Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Adoption Haves and Have Nots

Having coined the term "reverse Robinhoodism" to describe adoption, and authored an article with that title, here are some new reminders of the concept of adoption TODAY being totally about the haves versus the have-nots, and an epiphany on the subject (see below).

My esteemed colleague, Lorraine Dusky, over at FirstMother Forum seemed incredulous at the glaring  disparity between the good life of adoptive mother, Elizabth Foy Larsen, conpared to that of her adopted child's Guatemalan mother as described in the New York Times article, "Untying a Birth Mother's Hands."

That Larsen mistakenly and unfortunately paints domestic infant adoption as a magical happily-ever-after wonderland compared to international adoption was most unfortunate. I wrote a letter to the editors to the effect  and wrote to Laresen, with whom I have had previous communication, and we discussed the issues at length. She told me that she regretted some of the words used and tried to edit them out but it was too late. So all of those criticisms of the piece were well-founded and deserved in what I found otherwise to be an articulate and heartfelt portrayal of reunion from an adoptive parent's perspective.

Dusky seems troubled - not just by the misinformation in the piece - but that is an article that "portrays the anguish and pain of a woman who surrendered her child because of poverty and shame." A true and accurate description of this case and of all adoption. Would it have been better if Larsen ignored or glossed over these harsh realities, I can't help wondering? 

Down in the eighth paragraph Dusky writes: "To her credit, Foy Larsen is grappling with the realities of adoption in ways that a great many adoptive parents ignore because they can."  But not after making the catty supposition that Larsen's bathrooms no doubt having "lots of marble."  

I guess it just struck a nerve with Dusky, but this is nothing new. I've been writing about this dichotomy for decades. Adoption takes from the poor and gives to the rich! (Though, I guess the Larsen piece really did - albeit perhaps unintentionally - seem to flaunt it. I get an "out of touch" feel, like hearing Mitt Romney speak (with his Dressage horse and his friends who are Nascar OWNERS!). I don't think it occurred to her that even most who adopt might not be able to easily affords to take such an entourage back to Guatemala.)

Recently another adoptive - or prospective adopter - wrote the following about a planned domestic adoption of a mother's third child: 
"I mean, if you can care and provide for your kids financially, there is really no need to offer them up to another, is there? ...You become, in effect, the haves and the have nots.  They have a baby.  They have no money.  We have money.  We have no baby.  You see what I'm getting at?  If you want a crash course in American poverty, go through the adoption process.  It will wake your eyes up and fast."
If you can provide for your kids financially, there is really no need to offer them up to another.

That says a mouthful, doesn't it? And so too does:

If you want a crash course in American poverty - look at adoption!  

Money talks. In this blog post she describes how she paid for her attorney and one to "represent" the expectant mother's interests. As if! As if he who pays the piper doesn't get the tune THEY want played in perfect sweet tones where and when THEY want it!  Just a tiny but of conflict of interests in that common private adoption practice?  No, how about a whopping bit: like having your husband pay your divorce attorney up front.

Back to Dusky who notes correctly that Larsen - like all who adopt - are part of the problem by creating the demand that is met too often by unscrupulous baby thieves, kidnappers, and child traffickers. This is something Elizabeth Larsen is not unaware, and addressed in detail in her 2007 Mother Jones article, Did I Steal My Daughter? 

Dusky notes, quite correctly:
"The amount of money spent [by Larsen] merely getting everyone down there and in a decent hotel--adoptive mother, adoptive father, their two biological children, the two adoptive grandmothers--(unless they used frequent flyer miles, of course) would have undoubtedly lifted the natural mother from the crushing poverty that kept her powerless to keep her daughter."
YUP! And so too could the tens of thousands EVERY adoption costs be better spent to feed an entire village, buy life saving mosquito netting, books, wells, schools, medical supplies.... I've been saying this too, ad nuseum.

Survivors Guilt?

The one new epiphany that came to me as a result of these two pieces focusing on money, money, money and the harsh contrast between the haves and have-nots of adoption... the gross exploitation of poverty... is this:

It's all justified because adoption takes these kids out of poverty and gives them "a better life." Adoption affords them "opportunities" otherwise unheard of for them, out of the scope of possibility for their natural families to provide. I have long put forth the question, why then don't we take every middle class kid and place them with the Bill Gate's of the world, the Mitt Romney's. After all that too would give them "better lives" and provide opportunities they could not have in middle class suburban American. Why be ride a school bus or be driven to school in a Volvo when you could be at private boarding school your chauffeur takes you to?  Isn't that "better"?  What about the "trade off" of knowing one's heritage, culture, in some cases language, and FAMILY and not feeling rejected or abandoned?

But here's a new question about all of this redistribution of children from the poor to the wealthy and I really hope some adult adoptees would let us hear form them on this): 

How does it feel to grow up knowing you were singled out for this better life, leaving your family behind? How does it feel being taken back - or going back later on your own - and seeing the orphanage you were left at, or meeting family and seeing the stark differences in cultures and how they have struggled while you were plied with amenities they cannot even dream of?

Is it painful? Do ask yourself "WHY ME?" - not unlike someone who survives a tragedy in which their family is killed?  Do you feel "guilty"? Why did I get to live in the lap of luxury and my sisters and brother, mother, father, aunts, unless and grandparents were left broken-hearted and bereft?

Do any adoptive parents consider this might be occurring to their children as they show them the squalor from which they were "rescued"?  Are they aware of the double-edged sword that in patting themselves on the back and taking credit for "saving" them, they also left the others?  Or do they appease their consciences, some of them, by tossing them a couple of bucks from time to time, like we do when we pass a homeless person on the street... even if THIS one is your child's brother or mother?

As the divide between the haves and have-nots continues to widen, do we just continue to strip mine the poor of their children?  Use them as Handmaids, breeders for the wealthy? Buy their eggs and rent their uteruses and put them on TV reality shows that further exploit their pain? The Handmaids Tale and the Hunger Games are fiction. "I'm Having Their Baby" and the blog quoted and Elizabeth Larsen's adoption and all others like them both - domestic and International - are REAL...all too real, and all too exploitive.

We disallow the selling of organs to prevent the exploitation of the poor, but we allow the (in the U$) the anonymous creation of life for a fee. We allow the selling of the genetic material of life: sperm and eggs. We label it "donation" to gloss over the ugly truth. We allow women's actual LABOR, and life-risking delivery - to be bought.  And we allow babies to bought by calling it "paying for expenses" - expenses that could be provided by welfare, food stamps, and Medicaid.

We have restrictions on the funeral industry to prevent the exploitation of recent widows and widowers, but allow women just coming out of anesthesia to sign irrevocable replinquishment papers, not to mention how we totally mistreat fathers and their rights!

And, we entice mothers-to-be with the prospect of "open adoption" proclaiming that it's enforceable, when in reality it is merely recognized by the courts (in most states, but not all) for the purpose of mediating problems. If the problems cannot be mediated, tough! There is no enforcement and can't be, because - unlike in divorce custody - one set of parents has ALL the legal rights to make all decisions for their child and the other is a legal stranger to the child and has NO RIGHTS WHATSOEVER to enforce any promises.

How is any of this ethical or moral?

Adoptees, how do you feel?  Do you question "why me"?  Why was I "saved" and the rest of my family not?  And, why then am I expected to be "grateful" for your choosing to just pluck me form my nest and leave the rest behind?

And ya' gotta love the religious restrictions on birth control and women's right to choice and control over reproduction... for helping to keep the poor baby breeders of the world popping out those babies for the wealthy!!


Anonymous said...

I've often asked "Why me?" Yes, I was adopted by an affluent couple, but because I could not be molded into the person they tried to make me,as my siblings have, I'm no longer a member of their economic class. I haven't been bought a house as my adoptive siblings have and am often treated more like a servant than one of their own (ex. being told to do the dishes at family gatherings while everyone else sits around the table). And yet, I am the only one who will come in times of need and do what needs to be done. Unless my siblings can benefit from thier visit, they're nowhere to be found. Yes, they have bought me a car, but it was because they needed me to come and help, not to make my life easier.

I cannot deny that I had things that my birth parents couldn't have afforded had they kept me, but I probably also wouldn't have been sexually abused (by my adoptive father) and forced to help run a household when my mother became too drunk to do it. Was I loved? Yes, but I believe it was more because of the services I provided than for being sacrificed on the adoption altar.

Mirah Riben said...

Thank you for sharing something so very awful and painful.

Lorraine Dusky said...

Mirah, once again a thoughtful post on a subject we agree on, questions raised I haven't seen elsewhere.

When I first read Larsen's piece in the Times, I did not have the visceral reaction that a second reading and analysis (for the purposes of writing) gave me. Adoption except in a small number of circumstances is about the redistribution of wealth, only here were are dealing with children as commodities rather than food stuffs or manufactured goods. The wealthy in children but lacking in funds give up their children to those with funds. The poor don't get money in return; the money is left with the people who arrange the transfer of the "goods," ie, children. It is a sick system.

(esteemed colleague--whoo wee. I'm just, er, me)

Anonymous said...

What a mistake to think that you can give a child "a better life" by adopting him. I am sure that a child would prefer to grow with his poor parents than with adoptive people and a better life. Always knowing that he is "adopted". Always
wondering about the truth and always feeling abandoned. Not an easy life. Not to mention what could happen if he gets an abusive adoptive family.

Only the childless people benefit. They can show their trophy. Someone else's child.!!!

Robin said...

And that's just it. Often the 'better' life is just a myth. Certainly, children from impoverished families who are placed in a middle/upper middle class family get a better material life but along with that all of the losses that have already been outlined with adoption. For some of us, such as myself, I didn't even get a 'better' life materially. Both my natural families and adoptive family were middle to upper middle class. All my 'better' life amounted to was being raised, at least for a short while, by married parents. So quite often the relinquished child doesn't even get a 'better' life after all.

Anonymous said...

Nobody considers a child a "Trophy." Geez!

Mirah Riben said...

First, without doing a complete search (i'm not at home) I do not see the word trophy used.

More importantly, I disagree. I have seen many examples of celebs, politicians and just plain folk using their adoptive status to pat themselves on the back or as a badge of liberalsim, or an indication of their altruism.

In fact, as far as trophies, many biological parents do it as well when they brag on and on about their child's accomplishments in sports or academically. You hear it all the time. You think stage moms who put their little girls in pagents or dance competitions see them as anything BUT trophies?

A child is more of a trophy to his natural parents because they can lay claim to his inheriting their brains or talent. They often see their child as an extension of themselves, or relive their childhood through them.

Yes. In our culture, children very much are trophies. They are symbols of fertility, wealth and more.

Moonstar said...

I read the article link posted about open adoptions in
this blog. When I saw the comments i was horrified by
this one.

"This is nice, but do not give parents the false impression that every open adoption necessitates a relationship with the birthmother that includes meetings and phone calls or they are like the movie Juno. They do not, and I know this from personal experience. Some birthmothers want to be involved to different degrees, and some adoptive parents do as well. It may be a positive development, but a child should not be confused about who their real, yes real, parents are - their adoptive parents. And open adoptions can be as simple as ensuring the birth mom is registered with the state so that if the child wants to make contact when he or she is 16, that contact can be made. Other than that, you might better expect that yearly or twice yearly letters and photos are sent at discreet updates."

This woman is worried about the child being "confused"
about who the "real parents" are.

It sounds like she's an adoptive mom who feels
threatened by her child's first mother.

I have read a few articles about making open adoptions,
legally enforceable in the future. But I see a lot of
comments in those articles from APs, claiming they
"don't want to drag a confused, psychologically damaged
child through court."
So now they are claiming that adoptees who still
have a bond with they're first parents, are "pyschologically

However, after studying a bit of psychology myself.
I can tell you it's some of these same APs, who are the
ones psychologically damaged. Most due to their infertility.

But still, society tends to feel more sorry for the
infertile APs and never for the adoptees or first parents.

Mirah Riben said...

Right on all accounts,Moonstar. The insanity and nerve of someone to claim that making yourself available through the agency is an open adoption! Every natural mother I've ever known for the past 40+ years did that! Our adoptions were very much CLOSED!

Fear, fear, fear! Insecurities up the whazoo! And plain old fashioned SELFISH!! No child is confused who their primary caretaker is - even kids who are with babysitters or nannies more than their own parents know who their parents are for goodness sake! How absurd that they'd be confused.

RussiaToday Apr 29, 2010 on Russian Adoption Freeze

Russi Today: America television Interview 4/16/10 Regarding the Return of Artyem, 7, to Russia alone

RT: Russia-America TV Interview 3/10

Korean Birthmothers Protest to End Adoption

Motherhood, Adoption, Surrender, & Loss

Who Am I?

Bitter Winds

Adoption and Truth Video

Adoption Truth

Birthparents Never Forget