Adoption hierarchy and stereotypes

23 Apr

I’ve been re-watching the series Newsroom and the last episode I watched was where Will is in jail for contempt and is having a conversation with an imaginary cell mate.  The conversation ended with Will saying McKenzie was smarter than he is, and I started thinking about gender stereotypes, marriage, biases, and how we’ve been conditioned by society that woman are the weaker sex, not as strong, brave, or smart.  How I’ve dealt with that in my personal life, and yes, I’ve bought into the stereotypes and biases from time to time, or ensured I framed my words to keep ego’s intact, other times, not so much.  I am still a work in progress.

The same occurs in the world of adoption and society, the stereotypes, biases, gender, and the societal conditioning to see each role in a hierarchical way, but in adoption, some roles are also reversed.  It’s easy to recognise the hierarchical differences, whose voice is dominant, who gets heard the most, believed the most is at the top.

If you need an example of what I mean, take the recent bankruptcy of IAC and how the articles are framed, I’ve linked a few below.  As you read, hear whose voices are being heard, quoted, who the concern is for.  Whose voices are missing.  If you didn’t already know, it’s the adopting parents voices being heard from, the money they are out, their dreams dashed. Almost nothing about the expectant mom’s currently matched except as the supplier of the babies the clients want.  If there were any expectant mothers not matched yet, it isn’t noted.  Nothing about the first mom’s whose only link to get updates on their child being gone because the adoption agency closed (mediated semi-open via updates through the agency). Nothing about adoptees who were adopted from IAC (who holds their files), their access to any non-identifying information they have a legal right to receive once they become adults, any ability to have the agency facilitate contact. First moms and adoptees might as well not exist to the public at large, except as bit players linked to the adoptive parents.  And first fathers, they aren’t even mentioned, they simply don’t exist.

So that’s how adoption news is handled to the public that shapes their view on adoption.  Is it any wonder then that the adopting and adoptive parents hold top-tier in the hierarchy in the adoption world too?  Even the Chronicle of Social Change focused their article on IAC primarily on the adopting parents, a few mentions of the recruited birthparents, the adoptees are only referenced in regards to the supply of adoptable children.

Adoption agency’s sudden closure leaves prospective parents hanging

Agency’s bankruptcy dashes adoption hopes across U.S.

Heartbroken Families Demand Answers After Adoption Agency Abruptly Closes: ‘I’m Never Going to Have a Child’

I’d challenge you to recognize who you give the benefit of doubt to, and why, and is it just because of their place in adoption?  Whose posts you share, and why, and if you do share a first mom or adoptee post, how is it received, and specifically, how did you present it?  Ask yourself, does their view on adoption shape their reaction, or did your presentation shape it?  We can all do better in understanding and accepting that ‘adoption’ has both good and bad in it, loss and gain, pain and joy, and I challenge all of us to recognize our biases, and consider whether they have been shaped by societal conditioning of what adoption is, or our lived experiences, or both.


Posted by on April 23, 2017 in Adoption, adoptive parents


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

28 responses to “Adoption hierarchy and stereotypes

  1. Luanne

    April 23, 2017 at 5:09 pm

    How did it come to be this way? With all the other changes in our culture, why has this not changed (if it hasn’t at all)? What do you think?

    Liked by 2 people

    • TAO

      April 23, 2017 at 5:13 pm

      I don’t know for sure, I think it is probably a mix of lifetime trashy movies, media bias, the savior mentality, and people can’t imagine giving away their baby so the mother must be…

      Liked by 2 people

      • Lara/Trace

        April 23, 2017 at 5:59 pm

        YES! I went to the local library and asked them to find me a list of movies with an adoption-theme (hundreds were on the list) and BAM – they were all about people adopting. BIAS? I saw a few of those movies growing up. We adoptees are not getting very far compared to the millions the adoption industry spends on marketing their services to infertile couples.

        Liked by 2 people

      • Luanne

        April 23, 2017 at 7:01 pm

        And maybe that the cards were always held by who had the money and the power. Because of secrecy and shame for decades, it left power in the hands of adoptive parents. Obviously, they more often had more money than young single women, too. I just wonder why this hasn’t changed and wonder if it will change. It seems to be changing in the “adoption world,” but the public at large seems locked in decades old ideas about adoption.

        Liked by 1 person

        • TAO

          April 23, 2017 at 7:27 pm

          True enough, I don’t think it will ever change in the public perception.

          Liked by 1 person

          • Luanne

            April 23, 2017 at 8:23 pm

            Not sure . . . .


            • TAO

              April 23, 2017 at 8:26 pm

              I hope you’re right and I’m just being cynical.

              Liked by 1 person

              • L4R

                April 25, 2017 at 4:30 pm

                Of course it will change. Nearly everything does–eventually.

                Liked by 2 people

    • maryleesdream

      April 24, 2017 at 2:20 am

      Adoption is a sacred cow. Saying anything bad about it is considered wrong. It does not matter if you were adopted yourself, or if you gave up a child. There is no tolerance for saying anything negative.

      I don’t know exactly why either. Did the agencies do such a great job, that society has accepted separating mother and newborn as a good thing? It makes no sense to me. We see this attitude on shows like 16 and pregnant, where a young couple is praised for giving up their firstborn and keeping the next.

      It baffles this adoptee, who can clearly see that mothers and their newborns should be kept together, whenever possible.

      Liked by 2 people

      • TAO

        April 24, 2017 at 2:16 pm

        I think you’re right Marylee.


  2. onewomanschoice

    April 24, 2017 at 12:49 pm

    I have been thinking about the hierarchy in adoption as well and was planning on writing a post about it. So thank you for doing so. And yes, there is most definitely a hierarchy in adoption.

    I understand the family hierarchy. I understand the work hierarchy (I don’t understand why the managers at my job get special close parking spaces but that’s another issues). However, I really don’t understand the adoption hierarchy. Maybe it goes back to the 60’s baby scoop era and so many of the females were young and were not considered adults yet and of course most males just went MIA or were not excepted to be held accountable for their part in the process, It was usually the females fought. So I think in a way she was treated like a criminal and we know how we treat criminals. It’s sad because a beautiful soul would have come through that female. But society shunned her and at the point, her status dropped in society. I think that is why so many women never spoke of their birth/relinquishment/adoption experience again or for many, many years.

    I have a friend who passed away a few years. This was a strong confident and very beautiful woman. After she reunited with her lost daughter, she began to change, emotionally and physically. This is a woman who walked with her head high, not arrogantly but sure of who she was. When she met her lost daughter and even more so, her lost daughter’s adoptive parents, she immediately felt submissive, unsure, second best. I could tell just by talking to her at the office when she would share her reunion details with me. It showed in her eyes and her body language.
    I had known her for five years so I knew her demeanor and it changed drastically. That change was difficult for her. I think it messed with her whole ideology of who she was or who she thought she was and then began to believe that who she really was what the adoption industry thought she was. She began to drink heavily and eventually died of liver disease. It was heartbreaking to me because I knew. I am not so sure others did and that hurts me even more.

    The hierarchy goes: adoption professionals, adoptive parents, adoptees, birth families (siblings, grandparents, aunts, uncles) and then birth parents. Birth parents (my role) are at the bottom of the totem pole. It’s something that I have tried very hard to change. And I try to think on a higher spiritual level. God sees all these things. He sees what has been done and that’s what matters most.

    I will say that while there is still somewhat of a hierarchy, the gap is not as large in my own adoption triad family experience. My son’s parents in the early years, tried very hard to cultivate a genuine family for the sake of our children. Over the years, I think the hierarchy feeling I felt may at times have come from my own psyche too because of how society views adoption. It’s been programmed and ingrained into American culture. Even my own family treats me as the lessor: example when I was speaking with my mother about our relationship, my mother said that I was lucky to have them in my life. When I said that I felt as if they were blessed to have us (me and Jaren (my first born son) in their life, my mother quickly dispelled my comment and belief and said, “No, Noah is blessed to have you in his life but not his parents.” That broke me that own mother thought so less of me.

    To answer your question, I read all sides of adoption but tend to read more adoptees and birth families experiences but I also like to read post from adoptive parents as long as it is an informative piece and not bias or degrading to one or more groups. I will quit reading it mid-stream.

    Liked by 2 people

    • TAO

      April 24, 2017 at 2:14 pm

      Thank you for this, I hope everyone takes the time to read (and think) about what you’ve said.

      Liked by 1 person

    • maryleesdream

      April 25, 2017 at 12:05 am

      I do not think that the adoptee is number 2 in the adoption hierarchy. We are only merchandise, with no rights at all. Given away, then sold to another family. No power at all.

      The only good adoptee is one who is grateful to be given away. No one, and I mean no one wants to hear anything different.

      Adoptees are orphans, we are wards of the state. I don’t think orphans are ever very powerful.

      I think athe adoptive parents and adoption agencies hold all the power, follow the money. Adoptees and their mothers usually have none.

      Liked by 3 people

      • onewomanschoice

        April 25, 2017 at 12:17 am

        I can see your point.

        Liked by 1 person

      • beth62

        April 27, 2017 at 1:53 pm

        Have been thinking about the ranking between Adoptee and original Family.
        We start off in the same car. We are seen as resources with a job to do.
        We get lousy parking spots, of course. Something is certainly up if we are offered a special spot, beware, don’t fall for it, sucker.

        The bosses get the good spots. Why? Because they can, and because the lessers can’t do much about it but bitch or get tossed out of the lot completely for not going along with the parking plan made by the boss. Even so, I do know plenty who choose to park in the back lot and walk with us, regardless of status given by others, thank god.

        I’m pretty sure they fired my Mother as soon as her project was completed. Revoked all parking privleges. My father never even got hired.

        I think I may have gotten promoted, and got a good parking spot as long as I am carpooling with the boss. All of that was dependant on my behavior and performance. Screw up and you can get sent right back to the distant muddy clunker lot in an instant.

        Not sure which is worse, being banned from the lot completely, or having to park in it somewhere.

        Have been thinking on the ranking between Adoption businesses and prospective or Adopted parents. I think the status is fairly the same at the start, then both sides begin the best parking spot battles. Both still get better parking spots than the ones driving the clunkers. I’m thinking it’s often individuals determining who wins the battle there for the best spot, and just plain luck too. The ruthless tend to win in the boardroom.

        There are ways around that parking lot 🙂
        I walk, a lot. Take your stinkin parking lot and shove it.
        I ride a motorcycle. I’ll park where I please. People usually don’t say a thing. The intimidation factor is at play sometimes with motorcycles, maybe, people don’t say much to ya. If it’s cold or raining, or I’m running late, or for no real reason at all, I’m liable to ride right up the side walk and park near the front door, under the overhang. Often only hearing compliments about my ride. 🙂

        Maybe that’s why I can’t seem to talk normal 🙂 or straight up about things. Defiantly hiding from status, making my own, don’t care so much about what status I’m given by others or where others think I should park. Ain’t playing that game unless it must be played for survival. btdt.
        Maybe I’ve been thinking too much 🙂

        Liked by 2 people

  3. beth62

    April 24, 2017 at 1:59 pm

    When a person is not seen as a “real person” – they barely make placement on any rung, if there is even one placed there for them.
    Many tend to treat those they’ve placed on the bottom rungs as resources, not “real” people like themselves. It’s everywhere, in Adoption it is so very “in my face”. In Adoption it’s not frowned upon or noticed, maybe just not called out, like it is with other things, employment, lending, housing, marriage, school, military, services, shopping, laws, medical, etc..

    I became a real girl, in many people’s eyes, when/after I was adopted. I guess many can’t see us, can’t quite make us out before then, the “live dolls”, or our mothers, fathers – because of the fog.
    I remember when I couldn’t see myself because of the fog.

    I wish I could remember more of those things that cleared the fog at my house, so I could give a short explanation to others of how to easily do it at their house too!
    A quick how-to youtube video 🙂


  4. Cindy

    April 24, 2017 at 10:23 pm

    You said it, onewomanschoice. Not in the exact words but we’re, *never good enough to be human* as in, a daughter, a woman, a mother. Your mother is quite the challenge (putting it politely) isn’t she?! Her comments translate to; you’re lucky we still want you around instead of tossing you to the curb. Yep, always less than. Oh well.

    We can’t ever do enough to redeem ourselves from that horrible “sin” can we? What I can’t understand is why I kept putting up with the abuse for so long. I still hear things of that nature but now, they can’t expect me to just stand there anymore and take ‘the whip’ of their high and mighty condescension. I’ll turn it right around on them and straighten out their thinking. I won’t tolerate it any more. The way I see it they aren’t just treating me like that, they are treating every other mother that way as well…. NOT acceptable.

    (It’s tough to have to ‘fight’ the whole of societal stinking thinking on this ADOPTION IDOL that so many worship.)

    It’s getting better ..though there is less frequent contact (~_~). Maybe the message is coming through that I’m not a doormat, or a piece of trash, or a less than that can stepped on to elevate themselves.

    So sad about your friend.

    When I read about Erin Moran yesterday I couldn’t help but wonder, with an ache in my heart if… she too, isn’t a ‘hidden mother’.

    Liked by 2 people

    • onewomanschoice

      April 25, 2017 at 12:13 am

      yes challenging indeed.

      I love your comment: “The way I see it they aren’t just treating me like that, they are treating every other mother that way as well…. NOT acceptable.”

      I will remember that. It will be the strength I need to continue to rise. I am just so thankful for Tao and others like them who work very hard to bring awareness to the whole of the adoption triad. At the same time, to bring unity and maybe even compassion.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Cindy

        April 27, 2017 at 4:20 pm

        It does give strength to fight and stand up for other mothers and their children who have been severed by or may come to be threatened by the guillotine of adoption.

        Liked by 2 people

  5. Step Parent Adoption

    April 26, 2017 at 9:46 am

    Thanks for sharing this article.


    • TAO

      April 26, 2017 at 10:49 pm

      Hi if this is David Lewis…why are you here under a different name? Why are you so interested in this blog? What can we do for you?


      • beth62

        April 27, 2017 at 2:24 pm

        4-26-17, Security Log: David Lewis is at the gate, possibly with a fake parking pass. He was requested to produce ID and reason for visit…

        Status is a fickle b
        depends on the space you want to enter, with a legit pass, that’s just how she works.


  6. Maegan Jones

    May 4, 2017 at 6:52 am


    Healthline would like to congratulate you on making our list of the Best Adoptee Blogs of 2017!

    Our editors carefully selected the most up-to-date, informative, and inspiring blogs that aim to uplift their readers through education and personal stories. We’re glad to have you on the list!

    We’ve created a badge that you can embed on your site to let your readers know about your win. The embed code is at the link below.

    Winners list:
    Badge to embed:

    If you have any questions or need help embedding the badge, feel free to be in touch. Congratulations and keep up the great blogging!


    Maegan Jones | Content Coordinator
    Your most trusted ally in pursuit of health and well-being

    Liked by 3 people

    • TAO

      May 4, 2017 at 1:52 pm

      Thank you Maegan, I don’t quite know what to say.



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