The last couple of days have been hard in adoption for many of us. Hard for no reason other than new parents decided to do something for whatever personal reason they had, likely without knowing how ill-suited it was. There really is no excuse for even new adoptive parents not to have taken the time to understand adoption, the nuances, the history, what is proper, what’s not. These parents clearly did not do so, and they were wrong. Many other people in adoption also seem to not have any idea of why what these new parents chose to do was not in good taste. I’m going to try to explain why I think it was the wrong decision to make.
Some ground rules first: This is not about how an individual adoptee/adoptive parent/first parent may feel about the video that caused the ruckus and the media frenzy of trying to get rights to show it far and wide. It doesn’t matter if someone thought it was cute, beautiful, joyful, whatever adjective used, or string of adjectives you want to attach. Arguments about how this video promotes adoption are simply rhetoric used to justify bad behavior, or, being kind, poor choices made.
Adoption does not happen overnight. It does not exist in a vacuum. There is no dearth of information available at your fingertips to understand the history, the present, the people in adoption, the price paid for losing your family.
Nothing in life is perfect, adoption happens because a tragedy occurred. It isn’t pretty; it’s a solution to a tragedy, it can be a good solution, but it comes at a steep price.
This is about adoption, the history, the people in it, the one at the center, that above all else, must be protected, the child. The child matters most in adoption. The child is the one who, for whatever reason, needs new parents, parents who take on the sacred duty of raising a child who has already lost so much. Parents who are prepared, suited for, and comprehend that you don’t treat a brand new baby as a gimmick and broadcast a video to be picked up by news agencies looking for the latest shiny object to wow their readers with. You don’t tell the world that you came home and told your children: “We met them at the door and told them that we had been out Christmas shopping and got them a gift to share…and it was under the tree.” and they see the baby.
How could anyone think it was acceptable to link Christmas shopping with an adopted baby? Even if they refused to learn the history of adoption that includes “baby selling”, surely, while they were waiting, they must have read a few of those annoying lists of what not to ask adoptive parents, here are the first three lists that came up from google. The numbers below are the number it appeared in the list.
The history of adoption that includes “baby selling”? Perhaps the best known is Georgia Tann, a person who was very powerful and did whatever she wanted. She was not an aberration in adoption, it happened far more often than people want to believe. To get the merest glimpse, everyone should read Barbara Bisantz Raymond’s book “The Baby Thief, the Untold Story of Georgia Tann, the Baby Seller Who Corrupted Adoption“.
In the book she speaks of a file she’d labelled “Georgia’s Christmas Baby Ads”. The file “contained some of the approximately 400 child advertisements Georgia ran between 1929 and the early 1940’s”. In 1929, it started out as a series of articles that were really advertisements for an annual Christmas baby giveaway.
“Want a real, live Christmas present?” read an article introducing the campaign published on December 9, 1929.
“A present guaranteed to add two-fold to the joy of the holidays.”
“Georgia ran different ads, featuring different children, every day that December of 1929 and during each subsequent year until the early 1940’s, every day from, the beginning of November until January 1.”
They were captioned:
“Could YOU Use a Christmas Baby?”
“Which [of three infant boys] Will You Have for Christmas?”
“Living Dolls [three baby girls] for YOU.”
“Are You in the Market for a 14-Month-Old Boy?”
“Put Your Orders in Early.”
“Dan, Jimmy, Ray . . . Want One of Them?”
You can also read about Georgia Tann in the Kefauver sub-committee documents. Included is a Report to Governor Gordon Browning. Section 1 – by Robert L Taylor special counsel on the investigation of Tennessee Children’s Home Society. Pages 219 – 229 I’d urge you to read Section 2 as well that concludes on page 235. People did speak up. Doctors spoke up. It took years before enough was enough. Great harm was done and Georgia got rich.
Apparently, the scandal was extensively covered in the news media, yet the press also didn’t learn from history. They continued to focus on heartwarming adoption stories, like my friend’s Christmas Story that I wrote about last year. It didn’t matter that my friend had been home since the prior March, they wanted to do a Christmas story, snippets below of the actual newspaper text and headlines.
However my friend felt throughout the intervening years, loved it, hated it, ambiguous about it – 50 years later, this story is triggered in her memories every Christmas. The one in the middle is the one who the adoption story is about, everyone else is simply a bit player in the story, yet their actions impact the one the story is about.
Your actions set the course for your child’s view of being adopted, her family and her place within it. Why would you chance tainting it for the proverbial 15 minutes of fame? A child is not a gift to be given or received. You don’t give humans as gifts, you can’t own or give away a person, and you certainly can’t buy one.
Dear parents and soon to be parents in adoption – please do better…
P.s. To any adoption professionals listening. You have a duty to do better in educating those who you approve to adopt, or, work with. If you don’t understand adoption history, or, why this is wrong, please do your homework.