Why I (An Adoptive Parent) Am Not Pro-Adoption

by my Mother – retired social worker, adoptive parent, voracious reader

How many times have I looked at my daughter over the last seventeen years and been thankful for her presence in my life? Her laughter, her curiosity, her intelligence, and her humor have enriched my days and brought a kind of joy that I never could have imagined. The fact that we are together at all has sometimes seemed nearly miraculous to me. Out of all of the children who were in social welfare institutes in China in 1997, she was matched with our family. Adoption was just the beginning of a journey that has been filled with glitter and giggles, adventures and achievements, tears and travels, and most of all, love. How is it that I now am at this place where I question the very institution that created our family?

As with many caring people, my heart has always been touched when I have heard stories about children in need. Compelling portraits abound in the media of children who have been neglected or abused, their innocent faces staring longingly. Added to these images are portraits in the news of children languishing in orphanages, crowded together in spare environments with no one-on-one care. Is it any wonder that the first response for many adults is to think of adoption, of removing these children from such conditions and placing them in a loving homes? I suspect it is here where the rhetoric of “saving” or “rescuing” children first develops. But it is also here where we must be challenged to look deeper, to ask hard questions, and to move beyond adoption as being the first or only response.

Before there is an adoption, there is a first family. In looking only at the child, it is easy to let those first parents fade into the background, to relegate them to a past tense position with names such as birthparents, which make them into little more than human incubators. Or we create narratives about them, making them into either saints or sinners. We say that they loved their child so much that they sacrificed so the child can have a better life. Should any parent ever be asked to surrender a child so that child can have a better life? Is there not something inherently immoral about people of means becoming parents to the children of poor people around the world? What if we, the potential adoptive parents, sacrificed adopting a child and donated the same amount of money that an adoption entails to support agencies that work towards improving the lives of families in third world countries so they can keep and raise their children in healthy environments? And why do some agencies, businesses, and churches give grants to help people adopt? Again, that money could be better used to support services in home countries. Or how about those “sinner” first families, the ones who use drugs or alcohol, or who beat or severely neglect their children? What if resources were readily available to those families – excellent day care, easily accessed top notch treatment programs, decent housing, mental health services, job training for family supporting jobs, and on going emotional support for struggling parents? Could ripping families apart and children in and out of foster care and later adoption be avoided? I suspect that the answer to this would be “yes.” It wouldn’t work for all but would definitely preserve many families. Having worked in the foster care system for many years, I am well aware of the myriad of obstacles families face in trying to reunify with their children.

It is my belief that children belong with their first families whenever possible. Adoption should be a last resort and should be about finding appropriate families for children, not children for families. This means understanding that adoption is built on loss, and that loss is often permanent of first parents, siblings, a whole kinship system, parts of racial and cultural identity, and a sense of wholeness. Adoption is not a one time act where the door to one life closes and a new, better one begins. It is a life long process of self discovery and integration, with pain, confusion, and living with dualities often regular companions. We first must be willing to see that it is arrogant to assume that having more things, opportunities, and wealth is a fair trade off for losing that first family. If we value family, we will value them.

Like she has in so many areas, my daughter (the writer of this blog) has brought me to a clearer understanding of the many complicated issues around adoption – how monetary transactions have led to corruption, how first families have sometimes been lied to, deceived, or tricked into relinquishing children, how cultures can be punitive to single mothers, and how demand creates a climate for adoption to become more of a consumer venture. With all of these realities, I can’t, in good faith, be pro-adoption. That doesn’t make me anti-adoption either. I realize that there will always be legitimate reasons for adoption and that children can’t be allowed to suffer while societies change cultural or political values. It does mean, however, that I have an obligation to advocate for changes that will make adoption more transparent and ethical and less needed. I can start by supporting programs that help preserve families whether that is an organization for single mothers in Korea, micro loans to start small businesses for mothers in Africa, or parent education classes in the United States.

Read the follow up piece on being “Freshly Pressed” and all of the attention this blog post has received here.

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174 responses to “Why I (An Adoptive Parent) Am Not Pro-Adoption

  1. I really admire your blog. And hooray for sharing your mom’s revelations about adoption. I, too, have been inspired and motivated by my daughter…and I am daily leveraging my own experiences as an adoptee to engage in conversations, advocate for change, and walk the talk for her and for me.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you for writing down your thoughts which echo mine. It strikes me when children who live happily in foster families in China are taken away from these families to be adopted abroad. Why? Money? And there are so many other things that puzzle me and that I did not want to see. My happiness is based on the grief of the birth families of my daughters and that does not feel right. I am lucky to be in touch with my youngest daughter’s birth family and know that they have gone through so much pain and grief over losing her. My daughter was not abandoned nor forgotten but remembered every day. They are so very happy that she is back in their lives. I totally agree with trying to help children to stay with their birth families. It does not have to cost a lot. I am supporting a charity which helps children stay with their birth families in China by paying school fees. It is only about 15 USD a month. So very little is needed to help these families, let’s do just that!

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  3. Beautiful post. Powerful and insightful, as is consistent with your blog! As an adoptive mom who loves her children beyond words, and who questions adoption and speaks out about family preservation, I’m so glad to read your mom’s words here. Thank you.

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  4. As a birth mother (reunited with my son in 2012) and the adoptive mother of a son born in Vietnam, I agree with you wholeheartedly. I remember seeing a documentary years ago, before adopting my son, that was about the plight of Vietnamese orphans, only they weren’t all orphans. (This was before the end of the war.) There was one scene that has remained with me for decades of an earnest young American social worker, talking a Vietnamese mother into allowing her baby to be sent to America for adoption. The mother had other children, who were standing around, and she cried and cried as the social worker explained how much better off her baby would be in the U.S. Eventually the mother gave in and let her baby go. That is exactly the kind of situation we should strive to avoid. Now when I see families with what are obviously adopted children, I can’t help but think about all that lies behind that child, all the family, language, and culture that are lost forever. Buying your daughter a Korean outfit or cooking a Chinese meal once in a while is not enough to create a sense of truly belonging. We need to acknowledge the loss and do much more to help children who are adopted deal with their inevitable adoption issues. Our efforts so far have been woefully inadequate.

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    • Thanks for reading. You’re right, there is a lot of work to do on both the sending and receiving sides of adoption, but I remain optimistic that the necessary reform will come about someday.

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    • We should probably not want to characterize the real world outcomes for these little ones in this manner. Thousands of abandoned Central American children have been lucky to survive murder and rape in their escapes from warring central American countries. Now they sit at our border; lets get real. Let’s not pretend we are being compassionate to these tots in our notions that their parents were coaxed to give them up AGAINST their will.

      Another real world reality is that unless the human turkey farms for these children at our southern border can be dealt with, all the puppy dog tears found here hides a plot to murder these children through inaction. You do know the GOP have turned their collective backs on reforming immigration policy endlessly through recent years?

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      • I don’t equate international adoption with the crisis on our border. I agree that we should treat these refugee kids compassionately and certainly not send them back to dangers of all kinds. They wouldn’t have made this trek if there weren’t compelling reasons, and I don’t want to call out the National Guard on them. Good Lord!

        What I find troubling is taking babies and very young children from families that are simply too poor to care for them and resort to abandoning their children or putting them in orphanages. I would much rather see poor families receive help to keep their children. The money spent on a single adoption could go a long, long way in an African or an Indian village. And when the big bucks start flowing in from the west, there is more incentive for the unscrupulous to work to persuade parents that their children would be better off in an American suburb. Materially, they would undoubtedly be better off, but at what cost? Summer camp in the Adirondacks is no substitute for one’s own mother. (FYI, I am a both a birth mother and the adoptive mother of a Vietnamese son.)

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      • I agree very much with Pam. If you don’t believe coercion is prevalent in international adoption, recall why much of Latin American countries have been shut down for adoption or read this is a good article: http://www.theatlantic.com/china/archive/2013/07/kidnapped-and-sold-inside-the-dark-world-of-child-trafficking-in-china/278107/

        Additionally, let’s not forget the Hunan scandal of 2005, in which more than 1,000 babies were trafficked and bought between orphanages. http://www.marketplace.org/topics/life/reporters-notes/take-my-daughter-confessions-chinese-baby-trafficker

        Or read this story, of a girl who was stolen from her family in Ethiopia, a new adoption “hot-spot”country, by family friends who work for corrupt adoption agencies. http://www.cnn.com/2013/09/16/opinion/international-adoption-tarikuwa-lemma-stolen-children/

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  5. Here another adoptive parent who fully agrees with your mother’s point of view! Thanks for posting. I hope your mom reads LightOfDayStories blog and Margie Perscheids posts: both kindred spirits.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Reblogged this on Betyie and commented:
    Ein Beitrag einer Adoptivmutter einer chinesischen Tochter, der ebenfalls internationale Adoptionen problematisiert. Der Kernsatz:
    We first must be willing to see that it is arrogant to assume that having more things, opportunities, and wealth is a fair trade off for losing that first family. If we value family, we will value them.
    “Wir müssen gewillt sein zu einzusehen, wie arrogant die Annahme ist, der Zugewinn an Dingen, Chancen und Wohlstand könne den Verlust der ersten Familie aufwiegen. Wenn wir Familie als solche wertschätzen, ehren wir die erste Familie.”

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Thanks for sharing your mom’s thoughts and feelings about the practice of adoption. She has put to words (far more coherently than I can) the powerful contradictions that come from passionately loving your child and yet, being more and more convinced that the practice that allowed you to become her parent is deeply flawed and needs dramatic reform.

    Adoption as a last resort instead of a quick solution that ignores deeper societal issues and denies a basic human right is far tougher to implement, but it is what we need to strive for.

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  8. Your “adoption remorse” reminds me a little of women who had an abortion and later, regretting it, start campaigning against abortion. I am not implying that you regret adopting your child, but I think it is a little disingenuous on your part to speak out against adoption after having the life-changing experience yourself. I adopted my daughter from China. The issues that force parents to abandon their children in that country are not in any way under our control. Nor is there a way to, as you suggest, spend the money we spent adopting to help conditions in a tightly-controlled Communist country.

    I am deeply grateful for the gift of my daughter. We did not adopt her to “save” or “rescue” her. We adopted her to share the only thing we have that is truly of value – our love. She was, in point of fact, in an orphanage, and her only chance at a home was to be adopted. I have often thought of my daughter’s birth parents and what they lost with deep sadness. But I did not create the conditions which caused them to give up their child, nor could I have done anything to prevent them.

    With regard to domestic adoptions, child welfare agencies usually do anything and everything to keep families together or to reunite them if the children are temporarily put in foster care. I would argue you that at times the birth parents rights are given precedence over the welfare of the child, and children are sometimes put at risk as a result.

    I agree that adoptive parents should not turn a blind eye to potential abuses and marketing of children. Our nation as a whole should advocate for reforms where it is clear that illegal or immoral tactics are being used to force families to give up their children. But to come out as being against adoption is a disservice to the thousands of good-hearted adoptive families who just want to share their love.

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    • Believe me, I understand where you are coming from. I felt/feel the same way. I love my adopted son and believed–and still believe–that adoption probably saved his life. Mortality rates in his orphanage were 80%. Many adoptions are successful and work out very well. If we just consider international adoption, we must admit it’s a complicated issue. I don’t for a moment question your desire or your love for your child, but I am almost 100% certain that at some point in her life she will struggle with being adopted, even if she never tells you about it. So there’s that, and I assume you will be open with her and support her every way you can, including searching for her birth mother. I’m also concerned about the corruption and fraud that are common with international adoptions. The adoption industry is a very lucrative one, and not everyone involved is ethical. I find it disturbing that relatively well-off Westerners are essentially buying the children from poor countries. America even withholds foreign aid from countries that refuse to allow us to adopt their children. A child who is sent thousands of miles away from his original family, his culture, his heritage, his language, and his identity and then expected to be grateful is a child in an impossible position who has been given no choice in the matter. A single family can’t support an entire orphanage, but the money spent on adoption, taken all together, could do so much to help children in the country of their birth. It’s complicated, and every case is different, but I think we’ve assumed for too long that adopting a cute little Asian child is all rainbows and lolipops, and I know that it isn’t. We need to ask hard questions and be honest about what we’re trying to do.

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      • US withholds foreign aid to countries that refuse to allow us to adopt their children.

        Thank you for pointing that out. That is egregious. It’s like only offering help with pregnancy/hospital bills if we can have their newborn for adoption, but on a macro-level. Korea’s quite familiar with that tactic.

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        • The statement by Pam: “US withholds foreign aid to countries that refuse to allow us to adopt their children” is as far as I could check not true. Thank God. But maybe Pam has reliable sources?

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    • Don’t you think your “love” would be best shared in contributing to a family staying together instead of being ripped apart? Your comment screams “adoption is all about me”. And honestly ask yourself, which one of your children would YOU like to give away to a “loving” family?

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      • Andrea, I just don’t think it’s that simple. And I think the decision to become a parent, either biologically or by adoption, is essentially a selfish one. People want to experience the joy of unconditional love. Once you become a parent, though, you find that it is really all about them, your children.

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        • I agree that deciding to have a baby is a selfish act.  Who ever says, I think I’ll have a baby because it would be so good for the child ?  No.  It’s always a deep desire within the would-be parent, assuming this baby is planned, which many are not, even with married couples.  Then baby comes, and you learn all about selflessness.  Nature turns you inside out, and you go from I Need to My Child Needs.  Except in the most extreme circumstances, babies should stay with their mothers.  The placement of any child with a different family should only be done for the benefit of  the child, not the convenience of the birth mother, not the desires of potential adoptive parents.  Our adoption laws assume that what is really the exception is in fact the standard, and we need to see it in a totally different way, just as Americans have had to and are still having to see racial minorities in a different way.  I know the comparison is inexact, but basically how is the adoption of a baby so different from the 19th c. purchase of a slave?

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    • Thank you for reading and taking the time to comment. When my husband and I adopted our daughter from China in 1997, we did so because we thought it was a clean, ethical program. Over the years, it has become much less so. We didn’t even look at any other programs for the various reasons discussed in my piece. I don’t have “adoption remorse,” but I do have a growing consciousness that there is something inherently wrong with people from first world countries going from poor country to poor country around the world and adopting their children because we have the means to do so. I don’t think that most of us have done it with any evil intent, but rather, we have done it because we love children and want to welcome them in our families. However, whatever our intent, we have become party to systems that have led to the exploitation of first families, shoddy and unethical adoption practices, and even the trafficking of children. In order for that to even begin to change, we must acknowledge that it exists and is a problem. Then, we need to take whatever steps we can to support legitimate, honorable programs that help children stay in their first families. As I clearly stated in my piece, I am not anti-adoption, but I would like us to work towards a world where it is rarely necessary.

      As for your comments about our child welfare system, it indeed has many problems and children do suffer, whether it is from the pain of being removed from their families and often separated from siblings or from being returned too quickly to families who aren’t ready to parent them.However, it would definitely help if excellent services were plugged in immediately, if parents did not have to meet rigidly set visitation schedules, and if Churches and other groups who are so supportive of adoption would instead step in and support /mentor families at risk.

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      • Yes.  I agree absolutely.  BTW I don’t have “adoption remorse.”  I just think people should know everything that’s involved and be adequately prepared, as I was not.  Post-adoption support is essential too, and, needless to say, I never got that either, but that was back in the 70s.  We should know better by now, but I’m not convinced that we do.

          Pam Mom to David, 46 (found by me 1/12); Tanner, 43; Dabbs, 40 (adopted from Vietnam ’74); Saskia, 38 Grandmommy to Jonas,9, and Atticus, 5

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      • Just as a reminder, I am a birth mother as well as an adoptive mother, so I have those experiences in my wheelhouse. Some years ago I even worked for a small international adoption agency that was essentially a two-woman operation: the director, me, and a couple of part-time social workers to do home studies. I was able to see into the international adoption process itself, and that was when the adoption fog began to lift for me, though it took some time for me to realize it. The emphasis was very much on finding children for families who wanted them. Glossy brochures and “facebooks” were employed to advertise children, and there was a lot of discussion about which countries were easiest to adopt from. And, oh yes, these adoptions cost a lot of money. This was definitely a business. I was happy to leave that job, but I’m grateful for the opportunity it gave me to see the inside workings of the marketing of children.

        I’m not point a finger at anyone. I have many friends who have adopted foreign-born children, as I did myself. I remember how badly I wanted him, how much love I had just waiting for a child in need to give it to. I understand the desire for children; it’s a fundamental human drive without which our species would soon die out. But children are not commodities and they are not gifts. Every baby who is born wants one thing and one thing only: her mother.

        I lived in Canada during the Trudeau years, and I remember when Margaret Trudeau, the much younger wife of the P.M. who had three small sons, ran off to “do her own thing.” As I recall it, I believe the Rolling Stones were involved somehow.
        She got a lot of criticism for this, but this was the age of women’s lib. and free love and letting it all hang out. I remember an interview with Margaret where she cheerfully explained that her children (who were all quite young) were happy for her to go off and fulfill herself. B—S—. No young child puts his mother’s needs above his own.

        There needs to be a damn good reason to take a baby from his mother, and those reasons are few and far between, especially in America, which is why the children in poor countries make easier pickings. I believe virtually all adoptive parents have the best intentions in the world, but I have learned that good intentions, indeed love, are not enough.

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    • My mother actually didn’t come out as being “against adoption” in this article at all. She just wrote about why she can’t be supportive of a system that commodifies children, coerces first parents, and relies on social and political inequities to transport children around the world for profit (even if the end result is a loving home). “The thousands of good-hearted adoptive families who just want to share their love” may not want to hear these painful truths, but if they are really so loving, I know they will support efforts to eradicate these oppressive social systems that drive adoption. Exposing the darker realities of adoption prioritizes adoptees and will eventually do a service to the parents who will be able to keep their children and the children who will keep their families, languages, and cultures after significant adoption policy reform.

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    • A child is not a gift to be given. A child is a human person who needs their family. Viewing children as gifts is a huge part of what’s wrong with adoption. I am both an adoptee and a birthmother.

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    • Children are not gifts. Period.
      “to share our love”? Really? Love is based on truth and mutual respect (so I’m assuming that you didn’t lie about being her Mum)? because that would be a lie, and love is never based on lies.

      (Lie: A false statement made with deliberate attempt to deceive.)

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  9. I was adopted from Korea. I have two stepsons who were abandoned by their mother, so not officially adoptive mother, but good enough. I respect what your mother says and I echo what she says. Although I am ever so thankful to my adoptive parents, I would have bore the “price” of a hard life to remain with my bio mother. I suspect she has some mental impairment since meeting her. She still has so much love for me and the other adoptees- tissue worthy memories.

    TANGENT but relevant: I really wish that some (not all, I’m not going to hang myself on that generalization) wouldn’t find adoption to be a way to prove their faith. To me, adoption, just makes you an adoptive parent, the faith and Christian thing is what you do with that role and with your relationship with Christ. Why not sponsor 3rd world families so they can keep their babies? Loss of family, culture, identity cannot be patched by adoption.

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    • I completely agree with you (and as my mother said in the article, as well) that money would be better spent working to support families struggling to stay together. The fine for breaking the one child policy in China can be between $20-60,000 USD, roughly the cost of an international adoption. What if compassionate people from developed countries sponsored families to stay together, instead of using the same money to adopt after the family has been ripped apart?

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      • “The fine for breaking the one child policy in China can be between $20-60,000 USD, roughly the cost of an international adoption.”

        Coincidence or conspiracy. Seriously, something doesn’t smell right.

        Even if money was given to keep Chinese families together, what us is up with that one child policy and why does it seem to so neatly fit into the American adoption narrative?

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  10. It doesn’t sound like you are not ‘pro-adoption’, but rather that you recognize the need for it in certain circumstances, but want the glamour removed from it and for people to be more realistic about what it means to the adopted children and their birth families in real life, not just in imagination. You want corruption and fraud to be halted. You want low or no income families to have options so that they don’t feel they have no other option than giving their child up for adoption. More and better social services, etc. That is not anti-adoption, it’s pro-ethics. We’re in the process of obtaining guardianship of our foster daughter. It’s necessary beyond a doubt. Social services were offered at every turn and were turned down. Rehab, counseling, housing, many and regular visits, etc. Nothing has worked. Family members should not take her because they would put her back in the same situation that sent her to foster care to begin with. No one can go back several generations and stem the tide of substance abuse and disorganized thinking, which is what would be needed to avoid the situation that this child is in. She needs a permanent and stable home ASAP. This can be done along side continuing to support and mentor families like hers so that hopefully they’ll be able to make positive changes for themselves.

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      • In America, domestically, the exception is the rule. Women here are making the decision to abort rather than offer their child to adopt. Let the Chinese neighbors take care of their problems; we have our own. Rather like the notion that we should never again nation build beyond our own.

        Through the generosity of our son’s natural mother in Denver (USA), she walked away from abortion and had the courage to let her son live for grateful adoptive parents. From there he has had a chance to make all his own decisions.

        The sentiment here inadvertently encourages an abortion culture supposing “if I can’t keep my own baby, I will be an emotional mess forever in giving him/her up for adoption.” It is irrational to suppose any child is better off dead than not living an entitled life.

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        • It’s a misunderstanding to equate adoption with abortion. In fact, research indicates that preventing abortion doesn’t increase the number of babies available for adoption. In any case, babies belong with their own mothers, doesn’t matter if the mother is young or poor. The overwhelming majority of women with “crisis” pregnancies want to keep their babies and would if they had adequate support. And youth and poverty aren’t permanent conditions. The sad truth is that in America the adoption of babies is all about finding children for infertile couples, not finding families for children who are truly in need of families. We have built up a myth about adoption ever since the 1940s, and it’s time to get real.

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      • “The overwhelming majority of women with “crisis” pregnancies want to keep their babies and would if they had adequate support. ”

        Adaquate support must be a certain level of welfare. What might that be?

        A pregnancy without adequate support in America is not crisis as it might be in Central America. In America, what is adequate support? Does it include Gerber Baby Food? “Momma, how much money does it take for you to stay out of crisis?” American moms have all sorts of welfare and subsidies (reduced rent) and as WIC for adequate nutrition. What other support is needed to be adequate? The mood of the country has been to reduce the excess of what has been considered as “adequate”. Adequate support is always a number that is climbing to new levels.

        The Charities you have described outside America have little to absolutely no oversight. If they are run honestly, they simply bribe mothers to keep their children, No? Welfare to China from America.

        Statistics show that the overwhelming majority of women with “crisis” pregnancies abort in spite of what the people say is adequate support.

        Is it not true in America that the overwhelming number of pregnancies end in abortion regardless of support?

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        • Overwhelming number of pregnancies end in abortion. What??? Where does this come from? I don’t want to get into a shoving match with you, so I’ll just recommend you read Nancy Verrier’s two books, “Primal Wound” and “Coming Home to Self.” These will explain far better than I can the reasoning behind my stand on adoption. And when I talk about “support,” I don’t just mean financial. What’s really important is emotional support, and that’s what’s so often lacking when, say, a high school or college student finds herself pregnant. It sounds to me as if you want to end abortion so that more babies will be available for adoption, which I find beyond cynical. The opposite of abortion doesn’t have to be adoption. For the record, I’m pro-choice but definitely not pro-abortion. There’s a difference. I’d far rather see pregnant girls keep their babies, and rather than pressuring them to avoid abortion by opting for adoption, I say, let’s support them–in every way–in mothering their own babies. I remind you, I am a birth mother who surrendered a baby 46 years ago, as well as the adoptive mother of a 40 year old Vietnamese son. I think I know something about this subject. Thank you and good night.

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      • Pam,
        “It’s a misunderstanding to equate adoption with abortion.”

        Considering that when my wife and I adopted we had to wait 4 years while 1/4 of all women will abort in their lifetime, I understand the relationship quite well. It is simple math.

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      • Robin Bishop, I loathe to censor people’s voices on my blog, but your words are judgmental and non-productive in this conversation on adoption. This blog’s purpose is to discuss issues in the adoption system, not to debate pro-choice vs anti-choice ideology. I’ve left your comments regarding adoption posted.

        Just for the sake of medical accuracy, though, the birth control pill is not “an abortion machine that aborts every life created shortly after conception.” According the U.S. Department of Health, the birth control pill actually prevents pregnancy by keeping the ovaries from releasing eggs. The pills also work by causing the cervical mucus to thicken, which blocks sperm from meeting with and fertilizing an egg. (http://www.hhs.gov/opa/pdfs/birth-control-pill-fact-sheet.pdf)

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  11. http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2008/10/15/the_lie_we_love

    This doesn’t speak to whether the US denies foreign aid to countries that won’t part with their children (I saw it somewhere, but can’t cite the source), but this pretty well sums up my attitude toward international adoption. I know it was handled sloppily 40 years ago, and it seems there is just as much corruption as ever. As always, follow the money. Rich parents are essentially buying babies from poorer countries, and this is just wrong. I have many friends who have done adopted from abroad (as did I 40 years ago), and it’s difficult for me to suggest to them that they did something wrong. I know they love their adopted children, as I love my son. But that does not obviate the explotation that occurs when people want something that money can buy and that something is in short supply. Little children should not be treated as commodities, and that’s just what’s happened in the adoption industry ever since the 1950s.

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    • The Graf piece is great but doesn’t relate to US foreign policy. Please be careful when expressing such opinions when they can’t be backed up seriously. It just harms. State is in my vision working along ethical lines and serious about following Hague standards and regulations.

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  12. I respectfully disagree with you on many fronts. As an adoptive parent, my responsibility was to make SURE that my son was surrendered willingly and legally. Just because some programs are not following laws does not mean that adoption is not a beautiful way to form a family. I cannot imagine ever thinking that adoption itself is a negative thing. And I would never express that openly, for the sake of my child and the possibility of discouraging others to experience the joy that I have experienced, and the life that my son has and will experience.Yes there are challenges that adoptees will face (my Korean son is 17 and has had some) , and we will never know the loss that our children feel not having blood relatives and being abandoned. But the answer is not to leave them with foster families and in orphanages. Every child deserves a family that loves and cherishes them. My advice would be: Adopt with caution, but continue adopting children that need a forever family.

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    • Michelle, there is no way to make sure that your son was surrendered willingly. In Korea, many single women were shamed into surrendering their children or forced to by other relatives. Many of these women continue to grieve the loss of their children to this day. All you have to do is read many of the reunion stories to learn how happy so many of these families are to be found. Your son may or may not decide to search. Each person is different in that regards. As for my daughter, I can assure you that she feels secure in my love and doesn’t interpret my words as meaning that I am not thankful on a daily basis for the privilege of being her mother.However, I realize that the joy I experience being her parent has come at the great loss to her first family who most likely felt compelled to surrender her because of the One Child Policy. Additionally, she has experienced the loss of language, culture, and the whole network of relatives that most of us take for granted.That is why I firmly believe adoption ,especially out of country, should not be the first option considered and that if we really care about children, we will begin to see that our love has got to be broader, more inclusive, in order to work towards creating conditions where children don’t have to be surrendered in the first place. It’s an ideal, but one worth striving towards.The first step is examining how we think about family, justice, and the best interests of the child, not how we can form a family.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Michelle, I’m so touched that you worried about how I would receive my mother’s opinions on corruption in the international adoption system, but her sentiments very much echo my own. I began thinking critically on adoption a couple of years ago and am so glad that my mother has kept an open mind and compassionate heart through my transitioning thoughts. Together, we have come a long way in realizing the damage that can be done in the name of adoption. Additionally, I don’t think this piece was written to dissuade others from adopting, but to enhance awareness of inconvenient truths of the system.

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  13. First of all, I’m sorry I threw out something as a fact that I couldn’t substantiate. That doesn’t mean I was necessarily wrong, just that I’m not in the mood to do a ton of research. (As a retired academic, I’ve had enough of that.) I didn’t think a discussion like this, which is basically a conversation, needed such t-crossing and i-dotting, but I take your point.

    I do stand by my appreciation of the article and appreciate eunkyungsuh’s comment that she loves her adoptive parents but would have preferred to remain with her own mother. I don’t know how my adopted son feels. All my efforts to discuss adoption with him have gone nowhere, and as he’s now in prison they’re not likely to go anyplace any time soon. My first son, however, was adopted into a family that had everything money could buy, and my son lived a life of privilege that I could never have given him. When I pointed this out to him, he stated emphatically that he would a thousand times rather have been with me.

    What’s done is done. I have no desire to undo adoptions or to drive a wedge between adoptive parents and their children, but I do believe we need to think long and hard about where we go from here. It’s a real danger that we are letting idealism get in the way of what’s genuinely best for children. In my experience, most parents who adopt from abroad do so because they can’t have children of their own, and they see this as a way to have a family. Others, like me, do it because they want to “rescue” a child and give him a better life, but is it really? We are making decisions and assumptions that profoundly affect a child who has absolutely no say in the matter. No one asks to be born, and babies don’t ask to be adopted. Older children in genuine distress are another matter.

    I argue that family preservation should be paramount, whatever country a baby is born in. I’m sorry for folks who want a child and can’t have one, but their desire doesn’t outweigh the very probable harm that adoption, even the most successful, leads to. Again, older children and special needs children excepted.

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    • Yes! I think family preservation is key. The UN calls the family the building block of society. So what happens when these blocks are split in pieces? And what has allowed people to think fertility struggles entitle them to raise someone else’s child?

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    • I think First Mother Forum may have information about foreign aid being tied to adoption. I seem to remember seeing something written there a while ago about this.

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  14. http://childreninfamiliesfirst.org/legislation-chiff/

    This is what I was talking about. When you read the bill, it sounds fine; family preservation comes first and adoption last. But look at the long list of sponsors that follows and ask yourself where the bias lies. The adoption industry has “adopted” the language of benevolence, as opposed to the language of shame that was prevalent in the BSE, but it pushes in the same direction. Families for Children. Not, Children in their Families. If we’re so eager to help kids, lets do it where the kids are born. The adoption of foreign children seems to me to have the same impetus as the adoption of Native American children by white families back in the day. “The kids would be better off.” But what about whole families? Whole cultures?

    The world is a mess, and there’s no one right answer. I’m not against all adoption, though I do see every adoption as a tragedy–for someone, including the child. We need to be very careful, is what I’m saying.

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  15. I love this. It really hit home for me. Thank you for sharing. I really appreciate this view.. it makes me feel more connected to the ideal that adoption is not the only option for birth parents or the child themselves. I am a birth mom of 5 years.. and I completely agree with your points. I hope to read more from you on this and possibly chat. Feel free to read my blog. It’s all about my life as a birth mother and the struggles daily living with decisions as such. Again thank you. Have a great week.

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    • I looked briefly at your blog. OMG, I am so sorry for what you’re going through. Incredibly, horribly sorry. I wish there were something I could say to make you feel better, but there isn’t. You have entered a world of pain, and you need a world of support to help you through it. I hope that someday you and your daughter will be reunited and be able to have the relationship you both deserve. I hold you in my heart.

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      • No sorry necessary 🙂 that blog took place 4 years. The place I am on now is very happy. I know that all things happen for a reason and even if it may not seem like a happy place from an outside view.. I am very happy. Live life with no regrets and for the things we wish could change that’s where we learn to find joy in the journey 🙂

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    • Chavon, thank you so much for reading and commenting. The deep love you have for your daughter came through clearly on your blog. I am not familiar with all the ramifications of a “sealing” but hope that the family who adopted her will continue the open adoption. You are and always will be her mother, at least in my view of spirituality and of the world. I always told my daughter she had four parents-a mother and father in China and us, and we are all real parents. It’s not a competition. She can love all of us. The heart has a lot of room for love. I hope some day that you and your daughter will be together , and she will know how much you have hoped for her, cried for her, and loved her, always.

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  16. I’ve bookmarked and added your RSS feed to my Google account. I look forward to fresh updates and will talk about this blog with my Facebook group.

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  17. Pingback: Simultaneous Frustration and Gratitude on Being Freshly Pressed | Red Thread Broken·

  18. I agree with so much of what has been said here as an adoptive mom of two girls (now 13 and 17) born in China. I have felt some guilt at being allowed to raise two beautiful girls knowing that there are two birth families who grieve for them. I grieve my daughters losses of their first families. Adoption is not an act of charity anymore than having a biological child is (although there are many people who think it is). Wanting to have a family is a selfish instinct but so is wanting a decent job, good health, etc….
    But “What if we, the potential adoptive parents, sacrificed adopting a child and donated the same amount of money that an adoption entails to support agencies that work towards improving the lives of families in third world countries so they can keep and raise their children in healthy environments?” implies that building an adoptive family is at least somewhat about being charitable. Indeed, I could also give up our middle class standard of living, live frugally and give this money as well, if this were my focus and I was purely altruistic.
    Yes, I do support changes that will correct dysfunction that results in birth children being separated from birth families where ever they are although I’m not an activist in this area. Maybe our adopting back in 1998 promoted this dysfunction by encouraging the subsequent spate of child trafficking in China and that is pretty hard to think about.
    This is some tough stuff to talk about but let’s keep doing it. We need to support each other.

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  19. I am an adoptee as well as an adoptive parent of two girls from China. I think this article is really well executed and has much good food for thought and action but, unfortunately, I think it conflates desired social and political action aspirations with a demand that people make present personal decisions based on these aspirational goals. In other words, despite having adopted herself, the author thinks someone else should donate money to a program in a foreign country to help birthparents keep their children INSTEAD OF adopting. Yet the author makes this statement “I realize that there will always be legitimate reasons for adoption and that children can’t be allowed to suffer while societies change cultural or political values.”

    That’s exactly right. Children cannot be allowed to suffer while societies change. That’s the first point. And the second point is that people should not be faulted for operating within the present system even if it is not ideal. Like the author did herself.

    Foreign adoption is not ideal. It deprives children of their culture of origin in addition to their lost genetic heritage. But much much worse is for any child to languish in an orphanage with 50 other babies for months or years or even through childhood. It is my strong wish and hope that one day foreign adoptions will be unnecessary and will not occur. They are already much reduced in China (and I pray that is because equal or greater loving homes have been found in China) but, until that day when there is no need for adoption or international adoption, I am happy when a baby has a loving family as soon as possible.

    I support organizations working to support children and families in China, including children with special needs (as do, I am proud to say, my children). I hope that we can eliminate corruption, keep families intact that should be kept intact (let us not forget abuse and neglect that no child should be exposed to) and keep children within their culture whenever possible. In the interim, I am happy when babies who need them find loving homes as quickly as possible.

    And, I am also happy that in the age of the internet, we can hear adoptees’ varied and beautiful voices on all of these issues and more.

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  20. I have read all of the above comments and searched my heart to see if I was just being defensive about my stance on adoption. It was particularly hard to read Pam’s comment likening adoption to buying a slave. However, I thought about the China situation, which is where my daughter is adopted from, and I tried to imagine how I could possibly have helped her stay with her biological parents.

    First of all, let’s assume I was willing to donate $20,000 to a birth family to pay the fine in China for having a second child. Where would I send that money? Is there an organization in China helping parents to do such a thing? The organization mentioned in the comments, Hope4Children, helps orphans and children in foster families. It does nothing to reunite the children with their first families.

    Secondly, what should I do about the fact that if my child had been a boy, she would not have been abandoned. A preference for boys is an ugly reality in Chinese culture, as it is in many other countries. How can we go about changing such an attitude?

    I keep reading over and over that children should be removed from their families only in the most extreme circumstances. Yet just the other day I read an article in the Chicago Tribune about a young boy who was killed by his abusive father and grandmother. How extreme does the situation have to get before we are willing to take the child out of harms’ way?

    In many of the above comments, the idealism of adoptive parents was attacked, but I think the idealism surrounding first families is equally dangerous.

    I am also wondering how many of the people who commented on this post are themselves active in promoting reform in the area of child trafficking or other abuses purported to be part of international adoption.

    I love my adopted daughter and will do everything in my power to help her come to terms with being adopted. I do not regret adopting her and never will.

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    • Dear Maryse,
      English is not my mother tongue, so I will try to reply as good as possible. The organization I mentioned in my message “China hope4 children” does help children living with their birth families. I am sponsoring a girl getting an education because her birth family cannot afford it, it is one of the programs they run alongside with those for orphanages and foster homes. I am amazed that there are many ngo’s helping children (and often making them adoptable) and none helping birth families to cope. Then there also is the issue if a child should be adopted abroad. There are many Chinese families who want to adopt and this is the case for already many years. Why is it necessary to uproot a child from his own culture and country and take it another country far away? I believe it has to do with financial gain and I think that is also one of the issues that the original poster objects to. In your message you compare a Chinese birth family to an abusive family in Chicago. There is no comparison: In China children are mainly relinquished because of a political and cultural system. I have met my daughters birth family and they are a very normal Chinese family who would have been very able to raise my daughter if it were not for the one child policy. And I know I share this experience with others who have found birth families in China. I also will never regret adopting my daughters but I have the same feelings as the original poster about adoption and I do feel that it is very important to be aware of. Your child might start asking questions one day and come to another opinion. They can read all about it on the internet. It is better to be prepared.

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    • You’ve made me reconsider my comparison of adoption to buying a slave, and though it is harsh, I have to stand by it. My ancestors owned slaves, something I’m ashamed of now. My grandmother thought Lincoln was terrible, yet she was a loving, Christian woman who was as kind as the day is long. I love my adopted son too, and I’m glad he didn’t have to grow up on the streets of Ho Chi Minh City, the obvious offspring of an African-American GI, but I am very concerned that international adoption has been and still is rife with corruption. Children are a cash crop in some countries, and I find this deplorable. Another, no doubt inexact, comparison would be my attitude toward drugs. I believe we should legalize them, not because I use them myself or think they’re good for people, but because I see it as a way to end the criminality of the drug cartels that are making billions. Money corrupts, whether it’s drug trafficking or human trafficking.

      Of course children who are in abusive families need protection. My daughter’s best friend has adopted a little girl, now five, who was removed from her parents’ custody because the father was sexually abusing his children. Both parents were sent to prison and are forbidden to know anything about where their children are for 35 years. This isn’t an easy adoption, but it’s a lucky one for the child. So, no, I’m not idealistic about first families forever together, no matter what.

      What I do think is that many girls and young women are talked out of their babies by family, doctors, social workers, and adoption agencies. I was, and I’ve regretted it ever since. Young birth mothers have no idea about the long-term consequences of their decision to relinquish, and yesterday I read a heart-rending blog by an adoptee from an open adoption. She was no better off than had she been in a closed adoption. Open adoption is supposed to be the cure to future problems for the birth mother, but it seems in practice to be quite the opposite for many. I want to see adoption, in particular infant adoption, become as rare as hen’s teeth. I want to see young mothers given the help they need to parent their own children. Attitudes about the “loving choice that is adoption” need to be exposed for the propaganda they are.

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  22. I have thought quite a lot about this post and subject in general and written about it at my family’s blog. I understand why people have a problem with international adoption: corruption, trafficking, preying on birth parents, etc. But I must agree with Brenda Rayis and Mary Cotter above: what shall we do while waiting for the world to change?

    Corrupt officials in China, for example, didn’t create the “market” for children: Mao and a few thousand years of Chinese history created the conditions that led to thousands – perhaps millions – of little girls being abandoned. Rather than let them languish in orphanages, the Chinese government decided to allow people like me and RTB’s mother to make them part of our families. Thank God that they did. Shall we go back to what it was, where children in China and elsewhere who ARE abandoned, orphaned or otherwise unwanted live on whatever scraps their government throws to them? Shall we abandon or so dramatically curtail the process so as to effectively abandon it because there are problems?

    I say no.

    I suggest that international adoption, by shining a light on conditions in Chinese orphanages, has led to them being greatly improved. I support efforts to make the system better. I support efforts to educate prospective adoptive parents such that they don’t unwittingly feed the jackals who’ve tried to turn the process into a money machine. I support tougher laws against child trafficking (I was gratified to read that China has started executing child traffickers). But I cannot support going back to warehousing children for life in institutions or trusting that the same officials who’ve corrupted adoption will run orphanages and “family assistance” programs honestly.

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    • It’s a complicated issue. There’s no denying that. I adopted my Vietnamese son because I believed he might very well die if left in the orphanage in DaNang where he fetched up. I am not against rescuing children, whether here or abroad. But I am disturbed by the salesmanship that often goes along with international adoption, the promises to PAPs that their adoptions will be clean. I’m skeptical. And I know only too well the challenges these foreign-born adoptees face. We should do all we can to keep families together. That should be our first priority.

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      • I agree that it’s a complicated issue simply because, since there’s a great deal of money involved, there’s corruption. How to run the system (which involves multiple countries, each with its own cultural, historical and political baggage) in a manner to minimize this is a tricky problem.

        I must say, however, that “keeping families together” seems rather… visionary. How are we to do it? How are we to change, for example, centuries of tradition so that people in very poor, agrarian countries will value a daughter as much as a boy? In Message from an Unknown Chinese Mother, Xinran writes of her astonishment that, even under communism, centuries-old legal tradtions and practices regarding land inheritance still operated in rural China. I think none of us are surprised to know that women get the short end of that stick, and so families would pay midwives to “do” female babies and offer huge bonuses for the midwife who could provide a boy.

        It has also occured to me that there is some unconscious cultural superiority at work here, i.e. there is an expectation that, at the end of the day, everybody should adopt first-world (predominately white, Christian) attitudes towards children, women, social welfare, etc. The poor people of the world who can’t afford modern, Western-style attitudes towards a daughter (if I was a farmer who lived his life one bad harvest away from starvation, I would NEVER want a daughter) or Western-style medicine or Western-style women’s lib or Western-style welfare become the White Man’s Burden v2.0. “Oh, your benighted, backwards country with its (ahem) quaint views regarding women, girls, unwed mothers, etc. can’t afford for every family to be the Cleavers or every unwed mother to be Murphy Brown? That’s OK: rich, white Americans and Western Europeans will take care of that for you.”

        Forgive my sarcasm (I think it’s genetic), but isn’t that what we’re really talking about? Aren’t we really talking about how to tell other countries to, if not be like us, then at least live on our charity?

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    • Thank you for reading and for taking the time to formulate your thoughts into comments. I must admit that I am a bit perplexed, however. Jim, you adopted a child from an orphanage in China so you obviously believed that it was best to remove her from her language and her culture so that she could grow up in a family (with western values). I assume that you will treat her with respect and offer her every opportunity, even though she is female( western values). How is it that you then feel that advocating for programs that help children stay with first families reeks of western values and a sense of cultural superiority? I believe that most first families would prefer to keep and raise their children, if at all possible. I believe that it is morally wrong for the richest countries in the world to gain their children through the heartbreak, grief, and loss of parents whose only crime is to be born poor, who cannot afford a surgery to repair a cleft palate or a heart defect,or who are forced to abandon children they want and love because of a government policy.Yes, this is a reality , and we live within it, but we can work for changes where we can.If I contribute to a program that funds micro loans to women in Central America to start small businesses, I am not giving charity. If I buy fair trade products that allow workers to get paid a decent wage for their products, I am supporting the ability of families to care for their children and be independent. If I contribute to the education or care of a child here or in another country that reflects her/his culture and is with people who love her/him I am investing in the future. What you call western values, I call human values. What you call charity, I call social justice.

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      • Beautifully put, Carol. As the adoptive mother of a 40-yr old Vietnamese son, I couldn’t agree with you more. I was one of those dewey-eyed idealists when we “rescued” our son from an orphanage in DaNang. He’s in prison in Florida now. I thought love was enough, more than enough. It wasn’t.

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      • Late to this; my apologies.

        Here, I think, is the meat of the issue:

        “How is it that you then feel that advocating for programs that help children stay with first families reeks of western values and a sense of cultural superiority?”

        As I wrote (in part) on my own blog, these programs are based on the idea that, if we [white Westerners] only give enough money, then:

        •People all around the world will have access to affordable, first-class (read: Western) medical care such that even children born with life-threatening illnesses or handicaps will not be a disastrous financial burden to them

        •People all around the world will take on Western attitudes towards birth control such that they don’t have children that they can’t care for

        •People all around the world will have the resources, including Western-style social welfare systems – to care for as many children as they happen to have

        •People all around the world will take on Western views of children such that they will value girls as much as boys and not see children as cheap agricultural labor

        •People all around the world will adopt Western attitudes towards inheritance such that land and other property can be “kept in the family” even if bequeathed to female children

        •People all around the world will adopt Western values regarding single motherhood such that an unmarried woman with a child will not wear the proverbial Scarlet Letter and hence have no reason to see a child as an irredeemable badge of shame

        In other words, if we give enough money, they will be just like us. If that isn’t cultural superiority, then I don’t know what would be. I would also say that there’s a curious paradox: we’re supposed to respect and celebrate birth cultures even as we work to make them more like our own, so that (for example) a woman in Guatemala City can have her small business just like a woman in Kansas City, or a single mom driving to her organic, fair trade tea shop in Yunchen can drop her little girl at day care just like a single mom driving to her organic, fair trade tea shop in Yorba Linda.

        As for social justice, it’s a term that makes me nervous as I know how we Americans (in common with other “civilized” nations through the years) have sounded that battle cry many, many times, often with bad results for ourselves and worse results for other people. Ask (among others) the Cubans, Filipinos, Mexicans, Vietnamese, Somalis, Iraqis, Afghans and Libyans about this.

        Why can we not let the Chinese (or Koreans, or Guatemalans, etc.) deal with this problem in their own way? I make no doubt that, no matter what, problems will persist, but people ought to be free to handle their own affairs without us telling them (or, through the medium of the Almighty Dollar, inducing them) to do things our way.

        A final thought: corruption exists in the adoption system because of the distorting influence of American money: we have made it worth people’s while to lie, cheat, extort and kidnap. Is it unreasonable to suppose that MORE American money, given with the altruistic goal of helping first families, would not corrupt that, too?

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  23. Thank you for these thought-provoking words. My husband and I have opted to adopt rather than have biological children, and as we prayed through this process, one thing remained consistent–we always knew we’d adopt through the foster care system in the US. We knew this was the right thing to do for many reasons, and this blog post only further solidified my thoughts on this matter. It is always good to get as many points of view as possible on a subject as multifaceted as adoption, and I appreciate this one more than you know.

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  24. Adoption is a beautiful way to enrich or improve the lives of the small, tiny and pure little ones. But it is only a substitute. A temporary solution born out of both compassion and desperation. I agree with you that the first family is where the focus should be. If you can avoid the loss, you won’t need to remedy it.. Very beautifully written..

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    • Thanks for reading. There are certainly beautiful aspects to adoption, but I cannot say that the adoption in whole is a beautiful process. But working together, we can promote changes that will make it a more ethical practice.

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  25. Being an adoptive parent to our only child, I am intrigued that we as Americans think we can preserve families abroad with money. We who are blind to the damage we do to our own little ones.

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    • Thank you. My mother and I didn’t write with the intention of being Freshly Pressed. (She actually didn’t know what that meant at all when I told her about it.)

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  26. Wow, this is extraordinary. Thank you for opening my eyes to another way of looking at adoption. I was especially moved by the sentence about finding appropriate families for children not the other way around.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much for being open minded to thinking more critically on the subject. If you’d like to find more resources or bloggers with holistic depictions of adoption, feel free to check out my recommended links tab on the top.

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    • It recently came to my attention that the phrase about finding families for children, not children for families was first articulated by Dr.Joyce Maguire Pavao who should receive credit for it. It is a sentiment that I have held for years ,and that I fully support.Thanks for reading and commenting.

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  27. Thank you, thank you, thank you for your immense bravery in writing and sharing this piece. It demonstrates the amazing work on both of your parts of share and own your stories to the rest of the world can learn. As someone who has survived infertility and is not choosing adoption, I think you for bringing points to mind, that some may have never thought of before. It is so invalidating and minimizing when people attempt to fix my pain of being childless with the question of “Why don’t you just adopt?” Thank you again! I look forward to reading more on this blog! Justine

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    • Thank you so much for reading and for keeping your mind open to an alternative adoption narrative. Many adoptive parent blogs start out as infertility blogs, unintentionally giving a sense of adoption as being a second choice or last resort option. Thank you for sharing your story as well and showing that adults can have fulfilling lives with or without children.

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  28. I am adopted, and my mother has constantly battled with this decision to have adopted us wondering if it was the right or wrong choice for many years. My parents adopted 6 special needs children from the neighboring county and fostered 15 children. It was a rough go and many questions. I am the only one who was able to find any of my brith family and it was one of the hardest decisions of my life, and now I am in contact with almost none of them (bio family). My parents were very honest and supportive with my decision and that helped. But, my pre-teen and teen years were very hard as I felt like a part of me was missing… I am not sure my mom would do it the same again. I know she loves me, but I think the decision to adopt would be looked at different. I too have looked to adopt myself and have been torn many times as to how, where, why and questioned how to keep that bond together if possible instead of my own quest to have a child and it hurts, but the pain a child feels lifelong is not worth my pain for a few minutes of trade-off.. just isn’t.. 😦 Thanks for the awesome perspective… It is nice to know that others see it the way that my mom has and stuggled and that I too now must decide what is right for my life and future knowing that it may change the entire life of someone someday.. Great insight.. 🙂

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    • Thanks so much for your thoughtful comment. In writing this, my mother’s goal wasn’t to dissuade people from adopting but to foster some deeper, more critical thought on facts that are often ignored. It sounds like you and your family have thought a lot on this issue. I wish you luck on your journey as you decide what’s right for you.

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      • thanks.. I am definitely not disuaded from adopting, just more open-mined than ripping a child away and thinking all will be OK mentality that some believe. Ann Landers wrote in the 80’s a great piece about an adopted child.. how we really are made up of BOTH families and NO less than that.. thanks and good luck on your journey and thank your mother.. 🙂 Lilangelwolf

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    • Thank you so much for reading. If you’d like to find more resources or bloggers with holistic depictions of adoption, feel free to check out my recommended links tab on the top. I think this opinion is widely understood in the adoptee community, but has a harder time being heard by the mainstream adoption discourse.

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    • Thank you so much for reading. These sentiments are not new; adoptees have been expressing these concerns for many years. If you’d like to find more resources or bloggers with holistic depictions of adoption, feel free to check out my recommended links tab on the top.

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  29. Its a blessing to have such great and enlightened thoughts! what is better than giving a family to a child? love is not inherited with blood, it is earned and nurtured in values. This is the simplest thought we all need to understand. Love should be the religion and relation 🙂

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    • Far too often the concern in adoption is finding children for waiting families rather than finding appropriate families for children. Adoption works as an industry, and the demand outweighs the supply, resulting in years long waiting time and corruption in sending countries.

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  30. Thank you for writing this. You make several good points that need to be heard. I have also thought that, for the amount of money spent adopting a baby from a foreign country, the child’s biological family could have been amply supported for many years, and the child might have been able to grow up with her own family, in her own place. I cringe to hear the “success” stories about young women being pressured to give up their own children in favor of more wealthy couples. We must remove the consumer mentality from adoption, and that means that we must stop seeing children as acquisitions and accessories.
    Also dismaying is the “rescue” adoption mentality when it is not an informed and transparent process. There is so much misunderstanding and cultural disconnect that it’s almost impossible to be complicit.

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  31. I am an adoptive parent of four children from two different families. We adopted out of foster care and it was a necessity for the children. Even though the children were abused and neglected by there bio-parents, there is still a loss. We love each other and have a bond, but it will never replace that initial bond they had with there “first family”. I am aware that if it was at all possible for them to have stayed with there bio-family they would have chosen that every time. You need to have a strong backbone and be secure in who you are to consider an adoption. the best thing I have ever done in my life. It is also the hardest thing I have done in my life. I have never regretted it, but I know I am benefitting from someone else’s loss. I can’t imagine for one second, life without them.

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  32. thanks for the view you give us about adoption. I was adopted being a baby of 2 days so I effectively thank my adoptive family ’cause they did a great job and I love them… about my first parents I know nothing because their identity was hidden by the nuns and the lawyer in charge and since now -even if the law recognises my right to know- they dont give us a single name of the first parents -I was born and live in Spain-. This said, I understand your point of view. I’ve been studying the adoption process in Spain as a lawyer and the principle is that a child must stay with its origine family whenever that’s possible… they receive aids and support to make it and if they cannot take charge of the kid when born the baby is given to a transitionary family until the origin family is recovered. However this cannot be too long because we have to think about child’s stability and first priority is his emotional stability. Let’s say that after several years with the transitionary family the kid should not be obliged to return to the origin family unless he does not feel ok with that transitionary family, dont you think? In Spain there is a very interesting film now about these precise questions called MARSELLA… should you speak Spanish or if you find it translated into English please go and watch it. I also thought about my life if I had stayed with my origine family, if that would have been possible, and that maybe that option would have made me loose career opportunities and best education opportunities, but who knows??? Adoption is not a charity we make. To give money to raise those families up would be a charity thing, but adoption is not, is a cross of interests: a kid who needs a family obtains a family and a family who desires to have a kid obtains a kid, is a love act on both sides. But I agree with you that this should be the last option whenever the first family option is not possible. Interest of the minor should always prevail: however it is not always simple to identify which is the minor’s first interest.

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    • Thanks so much for reading and telling a bit about the process in Spain.Thank you for recommending the film.I will keep an eye out for it. My Spanish is extremely limited ,but perhaps I can find it with English subtitles. I agree that the best interests of the child should be paramount and that it isn’t always crystal clear what those are in some situations.

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  33. Thank you, thank you, thank you to all of you who read my blog piece and engaged in thoughtful discussion of the complicated issues surrounding adoption. I had no idea when I wrote it that it would generate this level of interest and reaction. It is obviously a topic that people feel passionately about, and I hope that reading not only my words, but the words of others has led to a more critical analysis of adoption. I am most grateful for the level of respect the majority of the posters demonstrated when commenting. It reaffirms for me that strong, even heated discourse is possible while maintaining civility.

    Liked by 1 person

  34. With all the corruption identified here in international adoptions, it is naive to deduce that hearts are pure for providing blind charity to keep foreign families together.

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  35. You have a wonderful mother! I really enjoyed reading this post and gained a lot of insight from her words, thank you.

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  36. “Adoption should be a last resort and should be about finding appropriate families for children, not children for families.” This was the best line! Too many people who adopt are thinking about themselves, and the children they want. They should be thinking instead about what they can do for the children!

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    • It doesn’t matter. infertile couples, etc will always use adoption to fix their needs, and they will always claim they are doing it in the best interest of the adopted child.

      To say that you are taking somebody else’s child to fix your own needs isn’t socially acceptable – so they simply lie instead, and everybody goes along with it, because who will question their real motives?

      I was adopted by a mentally ill woman (she will never have the word mother inserted into her name ever again), and I guess (as an adoptee) that I should simply be grateful for 34 years of pain and terror – whilst living (mentally) in what can only be described as a thick white fog that was killing me.

      If I hadn’t found my real Mum 6 years ago. I would have died. Period.

      I appreciate that the adoptive parent who wrote this article appears to have a better understand than some adoptive parents. But the problem is that way too many of us adoptees have already been chewed up (left for dead or at least suicidal) by our adoptive parents.

      She also misses a vital point. Why does she feel the need to lie about being her adopted daughters Mum? (creating a false belief in an infant or child’s mind is mental abuse), and this is the very reason that adoptees are so massively over-represented in mental health settings.

      It is not simply because they were adopted. They are in therapy because of the lies told them by the adults around them. The removal of their authentic identity (in order to make them feel shame about who they are) is another key factor in their identity problems.

      Adoptees end up in therapy because their authentic sense of ‘self’ has been taken away from them.

      They are stripped of the identity (dehumanised), and then they are objectified by the adults around them. They are then used as a way of making wanting parents happy, and ‘who they are’ is sold to the adoptive parents in exchange for a home.

      They can have this home, just as long they spend their lives self-deceiving and pretending to be the children of people (strangers, initially) who adopted them.

      The adopted child has no say in any of this, and these agreements are made on their behalf by the vultures around them.

      They are detached from ‘self’ through the name removal (better known as identity theft). They are then taught the false belief (in words, and action) that the 2 people who adopted them are now ‘really’ their parents.

      Take the lies away and what do you have? You have 2 people who want to help a child. Add the lies and what do you have? 2 people who want to be called Mum & Dad, and whether or not they ‘sincerely’ want to help a child is debatable.

      Anyone can act when they want something, particularly when they want the label of Mum.

      Children deserve respect (they are human beings after all) and instead, their truths are destroyed by the people who claim to love them.

      I couldn’t do that to a child. Not ever. I wouldn’t ever dream of lying to a child (particularly, somebody else’s) about who I am. If I adopted?(I am planning to), and If they want to call me Mum 1 day? I would speak with my adopted child about their own Mum (the only one they have) and why it would be wrong/unethical for me to ‘pretend’ to take her place.

      I would teach my adopted child the value of truth, and the only way that I could do that would be by setting the example. I would be the parent after all but never the mother (that’s just lies and pretence) and I can categorically state that those lies screw up the minds of many adopted children.

      Morals? Not 1 adoptive parent that I’ve ever come across has them. Dignity & respect starts with truth, but ironically, and in the world of adoption, everything is based on lies.

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  37. I am both an adoptive mother of 4 and have been a foster parent of nearly 70 children over the past 20 years. I teach classes to potential adoptive and foster parents. The main point I try to get across to them is that they are never going to be able to replace the birth family nor will the child ever forget that first family. The social service directive is to try to make it possible for the child to be reunified with the birth family if at all possible by evaluation strengths and weakness and working to help the family regain custody be meeting their needs. When all else fails then adoption should be the next avenue pursued and if that is not possible then long term foster care. The system is not perfect. The money directed to the care of children should include ways to enable birth families to raise their own children. There are times when this is not possible and as broken and unfair as the system seems, unfortunately, it is the best alternative there is for so many of the children. I strive to help my children stay in contact with family. The birth family and I share the child. Visits, letters, cards, calls all can help but not replace the loss. Open, honest communication, acceptance and preservation can help children and both sets of parents continue to show love.

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  38. I agree, with you, that more efforts should be made to help a parent or a family member keep their child, and there needs to be funding to support these families.

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  39. For years, I have worked in court with parents caught up in social services system. The odds are definitely stacked against them and I agree with all my heart that more help is needed to preserve families. Too often, parents are made to feel like bad people or worse because their children are taken from them and too often, there is rejoicing when children are adopted by foster parents. Adoption should always be bittersweet.

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  40. What a smart post. I am an adoptee and am grateful that my bio mom did not abort me and that my adoptive parents adopted me but it has been a long road emotionally. I am 50 years old and this is still painful for me but much better. Thank you.

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  41. As a former Child Welfare Social Worker, I completely agree with this post in MOST instances. I can’t really speak towards adoptions in other countries as I am unfamiliar with their processes, I can say, at least with the organization I worked for (also, a non-profit) we offered immense amounts of services to preserve families and/or work towards reunification. Our optimal goal was to keep families together. Unfortunately, in many circumstances (not sure what the statistic is) there are children who were born into families who sadly, didn’t want them and refuse offered services. We had services to transport parents to/from visits and worked around their schedules, job programs for families, etc. I was saddened to see how many of the families I worked with not only refused these services, but also refused participation altogether in attempts to reunify. I love this post and the kindness of your heart to adopt a child from another family, but I also believe that in some cases (perhaps fewer and far between) adoption is the best and only chance some children have in making it in this world. Keep up the great parenting!

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    • I agree that adoption is the best option for some children, but I believe it should be a very last resort – especially out of country adoption. Far too often we look at adoption as a solution to a problem instead of seeing it as a side-affect. Adoptions internationally are caused by corruption in government, oppressive policies, poverty, lack of education for women, gendered stereotypes, discrimination, and unequal distribution of financial resources compared to wealthy westerners. Adopting a child out of their country does nothing to change the social conditions that made adoption available in the first place, so while it may be a temporary solution to get one child out of poverty, it is not a solution to the larger systemic issues at play.

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  42. I agree with you. But at the same time, most families don’t want to get help they don’t want to stop being an addict they don’t want to stop abusing it’s what they want to do. So even spending more money on that won’t help if they don’t want the help. My uncle is one if those people, you can give him all the money in the world to get help and he will not do it. Never ever ever. I agree, a bit but at the same time giving more money to keep families together is still not the best. For most people do not care to get help so they can never be a happy family

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    • Addiction is not the primary reason children are taken away from there parents. There have been over 100,000 children adopted out of China because of the One Child Policy or because their families couldn’t afford medical services. There have over 150,000 families separated in Korea because of the stigma surrounding single motherhood or discrimination against biracial babies. There are countless numbers of children in Uganda who have lost one parent to AIDS while the remaining parent simply didn’t have the funds or the support necessary to raise a family. These parents want to be mothers and fathers, and you cannot tell me that providing them with money, communal resources, and more opportunities for education would not keep these families together.

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    • Additionally, I need to add that most addicts don’t want to be addicts and have their lives controlled by a substance. They’re just caught up in a cycle they can’t seem to break. Not wanting to get help is the addiction speaking, not the person.

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      • I’m posting my view. Everyone has a different view on everything. If we all the same view on everything life would be dull and boring

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  43. Great post! For many years I worked with an agency that’s whole motto was “we believe children are raised best by their own families.” We offered services geared towards reintegration of the children with their families with the hope that foster care and respite was temporary. I completely agree that maybe we should adopt communities as priority to hopefully provide better homes and parents for children.

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  44. I just want to say thank you for this post. Thank you for this blog. It is very professional and thoughtful. My husband and I have 4 children born in and adopted from China. They are 10, 9, 8 and 7. I’m excited to continue to follow the writings here and other resources given. This has inspired me that by coming a long side my children, I can make a difference for them and others.

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  45. With respect, I think this piece paints with rather to broad a brush the variety of institutions surrounding adoption, as well as the psychological dynamics involved.

    You ask the question, “is there not something inherently immoral about people of means becoming parents to the children of poor people around the world?” I think the answer follows from the observation that poverty was not the principal driver of adoptions from China–the one child policy was. Was the One Child Policy as practiced in the 90’s “immoral”? I’d submit that the there’s lots of room for discussion on that point. But without settling that question, I find it very hard to see how adoption, including the practices following on China’s One Child Policy, can be called “inherently” (i.e., always and everywhere) immoral–as if the practices in e.g., Russia, indict those of China. How can we be asked to evaluate the morality of the global forms of adoption without even taking a stance on the One Child Policy?

    Consider: young Chinese parents don’t need infusions of Euros or American dollars to make their way in the world. Perhaps they need new forms of political representation. Chinese poverty is increasingly like American poverty: it is a poverty of economic justice that is not addressed by handing out money at the margins. It is about changing how wages are set and how profits are allocated to labor. I suspect you’re right that in many places outside China, money given to families is more justly employed than it would be in adopting these families’ children. But the cases differ.

    You note that “adoption is … a life long process of self discovery and integration, with pain, confusion, and living with dualities often regular companions.” As an adoptee myself, I mistrust this kind of adoption community exceptionalism. Try that quoted test out on any young person. Are there many adolescent that doesn’t feel him or herself engaged in a life long process of self discovery… attended with pain and confusion?

    And as for this: “we first must be willing to see that it is arrogant to assume that having more things, opportunities, and wealth is a fair trade off for losing that first family.” Who really is this addressed to? If adoptive parents approach family making as an economic gain for its members, they have already lost most of what counts in family life–love and a deep sense of security that rests on compassion, not on stuff. Any parent who conceptualizes their family life substantially in terms of the value of goods and services available upon family membership has already lost most of what family has to offer. But surely such a materialist ethos is not “intrinsic” to the character of adoptive parents! And if it is not “intrinsic” to them, the point isn’t relevant to the intrinsic immorality of adoption either… raising the point seems only to prejudice the question.

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    • I’m an adoptive mother; my son is now 42. We got him from Vietnam when he was 9 mos. old. I have thought a great deal about adoption over the years and my conclusion is this: when at all possible children should remain with their families of origin. Only in circumstances of extreme crisis (war, famine, natural disaster) should a child be removed from his home culture, and even then the child’s identity should be preserved. International adoption is a complex issue, and simple pronouncements just won’t do, but the scooping up of babies from poor countries by affluent Western families is exploitation and needs to be curtailed. The interests of the child should come first, not the adoptive parents’ desire to have a family.

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