Adoption is broadly romanticized and deeply entrenched in our culture. We
want need to believe that adoption is the “happily ever after” to a would-be ending of abortion, poverty, and substance abuse.
The truth is, it has its own dark legacy that good folks have failed to bring into the conversation.
November is adoption awareness month. Churches celebrate it. It’s time to get real.
It’s time to change the lucrative business of destroying families to create new ones. It’s time to stop pretending.
If that last statement invoked anger, rather than empathy and questions, there’s something you need to understand. The sentiments of goodwill that encircle the institution of adoption have allowed the marginalization of the voices most affected by its practices–the adoptees, and the mothers who have relinquished their newborns.
Let’s shift the narrative.
We need a family.
The idea that any group of individuals can form a family is a flawed concept. We cling to this romanticized idealism because it’s rooted in our deepest needs to love, to be loved, and form a family. Nonetheless, it speaks more about our capacity to adapt in pursuit of those vital human needs, than offering a solution for cultural ills.
At the very least, it denotes a shallow understanding of the impact the genetic family plays and its role in the psychological development of a human being. Let alone the profound impact separating a newborn and mother has on each of their lives.
It’s not that the needs of babies are entirely unknown.
The surgical knife of intellectual honesty must separate the needs and desires of adults, the industry that serves them, from the mother and child in crisis at the center.
That is if, in fact, we still want to hold to the premise that we want to do what’s best for children born into unwanted circumstances.
This is key.
Children placed for adoption are not always unwanted. But rather, they are born into unwanted circumstances.
Mothers who relinquish their children are in crisis situations.
The decision of a mother to surrender her child to adoption is often made on overwhelming, yet temporary, circumstances. Contrary to popular belief, it is seldom an alternative to abortion. Women who are willing to give birth are in need of support to parent their child. Instead of receiving the support they desperately need, they are too often coerced into surrendering to someone who can “provide more.”
I realize this is a mental and moral paradigm shift.
There’s no end to the feel-good stories about couples who believe they “are called” to adopt. Heart rendering stories of poverty-stricken children in need of the wealth and opportunities other couples have to offer.
But there are other stories to tell.
The stories of the adoptees. And the mothers who never recovered from having their babies taken out of their arms.
One such mother writes,
By the time I delivered my precious girl, my efforts to keep her via parenting classes at a local pregnancy center and accumulation of baby necessities (all returned by my mother) only proved my selfishness. I would be selfish having only love to offer a child. Ultimately, it was the threat of homelessness by my parents that definitively made my adoption “choice”. My greatest fear at the time was my daughter being placed in foster care due to my temporary lack of an address.
America, if I could relive that day again, I would run from that hospital with her in my arms and never look back.
“In the creation of a family of total strangers, my very real existent family was destroyed.”
An adopted person is permanently separated from their family of origin.
His or her name is legally changed, and a new birth certificate is issued. The new certified birth certificate states that the adopted child was born as a live birth to the adoptive family. Once the new birth certificate is issued, the original is sealed.
Consider for just a moment what this means from a larger perspective. Parents are severed from their child. The child is lost to aunts, uncles, grandparents, and siblings. His or her heritage and medical history remain a mystery throughout their lifetime. The cord is cut and cauterized.
The argument is made that these issues are not of the utmost importance for a young child. The adoptive family can provide these. It is, however, important over the lifetime of the adoptee as an adult.
And yet, only eight states allow adult adoptees access to their original birth certificate. Each state has its own entanglements that forbid adults to access what is a basic human right–to know their origins.
Johan Nilsen, at 83, still couldn’t access his original birth certificate. Mississippi law states he needs his birth parents’ permission. Nilsen believes his mother was told he died at birth. More likely than not, she went to her grave believing this was true, and Johan will go to his without ever knowing the truth.
Nilsen told the Clarion Ledger,
“I have butted my head trying to get information but it’s just like a stone wall. It just seems to me that an 83-year-old record, all the parents by now are deceased and you can’t get a judge to simply open the record…I don’t understand a record being that old and a person can’t get a hold of it.”
It’s time to take a hard look at an industry that feeds on families in crisis.
We can start by changing the state laws on original birth certificates, one by one.
If we really want to save the lives of babies, then let’s shift the conversation from how wonderful it is to adopt, to what can we do to preserve families.