Adoption Generalizations

A friend from the adoption fraternity sent me the following article recently: Healing Adoption Trauma

Now let me start off by saying that I agree with the gist of the article. I do believe that adopted children are emotionally vulnerable, I do believe that adopted children struggle with a sense of loss, I do believe that these things need to be acknowledged and dealt with as best we can as adoptive parents. We need to take cognisance of this and we need to be alert and aware of the signs that our adopted children may be struggling with issues of abandonment, loss and grief.

What I don’t agree with is the generalizations that this article makes and so many like it. I know I’ve blogged about this before and I probably will a thousand times again in the future, but I want people to know that they should not buy into all the stereotypes that are out there about adoption.

So here are just a few that I’ve encountered in my 3 year journey through parenting an adopted child.

Not all birth mom’s are teenagers having a crisis pregnancy, in fact the opposite is true, the bulk of my friends who are parenting from adoption have older birth mom’s, only one out of my 10+ friends who have adopted have a child from a teenage birth mom.

Not all adopted children are unwanted or abandoned. Not all adopted children suffered with the fear of abortion in utero.  Adopted children are more often than not, loved deeply by their birth parents, hence the decision to place them for adoption.

Adoption is more often than not, a decision based on love. Love for the unborn child, not self love. It’s a decision where the birth parents accept the responsibility of living with loss for the rest of their lives in an attempt to ensure that their child gets a life different to the one they can offer.

Adoption is not abandonment. Adoption is not a shirking of parental responsibilities. In fact I’d go so far as to say, it’s the ultimate act of parental responsibility, making the heart wrenching decision that your child, your own flesh and blood, would be better off being raised by someone else.

Nothing makes me see red more than when I’m asked why Ava’s birth mother never wanted her. I saw her pain, I held her in my arms when she sobbed the day of the relinquishment. I saw her raw pain. But I also saw the great love she had for Ava. I saw her selfless determination to give her child something other than what she had to offer. I know that her decision to place Ava was a decision based on love. Pure love. There was nothing irresponsible or selfish about it.

Of course, the opposite is also true of adoption, many babies and children are abandoned or unwanted. Adoption is a complex issue, it is not a question of right or wrong, black or white, happiness or sadness, fulfilment or grief, adoption is a combination of all of the above.

We all need to learn not to believe the stereotypes and generalizations we’re fed about adoption, the issue is always far more complex than that.


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  • Reply Jeannine

    Thank you for this – very well written. I agree wholeheartedly.

    February 5, 2013 at 11:10 am
  • Reply Sian

    Absolutely spot on!

    February 5, 2013 at 11:35 am
  • Reply Melanie Voordewind

    Thx Shaz you have a way to break it down and explain it in laymen’s terms 🙂 tx!!!!

    February 5, 2013 at 12:31 pm
  • Reply Sandra Pretorius

    Brilliantly said! I agree 100%

    February 5, 2013 at 1:23 pm
  • Reply desh

    Well said and 100 % correct.

    February 5, 2013 at 2:00 pm
  • Reply Pandora

    I agree with everything you say. I just read the article and find it quite disturbing. Basically according to her half of us are going to end up with delinquent teenagers setting fire to stuff.(Yes, I am generalizing )
    While I am sure that babies do grieve the loss of their birth mother, it probably won’t manifest in every baby in the same way. I also don’t like the implication that the act of adoption is the root of all evil here. What about how the children were brought up? Were they treated differently by their extended families? Were they teased? When were they told they were adopted? What were they told about their adoption? Was it even discussed? So may other things could have been going on in their lives.

    I know plenty of teenagers that have all the problems she mentions, none of them were adopted. What do we blame then?

    Why the high percentages of adopted children that need help? Maybe adoptive parents are quicker to seek help. When someone does something bad and it makes the headlines, how quick are the media to add that they we adopted? So adopted children and adoptive parents are still seen as other. Maybe this makes adoptive parents feel guilty and drives them to to seek help.
    Who knows, there is probably no right answer here. I just take exception to such simplistic generalization for what looks like personal gain. Not even the last comment about not every adopted child needing these remedies made me feel any better about this article.

    February 5, 2013 at 6:51 pm
    • Reply Sharon

      Round of applause for you Pandora! I couldn’t agree more with EVERYTHING you’ve said above!

      February 5, 2013 at 6:55 pm
  • Reply Mash

    I was quite a nightmare of a teenager, I could most probably have fit in quite well to the same profile as her son. I don’t think homeopathic remedies would have changed it, and nor did having the “perfect” and “normal” upbringing. I was just flipping angry because I felt like it!

    February 5, 2013 at 11:05 pm
  • Reply Vee

    Agree with you completely! Sometimes we verbalise self-fulfilling prophecies which are really better left unsaid. Thank you for a lovely response to the article.

    February 6, 2013 at 8:40 am
  • Reply Denise

    I think it depends on your situation and to be honest I doubt that stastically most adopted children come from agencies such as you and most of your friends adopted through.

    Agencies with morals approached by BM’s like your own who truly want the best for their children.

    I do agree that these days most BMs are probably not teenagers because abortion is such a blase topic that I imagine most teenage pregnancies are swiftly aborted.

    Our LB is the product of an unwanted pregnancy, it took 15 months of neglect and abuse before he was placed with us and he IS damaged. He displays at almost 5 years old a lot of those characteristics. He is abusive towards me as his primary caregiver because he ‘knows’ that I too will leave him.

    We work really hard with professionals who understand the trauma of adoption to help him so that he doesn’t become a teenager with social and emotional issues that follow him to adulthood and my heart breaks when he lashes out to ‘protect himself’ from further pain.

    He also has other siblings who are older and more damaged who have been adopted and I imagine they too fit the article.

    I think the biggest problem in any argument is generalisations. He may have siblings who are perfectly well adjusted despite their early trauma or not? Each person is an individual and deals with things in their own way but circumstances cannot be ruled out completely.

    Children adopted in the way that Ava and so many others were are blessed to have been loved from the moment they were conceived and blessed that you think so fondly of her BM.

    I cannot think that way about our BM because she neglected and abused my son as so many others do. There are always a myriad of sides to any story and you are right it is so so important never to generalise but there is a lot of truth in that article – for me, but obviously not for you. I think of Brattys recent story, imagine what that poor child has been through these past months? One can only pray that she finds a loving home as soon as possible.

    February 6, 2013 at 9:07 am
    • Reply sophie

      Hi Denise,
      I am sorry for what your LB had to undergo and cannot imagine how heartbreaking and nervewrecking the situation must be for you and your family !!
      I can only say that I am glad for your LB that he eventually landed in your soft and at the same time firm arms and I so hope that together you will be able to make the best out of a life that started as extremely difficult ….
      I am very glad to have found you again in the virtual world and would love to have your blog address again … can you give it to me (

      February 7, 2013 at 12:02 am
  • Reply sophie

    I did not read the article (sitting at home with a sick baby and sick DH !) but in general, I agree that there is a lot of things to do against generalization in adoption ….
    I guess the way we look at our kids is greatly what we project on them and so the way society looks at adoptions is what our (adopted) kids will try to fit in. The more we can give different versions of adoption stories, the more scope our kids will have to be themselves, even if they ware adopted … if that makes sense.

    Having adopted multiracial, international, I am told lots of stories like: “Oh we know such and such or so a program about a family who adopted in whatever African or Latin-American country and everything went so well, but then after two years the bio parents came back and claimed the child …..
    Again it is a generalization of all the different kinds of adoptions that exist: e.g. open adoption, closed adoption, full adoption, reversible adoption, foster care etc. As an adult, I always try to explain this but I can only imagine how upsetting it might be for Zoé once she will be able to understand those stories … she might logically conclude that also she will have to go back or that somebody will come and get her away !! How awfully cruel that people don’t think before they speak in front of young, vulnerable kids !!

    February 7, 2013 at 12:12 am
  • Reply Julia

    You write so well about this stuff. I think you should compile your adoption pieces into a book.

    February 19, 2013 at 5:02 am
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