Seventeen-year-old Lori's adoptive parents push adoption relentlessly. While the baby's father, Cory, opposes adoption, he offers little real support. Lori knows adoption as only an adopted person can know. "I always wondered about my birth mother. Where is she and why she couldn't raise me.... I don't have any other biologically, blood-related family right now," she tells her friend. " Like I think that plays in the whole putting him up for adoption thing. For the first tine I have actual family--and just give it away?"
Although Lori's adoptive parents, Curt and Mary Jo, are financially well-off--he's an anesthetist, she's a nurse--they tell her they will not help her raise her baby. Lori, their only child, is a student at a Catholic girls high school. When her adoptive father persuades Cory to agree to adoption, Lori caves in: "All right," she tells her adoptive parents, "You guys win this one. I'm giving him up for adoption....I have no choice." Cory and Lori find an "awesome" couple through an agency. Indeed the couple is impressive, wanting a fully-open adoption. Several months after she hands her baby off to his adoptive parents, Lori tells the audience she that she and Cory both agree on one thing, that adoption was the best for their son. Still she says: "I do wish my parents would not have tried to push adoption so hard....I don't understand why my birth mother chose adoption. She must have felt like she couldn't do it. I absolutely know what that feels like firsthand now. I wanted to parent more than anything; I still do. One day I will be a mom.""
'SHE CAME FROM ME'
Adoption practitioners and therapists have long noted that a disproportionate number of birth mothers were adopted themselves. Researchers N. Moore and J. K. Davidson found that adoptees are seven times more likely than the general population to relinquish a child themselves. In support groups, I've noticed the large numbers of first mothers who were adopted; Lorraine has found the same incidence when talking to people in the adoption community. These are not mothers from the Baby Scoop Era where virtually all white girls gave up their babies. These are post-Roe mothers when most keep their babies. Many were raised in conservative religious homes.
I mentioned to a friend who is an adoptive mother that I thought one reason for the disproportionate number of adoptee first mothers was pressure from adoptive parents. She was taken aback: "I would never, ever do that," she said. "I would definitely help my children raise their children." I believe her. I'm sure many adoptive parents share her feelings. Yet I can't help but think that Curt and Mary Jo are not atypical.
LORI'S LIFE DOES NOT GO BACK ON TRACK
We would be remiss if we didn't include a follow-up. Lori initially she appeared to be doing fantastic, attending college in Cincinnati, seeing her son on a regular basis. Hooray for adoption, right? Then apparently came the crash, which led to her parents sending her to a wilderness program for troubled teens. In a December story about her life now, she says: "I was basically a good kid until my teens," she said. "The adoption was really hard on me. My life went on a downward spiral. I dropped out of college, and I wasn't working." She added that she spent her days sleeping, and fighting with her mom. "It used to be I couldn't be in the same room with my mom for an hour without fighting," she recalled. She dropped out of college, and fell into hanging with the "wrong crowd." We wish more parents who think their daughters will just go on with the lives they have planned for them would understand how traumatic giving up a child for adoption is. For many teens, lives do not get back on track.
But neither is Valerie is well. Single teen parenting is not easy. She has been arrested for beating her adoptive mother and is in drug rehab. Her adoptive parents have partially custody of her daughter. Valerie, however, had several strikes against her from the outset. She was 14 and one of 12 children--10 of whom were adopted, as we noted earlier--and as she said, lacked for attention. She likely came from foster care and had a difficult early life. Likely her adoptive parents could not give her the help she needed to raise her child. Lori was 17, her family was financially well-off and she was an only child. They simply did not want to be bothered with Lori's baby and .--jane
The subject caught the attention of first mother author Denise Roessle, who will lead a workshop called "Does Adoption Run in Families?" Friday afternoon at the AAC conference this weekend in Cleveland. "We’ve heard of female adoptees repeating the “sins of their mothers,” getting pregnant at a similar age and surrendering their babies for adoption," Denise writes to FMF. "Does this become an unfortunate family legacy?" See sidebar for Denise's book being given away free electronically this weekend during the American Adoption Conference.
"A profile of adoption placers: A profile of pregnant teens during the decision-making process." Adoption Quarterly 6(2), 29-41.
David Brodzinsky, Marshall Schechter, and Robin Marantz.
The Ashley's Realty Round Up, 2011; The Ashley's Realty Roundup, 2012
Program helps young adults with self respect.
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Does one adoption spawn another? Too often for comfort.
The adoption cycle: Adoptees who have babies they relinquish
Does adoption run in families?
Being Adopted: The Lifelong Search for Self "This book didn't tell me how I should feel but rather helped me understand why I feel the way I do about certain things in my life."--an adoptee at Amazon. As a first mother, Lorraine found the book full of insights and help her understand her daughter better; she then lent the book to an adoptee in high school, who devoured it and lent it to her best friend, also an adoptee. Both said the book was "amazing."