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Deanna's Basic Perspectives on Adoption

When I decided to start this blog, I believed having a page dedicated solely to explaining my basic views on adoption would be important. I imagined new  readers arriving at the current post of the day and wondering, "How in the world did she ever arrive at this perspective?" If you read this and consider any of it total heresy, realize I wrote this at 3:46 am. 

Okay, back to my views.  Here's a mish mash of them all, in no particular order. (It's 3:46 am, remember?) 

This is not a complete list of everything I believe about adoption but touches on the main points people often bring up in discussion.  

Oh what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to...adopt?

For any of us who are actually living adoption, and not just talking about it without having experienced it, we can tell you it's extremely complex. I've shared before that my personal views on adoption have evolved over the years as I have come into a greater personal awareness of my actual experience. I also become even more aware of the need for reform in the institution of adoption as I listen, read and learn.  

I stayed relatively silent about my feelings on adoption and how it has affected me, for most of my life. I realized it would be messy and totally uncomfortable to talk about. Sorry Mom. Oops, Moms.  

I have broken my silence for three reasons:

1) I am not comfortable with silence anymore. Adult adoptee rights are a human rights issue. Injustice will never be overcome if we stay quiet.

2) Christians need someone to help them understand. There are only a small faction of organizations still opposing adoptee rights in America, and they are fighting hard to maintain control.  I am saddened and embarrassed that a majority of those who oppose adoptee rights are religious groups and pro-life organizations. I am a licensed minister, a pastor of 26 years, and I am pro-life. And I write this blog, in an effort to bring change.

 3) Adult adoptees need hope and healing. There are many amazing blogs and websites that speak to this issue. So many have helped me. Why am I adding my voice?  Because every adoptee adds a unique perspective and has an important story to tell. Each of us can reach people in our sphere of influence.  And, with the obstacles we face personally and as a group, we can use all the help we can get.

The high cost of speaking out about this...

My husband and I co-pastor a church.  We've served in ministry for 26 years. Although I'm in a position of influence, it's not always a comfortable one. 

Adoption and unplanned pregnancy are issues that touch most everyone's life in some way, if not with themselves with a close family member or friend. The majority of people have strong views on these issues. I also have so many close friends and family who have adopted children. I love these people dearly and do not desire in the least to hurt any of them by sharing my views.  At the same time, there is much reform needed in the institution of adoption. To remain silent so as to not take the chance that I will unintentionally hurt the feelings of my family and friends while millions go on hurting and unjust laws stay in place, is just not an acceptable option anymore.

Adoption...the preferred option?

Although I am called to Christian leadership and serve joyfully, my position puts me on the front lines each and everyday where I observe how misinformed many Christians are about adoption and adoptees.  Biblical examples of adoption are referenced and many hail it as the preferred solution to an unexpected pregnancy, particularly with unwed mothers. There is something dreadfully wrong with the idea that it would ever be the preferred option for women to give their children away, rather than parent them. 

Adoption and the Bible

Adoption in the Bible is radically different from adoption in modern times. First of all when the Bible speaks of "adoption" it is most often referring to spiritual adoption, as in "salvation".  The word adoption is in the Bible exactly five times - used only by Paul in the New Testament.

We find the actual word, "adoption" in Romans 8:15, Romans 8:23, Romans 9:4, Galatians 4:5 and Ephesians 1:4. Each time it refers to the same thing: salvation.

The Bible’s adoption doesn’t include sealed birth certificates and adoption records. People also refer to Jesus, Moses and even all Christians as being "adopted" yet the form of adoption that all of these biblical examples portray is nothing like the institution of adoption in the world today.  Furthermore, the comparison of all Christians as being adopted vs. those actually experiencing adoption is hurtful to those are adopted and have faced the trauma of relinquishment. Saying, "So you're adopted? No big deal...we're all adopted!" minimizes the very real struggle many adoptees go through.

We are not all adopted in the sense that everyone was not relinquished by their first mother. Everyone was not in foster care. Everyone didn't have a case number with health and human services. Not everyone had their name changed or lived in an orphanage or went through domestic or private adoption as it's known today. Not everyone deals with secrets about their history and sealed birth certificates and records. And furthermore Moses' "adoption" in the book of Exodus looks NOTHING like the adoptions that take place today in America. 

I was SHOCKED to find this out!

The adoption industry in what is now known as the “Baby Scoop Era” of the 1940's through the 1970's was particularly corrupt.  From approximately 1940 to 1970, it is estimated that up to 4 million mothers in the USA surrendered newborn babies to adoption -- 2 million during the 1960s alone. This does not include the number of infants adopted and raised by relatives. (In contrast, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services estimates that only 14,000 infants were "voluntarily" surrendered in 2003.)

Many Were Forced. To. Give. Up. Their. Babies. 
(Let. That. Sink. In.) 

Countless women of the Baby Scoop Era were coerced to relinquish their babies.  Upon revealing their pregnancies to their parents or authority figures (pastors/teachers, etc.), they were quickly whisked off to maternity homes in shame, and then pressured to make the decision to follow through and relinquish. Horrible tactics were employed to get these young women to comply. Millions of them signed adoption papers under duress. Many were threatened that they could not return home with a baby. Some were absolutely forced.

"We felt it best that you not see the baby..."

There are those who would wake up from labor and delivery, their babies gone.

Vanished.

The young ladies were pressured on every side, by parents, pastors, and other significant authority figures that giving their baby away was the only right solution -- the only socially acceptable one. While I believe that many of the adoptive parents of this era had their hearts right in the matter and adopted only out of a pure desire for a family, the fact remains that coercing a girl or a woman to relinquish their baby or forcing them under duress is unjust not to mention cruel.

Millions of these women, many of them now elderly, have never recovered from the emotional trauma, and countless numbers of them still live in secrecy about what happened back then.

What should we do about unexpected pregnancies?

Adoption is an alternative when there is absolutely no option of a child being raised in their original family. It is a last resort after family preservation has been attempted, not a first response. Our first question when a girl/woman becomes pregnant should never be, “have you considered adoption?” but “how can I help you?”

Ask the question. Then, do whatever it takes to help. Isn't that what Jesus would do?


Who does infant adoption benefit?

Many people are under the false assumption that the current (infant) adoption system in America is set up first and foremost to benefit the children who are adopted. First it is set up to benefit the agencies. Adoption is a business and a very lucrative one. Recent figures released show that adoption is now a 13 BILLION dollar industry in the United States. Children are the "products". Agencies need more relinquishments so they can continue to keep the adoption business going.  After benefiting the industry, it is set up to benefit the adoptive parents, those who fund the system. This is a very telling quote:
 "Regrettably, in many cases, the emphasis has changed from the desire to provide a needy child with a home, to that of providing a needy parent with a child. As a result, the whole industry has grown, generating millions of dollars of revenues each year."  ~ United Nations, Commission on Human Rights, 2003 
In many ways, adoption is structured to fulfill the desires of adoptive parent, with secondary interest in what is  best for the child.

But isn't there a need for adoption in the world today?

Yes. And there will always be.

There are cases of abuse, neglect and abandonment that require action. There will always be children who are abandoned, and others who need to be removed from their first parents, at least temporarily, for their own safety. Even so, in situations where a child is literally being rescued from danger, it is important to recognize that the child still feels the loss that comes with relinquishment.

So, when is adoption advisable?

I've been asked, "If all this that you say is true, would you advise anyone to adopt a child?" Yes.

Adoption is advisable when all attempts to keep a child within their biological family (with original mother, father, or other relatives who may be willing to step up to care for them and keep them within the family) have failed.

Another consideration is that there are currently approximately half a million children in the USA in foster care, awaiting homes. Adopting children who have been waiting in the foster care system will not require you to take out loans, remortgage your home, or have fundraisers. I am totally appalled at websites like this that advertise, "if you can buy a car, you can certainly pay for an adoption!"

The advertisements and attitudes that children are like material possessions that can be owned and bought are sickening. We are talking about human beings, not cars.

If one truly desires to help a child, the foster care system is an excellent place to start.


And, keep in mind...

When adopting a child of any age or circumstance, proceed with the understanding that the child has faced a trauma, and will need help to process what has happened to them.

Regarding infant adoption, some have the false assumption that they are unaffected. What can a tiny baby know? A lot! Many people are under the impression that infants are "blank slates" without any significant or lasting ties to their biological family . The truth is, being taken from your biological parent where you have a primal attachment is extremely traumatic. An adopted person will process this throughout their lifetime. Why throughout their lifetime? They will always be adopted. 

That doesn't mean that there isn't hope and healing. If I didn't believe there was, I wouldn't be writing this blog.

Adoptees fear loss...

"But my [adopted]child doesn't say anything about hurt or pain or trauma.  They've never brought up anything like this at all...they seem fine..."

That is common. Adoptees often lack a comfort level in sharing what's in their heart -- their questions, fears and insecurities.They fear people's response, particularly their adoptive parents.

Many adoptees do not become aware of their post-adoption issues until later in life, when triggered.

Dr. Marshall Schechter, a psychiatrist at the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Medicine and nationally recognized expert on adoption says:
"Adoptees suffer from a fear of loss. They see loss all over the place. Even those adopted in infancy feel the loss…if it happened once, it can happen again."
Adoptees desperately need the people in their lives to be understanding of this profound loss. 

What's up with the laws?

Sealed records are law in all but a few states. In 44 states, original birth certificates are permanently sealed, meaning adoptees can never see their original birth certificates with the name of their birth parents. In Kansas, Alaska, Alabama, Oregon, Maine and New Hampshire, adoptees at 18 can receive birth certificates that have their birth parents names on them. In 44 states, adults are still being treated like children. It is dehumanizing. This is not just an adoption issue it’s a human rights issue.

Some people and agencies falsely assert that opening records and allowing adoptees access will result in an increase of abortions. This is not true as proven by statistical research and reports from the states that have unsealed records. The abortion rates in those states have actually decreased!

Here is a list of what needs to change regarding laws and the equality of adoptees.


Secrecy is never a positive thing. Ever.

All personal records pertaining to an adult adoptee should be available to them including original birth certificates. Relinquishing mothers were never promised secrecy from their children for the rest of their lives, and they aren't the ones fighting for it! Adoption agencies, adoptive parents, special  interest and religious groups are the ones who fight for confidentiality. This is because they believe it is in their best interest. None of this is in the best interest of the adult adoptee or the birth parents!

It is never in someone’s best interest to keep the truth about themselves a secret. People can handle more than we think they can and what they have conjured up in their minds through the prison of secrecy they’ve been living in is probably worse than the truth in some cases.

But, weren't birth mothers promised confidentiality when they relinquished?

No. This is a myth. They were never promised confidentiality.  

Why can't adoptees just be grateful?

When sharing their feelings, adoptes often receive feedback from others that they should just be grateful.

Grateful for their adoption.
Grateful someone took them in.
Grateful for life.
Grateful they weren't aborted.

Adoptees are the only group of people in life who are expected to be grateful for what was first a tragedy! We would never tell others who have experienced various tragedies in life to "just be grateful."

Imagine that your friend got in a car accident, one that took the lives of their entire family. Would you say, "Hey, you just need to be grateful..."? 


Let's put gratitude in perspective...

Adoptees should be no more grateful than any of the rest of the population. Should we all be grateful  for our blessings? Absolutely. To expect the adopted child or adult to be more grateful than the rest puts an expectation upon them that they were never intended to bear.

We must not lose sight of the fact that in order to experience  adoption, a tragedy was first required -- the separation from our first family, and the loss of our heritage, identity, original birth certificate, medical history and much more.This is a profound loss, one that is hard for non-adoptees to understand. Unless adoptees receive appropriate help, many do not recover. When a person has experienced trauma and their feelings about it are continually invalidated or dismissed, it is difficult to get well.

Is home really where your story begins?

Adoptive parents must realize their child's story did not start with them. The child has history, and a wise parent will not dishonor this history nor deny it. When most adoptive parents share their child's story it starts with, "we tried to have children for years and couldn't..." This is part of the problem.  The child's story doesn't start with the inability of their adoptive parents to conceive. It starts with their original family. Many adoptive parents do not recognize their child has prior history to them which must be properly recognized. Wise adoptive parents find ways to share about their child's history and keep the lines of communication open.

An adoptive parent who is adopting for the right reasons and truly wants the best for their child will understand that sometimes what is best for their child is uncomfortable for them personally.  It's undoubtedly uncomfortable for an adoptive parent to purposely bring up a child's heritage and make an effort to connect it to present day happenings in their life. Realize that parenting is a sacrifice and that when we become parents, whether by birth or adoption, it’s all about the child, not about us.

The dreaded words:  "I'm searching..."

Many adoptees encounter the worst heartache when they begin searching for their original family. They are often misunderstood by their adoptive family and friends. Part of the healing for an adoptee is receiving support if and when they search. Adoptees should never be shamed for searching. More than ever during this time, they need support and care. It is often insinuated that “good adoptees don’t search, they just accept.”

When I was pregnant with our son Jordan, I was searching for my original mother. While sitting in the waiting room at the doctor's office, a stranger struck up a conversation with me, asking about my family history and if I knew how things were when my mother was pregnant with me. I said I didn't know, that I was adopted but that I was currently searching for my original family. She (like so many others I had shared with) looked surprised and said, "Why? Your real parents are the ones who raised you."

I was so angry, I had to get up and walk out of the doctor's office for a few minutes to calm myself down. 

First of all, everyone in my life is real. 

Second, this woman was not adopted and did not understand. She sat there  asking me what life was like for my mother when she was pregnant with me, a question that by it's very nature attributed value to the information she was asking for! But sadly she didn't make the connection. And even sadder, she was only one of countless people who said such things to me. 

What's all the anger about?

In addition to being subject to unjust laws, adult adoptees who search are used to hearing responses like this and it's more painful than anyone would ever realize.

 "At least someone took you in..."
"You should just be grateful you went to a Christian home..."
"Why did you search for your birth family? Your real parents are the ones who raised you..."
"At least your mother didn't have an abortion..."

"You didn't grow under your mom's heart, you grew in it."
"Just be grateful for life...you're here, isn't that all that matters?"

It goes on and on...and with each statement, another emotional stab wound for the adoptee to heal from.

Searching is not about whether our adoptive parents did or didn't do a good job or whether we adjusted or healed. It is a basic human right to know one's origin.

But, do they  have to be so angry?

So much has been said about "angry adoptees". Some don't agree with adoptee rights reform because they think it's nothing but a push by adult adoptees who have sour grapes toward their adoptive parents.

The Bible never tells us that we are never to be angry. It simply says, in your anger do not sin. Anger is not always wrong. The Bible speaks of inappropriate anger and a righteous, justified anger. Think of when Jesus turned over the tables in the temple. He was angry, but it was rightly placed anger.

A lot of adoptees are very angry. Some have unhealthy anger, just as non-adoptees do.  Just as many of them have properly placed anger. They have the same type of righteous anger that people had about slavery or that people have about sex trafficking. It is injustice in our world that must be dealt with.

People write off these justifiably "angry adoptees" remarking that their adoption “didn’t work out very well” or that they “never adjusted.” Demanding to know one's origin doesn't make them maladjusted.

Ask an adoptee...

Rarely do people ask adult adoptees what we think about our own lives.

People have a plethora of ideas about what is best for us, and how we should think and feel.

We've lived our whole lives with agencies, foster parents, adoptive parents, attorneys, intermediaries and extended family and friends telling us how things should be and how we should feel instead of asking, "What do you think?"

Most books written about adoption are not by adult adoptees. They are by people who THINK they know. But they don't. Because it didn't happen to them.


"Adult adoptees are a primary source for knowledge about adoption as an institution. Their perceptions are unique, for adult adoptees are actually the only persons who can tell us what it is like to live adoption in a society in which most people are not adopted." 
-Child Welfare League of America

Don't be afraid to call in the pros...

Professional counseling should be a mandate for adoption agencies to provide for everyone in the adoption triad. I  believe that in order for an adoption agency to remain licensed and in operation,the provision of lifetime counseling should be a requirement. With the BILLIONS of dollars they are bringing in, this is a legitimate request, particularly if indeed they claim to do "what is in the best interest of the child."

For those who think this is an unrealistic idea, consider that many agencies offer on-going counseling for a birth mother, even after the adoption is finalized. In some cases they provide it to birth mothers for life, perhaps to encourage them that help will be there for them if they relinquish. They do not provide it for the adoptee.  Let's examine why...

To inform prospective adoptive parents that lifetime counseling is provided would undoubtedly be an indication that there is trauma related to adoption. That is something agencies don't want to admit. Undoubtedly, if a lifetime provision for counseling for adoptees were to be revealed, prospective adoptive parents would ask, "Why would our adopted son or daughter need counseling available to them...for a lifetime?" This would ruin the perception most adoption agencies give that adoption is bliss. That babies are so resilient it doesn't affect them. That adoption is nothing but dreams fulfilled and  hugs and smiles and teddy bears.

What about the adoptees who "really don't care"?

Many people also cite someone they know who is adopted and "really doesn't care" or "is perfectly fine" or "has no desire to search." The truth is, whether they will ever face post adoption issues remains to be seen. I personally know many adoptees whose post adoption issues didn't surface until later in life. There are countless others who are silent because they are afraid to share their true feelings. Adoptees are conditioned to feel that they are responsible for their parents' happiness. This is a an unhealthy weight that  many of them carry throughout their life and it prevents many from expressing their true feelings or searching.

The bottom line:

Whether you know someone who feels the same is irrelevant to the fact that millions of adoptees do care and do want the basic rights extended to them that everyone else has.

When equal rights are granted to adult adoptees and records are unsealed a lot of that anger will dissipate. It will give adoptees who are hurting the ability to heal quicker.

Family members, friends and churches can also help adoptees by listening. Not assuming. Not philosophizing. Not claiming to know. But listening. Really hearing. Validating. Seeking to understand. Providing a place of love, care, compassion and acceptance. If you are a pastor, church leader or a Christian who cares about reaching the 6-7 million adoptees who live in America, many of whom want nothing to do with God or the church, I give some some helps to do that here.

There is hope for adoptees. Healing is accomplished in an atmosphere void of secrets, living in complete truth and grace.

We have a long way to go. But I believe we can get there together.