I’m old and most days can easily become grumpy at the drop of a hat. That happened yesterday on a comment thread on NYT’s FB post of an article. My grumpiness wasn’t over the article, it was good, it was because the PAL crowd got terribly upset in a how dare you way and we demand you fix it, and fix it now (which the NYT did)
Their issue in the headline: Given up for adoption…
The headline is changed but this is the post.
First comment on FB:
“Wonderful article and story. But one edit: please, NYT, use more adoption-appropriate language. Mr. Schmidt was “placed” for adoption, not “given up” for adoption. It may sound like a matter of semantics, but for adoptive families, it is much more. Given up implies that he was cast aside, while in reality, it seems quite clear that he was placed with a family who gave him a loving, secure upbringing. And given his birth parents’ obvious delight in reconnecting with him, it hardly seems like they “gave up” on him. It’s a matter of an adopted child’s story starting with a negative or a positive, and a child being raised by people who can care for him in a way his birth parents could not at that time in their lives, is very positive.”
Many comments later in the sub-thread she speaks again:
“Since there seems to be such interest, another adoption-positive term is that the birth mother “made an adoption plan.” This indicates that the birth mother played an active role in placing their child for adoption, and took the loving action of planning the best possible future for their child, at a time when they were not able to parent effectively. This term is only accurate for certain adoptions, but also falls within the context of making sure that the adopted child knows that their adoption came from a place of caring.”
Except the adoption happened 36 years ago, when placed for adoption wasn’t the common language used, and wouldn’t be for a few years.
We were given up or put up for adoption. Our mothers surrendered (or relinquished) their parental rights to us. We were adopted. I don’t think you get to demand our lived experience and language gets changed in our stories because you think placed and planned is more positive. Quite frankly, being given up for adoption seems a hell of a lot easier knowing my mother didn’t really have a choice being white and middle class in that era. I’m of the mind that having my mother plan to willingly place me for adoption wouldn’t make me swoon with thankfulness, it was hard enough knowing she didn’t have a choice. Willingly, no, just no, that wouldn’t be better for me. And I’ve thought about the difference between my adoption and today’s version and no thanks, I’ll stick with it not being a real choice, at all.
And the woman I quoted above may want to take a walk down adoption history to fully understand that most of us weren’t unwanted, thrown away, abandoned, we just weren’t acceptable to society given our status at birth. If you think about it, the way the adoptive parent commenters in thread reacted, has shades of a different time, my time, when society required (dictated) our mothers put us up for adoption.
And adoptees from pre PAL – do feel free to disagree with me here, I’m but one voice in a sea of many and we all have the right to what we feel and think.
The next reason I got angry…
How disrespectful and rude can adoptive parents today be? At a glance it seems half the comments are on Positive Adoption Language and are at the very start of the comments. Instead of commenting on the people and the story being told, the comments were all about PAL. I’d also guess most of those piling on with the PAL fervor hadn’t even read the story. Adoptive parents – do better, be respectful of the story, stop making it about you. If you really feel you need to say something, grab a pen and paper and write a letter to the editor, put it in an envelope, address it, stamp it, and mail it.