October 15, 2014

The Adoptoland Echo Chamber - Part 2
A Conversation with Laura Dennis

Today I'm collaborating once again with Laura Dennis, and we're discussing what it takes to get out of the adoptoland echo chamber. (Did you know that exists? Yup.) If you've arrived here first, hop over to Laura's to read part one and then come back. 

Deanna: I so agree with you, Laura. I still get mad too, but I believe unless we deal with or at least manage our madness we’ll never get out of the echo chamber.  Inside the echo chamber we go around in circles because of a plethora of things…as you mentioned, we can’t agree on language (birthmother vs. firstmother), we think “our group” is most important (domestic adoptees vs. international adoptees) or we veer off into a plethora of other social justice issues –muddying the waters rending the adoption reform message unclear. I’ve landed on some adoptee sites I used to frequent and wondered if I landed at the wrong site! They have picked up so many causes it’s unclear what they are even fighting for anymore.  I for one believe we need an undeniable clear and focused message to get out of the echo chamber.

In addition to a clear message that remains entirely adoption reform/rights related, we’ve got to be able to have conversations with others who don’t believe or think like we do – without flinching or reacting. We’ve got to respond thoughtfully, not react immaturely.  If we can’t manage to do this, we will stay in the chamber. It’s that simple. 

Laura: Ability to respond thoughtfully goes to the issue of responsibility. Until the wider population no longer sees us as stubbornly unwilling to accept responsibility, the echo chamber endures. The shifting of blame goes round-and-round, as you said.

What do I mean by “responsibility”?
Do I mean victim-blaming? No.
Absolutely not.
We do not blame the victim for what happened to him or her.
However, this does not mean that this person is off-the-hook.

Those who have experienced trauma—including first moms who were mistreated and forced to relinquish, including adoptees who feel grief and loss at losing their first families, including adoptive parents who are devastated by infertility and loss—are STILL responsible for their actions going forward.
We are all responsible for finding healing for our own pain.

It is NOT OKAY for those who remain unhealed to take out their hurt on others.

This is why the echo chamber endures; if we are unhealed, we feel justified in our ranting, and it is simply exasperating.

Deanna: Couldn’t agree with you more, Laura. We are responsible to heal. Nobody else can do that for us.  I also believe we have to be prepared to thoughtfully dialogue with people who don’t believe the way we do. How else are we going to break out of the chamber?  

There’s a place for ranting.  I do mine while laying on my hammock on my patio, talking to you. I don’t do it when I’m trying to get a message across to people who oppose all that we stand for on this issue. 

It’s interesting that as you and I are collaborating on this post, a letter hit my inbox from a blogger in the adoption community, asking to interview me on her blog. This is someone who is not well respected in our circle of adoptee friends. In fact many people revile this person and consider her an enemy to everything we stand for. But my thought is this…if we don’t say yes to conversations with those who believe differently than us, how will we ever see change come?  My next thought is this – it’s not selling out to appear on someone’s site that you don’t agree with, as long as you maintain your integrity in all you say.

As much as we don’t want to “go there” we have to dialogue with what many in our community refer to as “adoptoraptors.”

Laura: I agree. Recently I was so pleased to have several large adoption information sites request an advance review copy of Adoption Therapy, Perspectives from Clients and Clinicians on Processing and Healing Post-Adoption Issues (which I edited and to which you contributed the Afterword). … If I were to remain in the echo chamber, I would say “no,” to them, as these sites seek to help people adopt. [As in, how dare I engage with those who think adoption is okay?]

While I believe we should do everything we can from a policy and personal standpoint to encourage family preservation, if such organizations are willing to read an anthology whose basic premises are: 

1. An adoptee’s first losses—including mother loss, heritage loss, ethnicity loss, language loss, and more—absolutely must not be discounted.

2. Whatever training or approach is used, the client’s individual experiences must be validated through empathetic care. 

… Why wouldn’t I engage with them? The book is meant to get help, not only for our generation, but for the next generation of adoptive parents, first families and adoptees. This is vital information that needs to be absorbed—and sometimes what needs to be heard is difficult to listen to. If people are willing to engage, to learn from those who have walked this path … it’s my responsibility to educate. 

Deanna: Yes!! I fully believe if they are willing to engage – we need to.  Even if they don’t respond favorably right away, at the least it’s given them something to think about.  It takes a serious amount of time for most people to come out of the fog so anything you can do to get them one step in the right direction is progress.