Would there be adoption in a perfect world? Can an adoptive family be the first choice for a child?

This has been the topic of a good bit of blog discussion over the past few weeks, really for some time, especially in the transracial and transnational adoption world. Several people have talked about this recently (Kohana, Shannon, and Boomerific, here and here) and last year (Abebech and Dawn) and undoubtedly many more. Go read, if you haven't already. An article has also been referenced that I am sure is worth reading, but I have to admit I didn't.

From my perspective, this question is a no brainer. There really is only one answer: there would be no adoption in a perfect world. Everyone would be born to the perfect family, and those families would be able to care well for the children born to them. Adoption simply wouldn't be needed if the world were a perfect place.

But this is no perfect world. Children lose their families to accidents and natural disasters. Women are pushed by circumstances they can't control to place their children with others. Adults harm the children born to them, and those children must be removed from their care. And since we believe that children deserve better than to grow up in institutions, adoption exists.

Viewed as a reaction to tragedy, it’s hard to think of adoption as the first or best choice for any child. Who would wish the kinds of tragedies that lead to adoption on anyone, adult or child? No one - at least no one with a shred of humanity. Acknowledging the losses is a simply a part of the adoption experience, and that includes accepting that it would have been better if these tragedies had never occurred.

But what is “second choice” here (or third, fourth, or fifth, depending on how you’re counting) isn’t the family – it’s the circumstances that led to the adoption. Once a family has been created through adoption (putting the injustices of our infant adoption system aside for a moment) the last thing that family, and especially that child, need to hear is that they don’t measure up to families with blood connections.

So where does my family fit in all of this?

When I look at the circumstances that brought my children into our family, I see loss and tragedy, no question. And I can say without pause that the first choice would have been for these circumstances never to have occurred. But life isn’t perfect. My children have experienced great loss, and have traveled across the world to join two people of a different race. We are now a family. No ranking needed.


Mom2One said…
Oh Margie, you did it again. And it gave me chills.

Thank you a million times over.
Violeta said…
This is a really interesting and complicated question.
I agree that in a "perfect world" there would not be any need for adoption. But at the same time, I think a "perfect world" is so removed from our reality that we can't even really mentally deal with such questions. Our history, our present, our evolution, our belief systems...all these things prepare us in a sense ONLY for the world we exist in.
Adoption was our "first choice" way of forming our family; for a variety of reasons, pregnancy was always a "second choice." I really do believe that God or life brings you to certain doors by giving you good through the bad.
Neither my husband nor I had perfect families or childhoods and we've been bolstered and nourished by the ties we've made, by choice, to each other. We can only hope that our children can find the same sort of connection and comfort in their lives with us. Though they didn't get to choose us, just as bio kids don't get to choose their parents, like any kind of parent, we hope that as they grow up they'll feel they would have if they had been given a voice in their circumstances.
LilySea said…
You really nailed why I'm more interested in activism that changes the likihood of those tragedies, than activism that just changes small incidentals within individual adoptions.

More justice, less tragedy probably=fewer adoptions. But while adoption is necessary, our kids need to feel their families are as good as anyone's.
Anonymous said…
the truth is somewhere in between. there are countries in europe where domestic adoption is extremely rare. you don't need a perfect world. as an OECD country, korea could certainly do without intercountry adoption. it's not about ranking. nor is it about first or second choice. it's about opening the eyes of those who are in charge of children's welfare.

an a-mom
Margie said…
Thanks for your comments!

Anon, I completely agree. This post was in direct response to the discussion about whether adoption would exist in a perfect world, and therefore didn't go into what we can do to make adoption more just, ethical, and rare right now. I talk more about the issues you raise in a number of other posts - they would be tagged "Ethics and Reform," "Mothers," "Adoption," or "Transracial Adoption."

My personal opinion is that you have to attack the issues on many levels - by working to improve the welfare of children and families around the world, by breaking cultural stigmas that prevent unmarried women from parenting their children, by overtuning unjust adoption laws. But all the while you're working on this, there are still families in existence today that are told they are somehow less than families bound by blood. I think we have to get away from these comparisons for the sake of those families and children.

Thanks again!
Paula O. said…
Very interesting post, Margie - and one that I've been studying ever since you published it (as I'm sure you've noticed by your stat counter!). :)

I have been pondering a topic somewhat related to this but have framed it from the vantage point of my own experience: In a "perfect" world - can an adoptee ever really feel as if they were the family's "first choice"?

Beyond the loss and tragedy that befell me and my parents in Korea, I am now discovering another layer of loss that I hadn't allowed myself to fully mourn until now. And that is the loss that as an adoptee, I was not my parent's first choice. And that though of course they wanted me and love me very much, my adoption was not their "first and only" choice. It compounds the loss of my Korean parents and everything else I lost when I left my country and yet finally addressing this truth has helped me better understand who I am.

You're right of course, life isn't perfect, but speaking truths like the ones you discuss is of great comfort and validation to this adoptee. For that, I thank you.
kim.kim said…
In a perfect world people wouldn't wear fur too.

You always write with intelligence and empathy M.
Bek said…
This is the crux of the issue. I wish that all parents could and wanted to care for their children, but that isn't the reality of today. So what is the best option?

I saw on GMA this am about the skiier Toby Dawson who reuinted w/ his birthfather... he was lost in a marketplace when she was three. His father went from orphanage to oprhanage to find him but never did. Wow.
abebech said…
Thanks, Margie.
I agree with Shannon's comment here.

I'll post a longer response on my blog later today.
MomEtc. said…
Yep, I think this is a no brainer, too. There wouldn't be any adoption in a perfect world.
atlasien said…
My approach would be not to question "what is a perfect world" but "what is adoption" and even "what is family". If adoption equals severing one child from one family or mother then transplanting them into a completely separate family, then no it should not exist in a better world... but I think this is a fairly narrow definition of adoption. What about, say, two sisters who have children, and one sister has a daughter whose temperament is very different from her mother's but closer to her aunt's, and by mutual agreement she goes to live with her aunt next door while maintaining a relationship with her mother? This would be bizarre and unnatural under a strict nuclear model of family.

I think a perfect world would allow for a diversity of family structures, from single mothers to nuclear families to communal childrearing.
Margie said…
Atlasien, good points. I'm definitely talking here about the traditional definition of adoption, which severs family ties.

I think you are touching on another dynamic of this discuss, too, which I really don't feel qualified to tackle. I think it was addressed in the article I alluded to - there's a link on Boomerific. The premise is that birth shouldn't automatically confer the right or obligation to parent. I really need to go back and read that article.
Anonymous said…
Oh Margie, you're onto something. Attack the issues that make adoption necessary without attacking adoptive families themselves.
abebech said…
I finally posted my response, though it is neither complete nor articulate (but it makes some sense of the context of the original debate, I think).

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