Saturday, June 6, 2009
Adoptive Parents: Not a Breed Apart?
Years ago, when I was a young attorney, a woman came to me seeking a divorce from her dull, school principal husband. She planned to leave her equally dull community and move to another city with her lover, an exciting but unemployed artist. She and her husband had three adopted children. I wanted to scream at her, "You promised their mothers that their children would be raised in a stable two-parent home and you're breaking that promise!"
When I surrendered my newborn daughter for adoption six years earlier, I believed that adoptive parents were a breed apart--dedicated, stable, educated, la crème de la crème. After all, adoptive parents spent many years and thousands of dollars to become parents; they were screened by social service agencies and courts. I thought it was ironic that the infertile made the best parents while those of us who could conceive were--at best--only marginally fit to raise our child.
I thought of this a few days ago when I read about James Gumm of Hillsboro, Oregon who shot and killed his two adopted children before killing himself. Newspaper reports did not disclose a motive. Of course, natural parents kill their kids as well. A week before Gumm shot his adopted children, Amanda Jo Stott-Smith threw her two children off a Portland bridge into the Willamette River, killing one of them.
The sad truth is that adoption is a lottery, a game of chance, as John Sayles depicts in Casa de los Babys. Adoptive parents may or may not be June and Ward Cleaver. Like other parents, they may or may not divorce, suffer from alcoholism, become unemployed, or commit murder.
The only guarantee about adoption is that the child will have a different life. If parents want to assure that their child is reared in a safe, loving, nurturing environment, they need to do it themselves.