Category Archives: adoption triad

Pro-Adoption vs. Anti-Adoption

IMG_4396My boyfriend died of lung cancer in June. We’d only been together for five years, so there was a lot I didn’t know about him. Dan had been at Berkeley during the Free Speech Movement, while I was a boy-crazy 8th grader at a Catholic school in Iowa. Even before that, if I have the timeline correct, he’d joined the Freedom Riders and had gone down to Mississippi. An old friend of his told me that while he was down there he was arrested and taken to jail. “Are you black or white?” Dan was asked over and over again as they were preparing lock him up. Dan, a Korean-American, wouldn’t answer the question, but as the questioning got more aggressive, Dan finally went with white. He was jailed anyway.¬†

I’m telling this story as an introduction.

I do not imagine aligning myself with the folks who call themselves pro-adoption. But then again, I might if the label were dissected and arranged in such a way that it didn’t mean unethical or illegal adoption. I might if it didn’t mean secrets and shame and sealed records. I might if it didn’t mean child trafficking or endangerment or taking children from poor single mothers and giving them to couples with a bigger bank account.

But I don’t really want to be anti-adoption either. I acknowledge that there are children who need to be removed from their biological families. Still, adoption is no guarantee there will not be abuse. I acknowledge that there are children in orphanages and in foster care that need families. Claudia Corrigan D’Arcy elaborates on the anti-adoption label in her ESSAY ¬†from Portrait of an Adoption and pretty much covers everything. So, yes, if I have to choose, I’ll have what she’s having. But only if it’s served up like that.

Reform of the adoption industry is absolutely necessary. But I don’t like the line in the sand. I’m guessing that a lot of the people who label themselves as pro-adoption don’t really want to associate themselves with the corrupt practices present in adoption today. Or at least I hope not. So I wish they wouldn’t say they were pro-adoption without writing an essay defining it.

Strength is something we seek. Taking a stand is admired. Fervent seems like a nice adjective. But maybe we all have to stand together in the middle of the hurt and confusion explaining every little thing to one another, listening as hard as we can.

I said it

The statistics:

“According to Dr. Ruth McRoy at the UT School of Social Work, there are approximately 5,000,000 US births each year. Of that, approximately 118,000 are adoptions (roughly 2.36% new adoptees each year). Anywhere in the US, a minimum of 2.3% of the population are women who are also birthmothers who have placed children for adoption. Then you also have 2.3% of the population who are birth fathers, and 4.7% of the population who are adoptive parents. Total that up and you have about 11% of the population who are triad members. That does not count aunts, uncles and grandparents to adoptive families and birth families.
Whenever you are in a room of strangers you can figure that one out every ten is a triad member.”

The Evan B. Donaldson study from 1997 claims that one in five Americans is or knows someone close to them who is a member of the triad.

The 767 I flew on today had around 300 passengers. I sat next to an adoptee. How often, I wonder, do two members of the triad who are total strangers end up sitting next to one another? She was a charming 40-something on her way to visit her terminally ill 82-yr-old mother. Born to a 15-year-old, she was adopted by a woman who’d already had eleven kids.
I told her my story. “Well, you did the noble thing,” the woman said. “I would not have wanted to be raised by my 15-year-old birthmother.” I might have smiled and nodded or even said thank you when someone said this to me years ago.
“I don’t buy that line of thinking anymore,” I said today. “I think society needs to work harder at keeping mothers and babies together.” She was a little taken aback, and nervously fingered the psychology textbook she’d propped on her tray table. We talked a bit longer about separating mother and child and the hole that separation leaves in both lives. She’s working on her Masters in clinical psychology. Maybe just maybe what she knows about herself, what she knows about mothering her 4-year-old son, what we talked about today will affect how she counsels triad members in her future practice as a psychologist.