Tag Archives: blank slate
November 3rd prompt…Blogging Adoption and Everyday Life.
How is blogging about adoption different from blogging about other topics? Do you maintain an non-adoption blog on top of adoption blogging? If so, how do they differ?
I seldom stray from adoption on this blog because I feel it is important that all of us (adoptees) to keep sharing our feelings, each one unique and different, yet a collective of adoptee voices and the underlying themes similar at the core. To have conversations and push for more conversations.
For far too long, the adoptive parent voice has been the dominant voice and the results are primarily - happily ever after - adoption is all wonderful. While that may be their story – there are always two sides to every story, and of course the story in the middle. When only the adoptive parent and/or adoption advocacy groups or agencies tell the story of adoption - that stereotype is reinforced and the flip side (the adoptee) is expected by those within the community, and the public at large, to not have any emotions, or feelings about their own story that are not super happy all the time, and proclaim adoption is always the best thing ever.
It appears to me lately – that any gains made in acceptance of the losses in adoption for the adoptee, are being reduced to mere lip service by those who don’t hold the adoptee role. I used to watch real hard discussions by parents about the feelings their children have and how best to walk along side them – change in recent years to a display of piling on by parents discounting that being adopted is, or may be, the cause of the any feelings or acting out of the child by the original poster. It bothers me to see what was a concerted effort by parents (not too many years ago) to understand and accept the full realities (good and bad) of what being adopted can mean to the child, teen, adult, - throughout their life – now spun into not everything is about being adopted (which it isn’t), but when every concern brought forward is said to be normal for a bio too - then the choice has been made to revert back to the original thought – the blank slate theory – being adopted makes no difference.
I see this (above) happening all the while the mindset is still that adoption today is different from the past and allows you (general you) to believe that what the adoptees say is irrelevant because you know better now, and your children won’t have those feelings. That belief makes you comfortable and is reinforced by your peers in post after post – adoption is all beautiful – always. You want to believe that (who doesn’t) - but yet feelings of abandonment, self-identity, self-esteem, self-worth will still be there in varying degrees for the adoptees of today – it just means the parents won’t be there for whatever feelings their children have.
Rebecca from Love Is Not a Pie said this on twitter yesterday - and it identified the difference:
This November please remember that “awareness” is not the same as “celebration.” #adoption
I originally posted this Ted Talk by Steven Pinker back in 2010 – I think it’s time to repost it. This is what I said back then.
My era of adoption the Blank Slate Theory was widely accepted. I think there is less acceptance of it today but I believe it still exists in Adoption. The video and link above are so worth the time. The video is over 20 minutes but I was fascinated. Steven Pinker does delve into the subject of adoption and of course the studies of identical twins separated at birth and raised separately as well as how different adopted siblings are after growing up in the same family. Well worth the time…
Steven Pinker – Human Nature And The Blank Slate
My brain is running on parallel tracks apparently so here goes…and perhaps I will regret it but whatever…
While reading the book I talk about here on eugenics, which is also part of adoption history, I am also following the discussions on various blogs and forums about the adoption. I have to say that crash and burn of the contest has also sparked some good and not so good conversations, but yay for the good hard discussions happening. Meanwhile the not so good conversations have resulted in words being flung around by some (not all) adoptive parents such as defining the difference between well-adjusted and mal-adjusted adoptees, the anti and the pro adoption adoptees, and the same stereotypical comments about the happy adoptees that are too busy living their lives to blog or post on forums, and the angry adoptees just want to hate. sigh…
No middle of the road adoptee apparently exists in adoption funland – you are either a “well-adjusted” or a “mal-adjusted” adoptee. Good Grief, we really are just paper dolls to them if that is how one-sided and shallow they see us as only Either/Or…
But getting back to the book on eugenics – the reality is that Sexual Sterilization Laws would still exist today in both Canada and the US, instead of finally being repealed in 60′s and 70′s without Critics voicing opposition of the laws and mindsets. Laws that allowed for you to be deemed “defective” and have sterilization forced on you without your consent, and at times even without your families consent. If not for the Critics those Laws – they would still exist. Those laws irreparably harmed children and adults alike.
So then I got to thinking about what if there hadn’t ever been critics regarding how adoption was practiced?
How would those laws look today with the infertility rates so high in the USA and Canada, and so many people and couples wanting so desperately to have a child or children? What if no one spoke up and challenged the status quo and got the discussions happening that required changes to happen? What would happen if no challenges had been made and we continued on (and likely down) from where we were in the 1950′s to today – 60 years later, just what would the adoption world look like?
Remember no one is challenging to make things better, fairer, more ethical or honest or different than the 1950′s…
For starters Georgia Tann would be the “Revered Mother Of Adoption” - instead of the “Reviled Baby Thief” that she was. Laws would be modeled on her actions and others of her ilk in that era and since then.
Targeted would be those deemed “less than” and that would include anyone that made less money that you did, that had a baby you wanted.
Laws probably would be changed in favor of mothers being encouraged aka coerced into signing away their rights to the child when the positive sign came up on the pee-stick at the crisis pregnancy center instead of waiting until after she gave birth. No need to provide options, or even the government paid for infant adoption awareness training program designed by the NCFA to guide the mother to understand she is “less than” those deserving waiting couples eager to adopt the perfect healthy white baby.
No counselling for mothers – just send them home and tell them to never speak of it again…
Foster care adoptions would most likely seldom happen with the never-ending supply of babies available…
Mothers would still be drugged, strapped down, a sheet preventing them from ever seeing, let alone holding their baby, or even knowing the sex of their baby.
Fathers would have no rights at all because in the 1950′s they had no rights. Their consent would not be needed, or required, and they would have no ability to contest an adoption.
There would be no open adoptions…because there would have been no need to find different ways to get mothers to surrender her child. If anything, adoption would be more closed now than ever - to protect the adoptive family due to the advent of the internet.
No best practices developed on telling the child, or even that the child would experience grief, loss, or have feelings of rejection and how to help them through that, but they certainly would still be expected to be grateful – over an above the natural gratitude felt by others who grew up in their family of birth.
Adoptees would still be deemed feeble-minded or defective solely because their mother was not married.
Adoptees who searched and wanted to know their family of birth would be categorized as the worst of the worst and obviously came from truly defective stock.
The Baby Scoop Era or Era of Mass Surrender or Era of Forced adoption (whatever you preferred term is), would never have ended, because the status quo was such a boon for the adopting parents - babies galore – just put in your detailed order today – thank you very much…
Advertisements in the paper about getting your wife a baby for Christmas would still be seen each and every year…much like the ads today about getting a bunny for Easter…
But ssssh – don’t tell anyone you adopted because that will cast stigma and shame on your family and your infertility status will be known to all…
Trafficking in babies between states and between countries would be unregulated, but of course celebrated and the term changed to something else, because the end result was the baby found the better home aka adoptive home. No concern paid to the families who lost their child – why, they should be grateful the child was provided such a great opportunity, and should just accept it as an honor.
Adoptee rights to a factual record of their birth would never be a discussion point or even considered, as we would still be considered “blank slates” besides being deemed as “mal-adjusted” and our parents maligned for being bad parents should their adoptee ever speak such evil.
That would be the reality if not for Critics in Adoption…
None of the rhetoric spouted by adoptive parents today about how different adoption is today compared to 10, 20, 50 years ago could be used to dismiss the adoptee voice, because no critics ever made a difference to how adoption was practiced, and you certainly cannot believe the industry would willingly reduce profits – can you? Nor would there be any changes happening from those pro-adoption evertime adoptive parents who despise the critics who speak up for ethical changes to how adoption is practiced today…
Critics in adoption will always be necessary to ensure best practices continue to evolve, and trust me they aren’t there yet. Human rights must always be a subject of discussion, fair play and ethics will always have to be questioned and part of the conversation…well as long as there are Critics in Adoption anyways…
Critics like Rueben Pannor, Annette Baran, Betty Jean Lifton, Doctors and Researchers, Social Workers and Child Welfare Advocates, First Mothers and Adult Adoptees, some forward thinking, empathetic Adoptive Parents, and every single other voice who ever said we must make it better and more ethical…
Well folks – we aren’t there yet obviously…and I am sure I missed some really obvious changes that have made adoption better in the last 60 years…
I read a recent motherlode blog post titled Why I didn’t search for my daughters birth parents. Nothing to say about the post itself, but as per usual I read a selection of the comments. Can’t tell you anything about the comments except for one that stuck in my mind and wouldn’t let go, so I am going to break my feelings down here.
The comment was made by a friend of the parents whose children are now adult adoptees. Telling not only the parents story, and what they did, but also the adult adoptees stories. With enough facts that if you were one of the family, or knew the family being talked about, you could probably guess who it was about.
Usually it doesn’t bother me too much when people bring out their stories of my friend, or a friend of my cousins brother in-law, but the first trigger is the extraneous details not needed that I am not including below. Use the story but at least keep it generic – I have friends who adopted children who are now adults…
“They encouraged all of them to keep in contact with relatives there, but one daughter refused. My friends did keep in touch with her family, however, and eventually persuaded her to at least meet them. She said, though, that she knew who her family was, and felt no need to have another. So there are adoptees who couldn’t care less. Her siblings were more receptive to their birth families.”
The second trigger is dragging out the “see some adoptees don’t think about their other families and the adoptive family is enough” stereotype pitting the good adoptee against the bad adoptee, that came through loud and clear with the “So there are adoptees who couldn’t care less” part of the statement.
Perhaps the adoptee didn’t care, she isn’t here to tell us and it was the commenter who provided that couldn’t care less judgement of what the adoptee felt. If the adoptee had said it then the commenter would have stated: She said, though, she couldn’t care less and that she knew who her family was, and felt no need to have another. But the commenter didn’t state that – she added her own narrative to the story saying So there are adoptees who couldn’t care less without knowing what the adoptee in question actually felt, or didn’t feel, because it was third hand information. That triggered me.
Whatever reason the adoptee chose not to have a relationship is her own. I doubt it was as cut and dried and callous as the commenter makes it out to be. Adoptees are human beings, not paper dolls after all, and as humans we are capable of making complex emotional and rational decisions, based on what is best for us at that time and place in our lives. And like many of the decisions we make in life, we don’t always lay out exactly what thoughts and considerations went into making that decision, especially to a parent to pass on to a friend of that parent.
When I hear stories related by others they always make it seem so cut and dried, easy, no thought or emotion invested – the answer given is the sum total of all her feelings. As an adoptee I can come up with multiple reasons that may have been part of her thought process to come up with her decision to not have a relationship. Any adoptee can run through the different thoughts and feelings they have had at one point or another. We all have complex stories to unravel with complex feelings that change at different times, throughout our lives. Shadow has talked about how she never thought much about adoption until she got her diagnosis, and then the emotions and the processing started. I thought about being adopted from the time I was a child, and processed different parts, at different stages, and have had a myriad of different feelings and thoughts on being adopted. We are all unique. We all go through the process different, and feel different, at different times. Why is that so hard for people to understand?
My story is different from every other adoptees story, except the fact that we were all adopted. The same can be said for every adoptee. Being adopted is different for everyone. Why do people think that there are only two models of adoptees – good adoptees or bad adoptees. And if there are only two models adoptees come in, then that also means they see us as merely shallow versions of human beings, and perhaps more like cute chains of paper dolls, which model should I pick my child from. That is the view I think some people have of adoptees and that sucks.
Have you ever stopped and thought about how the fact that prettying up adoption language by using euphemisms, is in reality, a direct insult to your intelligence?
How the industry has designed a whole new language that diminishes reality, and replaces it with a fairy-tale version that they want you to believe. That perhaps because societal mores do not dictate surrender for unwed mothers anymore, that they needed to create another alternate reality of adoption, for their industry to survive?
Some words and statements in PAL are worse than others, but really stop and consider whether the words reflect the full truth, or are just cleverly designed euphemisms to “mislead or at least put a positive spin on events“?
A euphemism is the substitution of a mild, inoffensive, relatively uncontroversial phrase for another more frank expression that might offend or otherwise suggest something unpleasant to the audience.
Some euphemisms are intended to amuse, while others are created to mislead or at least put a positive spin on events – one of the more stark examples being friendly fire, which means accidentally firing at and perhaps killing troops that are ostensible allies.
I was thinking about the abhorrent “She loved you so much she made an adoption plan“, and how that phrase may come to be the next generation of adoptees most discussed phrase. Do you think it will?
Now stop and think about the “birthmother” counselling. Do you think that they “doublespeak” the different options the mother has, in words designed to steer the mother into realizing that adoption, is really the only option a good mother would choose?
“Doublespeak is language which pretends to communicate but doesn’t. It is language which makes the bad seem good, the negative seem positive, the unpleasant seem unattractive, or at least tolerable. It is language which avoids, shifts or denies responsibility; language which is at variance with its real or purported meaning. It is language which conceals or prevents thought.”
“The selfless mother chooses what is best for her child and realizing she cannot give her child everything they deserve, chooses adoption. The selfish mother chooses what is best for her, and denies her child all the things they could have in an adoptive home.”
Adoption equals selfless, Parenting equals selfish. What other definition could you give to statements like above except “doublespeak“?
Does anyone honestly think that they tell mothers considering adoption, that adoptees don’t always “do just fine“?
That there are problems with identity?
Feelings of abandonment?
Feeling not good enough?
The deep desire to know your parents, where you came from, and why?
That sometimes the trauma breaks the adoptee?
Have you ever heard of any agency having a mother make a list of what the child will lose, as well as her family, if she chooses adoption? I haven’t, only what she cannot give to the child and what she will be giving up if she parents…sad isn’t it.
Don’t you think it is time to get all the lies, half-truths, and lies by omission out of adoption?
Even back in the closed era, it wasn’t like the fact an adoptee might possibly be curious, and possibly have questions about their families of origin, was a nonexistent concept. It would after all be human nature, and just plain old common sense, in such a situation. Would it not? Surely, anyone with even the slightest emotional depth could understand that curiosity was a perfectly normal, natural, and understandable thing for an adoptee. Anyone not emotionally, at least on some level, capable of comprehending such a concept, surely, would not be able to pass the rigorous, interrogation of an adoption agency’s home study, much less endure the entire adoption process.
Understanding the fact that an adoptees curiosity isn’t, and never was, a foreign concept, explains, at least to me, why many adoptive parents, chose, and, maybe still choose, not to tell their children of their adoption. Of course, the reasoning behind why an adoptive parent might not want to tell their child of his/her adoption is much more complex. It is, however, not a stretch, at least in my mind to assume that if a child didn’t know, they would never ask, never be curious, and possibly, never question their identity, or would they? If they never knew, what would it really hurt? I can only imagine how people, who chose this route, rationalized their thoughts, and reasons, for not telling their child of his/her adoption.
Agencies were certainly aware of the concept. To think that some agencies encouraged adoptive parents to not tell a child of his/her adoption, encouraged parents to lie to their child, is a concept that I cannot comprehend. When I hear about an adoptee, who was never told, finding out as an adult, and the devastation of that adoptee, I can’t help but get angry at the stupidity of this line of thought, and the parents, who could do something so cruel to the child they were supposed to love.
I’m glad Hope Cottage did not deny what was an obvious fact of adoption. They had recommended, before adopting, that my parents purchase and read a set of books. The first was titled, “The Adopted Family for Parents”, and when the child reached age five they would read to the child the second book titled, “The Family That Grew”. These two books, copyrighted 1951, though they negated any significance the birthparents may have to the adoptee, noted numerous times, throughout the book for parents, the “curiosity” an adoptee would have about their original families. Though the grief and loss an adoptee may feel, was never mentioned, literally in the book for parents and at that time in our history and society, something so emotionally deep, so, possibly, painful for all, would have never been outwardly spoken of, it was certainly implied. If a person had the emotional capability of reading between the lines and the meaning of the word curiosity, they would have easily seen that there was more to the questions an adoptee would ask about his biological parents. Was it really as simple as mere curiosity, or was there something deeper?
I have no doubt that even back in the 1950’s, 60’s, and 70’s, that the professionals, who wrote these books, as well as others in the field, knew that adoption would have, could have, a profound effect on the adoptee. How could it not? Curiosity was such a nice word, and so much easier for the general public to understand than saying an adoptee would grieve the loss of his/her original family.
I don’t suppose it should come as a surprise to me that up until my diagnosis of retinitis pigmentosa, my need for a family medical history, the subsequent call to the agency, getting my non-identifying information, and next, waiting for a search for my birthmother to be completed, that I had never consciously, or openly asked about my families of origin. A little curiosity was normal, at least according to the books, but I couldn’t recall ever asking any questions. When my mother recently confirmed that I had never really asked about my birthparents, I had to wonder why, especially considering my reaction to finding information on my birth family as a young preteen. If it was normal for an adoptee, and just simple curiosity, what stopped me from asking any questions I might have had? My parents had never discouraged the topic of adoption, so why did I not like talking to them about adoption related things?
As I waited for Carol’s call, updating me on the search for my birthmother, I simply got on with life. I was just curious, nothing more. That was all it was, simple curiosity. It didn’t mean a thing, so there was no reason to share any of this with anyone, especially my parents and family. Nope, there was no reason to tell them. I had enough information with what Carol had given me to satisfy my curiosity. Possible contact with my birthmother would be nice, but what did it really matter? What was she like? Was she married? Did she have children? Yes, that’s all it was, a simple curiosity, and nothing more.
I can say that now, laughing at myself, when I think back on it all. It was just simple curiosity, which explains why, months later, when Carol called to say she had found my birthmother; I didn’t know what to say. It never crossed my mind that Carol wouldn’t be able to find her. It never crossed my mind that she would, either. It never crossed my mind that my birthmother wouldn’t want contact. It never crossed my mind that she would, either. When Carol told me my birthmother had agreed to contact, I wasn’t even surprised. It seems I hadn’t given much of anything, in regard to my birthmother, any thought, but I was about to. Simple curiosity? Yeah, that’s all it was, and nothing more. It is funny to me, as I think about what was to follow, people would say I was just, simply, curious about my birthmother. Simple curiosity, yeah, right, that’s all there is to it, an adoptees simple curiosity.
Footnote by the adopted ones: In the book “Family Matters: Secrecy & Disclosure in the History of Adoption” by E. Wayne Corp, I leaned the following: Irene M Josselyn (psychiatrist) in 1955 first challenged the “Chosen Baby” story. She questioned whether adoption workers should encourage the parents to lie to their children since few parents actually had a choice of which child. Josselyn also noted that by emphasizing the “Chosen Baby” theme the parents were inadvertently forced the child to live up to the standards of perfection, which bred resentment and insecurity.
Lili E Peller to considered the term “Chosen Baby” to be dishonest, frightening, and likely to induce insecurity in the child. The child realized the “he who has been chosen on certain values, while others rejected, could in turn be rejected if he disappointed his parents“.
In 1965, Rondell & Michaels revised the books noted in the post, specifically omitting the “Chosen Baby” replacing the words chosen, with wanted and in some places omitting entire sentences such as “Choosing a child is called adopting a child, and the minute they saw you they wanted to adopt you.” and replacing it with “This is what is called adopting a child.”.
Footnote by Shadow the adoptee: I think I could write a whole new post about well-meaning parents, telling their adopted children that they were “chosen”. For now, I’ll just say, the day will come, for most adoptees, when they are old enough, and mature enough, to look at adoption, and understand that, though their parents “chose” adoption to build a family, they did not necessarily “choose”, the adoptee.
It’s not rocket science, and potential adoptive parents do not go into a room full of babies and say, “I want that one.”. Potential adoptive parents could say no when the agency calls to say, “We have a match for you.”, but what would that really say about those parents?
I asked my Mom about the day they picked me up. “What if you had gone to Hope Cottage, saw me, and decided you didn’t like me?” In the most appalled, and “you’ve completely lost your mind” tone in her voice, she said, “How could anyone do such a thing?”
Doesn’t that say it all? We all, for the most part, get what we get. lol