National Adoption Awareness Month: Cause for celebration?
It’s National Adoption Awareness Month - as if you haven’t been bombarded from every direction with announcements, events, celebrations, fundraisers and on and on and on. I wonder sometimes if my kids are asked about adoption more in November than other times of the year, but I suppose this is one of those things that we who live much of our lives in the adoption world are more tuned into than the average person. They've never mentioned it, so I suspect they're not even aware it exists.
I'm not interested in all the hype surrounding November's adoption focus - I wish instead that we could use National Adoption Awareness Month to step away from our deeply held points of view to consider the broader picture for awhile. I'd love to have the opportunity to get around a table with people who think just like me and nothing like me to discuss the challenges that face us all. It's really easy to view the entire experience of adoption through a single lens when you spend most of your time looking through it, and to lose sight of the fact that not every experience is the same.
So what do I really believe about adoption? What's my lens? Well, I believe that if parents aren't given the resources to parent, the adoption of their children by others is an inherently unjust act by governments, agencies and individuals, including me. I believe that the shame and stigma placed on single women in particular must stop. I also believe that secrecy has no place in adoption, and that in this country, our closed birth record laws are deeply unjust.
But as I say this, I have to acknowledge that there are children in every country on the planet whose parents will not parent them, even if sufficient resources are made available. As firmly as I believe women and families should be given the resources to parent their children, I believe children who are truly alone in the world, or whose parents and families refuse the assistance offered, deserve to grow up in families – in their birth countries if at all possible, but when not, in families in other countries. However, those families MUST recognize that they hold their children’s histories, heritage and genetic connections in trust, and must raise them in full knowledge of the identities that belong to them and them alone.
These two points of view conflict sometimes - no, practically all the time. This is probably why the adoption community is so polarized; it's hard to live in the paradox zone all the time. You question everything, and always feel like your point of view is on quicksand. Maybe my advanced age (heh) gives me an advantage; one of the things I've noticed lately is that I say it is what it is a lot - because it really IS what it is. And so it is with adoption: I find good in what dismays, and evil in the best of intentions.
And there is a lot of good work being done – look at what the Korean adoptee communityhas accomplished for themselves and single mothers in Korea! Adoptee organizations like ASK, G.O.A’L. and TRACK, and many hard-working individuals, are changing attitudes and laws in Korea. Other groups like MPAK and Adoptees for Children are doing equally good work on behalf of ethical adoption practices here and in Korea. Adoptive parents, too, are working for change: look at the Korean Unwed Mothers Network founded by Rick Boas, which has added its voice (in a blog, too) to the work being done in Korea by adoptees and unmarried mothers themselves.
There’s little room for differing points of view, though. I was incredibly disappointed to see a member of one group publicly insult someone with another point of view by name in a Facebook communication not long ago; that serves nothing but the ego of the insulter. It makes me wonder, too, if and how kids like mine – not particularly focused on adoption, comfortable in their Korean and Asian identities, and happy in our family – will be welcomed into the broader Korean adoption community. Will their identities and family be questioned with You drank the kool-aid or You’re in the adoption fog? Or will they be respected? It makes me sad to think that this may await them as they develop their own connections in the adoption community.
So am I celebrating National Adoption Awareness Month? Well, no. I celebrate my family every day of the year, so I don’t need November for that. According to the AdoptUSKids 2009 National Adoption Month Toolkit, there are 130,000 children available for adoption right now, which isn’t something to celebrate. Single Korean mothers are fighting an uphill battle to gain public support; heck, unmarried American women are still falling prey to unscrupulous adoption agencies. Religious zeal and skewed notions of charity in adoption have put the rights of poor or unmarried parents at risk. Adoptee birth certificates remain sealed in the majority of states.
No, no celebration here. Instead, I’ll be thinking of my kids’ Korean mothers and fathers, and praying that those I believe are still alive are well. I’ll be giving thanks for the incredible honor of being mom to two of the most amazing individuals on the planet. And I’ll be renewing my commitment to do what I can to promote justice on their behalf.