On average, I field 2-4 calls a month from hopeful adoptive parents. Sometimes, google throws up my name. Sometimes, they stumble on my blog and reach out. Most of these people are desi like me. They are away from the homeland and are mulling adoption for one of two reasons.
“I have tried all avenues to have a child through biology but here I am mulling adoption…”
This version is familiar to me, having been a desperate want-to-be mom not less than twelve years ago.
“I have always wanted to adopt”
The variations on this theme range from watching a movie that portrayed adoption favorably to visiting orphanages on birthdays as a child and feeling the need to ‘save’ a child. This, I can relate to, but not empathize as I have not walked in those shoes.
Irrespective of where the idea of being an adoptive parent comes from, I list below a few of the questions I ask and the resources I point people to.
- Are you aware of what savior-ism is?
I ask this question and talk about where that need “save” comes from. Invariably the conversation meanders to privilege and the blinding entitlement that comes with it. The main takeaway from this conversation is that the best we (as in me and or the person I am talking with) can do is offer a child in need a home, an alternative. We cannot claim to offer a better life, just a different one. It is important to drive home this point – different does not mean better.
- Are you familiar with trauma? What is trauma informed parenting?
The first question eventually leads me to talk about trauma as the first step in adoption. The severing of the parent-child bond that is the first of many trauma that impacts the child. I talk about how this trauma may manifest in the children and later as adults. I also point people to the following resources.
- Have you grieved your loss?
This applies mostly to people arriving at adoption fresh off infertility grief. I share my story and ask them if they have grieved the loss of the child they birthed in their mind. I ask them if they took the time to grieve the loss of a powerful dream. Grief is real. Grief requires time. Grief needs time to heal.
Then, I talk to them about how adoption is not a replacement for the dream they once harbored. This has to be a new one, a new dream with the full awareness that this child they may adopt will always have two families – a family of origin and a family that raises them. Both real. Both present.
Acknowledging this path to parenting is different from the one they have envisioned is critical. This requires blinders to be off. This makes a prospective adoptive parent someone who is aware that the path they are choosing is different than the one they wanted to be on. Adoption is not a one-time event, it is a lifelong process, a decision they will inspect in varying degrees throughout their life and their child’s life.
- What are your views on parenting – openness, identity…?
As the conversation progresses, we eventually land on openness and truth in adoption. I talk to them about my feelings on openness. This part of the conversation ends up exploring the insecurities that are inherent in raising a child not born to you. There is work to be done, depths to be plumbed. This is where the real work is. I leave it at that.
- What are your views on money in adoption?
This topic is usually the last. They are hesitant to ask and I do not bring it up right away. However, I make it a point to talk about it. I tell them unflinchingly how much money they have to earmark if they are thinking of private domestic adoption. I talk to them about the for-profit, private adoption being a billion-dollar business. I talk about it in terms of baby trafficking. I point them to the era of closed adoptions, the stigma, and the secrecy that lead to the booming baby business.
I ask them to pull up the pages on the adoption agency websites that sell adoption as an option to vulnerable pregnant woman. I ask them to look at that page clinically as someone in marketing would do. What sells? What does not? I talk about keywords.
Adoption is a permanent solution to a temporary need.
I end my spiel with the adoption tax credit (which increases year after year). The adoption lobby is strong and powerful. I usually end with this question. What if the government actually turned around and made the adoption tax credit into a program that helps women in need?
I ask them to read about Georgia Tann.
- Have you considered children from foster care?
Usually, this question brings up topics we are loathe to talk about – the idea of a newborn child as a blank slate. It brings up deeper fears and stereotypes of children in foster care. Once we get started and the topic of trauma comes up again, we usually end the call with the understanding that trauma exists in pre-verbal children. Separating trauma from children in adoption is impossible.
I stress that the goal in foster care is re-unification. The system while far from perfect, is the most ethical way to adopt in the United States.
- Other – Ethics in adoption
If for any reason, the person speaking to me has done their research and is considering only private adoption, I ask them to think about the ethics in adoption.
Is the money they are spending accounted for by the agency?
How much effort does the agency put into pre and post-adoption counseling for expectant parents?
Does the agency talk about trauma?
What is the agency’s stance on openness in adoption? Is it just a catchy phrase they bandy about?
What does the home study process look like?
How much support do the adoptive family and the parents who relinquished receive post-adoption?
What resources does the agency make available to prepare prospective adoptive parents for trauma-informed parenting?
By the time I am done, I am weary. I also remind the people I am talking to, that my story is just one story. My views on adoption as just mine. I have evolved as a person and a parent over a decade. It is likely my views will undergo a constant change as my children age and my understanding of the lasting effects of adoption deepen.
I hope this helps anyone landing on this post through a google search.