A couple of weeks ago, I stumbled across an Open Letter written by an adult adoptee, I’m going to reference the site where I got the letter from, purely because it feels like the right thing to do. However, after the number of negative adoption blogs I’ve been reading lately, particularly in the States, I’m rather anxious about the backlash this could potentially cause.
I want to state up front that it is not my intention to disrespect the writer or disregard their feelings, however as an AP, it was important to me to gain a few additional perspectives on this letter as it left me deeply troubled. I am in no way making this letter about me, rather I’m looking, searching and trying to find the perfect way to parent my adopted daughter, to bring her up in a home where she IS allowed to feel what ever she needs to feel about her adoption status, in a home where she is free to be whoever she is, without having to hide her true feelings. It would seem that many adult adoptee’s think that AP’s only consider their own feelings and not what is in the best interests of their child, I want to clarify that that is simply not the truth, most certainly not for me.
I think it’s also important to note that adoptions in South Africa are managed in a very different way to those in the states. Adoptions are NOT an industry here, there is no money exchanging hands for a baby, aside from legal fee’s, medical fee’s and SW’s fees, no money exchanges between the BM’s and AP’s. South Africa has one of the most advanced democracies in the world, part of this is our Children’s act. From my experience of SW’s here in SA, they ALWAYS act in the best interest of the child and then the BM’s, they are by no means acting on behalf of AP’s, while of course they would protect AP’s by not knowingly putting us in situations where we could get hurt.
I sent it on to a friend, Allison, herself an adult adoptee who was placed in 1966. You can see Allison’s responses throughout the letter in the sections labelled (A), the area’s labelled (S) are my opinions, thoughts and responses.
To all adoptive parents, hopeful adoptive parents, and anyone who has ever even considered adoption:
Being adopted hurts. Being adopted is hard. It is not beautiful; it is brutal, it is tragic, it is a cause for great sadness. For in order for a child to even be available for adoption, that child must first go through some sort of tragedy; whether that be abuse, hunger, homelessness, neglect, or even the simple fact that he or she is losing the life and family he or she was born into. This makes adoption a thing to mourn; not a cause for celebration or joy. To be joyful about adopting a child is to be glad that this tragedy happened.
(S) My experience of our adoption was and is beautiful. We spent time with our BM and have a shared mutual respect and a great love for each other. While I do agree, there is tragedy in this, from my own experience it was also one of beauty and love.
I don’t think there’s a soul alive who would actually choose to be born into a situation where being relinquished for adoption, voluntarily or otherwise, was necessary.
(S) While I do agree with this statement, none of us has a choice in the situations we are born into and without sounding callous, and again, speaking from my own experience, there are a lot of other awful situations to be born into, ones of immeasurable cruelty and abuse, children born to mothers who struggle with Munchausen by proxy syndrome, none of those children had a choice in that either, that is the reality of birth.
Of course there will always be a need for children to be removed from their parent(s) and placed in safer, more stable, loving homes – but please understand that no matter how good and loving and wonderful the adopting parents are, nothing will ever erase the pain, the grief, and the loss that comes with being adopted.
(A)DO NOT AGREE!!!
The very foundation of adoption is that of loss – a child loses his or her mother, father, and entire family; a mother, father and family loses one of their children. And, yes, even a loss for the adopting parent – sometimes the loss of the expectation of having their own, biological offspring, the loss of a dream of having a baby of “their own.” A separation of one family MUST occur before a new one can be built through adoption. Maybe it isn’t a voluntary destruction, maybe the destruction is necessary for the health and safety of the child – but it is still a destruction of the very core, fundamental foundations of that child’s life that will forever be altered.
(S) I find the use of quotes around their own that the writer uses offensive. Ava is very much my own child, just as she is Walter’s own child, she is also her BM’s own child, we share a beautiful love for this child, she is very much our (Mine, Walters and our BM’s) child. While she may not be genetically linked to us, that does not change one iota of how we love her or how we see her. Adoption for me was always something I was open to, having been exposed to the beautiful adoption examples of my cousins growing up, it had always been something I thought I’d pursue one day. For Walter, there was an element of grieving his own genetics but, like any journey in life, he grieved and put it behind him. Ava’s genetics are of little importance to us now as her parents. Without sounding callous, while adoption is about loss, it is also about gain and not just from an AP’s perspective.
Think of it this way…one of your parents dies, and your surviving parent eventually goes on to remarry. Though you might grow to love and have a great relationship with your parent’s new spouse, no amount of love and happiness in this present situation will erase the grief you feel over the loss of your other parent. So please, if you have adopted or are considering adoption, keep this in mind.
(A)Do you find this to be true? I surely don’t. Look around you and ask yourself is this is realistic. Of course you can complete a grieving process and carry on, else no-one of us will be here if the LOSS does not become bearable. NO AMOUNT OF LOVE? No way, girl – this is not true! The relationship is just different but the grieving passes!
Adoption should be the very last resort after all other options have been tried. ((A)and how many kids will grow up homeless then?) Ask yourself this – does an adoption HAVE to happen? Is there anything I can possibly do to help this young mother keep her child? Are there resources I can direct her to, items I can supply her with, can I offer her the support and encouragement she needs to be a good parent? If so, then pursuing adoption is not the right choice. Too many unnecessary adoptions happen as a permanent solution to a very temporary problem. ((A)since when is raising a child a temp problem – it is a lifelong commitment that you are in alone – no matter the support – and if there is no way, there is no way – it is no-one’s fault) Adoption, after all, is forever – ((A)so is parenting) while a current living situation, job situation, etc., is temporary and can be changed and improved. ((A)how many kids are put up for adoption in these cases? Most are fostered until the parents can cope again. Most adoptees i know there was no hardship or even woman involved – it was kids not ready for grown up life with parents not willing to take on the responsibility or unable to) Most women who relinquish their children do so because they feel they have no other choice…but what if she does have another choice, and only needs the support and encouragement to make it? ((A)My BM had a choice right at the end to keep me – her parents eventually said they will help – but she chose not to. So again – every situation is different.)
(S) I feel that this is a very simplified way at looking at the complexities of adoption. While I can only comment from my own experience, I know that adoption was our BM’s choice, no one forced her to place Ava, she was older and could have kept Ava, but she chose not to, for no other reason than she wanted more for Ava than what she felt she could give. Nothing would have changed that, that was her choice.
(A)This is just complete nonsense – who in their right mind would wish hurt on anyone else? Adoption IS a joyful event – not all children are taken away from loving good parents that’s fallen on hard times as author would like you to think. Most of us are unwanted, untimely ”mistakes”” with no loving mom, dad and supporting family in sight.
Adopted people know we are a second choice, a “Plan B,” a solution to someone else’s problem. (My parents never made me feel like this!!! And since i am now childless myself – i know the pain they went through)
While there are some people out there who would choose adoption first, most only do so after failed attempts at pregnancy or to “complete” a family of all boys or girls or to give their current child a sibling. Adding to your family through adoption should never be about meeting some need of your own…((A)again – strongly disagree – what better motivation to be the most awesome parent ever born!) it should always and only ever be about providing for the CHILD’S needs. Please don’t put the added pressure on an adopted child by forcing them to live up to the unspoken standard of the child you couldn’t conceive or the son or daughter you couldn’t produce. Adoption is not a cure for infertility, nor are adopted people “gifts” to be passed around in order to complete somebody else’s life. We are human beings in our own right, with our own feelings, needs, and wants. Don’t add to an already painful situation by expecting us to be something we weren’t born to be. ((A) this is just bitter talk from someone that obviously did not find acceptance – again – not true of all)
(S) But aren’t all families born of a need of a parents need to parent a child? Why should it be any different for AP’s. I have always longed to be a mother, from the time I was a young child. I think I am a great candidate for being an AP because of me, my desire to be a mother was NEVER about genetics or pregnancy, it was ALWAYS about mothering a child, lavishing a child with love and experiencing all the high’s, lows and challenges that a parent faces, including the additional challenges that face AP’s.
Please be willing to be completely open and honest with the child you may someday adopt. It doesn’t matter how horrible of a situation they came out of; tell them the truth, and tell them early. For the truth can be dealt with, it can be processed and closure can be found; but nobody can get closure from fantasies and daydreams. ((A)agree fully!)
(S) Completely agree with the above, Ava’s adoption has never been a secret from her, it is something she will ALWAYS know. Every piece of information I have about her BM has been carefully saved for her, photo’s, letters, sms’s, the works, we believe the only way to successfully raise an adopted child is to be completley open, honest and transparent about the entire process.
Adopted people are stronger than you give them credit for; believe me when I say, we imagine and prepare for every possible scenario when it comes to our families or origin. Don’t think we haven’t entertained the idea that our biological parents were the worst of the worst, or idealized them as some sort of saintly creatures, and everything in between. We have already survived the loss of our original families; don’t for one minute think we can’t survive knowing the reason why. And on that note, if an adopted person ever chooses to search, reunite, or just know more about their family of origin, don’t guilt them into not doing it or make them feel beholden to you. It has NOTHING to do with you. NOTHING. ((A)AGREE!!! You must not take this personally. I saw how my mom suffered with this but she did it silently and gave me ALL her support.)
(S) Walter and I have discussed this at length and have always felt that we will fully support Ava and assist her we she would like us to in searching for her BM. We will let her take the lead and allow her to guide us in this process. We are well aware that this has nothing to do with us not being good enough parents but a need of her’s to know her origins and to have her questions answered and also perhaps the recreate a bond that was once broken.
Human beings are born with an innate curiosity about who and where we come from. For some adopted people to feel whole, they need to know their own personal history and explore their roots. There’s nothing wrong with that. After all, you, as the parent, are responsible for your adopted child’s happiness and well being…not the other way around. Swallow your pride, put away your jealousy, and support your adopted child in any quest for truth they may wish to undertake. Believe me, they will thank you for it.((A) YES – AGREE!!! 100%)
(S) I fully agree with the above as well. I think any potential AP’s who are unable to accept the above should really be questioning whether or not adoption is right for them.
Don’t fall into the terminology trap. Adoptees know they have more than one set of parents…two that created them, and the parent(s) who are raising them. ALL are real to the adoptee. Don’t get caught up in who is “real” and who is more important; let your adopted child choose the terminology that suits THEM. If you have been a good and loving parent, that’s all you need. Besides, a parent can love more than one child, so why can’t a child be allowed to love more than one parent? The heart has an infinite capability to love. Don’t begrudge your adopted child the possibility of loving people he or she may not even remember. ((A)LOVE here is a strong word – love comes from caring and giving and nuture – you can love them maybe in a good friendship way but never in a parent way – a parent is the one who wiped your bum and put a plaster on a hurt (real or not))
And don’t disparage the biological parents or family either. They may be evil people, the scum of the earth…but to say anything bad about the biological family is the same as saying something bad about your adopted child. The child did come from these people, after all; and better or worse we did inherit parts of ourselves from them. The old saying applies here more than anywhere else…if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all. ((A)Good point!)
(S) It astounds me that their are AP’s out there who would actually do this. We have nothing but love, respect and gratitude about or BM and I would NEVER dream of saying anything negative or bad about her, I love her too much to every do that!
Adopted people experience a range of issues from having been adopted…many suffer from the fear of rejection and abandonment, ((A)YES YES YES – big one – as if we can feel it from inception – atleast that is what a shrink once told me – rejection from inception) have problems trusting others and forming relationships. After all, our very mothers could walk away from us, so what’s to stop anyone else? Though not all adoptees experience these, many do, and to varying degrees. ((A)This too is a part of growing up and letting people in – i am sure non-adoptive people also has these issues. We learn, we grow and when the right people comes into your life, you open up and trust and let them in) Just because the adopted person in your life hasn’t mentioned it, don’t think they don’t feel it. Many will never, ever talk about their negative adoption issues for those exact reasons…fear of rejection, fear of abandonment, and just the overwhelmingly negative response they expect. ((A)Most i know is very open about these feelings!!!!)
(S) I feel that is AP’s foster openness and sharing without judgement with their adopted child, then there should be no need for the adopted child to ever feel they need to hide their true feelings & fears.
If the adopted person in your life (your child, a friend or other family member) ever does talk about it, take your personal feelings and judgments out of it. Resist the temptation to say things like, “But you had such wonderful [adoptive] parents!” or “but you could have been aborted/thrown in a dumpster/etc.!” Adoptees are the only subset of society who are wholly expected to be grateful for our very lives, and with this expectation comes the need to try to suppress any negative emotion or feeling. Most adoptees won’t even admit to themselves, let alone other people, that they are hurting. After all, we got this “better life,” didn’t we? We don’t have the RIGHT to feel sad/angry/depressed. So many adoptees choose to stay silent and instead live a lie. ((A) I would also like to point out here that we do not ALWAYS feel like this. It comes in stages and triggers when something bad happens. I guess we sort of blame it on us being adopted. As a child one can easily find a scapegoat before taking responsibility….)
And, yes, that goes hand-in-hand with the child-parent relationship thing…remember, the PARENT is responsible for the health and well being of the CHILD, NOT the other way around. Only in adoption are adoptees somehow expected to always be careful not to “hurt” their adoptive parents; not to rock the boat or bring up something about their adoption because their PARENTS might not like it. ((A)This will depend on how open the parents are – open dialogue is best here. Off course i would never want to say anything to hurt my mom….neither would you and you are not adopted?? It’s human nature, not adopted nature!)
(S) I’d have to agree with Allison here, I think this is also largely dependent on the nature of the child. I have always been the kind of child who was terrified of hurting or disappointing my parents, my brother, not so much.
This is another reason so many adopted people don’t speak about adoption…we are afraid of hurting our adoptive parents. I know that as a parent myself, I would never expect my children to be responsible for my well-being…so please, don’t ever place that expectation on adopted people either. After all, their adoptive parents WANTED to adopt, they WANTED a child, and chose this path for themselves. The adoptee most often did not choose it and had no say in the matter. Don’t expect gratitude. ANYONE could have been aborted, could have been abandoned, could have been abused. These are not phenomena that are solely related to adoptees. Just because a person was adopted doesn’t automatically mean they were unwanted, that they “could have been” anything…they are just people who are being raised by a different family and are living a DIFFERENT life, not necessarily a better one.
Please, if you are considering adoption or have already, educate yourself. Read books such as the Primal Wound. Read blogs by adopted people and relinquishing parents. Go into it with an open mind and open heart. Understand that there is the very real potential that the child you someday adopt might just struggle with it. And while you can be a terrific parent, a wonderful guide and mentor, the damage has already been done. Be prepared to do the hard work of helping your child deal with any grief, anger, and other issues he/she may feel. TALK to them about it. Adoptees are notorious for keeping things bottled up…let them know it’s OK to talk with you about them. Reassure them that you will NOT be hurt, offended or damaged by their feelings. ALLOW them the freedom to feel whatever they feel. ((A)Again – all children need this!)
If you are considering an open adoption or have entered into an open adoption, HONOR that. Unless there is some clear and present danger to the life of your child, KEEP THE COMMUNICATION OPEN. Don’t cease contact with the biological family because it’s an inconvenience for YOU. Understand that yes, at times it might be emotionally trying for your adopted child, your child may come away from visits or reading letters and feel depressed and angry, but don’t take that as a reason to cease contact. TALK to your child. Help them understand WHY they are feeling this way. It’s only natural that this might happen; and in the same breath, the biological mother/father/family may also feel overwhelmed at times and pull back, but do what you can to keep the lines of communication open. Remember, adoption is based on loss, and being reminded of that loss can be overwhelming. But that doesn’t mean it should be avoided. Your adopted child will thank you someday for sacrificing your own happiness and comfort to allow him/her to keep this very important connection. Agree.
Try not to make a big celebration out of your child’s adoption day (and PLEASE don’t EVER use the horribly offensive and insensitive term “Gotcha Day). The same goes for birthdays. For while it may be a happy occasion to remember, keep in mind that it also marks the day that the adopted person was permanently and forever separated from their mother, their father, their original family. ((A)why would anyone like to be reminded of this – only if parents makes this an issue can it be an issue. What child does not like birthdays? When you are small and your parents makes it a big joyful occasion, that is how you will feel always.)
(S) “Gotcha day” – never heard this term used in South Africa, but seriously???? Why would anyone refer to as adoption placement so callously. I’m astounded such a term even exists.
Birthdays are especially hard; for most adoptees have the knowledge that our births were not cause for celebration; nobody was bringing our mothers flowers and balloons and offering congratulations; our entrance into this world was one of sadness and trepidation. ((A)KAK – you can not remember this! Nothing marks no day. It is a feeling, an emotion – not a day! Every child/person deserves a joyful ME day. Strongly disagree here!!)
And it marks the day we were physically separated from our mothers; for many of us, it was the last time we ever saw her. So if the adoptee in your life withdraws around his or her birthday or doesn’t appear to like celebrating, respect that. Understand that to many of us, it is not a cause for celebration. Crap!
I am not trying to tell anyone not to adopt. I am not saying, “shame on you” to anyone who already has adopted.
What I am saying is, please step back and really think long and hard about the ramifications of adoption on the very person who is at the center of it all – the child you hope for or the child you have brought into your home. ((A) EVERYTHING an adopted parent does is for the child – come on, would anyone go through this if not for the child.) Be ready and willing to put a lot of hard work into helping this adopted child heal, to feel whole and complete in themselves. Be prepared to put your own needs and wants on the shelf and to put away your expectations, ((A) all parents do this!!!!) do what it takes to attend to the needs of your adopted child. All the love in the world, all the toys and gadgets and material things you might provide will never replace or erase what was lost. ((A) Don’t agree!! Nothing was lost – just gained! But it is hard for a child to understand.)
(S) IMO every SW (South Africa) worth her qualification does and will counsel potential AP’s about this. IMO – if potential AP’s are not willing to do the above, then perhaps they need to consider if adoption is actually right for them!
Family preservation should always be the goal. Adoption should never, ever be utilized unless it is the last and only option left. Because adoption should be about finding homes for children in need; NOT finding children for people to fill a need. ((A)This is too simplistic, the need must first arise for a couple to share their home with a child – a dire longing….it is hard and you need that motivation in love to give it a go…)
(S) They way that I understand how our SW’s work is that this is always the case, it’s about counseling BM’s who are considering adoption first and foremost, helping her find her way and only as a last resort is she then offered potential AP’s to choose from. Not the the other way around, they do not go out looking for babies for infertile couples. This was made very clear to Walter and I when we went through our adoption counseling. From the SW’s perspective, while wanting to protect us from potential hurt, it was never about seeing to our needs but rather seeing to the needs of BM’s and their babies. Surely to have it any other way would be unethical and morally corrupt?
Jesus commanded us to help the orphan AND the widow…we as a society should do more to help famlies stay together instead of tearing them apart. Nobody really wants to be adopted…if given a choice, they’d rather their family situations could improve so that they wouldn’t have to be separated. Would YOU have liked it if your mother gave you away?
(S) I do agree with the above, but Moses was also the first example of an adopted child in the bible and look at the great man he was destined to become.
An Adult Adop
I will not entertain ANY spiteful, judgmental or mean spirited comments on my blog in this regard. I am searching for the very best ways to raise MY child and hence the research I have done into this subject. Please feel free to share your opinions, in a respectful and kind manner.
Edited to add: Adoption seems to be subject that is a minefield of opinions. The views expressed above, both by the original writer, myself and Allison, need to be respected as our own opinions. What is one persons truth will not be anothers truth and that should be respected.