Friday, January 2, 2009

The Lie We Love II

I wanted to comment on another portion of the Foreign Policy article:
In the United States, a motive [in choosing IA] is the notion that international
adoption is somehow “safer”—more predictable and more likely to end in success — than many domestic adoptions, where there’s an outsized fear of a birth mother’s last-minute change of heart. Add an ocean of distance, and the idea that needy children abound in poor countries, and that risk seems to disappear.

But international adoptions are no less risky; they’re simply less regulated. Just as companies outsource industry to countries with lax labor laws and low wages, adoptions have moved to states with few laws about the process. Poor, illiterate birthparents in the developing world simply have fewer protections than their counterparts in the United States, especially in countries where human trafficking and corruption are rampant. And too often, these imbalances are overlooked on the adopting end. After all, one country after another has continued to supply what adoptive parents want most.
Another “OUCH” moment for me – comparing international adoption to the outsourcing of jobs to places less regulated. Has a different ring to it to talk about "off-shore adoption" instead of "international adoption." Any adoptive parent in the U.S. knows that our end of things is regulated out the wazoo (a technical legal term!). But at the sending end? This has been one of the issues troubling me lately – most sending countries are about 40 years behind where we are when it comes to "voluntary" relinquishments, I think.

I've been meaning to post a book review of The Girls Who Went Away, which I read a few months ago, but haven't gotten around to it (I HIGHLY recommend it, BTW). The book is about the era between World War II and legalized abortion, when so many young girls and women relinquished (were coerced into relinquishing ?) their children for adoption amidst a vicious stew of stigma, powerlessness, and poverty. We may do better than that now (or maybe not – it always amazes me that many states (including my home state of Texas) allow minor girls to consent to adoptions without any oversight at all, while preventing minors from having abortions without parental consent/notification or judicial review, and even requiring adult women to listen to all the services available to them if they choose to go to term (paternity determinations, child support, WIC, welfare, etc.). No statute requires agencies to give this information to relinquishing mothers! But I digress . . . . ).

Still, in the U.S., there are currently at least attempts to ensure that relinquishments are voluntary. There are also regulations about what money can change hands in an adoption, in an effort to prevent baby selling. Those regulations often don't exist in other sending countries.So all in all, there is little guarantee that relinquishments in sending countries are truly voluntary.

I know, easy enough for me to say, since China, because of the one child policy, gets a "pass" on this issue. But I'm not exempt from concern even about China -- I worry about how "voluntary" abandonments are, especially for birth mothers. Oftentimes the decision is made by in-laws, after all.

And to place it all in the context of "adoption talk," how does all of this affect our kids when they become old enough to understand it? How can we explain it?


Mei-Ling said...

"Add an ocean of distance, and the idea that needy children abound in poor countries, and that risk seems to disappear."

That stings.

I've had some e-mails where people assume that I must hate my adoptive parents, life, friends and extended family because I blog about loss and my original family.

And then just today I got this e-mail from someone saying "I realize that it must be exciting to be in contact with your birthfamily, and I don't know the relationship you have with your adoptive parents but please don't forget the years that they invested in you."

Don't worry, insecure P/APs who happen to come across this. I'm fairly certain I won't be building up a real relationship any time soon with them, considering they live half the globe away and don't speak English.

malinda said...


It's amazing how people think it's an either/or thing when it comes to adoptive parents and birth parents -- either you love one or you love the other and you're not allowed to love both! To prove you love your adoptive parents, you must reject your birth family, and if you love your birth family, it must be because you hate your adoptive family (and they must deserve that because they must be BAD parents!).

I got an email from an AP about Dong Huai's story -- did she identify her mom as an "adoptive mom" for reasons of clarity or as a distancing reference, and did I know if other adult adoptees did that too?

My answer was that in most of the blogs I read by adult adoptees they didn't really talk about their adoptive parents at all much -- that in their search/loss/sadness/frustrations about adoption, their adoptive parents didn't really figure.

The AP seemed to think that was a bad thing, while I think it's a GREAT thing! I take it that for many adoptees their emotions about adoption have NOTHING TO DO WITH THEIR ADOPTIVE PARENTS! You can absolutely adore your adoptive parents, think they're the cat's pajamas, love them to distraction, and STILL want to connect with birth family and feel their absence as a loss. What's so hard to understand about that?! I feel nary a quibble about OUR RELATIONSHIP when Zoe expresses longing for her birth mother. (I'm not saying that in a bragging way -- I didn't always handle it with such equanimity. But reading and researching and listening to what adult adoptees say has really educated me into a certain comfort level with it. Once I learned to suppress my ego and concentrate on my children's feelings it was all easier.)

But so many APs seem to think that the only reason an adoptee might feel loss, anger, sadness, etc., is if they had BAD adoptive parents. That, frankly, is egotism! Just maybe we're just not all that important in the grand scheme of things adoption! (I'm always telling my students something like that when they tell me that "Professor so-and-so called on me because he hates me" or "She gave me a bad grade because she hates me." To be honest, most professors don't care enough to bother hating students -- it's pure vanity on their part to think we do!)

Mei-Ling said...

"My answer was that in most of the blogs I read by adult adoptees they didn't really talk about their adoptive parents at all much."

Ugh. Yeah. I just clarified that on my blog. I was like, "Do you see anything about adoptive family? Anything that focuses on what they were like as parents, or what my adoptive environment was like?"

No, not really. That's because it's not about what THEY DID!! @_@


Mei-Ling said...

I meant to comment on the thing about Dong-Huai's writing... that she always uses the qualifier

I'm not sure why that is, as the effect is a bit jarring to constantly use that in reference. But perhaps when she starts blogging more about her personal experience, she can explain why.

Wendy said...

I think we are doing one thing "better" than in the past--we are talking about these things from a young age so they are not shocking, they are not unheard of, they are not brought up by strangers before parents. I talk with M often about many things related to the reasons she in particular was adopted and sometimes I speak in the broader sense (due to the fact that many of our girls were abandoned for different reasons, her friends); of course in an age appropriate way.
I know I will be honest with her always as hard as it can be, I am. I don't see the value in telling half-truths or in some people's cases--blatant lies or fairy tale beginnings. It is important for me to be honest with her with what I know and what I don't. I am on her side, whatever that side is during her life and changing emotions about her adoption, birthfamily, culture, etc.
It is about her and her history and her birth country's truths.
I am glad I am not in the catagory of those who love the lie, I see no value in being uneducated, ignorant, or blinded to facts. I can only hope that by knowing the varying truths (as China cannot be pigeon holed into one mentality, one set of rules, one set of facts) and relaying them to her as she ages, that she will understand as best as can be understood--on the logical level, and feel open to discuss whatever she is feeling.

I am obligated to understand to the best of my ability the current situation in China (and around the world) via multiple resources/sources. It is my responsibility to be truthful and open. It is my honor and priveledge to be my daughter's mother and I take it very seriously.