One reason conversations between Adoptive Parents and Adoptees fail…
A discussion was/is happening on Creating A Family post that featured an adult adoptee comment on another post. Confused? Dawn received a comment by an adult adoptee from a closed adoption on whether open adoption was a good thing. I think many adoptees have thought about it, I certainly did. I joined the conversation and yet it took a while, and many comments later – for some to understand what I was saying. Of course, that is one of the reasons I blog is to get my complicated, contradictory thoughts to make sense to others and that takes time, reflection, revision… Anyway…
Here is Dawn’s post and although I didn’t comment on the latter part of her post there, I will here at the end.
The adoptee’s concern (paraphrased a whole lot into little) was about the perception to the child that the biological parent(s) were so happy that their child was being raised by other parents and how that would make her feel. I agreed it was a valid concern, and later in response to a comment back to me, I noted that I didn’t hear any “I would have done anything to raise you if I could have” in the answer. That spurred more comments that didn’t understand what I meant, and what it boiled down to was really no one’s fault – just how we view things in adoption so differently based on our role. My comments were based on how an adopted child may feel where only positive was allowed, and none of the harder, or deeper reasons, and how that plays into self-worth if you don’t hear that side – other comments were based on the adult view of why adoptions happen which takes for granted what isn’t said.
That is why the adult adoptee voice is powerful. Our combined voices give the many varied feelings of the lived experience – even when it involves something outside of our lived experience, the core basics of the adoptee experience – can give an adoptee a starting point to explain possible concerns. Will we always be right? No, but we have lived the basic challenges of being raised by non-biological families, and those basic challenges to work through are the same for every adoptee. Hearing many voices allows a view over the full spectrum of reactions – makes you aware in case that specific view applies to your child – choosing to only hear some that allay your fears, is a disservice to your child
That is why some conversations derail. The adult mind who didn’t live the adopted experience vs. the child’s lived adopted experience put into words by the adult adoptee.
Now, to the last part of Dawn’s post, which I think was done with the intention of providing balance, not rebuttal, was about the MTARP longitudinal study of adoptees. Understanding research is a good thing for the future, hopefully it makes things better as long as you view the whole picture, not a snapshot. MTARP limitations are clearly identified in the papers below so I won’t get into those. I do think it is wise to provide the counter-balance, especially when your audience is primarily prospective or adoptive parents. MTARP was set up to be released in 4 Waves. The link and comment provided seems to speak only up to adolescence (Wave 1), and wasn’t specific to the concern raised, so I went looking and found so much more, yet even that did not contain the 4th Wave results. Nor do they address the concern being discussed, but they are interesting and worth the time to read them.
Openness arrangements and psychological adjustment in adolescent adoptees. J Lynn Von Korff; Harold D. Grotevant; Ruth G. McRoy;. Journal of Family Psychol 2006 Sept. Only the abstract is available for free, but based on the collection time frame for Wave 3 this paper is based on Wave 2 (ages 11-20). Distinct difference in the adoptive parents report than the adoptee report in the abstract: “Adoptive parents’ reports indicate no significant associations between openness and adolescent adjustment. Adoptees experiencing long-term direct contact reported significantly lower levels of externalizing than adoptees without contact.”
Contact in Adoption and Adoptive Identity Formation: The Mediating Role of Family Conversation J Lynn Von Korff and Harold D Grotevant Fam Pyschol 2011 June. The above full-text is comparing Wave 2 (ages 11-20) with Wave 3 (ages 21-30) in open adoption. Discusses the change in the Adoptive Identity for the Adoptee and the formation of the adoptive narrative changes that happen between adolescence and young adults for adoptees in open adoption. From the paper: “Contact with Birth Family Members was significantly positively associated with the Adolescent Identity. Female adolescents had higher levels of Adoptive Identity than males and older adolescents had higher levels of Adoptive Identity than younger adolescents.” It’s worth reading and discusses how changes happen over time and aren’t static.
The Role of Adoption Communicative Openness in Information Seeking Among Adoptees From Adolescence to Emerging Adulthood Brooke A Skinner-Drawz; Gretchen Miller Wrobel; Lynn Von Korff; and Harold D Grotevant. Fam Pyschol 2011 July. The above full-text is comparing Wave 2 (ages 11-20) with Wave 3 (ages 21-30) in closed adoptions. Discusses the change in the Adoption Communicative Openness in regards to the Adoptee, and the changes that happen between adolescence and young adults in seeking information. From the abstract: “Degree of information seeking between adolescence (Wave 2) and emerging adulthood (Wave 3) increased for the majority of adoptees (62.2%). Approximately 16% of adoptees experienced no change in information seeking and 22% of adoptees experienced a decrease in information seeking. Females were more likely to exhibit a greater increase in information seeking change between Waves 2 and 3 and information seeking at Wave 3 than males. Results suggest that adoptee information seeking is a dynamic process that takes place over several life stages and that open communication about adoption within the adoptive family supports adoptee information seeking.” Well worth the read and highlights the change over age.
Side note in the paper above: I had to grin at this wording discussing other studies that focused on non-seeking adoptees, because historically adoptees who don’t seek were held up as the model of well-adjusted and seekers were mal-adjusted: “These studies have shown that non-seekers are just as well-adjusted as adoptees who do seek.”
None of these papers answered the question posed by the adult adoptee in Dawn’s post specifically, and I doubt any will because that level of question is where the adoptee’s lived experience comes into play – separating the wheat from the chaff – the ability to recognize the good, but worrying about the specific concerns that aren’t addressed in high-level studies. Instead, going to the nitty-gritty – is the adoptee able to see, or talk about why their family of birth chose adoption and whether or not they wanted to parent, and would have, but couldn’t – or – does the adoptee only see everyone being happy, and is it seem as rejection of them by their family of birth. In the end, I suspect like most things – it will be family specific, the adults security in their relationships and whether that level of honesty by the family of birth is allowed to be shown to the adoptee, or, it is something the parents want to shield the adoptee from – without understanding that their child may actually need to hear it.
“I have learned that to be with those I like is enough”
― Walt Whitman
Oct 2014: You may speak freely, but please try to use words that everyone can hear about your individual story or view. If you don't, those who can actually benefit won't hear it, I want to see change in my lifetime. I may refuse to approve certain comments.
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