November 29, 2012

Demonizing The Adoption Community

**Note: I did not go back and edit this post.  I wanted to leave it as my true thoughts without getting PC or worrying about how it would be perceived because I wanted to share my heart.  Forgive me if it's jumbled or doesn't make a bit of sense**

Adoption is messy.  It is ugly and beautiful.  It is tragic and redemptive.  It is the worst of humanity and the best of humanity all mixed together.

But one thing I think we can all agree on is that in the adoption community, we all need each other.  Birth moms, adoptees, adoptive parents and everyone in between- we need each other.  We need to listen and learn from one another and respect the role we all play in caring for children (no matter what that role is and no matter how many times we screw up while learning how to get it right).

I know that in the 3-4 years we've been an active part of this "adoption community" it cycles through times where it is extremely supportive and then hits a cycle where is is divisive and ugly and vicious in the way that we all treat one another.  This seems to be one of those highly devisive times.

First off, can I say that I both LOVE adoption and HATE that it even exists in the same breath?  I wish that no child ever needed to be adopted.  I wish that there wasn't poverty, or moms who weren't ready to be moms, or rape, or infertility, or coercion in adoption, or bad ethics in adoption or parents who struggle with substance abuse or child trafficking.  I wish that there wasn't money to be made in adoption which further muddies the water. 

But one of things that burns me up the most is watching the adoption community tear itself apart internally.  We get enough of that from the outside world without doing it to ourselves. I find that the "in vogue" thing happening right now is for adoptive parents who have completed adoptions to demonize those families who are in the process.  We play the "holier than thou" card any time we can.  We pull the "my agency is more ethical than your agency' card.  We play the "I think this is best practice so you are stupid if you disagree" card.  We play the "your adoption didn't go perfect so we're kicking you out of the group" card.  We play the "now that I've adopted I think no one should ever do it and since you are doing it I'm going to make you feel guilty every step of the way" card.  What's the point?  We are all just people who don't have all the answers trying to do the best we can.  Let's share ideas.  Let's help one another.  But doing all of the above are not the way to get there.

I believe in fighting for adoption reform and establishing best practices.  I believe in trying to preserve families when it's the right thing to do for an individual child.  But I also believe that adoption is a part of living in an imperfect world.

While I think it would be awesome for every parent to be a super mom and dad to the children that they brought into the world, the reality is that some people aren't ready to be parents or don't want to be parents.  The reality is that sometimes, it's not in a child's best interests to stay with their family.  The reality is that laws exist in countries that limit the number of children a person can have.  The reality is that in some cultures, step mothers don't accept children from a first marriage and enslave those children.  The reality is that in some places particular special needs are considered curses and children are outcasted.  The reality is that disease and famine and death are an unfortunate part of life and surviving children bear the brunt.  The reality is that some people just simply chose to make this decision for their children and we need to respect that. The reality is that some people do horrific things to their children. So while it's great to say that adoption should never happen and all children should remain with their first families- it's just not reality.

Is there coercion in adoption?  You better believe it.  Is there child trafficking in adoption.  Absolutely.  Are there times when mothers in third world countries are told that their children are "coming to America to go to school."  Yep.  And these are not the instances I'm talking about.  These practices are DESPICABLE.  But let's be honest.  Is this every case of adoption?  Not even close.  But those are the ones that make the news.  Those are the people who talk the loudest (and they should!!!!  These stories need to be out there!!!!)  But there are also great stories.  Stories of adoptive moms and birth moms working together to navigate open adoptions.  And some stories of adopted children growing up to start foundations for foster children.  And some stories of organizations empowering moms who choose to parent so that they can be the best moms they can be. And stories of kids that no one else would take a chance on finding families and thriving.  And some stories where the adoption community just gets it right.

While I think models of caring for vulnerable children in their own countries are awesome (and I hope that we can begin to move in this direction as an adoption community in instances where it is best for the child) the reality is that in the mean time, kids still need homes, kids still need families, and kids still need love- and therefore adoption is still necessary for these kids no matter where they live.  So while it's great to move in a positive direction toward family preservation, it is naive to think that every child can and should remain with their birth family.  The truth is that not everyone is an awesome parent.  The truth is that every kid in the system who vacillates between home and being in care has a parent who is proving over and over again that their child is not their priority.  The truth is that it's not better for a step-child in part of the world to be enslaved by their own family.  The truth is that girls are not better off left by the side of the road to die.  The truth is that as long as we live in a world where evil exists- there will still need to be adoptions.  And the truth is that as long as we are all humans making these decisions on behalf of children, we will sometimes get it wrong.  But it doesn't give us license to tear one another apart.

So can we all agree that on this journey to be the best voice we can for vulnerable children, that we'll make some mistakes? Can we all agree that given the opportunity to do some things over again that we'd do them differently?  Can we agree that we can't make blanket statements about what is best for ALL children (statements like either ALL children should be adopted or ALL children should remain with birth families)?  Can we agree that adoption lives in the gray area and there are no black and white answers?  And most importantly, can we stop demonizing people from all sides of the adoption community.  The demonizing doesn't help a single vulnerable child and does nothing but create division in a community that is going to take everyone working together to bring reform and do the best we can for our kids.

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