' [Birth Mother] First Mother Forum: Census Controversy Over Query: Are the children adopted?

Friday, April 9, 2010

Census Controversy Over Query: Are the children adopted?

The controversy over the question--are any of the children adopted?--on the 2010 census continues. The previous blog, Random Thoughts on Adoption at the Easter Table first discussed this issue as it was one of the adoption matters spoken of  last Sunday at my table, that is, how some adoptive parents object to the question, and why. Today's blog is prompted by the comment an adoptive mother--Upstate Mom of 3--left at that post last night. She finds the question offensive and invasive.

For anyone interested in adoption reform, gathering data is crucial. We need to know how many people do not have access to their original identities and information. If adopted people are asking for a change in the law that prevents them from knowing their original identity, it certainly is a useful to know how many there are of them will be affected by a change in the law. The census is a great way to identify the adoptee constituency, because there is no other way.  How many people are without health insurance?  How many people are Hispanic? Caucasian? Bi-racial? How many people are adopted? From this country or that one? Guatemala? Where the child was very likely to have been stolen, see Guatemalan Army Stole Kids for Adoption. Ethiopia? Different but similar problem, see Harvesting Children from Ethiopia for Families in America.

The answers tell us about ourselves. The answer to that question--are any of the children adopted?--could help move the legislation forward. Of course, in the case of children adopted from overseas, they will probably never be able to locate their original parents; but it is sometimes possible. (Someone who adopted from Ethiopia and became aware of that country's corrupt baby-grab business has been in touch, and I will be telling her story in a day or two.

But here at home, anyone who objects to the identity question is in clear denial about that fact that there is a difference between having a biological child by conception, pregnancy and birth, and having a child by paper work and adoption decree. And one has to assume that if and when the adopted person (born in America) decides to search for his or her natural, biological parents, the adoptive parent who had no trouble with the question will also more easily accept his or her decision, to say nothing of offering understanding and support. I have a great deal of admiration for such people. I have less respect for the parents who want to deny that an adoption took place. From what I've seen, they deny the adoption...until there is trouble. Then it's, Well, he's not really my child. We adopted him. Not my blood...is the thinking.

Maybe not so weirdly, I included the reference to Guatemalan adoptions before I checked out the blog of UpstateMomof3. While her blog says she always only wanted to be a mother--and there is nothing wrong with that--her two adopted children are from, yep, Guatemala and Ethiopia. No comment. Necessary.

Her blog is a collection of product reviews of stuff that companies can send them, which she actively seeks. She has quite a few followers. Happy busy Upstate Mom writes about stuff. You'll note she also objected to the questions about race on the census. Her children aren't going to be confused when they grow up.

Here is her comment:
As a mom of two children who I adopted I want to explain a little my problem with the fact that the census asked me to separate out which of my children were adopted and which ones were biologically mine.
First - simply asking that question does not actually give you any information about the adoption itself. I do not see what purpose there is in it if it is just to separate the two categories. (Ed: She does have a point  here; for reform purposes, it would be good to know how many were born in the United States.)

Second - there are simply not enough categories - what if I have a surrogate? Would that child qualify as "biologically" mine - even if we used donor sperm and donor eggs? Would that child qualify as adopted? What if that child we use donor sperm and my egg? Is that child now my husband's "step" child? (Ed: She does point out the various ways by which children are constructed today.)

Third - While I am not delluding (sic) myself into believing that my children will never have issues about being adopted I simply do not see why it matters to the government. I mean what does it really tell them about society? I do not get it (sic)

Fourth - I do not think of it so much as well (sic) adopted kids have issues and biological kids do not. I look at it as each child is an individual capable of having an array of issues. So, it is not so much that being adopted makes someone different it is that each person is an individual. (Ed: For an interesting take on the question: Are Adoptees Different? do read Faux Claud's excellent essay.)

And from another commenter, who has since removed her comment:

But hey I had an issue with the race classifications on the census too. I got all hyped up about it and left a bunch of blanks - filled in only, name and age and that's it.
I wouldn't worry about being honest on a census form..(Ed: lovely)


  1. Oh deary dear. What was that saying about "the tangled webs we weave"?

    Assuming she's Caucasian - I can understand not wanting to explain how her kids are "biological" BUT of a different race/ethnicity. So, she'll just be getting a visit from a census worker.

    She's not the only one complaining about "invasive questions". http://ashevilleteaparty.wordpress.com/2010/03/03/ready-for-the-census/

    I would also imagine that anyone in the US illegally would have SERIOUS reservations about even being counted. But that's why the personal information gathered by the Census Bureau is confidential for 72 years. It has to be - or very few people would answer the questions accurately, if at all.

    Personally, I would love for adult adoptees (no longer living at home with their parents) to be able to specify that they are adopted. I know quite a few adult adoptees who have suggested answering the race/ethnicity questions by checking "Other" and writing in "ADOPTED, don't know" or something along those lines.

    I would write "ADOPTED - Information only available by court order" rather than "don't know" because "don't know" implies the information is UNKNOWN (eg child was a foundling) rather than "I am not legally entitled to my own records", which is more accurate.

    So go ahead, keep your privacy and be confident that it won't make a difference. This is similar to the mindset that "my vote won't make any difference" and (my particular favorite) "it won't make a difference if I cheat on my taxes".

  2. The Federal government does not require States to report statistics on Private, Domestic adoptions. Like it or not and as much as people want to pretend that their adopted kids are just like anyone else--they are not. We cannot have 2% of all U.S. children be adopted and sit and pretend like it's something that doesn't matter. The least we can do is ask on the Census if the kids are adopted (and yes, Adult Adoptees should be asked too) to keep some sort of statistics. These are human lives! These are kids that, because of their adoption, have different needs than other kids do (I know someone is about to tell me "my kids are fine, my kids aren't like YOU"...been there, done that, know all about it. I grew up just "fine" too). If we are going to meet the diverse needs of the population, we need to know what diversity exists amongst us. Adoption included.

    I think the question is easily answered: if your child was issued a decree of adoption, then yes, you check the "adopted" box--surrogacy honestly makes no difference.

    I hope the point behind her differentiating between a surrogate child that is biologically related to the adoptive parents vs. a child who is not biologically related to the adoptive parents was not to imply that surrogate children should have any fewer issues or any fewer potential special needs or need for their difference to be acknowledged. While they may not grow up without knowledge of their ancestral roots like many adoptees do, they still were born to one woman whose heartbeat and smell they knew and they were still seperated from her. They still have the same Primal Wound the rest of us do. Do we really feel that pregnancy and birth mean nothing when we say a surrogate child who has been through that is different than an adopted child?

  3. How is an adult adoptee (in the 44 states in this country that continue to SEAL every adopted person's birth certificate) to answer the ethnicity question?

    The truthful documentation of my birth and the ethnicity of my biological parents is "legally" sealed from me and being held in a vital record's vault in Orange County, California!!!

    I have an olive completion. I could be Mexican, Arabic, Native American, etc. etc, etc.

    Can someone please tell me why the rights of ADULT ADOPTEES are completely ignored as if we are invisible?

  4. Being adopted is nothing to be ashamed of and it's unarguably relevant to the adopted person. It's just a fact.

    If there is not, there should be follow up questions as to the situation of the adoption.

    Or maybe there should be a census exclusively for adopted persons. Now, that'd be interesting!

  5. I do not see why an honest adoptive parent would have a problem with listing their kid as adopted. It is a fact, and good statistic for the government to collect. I would also like to see adult adoptees counted too. This could be a start on getting some reliable adoption statistics.

    As to surrogacy, that is so complex as there are so many forms. A child could be made from the egg and sperm of two people, implanted in an unrelated woman, and raised by yet another unrelated couple. Or many other variations of that scenario, including being the biological child of one of the parents raising it, but carried by an unrelated woman as a gestational surrogate. Is there a primal wound in that case? Kinda makes one's head explode.

    Compared to this adoption is simple and not too hard to check the right box on a census form.

  6. I have two children who are adopted. They both are well aware of the fact they are adopted and we have open, ongoing relationships with both of their birthmothers. I am not ashamed of my children's adoptions nor their birthmothers. BUT...it is NONE of the governments business if my children are adopted or biological. The Constitution gives them the authority to count the citizens every ten years to allocate the number of representatives in the House of Representatives. That is the ONLY constitutional purpose for the census. All other questions are invasive and NONE of their business!!!

  7. If that's true maybe it's time to amend the (your)constitution. I think there is much fallout from adoption and surrogacy that at some point the government may have to address - witness the current movement for OBC's. A country should know who it is. I think that is what a census is supposed to do.

    I wonder if people fear disclosure and use of the information by adoptees and families of origin at some point in the future.

    There are people out there who argue open adoption records=more abortions. There are people who probably believe honesty on the census will have some dire consequence contrary to their interests too.

  8. Upstate Mom has a lot of nerve to complain about invasiveness, when nothing is more invasive in a person's life than closed adoption records. Or being forced to play the role of an infertile couple's kid, in exchange for food and a bed. I'm glad adoptive parents are getting a taste of their own medicine from the government!

  9. UpstateMom asks some interesting questions. Oh sheesh, I could answer these. First of all, for the purposes of good governance and effective reform, we need to consider these questions from a biological standpoint, not a cultural one. Because first and foremost, the biology is going to have the strongest effect.

    what if I have a surrogate? Would that child qualify as "biologically" mine - even if we used donor sperm and donor eggs? Would that child qualify as adopted?

    Uh... in a word... NO, if a child comes from someone else's egg and sperm and uterus, they are NOT "biologically" yours. How in the world would they be? The child is still adopted, even if the legal treatment is different from that of an already-born child being adopted.

    What if that child we use donor sperm and my egg? Is that child now my husband's "step" child?

    Yep. That's exactly what that child is.

    (Ed: She does point out the various ways by which children are constructed today.)

    I am not out to pick a fight and have utmost respect for you, Lorraine, but part of the problem with world culture today is we are far too enamored of machines. It results in language like this. Children are organisms, not mechanisms. Children are NOT "constructed." Let's not even leave that door open for people who think children are commodities to buy and to sell (and to return to the manufacturer, i.e. Russia or Haiti, when the "product" isn't perfect enough).

    But in the main, I hate surrogacy. It makes even more stark the notion that women are good for nothing but making babies for other people. Once upon a time our purpose was to make babies for our husbands. Now we have to make them for every Tom, Dick, and Harry AND their wives who happen to want one. This rent-a-uterus business needs to stop, ESPECIALLLY when the eggs and sperm do not belong to the couple who are paying the Rent-A-Uterus for her "product." If it's their germ cells and the wife has no uterus I guess I could see some limited utility in gestational surrogacy but I still don't like what the procedure says about the general worth of women everywhere.

    And no, I don't like egg or sperm donation, either. They raise the same identity questions as conventional infant adoption, without any of the messy yucky emotional stuff you have to deal with from a tearful surrendering mother. Ew. I mean, who wants to deal with all those human feelings and stuff? Better to just harvest the raw materials and get ON with it.


    Atheist and agnostic and otherwise "rational," "modern" types roll their eyes at traditionally religious people who view reproductive technology as an abomination. But I don't see anything "rational" about confusing innocent children about their ancestry and origins, nor about using women as brood mares, and if what it takes is a few million intolerant right-wingers to wake the rest of us up, I say BRING IT ON.

    And yes, I agree it's long past time the Census counted who was adopted and who wasn't. That's, um, kind of important, even if not to baby-buyers. And who cares about them anyway. Galileo proved pretty conclusively a few centuries ago that the universe does not revolve around them.

  10. Oh and I got the long form this year and actually answered it. Those of you who put it off or threw it away, let me make you feel silly now. The Census asks these questions:

    1. How many people are in your household?

    2. Who's the primary resident, in other words, the mortgage or lease holder? That's Person 1.

    3. Name, age, birthdate, ethnicity, gender, and race of Person 1.

    4. Name, age, birthdate, ethnicity, gender, and race of every other person in the household, and their relationship to Person 1, up to six persons including Person 1. There are more slots on the back of the form for additional household members but I don't remember what those questions were. I would imagine the questions were reduced at least by half.

    No questions about religion.
    No questions about political persuasion.
    No questions about whether you are a citizen, a resident, or an illegal immigrant.

    That is IT.

    If you are expressing a political opinion then you have the RESPONSIBILITY to ensure you know what the hell you are talking about. These tea baggers and adopters and wingnuts and whoever else who think the government's trying to oppress them but can't even be bothered to open the envelope from the Census Bureau when it arrives... no one said you had to fill it out, you could throw it away... the census worker will be by to ask the same questions anyhow, let's hope you don't shoot them and leave them hanging in a tree someplace like in West Virginia a few months ago... You couldn't even be bothered to look? We have to still speculate on what this stuff is about?

    No wonder the country's going down the toilet, and I'd just like to remind people here that too many of us, historically, have had the same I-have-an-opinion-and-will-bray-it-in-the-street-but-can't-be-arsed-to-actually-gain-the-related-knowledge attitude about adoption and adoptee and firstmother rights!

    The ass is the symbol of the Democratic Party, people--not the place you keep your head in between meals!

    Don't even bother calling yourself a tea partier or a conservative or a patriot if you can't be bothered to read a piece of paper! Or a piece of parchment for that matter, like the one hanging on display in Washington, DC and reproduced all over the Internet that requires the federal government to send out those little pieces of paper once every ten years!



  11. To JandZ's mom.

    The Census provides the information needed to plan for and to provide the services the citizens need.

    If the government does not know the demographics of their citizens in the different areas then the services will be one size fits all.

    If you never use any goverment services then I would expect that would not bother you. But stop and think about it for a minute as a parent. Do you children use the library? Do they attend public school? Just those two things provided by your government should give anyone enough incentive to say - I want the needs of my children to be known.

    The census must be answered thoroughly and honestly - it is the law. The personal information cannot be released for 72 years. The courts do not have the right to access it. The police nor social services have the right to access it.


    I am an adoptee and applaud the census for collecting this data - I just wish they did it for adults too. It would be nice to actually know how many of us are out there.

    Secrets and lies never work for adoptees...

  12. Yo, anonymous: I used the word
    "constructed" exactly to make a satirical point.

    I am against the various modern modes leading to children who do not know who they are genetically, historically, culturally. Talk about identity confusion and anomie.

  13. I, too, would like to know how many adopted adults are out there. If they are going to collect data on adopted children they need to collect it on adopted adults. Personally I wrote Adopted - Unknown for myself and Unknown - Mom Adopted for my kids (there is limited room in the Other field). I agree with what Gaye said, "unknown" doesn't really express what I want to say which is more like "prevented from knowing due to archaic and discriminatory sealed records laws."

  14. TO Anon who wrote the questions that are actually contained in Census questionaire...Dang! Thanks for the most excellent comment! I for one so appreciated your honesty and telling it like it is. I had been reading about the outcry against the Census form by aparents..while my unopened Census form sat on my table. I then opened it and thought .... This is it, this is what they are upset about? WOW!

    But here's another little deal about aparent's not wanting to answer the questions on the Census form...there are some "birth mothers" in open adoptions that are crying the same message along with adoptive parents. Now that in my estimation is really screwed up.

    I would ask the adoptive parents..if you also have biological children in your household, did you refuse to share that information as well??

  15. Dear anonymous, you got the short form.
    Also. There are women who genuinely enjoy surrogacy because they like being pregnant. I'm not saying it's not been emotionally difficult for them when the baby was born, but it wasn't just about renting their uteruses for payment.
    And I think that if anyone had read Upstatemom's blog posts about her children and the issues they've faced as an adpotive family, you may see that her objections aren't so much to the two adopted kids finding out they are adopted and from where, but rather because it is painful to be constantly bombarded with people assuming that she can't love all three of her kids with equal depth because she only grew one herself in her own uterus.
    As per dismissing her and her blog because she occasionally writes a review, guess what? A lot of bloggers occasionally review items. It's a way to make their blogging hobby tangibly pertinent to their daily life, and even though I very seldom review things, I don't see how those reviews affect a person's credibility in terms of their views of family.
    is the information adopted children are trying to get an absolute right and necessity? Yes. Is the census really going to affect that change in our lifetime? That's unlikely. Would writing an adoptee's rights bill an presenting it to state legislators along with petitions and a visable constituency backing have more of an effect? Probably.
    The census isn't perfect. I answered ours accurately for the sake of historical records, but disagreed with the the race catagories offered. Can we at least admit it's an imprefect document and stop assuming that people are trying to psychologically damage their children with their views on family when those views are simply to be inclusive and love their kids?

  16. "Their views are simply to be inclusive and love their kids." says Slee, in trying to explain why some adopters do not want to list their children as adopted in the census form.

    So....does saying some of your kids are adopted and some biological really imply to anyone that you love the adopted children less? Does admitting to differences in how the children came into the family make those who were adopted less your beloved children? Is the way to demonstrate love to ignore the fact that some kids are adopted?

    This sounds to me more like someone who is ashamed of adoption and not dealing well with it than someone trying to be equally loving. Would you be insulted to be asked which of your children had red hair and which had blond hair? Some children are adopted, some are not. That is a relevant fact and it belongs on the census. It is not an insult or emotional crisis unless adopters make it one.

  17. Dear Slee...

    In response to your: "Would writing an adoptee's rights bill an presenting it to state legislators along with petitions and a visable constituency backing have more of an effect? Probably."

    Clearly you are uneducated at the amount of WORK that adopted adults and natural parents have been doing to restore the rights of adoptees to their original birth certificates. We have heavy and well-funded opposition from NCFA, NAACP, etc. and their lobbyists make it almost impossible to get a "clean" bill in any state right now.

    I suggest you Google: "Adoptee Rights" for more information.

  18. Dear Slee:

    A quick check of UpstateMomof3's blog found an appeal for "stuff" to review, and a movie review, as well as a happy story about who they are.

    And as for the enjoyment that women get out of renting out their wombs, isn't it interesting that that pleasure is only something felt by the poor and somewhat needy? And that in India, where there is a great deal of poverty, so many women feel the need for that kind of pleasure that there are homes for them, as they wait out their pregnancies? May I suggest you read about their great happiness at being pregnant with someone else's child at Would You Outsource Your Womb?

    I posted your comment because it displays such a great deal of ignorance about the subject that the world needs to know who is out there, and not helping adoptees have their birth records because...they don't want to admit their children are not theirs biologically, culturally, historically.

    And while you--I am assuming you are an adoptive mother, or Upstate Herself, how would I know?--a having a harumph! over the census question, your children when they grow up are going to have a harumph! about your attitude of pretense. Their being adopted is very real to them, if not in your imagination. And they may never let you know how they really feel.

  19. Maryanne, you said:

    "Does admitting to differences in how the children came into the family make those who were adopted less your beloved children?"

    Yes. To some it DOES.

  20. As someone who has done extensive genealogical research on my family (which I am able to do because I was not adopted, and therefore no institution or person is actively concealing my birth surname, country of origin, or ethnic history from me), I want to note that the Federal Censuses have differentiated adopted children from biological children from stepchildren for more than 100 years. In the 1900 Census alone, more than 101,000 adopted sons and daughters are identified as such, which is valuable information for genealogists and family researchers, particularly those who would seek membership in a patriarchal or matriarchal lineage-based organization, such as Daughters of the American Revolution (Think there aren't many such heredity-based groups out there? Check out this list: http://www.hereditary.us/chrono.htm ), or those hoping to establish direct descent / blood-quantum for a Native Peoples' tribal affiliation.

    Furthermore, older censuses collected even more data, such as place of birth of one's father, place of birth of one's mother, citizenship, year of immigration, year of naturalization. Without such data, I would never have been able to locate my paternal great-grandmother's Ellis Island documents, or be able to trace her back to her country of origin and reconnect with cousins there. I wonder what importance, if any, adoptive parents place on the ability to do such a thing for themselves... or for their adopted children to be able to do so at some later point in their lives? Time and time again, I encounter adoptive parents who react negatively to any focus on the adopted status of their children, except that which is voiced and controlled by the adoptive parents themselves. In my opinion, this speaks to a conscious, or perhaps subconscious, insecurity about what does and doesn't constitute a "legitimate" family ("legitimate" in the sense of "recognized" or "accepted," although there is a reason why that term persists). Such an insecurity seems to be reflected in the surrogacy scenarios of upstatemom's comment.

    Census data which identifies specific individuals by name and physical location is not released until 72 years after the data is collected, which is why the latest data available is from 1930! Until 72 years have passed, only statistical/numerical data is available and that information is used not only in the election process but also for the establishment of public services. Many individuals who fear or distrust the census, seem to know precious little about its history, purpose, importance or mechanics, but seem more than willing to make claims about what it is or isn't, and what it should or shouldn't do.

    I am trying to stick to the actual, initial topic, which addressed whether or not to identify an adopted child as such on the census. Several sound arguments for doing so were made, both in the original blogpost and subsequent post concerning upstatemom's comment, but I do not find equally sound, supported arguments for NOT doing so in upstatemom's comment, other than her aversion to disclosing the data to the government because she, personally, does not see a purpose for providing it. However, the real concern for me, on a personal level, are her parting words, "I wouldn't worry about being honest on a census form." That is a very powerful statement about personal integrity which begs the question... "In what other areas wouldn't she worry about being honest?" I must confess that I find that particular statement very worrisome indeed.

  21. I have 1 bio child and 2 children adopted from Russia. They have access to all the info we were able to get on their Bio families. The Census does not help them at all by asking if bio or adopted. The information becomes public after 72 years and it is no ones business where my children came from. The gov will not supply them will extra services needed by adoptees, it will not provide me with extra tax credits....it does no good and they will not get an answer from me. Invasion of privacy.



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