Anita Tedaldi planned to adopt for a long time, even before she met her husband or had five biological daughters. She wanted a big family like the one she grew up with in Italy, and, although she doesn’t say as much in her NY Times article “My Adopted Son,” after five daughters, she wanted a male child. She fulfilled her desire by taking in a year old boy from South America, “D.” As she drove to the Miami airport to pick him up, she could not contain her excitement. “After waiting many long months, I’d finally hold and kiss my son.”
Tedaldi prepared to bring D into her home and heart by researching attachment problems and other complications, speaking with her therapist, and consulting with social workers to determine if she and her family would be a good match. D, who had been left beside a road, had developmental delays, weak legs, a flat head from lying in a crib many hours a day, and ate his own feces. The real problems, however, were that after several months he didn’t attach to her, her husband (somewhat expected because he was deployed much of the time) or her daughters, and Tedaldi didn’t attach to him.
“I was attentive, and I provided D with a good home, but I wasn’t connecting with him on the visceral level I experienced with my biological daughters. And while it was easy, and reassuring, to talk to all these experts about D’s issues, it was terrifying to look at my own. I had never once considered the possibility that I’d view an adopted child differently than my biological children. The realization that I didn’t feel for D. the same way I felt for my own flesh and blood shook the foundations of who I thought I was.”
Tedaldi sought help and participated in attachment therapy but nothing worked. Fortunately she found a family (who fell in love with D after looking at his pictures) who wanted him. After 18 months she passed him on to the other family.
Termination (in legal terms “disruption” or “dissolution”) is a common but not publicized aspect of this redistribution of children called adoption. According to the Child Welfare Information Gateway of the US Department of Health and Human Services, between 10 and 25 percent of adoption placements disrupt, that is, end before the adoption is finalized. Disruptions occur more frequently in the placements of older children. Dissolution, ending an adoption after it has been finalized, occurs in about three percent of adoptions. Again, it is more frequent with older children.
I have mixed feelings about Tedaldi’s actions. She was victimized by the adoption industry which capitalized on her desire to have a son much as the industry manipulates young pregnant women’s fear of motherhood to convince them to surrender their infants.
At the same time, I am disgusted by her narcissism. She brought D into her home to meet her needs, not his. She never tells us how her husband and her daughters felt about the adoption, apparently because it didn’t matter. She knew her husband would be away much of the time and he likely dismissed the adoption as her “thing.”
Tedaldi considered D her son before she met him, based on an assumption that children are fungible –taking a boy into her arms would make him her son, no matter that he had come thousands of miles and had a flat head. She expected to love him “like her own flesh and blood” even though she didn’t lay eyes on him until he was a year old.
When she brought him to meet the woman who would take him off her hands, she dressed D “in one of his cutest outfits, white polo shirt and blue khaki pants.” She wanted an adorable boy, not a kid who ate his own poop and refused to love her.
If Tedaldi had been motivated by a desire to help a needy child, she might have worked with authorities in his own country to find a family who, with some financial assistance, could have cared for him. If his needs had been paramount, she would have accepted her role as a tender caregiver, and not expected to connect with him on a visceral level.
The adoption industry markets adoption as a way to fulfill the desires of adults. With a disruption/dissolution rate of up to 25 percent, it appears the industry is misleading, if not defrauding, its customers.
For more on this particular case go to Chinaadoptiontalk. Malinda has a great post about this case.