' [Birth Mother] First Mother Forum: Adoption in the Air

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Adoption in the Air

Is there ever a way to get away from adoption?

Not in today's world.

Two Sundays ago I read the New York Times's Modern Love in the Style section (To Nurture Again, With Courage), and discover early on that it is the story of how a woman feels when her two-year-old daughter adopted from China is ill, as this girl is a replacement for her natural daughter who died a year or so earlier. Okay, I'm thinking, that's got to be weird, growing up knowing that you only ended up in that family because--somebody else died. I think about writing a letter, but you know, sometimes I am just tired of it all.

That night, or the next, I watch Criminal Minds and come upon a story about a nutjob and his just-as-sick dying wife who pay someone to abduct blonde, blue-eyed girls of child-bearing age whom they lock up in the basement, impregnate and hope for a boy to replace the boy-child who died several years earlier. If a girl is born, she is left at a church and put up for adoption. (Shades of China, right?) The nutcase couple have already given away a couple of girls, the guy has killed the teenagers who were unfortunate to give birth to girls, but the investigators can amazingly enough trace one of those kids (through DNA left on the corpse which has been dug up, yes, it's icky but that's modern science) to the real grandparents. (Real, I said, real, yes I did.)

You, dear reader, can already see where this is going. Do we have another Baby Anna Schmidt/Jessica DeBoer/Anna Mae He case on our screens? Will the grandparents sue for custody, ripping the child from the loving arms of the strangers who have given her the only home she knows? The script contains a bit discussion about the grandparents' legal right to their offspring, and what's in the best interest of the child, should not the child stay in her stable home? Someone says that the grandparents would probably not have any trouble getting the kid back, as they are her biological grandparents, and I'm thinking, What planet do you live on, scriptwriter? No problem? And the kid is....what six or seven? Have you read about these kinds of cases in the last twenty years? Now I'm hooked, for sure. No changing channels til I see how this plays out.

Of course, by the hour's end, the secret basement jail is found, the young mother who just gave birth to a boy still there is happily reunited with her child immediately, but the darling blond boy found upstairs watching television when the cops came in? Who is currently being raised by the nutjob parents? Mom is dying (stage four breast cancer), dad is clearly going to prison. Is the boy going to go "into the system?" No, we have a tidy ending to make everybody happy. Fortunately, he is also the offspring of the aforementioned grandparents, sharing their DNA, and the fade out shows them meeting him while a voice over informs us that the adoptive parents of their other grandchild has agreed to some sketchy idea of visitation. Whew!

 Yesterday afternoon a friend who is the health honcho at Consumer Reports sent me a press release from the University of North Carolina informing me that children adopted from overseas have no greater disabilities than children adopted domestically:

For immediate use: Monday, Oct. 26, 2009

UNC study: Disability rates similar for internationally, domestically
adopted children

CHAPEL HILL - Children adopted from overseas have disability rates similar to those adopted from within the United States, according to new research from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Results of the first national study of disabilities among internationally adopted children appear in the November issue of the journal Pediatrics.
The study's authors are Philip N. Cohen, Ph.D., associate professor of sociology in UNC's College of Arts and Sciences and a fellow of the Carolina Population Center, and Rose M. Kreider, Ph.D. of the U.S. Census Bureau.

Cohen and Kreider examined
data from the 2000 U.S. Census for about 82,220 internationally and 972,200 domestically adopted children with sensory, physical, mental and self-care disabilities. They found that disability rates for internationally adopted children (11.7 percent) and domestically adopted children (12.2 percent) were more than twice the rate for all children aged 5 to 15 (5.8 percent).

Other findings related to international adoptees' gender, age at
adoption and country of origin included:

* Girls (10.2 percent, compared to 13.7 percent of boys) and infants (7.2 percent, vs. 15.2 percent of children adopted at ages 2 to 4, and 9.9 percent of children adopted at ages 5 to 9) were less likely to have
any disability.
* Disability rates for Chinese and Korean adoptees were noticeably lower than that of domestic adoptees (3.7 percent and 7.1 percent vs. 12.2 percent); however, the rate was close to twice as high among children
adopted from Romania (21.1 percent).
* Internationally adopted children were significantly more likely to have sensory disabilities (2 percent vs. 1.4 percent), but less likely to have mental disabilities (9.7 vs. 10.9) than children adopted from within the U.S.
* Internationally adopted boys; children aged 8 to 13; those who lived with single parents; and children with non-Hispanic white parents were most likely to have a disability.

Cohen, the parent of two daughters adopted from China, said he hoped the finding that international adoption by itself does not constitute a greater risk for disability than domestic adoption would dispel some
stereotypes about international adoption. 

(Okay, a comment--What stereotypes about adoption? We are pelted with pictures of adorable girls from China, cute boys from Ethiopia, sweet girls from Guatemala.)

"I hope it will help prevent alarmism about international adoption," he said. "The information is important for health, education and social services professionals as well as adoptive parents, and it may help policymakers assess the risks and challenges these children face and identify the resources necessary to address them."

Cohen said all adopted children face risks, but parents and service providers can prevent and respond to those challenges. "Children in need of families are our youngest, most vulnerable citizens," he said. 

Last night on the Wendy Williams Show, the Times said that The Locator, Troy Dunn, would be a guest. But I could not even find the "Wendy Williams Show" on the tube so I missed that. But give me a few hours. I'm sure I'll run into an adoption connection before the day is out. I'm going to see Capitalism in a few hours, but I'm sure something will come along. 

But I think I'll avoid having a burger afterward at the Corner Bar where a paper placemat in the past featured an 800 number for women with babies to relinquish to call.--lorraine


  1. Ahhh. I was so hoping somebody would comment about that piece in the Times a few weeks ago. Talk about replacement child--that was ME. And the woman who wrote the piece did not think a thing about what that means to her adopted daughter.
    I was one such adoptee and was never able to forgot that I was a "replacement" for the real girl who died when she was three. I was never quite good enough. Of course the fact that I did not look in the least like my parents did not help.

    Only after years of therapy and more or less breaking with my adoptive parents am I able to have a sane life.

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  3. Karen, Wow! I often wonder how adoptees feel. Fact of the matter is I don't know. My daughter is totally closed on the matter as far as discussion and I will not force it.

    I always wonder when people are going to realize that the facts are out there - no, adopted children are not different as far as disabilities from country to country. They are different as far as from children raised by their parents.

    There are numerous articles in the psychology trade journals about the damage of removing a child from their biological surroundings. That Children are not blank slates.

    I watched the CSI, and realized that the story line ended the way it did because of the offensive nature of the adoptive parents of the little girl were portrayed - that they were unwilling to give her up and, until the end, even let the child have contact. So, the writers used the little boy as a placebo for that error of social beliefs. The grandparents got "their" grandchild and look, they will get to be grandparents to the other child as well! How full of bull is that! The panacea for the thief.

    Karen - my daughter also had to completely break with her adoptive parents to be sane and whole. It is a sad thing.

  4. The "Criminal Minds" plot reminds me of the novel/movie "Deep End of the Ocean." A three year old boy is kidnapped from a hotel lobby. Nine years later, he shows up. So he goes back to his biological (and rightful) family? Not so fast. It seems that a nutty woman kidnapped him. She died but he was raised by her fine husband who did not know he was kidnapped. The boy does not want to return to these pushy strangers who insist they are his parents and is upset that they don't respect his relationship with his "adoptive" father. As I recall, the families end up with joint custody.

    Both Jacquelyn Mitchard who wrote the book and Michelle Pfeiffer who starred in the movie are adoptive mothers. Surprise!

  5. Jane, I am with you on this - this BS is for the birds!

    But now I have a question for the adoptees that read this blog. Why do so many adoptees get angry when we mothers try to do what we can to help you obtain your rights?

    I hear over and over how much we mothers owe our children. When we march with, try to help everyone move towards a major movement that will have to create a change, we get jumped on about how we don't have the right to be part of any of it - from all sides.

    It has caused me to pull away more than once from friends that were adoptees, cost me friendships with adoptees and frankly left me cold on any adopters.

    No one has the right to another persons child. Exceptions: abuse that can be considered life threatening; incest; other horrific reasons that don't include age or poverty; orphans without other family that can and will raise them. Hmmmmm.....that's about it.

    No one has the right to pretend that they can take a human being and try to make them into something they are not.

    And no one, not even my child, has the right to demand that I back off and not fight for her rights.

    But it happens all the time.

    What happened to solidarity? Why do we have to argue the minutiae rather than stand together to end the horror of the living death of adoption?

  6. I also saw that Criminal Minds episode. Every time I think I can "remove" myself from adoption, not read or write or talk about it so much, ease on into a live not whacked by it, it finds it way into my living room and into my head. It's inescapable...

    And oh so neat and tidy in the media.


  7. Lori:

    I've been involved in the fight to unseal the records for decades and I have never felt that I should be sidelined or not part of the movement--in fact, I feel welcomed by adoptees because the ones I have dealt with understand we both need to be in this fight.

    I joined the movement back when Florence Fisher with publicity and a strong voice opened up the world to me. I was an early member of ALMA and never felt I was not welcome. Quite the opposite.

  8. Lorraine,

    I am afraid to even broach the subject with my daughter. I know where to get her records. But it will take her to be proactive in adoption reform and she is not able to do that....yet. Her paternal grandmother has her original birthcertificate - I am trying to figure out how she managed to get it - and all of the pictures, bar the few I have, of her, her father, and I while I was pregnant, before I got pregnant and when she was a tiny baby! She is not ready to confront the old lady - and I worry that, because her father is dead, she will put it off until the rest of that part of her family mix destroy the information. I know that they will not respond to me.

    Sigh, so frakken many lies!



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