Listen to adoption experiences, speak to adoption issues

It’s that time of year again: National Adoption Awareness (or Bewareness, for some) Month. For the next 30 days, we will be bombarded with opinions on adoption even more than we usually are. Some will promote adoption on behalf of orphans around the world, others will decry the evils of corrupt adoption facilitators and laws that deny adoptees their identities. In adoptionland, expecially online adoptionland, this means that there will be lots of debates about the pros and cons of adoption and the rights of those living it to speak their truths.

Often, the debates have less to do with facts about adoption and more about the rights of individual adoptees, first parents and adoptive parents to say what’s on their minds about it. It’s kind of funny, now that my kids are officially adults and out living their lives, how little that debate means to me. We waste so much time supporting or denouncing each other’s opinions! How much we could accomplish if we stopped thought- and tone-policing and put the same amount of time into fixing what’s broken!

Perception is reality, as they say, and I would add that perception is based on experience. When we share the perceptions that come from our experiences, they are real to us, even when they appear bogus or downright stupid to someone else. But listening to another adoption experience without reacting, voicing an opinion, admonishing, lecturing or humiliating, is perhaps the best way to learn what adoption is all about. When we listen for a long time to a wide range of adoption experiences, we are far better able to discern adoption reality, which runs the gamut from the very best to the very worst of what humanity can dish out.

Without the broad view of adoption and child welfare that consider an equally broad range of issues in need of correction, we may miss some that are in fact critical for children. For example, many who are strongly in favor of intercountry adoption speak to the injustice of children without families. I myself have been wary of that notion because I believe it is so misused (think “fabricated orphans”). But when I strip away my personal bias, I find it terribly unjust for an abused, neglected or truly orphaned child to grow up without permanence. I don’t want my personal opinions about the adoption of children whose families could have been preserved to blind me to the needs of children who want and truly need adoptive families.

Unfortunately, listening to a multiplicity of opinions counters to the wild west fun of a rousing adoption debate. I can get very engaged in these myself, but I have to say that when I pull away, I almost always have bad feelings about it, particularly if there has been an ad hominem edge. It doesn’t get the work done, either; that always happens in different, and generally less divisive arenas.
So this #NationalAdoptionAwarenessMonth, I would like to make the case for this to be a month of listening to experiences, lots and lots of adoption experiences, but speaking to the issues. There are many, and they need the attention of everyone in the adoption community if we are to put them right.

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