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Jill has been blogging for Feministe since 2005.
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74 Responses

  1. Rebel
    Rebel September 18, 2011 at 12:26 pm |

    What are children for?
    (besides being a waste of money)
    Human kids are out: dogs are in.

    I have adopted a dog and that was the best decision I ever took.
    (at a fraction of the cost).

  2. Kristen J.
    Kristen J. September 18, 2011 at 12:41 pm |

    WTF? Is that even a question? You can’t keep an abducted child. Its unconscionable that such a question would even be asked. If you adopted a child from Kansas and it turned out that that child had been abducted would you even ask whether or not you should return the child ot its parents?

  3. Kristen J.
    Kristen J. September 18, 2011 at 1:06 pm |

    Would we really be asking these questions the same way if it was an infant stolen from a US hospital? Or flip it around. What if the birth parents are stinking rich and able to provide the child with everything they could ever need? Would we still argue that its in the best interests of the child to be raised by the USian parents? Too much of this original decision is tainted by USian and class exploitation for the answer *not* to be cut and dry in my view.

  4. Re DuVernay
    Re DuVernay September 18, 2011 at 1:21 pm |

    Here’s the thing, yes, if you’ve had the kid for 3 weeks and you find out that they were actually taken by force, then the issue is pretty cut and dry, but what happens if we’re talking about a 13 year old? Do you have any idea how difficult it would be on that person to just turn around one day and find out that you’re being sent to a nation you’ve never known to live with parents you’ve never known?

  5. Aydan
    Aydan September 18, 2011 at 1:33 pm |

    Rebel:
    What are children for?
    (besides being a waste of money)
    Human kids are out: dogs are in.

    I have adopted a dog and that was the best decision I ever took.
    (at a fraction of the cost).

    I’m not comfortable with the implication that any human being is nothing but “a waste of money.”

    Forgive me if my ignorance about Chinese laws is showing, but I can imagine that, if the government was involved in these kidnappings under the one-child policy, then in many cases the child might not even be allowed to return to its birth parents, no matter what the adoptive parents and the child wanted or thought was right.

  6. Vail
    Vail September 18, 2011 at 1:36 pm |

    For China, I think adoptions are going to pretty much dry up soon except special needs kids. This is due to the growing disparity between boys and girls. Within the next 5 to 10 years there will be a glut of young men with no one to marry. I do however believe that adoptions domestic and international should have more regulation and more oversight. I have been through the international adoption process myself, adopting our daughter from Mongolia, which has a much more strict and thorough process.

  7. BHuesca
    BHuesca September 18, 2011 at 2:00 pm |

    @ Jill @ #2:

    Going off of that, what trumps what?

    (a) Parental rights, which include the often-occurring cases where parents do not wish to be found, ever, or to give out any information (including medical), ever, and wish to remain totally anonymous for a variety of reasons. Or birth parents who seek out to find and/or meet their birth children, but are rebuffed?
    (b) Children’s (both minor and adult) rights, which include the often occurring cases where they really want to meet their birth parents, and the often occurring cases where they may have a medical need to meet their birth parents (bone marrow transplant? family medical history? etc.) Or when the children don’t want to meet their birth parents, ever, even if the birth parents seek to initiate contact.

    And from a previous post, how does this apply to sperm and egg donors (I’m thinking this could be an issue if one party is seeking contact!) And as ABBA sings, “Money money money, where’s the money?”

  8. Jadey
    Jadey September 18, 2011 at 2:25 pm |

    I think the dialogue around this issue really speaks to how limited and imperfect our ways of speaking about and understanding human relationships really are. The family and cultural bonds a child has are not objects that can be purchased, stolen, or returned, although we treat their bodies and their lives that way – they are processes that will continue to develop under any circumstances. A person who begins building one family network and has that network interrupted, whether through perfidy or tragedy, does begin building a new family when relocated and there’s no real way to just turn back the clock on that or reverse the process without continuing to hurt the child. I’m a person who feels very strongly against international adoption because I simply do not trust the political and ideological context in which it occurs, whether or not individual adoption stories are happy and ethical, but I think the very features that work against ethical adoption in the first place (e.g., our tendency to commodify children, even in things like the language of “stolen” – and I’m certainly not innocent of this) also works against our ability to ethically and functionally return children to their original homes and families, so that’s why I don’t think it’s a cut-and-dried issue.

    Ideally, I think the child would be able to go to their original home (assuming that they want to – agency of adoptees is often overlooked in these discussions), be supported in their reintegration both socially and also financially on the part of the people responsible for the original disruptive removal, including all of the agencies and government bodies that had oversight over the process and ostensibly some responsibility to prevent such occurrences, and that the adoptive family would also receive some kind of recompense and accelerated assistance in a legitimate adoption if they still wanted that (although there is no way to replace either the time lost for the original family or the loss of the bonds with the adopted child for the adoptive family, which is why this is all so heinous). But that’s pretty much a pipe dream. I do think that all adoptive parents have an obligation to care about the ethicality not only of their own adoption but the entire system, and I am very frustrated by the remarks of adoptive parents in the article who are trying to silence discussion because they fear that it will call their own adoptions into question. While I wish that no child would ever have to confront the possibility of having been kidnapped from their biological family, hiding things from kids is not helpful in the long run either to them (better to teach them how to cope, whether or not they were abducted) or to other children and families, biological or adoptive, who lose the ability to fight the capitalist, colonialist monster of child trafficking for adoption. I can get where their fear is coming from, but silence is complicity and they are hiding behind privilege.

  9. Gillian Love
    Gillian Love September 18, 2011 at 2:31 pm |

    @BHuesca

    ABBA never sang that… “Money money money, always sunny, in a rich man’s worrrrlllld. Money money money, must be funny, in a rich man’s worrrrlllld”

    …But I get your point ;)

  10. evil fizz
    evil fizz September 18, 2011 at 2:36 pm | *

    WTF? Is that even a question? You can’t keep an abducted child. Its unconscionable that such a question would even be asked.

    Well, I don’t think it’s as easy as saying, “I will not be a part of this, let’s get this child back to their family immediately,” and then hopping on a plane to take the child back home. You may not even know where home is. You may not be able to trace the child’s parentage if the only documents you have are forged. It’s a lot to unravel.

    From the article: Professor Smolin has two daughters, whom he and his wife adopted from India as teenagers. Within six weeks the girls disclosed that they had been kidnapped from their birth parents. But when Professor Smolin and his wife tried to find the girls’ biological parents, he said, no one wanted to help…In the end, it took more than six years for the couple to find their daughters’ birth parents, by which time the girls were young adults.

    That sounds pretty devastating for all involved, but I would imagine that after 6 years, those young ladies have desires all their own.

  11. Kristen J.
    Kristen J. September 18, 2011 at 3:00 pm |

    @Evil Fizz,

    But that isn’t the hypothetical I’m completely disgusted by. It’s the “If they could then what”. If you know a child you’ve been raising for 6 years was forcibly abducted. If you were able to find hir birth parents. If they wanted hir back. Is there any question that ze should being going back?

    Also, as far as I can find, most of the litigated cases were over *visitation* not custody and in every case (I could find, albeit with a limited wl search) USian court upheld the rights of bio parents.

  12. Jadey
    Jadey September 18, 2011 at 3:28 pm |

    I think it also really telling that most of the people showcased in this article were adoptive parents, with one biological parent represented, and no adoptees whatsoever, despite the fact that it’s really not hard to find many who speak regularly on issues of international adoption.

  13. BHuesca
    BHuesca September 18, 2011 at 3:35 pm |

    Gillian Love:
    @BHuesca

    ABBA never sang that… “Money money money, always sunny, in a rich man’s worrrrlllld. Money money money, must be funny, in a rich man’s worrrrlllld”

    …But I get your point ;)

    Oops! Thanks for the correction! I must confess that ABBA is on my workout playlist, so I listen to it frequently but not so closely…

  14. BHuesca
    BHuesca September 18, 2011 at 3:42 pm |

    Kristen J.:
    @Evil Fizz,

    But that isn’t the hypothetical I’m completely disgusted by.It’s the “If they could then what”.If you know a child you’ve been raising for 6 years was forcibly abducted.If you were able to find hir birth parents.If they wanted hir back.Is there any question that ze should being going back?

    But doesn’t the child get any agency in the “should”? I think there IS a question whether ze should be going back.

    IMHO this increases with age & duration of adoption period. But even to the people who disagree with this, I still stand firmly behind the adopted child possessing at least SOME agency in deciding what ze “should” do.

  15. Odin
    Odin September 18, 2011 at 3:54 pm |

    But that isn’t the hypothetical I’m completely disgusted by. It’s the “If they could then what”. If you know a child you’ve been raising for 6 years was forcibly abducted. If you were able to find hir birth parents. If they wanted hir back. Is there any question that ze should being going back?

    Yes, there is a real question there: what is in the child’s best interest?

    Should a six-year-old be taken from the only parents they’ve known to live with strangers _only_ because the strangers are hir biological parents and want hir back? Just as children are not interchangeable to parents (which is why we recognize that ‘just have another one’ is a horrible thing to say), parents are not interchangeable to children. Losing parents — biological or adoptive — can do real harm to a child.

    Should all adult parties involved try to find a way for the child to have a relationship with both sets of parents? Absolutely! But the form that takes may not look like “child goes back to biological parents for good”, unless the adoptive parents are unfit parents for some reason (eg, they were the ones who kidnapped the child from hir birth parents or they’re abusive). It may look like joint custody, or a blending of two families, or the child staying with the adoptive family but being regularly visited by the birth family.

  16. Gomi
    Gomi September 18, 2011 at 3:55 pm |

    I agree with Jill et al who are saying it isn’t cut and dried. There are tons of class and ethnic issues with international adoptions (“We have to save the little yellow babies!”), but beyond all that is a couple who went through a lot of effort to have a child, and a child who’s been raised by the only set of parents they’ve ever known.

    An effort should certainly be made to find the birth parents, at least to the point of confirming whether the adoption was an abduction. But where the child goes after that is a far more complex matter involving a lot of deep and powerful emotional relationships. In the case of an abduction, I have no doubt the birth parents want that child back, and rightfully so. But each case will be different, balancing the rights and wellbeing of two sets of parents and, most importantly, the children.

    That’s what makes abductions like this so horrible. It victimizes a great many people, including the parents who adopted the child.

  17. Alara Rogers
    Alara Rogers September 18, 2011 at 4:02 pm |

    One of the reasons that the kidnapping of young children for adoption or raising by the kidnappers is such a horrifying crime is that the person who raises you is your parent. It’s actually nightmarish to imagine discovering, at the age of 8, 9, 10, 13, even maybe at the age of 4 or 5, that your parents, who you love, who are all the world you know, are not your real parents, *and* that total strangers have the power to demand you back and insist that you behave as if *they* are your real parents… because biologically they are, but emotionally, your parents are who raised you.

    I would be shocked and amazed if *any* Chinese girl who was adopted by Americans as an infant and discovered at the age of 10 or so that she was stolen from her Chinese parents would *ever* want to sever her ties with her American parents and go live with her Chinese parents, who she doesn’t remember. It’s not about America and China; the same thing would probably happen if a child was kidnapped from Americans and adopted in China. It’s about the fact that you want to live with your parents, your own parents, and humans define their own parents as “the people who raised me”.

    Now, would our hypothetical kidnapped Chinese girl want to *meet* her birth parents and open a relationship with them? Sure, that’s very likely. But if she’s older than 3, it would be unbearably cruel to *her* to make her go live with them, if she was adopted as an infant… because the people she loves, the people she knows to be her parents, are the people who adopted her, and tearing a child from the parents she knows is horribly cruel.

    And this is why this kind of kidnapping is such an awful crime — because there’s no redress for it that doesn’t end up tearing the child’s life apart. Once the child knows the kidnappers, or the adopters who were unaware of the kidnapping, to be her parents, that’s it. You can’t take her from them. That is an awful, awful thing to do to the birth parents… but you can’t solve the suffering of the birth parents by tormenting the child and expect that any good will come of that.

    So, is there any question that the children should be returned to China? Fuck yeah. If the children are no longer infants and do not remember their birth parents, they should *never* be returned to China, unless the adoptive parents are abusive or the child is one of the very rare outliers who actually does want to go live with the birth parents. Now, if the children were old enough at the time of the kidnapping to remember their parents, returning them might be an option they would prefer, although even then, if the adoption has stood for many years, most likely the child will prefer to visit and reopen relations with the Chinese parents but not go live with them or be in their custody. But we should NEVER EVER EVER let the needs and desires of the parents, either set of parents, trump the needs and desires of the child. The child is not stolen property, she is a human who can make choices, and most likely her preference, if she is older than 3, will be to remain in the custody of the parents she knows rather than go live with strangers.

    And this is why we need due diligence on the part of would-be parents and oversight for international adoption agencies such as to prevent this from ever happening in the first place. Because once it’s happened, you can never ever fix it. The child now loves her adoptive parents and her birth parents will most likely never replace the adoptive parents in her heart. So the incentive to kidnap children is enormous, because once the child has bonded, that’s it, you’re done, you’re not getting that child back to the birth parents.

    This will never be solved until we have models for custody and parenting rights that allow multiple parents to have parental rights toward a child, not just two. If an open adoption allows Don and Dana, the adoptive couple, and Kelly, the biological mother, and Karl, the biological father who is not married to Kelly but still has an interest in his child, to *all* be considered parents to Baby Jane, the way that Bob and Brenda both remain parents to their biological child Baby Joe even though they have divorced, then open adoptions in the US become much more attractive and enforceable, and US bio parents become more likely to be willing to let adoptive parents adopt their children if it will not mean permanently cutting the child away from their own lives. Right now, the attraction of international adoptions *is*, in part, that it’s so hard for the biological parents to try to get custody back. That’s understandable — no one wants to lose the baby they’ve come to think of as theirs — but it is wrong and exploitative. And human nature being what it is, it will continue, as long as American law protects American biological parents and allows them to sue for custody after an adoption has been finalized. And American law *must* do that because the alternative is horrifying, but if we had models where parents could give up children for adoption without losing all rights to that child forever, then the “birth mother sues for custody” situation is much less likely to happen, since she’d already have rights to her child.

  18. Kristen J.
    Kristen J. September 18, 2011 at 4:03 pm |

    Jill: Well yeah. Does ze have any say in the matter? What if ze doesn’t want to go back? And how old does ze have to be to allow hir to make that decision?

    Well, presumably, in a fair society ze would have a say as soon as ze to speak. But we’re so far from that ideal, which injustice should we try to correct first? I guess here’s the thing. This whole adoption was conducted from a place of uneven power. When you take advantage of uneven power and you find that you’ve participated in the exploitation of someone, you have an obligation to make it right in so far as you are able.

  19. Bitter Scribe
    Bitter Scribe September 18, 2011 at 4:38 pm |

    Scratch a moral dilemma, and you invariably find a shithead.

    The shithead in this case is the Chinese government. If they treat their own citizens like slaves, there’s little American adoptive parents or anyone else in America can do about it, short of taking the drastic step of cutting off Chinese adoptions.

    I’ve thought for a long time that we’ve been way too cozy with China’s government and willing to accept its human rights abuses.

  20. Lindsay Beyerstein
    Lindsay Beyerstein September 18, 2011 at 4:47 pm |

    It sounds like straight-up kidnapping for international adoption is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to unethical adoption practices.

  21. FashionablyEvil
    FashionablyEvil September 18, 2011 at 5:20 pm |

    But that isn’t the hypothetical I’m completely disgusted by. It’s the “If they could then what”. If you know a child you’ve been raising for 6 years was forcibly abducted. If you were able to find hir birth parents. If they wanted hir back. Is there any question that ze should being going back?

    I think this is coming at it from the perspective of “What’s in the best interest of the birth parent?” as opposed to “What’s in the best interest of the child?” Sometimes those may be the same thing, but sometimes not.

  22. Anonymouse
    Anonymouse September 18, 2011 at 6:11 pm |

    Between all the stories coming out, it’s hard to believe that there is such a thing as an “ethical” international adoption. At the very least, there are too many doubts and questions to ever make that claim with certainty. I tend to agree with Kristen – her scenario is pretty cut-and-dry. I’d take it further: anyone considering international adoption needs to think long and hard about their role in participating in this.

  23. igglanova
    igglanova September 18, 2011 at 6:16 pm |

    If you’ve been raised in America with loving parents your entire life, can you even imagine the trauma and culture shock you’d experience if you are then packed up and shipped off to your birth parents in a now foreign country? There is no easy way to remedy this. The best compromise I can think of would be to establish contact between the kids and their birth parents, then wait for the kid to be old enough (yeah, just try deciding when ‘old enough’ is) to make a decision about whether to go back or stay here. That still relies on the birth parents being available for contact, which is not likely.

    Nothing else to say, really, except jesus christ what a mess.

  24. Anonoregonian
    Anonoregonian September 18, 2011 at 6:48 pm |

    Rebel,

    Certain classes of people are not a “waste of money” just because they do not interest you personally. Such a perspective is incompatible with feminism, which argues above all else for the equal value of all human beings.

  25. karak
    karak September 18, 2011 at 7:09 pm |

    Kristen J.–
    ” If you were able to find hir birth parents. If they wanted hir back. Is there any question that ze should being going back?”

    Well, gee, it would be really cool to contact your birth parents, find out you were stolen, and then told they didn’t want you back, or you’re being shipped to a country where you don’t even know how to read, write, talk, or have basic interactions with other human beings because these strangers OWN YOU and you are going to stay in the strange land THE REST OF YOUR LIFE and possibly never see anyone you know and love again.

    My bio father left when I was two years old. My mom married my step father years later and he wanted to adopt me. My bio father fought the court and said he wanted visitation and custody. My parents actually considered it until they asked me.

    “Karak, would you like to go see your real daddy during the summers and at Christmas?”

    And I broke into tears and sobbed, and begged them not to send me to live with a stranger, that I already had a daddy, and please, please don’t send me away. My parents fought the custody/visitation request and won.

    So, maybe I’m prejudice about the whole thing, but I can still remember the mortal terror I felt in that moment, and no loving parent would want to inflict that on a child.

  26. Miss S
    Miss S September 18, 2011 at 7:52 pm |

    Has anyone read the face on the milk carton? It’s a young adult novel where a high school girl finds out she was kidnapped. For her, it was really difficult to go back to her bio family, since her adopted family was all she had known. Btw, the people who raised her arent the ones who abducted her.

    I realize it’s fiction but it shows how ‘returning the child’ isn’t that simple. Children aren’t iPods- they grow attached and build a sense of identity around their family.

  27. rox
    rox September 18, 2011 at 8:46 pm |

    Here’s what I don’t like about pre-adoption rhetoric used on pregnant women in a difficult situation. This is what I see EVERYWHERE:
    “Us birthmothers didn’t “give up” or “didn’t keep” our babies, we made an “adoption plan” and “choose adoption for our child”. It was a choice made out of love, not because we didn’t love or want our child.”

    So adoption is a decision women who want their children make? Any discrepancy there? They choose adoption because their circumstances are too bad, and not because they don’t want their children. I don’t know what rhetoric is or isn’t used when obtaining babies from women in china or other countries. I don’t know the numbers of abuction vs coercion vs willingly abandoned children— however more stories are coming out.

    I do wonder if the culture of coercion in adoption counseling so prevalent here in the states is being used elsewhere to obtain children for american parents.

    “But if you TRULY loved your child you would give them a better life!”

    Hey, social worker— whoever you are saying that— if YOU really loved the mother and her child, you would work harder to make sure their needs to stay together safely with a decent quality of life were being met.

    Clearly you can’t call yourself a charitable organization if your goal is actually to target the obstacles tearing mothers who want their children from them such as poverty, stigma against females, lack of medical care, drug addiction, abuse, lack of food and shelter, disease.

    I get that not everyone can be a miracle worker, but when all the money is in removal, how much incentive is there to even try to find out what resources would help these mothers succesfully keep their children within the cultural context?

  28. Tony
    Tony September 18, 2011 at 9:59 pm |

    The whole idea of even ‘pure’ international adoption troubles me, for reasons in addition to the issues mentioned here. For one, the root cause of the problem is patrilocality, and the idea that only a son can perpetuate the family, as well as rigid notions of what a family should be, combination with (in the case of China) reproductive oppression in the form of the one-child policy. In such an environment, even if a girl wasn’t snatched away by a trafficker or the government, the parents may have given her up for adoption in anticipation of oppression further down the road, in the form of not being able to have a son by the population control authorities. Even decisions seemingly made of free will are inherently oppressive under such circumstances. What we have here is a systemic problem, and it will keep perpetuating itself until it is attacked at a systemic level. As the shortage of women in Asia from 5-10 years that Vail discusses intensifies, so will the “price” for girls sold into either foreign adoption or domestic exploitation, and it will only increase trafficking. In that sense, adoption of girls from Asia is actually making things worse. It also perpetuates the notion, however well intentioned, that the girls have to be taken out of their country of birth to (often white) ‘Western’ family to have a good life, which has racist and imperialistic connotations. The root cause is patriarchal attitudes towards girls and government oppression of womens’ reproductive choices. Everything else is, in a sense, a symptom and peripheral.

    And secondly, what about children in domestic foster care? Numerous commenters in the NY Times have addressed this question. There is plenty of need here domestically, but these domestic foster children don’t “fit the bill”. lori from dayton, oh, expresses it perfectly: “Second, the article stops short of asking some obvious questions: why are so many Americans adopting from abroad–particularly older children from abroad– when there are hundreds of thousands of children in our own foster care system who need adoptive families? The answer is, usually, in part: the adoptive parents don’t want to ever deal with the birth parents. And, often, they don’t want to deal with non-white American-born children, especially black children, and the “baggage” that comes with that. (&, as many adoptees have written, there’s an assumption/fantasy that Asian children, particularly Asian girls, are more malleable, and can more readily be ‘honorary whites’–the model minority–than US children of color). “

  29. rain
    rain September 18, 2011 at 10:17 pm |

    Vail @8:
    China *already* has a glut of young men with no one to marry. But that hasn’t meant that girls are any more desirable. What’s going to happen as the problem gets worse is what’s already happening – an increase in trafficking and abductions of women, women in slavery. This might seem to be paradoxical if you’re viewing the situation as a simple economics problem of supply and demand, but it really isn’t when you consider how deeply entrenched attitudes about the value of women are.

  30. Collins
    Collins September 18, 2011 at 10:44 pm |

    See what happens when you don’t hear from birth mothers directly — and rely on middle men who tell you what you want to hear.

    Not. Shocked. At. All.

  31. evil fizz
    evil fizz September 18, 2011 at 10:52 pm | *

    It’s the “If they could then what”. If you know a child you’ve been raising for 6 years was forcibly abducted. If you were able to find hir birth parents. If they wanted hir back. Is there any question that ze should being going back?

    Six years is a long time. There are so many things that could have happened in the intervening years that I don’t think you can say with certainty. Loss/gain of language skills, development of social networks, friends, education, different standards of living, the expectations of children, loss of memories. If we’re talking about the six years between the age of, say, 5 and 11, a child’s going to have an awfully limited recollection of where they used to be, if they have any memory at all.

    Like I said, I think the whole thing is going to be devastating for everyone involved, but I can’t see it as being anywhere near as black and white as you’re suggesting.

  32. Jadey
    Jadey September 18, 2011 at 10:56 pm |

    Miss S: Has anyone read the face on the milk carton?

    **spoilers**

    Ah, that was one of my teenage go-to books! The second book, “Whatever Happened to Janie?” went into even more detail about her process of reconnecting with her biological family. She eventually goes back to live with her adoptive family but still has to deal with the fact that her life is irrevocably different and she will always have two families and two lives that she has to integrate somehow. It is a pretty good depiction of how complicated reversing an abduction would be, even without the international context.

    (I did have a problem with how Janie’s adoptive parents’ biological daughter Hannah was handled – she was treated like a throwaway who screwed up her life and was better left that way so she wouldn’t screw up Janie too. I think there was some slut-shaming in there, although I don’t have the books anymore to check.)

  33. EG
    EG September 18, 2011 at 11:31 pm |

    When you take advantage of uneven power and you find that you’ve participated in the exploitation of someone, you have an obligation to make it right in so far as you are able.

    Even when “making it right” (as if such a thing is possible in this situation) would involve inflicting pain and trauma on a vulnerable, powerless person? Children aren’t property. The original parents’ suffering does not justify inflicting suffering on the child. Her needs count.

  34. Bagelsan
    Bagelsan September 19, 2011 at 12:26 am |

    Not to up the cynical ante even further, but if returning kidnapped adoptees (reverse-kidnapping them?) became mandatory or the default, what’s to stop countries like China from suddenly “discovering” that a lot of their girls — now happily raised out of babyhood to a more useful or even fuckable age — were “oh noes abducted” and asking for them back? I’m sure that someone has thought of sort of lending out a baby girl for a decade, then asking for her back once they produce that baby boy they wanted.

    And it wouldn’t even mean the kids weren’t kidnapped; the claims could be totally legit, but still be tailored entirely towards rebalancing a population’s sex ratio without all the icky treating-women-like-humans crap. (I said this was cynical.) ‘Cause the US isn’t exactly a bastion of human rights but god knows I wouldn’t want to rely on China to fill that role either. How would the issue of kidnapping be addressed without governments just turning the children into pawns in new and exciting ways?

  35. Bagelsan
    Bagelsan September 19, 2011 at 12:38 am |

    But we’re so far from that ideal, which injustice should we try to correct first? I guess here’s the thing. This whole adoption was conducted from a place of uneven power. When you take advantage of uneven power and you find that you’ve participated in the exploitation of someone, you have an obligation to make it right in so far as you are able.

    In my opinion, the party with the least power is the child/adoptee, followed by the birth parent(s) and then the adoptive parent(s). The child is the person most devastatingly exploited. So I would prioritize the “solutions” accordingly; do what’s in the best interest of the kidnapped kid, then try to accommodate all the others as best as possible around that — you make things as right as possible for the child, then start righting the wrongs done to the birth parent(s), and lastly address the needs of the adoptive parents.

    Ultimately the child has more of a right to self-determination and to “belonging” to the parents it chooses than anyone else has a right to determine for the child or “own” it. Realistically, I think that will often result in the child remaining with its adoptive parent(s); if everyone wants the child this will obviously benefit the adoptive parents more than the birth parents, but only as a side-effect of putting the child first. At which point it’s like, well life is really fucking awful and unfair, but we’re not going to compound that by re-victimizing a child. It’s the “give the kid to the kidnapper rather than cut it in half” solution, if you will.

  36. Jadey
    Jadey September 19, 2011 at 12:53 am |

    I don’t know if the situations are remotely comparable, but the issue of community has also yet to be raised – what about the contrast with the historical abductions of Indigenous children that occurred not too long ago in Canada and Australia (and I think the US too)? In those cases, the removal of the children and placement within White homes didn’t just destroy nuclear family bonds, they undermined whole communities. I guess with China it might be harder to imagine them losing so many children that it results in ‘lost generations’, but there are many smaller ethnic populations within China – is it possible there’s a community narrative here that’s being hidden by our assumptions that these are issues being confronted by individual families?

    This is why we need to hear more from biological families as well as adoptees.

  37. Mei-Ling
    Mei-Ling September 19, 2011 at 1:52 am |

    I am a transracial adoptee in reunion. I have had good adoptive parents. But there was a power imbalance in my adoption. Still is, actually, since having your life be paid for by then-complete strangers is not held to the same standards as having your life be paid for by the people who birthed you. It just isn’t.

    There’s a lot of talk about how there isn’t possession in adoption, it’s love. It’s just legal ties being broken, the adoptive parents want a child to love. I wonder, for those making such comments, what do you have to invest in adoption? That is to say, do you have any personal investment in seeing the rhetoric hashed out?

    If I say there is possession in adoption, and I get told “No, adoption is a product of love”, I won’t disagree love is a part of adoption. But really, that’s only one side of it. The same side that keeps fighting back.

    There are many examples of possession in adoption rhetoric: the name change, the “real” terminology, the “real” culture, what a “real” family is, parental entitlement. It’s all based on the messiness called humanity and wants and desires, so it’s not wrong, and we can’t fault anyone for being human.

    But it doesn’t mean saying “adoption isn’t about possessiveness” isn’t true either. On some level adoption is about owning a child.

    I see a lot of comments saying: What if the birthparents wanted anonymity? What if the birthparents consented?

    I wonder how many commenters here have seen actual reunions play out. If they’ve seen more than, say, some 30-minute to an hour sitcom where a ‘birthmother’ is brought out on stage to greet her adult child. Because most reunions aren’t anything like that.

    As for me, I’d like to change my name. My entire name.

    Side 1: I am human and my own person. I have the right to do anything I want.

    Side 2: Think of your adoptive parents! They’ve fed you, clothed you and raised you for all these years! How could you think about doing something like that? What an ungrateful slap in the face.

    So I wonder, again, what is the personal investment in defending what adoption is about? If this is not about posession (they’re “just” legal ties), then what is it? If this is not such a thinly veiled attempt to “control” me, then what is it?

    Everyone says, it’s about the child. Right, until statements like the above are made. Then it’s really not about the child at all. Or is it?

    Why do people feel such a desperate need to remind me of who my adoptive parents are and how dare I override their feelings?

  38. Mei-Ling
    Mei-Ling September 19, 2011 at 1:56 am |

    “Children aren’t property.”

    The adoption law would beg to differ on that one. Of course, having a loving adoptive family counts a lot, there’s no arguing on that one.

    But that doesn’t take away the underlying current of consumerism in adoption. Especially since nobody “has” to adopt.

    “The original parents’ suffering does not justify inflicting suffering on the child. Her needs count.”

    Indeed. But shouldn’t this be thought of before the situation gets to a point where adoption is the only real solution?

  39. rox
    rox September 19, 2011 at 2:00 am |

    Well I’m an adoptee— my mother was exploited terribly and its very confusing.

    Of course for me in particular it’s compounded by also being a first mother (biological mother). Also extremly pressured to give up a child I wanted with all my heart.

    To me, the solution is to do what you would do in a divorce situation. Honor the custody and REALness of both families in a way that fits the child’s needs. You don’t just hurl a child at an estranged father who wants to be involved by sending them to an unknown fathers house for the summer.

    If the relationship isn’t present you build it slowly and in a child-centered way.

    Recently my adolescent (placed) daughter asked me if she could stay with me for longer periods of time, just to know what it’s like.

    If there is a god who could hear my insides scream what I am not allowed to say, I hope this shit changes.

    I can not tell my own child, “sure we’ll work something out”.

    That’s not how adoption works. That adoptive mother is all powerful and one must no threatened the holy framework of adoption which rests on two mothers WHO CAN NOT BOTH BE REAL INVOLVED PARENTS.

    The basis of open adoption is itself- THE ADOPTIVE MOTHER IS REAL— THE BIRTHMOTHER IS MOSTLY UNECESSARY BUT MEANINGFUL EVEN THOUGH WE DON’T NEED HER AROUND BUT FOR A FEW VISITS!!

    The biological mother is supposed to somehow be “really important because of her gift of a child and her selfless love giving her child a better life”— and her status has been upped to “maybe being better known so the child can see what she looks like and know her traits”

    But somehow it is the sacred code, the golden rule that must not be broken– that her own child may never see her as a mother. Like just a regular mother that they want to live with and be with like any other mother.

    Quite frankly that’s bizarre. Especially considering a large portion of these women never wanted to lose their children to begin with.

    I spend an enormous amount of time worrying about how my adoptive parents will feel if I get too close/spend too much time with my original family. If I just, you know hang out with them like they’re family.

    There’s kind of an expected– ‘well a few visits with the biofam is nice but remember your adoptive parents are your REAL family!!!; Sorry but, by who’se definition? You’re talking about someone who went through enormous lifelong trauma so I could have this “better life” I supposedly got and she hasn’t earned the worth of her love counting her as true parent as much the sacrafices my adoptive parents made (most of which were also REWARDED by the joy of getting to experience the joys of parenthood?)

    The wall between biological parents and adoptees is often more driven by adoptive parent insecurity, or adoptees FEAR of adoptive parent pain even if the adoptive parent doesn’t express it.

    If the adoptee knows the adoptive parents narrative is “I AM THE REAL MOTHER, that other mother is special but not to be interacted with, loved, involved as much as I am”

    How close are you willing to get to your biological mother when that narrative is in place? It’s terrifying to try to do. Add to that the understandable adoptee fear of the unknown, or that they will lose their adoptive parents if they get too close to the biological family. In open adoption however those fears aren’t as present.

    Obviously my proposal— slow transition to some form of shared custody—- is a complicated solution when involving vast differences in location.

  40. EG
    EG September 19, 2011 at 2:50 am |

    The adoption law would beg to differ on that one.

    Laws regarding children in general consider children to be, more or less, property. It’s awful.

    But shouldn’t this be thought of before the situation gets to a point where adoption is the only real solution?

    Absolutely. I would be completely in favor of the kind of radical, systemic overhauls that would make it possible for all parents to freely, confidently choose to remain their children’s parents (if they so desire, obviously, and provided they’re not dangerous abusers, the obvious caveats).

    I wonder how many commenters here have seen actual reunions play out.

    I have–though not reunions involving adopted children who are of different races than their adoptive parents. My mother’s best friend and her husband adopted their two daughters, and both of them sought out and found their families of origin when they grew older. When I went to the wedding of the older daughter a couple years ago, I met her birth mother and her birth mother’s mother. It was very powerful for me, so I can only imagine how it felt for, well, she’s basically my cousin and her parents. The two families, adoptive and birth have become very close and part of each other’s families in a way that is, I think, the best way things could have worked out given what had happened. It doesn’t always happen that way, I know. The younger daughter found her birth family, and they all met, and it was fine, but, I am told, no major bonds were developed.

    Think of your adoptive parents! They’ve fed you, clothed you and raised you for all these years! How could you think about doing something like that? What an ungrateful slap in the face.

    This rhetoric bothers me immensely. Children should not have to be grateful to their parents for feeding them, clothing them, and raising them. That’s what it means to be a parent–it’s your responsibility. I assume you know your adoptive parents better than anyone saying these things to you, and that their feelings would be more important to you than to these commenters; if your adoptive parents can’t understand your feelings and needs when it comes to your name and identity, that would be very sad, but it shouldn’t be used to keep you from doing what you need/want to do with your own life and identity.

    But that doesn’t take away the underlying current of consumerism in adoption. Especially since nobody “has” to adopt.

    I’m not sure that I understand in what way adoption is more consumeristic than any other kind of chosen human relationship–I choose partners and friends, and insofar as choosing a life partner, for me, would involve considering what kind of child would come from our union, there is an element of choice there, as well, especially given the kind of genetic screening tests I’d want to do (Tay-Sachs, etc.). Obviously, if I end up conceiving with donor sperm, then that too has a consumeristic aspect.

    I guess it depends on what you mean when you say nobody “has” to adopt. If you mean that people who desperately want children could resign themselves to unhappiness regarding a central emotional need, then yes, they could. And if the only way of filling that need is one that adds to, rather than deducts from, the general sum of human misery, they should–i.e. nobody should have to give up a child in order to make some random couple or woman happy, teenage girls should not be forced to give birth in order to solve the problems of childless couples, etc.. But it sounds like you are unhappy with the idea of any adoption, not only adoptions with disturbing questions of consent or adoptions that remove the child from his or her country/culture of origin. Am I misunderstanding?

    What are your thoughts on the slow move toward practices of open adoption?

  41. tiahani
    tiahani September 19, 2011 at 9:11 am |

    @Alara

    It’s about the fact that you want to live with your parents, your own parents, and humans define their own parents as “the people who raised me”.

    Many adoptees consider their first mothers and fathers to be parents. U.S. adoption culture resists this and we are told how ungrateful we are by many facets of society for wanting our first families acknowledged, so I imagine it is probably a similar dynamic with international adoptions.

    Pretending that adoptees only have one set of parents is part of the sickness that is the culture of adoption and results in identity erasure for some of us. Pretending that once the papers are signed, there is no more family status is the belief driving this discussion. That does make it at least partially about possession and commodification. Alara, If you are an adoptee who only acknowledges your adoptive parents as parents, that is up to you, but it is not universal.

    My four parents had very different roles to play in my life and development. That is true and obvious. Our individual relationships will develop from this. However, all four are parents.

  42. Esti
    Esti September 19, 2011 at 9:16 am |

    I cannot imagine how horrifying it would be to grow up from early childhood with one family in one country and then be told that you are going to be taken away from all of your family and friends and shipped across the world to live with a set of strangers in an unfamiliar country where you may not even speak the language.

    This is not a simple issue by any means. The things we can and should do to prevent this situation from arising, and whatever feelings we might have towards people who are knowingly or negligently complicit in creating the problem, are totally separate issues from what the best interest of the child is when the situation has already occurred.

  43. Kristen J.
    Kristen J. September 19, 2011 at 9:38 am |

    Alright, let’s flip it. If some stole a (white, upper middle class) baby from a hospital in NY and transported him to Hong Kong. He was raised to the age of six in Hong Kong. His adoptive parents discover that he is abducted and who his birth parents are…How likely would it be that the Times would be talking about “language” and “bonding”?

    That scenerio was not raised by the Times in some nuanced understanding of children’s rights and respect for their autonomy. Its the reinforcement of the notion that the US is *obviously* the better place for children. So what if the child was abducted from a loving home? Clearly non-USians (particularly brown ones!) have no business raising their kids themselves when there are USians who want babies.

    This is analogous to countless other situations in the US where poor women are coerced into surrendering their infants because someone else has the money and resources to “better” raise their child.

    That best interest standard has a shit ton of baggage and its being used here to maintain the existing power structure.

    That said, I’m more responding to the Times and not individual parents. People love their kids and on a personal level this has got to be the most gut wrenching experience. I’m sorry I didn’t make that distinction clear in my earlier posts.

  44. rox
    rox September 19, 2011 at 10:04 am |

    “What are your thoughts on the slow move toward practices of open adoption?”

    I think open adoption is often used as a means of coercing wmen who actually want their children to be ok with adoption. “You’ll be ok! You’ll get to see your child and you’ll be very special.”

    The rise in open adoption didn’t actually occur in response to concerns about firstparents well being– of which the industry doesn’t give a crap.

    The rise in open adoption is a response to pregnant women’s avoidance of wanting someone else to walk away with their newborn child forever and ever and the huge amount of trauma associated with that— in order to address declining numbers of adoptions and to boost the numbers to feed the demands of adoptive parents.

    Instead of listening to what pregnant say they REALLY want— to have the means to care for their children in a healthy way– pro-adoption activists have embraced open adoption as a means of convinving women to submit to losing their children.

    If they REALLY cared about the well being of the pregnant mother and child– they would do in depth research into what obstacles such mothers are facing in giving their children a high quality of life and create programs to adequately address those needs.

  45. Kristen J.
    Kristen J. September 19, 2011 at 10:12 am |

    @EG,

    I think you’re assuming that the child isn’t suffering already from the adoption. I think that’s an incorrect assumption. If you listen to the stories of adoptees you’ll hear a great deal of pain. Its not universal, but its very prevalent and it seems to be backed by psychological reseach. Among the transnational adoptees I know (four people adopted out of Vietnam/Korea during or immediately after the war, this isn’t a new phenomenon), they would all have preferred to be returned to their birth parents. So perhaps that is coloring my perspective.

    @Karak,

    I’m very sorry to hear that. I’ve also been gal for children who had a similar reaction. Its sometimes impossible to determine which is more unfair, to ask or to not ask. It is of no comfort to you I’m sure, but I was asked that question several times growing up (so I know the feeling) and I found it mostly frustrating because no one respected my answer. Asking some of the kids I’ve worked with has been highly beneficial though and its protected them in many cases from significant harm.

  46. BHuesca
    BHuesca September 19, 2011 at 10:57 am |

    rox:
    Well I’m an adoptee— my mother was exploited terribly and its very confusing.

    Of course for me in particular it’s compounded by also being a first mother (biological mother). Also extremly pressured to give up a child I wanted with all my heart.

    To me, the solution is to do what you would do in a divorce situation. Honor the custody and REALness of both families in a way that fits the child’s needs. You don’t just hurl a child at an estranged father who wants to be involved by sending them to an unknown fathers house for the summer.

    If the relationship isn’t present you build it slowly and in a child-centered way.

    Recently my adolescent (placed) daughter asked me if she could stay with me for longer periods of time, just to know what it’s like.

    If there is a god who could hear my insides scream what I am not allowed to say, I hope this shit changes.

    I can not tell my own child, “sure we’ll work something out”.

    That’s not how adoption works. That adoptive mother is all powerful and one must no threatened the holy framework of adoption which rests on two mothers WHO CAN NOT BOTH BE REAL INVOLVED PARENTS.

    The basis of open adoption is itself- THE ADOPTIVE MOTHER IS REAL— THE BIRTHMOTHER IS MOSTLY UNECESSARY BUT MEANINGFUL EVEN THOUGH WE DON’T NEED HER AROUND BUT FOR A FEW VISITS!!

    The biological mother is supposed to somehow be “really important because of her gift of a child and her selfless love giving her child a better life”— and her status has been upped to “maybe being better known so the child can see what she looks like and know her traits”

    But somehow it is the sacred code, the golden rule that must not be broken– that her own child may never see her as a mother. Like just a regular mother that they want to live with and be with like any other mother.

    Quite frankly that’s bizarre. Especially considering a large portion of these women never wanted to lose their children to begin with.

    I spend an enormous amount of time worrying about how my adoptive parents will feel if I get too close/spend too much time with my original family. If I just, you know hang out with them like they’re family.

    There’s kind of an expected– ‘well a few visits with the biofam is nice but remember your adoptive parents are your REAL family!!!; Sorry but, by who’se definition? You’re talking about someone who went through enormous lifelong trauma so I could have this “better life” I supposedly got and she hasn’t earned the worth of her love counting her as true parent as much the sacrafices my adoptive parents made (most of which were also REWARDED by the joy of getting to experience the joys of parenthood?)

    The wall between biological parents and adoptees is often more driven by adoptive parent insecurity, or adoptees FEAR of adoptive parent pain even if the adoptive parent doesn’t express it.

    If the adoptee knows the adoptive parents narrative is “I AM THE REAL MOTHER, that other mother is special but not to be interacted with, loved, involved as much as I am”

    How close are you willing to get to your biological mother when that narrative is in place? It’s terrifying to try to do. Add to that the understandable adoptee fear of the unknown, or that they will lose their adoptive parents if they get too close to the biological family. In open adoption however those fears aren’t as present.

    Obviously my proposal— slow transition to some form of shared custody—- is a complicated solution when involving vast differences in location.

    rox, there are biological fathers and adoptive fathers. there are even cases where two men, as a couple, *gasp* become adoptive fathers. that’s kind of…erased when people just talk about adoptive mothers and biological mothers.

  47. BHuesca
    BHuesca September 19, 2011 at 11:07 am |

    EG: Laws regarding children in general consider children to be, more or less, property.It’s awful.

    This rhetoric bothers me immensely.Children should not have to be grateful to their parents for feeding them, clothing them, and raising them.That’s what it means to be a parent–it’s your responsibility.

    Isn’t there a disconnect between these two statements, though? Because your children are your children, it’s your responsibility to parent them, to feed them (with your own funds, or by procuring funds via food stamps or other programs – you don’t have to have the ‘money to feed the kids you have’ but you do have to have the ‘effort to go out to apply for a way to feed the kids you have’. Ditto clothing them, ditto raising them.

    And the thing is, you DON’T have to pay for the neighbor’s kids’ food, even though they may be starving. It would be good, but it’s not legally required. You don’t have parent them, to clothe them, to raise them, because they’re not your kids – not ‘your problem’ – not ‘your responsibility’ or ‘your property’ because of that parental responsibility that you outline.

  48. Mei-Ling
    Mei-Ling September 19, 2011 at 11:19 am |

    “Laws regarding children in general consider children to be, more or less, property. It’s awful.”

    I don’t mean divorce. I don’t mean step-families.

    I specifically mean when money has been exchanged for a child’s biological parents’ rights removed, and the child has been transferred to adoptive parents.

    Lawfully, the biological parents are forever NOT parents to the child. There is no lawful recognition or right. Whether or not this is a good thing can be debated based on the individual circumstances.

    Biological children are “property” of their biological parents. That familial oppression.

    The thing is, in adoption, there *are* still another set of blood parents. The law doesn’t recognize them, but that’s when feminists step in to say “Blood doesn’t matter – it’s who loves you that counts!”

    Love is an important factor in adoption. But it’s not the only factor. When it comes to the adoption papers, it’s not really about love. It’s about financial status, it’s about economic rights and inequality, it’s about class and economic privilege. This privilege is what allows people to adopt, and so the child becomes property of the adoptive parents – and blood is classified as “just genes” *because* the child came from a birth family.

    This is what I mean by another and children being property. Biological parents who don’t relinquish their children or adopt don’t have this extra layer.

    “I assume you know your adoptive parents better than anyone saying these things to you, and that their feelings would be more important to you than to these commenters; if your adoptive parents can’t understand your feelings and needs when it comes to your name and identity, that would be very sad, but it shouldn’t be used to keep you from doing what you need/want to do with your own life and identity.”

    Let’s say I change my name. Let’s say I change my entire name legally. My adoptive name no longer exists. Gone.

    On one side, people will tell me I have the right to do that. But on the other hand, *despite* me having the right to do that, I will still get flak and mentions of how ungrateful I am. I can legally do it, sure, but I don’t have the social freedom to do so.

    I wrote: But that doesn’t take away the underlying current of consumerism in adoption. Especially since nobody “has” to adopt.”

    “I’m not sure that I understand in what way adoption is more consumeristic than any other kind of chosen human relationship.”

    When a person seeks to adopt, they do not seek out Baby Girl A born in May 4, 1988 from Hunan province. They do not even know Baby Girl A exists; they want a child. No one says “You NEED to adopt Baby girl A born in May 4, 1988 from Hunan.” They end up being matched with her.

    Still, they don’t have to adopt her. It is something they voluntarily do. This is where the “be grateful” rhetoric comes from – nobody “had” to adopt you, nobody “had” to feed/clothe you – be grateful someone *did.*

    What does this have to do with anything? If a mother’s baby is ill, she is expected to get medical care. Regardless of whether or not she cares about her child enough to get medical care, regardless of whether or not she can afford it, she is expected to. She is a mother. She is that child’s mother. No one says “Would you like to save your baby’s life?”

    Duh. Because she is that child’s mother.

    But if a woman wants to adopt and she is faced with the hypothetical of adopting that same child, she is asked, “Would you like to adopt?”

    So it’s not the same standard. She doesn’t “have” to adopt that particular child. She doesn’t “have” to save that child’s life. If it came from her uterus, everyone would expect it of her. But she’s adopting, so it’s different.

    “I choose partners and friends, and insofar as choosing a life partner, for me, would involve considering what kind of child would come from our union, there is an element of choice there, as well, especially given the kind of genetic screening tests I’d want to do (Tay-Sachs, etc.).:

    You say here yourself: “I choose.” But you’re talking about voluntary relationships. You can choose your best friend. You can choose your significant other. Babies don’t get to choose. Little children don’t get to choose. They don’t choose to be in an adoption. They don’t choose to get abandoned. Adoption occurs on their behalf.

    When people say “No one *had* to adopt”, they mean actually that: no adoptive parent is ever obligated to adopt a child. No adoptive parent is obligated to save a child’s life through adoption.

  49. Mei-Ling
    Mei-Ling September 19, 2011 at 11:28 am |

    One more thing, to clarify:

    “I guess it depends on what you mean when you say nobody “has” to adopt. If you mean that people who desperately want children could resign themselves to unhappiness regarding a central emotional need, then yes, they could.”

    This is actually an example of what I mean: we say adoption is about the child, but right from the get-go, the narrative about infertility is brought up. It’s not about couples resigning themselves to a life of misery if they can’t adopt.

    Adoption isn’t about infertility. Adoption, to some, is a *solution* of infertility. But again, that’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about how no one “expects” a potential adoptive mother to save a stranger’s child.

    That child will be hers, you point out. Right. But before she adopt, it *isn’t* hers. It is not biologically or lawfully hers. She is not expected to pay the medical expenses or support this child. Not unless she plans on raising it. But if she had birthed this child, then it would be a different scenario.

    “And if the only way of filling that need is one that adds to, rather than deducts from, the general sum of human misery, they should–i.e. nobody should have to give up a child in order to make some random couple or woman happy, teenage girls should not be forced to give birth in order to solve the problems of childless couples, etc..”

    But that’s what adoption has become about. It’s just not presented in that way. If couples were not infertile, would they still have adopted?

    You said it yourself: “If you mean that people who desperately want children could resign themselves to unhappiness regarding a central emotional need, then yes, they could.”

    The focus here is brought on the infertile couple and their needs resulting in a lifetime of misery if not for adoption.

    “But it sounds like you are unhappy with the idea of any adoption, not only adoptions with disturbing questions of consent or adoptions that remove the child from his or her country/culture of origin. Am I misunderstanding?”

    I have issues with the rhetoric as discussed above. Adoption is merely a symptom of a bigger economic and privileged imbalance.

  50. Mei-Ling
    Mei-Ling September 19, 2011 at 11:34 am |

    By the way, if you are still confused by my comments, let me know. I’d be happy to engage in an e-mail exchange or even link back to my adoption blog for further clarification.

  51. Archie
    Archie September 19, 2011 at 11:47 am |

    I think that when families in an open domestic adoption maintain and grow a relationship over the years, there is a difference between what they are doing and an international adoption – any international adoption. It is not an easy thing to do, and the full heartfelt commitment of all parents – (birth and adoptive) – cannot be trivialized. It is one thing to write “gave up a child for adoption” or “adopted a child” and quite another to live it. If you are a part of such an arrangement, your life, your very being, will be transformed in ways that you cannot imagine.

    For that reason, as an adoptive parent, I can’t help but look at international adoption and wonder whether those adoptive parents are missing out on an essential part of the experience. I think reunion needs to become a part of the standard adoption narrative. It is a complicated and emotionally difficult concept to parse, and I know of no formula or research that illustrates a pathway of how to do it. Certainly nobody counseled us about reunion, other than to say “keep an open heart.”

    On the other hand, if you think of the concept of reunion applied to international adoption, well, as numerous commenters have pointed out, you are no longer simply dealing with another family who happens to be overseas. Instead, you are contending with a process that is potentially corrupt, the possibility of intense cultural conflict, and the specter of confronting unspeakable horrors like kidnapping or worse.

  52. Emily
    Emily September 19, 2011 at 11:55 am |

    In situations where children are kidnapped and raised by the kidnapper they are forcibly returned to the bio parents upon discovery, and the “only parent they’ve ever known” is sent to jail and permanently separated from them. There is no discussion of whether actually it might be less traumatic to maintain a relationship with the kidnapper.

    That does not mean it is necessarily the model we should use when the adoptive parents have not committed a crime, but it’s not like we (we as a society/legal system, etc) always defer to the psychological needs of the child. We don’t consider psychological harm to a child to be something that can get an adult out of serving jail time (be it for kidnapping, drug use, stealing, or anything else). So it’s not like we always consider the needs of children as more important than the rights and responsibilities of adults. So I think it’s important to interrogate why in this situation, there is a strong desire to emphasize the needs of the child precisely when it is assumed that in the great majority of cases those needs will align with the desires of the most privileged party in the interaction.

    Which is not to say I think children should be returned at any age without concern to their desires. I think the best we can donis probably a system that encourages kids to develop a relationship at a time and pace that feels manageable to the child and that requires adoptive parents to allow such relationships. But we also have to address seriously and frequently the problems with adoption – the fact that it’s not just a “happy solution for everyone.”. Because that is still the dominant formulation and adoptive parents are usually able to hide there and be protected from the troubling aspects of adoption if they choose to.

  53. Jadey
    Jadey September 19, 2011 at 12:20 pm |

    Archie: For that reason, as an adoptive parent, I can’t help but look at international adoption and wonder whether those adoptive parents are missing out on an essential part of the experience. I think reunion needs to become a part of the standard adoption narrative.

    I have seen people adopting internationally flat-out say that one of their motivations for going abroad was to *avoid* the possibility of reunion – they wanted kids they could think of “as their own”, without a whiff of a set of biological parents, because biological moms (it’s always about the moms – dads are assumed to be in absentia) in domestic adoption scenarios are too demanding and might want to see their kids again. Then they weasel in a “humanitarian” angle about rescuing kids who have no parents because of war/natural disaster/etc and that justifies not having reunions (never mind that sometimes it turns out the kids were abducted or do have living biological families – as the Times article shows, lots of them don’t want to hear about it). I’ve spent too much timing reading international adoption forums and blogs to be anything other than disgusted by the whole thing. Individual adoptions may be ethical, happy, and not exploitative and individual adoption narratives are inevitably complex (and under-heard), but the system as a whole reeks of privilege and colonialism.

    Thank you to all the adoptees on the thread for sharing.

  54. Esti
    Esti September 19, 2011 at 12:36 pm |

    @Emily

    That’s an interesting point and one I’d like to think about a little more, but my initial reaction is that there is (and should be) a difference between how we consider the needs of a child when deciding how to treat that child and how we consider the needs of a child when deciding how to treat an adult in a situation where the treatment of the adult might have effects on the child.

    So obviously putting parents in jail for knowingly taking a child has an effect on the child, but the decision is primarily about how we are going to treat that adult.* Whereas the decision outside the criminal context of who a child will live with is (well, should be) primarily a decision about how we are going to treat that child. It makes sense to me that in the latter case we give more weight to the effect on the child.

    Of course, that will often mean that the child’s wishes line up with the wishes of the more privileged adults, because those are the people who had the resources to set up a situation in which the child would want the same things that they do. But that effect is something I think we need to combat primarily by preventing these situations from arising in the first place. If you try to correct for it once the situation has already arisen by forcing children to return to their biological parents when they don’t want to do so, then you’re just compounding the harm that has been done to those individuals. And however important the cause (and I agree this one is), I don’t like it when we try to use individuals as battering rams to fix broader social problems.

    * While it is generally true that we don’t decide whether to jail an individual based on the effect it would have on their children, that factor is often considered in sentencing (and, informally, at the charging and plea bargaining stages, where the vast majority of criminal cases are resolved). If you kidnap a child, then no, we probably aren’t going to not send you to prison because the child wants to stay with you. But if you commit a less serious crime, then the fact that you are the primary caregiver for dependent children is likely to be considered when determining the sentence you receive.

  55. Arkady
    Arkady September 19, 2011 at 1:09 pm |

    Reminds me a bit of a horrible UK case. Several years ago a number of paediatricians involved in child protection started blaming cot deaths on parents, and as well as several wrongful imprisonments some babies were taken and later adopted against the wishes of the biological parents. The legal position in the UK was that even though these cases were later judged to have been wrongful, once the adoptions had gone through they could not be reversed. I can’t imagine how painful these cases may be in several years time, when these children are old enough to track down their birth parents. Not sure what the UK legal position is on dodgy international adoptions though.

  56. Esti
    Esti September 19, 2011 at 1:51 pm |

    @Mei-Ling

    If I understand you correctly (and please tell me if I don’t!), it sounds like one of your primary issues with adoption is the narrative it sets up in which people tell the adoptee that they need to be greatful in a way that they don’t (or that they do so less) when talking to a child who is with their birth parents. “You should just be greatful they chose to take you in and care for you, because they had no obligation to do so” as a way of imposing certain behavioral expectations on the adoptee, yes?

    I don’t doubt that many adoptees are subject to that kind of pressure, but I’m wondering whether that phenomenon is all that different than the rhetoric that gets deployed against children whose parents spent years trying to conceive? Or against children who are adopted by family members after their parents die/are incarcerated/abandon them? Or even against children who were not adopted but whose parents sacrificed various things to give them a roof over their head/food/an education/etc.

    In other words — whenever caregivers go above and beyond what they are required to do by the minimal laws in place, I think at least some of recipients of that care are likely to feel those kinds of pressures and hear that kind of rhetoric about owing their caregivers. If that was the argument you were making hear in regard to adoption, I’d like to try to understand whether that’s something that happens more often, or in a more coercive way, with adoptees.

  57. Donna L
    Donna L September 19, 2011 at 2:20 pm |

    There’s no perfect answer to any of this. I understand why people want the child’s personal feelings and “best interests” to be paramount, and I understand that children aren’t property, but if that’s the standard, won’t that inevitably mean that the adoptive parents keep the child and the birth parents (and birth culture/community) end up with nothing 999 times out of 1000?

    Every time I read about something like this, I can’t help thinking about what was certainly one of the most, if not the most, notorious “stolen baby” cases of the 19th century, the Edgardo Mortara case: the 6-year old Jewish boy in Bologna who was forcibly taken from his parents by the Catholic Church in 1858 because he had allegedly been secretly baptized by a nursemaid during an illness. His parents never got him back (despite trying for many years), and he eventually became a priest. He eventually expressed a preference to remain with the Church himself, and I’m sure he had a materially “better” life than he would have had as a Jew in the Papal States. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edgardo_Mortara.

    Obviously this kind of thing had been happening for centuries; the only difference in the late 1850’s was that by that time there were Jewish organizations with enough non-Jewish allies to be able to mount an international protest. Not that it did any good; as the article states:

    “When a delegation of prominent Jews saw the Pope [Pius IX] in 1859, he told them, “I couldn’t care less what the world thinks.” At another meeting, he brought Edgardo with him to show that the boy was happy in his care. In 1865 he said: “I had the right and the duty to do what I did for this boy, and if I had to, I would do it again.” In a speech in 1871 defending his decision against his detractors, Pius said: “Of these dogs, there are too many of them at present in Rome, and we hear them howling in the streets, and they are disturbing us in all places.”

    So at what point, at what age, would it have been the right thing to do to accept Edgardo’s “choice” and refuse to return him to his parents?

    It was unspeakably horrifying and sad back then, and it’s equally horrifying now.

  58. rox
    rox September 19, 2011 at 4:09 pm |

    “rox, there are biological fathers and adoptive fathers. there are even cases where two men, as a couple, *gasp* become adoptive fathers. that’s kind of…erased when people just talk about adoptive mothers and biological mothers.”

    Uh… did you think as an adoptee and first mother I didn’t know this or something? No shit!

    I tried to get involved in fathers rights and the MRA movement terrified me so I don’t bother with it anymore. Plus there’s the whole, how to describe what it means to have child with someone who was sexually abusing you repeatedly which is particularly confusing. But he definately didn’t want me to get to parent if he wasn’t going to get to.
    In the MRA movement it seems like no matter what the woman is sucky and the guy is really great and I just can’t handle the sites that say “Mysogeny is fun!” I hope a fathers right’s movement that is less scary happens, but until I see one I’ll let them figure out what they want to do with that.
    My biological father is a fucking awesome guy and I think it’s possible my life would have been damn better if I had been parented by him. He wanted to keep me and felt very powerless. Immediately after my birth he concieved his second child and married an old girlfriend and he’s a kick ass involved dedicated father who I am terrified of having a relationship with because my adoptive father has health conditions and I’m afraid that being involved with my biological father will literally hurt my adoptive father and I could lose him.
    My adoptive father was, in fact, mostly absent.

    When I was born my biological father came to see me and they let him look at me through the glass. A woman help me up and he got to look at me and he says I stared right at him. He has told me that he has always regretted not raising me and it has been devastating for him to see that things didn’t really work out with my adoptive family.

    I figured on a feminist blog it made more sense to talk about the females– however I have four parents and I love all of them.

    Interestingly, it turned out my daughters adoptive father was violent and they got divorced. so much for destroying myself on the altar of my daughter having a life that was so much better than me.

  59. Mei-Ling
    Mei-Ling September 19, 2011 at 10:07 pm |

    “If I understand you correctly (and please tell me if I don’t!), it sounds like one of your primary issues with adoption is the narrative it sets up in which people tell the adoptee that they need to be greatful in a way that they don’t (or that they do so less) when talking to a child who is with their birth parents. “You should just be greatful they chose to take you in and care for you, because they had no obligation to do so” as a way of imposing certain behavioral expectations on the adoptee, yes?”

    Yes. But even in that point, when the previous commenter responded to me, it was brought to my attention about infertility couples and how they will spend the rest of their lives in misery because they would not be able to adopt.

    That’s another problem of the rhetoric. Because when adoptees point out the oppressive standards in adoption, infertility is brought up. But infertility has nothing to do with a baby girl in an orphanage miles away, and everything to do with the potential adoptive parents. Not saying it is or is not their fault – just saying that the would-be adoptive child has nothing to do with the circumstances of infertility.

  60. Mei-Ling
    Mei-Ling September 19, 2011 at 10:09 pm |

    “rox, there are biological fathers and adoptive fathers. there are even cases where two men, as a couple, *gasp* become adoptive fathers. that’s kind of…erased when people just talk about adoptive mothers and biological mothers.”

    Probably because it’s the mother who carries the child to term. The mother is seenly as the ultimate parental figure in terms of nurturing.

    But of course, as another adoptee here, I talk about my father just as much as my mother. ;)

  61. EG
    EG September 20, 2011 at 1:02 am |

    So it’s not like we always consider the needs of children as more important than the rights and responsibilities of adults.

    In practice, we almost never consider the needs of children as important at all in forming any policy decisions in this country. I honestly can’t think of a single one–we defund schools, we allow children to be the victims of violence, we turn a blind eye toward bullying, we defund AFDC, etc. For my part, I do my best to always consider the needs of children as important in forming my opinions on policy decisions, mostly because I find that children are among the most disempowered and vulnerable groups in any human society.

    That said, I’m more responding to the Times and not individual parents.

    Yes, the perspective the Times chose to use on writing its pieces on this is undoubtedly all about which people it considers important, who, no surprise, are precisely the same people who are always considered important–the dominant class.

    Instead of listening to what pregnant say they REALLY want— to have the means to care for their children in a healthy way– pro-adoption activists have embraced open adoption as a means of convinving women to submit to losing their children.

    If they REALLY cared about the well being of the pregnant mother and child– they would do in depth research into what obstacles such mothers are facing in giving their children a high quality of life and create programs to adequately address those needs.

    I agree with that completely. But it also seems to me that when facing a pregnancy that she does not want to abort but will produce a baby that she does not feel that it’s feasible to care for, women are not going to have the time to wait for this country to shift far enough left to address the massive systemic inequality that puts women in these untenable positions. If it were me, I would have an abortion, no question (I have no moral problem with it at all, I live in a place where abortion is easily accessible, and I have decent health insurance–and even if I didn’t, I’m fortunate enough to make enough money that I could pull it together for a first-trimester abortion, or at least put it on a credit cared, and I know exactly how lucky I am to be in this position). I’ve known that all my adult life, and I’ve always known that it is because that there is no way I could possibly go through pregnancy and childbirth and give up the baby, and I don’t mean that in a “how could those first mothers do such a thing?!” when the answer is “they had to.” I mean that I imagine and have read of how traumatic and painful it is to endure that separation, and how it is not a trauma or pain that recedes with time, and I am quite positive that given my history, doing so would send me into a severe, long-term depression from which I might not recover. I suspect that many women agree, which is why, I am given to understand, after the baby-scoop era, adoption became so much harder–with women freed of some of the coercion that had occurred before, and with abortion safer and more available than it had ever been before, the supply of babies dried right up. I think it would be wonderful if that happened yet again, if we put into practice material supports (extended access to contraception and abortion and economic support for those who need it, for instance) that dried up the supply even further. But I don’t see that happening any time soon–I’ve been radically left for decades, and I feel like I’ve never seen a more right-wing political climate in this country. And how do we manage things in the mean time?

    I think you’re assuming that the child isn’t suffering already from the adoption. I think that’s an incorrect assumption. If you listen to the stories of adoptees you’ll hear a great deal of pain.

    Good point. I was, and clearly I should not have been.

    Isn’t there a disconnect between these two statements, though? Because your children are your children, it’s your responsibility to parent them, to feed them (with your own funds, or by procuring funds via food stamps or other programs – you don’t have to have the ‘money to feed the kids you have’ but you do have to have the ‘effort to go out to apply for a way to feed the kids you have’. Ditto clothing them, ditto raising them.

    And the thing is, you DON’T have to pay for the neighbor’s kids’ food, even though they may be starving. It would be good, but it’s not legally required. You don’t have parent them, to clothe them, to raise them, because they’re not your kids – not ‘your problem’ – not ‘your responsibility’ or ‘your property’ because of that parental responsibility that you outline.

    I don’t think there’s a conflict between my two statements, because I do not think responsibility is the same thing as property. Parents do indeed have a responsibility to their children. That doesn’t make children their property. The parent-child relationship is, in my opinion, almost unique in that it is not based on reciprocity. You have responsibilities to your children; that does not mean that you own them; your responsibilities do not justify a rights-grab in this case, and as far as I am concerned, this is because of the massive power disparity between parents and children.

    I also don’t think it’s all right to say to kids “Well, hope you get parents who can do all right by you and who want to, because if you don’t, you’re on your own. Good luck with all that.” I’ve known so many people I love who have been so abused and damaged by parents, and/or who have been abandoned by parents who either left or died and failed to make adequate arrangements for their kids, and I’ve seen what has been allowed to happen to them because this culture runs on the assumption of “Hey, those kids aren’t my responsibility.” They are our responsibility, and that’s not a responsibility that can be left to individuals having the resources and the will to voluntarily, spontaneously pick up the slack. That’s why I am so strongly in support of collective, public programs that children themselves, without an advocate, can get access to, as well as that send representatives to schools and other places where children congregate in order to reach out to them. People I love have suffered and, in the end, died, in my opinion, in large part because those programs and services don’t exist, because of our “hey, not my kid,” attitude. It’s fucking immoral.

    This is what I mean by another and children being property. Biological parents who don’t relinquish their children or adopt don’t have this extra layer.

    I understood what you mean, and I understand the class and ethnic and financial privilege involved. (I also wasn’t thinking of divorce or stepfamilies, by the way. I was thinking of child abuse and neglect.) I also think, though, that the reason these bonds can made or broken by money or laws, is because children in general are considered property. And this, along with the other ways of being disadvantaged and oppressed that you discuss, allows harm to birth/first parents (I’m seeing different terms being used, and I’m not sure what the various implications are), but I think the idea that children are property harms children more, whether or not they’re adopted…unless they’re very lucky.

    But on the other hand, *despite* me having the right to do that, I will still get flak and mentions of how ungrateful I am. I can legally do it, sure, but I don’t have the social freedom to do so.

    Absolutely. Understood. Thank you for the clarification.

    This is where the “be grateful” rhetoric comes from – nobody “had” to adopt you, nobody “had” to feed/clothe you – be grateful someone *did.*

    I understand what you are saying. (I have seen this rhetoric being employed over and over again among my friends who are biologically and genetically related to their parents/guardians. I have a good friend, who, when she was in her early twenties, was told by her father exactly how much her orthodonture had cost when she was in her teens, and was pressured to start paying him back. I have a friend who, when she was “taken in” by family with both biological and emotional relationships with her after her parents had died, was repeatedly told how “grateful” she should be.) It’s manipulative, emotionally abusive rhetoric. I absolutely understand that it’s invoked more often and by more people with respect to adopted children. I think doing so is a form of emotional abuse, and I’m sorry that people do that to you and so many other adopted children instead of minding their own business if they are not your adoptive parents, or being supportive of you if they are.

    But you’re talking about voluntary relationships. You can choose your best friend. You can choose your significant other. Babies don’t get to choose. Little children don’t get to choose. They don’t choose to be in an adoption. They don’t choose to get abandoned. Adoption occurs on their behalf.

    So the way that adoption is more consumeristic than other voluntary relationships is that the consumerism is on one end only, am I correctly understanding? That while I chose my best friend and she chose me, the adoptive parent chooses the baby and the baby is chosen. Is that different from the position that unadopted babies are in, though? My parents chose me, insofar as they chose each other, which guaranteed certain characteristics and made others highly likely, and they chose my sister even more thoroughly, as by then amniocentesis had been developed, and my parents were able to find out basic information about her health and sex, and we were both born after Roe v. Wade to a pro-choice mother in a major urban center. But obviously, babies and children are in no position to exercise any control over the parents to whom they are born, or whether or not they continue living with them. Parents can give kids up for adoption for any reason they choose, as far as I know (but obviously I may be mistaken), but if a child runs away, that kid is brought back, in almost every circumstance, even abuse, unless there is some serious evidence against the parents…and often, even then. That imbalance of power and choice is present in every parent-child relationship, even every adult-child relationship, if we’re speaking not only legally, but also culturally and physically.

    When people say “No one *had* to adopt”, they mean actually that: no adoptive parent is ever obligated to adopt a child. No adoptive parent is obligated to save a child’s life through adoption.

    Ah, thank you for explaining. I completely misunderstood what you were saying. You were saying “Nobody is obligated to adopt,” and what I was hearing was “Nobody needs to have a child.” That’s a misunderstanding that comes out of my own anxieties as a single woman not making a whole lot of money and looking at her late thirties who has always deeply desired children. Because having and raising a child are desires I’ve often read dismissed as unimportant by some commenters on feminist websites (“Fertility treatments are selfish, why don’t you just adopt?” “You’re superficial; you just want a child that looks like you” “You only think you want to be a mother because you’ve been socialized to by the culture” “Why would anyone want a baby, anyway?” Paraphrases, but not paraphrases that are unfaithful to the tone, spirit, or language of the originals.), I inaccurately misunderstood your comment to be making a similar point, which is what led to the response that you rightly take issue with in your comment addressing that response. I apologize for my misunderstanding, which arose out of my own concerns looking at my future, and I apologize that my response was so unthoughtful about the issues regarding adoption (I would be very surprised if becoming an adoptive parent were an option for me, so it was a completely hypothetical projection of how I would feel in a given situation, not even about how I am likely to feel in the future).

    As you say, adoption absolutely, legally, morally, and rhetorically should not be about the needs or desires of the prospective adoptive parents. It should be about the needs/desires of the baby in question, and, provided that the mother/parents of that baby are not losing custody due to abuse issues, their needs and desires as well.

    I have issues with the rhetoric as discussed above. Adoption is merely a symptom of a bigger economic and privileged imbalance.

    I completely agree.

    Thank you so much, Mei-Ling, for taking the time and energy to address my questions and thoughts. I hope my inexperience with the issues did not make the conversation more unpleasant than it had to be. I would really appreciate a link to your blog, actually, if you wouldn’t mind posting one.

  62. Kim
    Kim September 20, 2011 at 1:10 pm |

    I have another perspective. I was adopted as a baby by US parents from an ophanage in Korea. I could care less about my biological ‘parents’. Unless there is an agreement for an open adoption, birth parents give up all their rights, that’s a part of adoption. I don’t desire to meet them or know them. I also get tired of folks saying that I’m missing my Korean heritage and culture! I don’t fucking like kimchi! Seriously, I know I look Korean, but I am who I am as a result of my experiences and upbringing. I have a culture and heritage, it isn’t Korean and I don’t know why folks think I’m missing something because I’m not Korean enough or that if you are ethnically X you must be raised in X culture. I identify and define myself as a person first and foremost, not a Korean or a woman or an adoptee.

  63. feministadoptee
    feministadoptee September 21, 2011 at 12:09 pm |

    @Kim

    I used to feel the same way, minus the cultural issues as I’m a domestic adoptee who is the same ethnicity as my adoptive parents. I never cared about knowing anything about my biological parents, as I believed it to be a cut and dry thing: they signed the papers, didn’t want me, and they are now out of my life and are probably out there and perfectly happy and never even think of me.

    My siblings (also adopted) still feel that way, for the most part.

    What changed was getting out of my home environment, leaving the small religious community with its religious view on adoption. I read books talking about the pain and coercion adoptive mothers went through…and I realized I’d been told a lie. So I found her. My mom didn’t just “give me up” and forget me. She was forced to give me up because she didn’t have resources and was told she’d be a bad mom. That knowledge changed my view on adoption forever.

    We don’t all have this change in viewpoint on our adoption…but for me it came with becoming a feminist. We all don’t have equal resources and there are social issues that can cause some mothers to be seen as “fit” and others as “unfit”. I started to get pissed off that adoption was promoted as the “best option” based on the assumption that my mom was “unfit”. And the rhetoric goes on today…I’ve been undercover at Pregnancy Centers (the anti-choice kind) and seen their tactics to get women to consider adoption. They are all about slut-shaming, pointing out that children will have more money with adoptive parents…a “better life”.

    With international adoption there are even more issues that can come up, as the article shows. Some babies are actually stolen. This story is not the only one of its kind.

    I am often told I shouldn’t care about my mom because she made the decision to give me up, and that was “her choice”. That now offends me, as I’ve learned it wasn’t as simple as “choice”.

  64. Azalea
    Azalea September 21, 2011 at 1:51 pm |

    feministadoptee:

    I am often told I shouldn’t care about my mom because she made the decision to give me up, and that was “her choice”. That now offends me, as I’ve learned it wasn’t as simple as “choice”.

    I would say most times the personal politics involved in the conclusion of an unplanned pregnancy isn’t as simple as “choice”, some womenare coerced into abortion, some coerced into giving birth, some coerced into adoption. Neither of these are bad options, the societal and cultural “influence” (ie coercion) is the problem. How do we even begin to address that? Some women have abortions for economic reasons (not that they dont want the pregnancy or the subsequent child but they are told YO CANT AFFORD IT, YOULL NEVER FINISH SCHOOL) and if they dont get an abortion this same rhetoric could be repeated as her delivry date gets closer, “oh the horrors your life and the life of that baby will be if you dont give the baby to some well off married couple!!” That’s tough enough here in U.S. soil where there are more resources where money is a problem, could you imagine how much more difficult it is when people in poorer countries laud the U.S. as the land of milk and honey and what kind of parent wouldnt want their child raised in the country of opportunity and get out of poverty instantly? The lines blur, who is being coerced and who is simply making a real choice? How do we stop or minimize the number of pregnant people being coerced and is there anything that could be done to minimize the effects of the pressure pregnant people are faced with by people trying to make them get an abortion, have/raise a baby or give a child up for adoption?

  65. rox
    rox September 21, 2011 at 3:33 pm |

    “And how do we manage things in the mean time?”
    Consider adopting a teen who has specifically requested a family and may age out of the system without one.

    If you have thirty thousand dollars to adopt– consider sponsering a mother to give her child a better quality of life instead.

    There are tons of options that individuals can do to stop participating in the exploitation of women who feel powerless to keep their children.

  66. EG
    EG September 21, 2011 at 9:29 pm |

    If you have thirty thousand dollars to adopt– consider sponsering a mother to give her child a better quality of life instead.

    I don’t. Sadly. This is one of many reasons why, as I mentioned above, a considering adopting a child would be wholly academic for me.

    There are tons of options that individuals can do to stop participating in the exploitation of women who feel powerless to keep their children.

    The two you suggest, though, don’t really seem to address the issue. Adopting a teenager is a radically different thing than raising a child (as somebody who doesn’t much like most teenagers, the only way I would be able to put up with one in my home is if it was the teenaged version of somebody I already loved; in all honesty, I once asked my mother why she never smothered me in my sleep when I was a teenager, and she answered “Well…you always looked so beautiful when you were asleep”), and realistically, people who want to raise a kid aren’t going to go for that, at least not in large enough numbers as to make a significant difference to the industry, and that goes double for giving money to women in need. If we as a society were willing to do that, we’d already have the systemic solutions to the problems you note. Basically, that’s saying that until we have the collective, public solution to our problems, we need rich people to set up private charities. That would be wonderful, but it’s not going to happen; rich people in this country have made it clear, over and over again, that they are profoundly uninterested in helping women in poverty. For a stopgap measure to actually work until we actually enact a leftist system that would take those women’s needs into account, it would have to be something that people are willing to do voluntarily.

    It is possible, I think, to morally sway a certain amount of people out of considering adoption. Getting some people not to do something is certainly possible. But it is a completely different thing, and one much less likely to succeed even with the group of people who would allow their consciences to override their desires to raise a child, to use moral suasion to convince people to take private action–most people in this country can’t be bothered to switch to a different kind of lightbulb for moral reasons. Especially private action that causes a huge amount of inconvenience and no small amount of vulnerability (adopting a teenager) or involves giving up a huge chunk of cash with no immediate reward to the giver (giving money to women so they can keep their babies, though I agree that would be the moral thing to do). So if a significant group of would-be adoptive parents are morally persuaded not to pursue adoptions, open or otherwise, then what happens to girls and women who don’t abort but also don’t feel in any position to raise a baby?

    Nothing good, I expect. But why should today be different from any other day?

  67. bhuesca
    bhuesca September 22, 2011 at 9:35 am |

    EG:

    I understand what you are saying.(I have seen this rhetoric being employed over and over again among my friends who are biologically and genetically related to their parents/guardians.I have a good friend, who, when she was in her early twenties, was told by her father exactly how much her orthodonture had cost when she was in her teens, and was pressured to start paying him back.I have a friend who, when she was “taken in” by family with both biological and emotional relationships with her after her parents had died, was repeatedly told how “grateful” she should be.)It’s manipulative, emotionally abusive rhetoric.I absolutely understand that it’s invoked more often and by more people with respect to adopted children.I think doing so is a form of emotional abuse, and I’m sorry that people do that to you and so many other adopted children instead of minding their own business if they are not your adoptive parents, or being supportive of you if they are.

    In terms of mass media, this morning’s Slate’s Dear Prudence column deals with this issue as well, and issues some quite strong words for the ‘adult child’ (I hate that phrase) to say to his parents. The situation there was that the (biological) parents urged the adult child to go to a rather expensive private university with the promise that they would pay for it (and they also discouraged very strongly said adult child viewing state schools at all). Of course, the adult child had agency here, but don’t documents like the FAFSA demand at least parental cooperation and forthcomingness with information?) Now that the tuition bill had come due and the parents are facing retirement, they told the adult child that he would have to pay them half the tuition bill, stat (I beleive around $100,000), despite his $8,000 Americorps salary and despite their prior agreement (you go to college of my choice, I pay). Prudence sided with the adult child and urged him to be forceful with his parents and to distance himself from them.

  68. Avida Quesada
    Avida Quesada September 24, 2011 at 12:06 pm |

    BHuesca:
    @ Jill @ #2:
    Going off of that, what trumps what?

    (a) Parental rights, which include the often-occurring cases where parents do not wish to be found, ever, or to give out any information (including medical), ever, and wish to remain totally anonymous for a variety of reasons. Or birth parents who seek out to find and/or meet their birth children, but are rebuffed?(b) Children’s (both minor and adult) rights, which include the often occurring cases where they really want to meet their birth parents, and the often occurring cases where they may have a medical need to meet their birth parents (bone marrow transplant? family medical history? etc.) Or when the children don’t want to meet their birth parents, ever, even if the birth parents seek to initiate contact.

    And from a previous post, how does this apply to sperm and egg donors (I’m thinking this could be an issue if one party is seeking contact!) And as ABBA sings, “Money money money, where’s the money?”

    And we have the issue of infant parental abduction.
    If the child already grow with the abductor, and possible has no memory or worse hostility towards the victim parent, What should the state do?

    This is complicated.

    Best regards,

    Abida

  69. rox
    rox September 26, 2011 at 9:26 am |

    ” So if a significant group of would-be adoptive parents are morally persuaded not to pursue adoptions, open or otherwise, then what happens to girls and women who don’t abort but also don’t feel in any position to raise a baby? ”

    I’ve thought really hard about this. I’m honestly not sure that it’s in the interest of children to be removed from a loving involved caring mother even if her resources are low or she is facing difficulty or difficult circumstance.

    People work through issues. People figure out difficult circumstance. If the mother loves her child and wants to take on the role, I think it’s entirely possible that they are both better off staying together and making it through the difficulties.

    While this DOES mean added difficulties it also gives them an important message— material wealth, or even good emotional environments are not worth more than an everlasting family bond. That kind of love is worth more.

    If two biological parents had a 6 month old baby and one suffered an injury that disabled them and left the family in poverty with all resources going to medical care, and emotional strife dealing with teh difficulties— would you think it inherantly in the best interest of the child to give the child to wealthier people with better circumstance? I personally don’t.

    If the mother doesn’t care, feels dangerous rage, hatred, detachment, disinterest— if she HERSELF is the danger to the child, adoption could be helpful (again this is an issue of neglect and abuse when the mother herself is the danger). But when really the difficulty is circumstancial, or even mental health related but the difficulties do not impair the mothers ability to love her child endlessly— I’m really not sure if all the pain that some of us go through as adoptees is worth the gain in material wealth or stability of environment.

    I decided to parent my son in very difficult circumstances, probably circumstances that would leave a lot of people saying, “Oh a child deserves better!” But I’ve thought really hard about whether my son would be better off with wealthy stable people and I think the answer is no. I think he would have been deeply affected by losing his mother in infancy, and I think the happy, attached healthy kid that I have in my life might would have had deep issues with being relinquished.

    Particularly since he is so much like me, and I had big issues with it and big time attachment issues and deep deep pain regarding attachment to other humans.

  70. EG
    EG September 27, 2011 at 11:15 am |

    But when really the difficulty is circumstancial, or even mental health related but the difficulties do not impair the mothers ability to love her child endlessly— I’m really not sure if all the pain that some of us go through as adoptees is worth the gain in material wealth or stability of environment.

    I agree completely. My question was not meant to be about girls or women who want to raise their babies–regardless of circumstances, anybody who wants to keep her child should be able to do so, barring abuse and/or neglect. My question was genuinely about women who don’t abort, for whatever reason (isn’t available near where they live, morally opposed) but also genuinely do not think that they are able to care for a baby. In other words, women who make a different decision than the one you did. I absolutely agree that it’s impossible to separate that decision from coercion, financial and/or moral and/or physical, but women do live in coercive circumstances, every day, and I’m not convinced that telling a 15-year-old in a home in which ends are barely meeting as it is, or who has run away or something that she should just keep the baby and love it is going to make her situation appreciably better. It seems to me that in cases, she’s choosing between two different kinds of damage to herself and the baby–the emotional damage of separation or the material damage and damage to her future life-chances of raising a kid. What if she decides to go with the first type of damage?

    I genuinely was not trying to suggest that material comfort and wealth is more important than emotional health–that excuse has been used to take poor people’s children from them over and over and it’s a bullshit rationale. I was genuinely trying to work with how women and girls who are in coercive circumstances may make different choices about how to negotiate them.

  71. Gregory A. Butler
    Gregory A. Butler September 27, 2011 at 2:21 pm |

    Bottom line, in cases where the kid was abducted, these American adoptive parents are accessories after the fact to a kidnapping.

    In every American state and territory that’s a FELONY.

    The law is crystal clear – if you receive a kidnapped child, you are going to the penitentiary for a very long time and the kid is going back to her birth parents. It matters not that you held the child in your custody for 10 days or 10 years, you are an accessory after the fact to an interstate kidnapping and the only question will be are you going to do federal time or state time.

    Why should that be any different if the kid was kidnapped from China and the adoptive parents are affluent college educated White Americans?

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