If someone says they know a "happy adoptee", it's likely because they do

This morning I'm thinking about adoption. I'm adopted and am free of serious adoption related issues. So, the question's been asked, why on earth would I write about adoption? My answer, after wrinkling my forehead in puzzlement and thinking "huh???", is because I care about kids and I think my perspective is relevant and I want to know why it, adoption, works out ok for some and not for others. I would like to see adoption reformed and focus concentrated on children and what they need, not what all the adults and parents involved want.

I read adoption blogs and have reactions to what's said. Why wouldn't I? Why shouldn't I? In a way I feel like an objective observer, even though I'm adopted, because although I'm at peace with that fact I also believe that there needs to be a better way because not everyone is at peace with adoption. I grant everyone their feelings of anger and loss. I'm a firm believer that denying a person's feelings and reactions is never helpful but I also abhor it when those same people are unwilling to reciprocate, to try to also examine what works and why.

Here's a few of my thoughts this morning.

Research and proven theories. I am in the research business, scientific research. I am not a scientist but I do their work for them. I know what goes into creating valid and concrete evidence. It takes checks, repeatability, and reproducibility in controlled environments with experimental methods that have been proven reliable. Solid research takes years and has to be conducted with integrity and without bias.

Bias is rampant in adoption blog land. I think I understand why it exists but that doesn't mean I have to accept it. People maintain they are dismissed, that they are without rights, they're invalidated, and then turn around and do it to others. They go so far as to say if someone doesn't think like them that they're delusional. It's seems like if anything is said that goes against the person's personal agenda or cause the reaction is to avoid appearing to concede anything in anyway at all costs, even if it means twisting words and taking them out of context, referencing things like popular opinion as research. Maybe it's not always intentional or conscious but it happens and will always happen when someone is too stringent in their views.

The way it's rationalized as far as some adoptees goes is to say the good in adoption is heard enough. While that may be true (perhaps especially because it's true), how do they think they can be perceived as credible if they deny it in just the same way they feel denied? It's not just about validating feelings, it's also about acknowledging reality.

With some biological parents it's the same thing. No woman willingly gives up her baby and every single one of them will eventually regret it. Anything less is deemed unnatural.

And don't you dare say it can be a selfless, loving act. How can placing their child with total strangers be loving?! How could a child feel loved if it was abandoned?! Well, I for one think trying to give a human being that you created the best life you can can be a selfless act of love and I for one do not feel abandoned, because I wasn't. I was adopted. I realize though, sadly, that's not the case for everyone.

Abandonment to me means deserted with no regard. How can anyone claim that biological parents relinquish with no regard for their child's welfare? Aside from religious views, which is an entirely different can of worms, why on earth would anyone bother to carry a baby to term and place it with other people if they didn't care about the baby? Even if a person's decision to not abort a pregnancy is because they think of abortion as murder it still indicates regard for the life they're creating, does it not?

People say "put on your big girl panties" and take responsibility for your actions and raise that baby! All a baby needs is love, not material things, and age is of no consequence. Unless of course it's in reference to adoptive families. Then, conveniently, love is no longer enough.

Now, if the parents of the baby are incapable of raising it, which I'll admit I've have seen conceded (albeit in too few and far between moments), the grandparents are expected to step up to the plate, raise their children's children. Again, a double standard in adoption land. If people in their 40's or 50's plans to adopt it's child abuse. How unfair for a child to be raised by "old people"! Unless of course, they're genetically related because biology concurs all. As long as we're "really" related everything will be rainbows and unicorns. Sound familiar?

I worry that if adopted people who have struggled with feeling they belong somewhere find a place in the anti adoption community among like minded adopted people they can become stuck, not unlike being stuck in other kinds of gang mindsets. That even if their outlook becomes less stringent they can't explore that for fear that they will lose their place in their once welcoming community. That straying from the party line or speaking out in defense of "one of the enemy" could result in being cast out or mistrusted by the very people who helped them reach a more peaceful place regarding being adopted. They run the risk of going from "hey, I'm not alone" to "shit, here I am alone again".

I worry that adoptive parents will alter their perfectly acceptable approach to parenting out of fear they will do the wrong with an adopted child. I realize I've talked about it before but I think it's important, and damaging. I think it's fantastic there are real live adult adoptees relaying their stories, sharing the struggles they've experienced because of being adopted. It's an amazing resource but how many times will an adoptive parent come back when they're constantly shot down for using the wrong term or accused of despicable crimes against the children they love and want the best for. I'm fully aware there's the odd adoptive parent who "gets it" enough to meet the approval of the anti adoption crowd but they are the rare bird. Interestingly, to me anyway, it sometimes looks like some adoptive parents almost appear to be kissing ass in an attempt to be accepted into the gang. It's like maybe if they happen to be able to please a particularly hard to please adult adoptee blogger or maybe even better, a first/birth/natural mother (I say mother because the first/birth/natural father is also a rare bird when it comes to blogs) they can somehow feel a little less guilty about being an adoptive parent that day. My advice, if you're already in it, don't parent driven by guilt or fear. Use this valuable resource to educate yourself and others, just the same way you'd use all the other parenting resources that exist. Seek out the adoptive parents who "get it" and learn from them too, even the ones who've made a slip and fallen from grace. Actually, make that especially those ones.

Something else that troubles me is the power of suggestion. Anyone who cites research has to concede that it exists. The following paragraph is an excerpt from a guest post contributed by a wise woman I know quite well, my sister.

"After meeting my birth mother, I learned that the reality of my first few days contradicted any trauma-inducing circumstances. I had been born with a name; it was on my certification of adoption. My birth mother had me named for her sister, and her one close friend at school. I was born with connections and history. And contrary to usual practises of the time, my birth mother was allowed to hold me, and cuddle me, and no doubt whisper things into my baby ears. I was wanted (I had two mothers), I was loved, and had been since before I was born. So much for my “abandonment” being the source of my insecurities growing up, as I tried to do no less than understand the world."

I don't think acknowledging the possibility of suggestion diminishes statement. I think the ability to do so can even make statement more plausible. I am far more inclined to accept the opinion of a person who's able to see both sides of a coin. Telling someone something is so, can and does sometimes make it so. Hmm, maybe that's the goal for some. It's one of the major complaints in adoption, isn't it? How agencies and evil baby stealing adopters drill things into our brains, pour kool aid down our throats, paint happy pictures of forever families all the while insisting we be loyal and grateful. How is it different to be completely rigid in saying you're obviously still drinking the kool aid if you don't think like me, paint pictures of families who unequivocally cannot be as good as what should have been, all the while screaming if you're adopted you're damaged, whether you think so or not. And again, how is it all messing with younger people? It's kind of what I was trying to get at here.

Nothing about adoption is cut and dried, the same story for everybody. There's no one size fits all. There should be no clubs or sides. There needs to be growth, understanding, acceptance, education, and respect. We need to question ourselves as well as each other.

Don't be afraid to speak up and out about your adoption experience, there's nothing to be ashamed of, but make it about your own. If someone says they "know someone who's adopted and they're fine", so what? They likely do. Just like you know adoptees who aren't fine with it.

Don't diminish others because when you do, you diminish yourself.


  1. Bravo. There is a lot of good stuff here. I could ramble on for pages but I'll spare you the unnecessary reiterations of your own ideas.

    I'm terribly glad to have read this. Truly a day making post.

  2. I am ...thanks for stopping in and I'm pleased when even one thing I say has a positive affect on somebody.

    I'm an equal opportunist when it comes to constructive rambling so anytime you care to share, feel free.

  3. THANKYOU CAMPBELL! I hesitate to label myself "pro" or "anti" adoption, because as you sort of pointed out, both labels come with some absurd definitions. I feel strongly that my adoption worked out well, that I am loved and that I have benefited in many ways from being adopted. But, I also recognize that it is has also affected me in some negative ways. The people who feel that having experienced adoption personally gives them any sort of qualification to judge adoption as a whole are really the delusional ones. Even if someone is qualified (degree- wise), the amount of bias out there is ASTOUNDING. And frankly, sickening.

    Thanks for writing a great post Campbell.

  4. There's nothing that you have written here that I disagree with, although I'll comment on my perception of a few points that I do share with you in common. If I am one of the people you are referring to, I am sorry, I never meant to convey to you or any of my other readers that I felt or had expectations of my readers that you are describing here.

    I too value research, not popular opinion. I present on my blog what I can and what I've found in my database through my University. Some opinions I'll speak about without repeated reference because I've mentioned them 1000 times before to my regular readers. Many adoption researchers have been researching and writing since the early 1970's and still are. There's lots of bias in adoption land. I've presented and valued research from individuals who were both very pro-adoption and those who are skeptics of its benefits. I have over 115 entries to my blog, the most recent ones I've written were likely not things you agreed with, but I have tried to be inclusive of everything throughout 400-some days I've been writing. I have been the defender of both Natural Mothers and Adoptive Parents as well.

    I have received emails from Natural Moms saying that I do not understand them enough and emails saying that they feel like I am speaking their exact thoughts. I have received emails from Adoptive Parents that behave like my words are the ultimate adoption blasphemy, some who love what I say, and then some who think I go too easy on Adoptive Parents and tell me they don't want to be patronized or tiptoed around. I have received emails from adoptees who both agree and disagree with me.

    I can't make everyone happy or included, which is why I just simply have to be me and hope it's good enough and appreciate those who want to read.

    I too have noticed issues in adoption which is why I write. I think adoption could be 100% positive for everyone if we work to fix it. When I do share my personal stories, it is not to tell people they should raise their children based on my experiences. It is because when I have written thoughts I've had and things I've noticed, people have written me emails saying "thank you, now I know I'm not the only one." Just like your commenters did here. They are happy to know they are not alone. I am not a behavioral or mental health professional and I make that abundantly clear on my blog. When you come to my blog, you are receiving my viewpoint (if it's not, I always list my sources) and it should be taken as that--just one viewpoint.

    I also consider myself a "Happy Adoptee," although people label me otherwise. I have a storybook reunion with my Natural Family. I have a great relationship with my Adoptive Family. Because of my reunion, I am also entering into a whole new level of honesty and connection with my Adoptive Family, telling them things I have never felt I could tell them before. There were adoption-related aspects of my life growing up where I felt people were cruel simply because they weren't educated on adoption. But I had wonderful friends and wonderful opportunities.

    As I've said before in my blog, "abandonment issues" are not the same as saying "I was abandoned." Adoptee feelings are not a weapon to be slung at either parent and feelings can still be validated without an adoptee feeling that they are accusing their Natural Mother of something awful. Not every adoptee has abandonment issues. But adoptees who do are not necessarily delusional for being unable to rationalize themself out of them. I have a good friend whose adopted son has severe abandonment issues. He knows he was given to adoption as an infant in love but he cannot help the way he feels. His emotions are something he is working through and not something he's harboring on purpose because he feels his Original Mother did something awful to him.

  5. (continued)

    You may feel that other bloggers are diminishing you Campbell, but that is not my agenda at all. As I said before, the "Happy Adoptee" with no "issues" is seen as the norm. It's not a matter of me not wanting you to be heard but to put a different viewpoint out there that people might not expect and want to hear as well. That's why it is good to have a blog where people can hear your voice too--and I do have you on my blogroll so that other people can find you. If someone asked me about adoptee blogs, you would absolutely be one of the people I would send them over to.

    Happy and "issue free" do not necessarily have to be mutually exclusive. The issues I have are with the profit in adoption, the unnecessary separations, the stereotypes of everyone involved, the lack of access to information--so on and so forth. I realize that the adoption stereotypes in my surrounding community growing up hurt my self-esteem and I am working through that. I feel hurt because I wish the agency would have treated my Natural Mother better. I feel sad because my Adoptive Mother's horrendous pain and grief from infertility was dismissed as resolved and non-existent because she adopted. Neither of these wonderful women deserve to live in so much pain. Sometimes I feel alone because I only know a few people who live nearby who are connected to adoption and other than that and online, I don't have the opportunity to enter into discussion about adoption.

    None of that conflicts with my ability to be a happy, well-adjusted adult who loves life, loves her families, and bangs down the doors of legislators offices for a lot more than adoption. I do for women's rights, gay rights, rights of the poor, racial on and so forth. I have a passion, not anger, for everyone.

    Sorry this was so long. I just had an amazing lunch with an adoptive mom friend and her adopted daughter who is also my friend who I helped reunite with the Original Family last month. The two families have become intertwined now and hearing about it has me all stirred up with passion this evening lol.

  6. Interesting post. I do admit that I have often felt guilt because I sent my daughter off with strangers. I didn't know anything about them. As far as I an tell.. they have been great to her. I don't think I am pro adoption or anti.. maybe I fall in the middle.

  7. Amanda#2, thank you so much for the thought filled comment. (Thank you too Amanda#1. I always love reading what you have to say)

    Although yes, it was some commentary on your blog that lit the fire under my butt to finally write this post, believe me when I say most of the time I'm very impressed with what you write and what you present. I find it interesting, informative, and obviously well researched. It's some of the research that's referenced on many adoption blogs I take issue with.

    I did not actually disagree with what you've been saying recently. I understood it to be opinion and you simply relaying your thoughts and experience. I was especially interested in your posts about discussions with your parents, the adoptive ones.

    "It's not a matter of me not wanting you to be heard but to put a different viewpoint out there that people might not expect and want to hear as well."

    I think you may misunderstand my point when you say what I've quoted here above.

    I'm not talking about me specifically needing or wanting to be heard, by you or any other adoption blogger. I'm talking about acknowledging the reality of all adoption experiences and in your case, regarding the exchange of comments you and I had, feeling the need to have to say "perhaps" there are adoptees who appear to be issue free. Why, again, the need for saying perhaps? This would so not fly in reverse and I wouldn't dream of diminishing your or anyone else's adoption related experience.

    You reach a lot of people and they respect what you have to say, as they should. Stay passionate and don't let the carpet be ripped out from under you by just one comment. Stand up and speak back, just try to remember to listen also because there's always more to learn. People don't mean to be insensitive when talking to adopted people about adoption. They just don't know and how we answer them, in my opinion, is almost as important as what we say.

  8. Ok all that aside because we all have our different experiences and perceptions what do you think about the highly profitable adoption industry?

  9. Von said...

    "Ok all that aside because we all have our different experiences and perceptions what do you think about the highly profitable adoption industry?"

    Well Von, I think it sucks.

  10. You're completely right. I never thought of it that way.

  11. Agreeing with every word you have written, from the birthmother side of the fence!:-) You have made so many points that I have also observed in adoption blogs and online groups, starting with a sorry acceptance of shoddy research.

    Campbell wrote:" It's not just about validating feelings, it's also about acknowledging reality."
    Yes, yes yes!!! Individual feelings are not the same as objective reality, especially not for a whole group. Research has to be rigorous, impartial, and done right. Almost all of what passes for research in adoptionland is junk science, biased, incomplete, and with no controls or replication, yet it is believed as gospel because it backs up what people already believe. And everything must be couched in general terms, "I" define reality for everyone based on my personal experience.

    Then there are the syndromes "all" adoptees and surrendering mothers are said to suffer from, unless they are "in denial" or just insensitive clods; Primal Wound, Adopted Child Syndrome, PTSD, Attachment Disorder.....the list goes on and on, most of it self-diagnosed, or diagnosed by questionable practitioners selling a snake oil "cure". Again, accepted uncritically as true without any real validation or impartial studies.

    There is a definite cult mentality among anti-adoption folks, a cannon of belief that must be accepted without question or you are no longer "in with the in crowd". Groupthink and peer pressure to go along are intense, and any deviation makes one a traitor or outsider, despised and ridiculed.

    I know first hand about this, having been active in adoption reform since the 70s, but having the audacity to modify and change some of my more extreme views, and to actually get over some of the grief of surrendering over 40 years ago. This too is treason; unless as a mother or adoptee you are permanently damaged forever, despite a good reunion, you too are suspect of not being sensitive enough, not loving your child or mother enough. Real love, evidently, depends on endless pain, as in so many morbid ballads.

    There is way too little objective, rational, and skeptical thought in adoptionland, and way too much generalization and ostracism of those who dare to question. By the way my own adoption story is right up there with the horrors of most of the anti-adoption folks, both from my perspective and from my son's, but we do not let it define our lives or who we are today, and I do not pretend to speak for all mothers who have surrendered, just for myself.And I do not blindly accept junk science just because it confirms what I would like to believe is true.

    I used to have an "adoption sucks" tee shirt. It went in the trash with other simplistic, immature ideas. Real life is too complex to condense into an obnoxious slogan, and my feelings are not the only reality that exists.

    Thanks so much, Campbell, for writing about this.

  12. Thank YOU maryanne, for this and all the other commentary you've written that I've nodded my head at while reading.

    From the get go I've admired your courage in sharing your experience even when it's gone against the flow. Your wisdom and and rational analysis is a precious resource.

  13. I too agree that adoption as a money making industry is wrong, but there is this big misconception that APs hold all the cards and if they simply stop paying, that will stop the problem. This is simply not true. All the APs I know, including myself, fel completely at the mercy of the agencies. After all they are the experts when it comes to navigating adoption and all the paperwork.
    To sipmly make adoption a social service is only part change that needs to happen, there has to be a major societal change in how people view adoption. The perception (or misperceptions) surrounding adoption are rampant in the media. Much of what is presented online just further perpetuates all of the negative stereotypes of the bitter angry adoptees, the evil baby stealer APs and the druggie, prostitute birth parents. There is only a small group of blogs (this one included) that write to help change these perceptions.
    How is an uneducated PAP supposed to learn anything when they are referred to as "sterile meryls, Adoptoraptors, or baby stealers"?
    How is a birth mother supposed to get support when she is referred to as an abandoner, slut or whore?
    What about adoptees who are curious about their birth family but don't feel abandonded, they are repeatedly told they "are in the fog".
    All to often they (adotpees, APs and birth parents) are mocked and ridculed to invalidate their feelings because they don't fit with the "gang" on that particular web site.
    Campbell, Thank you for speaking up about your feelings, but still challenging my perception of adoption and helping me to think outside my own little world, with out hostility.

  14. 'There needs to be growth, understanding, acceptance, education, and respect. We need to question ourselves as well as each other".

    i have said often, we should as humans do our best, at all times, to meet each other where we are- seems impossible at times, but it really isn't. putting aside your judgments and preconceived notions, stepping OUT of yourself, gets you more than half way there.

    thanks for such a wonderful post.

  15. Great post, Campbell. All personal experiences should be honoured as contributing to understanding but one experience does not define the whole reality and there's no need for groupthink.

    This is a smallish point, but I am always glad when you raise the issue of grandparents or biological relatives stepping in to raise children. This presupposes that this arrangement is automatically *good* because the people are genetically related. Yet sometimes, a mother does not wish her family members to raise her child because she already knows they stink at child-rearing. To believe the opposite is to believe in the myth of universal human goodness.

    There's a lot about adoption that is mythology, I think. How we think of it relates to how we see ourselves, maybe even mythologize ourselves—mothers, fathers, children: what do we believe about those roles? In clinging to our own ideas about parenthood and childhood and “who is what” and “who does what,” we miss what adoption can and cannot do for kids. Adoption is neither a miracle nor a burning cross. It's too bad the blogosphere largely reflects that polarity, and not the stuff in between.

  16. Well O Solo Mama, I think the stuff in between is very important too. Problem is, it's trivialized because people jump to point out nothing simple can ever be effective in something as complex as adoption, and that's simply not true.

    As in all things, less can be more sometimes. Mountains out of mole hills etc. Not always, but sometimes.

    It seem like in circumstances of injustice or discrimination the pendulum can have a tendency to swing too far one way and because it serves someone's ideology, they will try and hold it there.

  17. Agreeing with Osolo, on the subject of grandparents or other relatives being the first choice to raise a surrendered child. I know many mothers who would not have wanted their child raised by their parents or another relative, and many people who raised in such an arrangement that was less than ideal. Yes, sometimes it is a good solution, but it is not universal. There is no one ideal solution for a crisis pregnancy, which is why I do not describe myself as a "family preservationist" as some birthmothers do. Sometimes adoption by non-relatives is the better choice, sometimes not, but I value being flexible, creative and empathetic to children's real needs, not adult obsessions, in child welfare decisions.

    As to communication about adoption, there are certain phrases on both sides I wish would be retired as they have lost their usefulness and serve only to alienate. On the pro-adoption side there is "gotcha day," "forever family," "made an adoption plan" for all surrenders, and all references to God predestining a certain child to be adopted by a certain family.

    On the other side of the fence there is "drank the koolaid," "in the fog" "in denial" "industry tool" for anyone who disagrees, "beemommy", "barfmuggle" etc. for any mother who dares use the word "birthmother", and "adopter" or "adoptress" rather than "adoptive parent, because adoptive parents are not "real" parents. Nothing like any of these not so clever wordplays to stop real communication dead and to signal one's allegiance to "your side" and inability to listen to another viewpoint.

  18. I'd just like to add my support to the notion that agencies are always the root of the problem. In China, for example, the adoption process is 100% controlled by the government and everyone--agencies included--toe the line with what the government wants. What the agency charges for pushing the paper around has no bearing whatsoever on the ethics or non-ethics of the adoption. Totally different set of issues. Perfect example of how taking the money out of the equation and shutting down the agencies wouldn't do squat. The compulsory $5000 orphanage donation in US bills (the format is also compulsory) is a different story, but only somewhat. That money, well over $100 million collected just from Americans, improves the standard of orphanages so that kids who are not deemed adoptable and will remain in-care can also receive better services. Care for other children, many with special needs, on the back of adoption is not a bad idea in and of itself. However, even if there were ways to reform this donation, I would challenge those who say it should end to demonstrate that this will serve kids' needs in the long run.

    These are just a couple of examples of how I think the $$ discussion goes off the rails. However, I am totally aware that overall, $$ drives corruption in int'l adoption.

  19. Just wanted to come back and reiterate this fact you addressed O Solo Mama because it's important to acknowledge and I would bet it's a prominent circumstance.

    "...the issue of grandparents or biological relatives stepping in to raise children. This presupposes that this arrangement is automatically *good* because the people are genetically related. Yet sometimes, a mother does not wish her family members to raise her child because she already knows they stink at child-rearing."

  20. Sorry, that should be ". . . even if there WEREN'T ways to reform this donation. . ."

  21. Campbell - I just wanted to let you know that I linked to you from my faiths & illusions blog. I think there is much in here that is worth sharing and considering. The whole adoption conversation has me so frustrated sometimes. I'm thankful for any reminder that we should keep our minds open, our definitions flexible, and our empathies generous.

  22. I just want to point out that someone who talks to me about adoption could very well leave the scenario with the impression that I am a happy adoptee.

    I can say all the "right" things, do all the "rights" things, and imply all the "right" things. It is what is expected of me, as the child who was adopted.

    I can also be totally happy with my life and experience a range of negative (to positive) feelings about my adoption. I am not happy my adoption had to occur. But I am happy about my adoptive family. And see, look even here, I have to put my usual disclaimer because some lurker will eventually come across this and see the line "I am not happy my adoption had to occur" and think I was raised by "bad" parents. Or something.

    And that's just not true. It has nothing to do which whether or not adoption in its sole context made me happy.

    So when I see the label "Happy adoptee", it's not that I don't believe the *person* isn't happy. It's not that I don't truly believe they could actually be someone who is completely, utterly fine with their adoption.

    It's that I believe it's a way of categorizing people - when there could be more underneath the surface.

    I'm a "grieving" adoptee. I'm a happy person. I tell people in real life that adoption is a good thing. Yet, that is not the impression you would receive from my blog.

    So really... am I a "happy" adoptee?

    P.S. I do believe there are truly people out there who are unaffected by their adoptions. What I am trying to explain is the complexity behind someone saying "I am a happy adopted person." Those two things are not always so mutual...

    And my apologies if this doesn't really make sense. I didn't read the comments and I've been up since 6am (it's midnight). XD

  23. "What the agency charges for pushing the paper around has no bearing whatsoever on the ethics or non-ethics of the adoption."

    Then where does all that money go? It's gotta be going into someone's pocket...

  24. "If someone says they "know someone who's adopted and they're fine", so what? They likely do."

    It could be true. There are many adoptees who are absolutely fine with their adoptions.

    But what about those who are just saying that to avoid backlash in public? Doesn't everyone want to believe adoption is *always* the better option?

    It's not like everyone always reveals every single thought or feeling to their best friend, their sibling, their parents. I don't know if you noticed it, but Lika mentioned something along the lines of this at my Sisterheping blog - that although people always say they don't think that much or care much about xx, you just never know...

  25. P.S. I actually quite liked this post - and I agree with the other commenters who have said generalizations get you nowhere.

  26. Oh my word, this was refreshing to read. I agree on so many of your points. I really do appreciate the perspective of adult adoptees, but it does seem like there is a circle of bloggers that is maybe more focusing on vilifying adoption in general than actually reforming the parts that need changing. And I have often thought the same thing about some of the adoptive parents kowtowing to these blogs as if paying penance. I never would have said it out loud myself, but since you started it . . . :)

    I do think it's important for adoptive parents to be educated on the loss aspects of adoption (and the racial issues if transracial). But I don't think it benefits anyone to paint adoptive families as immoral/unnatural/intrinsically harmful, or to try to shut down the system altogether.

  27. O Solo Mama said: "What the agency charges for pushing the paper around has no bearing whatsoever on the ethics or non-ethics of the adoption."

    Mei-Ling said: "Then where does all that money go? It's gotta be going into someone's pocket..."

    I was talking about China in particular, and how the specific corruption that this adoption program is prone to, incentive programs and trafficking, has ZERO relationship to what the agency in the PAPS' country charges for pushing the required paper around. ZERO! China doesn't receive that money. The carrot for China is the compulsory orphanage donation, which I commented on as well and it is a fixed amount--formerly $3000US, recently increased to $5000US. Basically, in China, you have a system so centrally controlled that what agencies do has no bearing on anything.

    As for where the money goes, it does not go into one person's pocket. Most of your money goes toward paying for your return airfare to China and supporting yourself for 2 weeks in an American-style hotel with your adopted child (remember, this is usually airfare and hotel for two). There is also usually one in-country return flight. Once your child is with you, there is a huge amount of being bussed around and eating out. Before you go, there are fees for the homestudy, finger printing, other official documents. What the agency charges you for leading you through this process is at their discretion, but while I was preparing to go to China in 1998 I met an American at a conference who was being charged almost triple what I was ($40,000 versus $15,000). The entire difference? The agency fee for paper-pushing. I ended up paying $20,000 because of losing an initial deposit and having to switch agencies.

    Honestly, I could never point to a thing being untoward except the donation because it was cash only but like I said: the difference in the SWI system now and then is night and day.

  28. This was a refreshing post, I agree with Kristen.

    Lately I have been very weary of adoption blogs and message boards and yet sometimes I feel I would be doing a disservice to my daughter if I stop reading. Sometimes...I just need a break from it though! It can be overwhelming, guilt-inducing, and exhausting. I find myself questioning every move I make and every comment I say some days.

    I agree with most of what I read on adult adoptees' blogs (although it can be pretty harsh at times) but I do find them to sometimes be hypocritical: this is the way it is and if you don't belive it you drank the kool aid and are a rainbow farter. There is no other opinion that is viable. (And please note not all the blogs are like this, there are many that are very good and helpful). Whatever - the koolaid and rainbow farter comments are not helpful to anyone in my opinion any more than are blogs by delusional PAPs/APs who think God has somehow spoken to them and told them to save a child. Both extremes freak me out. Thanks for the great post Campbell.

  29. "Doesn't everyone want to believe adoption is *always* the better option?"
    No. But then again, maybe I'm in denial.

  30. Thank you. I needed to read this today.

  31. "But what about those who are just saying that to avoid backlash in public?"

    Having never experienced anything severe enough to describe as "backlash" it's hard for me to even imagine it happening. I've always found people to be very interested in what I have to say about adoption whether it be about my personal experience or about the bad things that occur. Could that be because of my approach? Likely, as I don't get offended if they say some of things other adopted people seem to be highly offended by. What kind of person would intentionally say something hurtful when it came to adoption? Educating people takes patience and making them feel stupid, bad, or humiliated about a question or statement they make is counterproductive. Defensive people do not make good students, and as in everything, ignoramuses are impossible to teach. It never takes long to identify them and decide to not waste my breath. That's why I don't even bother with these hyper religious people who use a god as their scapegoat for everything. One may as well bang their heads against a brick wall.

    "Doesn't everyone want to believe adoption is *always* the better option?"

    Well, no, I don't think so. People who are dying to have a baby and can't have their own might. Anti abortionists might. I'm sure though there are tons of people who'd prefer nobody ever experienced a pregnancy that adoption was even considered, myself included, but that's unrealistic. People take getting pregnant less seriously all the time. Even people who refuse to consider abortion or adoption and keep their babies aren't doing all these kids being born any favours.

    The best option is to get people to take having kids far more seriously. It's a joke what we're doing to kids, and not a very fucking funny one.

  32. Raina, thank you for linking. There were many people who came to read from there. I agree there's much here that's good to consider and remember, not the least of which is something you said in your comment.

    "we should keep our minds open, our definitions flexible, and our empathies generous."

  33. Campbell, did your mom teach you to be this brilliant in condescension?

    I have so many questions for you...

    Why, WHY, are you so obsessed with our train of thought? You could say, "well, because it worries me." But we both know, that that would be a load of...

    So since it's not concern that you have for we sad, sad little beings, what is it? Did you hear what I asked? I said WHAT IS IT? What is it about us that causes you to spend day after day after day writing about OUR views of adoption?

    Have you not yet realized that your writings say more about YOU than us?

    Frankly, I'm concerned for you. You have got to have some major unsolved issues that you don't even know exist.

    Now excuse me, my adoptive dad and I are going to dinner. Italian food.

  34. Campbell,

    "But what about those who are just saying that to avoid backlash in public?"

    I avoided and still avoid almost 50 years later saying anything to specific people about adoption unless it is simply the great parts...solely because anything less would impact how they view my parents...I am not, nor ever will be willing to do anything that will cause directly or indirectly anything less than wonderful thoughts about my mom and dad... To those specific people I will always be the happy adoptee who was in all ways shape and form better for being adopted with no issues great or small. Those specific people include relatives and friends of my family. It is what it them I never felt any feelings of loss or pain or other feelings except perhaps curiosity but that is a normal feeling and okay.

    I do not label myself pro or anti - just one adoptee willing to look at reality that includes the good side and the dark side.

  35. I'm sorry it's like that for you Sandy.

    I guess it's just my personality that makes it possible for me to talk about the good and bad in adoption, to whomever. I don't worry about how the bad parts will reflect on my parents because I don't feel it does. Any shortcomings I feel my parents had/have weren't due to me being adopted.

    Your last comment expresses how I feel. Thanks for sharing all your thoughts.

  36. Campbell,

    I don't say things to specific people because I feel my parents had shortcomings. I don't say things because I don't trust specific people to NOT jump to incorrect assumptions that any of my feelings are related to what my parents may or may not have done, ie had shortcomings because they are not willing to learn differently.

    Some specific people in this world are ignorant and hold onto old views despite changes to those views and may also feel the need to share with others. Example If an adoptee says they need to search they assume the parents were not good enough and therefore it is a failing of the parent...those are the specific people I speak of. Notice I was very clear stating specific people...

    So all I am saying is to some specific people they would make the assumption that I thought adoption was 100% the perfect solution 100% of the time. Those specific people choose to not be open-minded rather they like to point out perceived failings of others that in their minds raise them above as better.

  37. Sandy, I understand and agree that there are always people who refuse to be open minded and will form their own conclusions regardless of what's said to them.

  38. "Having never experienced anything severe enough to describe as "backlash" it's hard for me to even imagine it happening."

    That's because you've never said or implied "Adoption starts from loss" or "Adoption shouldn't exist" or "I wish I hadn't been adopted."

    All those statement make a world of difference in reaction, regardless if you deem yourself on-the-fence about adoption or not.

    Try having a conversation about adoption vs. parenting *without* even bringing up abortion.

    Try having a conversation about adoption being abolished.

    Do you ever have those types of conversations? Do you ever feel the *need* to have those types of conversations?

    Linger too much on the heavy stuff, and I guarantee you - you will get backlash.

  39. P.S. I know that you wouldn't end up saying those things or even necessarily feel the need to say those things. And if you have, it's counter-balanced by your lack of grief in not knowing your biological family. It's a bit like what Lori once said - you haven't encountered that sort of reaction because you balance it out with that while adoption has its flaws, it's ultimately a good thing.

    You don't feel grief. You don't feel loss.

    Not saying that it's wrong - I'm pointing out that that balances out your criticism of the system, so people can handle your perspective better than someone who outwardly works for abolishment of adoption, or who isn't willing to discuss the abortion issue, or who says they wish they hadn't been adopted.

    Once people are comforted by that perspective, they are far more willing to listen to you.

    That's why you have a hard time imagining the criticism and defensive reactions.

  40. You're very likely right Mei Ling.

    My approach makes people far more willing to listen to me.

  41. I take it you're talking about American adoption here which is rather different.
    Any people can get stuck in a mindset, witness the adoption industry, even Chuck Johnson acknowledges that 'the culture of adoption' needs to change.
    Part of why the changes will be slow in America and reform not achieved easily will be because of the factions which haven't learned to work together for a common goal.Maybe they never will.

  42. Ok, I don't want to be snarky, but... issue free?? You gotta bottle and sell that because you are gonna make A LOT of money!!

    Listen, we all have our issues. I don't know anyone who doesn't. I really wish it wasn't called "issues" though. It's called being human. And being adopted is on the spectrum of being human (though yes, I've felt alien at times :)The issues we deal with are many of the same issues that non-adopted kids deal with, except some issues will be intensified and also come from a different set of experiences.

    If stepfamilies and kids in stepfamilies have emotions and traumas to deal with, I'm not sure why adopted families wouldn't, especially since we are just another type of blended family and our nuclear family society hasn't typically been too supportive of blended families or families that are "different." And of course, regular families have issues too! It's about acknowledging our particular issues though. And traditionally adoptive familes and kids have been told to focus on what makes them the same, and if they feel they're different in any way, well just ignore it, or else it's the fault of adoptive parents not "loving them enough."

    A lot of adoptees got held by their birth mothers. This doesn't change the fact of them having to get used to a new body, smell, voice, heartbeat, etc. when they were seperated. The newborn infant is not dumb, and it is not a blank slate. It is already keyed into a lot!

    And I would also venture to say that a lot of adoptees were wanted by their first mothers, the myth that most were "not wanted" just isn't true.

    It's not that a baby has to be literally abandoned on the street in order to feel emotionally abandoned. How could it not know the difference,whether held by it's mother after birth or not? How could it not be confused by such a thing? How could it not struggle to have to make sense of it all?

    I'm glad your sister had a realization of being wanted as an adult, because the truth is that many adoptees were wanted. Being able to see that truth is one of the benefits of reunion.

  43. "It's about acknowledging our particular issues though. And traditionally adoptive familes and kids have been told to focus on what makes them the same, and if they feel they're different in any way, well just ignore it, or else it's the fault of adoptive parents not "loving them enough."

    I couldn't agree more, Anna!! You hit the nail on the head. Would love to see a response to this. :)

  44. Well anonymous if it's a response from me that you would love to see, I guess what I'd have to say regarding what you've quoted would be that an adoptee shouldn't be told to ignore feeling different. I don't think an adoptee feeling different is automatically the fault of adoptive parents not loving them enough. I do think if an adoptee is treated differently it could be a cause for feeling differently but also imagine feeling different could have nothing whatsoever to do with the adoptive parents or family.

    I agree adoptive families can have particular issues that need to be acknowledged.

  45. I don't think it's your approach, or even your tone that makes people far more willing to listen to you. It's your opinions. Even in this blog title you're perpetuating a myth of what a "happy adoptee" is, anyone who has "negative" feelings (sadness, anger, etc.) about some aspect of their adoption experience is not a "happy adoptee." That's pretty limited. But those opinions do make it easier for some people to read.

  46. Campbell - That was elegantly put. I enjoy reading your blog!!! BRAVO...

  47. Thank you Just Me. I'm really glad you're getting something out of it and I appreciate you taking the time to comment and tell me so.

  48. I have gotten a lot out of this post and especially the dialogue in the comments from various perspectives. I wish we could get away from the terminology of "happy adoptee" and "angry adoptee" because I think that both are unrealistic and too simplistic in defining someone. As an AP, I expect my daughter to be both simultaneously, one more than other at times, both flowing together with a multitude of other emotions regarding her life and her experience. I want her to continue to find a community of adoptees/peers that honor both sides of her...and all that is in between. I want her to get pissed and feel validated when she is angry, and I want her to say she is thankful and happy without feeling like she is disregarding the trauma and heartache that she is not thankful for. Most of all I don't want her to be attacked for expressing herself...however she chooses to express herself. I hope she is challenged, but not beaten down for being "happy" or "angry." And I want the same for myself as her adoptive be challenged but not beaten down all the time. I feel lost right now in blog land...trying to find a balance between it all. It just shows how important this topic is and how it is continuing to evolve. Thank you, and everyone who has commented, for this conversation.

  49. Thanks eastopians, glad you were able to get something out of the post and resulting dialogue. I agree it's very difficult, possibly impossible, to find balance in blog land when it comes to adoption. It's too bad, because it's much needed to correct or reform and to protect and encourage kids.

  50. You know. this was a great post about some great things.. so many great things.. and then some of the anti adoption factions had to come in and make it about the adoption "industry". I don't need to defend Campbell but I am so tired of positive and informative, thought provoking posts like this getting hit by certain people in order to meet their own agendas. That's not what this post was about. Why did it get hijacked by the same people who always turn any post that can have a positive impact on ALL parts of the adoption circle into something anti adoption... come on. Let Campbell say her peace and her piece. when she wants to address the mess that is the adoption industry, she can and will. to start a post with " all that aside..." is totally disrespectful of her intention and her post . Any wonder that some of the posters here so often rub other the wrong way? IT'S NOT YOUR PAGE! n' you were quite gracious to even respond, Campbell. I would have started another post.. you are really amazing.

    1. Mary Boyle er anonymous I think you misunderstood the all aside comment, as it was not referring to the blog post but to the comment before theirs.

  51. I am an adoptee who happens to be a happy person - I have a nice afamily and a nice bfamily. However, I am considered by many to be an unhappy adoptee - why? Because if you ask me which family I would prefer to have grown up in it - I couldn't tell you. So, bizarrely, because I have two lovely families, I am considered an unhappy adoptee because I refuse to sell my bfamily down the river and say that my afamily is better. They are both good families, and both would have been worth growing up in.

    Having said all that, there is one way you can tell if an adoptee is a well adjusted one - when asking about both families, if they consider all their parents as human beings of some sort, they are probably fairly well adjusted. I am not saying they have to like them but at least consider them as people.

    Also, two people might say the same thing at first and then "give themselves away" by what they may say afterwards.

    For example, if someone says "I am pretty happy and love my adoptive parents. I have no wish to seek out my bparents but that is just how I feel at the moment, that may or may not change" - then that sounds pretty well adjusted to me.

    However, if someone says ""I am pretty happy and love my adoptive parents. I have no wish to seek out my bparents - they are nothing but a uterus and sperm donor to me - they didn't want me so why would I want anything do with them", then that is someone who perhaps isn't quite as OK with it all as people think.

    So I refuse to say whether an adoptee is as happy as they may appear until I've heard them speak more than just one sentence.

  52. you can love your parents and feel no ill will toward your biological mother/family, and still not have the need to search for them. I am a happy person in general, I had a great life with amazing parents. Later in life my mom pushed me to search, she did most the wrk and I met my bio mother,but it didnt fill any gaps or awaken me to anyhting new.Shes an aquaintence. My family will always be the one I was raised with they are the ones I hae the true connection with. Thats not adoptee denial or guilt thats just the wy it is for alot of us. We arent defined as an adopted person, we are just a person living a happy life, biological or not, its normal and its good.

  53. Campbell, you have such class and grace, especially in the way that you replied to Sandy's uncalled for nastiness. I admire you for not letting her drag you down with her into the muck.


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