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.
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!!