I’m not a fan of numerical lists of sound bite messages about complicated subjects like adoption. It doesn’t educate anyone, it just provides fodder for stereotypes and misunderstandings. The article below has two sound bite messages about the adoptee experience, written by a non-adopted person. Why down play that every adoptee has to process added challenges at one or many points in their life, simply, because they are adopted? Why write something so simplistic and dismissive. The writer is correct that every adoptee is unique, I’ll give her credit for that. I still think she is also wrong, and potentially hurting adoptees growing up now, and in the future because some adoptive parents will listen to her instead of the experts.
8 Things You May Not Know About Adoption (read it first before reading my comments)
The first sound bite on adoptees is #5 on her list (accompanied by a paragraph).
5: Some adoptees say they “were” adopted and some say they “are” adopted.
Apparently, either we say we were adopted or are adopted, sorry, it’s not either/or, it’s both. I was adopted and I am still adopted, just like I was married and I am still married. Neither being adopted or being married was a once and done, never think about it again, never have to adjust, accept and overcome challenges that come with it.
And please, if we say are we are adopted, we have an ongoing identity as an adopted person? Which is what? Good? Bad? Because it has to be something, or it wouldn’t have been included. Perhaps to put adoptees into one of two boxes, almost as if you are saying – if an adoptee says they “were” adopted – you can talk to them, if they “are” adopted, watch out? Because that’s how it comes off to me when you specify your children “were” adopted. I am going to assume that identifying as an adoptee means we don’t also identify with any other facet of who we are, what makes us, us. If that assumption is correct, it is not only dismissive, it’s dehumanizing us as well. Not the way to be an ally, instead it tells me that you don’t understand what triggers an adoptee to think deeper about their experience being adopted, or why they start speaking up. I can tell you we all start speaking up for our own personal reasons, mine was the lack of family health history, others during reunion because it triggered feelings they never processed, others sparked by lack of right to their own documents, whatever the reason, every adoptee’s story and reason is unique.
The next sound bite…(accompanied by a paragraph)
6: Not all adoptees have problems related to adoption, but some do.
Apparently, there is a “possibility” that being adopted can cause problems, but only for some. And hey, biological families have problems too, so not a big deal. Of course, biological families have problems and while they may seem similar on the surface, there are different challenges, or facets if you will, that come with being adopted.
Being adopted is just not the same as being raised in your biological family so it’s comparing apples to oranges and sets you up to fail.
If you are adopted, it comes with added developmental challenges, added layers of coming to terms with, and accepting that life threw us a curve ball from left field, whether at birth or later. There is loss in being adopted, but that’s not what point #6 is telling the public with that sound bite. Point #6 completely missed that there are seven core issues that all adoptees face, and have to process through at different points in their lives, whether it’s easy or hard for that adoptee, it’s processed along with all the other developmental challenges at that stage.
Nor did point #6 speak of the multiple added layers and challenges of growing up in a transracial family, that is often white people raising Children of Color, which may also include lack of diversity, and/or racist family members and friends. It also failed to mention any additional layers of loss and trauma that children adopted at an older age will undoubtedly have whether same race or transracial adoption. It did note that some bigger challenges like RAD, SPD and others may be part of the adoptee experience, but again, it reminded the reader that they too aren’t unique to adoptees...(could it be because we too are humans?)
I just found it incredibly dismissive to the adoptee. I wonder what box I’d be put into, I was and I am adopted, not one or the other. I struggled as a child over feelings of being abandoned, rejected, that something was wrong with me that I wasn’t kept, rather, parental rights to me were given up. Struggled because I had no genetic mirror. Those struggles and feelings were tied directly to having been adopted out of my family. I still struggle with those feelings at times, especially, the ones that bring out the feelings of abandonment, it’s not if someone will leave, it’s when, yet, mom and dad proved over decades they would only leave us when death took them, so I didn’t get those feelings from them. I have always had a strong relationship with my family and still have fifty some years later. I also speak critically about how adoption is practiced, how people act, I don’t do it because I’m angry (although at times I am), I do it so that the adopted experience is better understood.
The adopted experience can’t be captured in overly simplistic sound bite messages that avoid the complexity, challenges, complicated feelings that can happen because you are adopted.
To those who read and comment regularly: The last month has been more emotionally challenging and exhausting than the months preceding have been in this saga of being part of a family and the inevitable journey we all have face at some point, so, my patience is even shorter than normal. But this blog is also my refuge to get away from the hard parts of life, so thank you to all who have continued to carry-on the conversation in the comments, I may not respond, but I read the comments and it helps me take my mind off other things.