Challenging the Mental Block

Way back when I started this blog, I thought this would be a good way to share a little what was going on with us with far-flung friends and family, especially as we proceeded with adoption stuff. However, I haven’t blogged about adoption or what we’re up to recently at all. A dear friend recently asked me what was going on. And, in the way that good friends can, asked me whether we had some sort of mental block going on. The timing was impeccable. Just how great a mental block we have going on had come crashing down just a few days earlier in reading the news from Shelly and David, who have matched with an expectant mother (yeah Shelly and David). Shelly and David sent their fingerprints off the same week as we did. I’m ecstatic for them, but it really accentuates our inertia in this matter.

Our friend’s question, and the recent good news from Shelly and David, made me sit down and try to articulate what my hang ups are. I must admit, the hang-ups are mine rather than Green’s. Over the past year or so I’ve read countless blogs about adoption, from the perspective of the child adoptee, the first parents and the adoptive parents. It isn’t always easy reading, actually it often isn’t easy reading, and it has made me question whether you can ever ethically adopt. Talking with our friend is always good for me because she has been through this in the role of an adoptive parent, and as I talk with her about the reasons that her children were placed it reminds me to turn to the first-hand data I have access to:

Our family (like most, it has been impacted by adoption)
Our friends (who are adoptees, first mothers and adoptive families)

What are their experiences? What can I learn from them?

There are a few specific issues that I grapple with and are contributing to my mental block.

1. Is there ever a situation where it is the right thing for expectant parents to place their child with another family? Should the genetically linked family be preserved as a traditional unit at all costs?

2. Do we compromise our moral code by engaging in the Adoption Industry? Is there a way to avoid this?

The numbers of children, specifically newborns, placed for adoption in the US is significantly higher than that in the UK. The lack of an adequate social safety net for families is disgraceful, and is without a doubt part of the contributing factor to the number of placements that happen. I feel strongly that poverty should not be a sole reason to place a child. That as a community we should be more family friendly and supportive and not just in words, but also financially. I believe that we should provide health care including easy access to birth control.

Talking with friends who are first mums and adoptive parents with pretty open relationships with the first parents, poverty wasn’t the sole reason for their placements, sometimes it wasn’t part of the equation, sometimes it was. Not being in a good place mentally to parent; not being in a relationship with someone that they wanted to parent with; not having sufficient emotional and physical support from family to go forward; all given as reason, maybe not exactly in those terms, but basically along those lines.

I know that if I’d been pregnant and not ready to parent my family would have taken my child under their guardianship. They told me as much while I was growing up, they were in a position to, not all families are despite great mounds of love.

I know that at times in my life I was not ready to be a parent.

I know that despite a the burgeoning adoption industry, adoption has been going on formally and informally for all of human existence. That persistence doesn’t make it right, but it can inform us.

I know that I can’t stand in judgment of first parents who have decided to place their child, because I haven’t walked in their shoes and I can’t say I wouldn’t if I was in their position.

I grapple with the problem, but I think we’re at the point now where we can say adoption can be a positive. A positive that is messy and complicated, but a positive all the same and that we’re ready to see if a situation arises where first parents think their child may thrive in our home.

If we’re going to be open to adoption, we have to get on with this home-study paperwork.

My friend, the mama over at Our Family Changes sat me down last week while Green and Bean were off in Nebraska (more on that later), cracked the whip and has me working on this paperwork again. Working out how we’re going to deal with the whole adoption industry thing, that is a post for another time. For today, this is adoption thing is messy, not well articulated and definitely a work in progress.



Filed under Adoption, ethics, Homestudy, the business of adoption

7 responses to “Challenging the Mental Block

  1. The fact that you have thought so deeply about this, from every angle, and weighing in the moral and ethical implications of adoption is truly remarkable – if not a bit humbling to the outsider. My father is adopted, but within his own family. I’ve always known the complexity that comes with those choices, and the impact they can have for generations. But I don’t think that many people would have been as thoughtful as you before making this decision. This is a big decision, and I applaud you for looking at it from all directions. Whatever your decision, I’m sure it will come from a place of inner wisdom.

  2. Thanks. Green also has a couple of examples of family adoption in his family. I think parenting by non-parents more prevalent than we admit as a society. Parenting is often not by the parents, but by grandparents, aunts & uncles, older siblings…sometimes clearly defined other times informal or not even recognized. What does this mean for the larger adoptive community? I don’t know, other than there are times when an individual or individuals can’t parent or has chosen not to parent.

  3. I’ll throw my two cents into the well. Of course, it comes from my perspective as (1) an adoptive parent and (2) a relationship where we will never have a child that is genetically related to both of us.

    I think research is the key to choosing an agency that tows the ethical line. Our agency, at all stages of the process, counceled our daughter’s birth mother to make her own choices and did not advocate for her placing the baby for adoption. They were very supportive of her during both private conversations and in meetings with all of us. I’m sure there are agencies that are performanced based (just look at the Hatian situation) and I think the industry, as much as I hate to call it that but that’s what it is, gets a bad wrap. In our case, K. had made a plan with family members that fell through, and that is what led her to us. Many times I’ve thought about what her grieving process must have been like when she left the hospital alone, and my heart breaks for her. Each person reaches a personal decision on placing a child, and as long as they are not persuaded by unethical social workers, I think that has to be respected. We have a good relationship with K., her mother, and her two children, and I hope that keeps her mind at rest. I know you are using the same agency as ours, so feel free to contact me if you’re wrestling with anything.

    I definately hear what you’re saying. Even over the cackling of those damn chickens. *grin*

    • Oh, the sound of the chickens is fast becoming a favorite sound to wake to.

      Yes to this “Each person reaches a personal decision on placing a child, and as long as they are not persuaded by unethical social workers, I think that has to be respected.”

      I recently stumbled upon this blog from a birthfather:

      Reading this I’m reminded that there are times in my adult life when I didn’t envisage parenthood as part of my path. Whatever I would have chosen I would hope it would have been respected.

  4. I’m glad that I was able to help in some small way with your adoption journey. I know how difficult it is, for all parties involved, in so many different ways.

    I admire you for your ethics and your convictions. As we discussed the night we worked on your questions together, I was rather narrow-minded at the point in time that we adopted J. It wasn’t until several months after his adoption was finalized that I really started to become educated and more aware of the perspective of first moms and adult adoptees by reading their blogs and experiencing some of their adoption pain and anguish through their written words. This awareness has changed the relationship I have with J’s first mom, in a positive way I believe, and it’s made me understand more deeply my responsibilities as an adoptive mom.

    I understand all the conflicting emotions you’re grappling with, really I do, but you need to get the homestudy completed and get licensed so that you can be in a position to adopt. And tackling that daunting list of oh-so-personal questions is certainly a step in the right direction.

    You and Bean are already wonderful parents. You’re going to be fantastic parents to an adopted child in an open adoption situation. I’m excited to see this all unfold.

    So get back to that paperwork, my friend! 🙂

  5. Hey there,

    I’m glad you’ve written more about your struggles with the ethics around adoption. Your two questions are really important and ones we tumbled around in our minds a long time before committing to the path we took (open, domestic adoption).

    Regarding your first set of questions…IMHO, biology shouldn’t trump everything else in family-building. (If it did, we wouldn’t see so many unhappy, disfunctional families who are genetically linked.) I suspect most of us can think of plenty of situations when it would be better for everyone involved for someone with no biological tie to raise a particular child.

    However, this doesn’t mean that removing a child from its family of origin doesn’t cause a huge loss. It does. How that loss is coped with, I believe, really depends on the child and how it is framed for her/him. Let’s face it: loss is part of living, and many/most of us experience tragic loss and go on to be well-functioning, mostly happy people.

    Another thing that was important to me in answering the first part of your first question is that I am ardently pro-choice. I believe that women should have the right to choose whether they are pregnant AND whether they should parent. Of course, that choice should be made without coersion and ideally after careful consideration of the life-long ramifications. But I just don’t think its right for me to second guess the choice a woman (or a couple) has made to place their child for adoption. (Yes, I can question the circumstances that make it the most attractive option for her, such as poverty, but that’s a different set of issues.)

    Now your second question was harder for me to get past. I don’t think the “adoption industry” is entirely avoidable, unfortunately. However, I think there are things we can do to make sure we as individuals behave as ethically as possible within in, ranging from ensuring everyone in our triad is well-counseled, to advocating for adoption reform.

    I think I mentioned to you before that in our own discussions about the ethics of adoption, we often came back to realizing that there were ethical pitfalls in every form of family-building. (I mean, is it right to bring a child into this crazy, over-populated world, anyway?) We have to make ethical compromises all the time. Obviously, you and your child and its birth family will have to live with the decisions you make, but I personally believe there are a lot worse things you could do than love and care for a child who you were selected to parent by its family of origin.

    Phew! That was loooong…and admittedly biased by my own experience. I hope, though, that it’s helpful in some way. Best wishes, whatever you do!

  6. Kristin,
    Thank you so much for your comment. I really appreciate hearing your thought process on these matters. Reflecting back to times when I wasn’t ready to parent and considering the issue of choice (also pro-choice) both in continuing a pregnancy and deciding whether you are ready and able to parent forces me to pull my head out of my arse a little.

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