Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Feministe Asks Some Questions on Adoption and Feminism

Brigid at Feministe wants to know if adoption is a feminist issue.  Brigid asks:
How can or should we view adoption as a feminist issue? As a class, race, or disability issue? Whose rights stand to be compromised when adoption is or is not an available option?

Does every child have a right to be raised by the people whose genetic material helped create them?

Does every genetic parent have a right to raise their genetic children?

Do people who are unable (though biology or circumstance), or do not desire, to conceive children have a right to raise children?

If you believe adoption is problematic, what circumstances would make it less so?
Yes, adoption is a feminist issue. Its structure of power regards one mother as being less worthy to parent than another because of her marital status or her income. Unmarried, pregnant women in the 50′s-70′s were scolded and ushered into maternity homes where their babies were taken from them. See “Wake up Little Susie” by Ricki Solinger and “The Girls Who Went Away” by Anne Fessler.

As feminists, we rightfully criticize how poorer parents are seen as lesser entitled to reproduce and parent children. Yet we fail to see the connection and the powerful presence of this stigma behind vulnerable pregnant women flipping through "Dear Birth Mother" letters written by prospective adoptive parents whose photos from the latest vacation and their four bedroom home are on clear display. A common practice today.

“Regrettably, in many cases, the emphasis [in adoption] has changed from the desire to provide a needy child with a home, to that of providing a needy parent with a child. As a result, a whole industry has grown, generating millions of dollars of revenues each year . . .” United Nations, Commission on Human Rights, 2003.

Feminists tend to see the "mother" role in adoption but forget that adoptees are women too, further marginalizing us. Heated debates take place about the privacy, needs, and desires of the parties in the "parenting roles" while forgetting to attend to the information and autonomy needs of those in the "being parented" role. Although we grow older each day, to society we remain as perpetual children, always too young or ill-informed to join the table for serious adoption discourse.

Ableism, sexism, classism, racism, all are huge issues in adoption. I have a blog because there's simply too much to say in one post or one answer on an internet forum. Adoption simply should not be trivialized like that.

Yes, every single child has a basic human right to be raised by his or her own natural (meaning biological) family, according to UNICEF and the UN’s “Rights of the Child.”

“Every child has the right to know and be cared for by his or her own parents, whenever possible. UNICEF believes that families needing support to care for their children should receive it.” — UNICEF

Yes, every parent has the basic human and constitutional right to parent their own child. This does not mean that children should grow up in abusive households. This means that the right of families to stay together should be respected when and if at all possible.

Prospective adoptive parents have the right to be treated equally in the adoption process. Children who do not have parents and a family that can care for them have a right to receive a home and a family/caregivers who can. But no, no one has a "right" to adopt.

There are aspects of adoption that are incredibly problematic. What would make it less so? The billions that are spent on adoptions being put towards preserving families that can and wish to stay together. Adequate social welfare programs in place so that orphanages are not used to manage dependency. Domestic adoptions promoted as a way to provide truly needy children with homes. Encouragement to adopt one of the 120,000 children legally cleared for adoption in the U.S. foster care system who cost little to nothing to adopt. Appropriate adherence to ICWA and respect for indigenous tribes and their families. And resolution to a number of legal issues such as adoptee deportation, sealed records, and "re-homing," and largely unregulated practices such as internet facilitated adoptions. This is not an exhaustive list, just some thoughts to start.