Using “Rare” and “Most” in adoption to calm the fears…

27 Apr


I have tried to read all the responses, and rebuttals, to articles published about Kathryn Joyce’s new book The Child Catchers, Rescue, Trafficking, and the New Gospel of Adoption.  They happened fast and furious with words like shameful, attack, hatchet job, and it was obvious that the book caused great consternation.

Consternation is a good thing if it is the impetus for awareness, dialogue, change, to do better, require better, to admit failures, and help those that were failed.

The book didn’t have to be written about current day adoptions, because the lessons should have already been learned.  The adoption industry and agencies should police itself, want to police itself.  Is there ever an excuse for wrongful adoptions, or abuse of the child adopted by the family?  Realistically, we all know there will some that fall through the cracks – no process is perfect, but striving for continual improvement, lessens the numbers.  Transparency lessens the numbers.  They have the historical reality that bad things can happen when large sums of money are in play in adoption, or when red flags are ignored.

But what I really want to talk about today are the word RARE and MOST.  Those words (or similar words) have also been thrown around a lot this week.  They have been used to allay the concerns, and fears, raised in the book.  That wrongful adoptions are rare.  That most adoptions are done correctly.  That abuse in an adoptive home is rare.  That most adoptive parents are good.  That is the message being used to counter the book, the warning, and I don’t disagree, but without an understanding of most, or rare, is it good enough when speaking about children?  Without transparency that question can’t be answered.

Lets talk about rare – it’s a misleading word because nothing in the word actually defines what the percentage (or number) makes something rare – is it 1%, 10%, 20%, 30%?  What is the accepted percentage to classify that wrongful adoptions, or abuse in adoptive homes, is actually rare?  When would it become a problem to be addressed?

I have a rare disease.  There are an estimated 25 million Americans living with a rare disease.  Roughly, one in twelve have a rare disease, some rare diseases have more people affected (up to 200,000), other rare diseases have far fewer numbers and some even less than ten.  Viewing rare in this context works for adoption – in some countries wrongful adoptions will happen more often that other countries.  But we have no number to apply to wrongful adoptions, and then compare to ethical adoptions and come up with a ratio, or percentage to draw a collective conclusion that it is the best it can be.  What is the percentage of wrongful adoptions in the current go-to countries or in the US?  What is the number of adoptive families that pass homestudies that have red flags that end in abuse of the child that come to the attention of child protective services?  I don’t think those questions are being asked, or answered, or able to be answered, yet transparency is the best defense.

I have read that most people with my disease do just fine – some never have an event, or have symptoms of the disease, rather it is found during a routine investigation for another problem.  Most live a normal lifespan.  It isn’t a reassuring in the least to me because I don’t fall into the most category.  The word most is used in adoption, most adoptive parents don’t abuse their children, most adoptions are ethical, most adoptions truly needed to happen.  What is the percentage of most in these statements?  It apparently can’t be answered with anything more definitive than it’s most, and the opposite is rare, which of course has no percentage assigned to qualify it either.

So how many rare cases (wrongful adoptions, or abuse in the adoptive family to the child) have to happen before it isn’t okay?  Why is the message that although wrongful adoptions are rare – that the prospective adoptive parents need to do their research, and make sure everything their adoption agency does is right?  Have you ever seen a spokesman for a car manufacturer get up and say: we know this is a problem, but death or accident by this problem is rare, and most people driving our cars do okay, so not to worry, just be diligent and watch for any anomalies in how your car performs?  I haven’t, and doubt it would be acceptable to any car owner – why is it acceptable for adoption of children? 

To understand why this bothers me so much – I will leave you with one example, this article about the sentencing of the Schatzes, and statement by the older sibling of Lydia – who died a horrible, tragic death that didn’t have to happen.  I doubt she is comforted to know that her sister’s death is rare in adoption, and that most adoptee’s aren’t abused, or die from the abuse – it doesn’t work that way when you are talking about human beings.

“The sentences were largely known in advance because of a plea bargain April 8. The couple had faced charges of first-degree murder and torture and two possible life sentences. Before the sentence was handed down a surviving adopted daughter, 12, addressed the court. With a soft-spoken voice that was often punctuated with tearful sobs, she said her 7-year-old sister, Lydia, meant the world to her and Lydia’s death really hurt.

“Why did you adopt her? To kill her?” the daughter asked.”


Posted by on April 27, 2013 in Adoption, adoptive parents, biological child, Ethics


Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

4 responses to “Using “Rare” and “Most” in adoption to calm the fears…

  1. kellie3

    April 27, 2013 at 9:11 pm

    Excellent post, TAO! It reminds me of the saying “almost only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades”. Likewise, rare and most is never good enough, and I’d bet my house that “most” adoptions were NOT necessary.
    Kudos to you for having the stomach to read them defending such deplorable actions. I don’t think I’m far enough from our own adoption situation yet without my emotions overcoming my better judgement.


    • TAO

      April 27, 2013 at 9:44 pm

      At least it made sense to you – I’m glad for that because I’m still deeply sleep deprived and trying to make anything make sense – was challenging. And proof of the sleep deprivation is I would have used the saying you quote above because it works too in explaining my problem of the words most and rare.

      Some of the posts weren’t horrible – just a little to heavy on the reassurance without anything to back it up and we know there are problems and big problems have occurred in the recent past. Transparency and truthfulness is better than vague words.


  2. b.

    April 28, 2013 at 12:13 pm

    I really like your post a lot.

    When a new gadget or machine is tested, they look at the potential dangers by focussing on the weekest link within the entire system; and if there is any risk of this link breaking, they will not allow thw new product to be distributed. I have always wondered why in the system of adoption, risks and failures are treated as exceptions, rather than as the crucial points which everyone should aim at avoiding.


  3. everyoneactdead

    April 28, 2013 at 10:07 pm

    great post. thanks for pointing out this common fallacy.



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