What Adoption Is NOT

Early this morning, I sat in my study, my chores done, the kids playing in the basement, Saathi out to work. I scrolled through my Facebook feed, then turned my attention to Twitter. After following chatter about #45’s early morning Twitter meltdown, I caught up on other friends. One conversation upset my equilibrium. I could tell it was in jest and perhaps, that was part of the problem.

ProblemsWithAdoption

I tried to let it go. I walked around my home, talked distractedly on the phone with Amma and finally decided I’d say what has to be said.

People often joke about adoption. About being adopted, about adopting. I probably would have smiled or nodded even if I did not particularly think this was a topic for jokes. Ever since I became a parent by adoption, I am extra sensitive.

When SPCA airs pet adoption drives, I switch channels. The descriptors used to advertise animals worthy of adoption often feature terms like “calm”, “gentle”, “compliant” and “loveable”. It makes me cringe. Sometimes, on TV shows I see adoption being treated in a cavalier manner. Again, I switch channels or turn the TV off.

Then there are conversations online where someone posts something yummy and the inevitable “adopt me” comment follows.

I pause and wonder why one would say that and realize it stems from how we perceive adoption from the society around us. We are shown that adoption is a means to a life better than the one we are part of. We are shown the myth of the happy, grateful adoptee. We are shown that to be adopted, one has to be lovable, compliant, grateful, obedient.

From experience, I can tell you that Adoption is NOT:

  1. A means to a better life, just a different one.
  2. A way to pick and choose the child into your life. It is about finding a home for children who need homes.
  3. Adoptees are not meek automatons who fulfill your need for children without having to deal with the angst of parenting.

I am sure others touched by adoption can and will add to this list.

I want to take a moment to implore those of you who follow me or stumble on this post to think before you talk about adoption flippantly. These are real lives, real people, real children you are joking about.

19 comments

  1. For sure, it’s not a joke. People need to more careful and considerate when expressing opinions about adoption. I know of one person who wanted to adopt, and was frustrated because they didn’t get a child. I asked him what was the reason for his frustration, and he said ‘I feel social pressure from my circle to get a child within an year. Otherwise, tongues will start waving’. I thought ‘Well, a child coming into your life is not like a cookie-cutter approach to meet your social timeline expectations’, In fact, I was pretty angry about his thought, but I didn’t say anything. These are the realities we live in, and everything is set to satisfy someone’s expectation, rather than what is actually happening in life.

  2. Thanks Laksh for writing this. That’s one thing I have certainly learnt – to not use the word adoption lightly, and to spread that perspective in my conversations.

  3. We ‘adopt’ road or traffic circles here. Even ‘adopt’ animals in zoos, where the scheme means donate to feed the specific animal. I don’t have a problem with adopting a pet – that is parenting too and I get that it is hard for those without pets to get that. Can live with it since raising a dog and living with him/her is very similar to the true meaning of adoption in the parenting meaning of the word.

    The other thing – you have done such a good thing, you have given a child a life. Adoption is not charity just like parenting isn’t charity. And since it is parenting and since every child is different, there should be no question of the ‘good’ adoptee image.

    I think rethinking what we say makes all the difference. I see it in the different needs space too – people ask people not to be a ‘spaz’ (for spastic) or a ‘retard’. I wish people got that having cerebral palsy isn’t the same as being clumsy. There’s a long ways to go on this.

    To keep my sanity, I try and gauge the intention of the person in front of me saying this, the amount of time I have and my level of interest in educating them. If it is good intentions, my hackles don’t rise…many times people don’t know because they haven’t felt comfortable enough to ask and that is how this nonsense continues on. I take the onus on myself, when I feel up to it.

    Get what you mean completely.

    • I totally get what you mean with special needs. That is something that makes me cringe too. Mostly am silent. I ignore and move on. Sometimes it huts me hard. Wasn’t making a political statement just venting.

  4. This made me think about if I have ever used this phrase jokingly. Can’t remember but I know I will be extra careful now. (The “Adopt Me” on food pictures irritates me quite a bit too.)

  5. I’v been guilty of saying that. And I’m sorry to admit I never thought of it. Thank you for bringing this up. You’re right there is nothing flippant about adoption.

  6. I put my four children up for adoption seven years ago due to a lot of very serious issues in mine and my husband’s lives. We’ve since resolved them, but at the time we were NOT fit parents. Every time I see one of those stupid adoption things I want to kick people. The foster care/adoption process doesn’t work that way. We had it explained to us in great detail – the adoption process – and we have first hand experience with the foster care system since our kids were in foster care for a while.

    Another thing I want to do is strangle people who adopt infants because they’re “just so cute and helpless.” No. Stop it. There are older children – like mine, and those who have been in the system even longer, perhaps most of their lives – who need homes. Yes, these children need more time and attention and patience, but they’re the ones crying out most for a home. Take time to visit with these older children and at least consider adopting one of them. If you still want to adopt an infant, that’s great. Go for it. Just stop making it about how “cute and innocent” infants are and how “dangerous and unpredictable” the older kids are.

    Yes, this is a sore point with me. I’m a huge advocate for both domestic adoptions and for adopting older children and those with special needs, as those are the ones who get looked over the most. (One of my sons is legally blind due to complications when he was born, which makes him “less desirable”, according to the adoption counselor we talked to just before we saw them for the last time, so she warned us he’d be harder to adopt out.)

    My husband and I are currently offering our emotional support to a friend who’s in the middle of the adoption process. She’s trying to get custody of a pair of 10 year old twins, one of which is deaf. The red tape she’s having to deal with is ridiculous and she’s broken down in tears on more than one occasion. She loves these boys and doesn’t want to lose them.

    My husband and I offer our thanks to all parents who give homes to children without them, and wish all of those in the middle of the process some peace and hope. (Sorry, this got long but I’m kind of passionate about this.)

    • A lot of people will not foster or adopt teenagers because they can genuinely be dangerous. They could be a rebel or mentally ill or just too much for someone to handle. Carers don’t know what an older child will be like, and they may not want to risk their safety or their husbands/ wife’s of family’s safety to adopt or foster a teenager. Also, i noticed you said one of your children was blind. Surely you wouldn’t have put that particular child up for adoption 7 years ago, despite your problems? Very small children, babies and toddlers are also no different to older children. Although teenagers or older kids may have spent much longer in care, that does not mean they should be more important to adopt. I’m not saying you said they’re more important by the way. I’m just saying small children may not have taken for health checks or they could have been abused and they are very vunerable due to their age and size. Older children may be vunerable too, but whether a child should be adopted or not shouldn’t depend on how long they have been in care.

  7. Laksh, This touched so many sore nerves ! But am so glad you wrote this. I can’t tell the number of such flippant statements, comments I came across…..But the one that irks our family the most is about how grateful the child should be…. I just can’t seem to understand this how much ever I try….. if in a good mood I explain its the other way round, sometimes I ignore….but on a bad day I stare though am seething with anger inside….. My husband is way better in dealing with these than I am….. why is it so difficult for people to empathize that a child is a child is a child.

  8. I am so new at this whole WordPress thing and occasionally stumble across interesting blogs. I am so glad I somehow found this! And the previous person who mentioned people being called “spaz” or “retard” is a pet peeve of mine. Intelligent, educated friends of mine do that, and I never know what to say. Will be conscious now of the use of “adopted.”

  9. Laksh thanks for this article. I do find it annoying when other moms ask about the “temperament ” of my adopted or foster children. As if their own birth children aren’t tantrum-ing through the isles at the grocery store. I make it my business to inform them that no child is well behaved all the time, including their own birth children.

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