Tuesday, April 20, 2010

If Birth Mothers Can Do It, Why Can't Adoptive Mothers?

In response to this post about Artyom's adoptive mother sending him back to Russia with a note saying she no longer wished to parent him, Anonymous commented:
So if I understand this correctly, the sentiment around here is that: It's okay for the birth parents to give up their child, but not okay for adoptive parents to give up their child.
Short answer -- YES. I hear this question each time there's news of an adoption disruption, as if we were comparing apples and apples. If you are even marginally aware of the circumstances in which birth parents relinquish a child for adoption, you couldn't even pretend that this is an apt comparison.

Within the U.S., the most common reason for relinquishment for adoption is an unexpected and/or unplanned pregnancy, combined with economic limitations (including a lack of education which limits financial resources). Outside the U.S., in all the sending countries in international adoption, the number one reason for relinquishment is poverty.

Compare this to the adoptive parent who disrupts an adoption. Adoptive parents as a whole are better educated and have higher incomes than the population at large. Adoptive parents quite deliberately and intentionally become parents -- nothing unexpected or unplanned there. Adoptive parents are more likely to have jobs, accounting for that higher than average income. Adopted children are more likely to have health insurance than childre in the population at large. Adoptive parents are more likely to have taken parenting classes. Adoptive parents tend to be older at the time they enter parenting than the population at large.

Consider Torry Hansen, Artyom's adoptive mom. She's 33, she's a college graduate, she's a registered nurse. She's employed at a Veteran's Administration hospital, which means she has government health insurance for herself and her child. She has a home. She has a family support network nearby. She has enough money for an adoption, two trips to Russia for herself, and a plane ticket back for Artyom. She has internet access. She lives in America, which automatically makes her more empowered than any birth mother in any sending country in the world.

Can one seriously compare her decision to send Artyom away, alone, with a note saying she no longer wished to parent him, to the decision of an impoverished birth mother in Guatamala? To the decision of an impoverished birth mother in China, who makes her relinquishment decision in the shadow of poverty and government rules she has no control over? To the decision of a Korean birth mother who will be so stigmatized by an out-of-wedlock birth that she's likely to lose her job, be unable to get housing, be precluded from marriage in the future, and have her child stigmatized as illegitimate, too? Can you even compare her decision to that of a 17-year-old in America, whose pregnancy has not been supported by the birth father or her parents, who knows little about welfare support, who sees little assistance in raising her child on the income she can earn with a GED?

I know that not every adoptive parent or every birth parent fits the profiles I've outlined, but the vast majority do. That's why it is a false analogy to claim that what adoptive parents do when they terminate an adoption is no different from what birth parents do in relinquishing a child for adoption. It's insulting to birth parents to make the comparison.

And frankly, it's insulting to adoptive parents, too. It assumes that the intentionality with which we enter parenting means nothing. I do hold adoptive parents to a higher standard. I like what prospective adoptive parent Joanna had to say at her blog, Waiting for Two:
I expect better from adoptive families. Oh yes, I expect better, because adoptive families must go through more to be parents. You must really want it, to have your home checked, your background checked, and to go through hours of parental training. When you sign up to adopt, no one tells you it will be easy.
Yes, we should be able to expect better from adoptive families. As Zoe put it, "a promise is a promise, especially in adoption."


Anonymous said...

ITA. Funny you should post this. Our thought processes were going in the same direction:

Antinette said...

So glad you responded to that comment! I read that comment and was taken aback, to say the least.

Joanna B said...

Amen! I wholeheartedly agree! Thanks for posting my comment, as well! After seeing so many naysayers post comments, it was good to see yours, and feel validated. :-)

Maia said...

Thanks for this post. These comparisons have been bothering me as well, and I'm so glad to see them shot down so clearly and cogently.

Anonymous said...

So what you're saying is:

birth mothers give up their babies because these births were the results of unexpected/unplanned pregnancy and possible economic (or social) distress.

what, you don't think adoptive parents might go through comparable problems/issues that birth mothers go through?

i don't condone what was done in the artyom case, but the single-mindedness or basically closed-mindedness on here is unbelievable.