The Unnecessary Adoptive Parent Voice
Mothers’ Day is around the corner. It is an incredibly emotional day for so many women, for reasons rooted in joy and in sorrow. This year I’m marking the day by traveling to Korea to support the Fourth Annual Single Moms’ Day.
I thought I would be over the moon with excitement as the trip approached, but I’m finding myself more reflective than anything else. This is a serious journey, not the usual adoptive parent get-together, and it has made me extremely conscious of my contribution to the hot mess that is intercountry adoption from Korea. It is sobering, and to a considerable degree, silencing.
This is a good thing. It’s also something that I hope happens more and more in the adoptive parent community, because to be perfectly honest with you, our voices really aren’t needed that much anymore. We are finally – and blessedly – being replaced by adoptees and first parents as the drivers of adoption experience. It’s about time, in my opinion.
Look, first of all, at what we have done with adoption. We have turned it into a worldwide business of such monetary proportions that is encourages more bad than good. We promote institutionalized abandonment by establishing baby boxes and baby hatches, and by creating practices that work around existing law and common sense to allow adoption agencies to hide first parent identities and fabricate them for adoptees.
We have also made of adoption a weapon with which we beat mothers, fathers and families who fall outside of our definition of "the best interests of the child," using it to justify the separation of poor and fragile families all around the world. To add insult to injury, in our own country we have turned adopted people into perpetual children and second-class citizens by denying them the right to even know who they are in the majority of our states.
And then we talk about it. We talk talk talk talk talk. We promote adoption without a backward glance to its injustices or the wake of pain it leaves behind, we give “adoptive parenting” advice, we share our brilliant family stories and plaster our family joy all over the internet and any other venue we can find. And when someone calls us on this behavior, we retreat to our favorite defense: our demand for civility and disdain for “anger.”
Yeah, we have done a heck of a job on adoption. Thank goodness there are adopted individuals and first parents who are speaking out – eloquently, professionally, unimpeachably. They are telling the true adoption story, the complex, paradoxical, mind-bending story of adoption. And, in case you haven’t realized it yet, they aren’t asking for anyone’s permission.
While it is amazing to see this transformation take place here in the U.S., it is knee-shakingly humbling to observe it happening in Korea. Korean adoptees and first parents were not expected to be vocal about their experiences – heck, the Korean adoption agencies were surprised that adoptees ever wanted to return to Korea, much less find their Korean families or work on their behalf. No one expected mothers to stand up to Korea’s societal stigmas, either, yet they have organized and are doing just that.
They are doing it, may I add, without adoptive parents. So in a way, I am the persona non grata in this year’s Single Moms’ Day. I do not bring a degree in sociology, social work, psychology or law to the table. I bring only the experiences of someone who has profited from the pain of my fellow panelists. And I say this out loud for one reason only: to encourage fellow adoptive parents to get off their adoption-promotion high horses and start supporting the adoptees and first parents who are fixing the mess we have made.
My voice, personal and collective, is truly unnecessary in this Single Moms’ Day event, or any other event or venue in which adoptees and first parents take control of their experience. It is far more important for me and all of my fellow adoptive parents to stand with adoptees and first parents who are using their talents to change the adoption paradigm. Yes, the rough-and-tumble nature of adoptee and first parent driven adoption dialog may make you uncomfortable, but don’t turn away: stay, listen, and then share what you have learned. That is the very best way we adoptive parents can use our otherwise unnecessary voices.
And never, ever fear that in standing for adoption reform, you put a child in need of family at risk. Who better than a child and parent who have been separated from one another to know the importance of family?