Saturday, May 24, 2008

REPLY: What Kind of Job Are *WE* Doing?

Reply to What kind of a job is the media doing?

(Edited 5/25) I posted Ann's request about her media project because I know and respect Ann as an impassioned and hard worker for adoptee rights and because I encourage participation in the project.

I, however, firmly believe that the solution rests firmly with US, not the media. If we say it, they will print it! They - the media and the public - don't know it unless WE TEACH THEM!

Origins-USA s doing a number of things in this regard, and we encourage other groups to do so as well:

- we maintain a media information section on our website, including positive adoption language

- we maintain a speakers bureau to present our issues whenever possible

- we ask all members if they are willing to be interviewed locally or nationally and if they are able to use their name.

- we actively pursue PR opportunities and "piggy back" on any story about adoption as an opportunity to get "our side" of th story told.

As a result of our efforts, we have gotten contacted by several newspapers doing stories on adoption, including the Chicago Times or Tribune when they were covering Juno.

In order for anyone interested in changing adoption practices to get equal coverage with the NCFA we need to have viable organizations representing us and our missions. Those organizations need to have active Public Relations people and get their message out at every opportunity. I do not see that happening except by Origins-USA, sorry to say.

The rest remain a losing David fighting Goliath because we STILL spend more time in-fighting than doing enough. As more of us reach retirement age there should be more of us having the time to put our $ where our mouth is, literally and figuratively. It takes money and it takes our time and effort. No one is going to do it for us! We have spent - some of us - 30 to 40 years TALKING about it, complaining about adoption, etc...and getting some legislation passed. We still have the vast MAJORITY of states sealed. We still have not affected great change in social ATTITUDES and BELIEFS! As long as the common belief is that adoption is BEST, we never will.

If we do not begin to change ATTITUDES about adoption, nothing will change in our lifetimes. If we do not each believe that there is far more wrong with adoption than getting your OBC when you are adult, then forget it! How can we expect the media to get it "right" and treat us with respect if we are not demanding it for ourselves? If we are content to live lives as second class citizens and not recognize our mothers as mothers, why would they?

They call us "biomothers" and the like because they are quoting adoptees! How can we fault the media for that? If an adoptee calls one of his mothers his "real" mother and he is quoted whose fault is that?

When adoptees call themselves adopted "children" and state in their interview that they were not searching for another mother, or that they have the only mother they ever need...or that ITS NO BIG DEAL to have been found or whatever...that hurts our cause.Ad the fault lies with lack of EDUCATION, no with the media, IMHO.

We need to do a lot more work on our own image and PR before we can fault the media. The press would still be calling Blacks Negroes if THEY hadn't demanded a change! Likewise, people with disabilities, etc.

We need to change the mindset that adoption is always a good thing, and the end justifies the means -- even now as chidlren are trafficked worldwide to meet a demand! Until we stand united on these issues, of course the press will reflect the confusion and ambivalence we ourselves are putting out there. How can it be otherwise?

There is no earthly reason for adoption as it is currently practiced in this country. Caring for orphans and chidlren who do not have parents capable of caring for them does not require changing their names and hiding their original identity. It is not necessary in other countries and is a relatively new phenomenon here. When adoptees ask for the crumbs of the right to their OBC AS ADULTS they are accepting a lifetime of lies, and in so doing condoning supporting a corrupt industry.

Falsified OBCs serve only those who see children as a commodity to exchange for $$! if you do not think of yourself as a THING, you need to start waking up and speaking out against the redistribution of children for profit - even if it meant you had a wonderful upbringing as a result.

No mother or child should be separated because of poverty or ignorance or powerlessness. No one should be made to TRADE off genetic heritage, family ties, culture and kinship for MATERIAL THINGS! If you think it is justifiable - then why don't we redistribute ALL children of the poor to those who are wealthier,and those of the upper-middle class to wealthier still and so on...

Don't look at mothers you found and be glad you weren't there with her - and tell that to the reporter interviewing you - because you don't know how damaged she became as a result of losing you! You do not know how you life - or hers - may have been under different circumstances, had you both been given the support you needed. One thing is for sure -- you would not have spent any amount of time searhcing for her (and yourself).

Every time an adoptee says he/she is glad to have been adopted it fortifies societal myths about adoption.

YOU are part of the problem of why the media has no idea what balance is in regard to this issue. If it's all good, what is there to balance? The only pan that gets reported is the pain of childlessness. it is made out to be worse than having no eyes or needing a heart transplant! And heaven forbid they count on (read pay for) a child and are disappointed! My God! It is reported as the world's greatest tragedy.

Yet EVERY SINGLE adoption leaves a mother with empty arms, drenched in tears - is that EVER COVERED? NO! And it never will be until we change attitudes and beliefs about ENTITLEMENT and expectations.

When an adopter kills a baby, it is covered as an isolated anomaly. No statistics are given, cause none are collected! Sam for adoptees killing their adopters and same for adoptee suicides. As long as we refuse to look at the high number of adoptees in institutions of all kinds we do our cause a disservice....and further he happily-ever-after win-win adoption myths.

The choice is OURS, not the media's! We need to promote more honesty, not just happy reunion stories, open records issues, memoirs and historical accounts of adoption in days gone by -- but hard cold reality!

If we remain afraid to speak about the dark side of adoption - about what is WRONG with it - it at our, why would the media ever know it to report it??? And how on earth will any of it ever get fixed?

When we have people siting on boards of adoption "reform" organizations - who we call the "good guys" that are profiting from baby brokering and/or who use incorrect OFFENSIVE and COERCIVE language in their speech, writing and on their websites -- calling expectant mothers BIRTHMOTHERS - or potential birthmothers - for goodness sake -- how can we expect the press to be more respectful to us than we are to ourselves?

I am not advocating a return to the word police, censorship and banning people - although as nasty as that was it sure did bring attention to the issue, didn't it? I am speaking however of EDUCATING. We must start within our own circle and educate ourselves and one another as to what words help and what words do not help. And people who have been educated and have not changed need to be - shall we say - "D" listed not continued to be treated as starlets who are so "in tune" and so supportive?

Many fine individuals are busting their butts in their states to get legislation passed. Ann does a great deal with legislation and her news list, etc....HOWEVER I regret that I do not see one loud clear representative voice speaking for adoptees and adoptee rights. I find that sad. the AAC has not served that purpose, IMHO. BN once did and I hope they rally, get it together, and become a strong force once again.

Adoption: You are either for it and want to see it go on and on taking babies and changing their names etc....or you think there is a better way to protect and care for chidlren and maintain their rights and those of their mothers and fathers. That better way, IMO, is called Family Preservation - as in the name of this blog.

So let's get behind this and support it - every day in every way! let's BE THE CHANGE WE WANT TO SEE!


Ann Wilmer said...

Unfortunately, this is typical of why we have not made as much progress as we might have with regard to changing society's understanding of adoption. Instead of uniting to fight wrongs where we see them, we snipe at one another and debate over who has been wronged the most. Women who relinquished a child to adoption certainly have been treated badly both before and since the event but they are not alone. And to suggest that they are the only ones who are doing anything about it is patently false.

You may well be the primary force seeking to correct how you are portrayed by the media. That is certainly your role and one that no other part of the triad community can or should co-opt. But I can tell you from personal experience that there is no guarantee that the media will cover our story, even if we hit them over the head with it.

GRC and BN actively worked the media in Illinois for over a month in response to yet another legislative attempt to keep us perpetual children. OUSA and you, personally, were invited to join us. You declined saying, it was not your fight. Other organizations of women who surrendered a child did not feel the same way and signed on with our open letter. Still we got damned little in the way of media coverage -- a few letters to the editor but no serious news story that addressed our concerns. Only one media interview will make it's way into print, too late to affect the outcome, I'm afraid.

The media continues to use words and phrases that offend and mischaracterize adoptees and their natural parents. For example, they run sympathetic stories when American parents attempts to adopt a foreign born child, who may or may not be an orphan, but never mention the families that will be left to mourn this child. They do need to be educated about the reality of adoption and part of the solution is for triad members to take them to task whenever they get it wrong. However, reporting conventions about how we are represented in the media will not change without professional scrutiny, which is why I started my project. I have earned my reporting credentials and I intend to use them to encourage fair and balanced reporting of adoption.

I have long maintained that open records was key to reforming a lot of what is wrong with adoption. Agencies whose actions can later be questioned and whose claims can be disputed by both the adoptee and the parents who surrendered the child to adoption will take short-cuts and use questionable tactics to achieve their desired results AT THEIR PERIL.

This appears to be yet an instance of piggy-backing onto another's story to tell yours -- the difference this time is that it is not the woefully misinformed media but a reporter who happens to be a triad member. I believe that you can contribute to the effort without trying to co-opt it and I hope you will give that some consideration.

AdoptAuthor said...

My dear friend and colleague, Ann. Co-Opt? Not at all. I have always worked with you and adoptees and shoulder to shoulder with adoptive parents who want change. I always have and still do. And I WILL of course work WITH you on this project as well. That is why I posted it full. I regret that you felt that a "snipe" at you or your suggestions.

I was merely expressing my general frustration.

I NEVER suggested that mothers are the only ones who suffered. Please re-read all of my posts on this blog and everything I've ever written and you will never see that. I do not compare suffering, among or between mothers or others.

Your next two sentences contradict one another and clearly spell out your misunderstanding of what I have written and expressed:

"to suggest that they are the only ones who are doing anything about it is patently false.
You may well be the primary force seeking to correct how you are portrayed by the media"

Origins-USA is - in YOUR words not the only but the "primary force."
That is because we are trying to change the way ADOPTION is viewed in the media and EDUCATE the public to help change the societal view of adoption as a glamorous win-win solution for "unwanted" children as they are too often called. We want to change the JUNO view of mothers dropping babies off with hardly a tear. That is not to focus on mothers' pain MORE than anyone else' is to do EXACTLY what YOU suggest let them ALSO show "the families that will be left to mourn this child." They don't know that unless we tell them over and over and over. We have LONG been labeled the silenced part of th "triad."

And now we have the NFCA speaking FOR us...telling what we were allegedly "promised" and that we need "protection. WE ARE DAMN SICK OF IT!! Our new mantra is "Nothing about us without us."

But again - our work - Origins-USA - is focused on ending the coercion and exploitation in ADOPTION. We are NOT just focused on mothers. We do not want CHILDREN trafficked all over the world!

I am sorry, Ann, but I know of "leaders" of adoption "reform" who have stated or implied that there is nothing wrong with adoption as long as adoptees get their records as adults. This will not help change ANYTHING! This is part of the reason why the press reports adoption as a GOOD thing! And, they will be continued to be called "adopted children" as long as they continue act like OBEDIENT children!

I used Origins-USA as an example of what other orgs could be doing. We list positive language and have media packets. We do interviews. There are many ways and many things that need to be done.

I never said or even implied that your way is wrong. I merely suggested that a GREAT DEAL MORE needs to be done by all of us before we criticize the media for getting it wrong.

They write what people say and the language being used by LEADERS of or orgs. Did you click on the links I provided?

These are the problems. Look at the pages I linked to!

AdoptAuthor said...

Ann, I know you are going through a tough time.

But with all ALL mothers and mothers' orgs have done over the past 30+ years for open records - not the least of which being Oregon - I really take umbrage at your focusing on ONE convoluted bill that Origins-USA did not support.

Open records is not our prime focus. It is not even in our mission or goals, and yet I have written severla letters just within the past DAYS re NJ legislation!

Asbury Park Press:

and this one in The HoMe News Tribune:

joanwheeler said...

I am new to blogging and commenting online, but not new to adoption reform.

During the past 34 years of reunion and activism, I, too, cringe when I hear fellow adoptees say exactly what Mirah has pointed out. I've spoken to these adoptees and asked them to correct their choice of words and their own attitudes, but often, I get shot down.

"Oh, no!" They say, "My only REAL parents are the ones who adopted me! I call my birthmom by her first name because she had nothing to do with raising me. She's not my mother!"

To which I respond, "Oh REAALLLY? Then why was it so important for you to find her?"

These adoptees are stumped. They don't know what to say.

I am horrified at the ignorance of adoptees, who want to search and find their birthmothers, but who contradict their own missions and goals by undermining their parents who gave them life.

I was 18 years old and still in high school when I received a phone call from a sister I never knew. At the moment she told me "I am your sister," In that split second I knew that I had two very real sets of parents. I had two very real families: the one who raised me and lied to me, and the one who was legally forbidden to me.

In order for me to survive emotionally, I told myself (and my two sets of parents) that I am a member of two families. I have tow mothers and two fathers and one step mother.

Other people have pounded their fists and raged at me, insisting that I pick one over the other as my REAL parents. I have never backed down. I have never deviated from that position. I have lost friends, been ridiculed, humiliated and been the target of hate crimes because of my firm acknowledgement of truth.

I have encouraged other adoptees to see that they have two sets of parents. I've written articles in The Buffalo News spanning three decades --- always correcting the media in their choice of words. Sometimes it is the Media's fault as they go by what they've heard, without realizing these words and attitudes are so ingrained in society that it takes effort to use appropriate words.

I've learned from both you, Ann and Mirah. Keep up the good work!

Joan Wheeler (born as) Doris Sippel

AdoptAuthor said...

Hi Joan. Nice to hear from you.

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