#flipthescript — What’s an Adoptive Parent to Do?

Barbara Freedgood guest posts today about the impact November’s #flipthescript movement has had on her as an adoptive mom and therapist. She addresses the question that many readers may have had last month as they read the not-so-secret thoughts of adult adoptees:

So now that I KNOW, what do I DO?

Please welcome Barbara Freedgood into this space.

~~~~~

barbara freedgoodNovember was National Adoption Awareness Month. The blog posts flowed in on my email. I found myself overwhelmed with input from all the voices being raised during this time in which adoption draws more of the spotlight.

Among the many things that came across my desk were generous offers from authors of greatly reduced prices on their books written about adoption to share their experience and hopefully help others. There were workshops offered on attachment and trauma. Adoptive Parents Committee held its annual conference, as it always does in this month of adoption awareness. And here in this space, Lori hosted “flipthescript” in which adoptees took the floor to offer their views.

Many adoptees raised their voices, claiming more space for their stories, not just those of adoptive parents and professionals. And many of their stories were tough to hear, especially as an adoptive parent. They expressed hurt and anger at the foreclosure on their grief in adoptions where their parents could not or did not know to discuss and understand their losses. They vented outrage at the expectation that they be grateful for being adopted. After all, they did not choose it and it would seem that adoption causes as much hurt as healing.  Adoptees mourned deep feelings of loss of birth family and birth countries and cultures.

flipthescript what's adoptive parent to do

It struck me that as adoptive parents, it is our job to hear and understand these feelings while at the same time feeling our own sad losses. How sad to have a child who suffers so. Unfortunately, in this outpouring of voices, adoptive parents as a faceless whole are sometimes painted as selfish people who just wanted a baby at any cost to others involved. No doubt there are people who fit this description. There are many, though, who simply followed advice that was given to everyone who adopted at that time, did the best that they could, and did not know a thing about what they were getting into. “On the job” learning is tough — one makes mistakes.

Fast forward to adoption in the 21st century. As a result of the great efforts of reform-minded adoptees, birth parents and adoptive parents to define better practices in adoption, things are changing. Thanks to this, openness is the order of the day and newly adopting parents are being counseled far differently than parents of the past who adopted under a system that encouraged closed adoption, closed records, closed connections, closed expression.

New adopting parents are now encouraged to do open adoptions so that adoptees do not lose their identities and biological connection. They are encouraged to talk about adoption with their children, not keep it in the closet as a secret, or brush over the differences that evoke questions and cause intrusions both external and internal from the outside world.

This is all good and important change. It is my hope that this will allow us all to have more nuanced stories about our adoption experiences. In the past adoption has traumatized all involved. Birth parents lost children forever. Adoptees lost birth families forever. And adoptive parents entered parenthood completely uncomprehending of the damage this would do to all, unwittingly putting themselves on the front lines with trauma they had no understanding of or preparation for managing.

There will always be good parents and not so good parents, whether adoptive or biological. There will always be issues of fit and compatibility. Adoption will always be fertile ground for fantasies of lives not lived, of grief for and idealization of parents or children that did not happen. However, if it is practiced with greater consciousness and room for everyone’s feelings we stand to have a lot less trauma in this way of making families, a great thing for all involved!

~~~~~

Barbara Freedgood, LCSW is the mother of two children adopted at birth in the United States and psychotherapist in private practice in New York City. She is the author of the article: “Loss and Resiliency Form a Family: A Relational Story of Adoption” available through her website. She runs post adoption support groups for adoptive parents of children of all ages.

Posts in the #flipthescript Series:

~~~~~

Lori Holden's book coverLori Holden, mom of a teen son and a teen daughter, blogs from Denver. Her book, The Open-Hearted Way to Open Adoption: Helping Your Child Grow Up Whole, is available through your favorite online bookseller and makes a thoughtful anytime gift for the adoptive families in your life.

70 thoughts on “#flipthescript — What’s an Adoptive Parent to Do?”

  1. Love this point: “There will always be good parents and not so good parents, whether adoptive or biological. There will always be issues of fit and compatibility. Adoption will always be fertile ground for fantasies of lives not lived, of grief for and idealization of parents or children that did not happen.”

    1. The difference is that adoptive parents are chosen and therefore if well chosen by skilled professionals could be the very best for those who need adoption! Open adoption is not the answer to the woes of adoption, it raises many new questions and difficulties.

      1. Von, If only that were true. There is simply no way to match the personality or emotional, and intellectual response characteristics of an infant (which are greatly established by genetics) with potential adoptive parents. Indeed, I do not believe there is any attempt made to do so.

        In my experience, these ‘professionals’ focus on stereotypical biases against young or disadvantaged individuals.

        The point is that these people (the children at this point) have a right to their ancestry and regularly require access to the (only) people who can relate to them at this level. Open adoption solves that issue. Closed adoption creates a barrier.

      2. Good luck finding a birth parent that agrees to a closed adoption in this day and age and a child that will not resent you one day for closing the door to their biological roots when so many other adoptees have been (humanely) given the opportunity to connect with their birth families.

      3. Indeed. Open adoption is really just a bone thrown to a person and their family; they get to know their family and true identity but are forced to live life as someone else with a different name on all their identifying documents and they are forced to refer to the people raising them as their parents when they are not their parents. It really should not be that people should be forced to play the roll of some other people’s child just to get cared for and fed while they are minors

          1. It’s not a matter of personal experience it’s a matter of law and the reduction of people’s rights as a service in exchange for food and shelter when they are young and they don’t get equal rights ever even when they are on their own supporting themselves.

        1. I’d like to echo Lori’s sentiment of being sorry that this was your experience. I think your comment raises some of the core issues in adoption: fit, honesty and what makes one a parent and also a good enough parent? As I mentioned in my post, there are good and bad parents, both biological and adoptive. I think it is particularly awful when adoptive parents fall short of the mark of being good parents. It makes it all the more terrible to feel the loss of your original family and what that might have been. I can appreciate the searing pain of that.

  2. This post is spot on about the differences between adoptions now and adoptions of the not-so-distant past.

    I am an adoptive mother of two boys. Both were infant domestic adoptions, one private (in state X) and one through our State Department of Family and Children’s Services (in State Y). In neither case was ANY councelling required or offered to us. For the private adoption, I do not EVER remember meeting with a social worker. We met the attorney once in his office to file some paperwork. On placement day, we met him again at the hospital, signed our part of the papers and brought the baby home. He was 5 days old. I know how apalling this sounds in 2014 terms. I can assure you that it was not AT ALL unusual in the early 1960s. It’s just the way it was.

    For the State adoption, we had one home visit and one meeting again with the social worker on placement day. Here again, counseling was never offered or required. He was 6 months old when we brought him home.

    I truly believe both of these scenarios would be illegal by today’s standards. It saddens me when I think of it in those terms. But I cannot change the past. We met the requirements that were in place at the time. We followed their rules and at the end of the 1 year waiting period after each adoption we signed the final papers. There were no problems. No one contested either adoption. Life went on …

    Fast forward to the late 80s – early 90s. Both sons were adults and different as night and day. One searched for his birth parents and found them. It did not end well. Neither were interested in a relationship with him and he still has issues with this rejection. The other son never wanted any information on his birth family. Didn’t have the slightest interest. We did try to find some medical info, but that was not regarded as essential in those days, so not much had been reported.

    Even now, when my sons are middle aged(!), I have mixed emotions about the whole process. I wouldn’t change anything about the love these two little souls have brought into my life, but I do have to acknowledge that I was clueless about the psyche of an adopted child. I know now that I could have done better but it is what it is.

    Excuse me for taking up all your comment space. Reading Barbara Freedgood’s article made all these memories and emotions come flooding back.

    Thanks to anyone who endured to this point. I haven’t shared a lot of this with anyone. It’s nice to be in a community where openess is respected and the days of secrecy are fading away. I know it will be better in the future for all concerned.

    1. I am glad that this moved you to feel able to share your experience and regrets about not knowing more at the time. I think all of us who are listening to adoptee voices now have regrets that we did not understand more of what they are rightly giving voice to now.
      Unfortunately, I think many not good practices still exist in adoption and the need to challenge ignorance on this continues. For example, the fight to unseal records and grant adoptees their civil right to their own personal information continues to be an outrageously hard battle to win. We still have a long way to go, but at least there is some progress.

      1. What about never having their birth records changed to begin with? Never changing their first middle or last names? Unsealing the original record is hardly a big win if they can’t actually go back to being that person and using it as their identification.

  3. “There are many, though, who simply followed advice that was given to everyone who adopted at that time, did the best that they could, and did not know a thing about what they were getting into.”

    This is where I would classify my parents. They’re not evil baby thieves. They simply grew up in a society with a particular view on the proper way to handle adoption, and the advice didn’t change significantly by the time they were adults looking to adopt. I can’t truly blame them for that, regardless of how wrong I feel that view/advice was. We all follow the advice of professionals, and back then that was what it was.

    However, what’s most frustrating is the refusal to listen to adoptees when they grow up and say, wait a minute that approach isn’t working for me and some of that information was downright wrong and harmful. To continue to cling to advice from 40 years ago when it flies in the face of everything their grown child tries to tell them she’s feeling….that’s the kick in the teeth right there, and that’s what has affected me personally. To refuse to hear adoptees who speak out, to belittle them by labeling them with terms that discredit their opinions, to ignore modern research and professionals….that’s what’s hurtful, much more so than the actions they took decades ago based on the advice of the era.

    I feel there would be many less “angry” adoptees, and less blanket condemnation of adoptive parents, if more parents became vocal about supporting their children as they speak out, about supporting adoptees having an equal place at the table of adoption discourse. The comments section on any blog or article which gives a voice to an adoptee with critical views is constantly filled with adoptive parents saying how angry the speaker must be, referrals to the “vocal minority”, how thankful they are that *their* children don’t feel like that, how our emotions and opinions scare/threaten them, how many adult adoptees they know that are “perfectly happy”….in other words, a stream of reasons why the adoptee is wrong to feel what they feel or say what they did, and why their view/experience is abnormal.

    As frustrating as it is to adoptees, adoptive parents DO still have more power as a class than we do. Their voices are listened to. When so many use that power not to move adoption discourse forward, but in a way that’s defensive of a status quo in which adoptees aren’t taken seriously, it contributes to an “us vs. them” feeling.

    I truly appreciate every single adoptive parent who has read #flipthescript with an open heart and mind, and made an effort to react with support and understanding instead of defensiveness. There ARE many good adoptive parents out there, who are wonderful allies. I have friends and family members who I would classify like that, and I love that their children are growing up in a different era than I did. But behind the scenes and in many adoptive parent spaces, even today with increased openness and better understanding of the importance of acknowledging loss/grief issues, there’s still a lot of discomfort and pushback against the concept of adoptees who don’t identify within certain accepted narratives occupying a more vocal role in adoption discussion, practice and policy.

    1. Thank you for your thoughtful response. I totally agree with you that adoptive parents need to become more vocal about supporting their children’s feelings and rights. I myself have tried to do this by helping my children open their adoptions and voice their hurt and pain. I encourage all adoptive parents to come to the table to do this.
      It is not easy to hear our children’s pain and anger, but of course it is absolutely necessary for truly honest relationships and dialogue to occur. Easier said than done of course!

      1. I’m always glad to hear adoptive parents who are open to their child’s full experience and supportive of their adoption-related needs, whatever those may be for each individual child.

        And I’m a bit jealous, LOL….wish things had been like that in my day.

    2. Agreed, with this and your entire comment: “I feel there would be many less angry adoptees, and less blanket condemnation of adoptive parents, if more parents became vocal about supporting their children as they speak out, about supporting adoptees having an equal place at the table of adoption discourse.”

      1. It’s so nice to hear your voice in support of adoptive parents who are trying to hear their children’s needs. And brave of you to admit your jealousy too! I can appreciate that you wish things had been that way in your day. I think all of us participating here wish that too!

  4. This is a great guest post and a fertile topic for future posts, I think. I, and other adoptive parents I know, ARE listening, taking it in, trying to be the best parents and honor our kids’ feelings. I’m grateful to you, Lori, and your guest posters for helping us to understand a bigger picture.

    1. Great, it’s a good start that you’re trying to honor their feelings.

      Please also try to honor their rights. Help change the laws so that the laws will respect their human rights as the laws respect your human rights.

      That will go a long way in terms of honoring their feelings.

      1. Good reminder, Kym. I think many adoptive parents are looking for ways to get involved with adoptee rights regarding access to original birth certificates in order to make sure their children have the same rights as others.

        I have often referred people to this site — https://www.adopteerightscoalition.com — do you have others that would be helpful to and welcoming of adoptive parents?

        1. It may sound counter-intuitive to some but for adoptive parents who are strong of heart, Concerned United Birthparents, Inc. (CUB) would welcome them. In CUB’s early days (I was CUB’s founder in 1976), we had several adoptive parents who came forward to hear us — and help us. We learned a lot from each other.

          Today, it’s important for adoptive parents to realize that not all adoptions are “open.” At CUB’s annual Retreat in October, we discussed “Open Adoption Betrayal.” DVDs and USBs will soon be available to all through our website at http://www.cubirthparents.org. Honestly-open adoptive parents have an important role to play here.

          Honestly-open adoptive parents need to tell all their cohorts that it is decidedly NOT OKAY to promise to stay in touch with mothers and then shut the door on them, crushing them, leaving them devastated and, yes, furious, in the ultimate betrayal of trust.

          Honestly-open adoptive parents need to create a culture that demands truth and authenticity both pre- and post-adoption. Honestly-open adoptive parents need to insist that duplicity before an adoption — making promises without intending to honor them — in order to win-over a vulnerable mother, will not be tolerated . . . by YOU. YOU need to assert that a bait-and-switch is despicable and only hurts the image of all adoptive parents. Honestly-open adoptive parents, speak up. Your voice could be an important part of a new flip-the-script!

          1. I’m so glad you brought up CUB. I’m reading your memoir now (“Cast Off,” https://www.amazon.com/Cast-Off-called-dangerous-organized/dp/0991055004/) of how it came to be, and I see how necessary CUB has been in the emergence of reform and openness in adoption.

            And you’re so right. People need to live with integrity in their adoption relationships. Words and deeds need to be aligned and people must continually be mindful within themselves and respectful with others.

    2. Thank you. I am so glad you that you like my post. It is my hope to open the dialogue about feelings on both sides and not to make an apology for parents adopting in a previous time.
      I think that in order to hear everyone’s voice we need to be willing to hear hard things and consider them, even if they hurt.
      I applaud you as a parent who is listening!

  5. I’m not as gentle in my comments. I’m an adult, adopted decades ago and I’ve lost a lot of patience with my adopters, their ignorance (and continued desire to remain delusional, self-serving, and self-pitying when it comes to adoption).

    I sincerely hope that things are changing for the better and that more AP’s have matured, but I’m not convinced.

    Look at adoptee rights. AP’s who wonder what they can do now that their eyes have been opened more: this is a very concrete, no brainer goal – change the laws to unseal adoptees’ own birth records upon adulthood. If adoptees are still legally discriminated against for the remainder of their lives then stop saying that adoption practices are better now than before.

    If adoptees have to prostitute their personal information and expose their stories to masses of strangers in the hopes of obtaining a fraction of what they lost, helping address their medical needs, and what everyone else can easily know about their own selves, than adoption practices are just as exploitative, controlling, and degrading as before.

    As long as open adoptions give all the legal control to the adoptive parents and none to the original families, then adoption hasn’t improved.

    As long as society treats people of certain ethnic, cultural, or racial backgrounds so differently, assuming that they should be in jail or deserve to get killed, because their lives are worth less, then adoption with families with different ethnic, cultural, or racial backgrounds have not improved. Transracial adoptions don’t make society better because the child is of a different race than the APs. The AP’s are still of the dominant race, ethnicity, culture, with their dominance even more amplified than in a non-familial social setting, given the power differential in adoption (re unequal OBC rights, loss, and choice/voice in adoption decision).

    No one forces HAPs to adopt. If they don’t like the conditions of the adoptions, they will never be forced to adopt. If they don’t like that their children will permanently lose their rights and be discriminated against, they don’t have to participate in this system. But clearly, HAPs/APs don’t mind participating in this discriminatory system, thus adoption hasn’t changed much in all these years.

    HAPs/APs, prove me wrong. Boycott adoptions until adoptions stop forcing your children to have their rights forever violated and adoptions can be done with more fairness. Speak out against the forceful removal of children from their parents who want to raise them. Veronica Brown’s theft should never have gone as far as it went. Numerous first parents/grandparents are paying huge amounts of legal fees to prevent their children from getting adopted out from them.

    https://petitions.moveon.org/sign/an-executive-order-to-1

  6. “it is our job to hear and understand these feelings while at the same time feeling our own sad losses”

    THIS is one of things that outrages adoptees! Why do make EVERYTHING – their pain – about YOU!!! Why can’t you just HEAR and feel THEIR pain and sadness. period!

    1. “What’s an adoptive parent to do?” is such a disengenuous question. This adopters can’t even listen except through the lens of her own losses. What exactly does an adopter lose in that transaction? Adoptees lose their family. Natural parents lose their children. Adopters lose…?? (and yeah, infertility and adoption are not related)

    2. While not disagreeing with the “all about them” thing that happens constantly, I *do* think APs and PAPs definitely DO need to feel and process and work through their losses and issues before bringing a child into their lives through adoption. To fail to do so creates a horrid and pressure-filled environment for a child who is already arriving with their own complex issues.

      I don’t think they ought to come into adoptee spaces or conversations and start trying to upstage adoptee grief/struggles, but they do need to own their issues and work through them.

    3. Sorry you read it this way. My intention is to make room for everyone’s feelings- adoptees, birth parents and adoptive parents.
      I absolutely hear your pain and it is not about adoptive parents. My pain as an adoptive parent is very different from yours as an adoptee and deserves understanding just as yours does, not to the exclusion of yours by any means. Everyone carries a piece of the story.
      I believe that if you want to be heard, you also need to be able to listen.

      1. NO, Barbara. Your pain as a parent should NOT be borne upon the children you raise!!!

        Your pain as an ap – your loss of fertility and your fantasy child – are yours to bear separately from your adopted child(ren). In fact all of your pain should be – ideally – dealt with PRIOR to adopting and should not be brought into the equation, lest it burden your adopted child with guilt for YOUR pain – something that is entirely unfair!

        When adoptees speak out at @flipthescript, or at any time or place, LISTEN and HEAR them and keep your opinion and your feelings out of it!! Do YOU get it, now?

        NAAM may be about all parties to adoption, but DAMMIT, #FliptheScript is about Adoptess AND NO ONE ELSE.

        And, BTW, I am NOT an adoptee! I am a MOTHER and as such know that NO MOTHER should add her pain to that of her child. As mothers, we just don’t do that, because we love our children too much.

        Speaking about pain is difficult enough. But your comment reminds me of times I have shared something very painful and the one I shared it with said “Oh, i experienced something similar” when all I wanted and needed was a compassionate hug!

        1. There is a difference between empathy and stealing one’s thunder

        2. Neither you nor I have experienced what it is like to be adopted. So when an adoptee shares THAT unique pain – SHUT UP and listen and let them speak!

        And in case you didn’t know – flipping the scrip is about reversing all the happily-ever-after, rainbows and sunshine description of adoption AND it is also about hearing from the only paying client in adoption who everything is always about – adoptive parents! Do you know that adoptess and birth mothers hate the word triad because there is no way all sides have an equal say or voice in adoption. ONLY aps have a say about the whole thing!

        That is p[art of what “Flipping” is about!! Get it???

        1. Mirah,

          When you yell at people you are less likely to be heard. It’s an ineffective way to be understood — which is important if being understood and supported in your efforts is a goal you have.

          1. Lori – the title of this pace is “What’s an adoptive parent to do.”

            The answer is to LISTEN ans HEAR – even when voices are raised or caps are used. While I thank you for you concerns about me being understood, deflecting because of a tone you read into my written words is not productive toward understanding either.

          2. Lori,
            Honest dialogue is important, with honest emotions. Their is too much strategic dishonesty and coverups in adoption practices as it is.

            It is the problem of those who don’t want to pay attention to honesty or honest voices. They should make the extra effort to try to listen with open ears and figure out why they are unable to understand. Typically they are the ones who made the extra effort to bring adoption into their lives. It is their responsibility to understand the effects of their actions and desires. Adoptive parents can also learn to be self-reflective and uphold their responsibility.

            Too many adoptees have suffered in silence, questioning themselves, attempting suicide, accepting abuse and molestation, and/or seeking comfort from drugs/medication or have been prescribed, in part because of people’s and society’s unwillingness to deal with each other’s and their own honest feelings and reality.

        2. And sometimes people don’t even notice pleasantries and need to be yelled at for a message to get across.

          People suffering from adoption loss have been trying to speak for decades, just to be ignored repeatedly and monitored by the tone police. I suffered from adoption loss, and I didn’t hear others trying to be heard.

    4. Needed to be said. Rarely is an adoptee’s pain acknowledged without imposing recognition of some sort toward the adopters. There was an article some time ago about an adoptee who was happy her natural family was going to be at her wedding…. the comments were ALL centered on how do your adoptive parents feel about that, and you know, they’re the ones who raised… enough! At the end of the day, it’s not all about you! That is the very fact of adoption… the acceptance that we have TWO LIVES, not one or the other!

    5. I recently realized that they are not grieving the death of their much wanted but never born child, they are facing their own mortality and death in a very real and scary way. The game really is that we are born and we have a little less than 40 years to reproduce our cells in the body of our offspring so that we won’t completely die when our bodies time out at 85 if nothing unfortunate happens to us before then. We get just enough time to train our life’s new body to grow up and follow the same path to get their cells into someone else’s body or they won’t survive. If you find out your not going to beat that clock your mourning your own death, you have nothing to distract you and to make the end less scary since there is some comfort in knowing that you’ll outlive your body by continuing in some way alive in the bodies of your kids. That’s pretty big actually the fear of death and the survival instinct. But the scramble for other people’s kids won’t help them outsmart death and so if they are going to raise other people’s kids their legacy of nurture should be one that does not breed resentment by stripping that person of their indentity and connection to their family.

  7. Open adoption. How many adoptions are TRULY open? First rule out all international adoptions. Then rule out adopters who chose closed adoptions or who lie and trick birthmoms, or “change their mind” and end openness. Then rule out all the BS that is labeled open adoption when it is actually identified adoption. Then rule out all semi-open adoptions in which birthmom gets a letter once a year. How many are left that are TRULY open – where there are visitations with child and first mother??? Mostly, open adoption is a bullshit sales pitch!

    And for the few adoptees in truly open adoptions – do you think it’s painless? It replaces the pain of not knowing with the pain of seeing a capable mother – often who has other kids – but didn’t keep you! Yeah, that feels great!!

    OR…you have visits with a lady you are told is a friend of the family. Yes, “open” but not honest.

    AND, every adoption – open or closed – still starts with a falsified birth certificate the the original sealed, in most states, forever!

    Things are DIFFERENT but not necessarily any better!

    1. I agree completely with you. The better movement would be to prevent falsified birth certificates. They should truthfully record all the names a person has had and (at least the long form versions) should list both ancestral parents as well as custodial parents (all four of them).

      1. Me too, agree completely.
        Accurate and truthful birth certificates with birth parents’ names. Adoption certificates to record adoptive parents. All accessible to person born and adopted.

      2. No their custodial parents names don’t need to be on their birth certificate that has nothing to do with their identity. It’s not their medical record or a record of the reproductive health of the people named parents its not a vital record. The adoptive parents names are on an adoption decree. When the kid needs to prove who they are and are required to provide a birth certificate they should provide their birth certificate. When the adoptive parents need to demonstrate they have custody of the person whose named on the birth certificate they can present their adoption decree. No need to have different rules for adopted people and the content of their birth certificates.

    2. I agree with you. There is a lot of “BS” about open adoption. I think the biggest dishonesty is that it prevents the pain of loss. You are absolutely right. There is loss either way.
      Open adoption is also incredibly complicated because no two situations are the same. Some folks are able to have an open, honest situation and some are not for lots of different reasons.
      Let’s face it, adoption will never be ideal. The ideal is that people who have children are able to keep their children and take good care of them. There is no doubt that many birthparents could have done that and many could not have. Both are true.
      It’s too complex to be only one way.
      Changes of heart along the way happen on both sides as well, also for differing reasons.
      It is certainly heartbreaking to find out that your birthparents kept other children and not you. This was the case with my son and it has hurt him deeply. I struggle to comfort his pain.

    3. I realize I’m joining this dialogue a day late and a dollar short but I only just now have come across it. As an adoptive parent of two sons I am equally qualified to contribute my voice to the discussion. While the flaws inherent in adoption in general and international or transracial adoption specifically are valid it seems you are promoting a new false ideal to replace the old one. There may indeed be many cases of open adoption with good outcomes just as there are many cases of other adoptions with good outcomes. But to present open adoption (I’m not referring to medical records or identity information) as the best way for adoption to be conducted seems a bit naive. First of all, adoption by definition is a legal, permanent establishment of a new family identity. Granted, the child being adopted has no voice in the matter of choosing parents, but that is also true of biological children. I’ve read a lot being expressed about identity loss and cultural loss. While I hear and can imagine the conflicts that may arise in one’s self-image or community interactions or world view, my thoughts turn to the biological children of a mixed marriage. With which parent should they predominately identify? Should they blame and fault their parents for choosing to marry and
      complicating their lives? How do you see Derek Jeter or Halle Berry? Do you categorize them as black or white? Why, if we are so 21st century and enlightened is it so important to categorize them at all? As for open adoptions, my thoughts turn to human nature and modern society. Most parents in general and mothers in particular have trouble handling child-rearing suggestions or interference from their own parents or in-laws. The current divorce rate has added stepmoms and stepdads into the parenting pool, with children being both manipulative (all children are anyway) and
      manipulated. Now you want to add birth moms into the mix? Sounds like a volatile mix to me. I did not adopt children to “nanny” someone else’s child until they were ready to take them back. That arrangement is called foster care. I made a permanent commitment to raise and love my children with all that I had to give, and grateful for the gift and opportunity provided to me by the unfortunate circumstances of their birth mothers. True, much adoption reform is needed and must include improved solutions for all parties concerned. But we must be careful not to replace one false ideal with another. And we must remember ALL families, whether formed by adoption or biology or multiple marriages, will face emotional issues of conflict, identity, and personal baggage. And no legislation, policy, politics or organization will ever change that.

  8. So the “new” adopters say they are listening and trying to learn, trying to understand…but adoption isn’t like it used to be.

    Those with older adoptees (from the “bad old days”) say “we didn’t know”, “we did as we were instructed”, “was that so horrible?” without any desire or thought to open up a real dialogue with their “adopted child” on the subject.

    Is it so hard to listen?

    1. Yep, Gaye, that’s what I see.

      Newer adopters/HAPs giving the same excuses/ shifting the blame that my adopters recently gave – “adoption is done differently now”, “we didn’t know then what people now know”, “we acted with best intentions”, etc.

      The problem is that APs/HAPs are STILL selective about what they want to hear. In 1982, therapists were cautioning about the very adoption issues that adult adoptees are trying to convey now. My adopters claim “ignorance”, despite being established, accomplished, resourceful, connected, and driven. I told him, he’s being willfully ignorant. Extending an olive branch, he “offered” to “forgive” me if I forgive him. Guess what he can do with his “offer”?

      Advice for adoptive parents: NEVER suggest “forgiving” the children you adopted for reacting honestly and viscerally about their adoption that they had no control over or voice in.

      1. I don’t know what went on in your home, but it sounds like it runs much deeper than just adoption issues. You don’t even refer to them as parents. You refer to them as “adopters” or AP’s. That’s a deep disconnection. I’m not passing judgment on them or you, I’m only making the observation. The family unit is still the building block of society so when that family unit breaks down or fails for any reason it is a loss for the entire society. I pray you will seek wise counsel to heal and move forward from your wounds before you have a family of your own so the pain is not perpetuated.

    2. I have always had an open dialogue with my children about adoption. However, this dialogue has occurred in the context of closed adoptions, which is what was advised at the time. I was not sufficiently educated at the time on how this would create irreparable loss for my children. I actually have a lot of anger about that myself.
      If I had to do it again, I would do it differently, and that understanding is a result of listening to all your voices.

    3. Adopters can either be part of the problem or part of the solution. Being part of the solution requires more than supporting open records (aka equal access).

      It requires stopping singing the praises of adoption and encouraging others to adopt! It is not something to be encouraged; it is something to PREVENT the need for!

      Adoption does not prevent abortion or teen pregnancy or poverty.

      Work to provide minimum wage and affordable day care. Help those in need locally, domestically and world wide by providing medical care, food, water and education.

  9. Lori, thank you for giving #flipthescript space on your website.

    One of the goals of #flipthescript for myself was to stress that we are adult adoptees (not children as we are so often referred to) and we can now speak for ourselves. Villifying adoptive parents was never the point. Taking the spotlight off their needs and feelings and shining the light back on to our own was the point. As a baby scoop era adoptee I do see positive change in this era compared to the one I was raised in. However adoption law and policy has not caught up with the increased education about how adoption affects the people involved.

    There is absolutely no reason in the world why adopted adults’ birth certificates should still be sealed (this practice continues today even for “open” adoptions).

    There is no reason that as a woman in my 40s that I should not be able to view my own adoption file at the still for-profit-adoption agency that is holding it under lock and key (even though I was adopted in Illinois where most birth certificates are now open).

    There is no good reason why I still don’t know who my biological father is.

    There is no good reason why my adoptive mother still believes the rhetoric that the adoption agency sold her (even with obvious evidence to the contrary).

    Yes we may understand adoption trauma better and we can go to therapy. But therapy isn’t changing law and policy.

    When adopted adults are given the exact same legal rights as the non adopted and their voices are considered equally valid as professionals and adoptive parents–only then can we be satisfied that adoption is sufficiently improved.

    1. I absolutely agree with you Lynn. Practices have to continue to change dramatically and records must be unsealed for adopted people feel that they are fully honored and empowered.
      I think flipthescript gave the stage to important feelings and questions that need to be heard. I think it is inevitable that, as adoptees shed the mantle of compliance with a story that does not fit them, great anger gets expressed at adoptive parent for being party to it. Of course it is challenging for adoptive parents hear these feelings without being defensive, but I think many are trying.
      I did not write my post as an apology for adoptive parents, as I mentioned before, but as an attempt to consider change in the context of lived experience on all sides of the matter. It hasn’t been easy for any of us.
      I’m sorry your mother is unable to question the rhetoric the adoption agency told her. That is really difficult for you.

    2. I was honored to host #flipthescript voices here, Lynn. Thanks for saying that.

      I agree with you that it’s wrong that you and adoptees in 40-some states are unable to get original birth certificates and that falsification or birth records still takes place. We must work to change laws, policy, and hearts.

  10. Barbara and Lori, Thank you for continuing this conversation beyond the infamous adoption month! I think #flipthescript was pivotal for many families impacted by adoption. I know I can speak for myself as an “adopter” that I want to learn from all the voices involved in adoption, both past and present, to better understand how to best move forward beyond November 30th.

    1. Thank you Rebecca. I think the voice that I am hearing the loudest is that we need to support open records for adopted people. As Lynn mentioned earlier: “Therapy isn’t changing law and policy.” I think adoptive parents need to strengthen their voices in support of open records.

      1. Mirah, Thanks again for your voice in this discussion.

        Barbara, it isn’t just about open records, it should also be about NOT falsifying records in the first place. It should be impossible for any adoption process to prevent people not knowing everything about themselves.

        Disclosure: I’m a birthday. My son’s mother and I never sought secrecy. As far asI can tell, the only people who sought secrecy was the agency handling the adoption and they also (quite forcefully) worked to separate us in order to serve the interests of some (in their view) more viable and deserving adoptive parents.

        It was quite a shock to be laughed at by my son for thinking their reasoning made sense. It was also a shock to learn my own history and to see how it played into my son’s adoption and very deep harm for other people. All that harm and pain just to keep secrets on behalf or other people’s needs.

        One really good outcome is that I no longer have any contact with my family and their toxicity. Please don;t think I’m punishing my ‘parents’ – I’m just rescuing myself.

  11. Thank you Barbara for this post. And thank you Lori for hosting another viewpoint for #flipthescript. After reading this post and the comments, it’s clear that we have a long way to go. But to know that there is a conversation and that all sides of this triangle are coming to the table gives me hope that the changes that need to occur will. And I greatly appreciate having people who are willing to listen with compassion, even when the conversation is difficult, in order to bring about this change.

    1. Thank you Cristy. I agree that anything that opens the conversation and does not shut anyone down in shame is crucial to change both in our own personal lived experience of adoption and in the outside world of policy change. I appreciate your support of that.

  12. Rebecca: I totally agree. As one of those adopters from the “bad old days” I would welcome suggestions of how I could become part of the solution. This is such an emotional issue! My thanks also to Lori and Barbara.

    1. It is indeed such an emotional issue and I applaud your willingness to speak as a voice from the past history of adoption. I think it is hard and important not to be silenced into shame as a participant in past practices that have hurt so many adopted people.
      I think the solution begins with openness to hearing all sides and reconsidering what you were told and believed and why. It starts at home with yourself and your own children and extends from there out into the world. If we can all listen and educate with an open heart, albeit a pained heart, we can change the conversation and the practices.

  13. Enjoyed the post. Every generation has good parents, bad parents and everything in-between.

    What concerns me today is how many adopt without an agency which I do believe (agency dependent) does teach about the different stages an adoptee will have to work through. When they adopt via a facilitator and/or lawyer – do you really think the focus is on openness, or what the child will go through – or – completing the adoption fast and what will be the most expedient for the lawyer…my guess is that the education and knowledge is about the same as what was passed on in the 1960’s…

    I think there is much to be done – even if changes have been made.

    While talking about changing the laws to restore access to our original birth certificates – how about we also change the laws that allow / require that the place of birth, hospital, doctor is stripped out and the child is given a brand new place of birth – the city/residence of the adoptive parents. Yep, you heard that right – some states still do this. KY is one that I found out today. Below is the text of the law.

    213.071 Establishment of new birth certificate for person born in Commonwealth […]

    (3) If a new certificate is established, the actual place and date of birth shall be shown except in the case of adoption. If the adopted child is under eighteen (18) years of age, the birth certificate shall not contain any information revealing the child is adopted and shall show the adoptive parent or parents as the natural parent or parents of the child. The new birth certificate, when issued, shall not contain the place of birth, hospital, or name of the doctor or midwife. This information shall be given only by an order of the court in which the child was adopted. If the child was born in the Commonwealth, the new birth certificate shall show the residence of the adoptive parents as the birthplace of the child, and this shall be deemed for all legal purposes to be the birthplace of the child.

    https://www.lrc.ky.gov/statutes/statute.aspx?id=8723

    1. TAO – I totally agree about the lack of any pre-adoptive preparation. One only has to read the Reuters report on re-homing and/or see and hear the recent Dan Rather report entitled “Shameful International Adoptions” also about re-homing to see the tragic end result of people entering into adoption naively. No amount of “well-meaning” is enough without a heavy dose of Reality 101 and Lowered expectations 202 with a second major in compassion for what adoptees experience, especially older and cross-cultural adoptees.

        1. Yes, there NEEDS to be accountability for the falsification of people’s personal records.

          Unfortunately, given our current track record on accountability for numerous unnecessary deaths/murders by law enforcement and utter disregard for human life by law enforcement, our judicial system, our government, and our society at large, we need a drastic overhaul of our systems that continually disrespect humanity. We need a #flipthescript not just for adoptees’ whose rights, experiences, and personhood have been trampled on, but we, as a society also need to listen to black people’s voices and lived experiences, immigrant voices, struggling families, those of ethnic minorities and disadvantaged people.

          We need to start putting people over profits. Stop suing other countries’ governments because they resist buying our products that they deem are unhealthy for their people. Countries should have the right to decide whether or not to allow GMO products into their country and their food supply, without US pressure, coercion, or threats. Just like parents should have the right to decide whether to raise their own child without outside pressure, coercion, or threats.

          Proposed, secretive actions like the Trans Pacific Partnership (TTP), Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), Trans Atlantic Free Trade Agreement (TAFTA), Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA), etc. all strive to remove people’s and nations’ rights (sovereignty) to increase corporate profits for the already wealthy and powerful.

          Current and historical adoption practices are just one example of how human lives are disregarded so that companies/agencies can profit and benefit. Those free trade agreements are other examples of where lack of transparency and deceptive tactics will be used to dismantle people’s families, communities, safeguards and protections to benefit the already powerful, and it will be International LAW.

          US and Canadian conglomerates are already suing states and countries for restricting the sale of their controversially unhealthy products (Monsanto, Bayer, etc.) or resisting destruction/pollution of their lands and livelihoods (Canadian mining companies in Costa Rica, Ecuador, etc.).

          We have a gross culture of entitlement to other people’s resources – children, land, minerals, oil, lives. That is something we SHOULD feel shame for and should stop.

          Stop the TTP and those other free trade agreements. Listen to the people who are struggling and risking their lives to keep their homes, land, children, families, and communities safe.

          Yes, I got tangential, but they are all related – treating human lives as commodities for the pleasure/satisfaction of others who have the power and desire to do so. Much like slavery.

          1. Kym, You said, “We need to start putting people over profits.” Yes! Yes, a thousand times, Yes! Well said. Human beings MATTER! All of them. So many have had their voices drowned out .. hoping that from this day forward we can ALL learn to listen **and hear** a little better. Even when someone is ”upset”.. cause, like, ya’ know… I think we all have those days.

            What’s an adoptive parent to do? For starters, support opening all adoption records and OBC access. Truth is a most beautiful thing. Secondly, and I do not say this without understanding or experience, when first thinking of adoption to fill that empty place while you are in and needing to walk through your pain of loss of child (whether from infertility or miscarriage or actual loss of a living child)… get a cat, they love to cuddle. They are what filled my aching heart and empty arms after the loss of my son to adoption. .no, it’s not anywhere near the same but it will give you time to grieve and it will help you be in a much better place (with time) instead of being a part of an industry that often takes children from unwilling parents. I lost two more children (miscarriage) after I lost my son. I never had any more children. Yes, it’s damn hard! But. I could not be a part of something that put another mother in the position of losing HER child JUST to ”make me feel better”. I knew too well what the loss of a child ….felt like.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *