' [Birth Mother] First Mother Forum: A Letter to Prospective Adoptive Parents

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

A Letter to Prospective Adoptive Parents

Linda’s, Lorraine’s, and my posts about their relationships with their daughters’ adoptive parents remind us once again how poorly informed many people are when they plan to adopt. Prospective adoptive parents can find help on the internet, in books, and from adoption agencies on composing a letter to convince a pregnant woman to select them as parents for their babies. Here’s a letter we’d like to see adoption agencies give people who hope to adopt.

Dear Prospective Adoptive Parent,

Recently a friend told me that her brother’s 25 year old adopted daughter moved in with her birthfather and his family and changed her name back to her original name. “How could this happen?” my friend asked.

It happened because the birth family remains a presence in an adopted child’s life. You may not want to think or talk about her once you have a child, but as soon as your child comes of the age of reason, he will be thinking about her.

Trying to keep an adoption “closed” and not talking about this reality in your child’s life will not prevent a reunion but it will close off a line of communication and may, in fact, be a source of resentment, estranging you from your child.

Some prospective adoptive parents decide to adopt internationally in order to create obstacles to a reunion; even great distance, however, cannot obliterate the desire to know one’s roots. International adoptees search for their first families just as those adopted domestically do, even though the odds of success are long.

However, because there is so much corruption in international adoptions today (Abuses in International Adoption: The Lie We Love and Babies Confiscated in China and Sold As Orphans) we cannot recommend this as a course of action you can embark upon with a clear conscience. Your chances of having a “clean” international adoption are markedly higher if you use an agency which retains information about birth families so that you can develop a relationship with your child’s birth parents thorough emails and letters and if possible, visits. If a relationship with a woman thousands of miles away is emotionally difficult, you should reconsider your decision to adopt.

In explaining adoption to your child, don’t tell him that his mother “loved him so much, she gave him away” or that he was a “gift.” Only an idiot would accept the logic that mothers give away their children because they “love” them or that he was “gift” to his adoptive parents, the kind that Santa brings. Mothers surrender their children because of poverty, illness, fear, lack of family support, shame, and uncertainty about motherhood. Open adoption allows your child’s birthmother to tell him why she could not raise him.

Keep in mind that no matter how far away the birthmother is, your child is also a presence in his birthmother’s life, and will always be so, in one way or another. My surrendered daughter, Rebecca, said that when she was growing up, her adoptive mother told her that I probably never thought of her. She then asked her father, a physician, who had delivered many babies if any of his patients who gave up children for adoption talked about it when they later came into the office.  She told him what her mother said. He said "Of course your natural mother thinks about you. Every November 17th [Rebecca's birthday] she thinks about you all day long."  He was right.

Keep in mind that even if your child decides not to search for his birth family, he may still reunite with them. Birthmother searches are becoming more common as women shed the cloak of shame.

Finally, don’t blame “bad genes” or prenatal deprivation if your child misbehaves. While these may play a part, adoption, particularly closed adoption, also plays a role. Your child may be stressed because his talents, interests, and personality do not match the rest of the family. Yes, nurture does play a part in who a person becomes, but be accepting of your child’s nature, and that the likelihood he or she will be like you is not greater than random chance. The research indicates that if he or she is like his or her adoptive parents, it’s because the adoptive parents also share inherited traits similar to the adoptee’s biological parents.

Blaming bad genes will damage your child’s self-esteem and make it harder for him to do better if he believes he is hard-wired to fail. Some adoptive parents, particularly those who adopt because of infertility, may unexpectedly find that when their child reaches puberty and is attracted to the opposite sex, that they fear their child may repeat history, and subtly suggest this to her or him, further implanting the “bad seed” idea.

As you explore adoption, prepare for what happens after your child arrives. Adoptee Sherrie Eldridge’s Twenty Things Adopted Kids Wish Their Adoptive Parents Knew is a good starting place. A more detailed book to guide you through the years and help you understand the adopted person’s psychology is Being Adopted: The Lifelong Search for Self. One of the authors, David M. Brodzinsky, PhD., is an adoptive parent; another, Marshall Schechter, MD, was married to an adoptee.

Read the excellent memoirs by adoptees B. J. Lifton (Lost and Found) and Jean Strauss (Beneath a Tall Tree). For those considering adopting from abroad, The Language of Blood by Korean-born Jane Jeong Trenka and Outer Search/Inner Journey by German-born Peter Dodds are especially helpful.

Learn what adoption means to the woman who bore the child from the memoirs of those who live it: Lorraine Dusky (Birthmark), Margaret Moorman (Waiting to Forget), and Carol Schaefer (The Other Mother).

After you and your baby have settled in as a family, attend meetings of local adoption support groups. The American Adoption Congress has a list of organizations on its website as well as a list of other helpful books. The AAC also holds excellent conferences each year where adoptive parents, birth parents, and adoptees can learn from each other.


  1. Here here, Jane!

    They didn't have "Dear Birthmother" letters back in my pregnant days. I find the whole idea of them repugnant.

    If only agencies would give prospective adopters such a letter as yours... But they won't because that doesn't serve their cause. It would be like a realtor telling a potential buyer all the downsides of buying a home.

  2. Jane,

    I would love to copy this and post it on my blog! This is what I have been trying to say to my daughter for a long time.

    Would it be ok?

  3. This is a good start of a letter, but it's important to also tell prospective adopters that a major reason why parents surrender their children is because of people like them creating a demand, which leads profiteering adoption agencies to prey on vulnerable women and get their babies through pressure, aggressive misleading advertising, and other shady tactics. They should inform their adopted kids that the reason their parents had to surrender them is because of people like them creating a demand. Plenty of mothers who are temporarily single or experiencing financial difficulties keep their kids and do fine when they are free from pressure to surrender.

  4. Hi there. I have been following FMF for quite a little while, but this is the first time that I have felt like I really *need* to respond. I hope you won't mind reading. :-)

    I am an adoptive mom who has an open adoption with my daughter's first mother. She sees our daughter at least once a month. We talk every week. We do birthdays, Christmases, etc. Our daughter was flower girl at her first mother's wedding. Our daughter came to see her FM in the hospital the day after the birth of her new (half-)sister.

    Does that seem open enough? Maybe you wouldn't think so, but compared to most a-parents I know, I am "out there" when it comes to my relationship with my daughter's FM!

    I am trying so hard to do right by our daughter, but I still wonder if it will the right thing for *her*. Will she wish that we had had a less open adoption with her FM? Will she be confused by our relationship? Will she feel like she has to change who she is in order to please her mothers?

    A lot of the time, I feel like Life is asking me to dance a dance where I don't know the steps and the music keeps changing. (And believe me when I say that I am clumsy-footed!)

    I just keep trying to do what I think is right. After we signed those adoption papers, I had a choice: I could either close the door and pretend like this woman didn't exist (maybe sending her a picture and an update every once in a while) or I could allow her to have a *real* relationship with her daughter.

    My daughter's mother *wants* to know her. How could I keep her from her?

    I don't know what Life will give us; FM and I are just taking things as they come. Our girl is 3 now, and I wonder how we are going to explain all this to her when she is old enough to begin to understand. (To be honest, I am hoping that FM will take that one! LOL!)I hope she'll accept us. And forgive us when we get it wrong. And love us *both* without feeling any guilt about it.

  5. Roz,when I read "our girl" I thought, Roz gets it. Thank God. If you're familiar with our blog then you know I'm optimistic that contemporary/open adoptions like yours will become the rule rather than the exception.

    I'm sure every parent--biological, adoptive or foster--wonders if they're doing the right thing...I have always been strongly in favor of openness and honesty all around as opposed to secrets and lies begetting more secrets and lies.

    It sounds as though your future is bright. If you continue along your current path, your daughter should have no problem loving both her mothers equally. Hopefully other adoptive parents will be comfortable following your fine example of how to be a mother to another woman's child.

    Thanks for speaking up.

  6. Ditto.

    Dear Roz, You sound like a wonderful woman--as do some of the other adoptive moms who read and write here. Adoption comes with pitfalls and difficulties (and so does life), but it certainly sounds as if you are doing the best by both your daughter and her other mother.

    We salute you.


  7. I suggest "Bern" tries the line she suggests on the adoptive parents of Baby Angelica-Leslie http://toronto.ctv.ca/servlet/an/local/CTVNews
    Or on the parent of any child left in the hospital after birth.

  8. Jane, if you want prospective adoptive parents to read beyond the first few words, you should remove the first paragraph altogether.

    Take all this out:
    ("Recently a friend told me that her brother’s 25 year old adopted daughter moved in with her birthfather and his family and changed her name back to her original name. “How could this happen?” my friend asked.
    It happened because the birth family remains a presence in an adopted child’s life.)

    Start with "You may not want to think or talk about the birth family, but...."

    Very few adoptees move in with the birthfamily or change their names back to the original. It may be something adoptive parents fear, but for most it is not a realistic fear, so why use it as the introduction to a piece that is supposed to appeal to prospective adoptive parents?

    Many who are trying to adopt would read that far and it might make them more likely to go for secrecy and closed adoption than less likely. The cases I know where adoptees went back to the birthfamily and moved in or changed names involved severely abusive and dysfunctional adoptive families. It did not happen because "the birth family remains a presence in the child's life" but because the adoptive parents were horrible, which is not what I think you are trying to address in this piece.

  9. Roz,

    Ditto, ditto.

    It looks to me like you're doing the exactly the right things. I don't think your daughter will be confused and I can't imagine she'll wish she had a less open relationship with her birthmother. The relationship she has with her two mothers sounds so comfortable and natural that explanations will fall into place.

    My grandchildren have three grandmothers -- me, my son-in-law's mother, and my son-in-law's step-mother. They have a great relationship will all their grannies.

  10. To Roz,

    Your type of open adoption is the only kind that I can support. You seem to be truly attempting to bring the bio and adoptive family together in a very natural and healthy way. Please don't give up on this, everyone will be better off in the long run if you keep your adoption fully open and loving, as it is now. It's great that you recognize that your daughter is really "our" daughter and that you making sure she has a relationship with her new sibling.

    The other types of so-called open adoptions, where a pic or letter is sent once in a blue moon, are a scam.

  11. Mary Anne,

    I've known the adoptive family of the young woman I wrote for many years through my good friend. They are a fine family.

    I've known about quite a few other adoptees who moved in with their birth parents and it had NOTHING to do with abuse from the adoptive family. One of Megan's adopted brothers lived with his birthmother for a period of time -- this was several years before Megan and I connected -- and it added to the adoptive mother's insecurity about my relationship with Megan. Megan's adoptive parents, although uninformed in some ways, were kind and generous people.

    The birth daughter of a Portland therapist, Sharon Coulter, lived with Sharon for many years. Lorraine's daughter lived with her on and off. Again the adoptive parents of these young women were fine people.

    I also know several adoptees who changed their last names back to their original names including Florence Fisher, founder of ALMA, and Helen Hill who lead the successful fight in Oregon for Measure 58. This represented a desire to return to their roots, not an attack on the adoptive family.

    My point in re-counting the story about the daughter moving in with her birthfather was to emphasize the close connection many adoptees have to their birth families. Rather than denying this connection, adoptive parents need to support it.

  12. Thanks for clearing that up, Jane. I know a number of adopted people who took back their names (and weren't abused). I get tired of a-parent abuse being the reason why adopted people want to reclaim their identity or dissasocaite themselves from the a-family. Can't someone just want their own family and family name back? Can it just simply be about that?

    I've certainly given it some thought, but I don't mostly because I'm too lazy to go through the legal process. Plus my mother passed and it's something I would have wanted her to be part of.

  13. A very interesting post, Jane. I think you hit all of the STOP signs. Your example at the top is a bit. . .I'm not sure. Maybe you were shocking to educate intsead of shocking at the expense of educating? Your paragraph on international adoptions was fair and balanced, except that people's "agencies" don't control squat; it's the host government that decides everything. Some of them do retain more info than others. This is one reason why a-parents claim they are as much victims of the system as anyone else. In some measure, yes, but not by comparison.

  14. Maybe the first paragraph about adoptees returning to their original parents is shocking because adoption is a shocking experience. Trying to get that point across can be difficult.

  15. IMO the only good reason for a-parents to be open with what they know about their child's original family is because they have a moral obligation to the child to be so - not because they have been made to fear, realistically or not, that they'd lose the child when he or she becomes adult.
    Doing "the right deed for the wrong reason" is just another kind of betrayal, and people who are being manipulated in this way usually sense that there's something not quite right going on and see through the bullshit in the end.

    I do agree with Jane that, on the whole, people are poorly informed about adoption, and I even agree with Michelle that some adoptees change their names back to that of their first family for personal reasons of identity, which is something I can understand.
    I'd assume if they are also doing to it to, as Michelle says, "disassociate themselves from the a- family" it is because they feel more strongly connected to the original family than the a-family.
    There could be a number of reasons for this, including abuse. I don't know, but I suspect that abuse would be a "push", and the urge to recover original identity, a "pull".
    So I do think a sense of having been abused probably plays a part in many (though not all) cases.

  16. I'm not sure, actually, why an adopted person should have to explain to anyone why they would change their name back to their original one. Divorced women do it all the time. Gender transitioning people do it, and some people just change their name because they feel like it.

    What's the big deal? If some people stopped viewing adoption as creating a new family using other people's children, then there would never be reason to analyse every move an adoptee makes.

  17. benson123I don't think they are under any obligation to explain anything. But I think any name change invites speculation.

  18. I agree. I don't think they are under any obligation to explain anything to anyone.
    But equally, there's nothing to stop people speculating on the whys and wherefores, because there usually is a reason for such a move - even if it's only whim.
    A change of name, unless it's a common occurrence such as after divorce, does tend to cause speculation. To expect otherwise is unrealistic. It's human nature to be curious.

    I have a friend who changed her surname from Bartlett to Silver because she loves silver (and wears oodles of it) and also (mainly) because she wanted to give expression to what she felt was her true identity after experiencing a number of significant milestones in her life. She is not an adoptee.
    And a guy I knew called Nick changed his given name to Leonard when he converted to Sufism. Something to do with his guru, apparently.
    He wasn't an adoptee either.

  19. You learn something new every day. I have not met adoptees who changed their names for reasons other than to repudiate the adoptive family, but that does not mean they don't exist as I can see from several comments here. I do know an adoptee in a very good reunion who named his first child for his maternal natural grandfather.

    Ironically my surrendered son is estranged by his choice from his adoptive family for many years but is fine with his adoptive last name. His first name was not changed, so he can blame me for that one:-) Actually he seems fine with that too.

    So many different stories.....

  20. Kippa, speculation is understood. The problem for me is that the name change is automatically associated with the adoptive family/upbringing, when, IMO, it should have nothing to do with that. It's not about how a person was raised. A person's identity was legally changed without their consent, so reclaiming that identity just because it's theirs should satisfy any curiosity, IMO.

    Maryanne, my first name wasn't changed, either. Was your son older when he was surrendered? I was two and thank goodness a-mom knew that changing a child's name at two wasn't a good idea, since I'd been answering to that name for two years. She didn't see the need to change it, either - it was after all, my name.

  21. OH, we're talking about age 2 for the name change thing. I was thinking age 16 and growing crankier by the minute because I already have an unpredictable preteen. Whatev. As with all things, the best thing is to give up control.

  22. Michelle,

    My son was never with me, but was in foster care for over a year because I would not sign the surrender. Long sad story. But he probably did know his first name, and because of that I am glad it was not changed. He loved his adoptive Dad who died years ago but not the mom, and seems proud of his adoptive last name. That is fine with me, the last name did not matter to me, since I really thought he should have his natural father's last name, but the rat wouldn't marry me, the start of the whole tragedy:-)

    It has been my experience that it is not a common thing for adoptees to take back their original name for any reason. I have not known many who did this, but it seems you do. Maybe it is a growing trend?

    For those who do, it is of course their choice, but as Kippa said people will be curious. It seems there can be a variety of reasons, some just to reclaim heritage and some to repudiate a bad adoptive experience. No way to know which unless the adoptee tells you. And the adoptee does not have to tell unless they want to.

  23. I don't think anyone has suggested that adoptees should feel obliged to explain their reasons for reverting to the original names, so I'm a little flummoxed about why that seems to be an issue.
    And I don't think speculating on the reasons why some do and some don't constitutes analyzing every move an adoptee makes.

    It was the OP that raised the subject as a red light to adopters, and the discussion has taken off from there. Personally I think deliberately avoiding the issues that accompany adoption in order to keep it "closed" *is* a form of abuse. But what do I know?

    Michelle has volunteered her reasons for not changing her name back. I'm sure many adopted people feel the same way about the hassle. One wonders why a return to the original family name shouldn't be automatic at the age of majority. And if the adoptee *didn't* want that, then they could retain the adoptive family name through some simple official process. All this assuming of course that they had access to their OBC and the names of their original parents.

    My son's adoptive family name is much more interesting and way cooler than his father's name, or mine before I was married.
    This has nothing to do with anything.
    Just sayin'

  24. That makes sense, Maryanne - that he was in fc for a year and why his name was kept. Although, I'm sure you know that lots of names were changed, even as old as ten!

    I think there's more adopted people changing thir names back just because there's more of us reuniting and aware of what adoption is really about, than 10/20 years ago (pre internet). So, not a trend, just numbers/awareness increasing (IMO).

  25. No, Kippa, I don't hear people demanding to know why. But what's neverending is the speculation around the motivation of anything an adopted person does (not directed at you). Why do you want your original name, why do you want your birth certificate, why are you searching, why do you call your birth mother, Mother, why aren't your adoptive parents your real parents? Why don't you tell your adoptive parents that you're searching? Why do you this, why do you do that? - why, why, why! lol

    I guess I just don't get how people don't get it, meaning is all this speculation really necessary?

    When I found my father a few years ago a Salvation Army worker was the go-between (she was great)because dad didn't have a phone, so she arranged calls for us from her office. She told me that SA rarely gets involved with adoption searches, she didn't really know why, but they do help other displaced family members find one another.

    It makes no sense to me why a missing family in adoption is different from any other missing family, therefore speculating on the reasons for searching, reclaiming a name, a birth certificate, building relationships with a found family shouldn't spark any more interest than anybody else doing the same thing.

  26. What a refreshing change of pace from all the "Dear Birthmother" letters out there. As an adult adoptee, I'm almost in tears reading this, and wonder why in the name of Georgia Tann the adoption "professionals" haven't embraced the truth, and truly helped the children they claim to serve.

  27. Just curious, do you know anything about adoptive parent reactions to adoptees taking back their original name rather than their adoptive name? Not in relationships that have gone bad, but in the good relationships where adoptees chose to do this solely to connect with their roots.

  28. Maryanne, I just expressed this is a note to Lorraine! We were talking about a bunch of things and I said:

    "The opening [to the post] did have me thinking about my daughter walking away from me . . . renaming herself and moving to China and giving me the finger. On some visceral level, that emotion/fear was there. I only know being a mom as this experience and I love Simone so much I can't even describe it. But then when I thought it through and reread what Jane wrote, it was very reasonable."

    So there you have it. I couldn't imagine the situation without linking it to something incredibly negative. That was my first reaction. Funny, because Simone's Chinese name is alive and well on her passport. However, it is not a real name. It is a name given to her by the PRC. She shares the surname with thousands of adoptees.

    Names are potent. From an adoptee's POV, names may represent control. I can understand using both names at different times in one's life to loosen that control that was imposed. Bottom line is that renaming combined with moving in with the original parents would signal to me that I failed and that my daughter was rejecting me on some level. If I could see the reality up close and rid myself of these fears--if I could understand that this would not mean rejection on my daughter's part--then perhaps I might be more open to it. But you asked how I felt and it isn't a pretty feeling.

  29. Michelle, you say you don't hear people demanding to know why - and then you go on to say they do.
    Surely, if they wrongly construe the motivations of adoptees who want to discover and maybe legally reassume their original identities, then they need to be told where they're wrong.

    "I guess I just don't get how people don't get it,"
    People only hypothesize about things they don't understand.
    Just hypothesizing here ;-) but I think even you'll agree that in the case of adoption, it's because what the world sees and the reality behind it are two different things.
    If all adoptions were transparent from the get-go, and all adoptees could automatically reassume their original legal identity (if known, and if not, gain access to whatever information was available) at age of majority, people would have to deal.

    " . . . meaning is all this speculation really necessary?"
    It shouldn't be, but apparently it is.

    "It makes no sense to me why a missing family in adoption is different from any other missing family,"
    I think you're falling into the same trap. That would make biological families and adoptive families the same, which they aren't.
    The reason is that the world has bought into the facsimile. It doesn't recognize there's a difference - it sees the adoptive family as the only authentic family.

    "therefore speculating on the reasons for searching, reclaiming a name, a birth certificate, building relationships with a found family shouldn't spark any more interest than anybody else doing the same thing."
    It isn't the speculation that sparks the interest. It's the interest that sparks the speculation. Of course, I don't have to experience it, so I could be talking through one of my multiple hats, but I think that kind of curiosity can be useful because indicates a growing awareness that adoption isn't all it's been cracked up to be, and perhaps too that people are rather more open than they were.
    I mean, in the 40s, 50s, and even the 60s, there was little to no questioning in the general population. Just mass acceptance.

  30. "I think you're falling into the same trap. That would make biological families and adoptive families the same, which they aren't.
    The reason is that the world has bought into the facsimile. It doesn't recognize there's a difference - it sees the adoptive family as the only authentic family."

    Yep, Kippa, I know how the world sees the adoptives - that's my point. But I see an adoptive parent as someone who is raising a child whose parents (due to a life circumstance at the time of surrender and adoption, not always a permanent problem requiring permanent separation) were not able to raise their child/ren. I do not view adoption as building a family - there's already a family, not a birth family or a first family - a family.

    If we stick to this premise then the idea that a adopted or fostered person would seek their parents would be the norm, because the adoption was not for any purpose other than providing a home for a child, hopefully with a bit of love thrown into the pot, and that the initial family situation is not put aside, rather an ongoing search with the goal of reunion. Yet, our community (not everyone) runs along side the myth by also analysing the actions of adopted people and their parents; from a different angle, of course, but they still do it. This what I don't understand.

    I don't see the need to speculate why an adopted person would take back their identity, nor do I understand why the adoptive parents' opinions would be important to anybody other than the adoptive parents. It's because adoption pretends to be something it's not that, IMO, people feel the need to ask why, when the answer to 'why I would change my name back' is really simple: because I want to - because I can.

    I don't think my written comment is doing justice to what's inside my head! Why not call me next time you're in my hood and we'll chat:)

    Jane, my apologies for moving away form the original topic.

  31. I know many adoptees who have returned emotionally and socially to their natural families again as full family members. I know some as well who have legally returned, having restored their original family connection through adult adoption. My son has restored his place in our family this way. We took back what the adoption industry stole from us. I documented it in a blog entry here "Adopting Back My Son." Many natural mothers and adoptees have contacted me to express their interest in doing like-wise. There is also a website about this at http://www.adoptingback.com/.

    Adoptive parents should be aware that this can happen. If they cannot put up with (or actually welcome) the thought of "their" adoptee returning and being adopted-back, then maybe they are adopting for the wrong reasons (selfish ones, not for the child's best interest) and should not be adopting at all.

  32. I'd have no problem with our (adopted) son recovering his original name or becoming intimate with to his biological family - if and when he finds them. In fact I'd be very happy for him and them. If they made a good connection it would be a cause for celebration.

    However, if he wiped his hands of us completely, I'd be very sad. I can't easily imagine such a scenario but of course it's something to consider.

    It hasn't happened, and won't, in the case of my found son, who has a good relationship with both.

  33. Michelle said, "Why not call me next time you're in my hood and we'll chat:)"
    I'd like that. Your hood is?
    Pax, yo

  34. Kippa, I agree. If my daughter kissed me off in the process, it would be very said. There's only the two of us and I have already lost a truckload of family members. That is what I would fear the most. I'm sure I could get over the name thing in time because establishing a connection with the first family would be absolutely a cause for celebration.

  35. “If we stick to this premise then the idea that a adopted or fostered person would seek their parents would be the norm, because the adoption was not for any purpose other than providing a home for a child, hopefully, and that the initial family situation is not put aside, rather an ongoing search with the goal of reunion.”

    Seeking can be made to be the norm--I hope it becomes that one day. However, I'm not sure whether it's in everyone's best interest to think of adoption as provision of shelter “with a bit of love thrown into the pot.” This seems curiously grudging. One reason I am so critical of disruption if that I do regard adoptive family as family. Equally, I regard family of origin as family. Two families with the goal of becoming extended family together would be the ideal (for me).

    Candidly, if adopting back meant the dissolution of the adoptive family, I would not support it as policy unless used in cases to renounce abusive a-family. It is understandable why the adoptee and natural parents in that situation would want to do that. If it does not mean that and means, say, 3 or 4 parents instead of 2 (the extended family model) then I would support it generally.

  36. ['why I would change my name back' is really simple: because I want to - because I can.]

    I'd do it if I could.

    The reason why I haven't is because everyone is used to calling me by my legal adoptive name and that it'd be such a freaking hassle in terms of employment.

    Maybe some day when I am older...

  37. Osolomomma,

    I think of it as any person, adopted or not, choosing the relationships that best suits them. We don't need a special policy for the adopted and the adoptive families, such as deciding in which situations breaking ties with family is justified.

    Kippa, I sent you a message at the email addy I've had for a few years.

  38. in'However, I'm not sure whether it's in everyone's best interest to think of adoption as provision of shelter “with a bit of love thrown into the pot.” This seems curiously grudging.'

    Um, yes. Yes indeed.
    I'm curious where that thought about the "little bit" comes from.

  39. Thanks Michelle.
    I shall reply pronto :- )

  40. Michelle, of course people can choose to do whatever they wish. People can leave their biological families and people can choose to dissolve ties with their a-families. Nobody is questioning the right to make that choice. However, you are uncomfortable with children by adoption seen "as if" born to their a-families (so am I, btw). I would be uncomfortable with viewing a-family as merely temporary. That's what I meant by policy.

  41. Oops, misquote. My bad. I should have said "bit", not "little bit".
    But same difference.

  42. Oh, "bit" wasn't meant literally. One assumes there's going to be love, but it doesn't always work out that way.

  43. Well, you wiggled out of that one. So Michelle, do you believe that adoptive parents should love their children as family? I think this is a really relevant question in light of Lorraine's most recent post. What happens is not the issue, but what we agree to believe about adoption is.

  44. Wiggled my way out of what? I offered clarification becaused you asked for it. I figured you needed clarification because you personalized "bit of love". Not all adopted kids are loved or properly cared for - I'd have thought most people blogging have read about the adoption horror stories.

  45. I think it was Kippa who specifically asked for the clarification. But I'm not sure how I personalized "hopefully with a bit of love thrown into the pot." I'm simply interested in your construct of adoption. So far, you have said not permanent, providing a home but not building a family, and the above quote. I simply like to know where people are coming from when I attempt to engage them on the subject.

    So in your view is adoptive family *family* or not? Whether or not love is given in specific situations is not the point and has no bearing on the subject. I'm asking you about the idea of adoption.

  46. Oslomomma,

    I don't view adoption as the act of raising a child. Adoption doesn't build families, it does the opposite. It's a legal process that separates familes, seals birth registrations and amended birth certificates, which can permanently separate children from their families. A mother can relinquish her parental rights or have her child taken by a CAS and in both situations that child can be raised by other people without an adoption taking place. This in no way implies temporary; likewise adoption can never imply or promise forever.

    Raising a child whose family has been presumed unable to care for that child doesn't mean we forget about that family (or hold yearly vigils for that family to compensate for a loss that isn't necessarily permanent). We instead use every resource available to find that family and learn the truth.

    The construct of a family that is not biological presents a different dynamic because a child already has a family and that family, IMO, should be located and integrated (if possible) into the child's life immediately. If at say, age 12 the child wants to move back with their family, it should be completely understood that this may happen, because adoption is about providing a home in a loving, safe environment for a child - not providing a child for those who want to become parents. The only reason I say it could be temporary is because a child already has a family. If we hear that a child was abandoned, do we know why? Do we know that it's true? Do we know that the mother, in let's say, China didn't try to kill herself because she gave birth to a girl and that baby girl was taken from her?

    A woman I know (she's in her 90s) raised her nephew after his parents were killed in a car crash. He's 50 now. I think he was two when it happened. She says he still asks her about his parents -wants to hear what they were like etc. She said to me that she knew back then that she could never replace his mother - that she was the person raising him, not as "her son" but as her nephew, the son of her brother. Does she love him and worry about him and do all that other stuff parents do? Of course. But more than anything she wishes he'd had the opportunity to be raised by his own mother and father.

  47. So Michelle, are you saying that an adoptive family is never REALLY a family with any permanent ties; that only biology makes for life-long connections? Are you saying that no adopted person can really have two families?

    Or are you saying that the adoptive family should make every effort to find and connect with the biological family and incorporate them into the child's life, as in real open adoption?

    If the latter, I can support that, and I think most people here, whether adoptive mothers or first mothers, would support it as well.

    But if you are saying all adoption is inherently wrong and corrupt, which you certainly have a right to say and believe, there isn't much else to discuss with anyone who has adopted or thinks adoption is the better choice or lesser evil in some cases.

  48. Maryanne,

    As I wrote in another comment, I don't consider adoption the act of raising children. Adoption legally separates families, changes identities and seals birth certificates. That's evil.

    I can't even say that adoption works sometimes because children who experienced severe abuse in a home and were taken from that home then lingered in foster care or were fostered by one family do not have their identities changed. I do not know of any situation where the practice of adoption, with it's existing policies and laws is necessary.

    As far as bio ties being stronger than adoptive ties - I haven't got a clue. I figure if more than one person lives in a house for a long time, a bond is likely to develop whether genetic family members are present or not. That has nothing to do with adoption.

  49. Well, there you have it, Maryanne: adoption is evil.

    Time to move on. Michelle, thanks for clarifying that.

  50. Oslomomma,

    Seems you agree then with sealing birth certificates and legally separating families? What about an adoption contract that only allows a mother 24-48 hours to change her mind about parenting?

    Raising a child that needs a safe, caring environment is not adoption. I was with my a-family for 8 years - they were my permanent guardians, then the children's aid told them to adopt me. The way I was being raised didn't change - nothing changed because adoption came into the picture, except of course, that my birth certificate was sealed and it became illegal for me to know my family and them me. Yet, my sisters who were fostered (long-term)by one family never had their BCs sealed. My sisters knew I had been adopted in Canada but were not allowed to know my new name so they could not contact me directly.

    If adoption contracts were reconstructed to extend revocation period to six months (at least), the changing of a name eliminated and instead the option of adopting parents' name(s) being added to the existing name, and no information legally sealed from those adopted and the their families, I may have a different view of adoption.

  51. Michelle,

    Thanks for sharing your personal story; it explains a lot about your attitude towards adoption. It also illustrates the problems of advocating policy changes based only on personal and anecdotal experience rather than looking at the bigger picture, especially in advocating for extended foster care as solution.

    I agree with you that records should not be sealed from adoptees, that a 6 month revocation be in place after surrender with return to fit parents who request it during that period being done swiftly, and the optional name change would be a good thing as well. Yet I do not see the abolition of legal adoption as a viable goal.

    What I do not agree with is that foster care works better for kids than adoption, or that siblings in foster care are always kept in touch. The foster care system is an even bigger mess and tragedy for many kids than the adoption system, and that is saying something! Rather than maintaining caring connections, many kids age out of foster care at age 18 with no family at all that cares about them. There is a lot of abuse, and kids are moved around like pieces on a chess board, families often split. Rather than having two families who care about them, many foster kids end up with none.

    You were probably lucky in your foster parents, and there may have been pressing legal reasons for their adopting you, although at that age you should have had some input into the decision and especially into the name change. I can understand why you are angry about that and about being cut off from your sisters. That is wrong.

    One piece out of my personal story is lifelong regret that I left my son in foster care as long as I did, over a year, and did not surrender at birth which would have spared him sub-standard foster care and probably the sub-standard placement that he got as "used goods". But I can't base my beliefs about adoption reform or condemn all adoption or all foster care based soley on my own case.

  52. Adoption practice requires reform on many levels. I believe that is why most of us would show up here at FMF in the first place. Nonetheless, I regard my family as family.

  53. The comments throughout this blog that adoption is about meeting a "demand" and profiteering is truly uninformed. There may be some occasions/agencies/lawyers who treat it this way, but the majority of adoption is run by well intentioned, hard working social workers who have the best interest of the kid at heart and follow the law and a set of ethics. As a waiting adoptive parent, I have to say, blogs such as this give me the impression that the adoptive family simply cannot win. I believe children should be encouraged to respect and appreciate their birth families, but the same should true for adoptive families. An adoptive parent is not a life-time supply of child care. They are a family for a child. We are not simply raising a child, devoting our entire lives and whole heart so that one day when the birth family is in a better place and has processed their decision, we reunite them with a speech about how "this is really where you belong and always have belonged." It's not true. The child belongs with who raised them. If you cannot raise your child for whatever unfortunate, sad, unfair reason, then you are not a parent to that child. Biology is a mystifying and fantasizing element of each of our lives, but it doesn't pick us up after school, coax us to sleep, cook and clean for us, send us through college, wipe our tears, bring us to the doctor... When a child is placed with me, I will be that child's real mother, they will be my own child. I intend to do my best with the psychology of raising an adoptive child, but some of the birth mothers out there need to own up to their decision to place their child. We adoptive parents deserve a little more credit. We are not deceitful or trying to coerce you into something you don't want. We are here for our own reasons, but we are here for the child.

  54. Anon,
    It's not true that the majority of adoption is run by well-intentioned social workers. The majority of adoptions are independent adoptions arranged by attorneys or "facilitators" who are not required to have any training whatsoever. As for social workers, many have little training in adoption because MSW programs do not require classes in adoption.

    Many social workers are adoptive parents and see solutions to unplanned pregnancy through the lens of those anxious to obtain a child. Other social workers are childless by choice. These workers cannot understand the pain mothers experience from losing their child to adoption nor the pain children suffer from losing their mothers.

    Some social workers have extreme biases against natural families. In their training and experience, they see mostly dysfunctional families and come to believe separating children from bioloigcal parents is the way to solve social problems.

    Social workers are paid by the agencies they work for which in turn usually derive most of their revenue from prospective adoptive parents. While the agencies are non-profits, their employees are not volunteers. Directors of large agencies often make over $100k a year. Economic realities mean that social workers cannot provide objective counseling to pregnant woman and help them find the tools that would enable them to keep their babies.

    For more on the multi-billion dollar business of adoption, read "The Stork Market" by Mirah Riben.

    If you are looking to help a child, let me suggest you choose an agency that has resources independent from adoptive parent fees or that you contact your state's child welfare agency.



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