Thursday, September 23, 2010

"Would You Rather Have Grown Up in an Orphanage?"


When we challenge adoption practices and policies, sometimes people become confused about why we do so.  Adoption provides homes for kids, why change it? People have gone so far to assert that those who want to change adoption must not want needy children to have homes..  People must assume that there are adoptees who make these opinions consumed by their own pain, not considering the needs of children, and haven't done their homework.

In reality, many of us have been those children.

I spent the first 4.5 months of my life in a foster home.  I do not know the names of my foster parents or where I lived.  I don't have any pictures or any real information about my life.  Since my state reformed its access laws 14 years after my birth, I now have my uncensored adoption file.  I know that I lived under a false alias and received medical care as an infant at a doctor's office where the agency presented my identity to my health care providers as being this false alias.  An adoption worker noted that I will get sunburn if you don't put sunblock on me and that I am sensitive to dairy.  I guess nothing else about me was important enough to be written down.

People have suggested that if I dislike adoption it must mean that I would have rather stayed in foster care for the rest of my youth, rather than be adopted.

But they're forgetting that I was not magically materialized within foster care.  I was born to a mother; I had a family.  Why was I in foster care to begin with?  Why did I need to be in foster care for almost 5 months when my mother signed off her rights less than a month after my birth?  I can make an educated guess but I will never really know.

My parents adopting me out of foster care is also not what I have a problem with.

If we sought to address the reasons why children are entering into orphanages, we can prevent so many losses from happening.  Why are mothers "abandoning" their children in orphanages in countries abroad?  Why are they disenfranchised by terrible poverty?  Why aren't there social welfare programs to help keep families together?

Adoption is a reaction to a problem.  It will not keep the problem from continuing.  It does not address the problem at its roots.  Adoption will not solve the problems of all of the children in orphanages.  But addressing the reasons why orphanages are being used will.  Not having kids growing up in orphanages is the goal.  Adoption is an institution that impacts vulnerable populations globally.  We have to question its policies and practices and continually shape them.  If we do not, we will never meet the needs of children and families.

"Women in developing nations who place children for adoption abroad usually do so because they are disadvantaged by terrible poverty and/or by the stigma of illegitimacy." --Fisher, A. (2003). Still not quite as good as having your own? Toward a sociology of adoption. Annual Review of Sociology

Photo credit: Maggie Smith