learned about adoption. You may not appreciate them all but I hope my intentions are not misunderstood. I do not claim to speak for all adoptees; I’m sharing based on discussions I’ve had with fellow adoptees and my own personal findings. Adoption can be good and/or bad. After all my research, I still maintain adoption can be a beautiful and positive experience. It mostly has been for me. However, even when it is wonderful, it isn’t without trauma, grief, and sorrow. Adoption can also be horrific, unethical, abusive, and ugly. Some of the stories I’ve listened to are appalling and gut wrenching. Many adoptees experience both ends of the spectrum. Adoption should not be viewed as a solution or an end to suffering when often, it’s an introduction to yet another facet of suffering for an already traumatized child. We must recognize both the good and the bad.
- Every adoptee should be permitted to share their story without judgment. I find my story to be well received, for the most part (but not always) because my childhood experience was generally positive. Yet people are often offended when an adoptee, whose experience has been primarily traumatic, shares their story. Why? Because they seem ungrateful? And for what exactly ought they be grateful? Being ripped from their biological family, lack of familiarity with the culture of their birth, physical/sexual/emotional abuse, isolation? When those involved in adoption only hear and share the “happy” stories, it’s counterproductive; it isn’t helpful and actually moves things in the opposite direction. When an adoptee is heard, they have the potential to flourish and thrive because there is profound freedom in releasing the hidden aches within our hearts. Ignoring the uncomfortable stories helps no one.
- Adoptive parents need to take a step back and allow adoptees to direct the conversation on adoption. The greatest challenges in adoption are not in the paperwork, dossier assembly, or administrative organization. Yes, adoptive parents are fluent in adoption lingo and well versed in the adoption process, but, for the most part, those aren’t the important pieces. Why are so many adoptive parents directing the narrative in our churches, schools, and on social media? I don’t mean to offend, but this is important… Adoptees are the authority on adoption. Adoptive parents are not. I’m not suggesting they shouldn’t have a voice but their voice should not be the dominant one. I absolutely believe adoptive parents require support but it should be done separately, in private groups, and less public settings. Why must adoptive parents share how their adoption process was a “nightmare” and list the hoops they had to jump through? Please, stop to think about how those conversations will impact a child. Should an adoptee be flattered their parents went to so much trouble? No. Why are so many adoptive parents unwilling to take a back seat and allow adoptees to share their own stories? If you want to learn about adoption, really learn, talk to an adoptee. Listen to an adoptee! It’s pretty simple. And it would be a heck of a lot simpler if more adoptive parents would sit down.
- Adoption is complex and its not becoming any less so. It’s anything but simple for children and adults. As children, adoptees have a difficult time articulating their feelings, while many adult adoptees can tend to associate with one extreme or the other because they don’t feel permitted to be anywhere in between. We aren’t all angry or at peace; happy or distraught. Those boxes are far too narrow for that of any adoptee I’ve ever known. I often experience each of those feelings in one day.
- Adoption is an industry. A business. And it’s as corrupt as any major corporation except there are CHILDREN on the line; innocent, traumatized children. Throughout the entirety of the adoption process the adoptee is the only one without control. Isn’t that awful? Are those in the adoption industry solely focused on what’s best for the child? That doesn’t appear to be the case much of the time. When money is involved one should be so, so cautious about who they’re willing to work with. Adoptive parents do not have the luxury of turning a blind eye to adoption corruption. The atrocities within adoption can’t have only happened to other people. Everyone assumes their adoption is above board without taking the time to be absolutely certain. Do you want to play a part in kidnapping or child trafficking? Then don’t. Don’t.
- Raising funds to adopt is an incredibly sticky situation. I assure you, I’m not judging anyone who has or is raising money to adopt, but I do have concerns surrounding the subject. The problem is in fostering an environment in which your donors feel they helped save a child. How will you handle someone addressing your child saying they donated to help get them here? How is an adoptee (child or adult) to respond? Thank You? No. Adoptees are not mission work. We are not a good deed or charity. Donors have zero stake in an adopted child simply because they chose to give to a fund. The “we did this together” mentality is a dangerous burden to place on anyone. And, by the way, even if no one speaks quite this bluntly to your child, it’s implied so, please, handle this wisely. Be prepared. Be mindful of how every detail, every word can and will affect an adoptee.
- Parenting is hard. However one goes about becoming a parent, they will find it to be challenging on every front. And none of that matters; it’s a lifelong commitment. Once you become a parent there is no end. Parenting never ends; not at 18, not at the first or 3,000th sign of trouble, not ever. If there is an even microscopic twinge of “well, if it doesn’t work out then…” in your mind, you should not become a parent via adoption. Let’s attempt to minimize traumatizing the traumatized.
- Adoption IS grief. There is no adoption without grief. When grief goes unacknowledged or ignored it brews and builds. Grief lives in the foundation of adoption. At its core, adoption is traumatic, even in the best scenarios and certainly in the worst. Adoptees carry the weight of loss, rejection, worry, lack of self value, insecurity, and pain every day of their lives. Some days it bubbles closer to the surface than others, but it is ever present and ever burdensome. It manifests emotionally and physically. Acknowledge it. Receive it. Give it space to release and be heard.
- There must be reform within adoption. I’m grateful for the activists on the front lines working on birth certificate accessibility, retroactive citizenship, in country family preservation, and justice for evil doers in the system. There is an overwhelming amount of work to be done. I don’t believe any of us who are part of the adoption arena (by choice or not) should sit idly by without doing our part to bring about necessary change.
- As is the case with most things, there are positives and negatives in adoption. I’m passionate about making the world a safer place for all adoptees to share their stories. Not all adoptees see things my way and I’m okay with that; we don’t always have the same point of view and I appreciate every perspective. The greatest changes within adoption are coming directly from the hard work of adoptees. I’m proud to be in community with so many adoptees driven to create change in the face of harsh push back. I’ve never met more passionate or hard working people; people willing to commit their life’s work to helping the next generation of adoptees. Thank you, fellow adoptees. Thank you SO much.
- If you’re an adoptee, SPEAK. Share your story. Be heard. We stand together; you’re not alone. If you’re not an adoptee, LISTEN. You cannot understand without listening. You cannot parent without listening. We need you to listen. We need to be heard.
It’s been quite a year. I’ve learned a lot and I have so much more to learn. I’m certain I’ve barely scratched the surface.
Adoptive families, this is for your children; please take it to heart. Adoptees, keep sharing your stories without reservation; the impact is resounding.
36 years ago upon arrival in Portland, Oregon with my beautiful mother and her parents.
1 year ago, back in Calcutta, India on the 35th anniversary of the day I left.