Is adoption the best option?
December 11, 2007 2:24 PM   Subscribe

After outrage was sparked by a Dutch couple who abandoned their Korean adopted daughter in Hong Kong (and they wouldn't be the first couple to consider returning an adopted child like a shelter puppy) some may start to wonder whether adoption is an unmitigated good. Foreign adoptions are especially prone to accusations of child buying, and some adoptees are mad as hell at the racism inherent in the adoption trade. Even domestic adoption is criticized by some for being traumatic to both mothers and their children.
posted by InnocentBystander (138 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
 
I'm gonna go get the papers, get the papers.
posted by phaedon at 2:29 PM on December 11, 2007 [3 favorites]


This had better not interfere with my plans to adopt a dozen or so children and train them in ninjitsu and software engineering.
posted by mullingitover at 2:32 PM on December 11, 2007 [3 favorites]


I can't complain about how it worked for me.
posted by drezdn at 2:37 PM on December 11, 2007


I've met mothers who regretted giving up their children, but not children who regretted being adopted. For all of my friends who were adopted (I have known several), their family is the family who raised them - they never knew their birth families, or even seemed to express that much curiosity about them.

I think it is a very different experience for the child than it is for the birth family.
posted by jb at 2:42 PM on December 11, 2007


I'm not trying to play apologist here, but the article does state that the abandoned child "...speaks English and Cantonese but not Korean..." so that might explain (a very small part) of why the child was dumped in Hong Kong.
posted by furtive at 2:42 PM on December 11, 2007


We should definitely just build a shitload of orphanages. We could have the kids make shoes, or handbags maybe. I think it would be much better than adoption, plus I could save a few bucks on a nice pair of Air Kobes.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 2:49 PM on December 11, 2007


One of the links also said that it is against the law to return an adopted child in Korea, but not in Hong Kong.

I (along with my sister) am adopted and it really hasn't affected my life in any way either negatively or positively. This could vary in an individuals case of course but for me the only things really are...

- No family medical history

- I do not know a single person on this planet that I am related to by blood.

- Every family ethnicity conversation has to include the caveat "Well, I'm adopted but...".

+ on the other hand, I have two family ethnicities to tell people about :)

+ My family *chose* me. Most families are just stuck with whatever kids they get :p
posted by utsutsu at 2:53 PM on December 11, 2007 [6 favorites]


The solution is obvious. Put a big tag on the child in a really prominent place. If it's removed, you can't return the child anymore. Works for prom dresses.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 2:57 PM on December 11, 2007 [2 favorites]


Antiadoption? That strikes me as one of the least obvious positions ever.
posted by nola at 2:58 PM on December 11, 2007 [2 favorites]


I've never regretted being adopted. I do, however, regret meeting my birth family.
posted by WolfDaddy at 3:01 PM on December 11, 2007 [2 favorites]


My experience (as a member of the birth family) with open adoption has been uniformly positive.
posted by No Robots at 3:07 PM on December 11, 2007


This is one of those things that is so horribly awful and impossible to solve that the best solution really is to make a few jokes about it.
posted by koeselitz at 3:09 PM on December 11, 2007 [1 favorite]


It occurs to me that the percentage of cases of abandonment, abuse, whatever, to be found among adopting families must be infinitessimally smaller than than similar cases in blood-related families. Just saying.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 3:09 PM on December 11, 2007 [2 favorites]


We should definitely just build a shitload of orphanages.

There's no need to do this. The solution to the orphan problem already exists and works very well. The place for people who have no place in the halls of society is called 'prison.' It's simply never made any sense at all that the state hands out kids to random strangers like they're candy. Adoption only reinforces the notion that unwanted people are 'state property' when they should be regarded as enemies of the state, usually guilty of intrusion not unlike illegal immigrants, and duly imprisoned until that time when the state deems it appropriate to grant them freedom and citizenship.
posted by nixerman at 3:16 PM on December 11, 2007 [2 favorites]


Wow. I had never heard of "transracial abduction" as a term used by adoptees (abductees?) from other countries who are taken in by white families before reading this thread.

Though I would be the last person to suggest that anyone ever adopt a child without a great deal of introspection and a thorough understanding of what it means to raise any child, the idea that white families are committing a form of slavery or reinforcing some colonization agenda by adopting a child of color just blows me away. I honestly thought that most families who adopt children really just want a child.

Yes, there are some outrageously bad adoptive parents out there. There are outrageously bad parents, unfortunately, who are biological as well. That the international adoption system is so corrupt that it encourages the buying and selling of human beings and attempts to rout every rule for profit is certainly worthy of an expose' and legitimate action against the profiteers. But that the families who adopt are being blamed for "abducting" children seems over-the-top to me.

In reading the "angry adoptee" site's diatribes (those that are available without requiring registration), it seems that there is no way for an adoptive family to do the right thing--attempt to assimilate the adoptee's culture into your own and you are a hypocrite, raise the child in your own culture and you are a racist. Is the only answer leaving these children to grow up in orphanages in their own countries? Would that be preferable to being adopted by a family that is white? Isn't that a racist presumption, also? I have no easy answers, only more questions.

Great post; it really made me think.
posted by misha at 3:17 PM on December 11, 2007 [2 favorites]


So let's review what we've learned about making a commitment: you may NOT return a bathing suit once you've taken it home, but you may return a child or a shelter puppy. Splendid.

On the other hand, without abandoned children, there would have been no Oliver Twist . . .

. . . which would mean no horrid treacly Mark Lester, either. Man, this issue is complex.
posted by FelliniBlank at 3:18 PM on December 11, 2007


Those antiadoption.org ladies are a little bit wacky!

Young people should take precautions to look after their fertility if they plan to have children at some point in their lives. Waiting until one has acquired enough money, high enough career status, or other material “qualifications” can be detrimental to a person’s ability to conceive and carry a child. Sexually transmitted diseases and other environmental toxins can lead to infertility, as well. If you are planning to become a parent “someday,” it’s important to remember that the way you live now has a real impact on your future.

I knew I should have gotten knocked up when I was 22. WHAT WAS I THINKING.

I am a curmudgeon and find it really irritating that so many advocacy websites refuse to include a "Who we are" section that lets you background their at time outrageous positions.
posted by thehmsbeagle at 3:25 PM on December 11, 2007 [1 favorite]


So that Dutch couple should be thrown in jail for child abuse and abandonment. And exploitative adoption agencies suck. As does a the fad of getting My Very Own Poor Little African/Asian Baby.

But I think this discussion would be better raised if you picked antiadoption websites that were a little more, um, literate. Like that "Transracial Adbductees" site? Where did that come from? Who is that guy? What makes his site different from any other crazy Geocities-type page?

And what, exactly, is the alternative? As misha said, leave them in orphanages? Because your post doesn't seem to be arguing for more stringent controls on the international adoption industry. It is just anti-adoption, period, demonizing anyone who would dare adopt, and that "ALL ADOPTION IS RACIST BULLSHIT" stance is kind of offensive to people who happily adopted, are happily adopted, or gave their children away voluntarily because they honestly could not support them.

Furthermore, you're painting the international adoption process like it's as easy as going shopping for a new coat, and it sure as hell isn't. I think the average is what, 18 months, two years to adopt a child? And it costs tens of thousands of dollars? Most people do not undertake that kind of process lightly. As far as I know, that Dutch couple is an extreme outlier. IB, can you provide statistics to the contrary?
posted by schroedinger at 3:25 PM on December 11, 2007 [2 favorites]


I get really tired of the argument that: the system is not perfect and therefore should be scrapped. Adoptions abroad can absolutely be impacted by corrupt practices, but in a third world country just about everything can and is affected by corruption, it's one of the hazards of doing business there, but that doesn't mean disengagement is the answer.

I also hate the idea that a child that is adopted by parents of a different race that it "obliterate a person’s original identity." A person's race does not define their identity or the appropriate culture that they should be brought up in and identify with. People are allowed to have complex and diverse identities, people can handle them.

And I'm sorry, maybe I'm just old fashion, but I seemed to think that it was racist when you would only adopt a child of your own race, now the racists are the ones who don't care what color their child is?
posted by whoaali at 3:28 PM on December 11, 2007 [11 favorites]


The Dutch couple lives in Hong Kong, and raised their (ex) daughter there, so that's why she speaks Cantonese and English but not Korean.
posted by cmgonzalez at 3:29 PM on December 11, 2007


I seemed to think that it was racist when you would only adopt a child of your own race, now the racists are the ones who don't care what color their child is?

In these cases, the argument is often one of there being a sort of fetishization of certain foreign babies (like the 'trend' of adopting little Chinese girls) along with taking kids out of the culture they were born in.
posted by cmgonzalez at 3:33 PM on December 11, 2007




Gross. Plenty of biological children have trouble "fitting in" And with parents who cared so little for her, no wonder she had issues. What awful people.

How many dutch diplomats can there be in Hong Kong?
posted by delmoi at 3:39 PM on December 11, 2007


My little brother was adopted from a family of gorillas, and he turned out okay.
posted by grobstein at 3:43 PM on December 11, 2007


I've never been adopted. I do, however, regret meeting my birth family.
posted by Wolfdog at 3:44 PM on December 11, 2007 [12 favorites]


In these cases, the argument is often one of there being a sort of fetishization of certain foreign babies (like the 'trend' of adopting little Chinese girls) along with taking kids out of the culture they were born in.

The culture they were born in? These people adopted the girl at 4 months. And she speaks English and Cantonese, but no Korean.
posted by delmoi at 3:44 PM on December 11, 2007


schroedinger, I thought editorializing in the post was a bad thing?
posted by waraw at 3:45 PM on December 11, 2007


*avoids Leonard Smalls quote*

Let me pre-caviat all this by saying yes, exploitative adoption agencies suck. For the most part, in the U.S., they tend to be fairly thorough in who gets screened through the adoption selection process. Can they go awry? Sure. So, what, abort ‘em all? Let very young people who can barely care for themselves raise kids?


“Born in July of 1998, A.L.L. is devoted to protecting children and families from the crimes committed by America's billion dollar adoption industry.”

Yeah, gotta stop that adoption gestapo from taking kids away from 100 year old females. (wha?)

“A Trackers International survey of 1000 natural mothers found that 97.7% were coerced into surrendering against their will.”

Runs contrary to my experience. In fact, it’s downright offensive when I consider the time, energy, and care my girlfriend and I took in making the decision to put our child up for adoption. I supported her, our families supported us, we could have done any number of things, we chose the best possible course (in our opinion) for a future for the child. Force didn’t enter into it. I didn’t run from my responsibilities and I didn’t abandon anyone. I’d rather not have brought a child into the world without planning, but hell, it was a lot of work and pain to do the best thing and I’m damned proud of it. Coerced? Fuck you.

“Diane Turski is a mother who lost her newborn son to a sealed-record adoption in 1968. Thirty years later they happily reunited when he found her, proving that the mother/child bond can never be broken”

Yeah, the nine months in the womb and this ‘mystical bond’ is what being a mom is all about.
Because being a mom isn’t about feeding, caring, getting up at 3 in the morning to comfort a crying baby, wiping shit off their ass, taking care of their hurts, not sleeping for days because they bumped their head playing football and are in the hospital, sacrificing, working overtime to buy them something, worrying over them and raising them for - what - thirty years, no, that doesn’t create some kind of bond. What horseshit.
posted by Smedleyman at 3:46 PM on December 11, 2007 [12 favorites]


cmgonzalez writes "In these cases, the argument is often one of there being a sort of fetishization of certain foreign babies (like the 'trend' of adopting little Chinese girls) along with taking kids out of the culture they were born in."

That's the external argument. The internal argument is probably something more along the lines of "I don't like this. And it involves more than one race. Therefore, this is racist."
posted by Bugbread at 3:46 PM on December 11, 2007


Two issues getting confused here. The issue of adopting kids from other countries/cultures and adopting full stop. Two very different issues.
posted by gatchaman at 3:47 PM on December 11, 2007


If the child has been removed from the protective cellophane wrapping, there is a chance you could have made an unauthorized copy, and no returns will be accepted.
posted by Krrrlson at 3:48 PM on December 11, 2007 [7 favorites]


(by ‘young people’ I’m thinking 14ish, not say 20 - although in either case it’s their parents who will be picking up much of the tab and child rearing. I learned more about raising kids in one week watching my own mom with our first baby than all the baby books I read.)
posted by Smedleyman at 3:49 PM on December 11, 2007


"Diane Turski is a mother who lost her newborn son to a sealed-record adoption in 1968. Thirty years later they happily reunited when he found her, proving that the mother/child bond can never be broken"

Uh, to prove "never", don't you have to provide evidence from every single case ever? Might as well say "John Smith fell from a 10 story window and survived, proving that falls from 10 story windows are never fatal".
posted by Bugbread at 3:50 PM on December 11, 2007 [1 favorite]


I dunno, and I guess the other problem I have with this is the demonization of the adoptive parents, when I think it is really the adoptive agencies and poor orphanages of the home countries that is really to blame. They're the ones that exploit these kids and their birth parents, they're the ones keeping these kids in hellish conditions until they can shuffle them off.

waraw, you're right, the discussion comes after the links, not interspersed between them. I need to rephrase: "I think the links are shitty and the arguments made in the links are shitty and poorly thought-out. This is a worthwhile topic of discussion, but the links provide an incredibly bad jumping-off point."
posted by schroedinger at 3:50 PM on December 11, 2007


I've known US foster children who've had have horrible experiences, but all the permanently placed early adoptees I've known seem fairly normal/happy/content in general.

Maybe we need a system like an H1 Visa - you can't bring anyone from overseas unless you prove there's not a suitable domestic candidate? If it's so charitable to adopt, well, charity starts at home.

Or am I missing something about foreign adoption. Besides not having the drug tests, home visits, interviews with friends and family to see if you're a suitable parent and the likelihood that you won't get a black baby, what's the advantage to going overseas?
posted by Gucky at 3:55 PM on December 11, 2007


In these cases, the argument is often one of there being a sort of fetishization of certain foreign babies (like the 'trend' of adopting little Chinese girls) along with taking kids out of the culture they were born in.

I think we just live in a culture where we just dig and dig to find a reason to scream racism. People can claim fetishization all they want, but that term gets thrown around too easily. There are a lot of reasons other than that, that have led to increase in adopting chinese girls. First, countries that make it easier for foreigners to adopt will, shock, get more foreigners adopting children there. Also, people tend to copy what others do. Know someone's neighbors cousin adopted from China and everything worked out ok? Well maybe we should go with China too. Adoption agencies also can act as a funnel. A lot of countries have a disproportionate amount female or male babies that are put up for adoption, for a lot of different reasons.

I kind of resent when people just jump to the conclusion that people are adopting abroad because they see their children as accessories. How do you know that? No one says that about the children they give birth to. And even if they decide to adopt instead of having natural children because everyone else is doing it, is that really that bad? As long as a child is really wanted, I don't see the problem. Despite the picture these articles are trying to paint, there are thousands of children without parents living in desperate poverty all over the world. From orphans of AIDs, to China's one child policy, I could go on and on, these kids need homes and parents.

In a perfect world, kids parents wouldn't be drug addicts or dead beats or die or be so poor they can't feed them or not want girls or not be killed in a war or be not emotionally prepared to raise them. Nothing would have to be hard or complex. We would have perfect little nuclear families, where everyone was the same matching color, because I guess that's the only way for any child to grow up without having an identity crisis. But that isn't the way it is. Placing kids in adoptive families who are better equipped to raise them is by far the best option we have. And throwing race up as a barrier to that because we don't think the child will be exposed to their heritage enough is just ridiculous.
posted by whoaali at 3:55 PM on December 11, 2007 [13 favorites]


Is this where we get to see the "perverted daddies" and their Chinese daughters again?

Pretty sad all the way around.
posted by maxwelton at 3:55 PM on December 11, 2007



That depression article also seriously misses a big reason why many adoptees are likely to be depressed: mentally ill, addicted and otherwise depression-prone parents are more likely to give their children up for adoption or to be forced to do so.

It is ridiculous to think there is an alternative to adoption other than abortion early in pregnancy. We know that there really is no way to help unwanted infants other than adoption.

Orphanages are *the cause* of a lot of damage to adopted kids-- children need consistent attention from several regular caregivers for whom the particular children are wildly important. In orphanages like those in the former Soviet countries and China, while they often look "clean," and the children appear well kept, the situation prevents them from getting enough individualized attention and physical affection to adequately develop their brains. This often leads to problems with socializing and lowered IQ. The longer a child is in such an institution, the more likely he is to have severe behavioral problems.

Lack of enough consistent affection can stunt these children's growth and even kill them-- in one study of an orphanage before this was widely known, something like 1/3 of the kids didn't survive infancy.

The children who do live often appear affectionate and loving at first-- they will do things run up to strangers and hug them and kiss them and smile. But this affection is indiscriminate and they tend to have a great deal of difficulty connecting with their parents-- and they often exhibit weird behaviors like rocking, hoarding things, having explosive and terrifying outbursts and "breakdowns" and making strange noises.

Each "placement" (ie, move from one setting or home to another) is a trauma for a child- the more "placements" a child has, the more dysfunctional he is likely to be (obviously some of this is not causal because bad behavior can lead to increased placements as well).

The younger the children are when they are adopted and the fewer "placements" they have, the better they do because there is less trauma due to both time in orphanage and to having to switch attachments. Imagine being taken away from your spouse and placed with another and having to act as though all is well-- and imagine it happening over and over.

Orphanage settings and repeated placements with different families are simply not biologically normal for human children.

As a result, anyone considering adopting a child from an orphanage should be prepared for these behavioral problems and to have to repeat and repeat and repeat things that they would normally do with younger kids to kids who are chronologically older. But the good news is that there are therapeutic approaches that can help parents help these kids catch up-- however, they are of no use if the parents don't know about them and don't know that this behavior is a predictable result of aberrant early experience.
posted by Maias at 3:59 PM on December 11, 2007 [13 favorites]


Besides not having the drug tests, home visits, interviews with friends and family to see if you're a suitable parent and the likelihood that you won't get a black baby, what's the advantage to going overseas?

Whether it is true or not, I don't know enough about adoption law to tell you, there are a lot of horror stories in the US about mothers changing their minds and taking the babies back 6 months later or the unknown father suddenly showing up when the kid is 2 and wanting custody. This may be more urban legend and the stuff of Lifetime movies than reality, but the chances of the birth parents coming back to get their kids is basically zero if you adopt abroad.
posted by whoaali at 4:00 PM on December 11, 2007


How the hell could a child not "assimilate" into a culture from the age of four months? And where is the kid living--The Netherlands or Hong Kong or?? This story doesn't even make any sense--there must be a LOT more mitigating factors involved.
posted by zardoz at 4:02 PM on December 11, 2007


Besides not having the drug tests, home visits, interviews with friends and family to see if you're a suitable parent and the likelihood that you won't get a black baby, what's the advantage to going overseas?

I'm no expert, but I don't think that's how it works. I have the impression that the restrictions on who can adopt are still present.

It's very hard to find a healthy American-born infant to adopt, and most people who want to adopt would like to adopt an infant. In at least parts of Western Europe for instance, there are essentially no domestic infants available: I'm not really sure what people who want to adopt a young child and live in a place where none are up for adoption are supposed to do.
posted by thehmsbeagle at 4:02 PM on December 11, 2007


I posted this because I actually am currently watching with some sadness as two adopted girls I know (from two different families) are being treated like second-class citizens or worse by their parents. One case is very similar to this: after being told for years they couldn't have children, they adopted her -- and then had a baby 2 years later. The baby, a boy, gets lavish attention and gifts and they speak of nothing but him, she's forgotten and lonely. I mentored her for most of the last year and was shocked at the way her family would speak about her in front of her face: "Well, we didn't know what we were getting into when we adopted," or showing me a poem at the front of the house about how adoptive parents are martyrs for a good cause. The other is an only child, but is treated similarly: her parents wanted a cute baby, not a child, and because she "isn't theirs," they regularly talk in front of her about how they weren't cut out to be parents, should never have adopted her, et cetera. Both families are the kind of upper-middle class family most people would be happy to have their child adopted into, if they had to make that choice. Last week, one of my professors also made a cutting comment about his adopted child and mentioned that he believes the genes of her birth mother were what made her such a disappointment to his wife and himself.

For the editorializing I'm keeping out of the FPP: I don't like foreign adoption very much at all, and it creeps me out, I do think adoption is sometimes the best option. I also believe that adoptive parents and birth parents need a lot of support that they're often not given -- there's a huge push for adoptive parents to be incredibly grateful all the time that they have an adopted child, but child-rearing isn't all smiles and giggles, and adoptive parents feel guilty for even beginning to think that sometimes parenting is hard work and sometimes it sucks. I think most of the problems of adopting are very fixable, even within the current framework, but I think that it's good to realize there are very real issues with the subject, and that it's not always the happy ending many birth parents envision it to be.
posted by InnocentBystander at 4:12 PM on December 11, 2007 [3 favorites]


Gucky writes "Besides not having the drug tests, home visits, interviews with friends and family to see if you're a suitable parent and the likelihood that you won't get a black baby, what's the advantage to going overseas?"

I think part of it is also a sense of altruism: unadopted kids in the US live a hard life. Unadopted kids in some other countries live an even harder life. If you're going to adopt a kid and take him/her out of a hard life, and you have the choice to help either a badly-off kid or a really badly-off kid, you might choose to help the really badly-off kid.
posted by Bugbread at 4:23 PM on December 11, 2007


InnocentBystander writes "I don't like foreign adoption very much at all, and it creeps me out, I do think adoption is sometimes the best option."

What exactly is creepy about foreign adoption? Are you sure your own experiences aren't just making you biased? Given that much of the western world has declining birth rates, if you live there the odds of adopting an infant from your own country are relatively poor and complicated. The developing world, meanwhile, is teeming with unwanted babies. Adopting from the developing world seems pretty straightforward and reasonable.
posted by mullingitover at 4:28 PM on December 11, 2007


What you have here is the lunatic fringe of adoption reform. That is most unfortunate as this is a serious reform movement that seeks not to abolish adoption, but to make it open, transparent, honest and accountable, and to remove commercialism, fraud, and coercion from adoption. The adoption industry in the US and internationally has real problems, and dedicated adopted adults, birthparents, adoptive parents and professionals are working hard to correct some of those problems without going over to the extremism of some of the anti-adoption groups.

Those concerned with the issues of adoptee access to their own original birth certificates, abuses in adoption practice, and the outmoded climate of secrets and lies around adoption may want to check out The American Adoption Congress, www.american adoptioncongress.org Concerned United Birthparents, www.cubirthparents.org and Bastard Nation (don't be put off by the name, this is dynamite group). www.bastards.org
Also, The Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute. http://www.adoptioninstitute.org/index.php
They just released a study on the need to open adoption records to adopted adults.

As a birthmother and adoption reform activist of many years, I am glad to see this subject addressed here but sorry that the worst groups got spotlighted. Please check out these more moderate and respected groups before forming an opinion on adoption reform.

Hexatron's Wife
posted by hexatron at 4:35 PM on December 11, 2007 [5 favorites]


Links:
American Adoption Congress
Bastard Nation
Evan B Donaldson Adoption Institute
You especially do not want to mis-type the second one.
posted by hexatron at 4:45 PM on December 11, 2007 [2 favorites]


Maybe this isn't true anymore, but when my very Anglo cousins wanted to adopt in the states there weren't enough Anglo kids available and the agencies refused to let them adopt anyone of a different race. Finally, after a couple years, they DID get a toddler who turned out to be a different race, (actually a couple of different races), but first this poor kid had to go through three years of two different abusive foster families whose main qualification seemed to be skin color.

Then it was up to my cousins to fix the damage. (Which they seem to have done, as far as I can tell, anyway.)
posted by small_ruminant at 4:50 PM on December 11, 2007


bugbread - yeah, exactly. Very irrational.

I’d think, were I in a third world country or impoverished state, that if I had a child I had to give up for adoption and some couple from the U.S. wanted to adopt the kid I’d be thrilled (given they’re screened). My kid is going to live in wealth and (relative) comfort with a great deal of liberty (albeit eroding, but greater than many other places, and hey, the fight ain’t over yet), and could go to a university or something? Great. Best case scenario from an otherwise poor situation. - Of course, as InnocentBystander points out, money doesn't mean suitability. But that holds true both ways. And any remedies and accountability in the adoption system, it almost goes without saying, are excellent ideas.

I think part of the dissonance here is the “unwanted” child thing. What I’m getting from the anti-adoption sites is a lot of anger and the gist that the children weren’t "unwanted," just, in many cases, a worse option. Now for me, giving up a child was like tearing my heart out. So I would have to agree that it was not that the child was unwanted. But I wasn’t coerced. My girlfriend wasn’t pushed into anything (I think it’s one of the things that kept me sane, I acted honorably). It just would have been a far worse life for the child with us than with adoption.

This adoptee depression stuff tho’ seems like whiney folks looking for an excuse. Family isn’t just genetic, neither is identity. You become part of a tradition and way of living - otherwise what the hell are the in-laws? They’re only 1/2 related to you? They are somehow less part of your family? You don’t invite them to Christmas or Passover or Festivus?

You have a brain disorder which makes you depressed, solid. But when it comes to identity, you are what you do. Most certainly when it comes to repetition (- s’why rituals are so important even among the most secular humans).
Some of the people I’m closest to are of a different ethnicity. But we were part of something and did things together that made us depend on each other and that bonds us closer than nearly any other ties. That is my identity, and ours. And that’s a kind of family too.

Otherwise you get too bound up with quantifying the genetics and you get into into that ancient and medieval “pure of the blood” crap and you get inbred bleeders with thin nostrils and absurd lips running things.
Yeah, framing things with that conceptualization worked out really well there King Charles II (the Spanish Habsburgs might have well have been ‘the aristocrats’).
Family are the people who treat you as family. You belong to them, they belong to you - birth, adopted, whatever. Doesn’t matter who’s womb you came out of or what color it was.
(And obviously those particular Dutch folks don’t have any idea what a family is)
Jesus was an adoptee. (Granted his dad was always getting into his life, and he did get into trouble with the authorities, but still)
posted by Smedleyman at 4:52 PM on December 11, 2007 [4 favorites]


Family are the people who treat you as family. You belong to them, they belong to you - birth, adopted, whatever. Doesn’t matter who’s womb you came out of or what color it was.

Hell yeah.
posted by schroedinger at 5:00 PM on December 11, 2007


In orphanages like those in the former Soviet countries and China, while they often look "clean," and the children appear well kept, the situation prevents them from getting enough individualized attention and physical affection to adequately develop their brains.

I've been very favourably impressed with the many children I have met who have come through the Chinese orphanage system, as well as the numerous carers and facilitators I have met who do a marvellous job under what must have been some reasonably taxing conditions. I'm not saying the situation is optimal for child development; what I am saying is that the people who care for these. children are highly professional, strongly motivated and genuinely affectionate towards their charges. Sure, I was worried about institutionalisation in the case of my own child and what its possible consequences might be. I can't, however, think of any to speak of.

Whereas I don't doubt there are some terrible orphanages out there in the world, I would suggest that this sort of drive-by putdown of good and hard-working people is misplaced, alarmist, ill-informed and inappropriate.
posted by Wolof at 5:10 PM on December 11, 2007 [4 favorites]


I would rather not have been adopted in America. I should have been raised in the jungle, by apes, as my hero was.
posted by Astro Zombie at 5:20 PM on December 11, 2007 [1 favorite]


Whether it is true or not, I don't know enough about adoption law to tell you, there are a lot of horror stories in the US about mothers changing their minds and taking the babies back 6 months later or the unknown father suddenly showing up when the kid is 2 and wanting custody.

Yup, it's true (or at least it was around 1968). In Florida apparently there was a grace period during which the natural mother could change her mind.

My parents had it worked out - first a baby boy, then a few years later a girl (the quaint notion being that the older boy would protect the girl). They got their boy, but after a couple of miscarriages, they decided to adopt a baby girl. The adoption went through, and they named the baby Lisa. A few months later the natural mother changed her mind and took her back. They put in an application for another baby girl, and that's where I come in. I'm Lisa. I'm Lisa 2.0. See, the name was part of the plan too.

A few years ago I requested and received from the State of Florida non-identifying information regarding my birth mother. I don't know if they do this anymore, but at that time, a few months after the adoption someone from the Department of Child Welfare interviewed the birth mother. My birth mother said they treated her like a "baby machine". She wasn't even allowed to look at me.

This adoptee depression stuff tho’ seems like whiney folks looking for an excuse. Family isn’t just genetic, neither is identity.


No, family isn't just genetic, but when you grow up as a blue-eyed blonde in a family of brown-eyed brunettes, you recognize the dissimilarities at an early age. And the differences weren't just physical - my friends have always said that I'm the best argument for "nature over nurture" they've ever known. I was very loved - I never doubted that. But I never shook the feeling that I was not quite where I belonged. I was markedly unlike my family physically and temperamentally, and as much as I loved them, I still sometimes felt like a much-loved visitor.

Just sharing my experience - in general adoption is a good thing, and I'm certainly glad I didn't spend my childhood in an orphanage.
posted by Evangeline at 5:20 PM on December 11, 2007 [2 favorites]


Wolof, at least in the case of former Soviet countries the abuse of orphaned and institutionalized children is well-documented. See here and here (discussing recurrent issues with children adopted from Eastern Europe due to institutionalization), and here.
posted by schroedinger at 5:31 PM on December 11, 2007


I know several adoptees and adoptive families, although in every case the children were American from birth. In one case a white couple with two children of their own, one of them developmentally challenged, has adopted two interracial sisters (half-sisters, actually, as they have different fathers) whose mother is drug-addicted and frequently in prison, and who were routinely sexually abused by her boyfriends.

In another case a lovely girl was adopted by a family who promptly finally conceived (I suppose the odds favor it happening sometimes, but you wonder if there's some biological mechanism at work), and the two sisters are treated no differently. The adoptee went on to marry one of the most eligible bachelors in the state where she went to university and is among the sunniest and most selfless people I've ever met.

Another adoptee is presently caring for his (also adopted) sister's mentally handicapped adult daughter.

Those are just the cases I'm closest to.

When I hear these charges of racism against adoptive parents, I'm more likely to infer some kind of cultural ownership argument than anything having to do with the children themselves. This kid was born in Elbonia, and taking her out of Elbonia marred any possibility of her learning her true Elbonian nature, and stuff like that. When the fact is that kids are taken out of Elbonia all the time -- by their Elbonian parents, who then raise them as Americans.
posted by dhartung at 5:35 PM on December 11, 2007 [2 favorites]


Wow, I wanted to answer very nearly all of these comments.

I adopted my daughter from China, after years of looking into domestic and then foreign adoption. As a single parent, I was closed out of several countries, who require two parents (China mostly does now, too), or kept out by religious or ethnic requirements (Poland wants Catholics and ethnic Poles, for example).

As much as I wanted to try domestic adoption--Americans first, you know--it was not an option--there was the white-black issue, which was formidable not because I didn't want it but because I was warned of the obstacles posed by the agencies; privately arranged adoption was not likely to happen because women relinquishing their children wanted two parents for them; one "Christian" agency had the peculiar requirement that single parents could adopt only severely handicapped kids, something I did not think I could handle going into it.

The adoption process is laborious and intrusive. Every parent should have to go through the fingerprinting, FBI and police checks, references, home studies and inspections, before having children and we'd have a lot less abuse.

These Dutch idiots should be arrested. Their daughter didn't adjust culturally even though she grew up with them? Christ almighty, what is wrong with them? I'm amazed they can "give up" their child at this point.

Call me racist if you want--I wound up in China almost by default, though now I can't imagine it turning out any other way.

My daughter was 3 years old, "aged out" by most standards, when we formed our family. She would have grown up in an orphanage if I had not adopted her, most likely, because people, Chinese and foreigners alike, want babies. At less than a day old, she was left on the floor of an airport one winter day, where someone would find her and she would be safe. Someone risked arrest to leave her in a public enough place for her to survive until she was found. She was loved, no doubt in my mind, but lost her birth mother to the overwhelming cultural preference for boys. China's loss, I'd say; my eternal gain. I hope she will always feel the same way.
posted by etaoin at 5:44 PM on December 11, 2007 [10 favorites]


what's the advantage to going overseas?

I have some friends who are in the process of doing an international adoption. They're happy to take a special needs kid, an older kid, or a kid of any race (the child they currently have their eyes on is a 12-year-old girl from India with medical problems). What they don't want to do is an open adoption --- and that's why they've decided they'll have better luck going overseas.
posted by The corpse in the library at 5:48 PM on December 11, 2007


I'm aware there have been troubles in the former Soviet countries. I spoke only of the Chinese system, which is the only one I have any experience of.
posted by Wolof at 5:50 PM on December 11, 2007


Yes, I could have been more clear about that.
posted by Wolof at 5:56 PM on December 11, 2007


But I never shook the feeling that I was not quite where I belonged.

But...the dirty secret is this: no one really feels that they quite belong. That's why there's so much wangsty poetry on livejournal.
posted by Hildegarde at 6:05 PM on December 11, 2007 [8 favorites]


This is an interesting (if somewhat disjointed) thread, with a lot of issues being discussed simultaneously. My wife and I just returned from Kazakhstan a 5 days ago where we completed the adoption of our daughter (ok ... I have to do the proud new father thing here and link to a picture of her in a rather oddly matched outfit while at the orphanage). Entering the international adoption world was a fascinating but stressful process. We chose adoption for no other reason than that we didn't want to add one more person to an already crowded planet, and instead wanted to start our family by providing a home for a child who didn't have one. We chose Kazakhstan specifically because of the ethnic diversity, because of the quality care delivered by the orphanage system there, and because we were uncomfortable with the allegations of baby trafficking associated with Guatemalan adoptions. And we decided not to pursue domestic adoption at this time because we weren't sure whether the possiblity of an 'open adoption' was right for us. Adoption is a remarkably complex and emotional process as it stands - relationships with birth families adds a level of complexity that we knew we weren't ready for as new parents.

I do want to respond to one comment that I saw while reading the entire thread:

Maybe we need a system like an H1 Visa - you can't bring anyone from overseas unless you prove there's not a suitable domestic candidate? If it's so charitable to adopt, well, charity starts at home.

One of the many things that we learned in KZ (but didn't know in advance, oddly enough) is that their orphaned children are first placed on a local, regional and national registry that is only open to Kazakhstani citizens. Children are not available for international adoption until they've been available for in-country adoption for at least 6 months. The Kazakhstani government would much rather have their children stay in Kazakhstan. Unfortunately, at the present moment (although this is rapidly changing), most Kazakhstani families do not have the financial resources to adopt additional children (the per capita income is only about $1300/year). One six months have passed, it is assumed that there are no Kazakhstani families able/willing to adopt the child, and then they're available for international adoption.

Another aspect of the Kazakhstan process that we liked was that there is a mandatory 14-day "observed bonding period", meaning that every day for 14 days you go to the orphanage and spend time with the child while being observed (indirectly) by the orphanage caregivers and staff. We ended up spending 30 days with our daughter before getting to our court hearing, and then another 4+ weeks waiting for all of the paperwork to finalize. All in all, we lived in KZ for about 6 weeks, and then returned for a week to finish the adoption process and bring her home. As such, we had a wonderful opportunity to find out if we were a "good fit", to work through our own emotions about the process, and to have plenty of time for any second- (or third- or fourth-) thoughts. It was a slow and deliberate process, but one that allowed us to focus the reasons that we were going through this process.

So, to respond to the comment, there are countries where the system is such that children can't be adopted until a search for a suitable domestic candidate has been completed. The bigger question is how stringent to make this requirement. How long should the child have to wait in the orphanage, and how do you balance keeping a child "in the system" longer in the hopes that a domestic family will adopt him/her versus the developmental costs of prolonged institutionalizion and the fact that older children are simply less likely to be adopted (despite good research showing that there are no differences in 'outcome' for older kids versus younger kids).

And finally, one of the things that we learned while in KZ that ultimately made us feel the most comfortable about taking our child from her country/culture/language of origin was that there is little provision in KZ for children who "age out" of the system at 16. From what we were told, the social support system simply doesn't have the resources to provide housing, jobs, etc. for these kids. Our in-country coordinator told us that many end up living on the streets. My wife and I know that we can never be 100% certain that our daughter's life will be better here in the US than back in KZ. We are still hoping that we made the right life decision for her by intervening in this way, and we'll only know for sure in 10 or 20 or 30 years. However, we can at least be 100% certain that she will not be cast out at 16 without a safety net. We didn't go to KZ to rescue or save anyone. We went to provide a home for a child who needed one, which I believe is the motivation of many parents who turn to adoption.
posted by scblackman at 6:07 PM on December 11, 2007 [21 favorites]


But...the dirty secret is this: no one really feels that they quite belong. That's why there's so much wangsty poetry on livejournal.

Yes, quite. I'm not explaining myself well. I had the usual teenage angst, but before that, I walked on tiptoes around my family. It was nothing they did. It was the feeling that I was an imposition.
posted by Evangeline at 6:09 PM on December 11, 2007


The child dodged a bullet here, who'd want to be bought up by parents who would even consider "dumping" a child. What sort of values were waiting to be instilled on that poor kid.
posted by mattoxic at 6:28 PM on December 11, 2007


on=in
posted by mattoxic at 6:29 PM on December 11, 2007


If this place did annual "Best Mefite" and "Best Comment"stuff, scblackman and his post would be serious contenders.
posted by ambient2 at 6:41 PM on December 11, 2007


Tiny point of order, but from the article (italics mine):
They claimed the girl, who was adopted when four months old and has lived in the territory since she was three, was struggling to adapt to their culture, including food.
While all other aspects of "adapting to culture" are meaningless for someone adopted at a few months old, she might well be genetically incapable of adapting to certain foods which a Dutch family would likely eat. It would be unsurprising if she was lactose-intolerant, for instance.

The adoptive parents are still going to hell, of course.
posted by AmbroseChapel at 7:18 PM on December 11, 2007


In a better world, adoption would be very rare. As we don't have that, adoption is absolutely the best solution for many children. But not perfect. Too many mothers (and fathers) grieve over the child they didn't really want to give up. Too many women find themselves pregnant against their will, before they are ready, or in bad circumstances with not enough resources. Or in situations where a child, or a girl child, will be in danger, or will put them in danger. None of which have anything to do with the mother's wishes regarding her own child, and what she might do if she had the chance.

Which is why the problems with adoption are really part and parcel of the problems of systems that repress women and children--that limit access to birth control, that keep power over childbearing decisions out of women's hands, that conversely put all the burdens of child-raising on women, that make female lives less valuable, that see women and children as property to be bought and sold (and abused, and abandoned) by men. I think it's very important to join up the dots; abandonment of children is sometimes a result of disasters or accident*, but more often (I would argue) a by-product of institutionalized patriarchy. When women are not prevented from controlling their own reproduction, they usually have fewer children, and raise and provide for them all. Which is good for everyone, male and female.

Very few women, even young ones, want to give up their children for adoption, or don't feel sadness afterwards. It can be a wounding process, although if a woman is in a bad enough situation, she may not have any energy or time to grieve. That doesn't mean the wound is not there.

It may often be the only good choice, but it would be better if it were less needed.

All of this sounds like I disapprove of adoption; I don't. I think the parents who do what's best for their child and the ones who take that child in are heroes. It's just that you can't look at an American couple happily raising a Chinese girl child and not remember why China has so many girl children in its orphanages in the first place, and how profoundly fucked up it all is.

* which in the West can simply be "bad timing." But a surprising number of teens do keep their children all the same. If there were resources for childcare and other kinds of support, more of them would probably do so, for good or ill.
posted by emjaybee at 7:21 PM on December 11, 2007 [2 favorites]


As several commenters have noted, what is the alternative?

I'm a (white) foster parent to (nonwhite) foster kids. If I could wave a magic wand, I would go back in time and have someone -- of any race -- adopt and raise my older foster child, an 18-year-old black-native boy with a chronically addicted mother and who has been in foster care since he was 3 years old, and has had more than 40 placements. He's been with me two years, longer than anywhere else.

At least in California where I live, when kids aren't adopted and grow into adolescents, they are most often placed in group homes. With rules and points and levels and privileges and night staff and day staff and AWOL and a pecking order. Yeah, kind of like prison.

My (white) sister and her husband adopted a Native ethnicity child from Guatamala (before the latest reports). They speak Spanish and are raising their child with Spanish language as his first home language. They go to Guatamala every summer. It would be a better world if his birth mother had the support she needed to raise her son -- she didn't. It might be a better world if there were enough Guatamalan adoptive families for all of the children -- there aren't.

So, given the real world, then what. It's hard.
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 7:38 PM on December 11, 2007


They claimed the girl, who was adopted when four months old and has lived in the territory since she was three, was struggling to adapt to their culture

The girl, who speaks English and Cantonese but not Korean


Did it occur to anyone else that maybe they should have fucking taught her Dutch?
posted by sy at 7:58 PM on December 11, 2007


emjaybee:
resources for childcare and other kinds of support
Basically, the probem is $MONEY$.
Very few people who have the bucks to care for their child choose not to.
Maybe Steve Job's mom did, but it's really vanishingly rare.

And as for all the 'birthmom was a junkie/ax murderer/etc' tales:
Adoption is a business. A kid costs like a car, but the product is more like a used car.
The salesperson will say whatever he or she thinks will improve the chances for a sale.
The salesperson does not necessarily know the history of the product, but is more free to improvise than the usual salesperson, because the true history is protected by 'confidentiality'.
posted by hexatron at 8:02 PM on December 11, 2007


hexatron: while there have been instances in the past where adoption agencies have intentionally lied about a kid's past to get them adopted, that has improved a lot and in a lot of states you can now sue for wrongful adoption (won't go into it complicated not all case will qualify, IANAL, etc etc) the point being that this serves a pretty good deterrent nowadays. The more common scenario is just where no one has an accurate picture of the kids history/health and the parents. However, we all have to remember natural children don't come with warranties and there is no guarantee that anyone is going to have a kid that is born perfectly healthy in every way, shape and form. It's called one of the hazards of being human.
posted by whoaali at 8:10 PM on December 11, 2007


Why is nobody bringing up a libertarian free market solution to this problem? It's obvious that Statist regulations and local ordinances are constraining what should be an open market in conveniently small-sized human beings. Obviously what is needed is some sort of bidding system for choice potential adoptees, and some kind of reputation-based system facilitating the easy and rapid exchange of incompatible adoptees between adopters based on personal and racial preferences. Local economies get capital infusions, adoptees get transparency about their market worth (and some kind of profit sharing system could even be arranged), and adopters get quality control. Capitalism works!
posted by meehawl at 8:10 PM on December 11, 2007


some kind of profit sharing system could even be arranged

I heard they sort of did something like this, in the South, but not just with babies, like before some war or something.
posted by whoaali at 8:18 PM on December 11, 2007 [2 favorites]


The reason some people, especially some adoptees, get squicked about international adoptions per se is that about two-thirds of female adoptees and one-third of male adoptees go looking for their birth relatives later in life. If you cut them off from the language of their country of origin, you cut them off entirely from their genetic heritage, forever.

You have to be raising self-delusion to art-form level if you think that's not a major selling point to a large number of prospective adoptive parents.

They're yours now, and no taps back!

I try to avoid threads about adoption on Mefi because they're usually dripping with a US worldview on the subject which is frankly alien to most of the rest of the world these days. This one, sad to say, is no exception. That this thread racked up over seventy comments before anybody said what I just said in my first para is something I find exceptionally depressing about this place.

Also seen so far: at least one example of "it's all about the adoptive parents". If more people actually gave a fuck about 'rescuing' children from the shithole, despite protestations, perhaps they'd be adopting toddlers and children instead of refusing to consider any baby over 12 months old. "Scarcity" in the US as described here means "no white babies". There are plenty of kids (yes, even white ones) in the child welfare system.

But then in most western countries the entire adoption system was rigged against everyone save the anointed Childless Couple a long time ago. Who on earth benefits from the widespread evilness of state laws hiding records from adoptees? We don't care if your entire matrilineal line died from breast cancer before the age of 35! You MUST NOT UPSET YOUR NEW MOMMY!

Adoptees have plenty to be pissed about. The punch-aching smugness displayed all over this thread thus far isn't high on the list of important issues, but it certainly wants a person to break out the automatic weaponry anyway.
posted by genghis at 8:53 PM on December 11, 2007 [3 favorites]


And I'm sorry, maybe I'm just old fashion, but I seemed to think that it was racist when you would only adopt a child of your own race, now the racists are the ones who don't care what color their child is?--whoaali

The article on racism tries to have it both ways. Americans are racist for taking people of a different race and culture (or if they are babies, I guess it is thier potential culture), and Americans are racist because they don't adopt babies of a different color.

These people don't have a well thought out ethic. As whoaali says, they are just looking for an excuse, even contrary excuses, to cry racism.

I've heard that there is a bias against cross-racial adoptions in this country. I suppose if there is a choice, it might be easier for the child if they look similar to the parents, but otherwise, isn't it in the best interest of the child to have loving parents? Shouldn't that trump all these other arguments?
posted by eye of newt at 8:54 PM on December 11, 2007


And that Dutch couple are the most unloving parents I can think of. Can you imagine growing up only knowing these two people as your family, and at age seven they tell you they don't want you anymore and drop you off somewhere? I cannot even imagine how horrible that would be.
posted by eye of newt at 8:58 PM on December 11, 2007


One reform is to make sure that adopted kids in the US can find their birth parents in other countries. Did anyone link the recent NYT magazine story on this yet?
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 9:01 PM on December 11, 2007


This discussion is all very familiar to me.

My siblings used to tease me about being born in Asia, not in the US.
They told me I could never be President, which made me pretty sad.

The startling sea of blue eyes at family picnics made me a bit uneasy.
My skin, hair, eyes were all darker. No sandy blond, me.

And when visiting my ethnic homeland, the language barrier was hard.
The culture barrier was even more difficult. How do you connect?

I'm not adopted though. So maybe my view isn't wanted.
posted by zennie at 9:35 PM on December 11, 2007


I just want to hug that kid.
posted by Kickstart70 at 9:36 PM on December 11, 2007


I heard they sort of did something like this, in the South, but not just with babies, like before some war or something.

:-) Yes. It's interesting that the British Empire was able to begin to abolish slavery almost fifty years before the US's civil war, and to enact final abolition in 1833 (concluding in 1838). During the run up to abolition, and after, it managed to avoid a civil war or to prompt secession by its numerous slave labour-intensive remaining colonies. In this case, the Westminster government paid each slaveowner a market rate for the slaves, in effect enacting a universal manumission. The Anglican Church did quite well out of the deal. Anyway, in this case, market incentives seemed to have worked quite well. Although Daniel O'Connell probably had a lot to do with the British Government's surprisingly flexible response to popular pressure - emerging democracies had never before had to deal with a peaceful agitator capable of bringing together hundreds of thousands of people for non-violent demonstrations. I think it spooked them. Having defeated Napoleon on the battlefield, O'Connell's fellow countryman, the Duke of Wellington, seemed utterly flummoxed by such peaceful resistance and finally gave in fearing some sort of Civil War, emancipating the Catholic Irish from their religious apartheid against the wishes of his own Tory government. It was during the tumultuous decade that followed - akthough fear of the anger evidenced by the Swing Riots rural uprising in southern England probably had a lot to do with it as well. But I digress.
posted by meehawl at 9:47 PM on December 11, 2007 [1 favorite]


I'm convinced. I'll never adopt. Those unwanted kids can stay where they belong, with their own kind. </snark>
posted by moonbiter at 10:10 PM on December 11, 2007


The punch-aching smugness displayed all over this thread thus far isn't high on the list of important issues, but it certainly wants a person to break out the automatic weaponry anyway.

Thank you for your valuable opinion! My adopted child also thanks you!

/smug
posted by Wolof at 10:43 PM on December 11, 2007


You know, just as your own offspring don't come with a warranty, neither do adoptive parents. Matching for 'race' is bullshit, as race is a myth. I'm the same race as my adoptive parents, although a different blend of European. But that mattered not at all. What mattered was, I simply was not the same sort of person. Oh, wait, that happens in birth families, too!

I was born to some Hungarian woman. Maybe she was born there, I don't know. Possibly she was a refugee after the Hungarian uprising (the timing was exactly right for that). Sure wish I knew where she was, and that life worked out okay for her. She was single, they told me, but my father wasn't. I'm a REAL bastard.

The adoptive parents? Unsuitable, really, as parents, but especially as my parents. Certainly would seem that they got my sister and I because it was what they were supposed to do. They were clueless about what it really meant to raise kids. I was a round peg in a square hole, in that family. Even at 50, I still look back and wish I'd been raised by a family where adults actually read books! (parents weren't dumb, just unintellectual--Exactly opposite of myself).

International adoption? I can see where some kids would grow up to resent that. It's bad enough being in-country adopted, and still being all but clueless about one's genetic origins, much less able to make any contact. But I wouldn't go casting any ugly allegations over the matter, that's just plain mean. I don't think any well-raised adoptee would harbor strong feelings against this. But someone raised by crappy parents will cling to any explanation.
posted by Goofyy at 10:54 PM on December 11, 2007 [1 favorite]


If you cut them off from the language of their country of origin, you cut them off entirely from their genetic heritage, forever. ... That this thread racked up over seventy comments before anybody said what I just said in my first para is something I find exceptionally depressing about this place.

The reason no one made that statement before you did genghis, is because it makes no frikken sense. Seriously.
posted by PareidoliaticBoy at 10:58 PM on December 11, 2007 [1 favorite]


I'm adopted. I love the parents that raised me; no harm and great good has come to me by them.

I have never been contacted by or met my birth parents, which is good, as I hate them with rage and fire.

Adoption is selfishness masquerading as selflessness, and abortion is morally superior to abandonment.
posted by mwhybark at 11:21 PM on December 11, 2007 [3 favorites]


mwhybark: abortion is morally superior to abandonment.

i have never seen that sentiment expressed so succinctly and articulately. thank you.
posted by CitizenD at 12:13 AM on December 12, 2007


Co-incidentially, I've just put myself up for adoption. Of course, my birth mother has been demanding endless justifications, but in the end I just had to be honest with her: Mom, I love you an' all, but the thing is, I just really want to taste another woman's breast milk.

If any wanna-be adoptive Moms are reading this, email's in the profile.
posted by the quidnunc kid at 2:09 AM on December 12, 2007 [1 favorite]


No, family isn't just genetic, but when you grow up as a blue-eyed blonde in a family of brown-eyed brunettes, you recognize the dissimilarities at an early age. And the differences weren't just physical - my friends have always said that I'm the best argument for "nature over nurture" they've ever known. I was very loved - I never doubted that. But I never shook the feeling that I was not quite where I belonged. I was markedly unlike my family physically and temperamentally, and as much as I loved them, I still sometimes felt like a much-loved visitor.

Even with a striking resemblance to most of my immediate family I have always had pretty much the same outsider feeling my entire life. You might be mis-attributing the source of your alienation to a seemingly obvious but incorrect cause.
posted by srboisvert at 3:40 AM on December 12, 2007


mwhybark:Adoption is selfishness masquerading as selflessness.

I'm not entirely sure if this is strictly restricted to adoption. One could probably make the same statement about parenthood in general. Having children is (often) the result of an individual or couple wanting to have a child. However, raising children requires a tremendous amount of self-sacrifice. So, I wouldn't just call adoption selfish, but probably parenting in general. And, of course, I use, and I assume that mwhybark uses, the world 'selfishness' with a non-pejorative tone.
posted by scblackman at 4:35 AM on December 12, 2007


Is there any statistics out there that show whether or not the percentage of adopted kids dissatisfied with their adoptive parents is greater than the percentage of natural kids dissatisfied with their natural parents? Adoptive parents definitely do not have the corner on the shitty parents market, and adopted kids don't have the corner on feeling like they don't relate to their family. I think the difference is that when you're adopted, you have this feeling that there's another set of parents out there who could be better parents, and the "what if" is torturous.

This is not to denigrate the desire to see another person with your nose, or your sense of humor, or whatever. The desire for self-discovery is understandable and can be very rewarding when it happens. I never felt like I had anything in common with any member of my biological family, until I talked a few years ago to some members of my dad's family (who we were somewhat estranged from and up until then I knew nothing about) and realized they shared all the passions and interests that I could never find the roots for in my mom's family or my parents or siblings.
posted by schroedinger at 5:33 AM on December 12, 2007


I really do respect the process as well the idea behind adoptation. That having been said, I have no idea how some people can fail to see that cross-cultural adoption can have a strong undercurrent of racism and colonialism. The point is that the motivation for choosing a different-race child is something like a charity movement, to help foreign babies because their country is a lesser one -- to 'save them' from their country, so to speak.

I do believe that if the adopting parents have recognizes this, thought about this, and debated this through, then it's fine. It icks me to see Angelina Jolie's children, though. Who knows - she may be a loving mother with genuine intent, and aware of the racism issue involved when adopting foreign children. However, she's also a first-world Entertainment Star saving third-world babies; the power/fame/political differential there is too strong and too drastic to ignore.

To twist a quote from Gayatri Spivak: the main issue and danger here is a simplistic, exotizing, condescending viewpoint by parents who simply (and unconsciously) want to be "white people saving brown children from brown people."
posted by suedehead at 5:35 AM on December 12, 2007 [2 favorites]


But I never shook the feeling that I was not quite where I belonged.

I don't know if we can learn much from one-person's story, because Evangeline might be a fringe case. But having spent years with both her and her family, I'd say the stranger-in-a-stranger-land thing is pretty profound and shocking in her case.

Like most other teenagers, I (not adopted) often felt like I didn't belong, but my friends could tell I was a member of my family. And even when I -- or one of my non-adopted friends -- differed from family members, it usually came down to ideological differences or different interests. So-and-so's parents were die-hard Republican's while so-and-so was a Democrat. But so-and-so would still have his mom's firey temper and his dad's discomfort with his body.

Watching Evangeline with her family is like watching a chimp raised by wolves. It's striking to everyone -- all her friends -- and very strange. And she wasn't a rebellious girl. As she mentioned, she didn't try to defy her family, she tried to please them. It's strange watching her happily spend time with her family, yet noticing that she seems like a welcomed guest more than a daughter or a sister.

You know those fights couples have in which someone finally says the worst thing they can say (terrible because it's true)? "You're just like your mother!" Evangeline and I don't fight much, but even in extreme anger, I would never say that. It's so patently untrue. And we're talking about a grown woman now. A woman who did not grow up to have any obvious similarities -- in personality -- to her mother or her father.

I agree with the biologists and psychologists who say that we're a mixture of nature and nurture, but the ratio of nature vs. nurture (and the amount these two forces interact) must differ from person-to-person. Also, I imagine that some people's personalities get "locked down" earlier than others. Whatever the reason, Evangeline -- though loved by her adopted parents (and though she doesn't resent them or strive to be different from them) -- clearly isn't "one of them."

I don't mean this as an anti-adoption statement. I don't get the sense that "being different" lead to E having a terrible childhood. She was still loved and cared for. Evangeline is not a dog, so I hope she's pardon the comparison, but people can lovingly raise dogs, even though people and dogs are different species.
posted by grumblebee at 6:58 AM on December 12, 2007


Suedehead, the patronizing (racist?) motivation you suggest for cross-cultural adoption can't drive more than a trivial percentage of adoptions. If there's a political component to some adoptions, it's far more likely to be the "it's a crowded world, why be selfish and perpetuate my own genes" type thing.

Cross-cultural/ractial adoptions are motivated by supply and demand: many more Western white people want to adopt young children then there are Western young white children free to adopt. You can take issue with the "it's a croweded world" politics, or the preference for young children, but any racial/cultural disparity is an effect of those preference, and not a cause.
posted by MattD at 6:59 AM on December 12, 2007 [2 favorites]


I have a sister and a brother who are adopted. They have been with my family for 10 years. They are both blood related. They were both 6 when adopted. My parents went back 2 years later for my brother. I could not imagine leaving one of them anywhere. Grant it there were some psychological problems with my sister. Her mother murdered her father with an ax front of her. Just to leave someone who you accepted as a family member is horrible. These two dutch assholes should in my mind be shot. What a way to tell someone no one loves you than to abandon them a second time. Also for anyone who says that it's racist to adopt a black child and bring them to a white house, no it's not. You are adopting them and raising them as your own. This means that they adopt your culture. They become your child. Period. It's nice that they have a blood heritage, but they also take on an adopted one as well. I also have a friend who is adopted as well. I can honestly say his parents are the most loving people I have ever met. If you ever met my friend (famous for doing a ton of crazy stuff) you would totally agree. So in closing, who ever has anything bad to say about adoption can pound sand. Without it I would be 2 less siblings and 1 less friend richer than I am today.

PS Loving people who adopt are some of the greatest people in the world. and again I hope these dutch douche bags get what's coming to them.

Merry Christmas

Mastercheddaar
posted by Mastercheddaar at 7:11 AM on December 12, 2007


I have no idea how some people can fail to see that cross-cultural adoption can have a strong undercurrent of racism and colonialism. The point is that the motivation for choosing a different-race child is something like a charity movement, to help foreign babies because their country is a lesser one -- to 'save them' from their country, so to speak.

I do believe that if the adopting parents have recognizes this, thought about this, and debated this through, then it's fine. It icks me to see Angelina Jolie's children, though. Who knows - she may be a loving mother with genuine intent, and aware of the racism issue involved when adopting foreign children. However, she's also a first-world Entertainment Star saving third-world babies; the power/fame/political differential there is too strong and too drastic to ignore.


I'm sorry, foreign adoption does not reek of colonialism, but I feel that your statement does. Poorer, does not have to mean lesser. One can acknowledge that opportunities and living conditions in other countries are worse than in our own without having to also believe that that makes us inherently better. Foreigners do not adopt children from the middle and upper classes of third world countries, they adopt them from the impoverished. Just as we do overwhelmingly in the States (with some exceptions). When you adopt a child from abroad you aren't saving them from their country, you are saving them from a life of poverty in an orphanage. And aren't we supposed to be crossing power/fame/political differentials? I thought those were the sort of barriers we wanted to break down.

There seems to be this idea that foreign adoption boils down to pity and charity and that is demeaning to other cultures and therefore it is bad or uh icky and we can't do anything that makes us feel icky even if it drastically improves the lives of children. But pity and charity don't necessarily have to be demeaning and I think adoption is anything but that. Parents who want children get that opportunity and children are given families and opportunities they would never normally have. When it all boils down to it, it is just luck wherever we are born. Being born rich doesn't make you better than someone born poor, but it will probably make your life a lot easier. If people would just stop seeing money as something that makes them inherently better, then adopting kids without any money isn't a judgment that you are saving them from a lesser country, you are just saving them from a country where life is harder, not lesser.
posted by whoaali at 7:20 AM on December 12, 2007 [2 favorites]


What a disgusting sub-human couple. It's likely in the child's best interest to be taken out of the family along with the couple's other children as well.
posted by cmacleod at 7:25 AM on December 12, 2007 [1 favorite]


mwhybark:Adoption is selfishness masquerading as selflessness.

scblackman captured it -- my wife and I adopted our son from Guatemala about a year ago and have had a tremendous experience so far. This thread got me to thinking about the reasons for why we chose to adopt and our experience. Adoption is totally a selfish act -- We did it because that is what we wanted for our family. It sometimes pisses me off when people say to me something along the lines of "wow, that is a really great thing you are doing...". I understand where they are coming from, but I didn't do it to be a good person, I did it because I selfishly wanted it for my family.

Now, taking a child out of their environment and changing their lifepath so completely -- that is a gigantic almost godlike thing -- and it would be the height of arrogance to think that you were 100% sure that the child is better off with you. So I guess I'm stuck humbly hoping I'm going to be a good enough parent for my child, and that we did the right thing for him.

As for foreign vs. domestic and the whole racism thing. I think a lot of this is in the eye of the beholder. Kids are kids are kids. When you get down to actually carrying out the process of choosing your child (we didn't actually get a literal choice, but deciding which country, agency, what your preferences are, all determine what child you get) you realize that it is an absurd process -- why is one kid better than another one? We picked foreign adoption because there were less legal entanglements, it was quicker, and because we were more likely to get an infant which is what we wanted.

I think a lot of observers see this as some sort of charity -- thus another example of white people deciding what's best for other people -- but in reality I think most parents are just looking for kids that fit into their families. There isn't anything colonial about that -- kids are kids are kids and they all need parents.

Choosing to adopt is totally selfish -- and it should be, just like deciding to have a biological baby as scblackman said above.
posted by spaceviking at 7:27 AM on December 12, 2007 [2 favorites]


To twist a quote from Gayatri Spivak: the main issue and danger here is a simplistic, exotizing, condescending viewpoint by parents who simply (and unconsciously) want to be "white people saving brown children from brown people."

Thanks for bringing this up, suedehead. This is a really great thread, and the only thing that I really wanted to add is the sense of inter-country adoption as being some sort of saving grace for the adoptee who would have far fewer opportunities in their country of origin. While I'm certainly not going to argue against adopting from the third world, shouldn't we with a genuine concern for third world children do a greater service to them by working on improving their home countries? Provide more assistance with health care and birth control so that families don't have as many children who can't be provided for, lower the infant mortality rate, build an infrastructure to supply jobs so families can better provide for their children... etc.

I'd be interested in hearing about any families who adopt children internationally from impoverished situations do anything to support positive change (even just donating to the "OMG! THINK OF THE CHILDREN!" fund) in third world countries.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 8:35 AM on December 12, 2007


My sister (who I referenced above) does extensive work on supporting positive change in Guatamala (the home country of her adopted child). She works with Guatamalan artisans to sell their work in the US and receive a better rate of pay. Recently she arranged for the artisans to receive cookstoves. She raises money for the orphanage where her child lived. She brings educational materials to the orphanage every year. She is active with other US adoptive parents who adopted from Guatamala. While most people aren't as busy as my sister, it seems as though many of the parents think very hard about all of these complicated issues.
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 9:30 AM on December 12, 2007



I'd be interested in hearing about any families who adopt children internationally from impoverished situations do anything to support positive change (even just donating to the "OMG! THINK OF THE CHILDREN!" fund) in third world countries.



Actually, speaking of China, at least, many people do continue to contribute money and goods to their children's orphanages long after the kids have left for the US. I think that, while it sounds good to talk about changing home conditions, the cultural preference for boys in China is so strong that there's not much anyone can do about it and so girls will continue to be abandoned.

While in China in 1996 and seeing all the girls getting ready to leave for their new homes in Italy, Sweden and the US, I asked our guide who the boys in China would marry, given the girls' departures. His answer was that China assumes that the girls would be adopted, get great educations and return to China to marry their sons. Now, I don't think he really believed that but in fact, China's men don't have sufficient marriage partners. That suggests to me a plan to reduce the population--first, move out thousands of girls elsewhere, make some money off the adoption process in the meantime, and leave a generation of men without hope of marriage. It's all very convenient.


As far as keeping cultural connections--I tried everything I could to get my daughter to Chinese cultural classes once a week but ultimately gave up. She wanted no part of learning the language; she wanted to go to the center's art and music class. At one point, the center decided that the kids in what I call the "gringo" families--those whose parents were white or didn't speak Mandarin at home--were pulled out of art and music to go to language instead, and that was a disaster. Then a huge fight between the mainland Chinese and those who'd fled to Taiwan broke out, the cops came and that was the end of it for us.
posted by etaoin at 9:42 AM on December 12, 2007


One reform is to make sure that adopted kids in the US can find their birth parents in other countries.

In the case of Chinese adoptions, that is not possible. No Chinese children are approved for foreign adoption until a thorough search has failed to turn up any relatives. As for contributing to improve the lot of orphans in the country of origin, that is exactly where most of the expense of adopting a Chinese baby goes to. Many of those tens of thousands of dollars go to the orphanages.

Also note this about Chinese adoptions: having the money is the least important qualification. The adoption process is largely one of convincing the Chinese authorities that you will be fit parents for the child they entrust to you. As mentioned above, that entails criminal background checks, multiple social-worker interviews, home evaluations, written statements from both parents, and much more. It is in no way a 'baby market'.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 11:29 AM on December 12, 2007


Yeah, Kirth Gerson I agree. A lot of adopted kids don't have access to their genetic history by virtue of their birth parents abandoning them, not because their adopted parents are actively blocking their access. Whether the kids were in an orphanage or adopted, really wouldn't change that much. The days of adopted parents lying to their kids about being adopted and then attempting to hide all evidence has pretty much been left in the past.
posted by whoaali at 11:47 AM on December 12, 2007


“about two-thirds of female adoptees and one-third of male adoptees go looking for their birth relatives later in life.”

Never understood that m’self. I have to say I’m thankful that the US worldview is alien to the rest of the world which, apparently from your comments, believes in a “genetic heritage.” (You know who else believed in a genetic heritage?)
I like the fact that when you come to the US it’s so understood that you are now an American that you can walk around telling people you’re Polish, Italian, Spanish, Irish, whatever and they instantly know you’re - hyphenated American. I’m from Chicago. Not some idealized heritage homeland I’m supposed to feel connected to. It doesn’t matter where 1,000 generations of my genetic ancestors spent their time. I see the Sears Tower coming into O’Hare, I see the river and the Lake and the flat prairie surrounding it - this is and always will be my home.

And we’re all adopted sons and daughters of what is essentially an ideal. A dream. Sure, it’s not perfect. Sure it’s been a hard road and it constantly looks like we’re going to lose it. But we’ve made progress. And it doesn’t matter anymore what your “genetic heritage” is. Or at least it’s not supposed to. And more and more that’s becoming the truth. We (finally) have a black man and a woman running for president (and several non-protestants!).
This isn’t (and it won’t be as long as folks are fighting it) Gattaca where your origins limit or privilege you.


Should the state hide records from adoptees? No.
But (as an adoptee m’self) my “mother” is the woman who came to me when I was sick, showed me how to do right, corrected me but stood by me when I did wrong.
Whomever gave birth to me is more alien to me.
Simply because we have the same blood, the same genes, doesn’t make us related in any way.
Sure, I’d like to know my health history. On the other hand, I’m more or less unbreakable. I eat right (like, actually right - y’know fruits, veggies - not lip service) I work out hard, I’m very hygenic, brush regularly, floss, picture Clark Kent in his daily routine (Superman - another adopted son), I’m that freakin’ square - the discipline, love and care I grew up with had far more to do with that than whatever genes I’m carrying around.
Maybe I have a predilection for heart attack in my genetic lineage, but unless it’s really really bad (like Jim Fixx), I’ll never know it because I run farther before breakfast than most people walk all day.
It’s not about upsetting mommy and daddy. It’s showing respect for feelings of the people who spent years loving you. Not “as though” you were their own, but very much their own. I’m actually the center of my family right now (grandma died a bit back, so we all meet at my house, eat, have holidays, etc). And I’ve never felt anything other than deep belonging. Able to impose and to be imposed upon, argue, kvetch, all the things families with the same “genetic heritage” do. And in many ways probably much better, we’ve always been a tight family with long traditions. That’s my culture in every way that Chicago is my home.


Seems to me some folks got a raw deal with their adopted parents. And maybe I hit the jackpot. But it seems like some people would wield this information like an emotional weapon against the only real parents they have.
Now if they were shitty parents, you don’t need that excuse. And if they were good parents, why do you want to do something that might hurt them?

Not to mention respect for the people that concieved me.
Having lived both sides of this equation I have insight into what might have gone on and I respect the decision they made, how hard it must have been and ultimately the sacrifice they made so I could have a better life. Seems to me a sort of betrayal of that. I’d feel a bit put off if the child I put up for adoption came back to see me. Not that I would dismiss anything, but I’d feel a bit like I’d failed. Like they’re disatisfied with their life and maybe I didn’t do the right thing. It would bother me if the child wasn’t happy.

But no, I won’t argue records shouldn’t be open to adoptees. And I don’t begrudge anyone looking for whatever it is they’re looking for. Good luck and God bless you.

But me, speaking from my own experiance, I don’t care at all who my “natural” mother is.
My mother - in every way in which that word matters - is the woman being a grandmother to my children right now.
posted by Smedleyman at 12:13 PM on December 12, 2007


All I can say is if I get a child, I'll try to make sure it's not stolen, and I'll try to raise it with the best I've got. That's all there is to say about it.
posted by saysthis at 12:16 PM on December 12, 2007


I have to say I’m thankful that the US worldview is alien to the rest of the world which, apparently from your comments, believes in a “genetic heritage.” (You know who else believed in a genetic heritage?)

So my interest in my genetic heritage is akin to Hitler's attempt to exterminate the Jews?
posted by Evangeline at 12:31 PM on December 12, 2007


My extended family includes adopted children, bio children, and foster children. For each child, it's all been important and relevant -- the "nature"/genetics/physical appearance, the early life experiences, the nurture, all of it. I tend to think the the nurture part is the most important, but my experience is that all of the factors make up the package of who the person is.
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 2:26 PM on December 12, 2007


“So my interest in my genetic heritage is akin to Hitler's attempt to exterminate the Jews?”

Seriously? No. It’s a tongue in cheek comment that’s oft bandied about about a great many things. And no, certainly not morally.
Your interest in ‘where you come from’ doesn’t play into any moral framework.
Some folks want to think they’re Vikings. That’s swell. Me, I live in Chicago and whether I’m genetically linked to the Mongols or the Zulu doesn’t matter to me. It has no real bearing on my life (health concerns excepted).
But it is, for the most part, an outmoded method of thinking about classes of people (given the level of modern mobility and cultural dynamics) that I am referencing.

Even that wouldn’t be a big deal if genetic background wasn’t an exploitable thing - in the morally wrong sense every bit as much as the pureblood Aryans sought to exploit it (albeit in far more insidious and sophisticated terms).
F’rinstance - in the U.S. insurance companies are already playing the actuaries to discriminate against people based on their propensity to catch a certain disease. People are being discriminated against because of their genotype.
So while I can forgive you your sentimentality, I must object to quantifying people based on their genetic make up. Even when it’s the person themselves doing the quantifying.
Are you better - or worse than someone merely because you have nordic blood or are you suddenly sinocentric because you have epicanthal folds even though you don’t speak any Asian language and you grew up with a Texas accent?
I’m not arguing against race per se, of classifying humans into genotypic and phenotypic traits, I’m arguing against the essentialism that says to be “X” you must have “Y” traits.
That those might be useful biologically, but they are otherwise social constructs and have nothing to do with the identity you’ve made for yourself (good or bad) through your environment.
You can’t derive real meaning from them, other than perhaps a sentimentalized sense of the word meaning.
And there’s nothing wrong with that, but confuse it with a practical reality, a method of acting and being in the world and real identity, you can run into some real trouble.

But ok, you go test yourself and check out the Y chromosome and the mitochondria (the first for dads, the latter for moms) - you inherit from only one set - so one of your two ‘natural’ parents - one of your four ‘natural’ grandparents, that’s 1 in 8 for great grandparents (so you only know who one of those eight people are)
Go back far enough, 15 generations say, that’s one in 32,000 - odd people.
So that makes you - what? Black? Slavic? You have one genetic marker from one guy in 32,000 people - that makes you a Viking?
That then is your “identity”?

So that rules out the biology from the terms of identity right there, much less a proclivity to eat Halava or Rhino meat.
So, it has to be conceptual - philosophical.

Have you not considered - why - the Nazi’s went out of their way to try exterminate the Jews? Their underlying philosophies? Why they poured money, time and vast effort into such an undertaking?
The actuality of the holocaust was based, in part, on theft, but also on that same kind of essentialism.

One of my best friends is black. He’s almost exactly like me. We like the same films. We have the same tastes in food, literature, clothes, women. (In fact he married a mutual friend of ours). We have similar athletic and scholastic backgrounds. I have more in common with him than other white folks we know, and he with me, more than other black folks we know. We think and feel about many things the same way. He’s a Chicagoan. He would be as lost on the African veldt as I would be.
There is nothing in our identities that separates us in any real way - though our genetic heritages are obviously different.
So what, exactly, is different about us that isn’t just a biological trait?
I referenced Gattica precisely because of the point that it is not your biology that socially defines you. Or should. Genetic heritage is alloyed to that concept. Or at least seems to be from the wording.
Dimples, skin color, those are heritable traits - eating Lutevisk, not so much.
And of course, if you’re talking geneology - different story.

You want to know if you have Cherokee blood - swell. You identify with them, great. But you can still assert an celebrate a Native American identity (or any other) without any biological ties to them.
I think people lean to heavily on their group identity anyway. Who I am is who I’ve created myself to be. Your personal identity should be the same. Not that - as I’ve said - you can’t take into account some of your genetic information when developing a sense of yourself, but heavily relying on that information much less sublimating your identity to it or acting from that information, probably not a good idea. Contrary to certain ideologies your genes are only minor indicators (at best) of your ethnic heritage, and certainly nothing to do with whatever cultural background you were raised in.
posted by Smedleyman at 2:40 PM on December 12, 2007


I have to say I’m thankful that the US worldview is alien to the rest of the world which, apparently from your comments, believes in a “genetic heritage.” (You know who else believed in a genetic heritage?)

There is such a thing as a genetic heritage, though. It should be obvious that it has nothing to do with exposure to one's birth language (wtf?), but it should be equally obvious that it has nothing to do with Hitler, either. Can we please stop behaving as if he was the first person in the world to believe that one's genetic or historical-ethnic background has meaning?

As for Gattica and all -- yes, there's a danger in making too much of biology, and especially in mistaking biology for culture, but IMHO we face just as much danger when we deny the influence of biology on human behavior. When you ask, "what, exactly, is different about us that isn’t just a biological trait?", the answer is "nothing". That said, what is it that makes those traits "just" biology, and the learned traits somehow greater? Both are an integral part of your friend, and it seems a sorry state of affairs to ignore one in favor of the other, no matter which way one takes it.

I think people lean to heavily on their group identity anyway. Who I am is who I’ve created myself to be. Your personal identity should be the same.

Like others said above, this is not necessarily a universal idea -- in fact, I'd say that the vast majority of humans who've lived on this planet believed the opposite, and got on just fine by doing so. Also, I find it interesting that someone who doesn't like group identity is saying things like "your personal identity should be the same [as mine]." If identity is what you make it, why shouldn't individuals be free to base their identity on their family, or their national or ethnic group? I think this everyone's-identity-must-be-Americanish ideal comes down to "everyone should have the same source for their identity (i.e. themselves)", and I don't see much difference between that and Nazism, with "themselves" in place of "Germany". IMHO freedom of identity must naturally include the freedom to have different ideas about what personal identification means, and where it comes from. The idea that racial/family/tribal identification leads to Nazi-style ethnic cleansing is a very modern, very American view -- historically, it generally leads to you and the people who look like you living together in the same place for many generations, and I don't think there's anything intrinsically bad about that.

Contrary to certain ideologies your genes are only minor indicators (at best) of your ethnic heritage, and certainly nothing to do with whatever cultural background you were raised in.

Agreed.
posted by vorfeed at 4:32 PM on December 12, 2007


Thanks for your comments, ClaudiaCenter and etaoin! I'm glad to hear that people are working for change, fighting the good fight, and all of that!
posted by grapefruitmoon at 5:29 PM on December 12, 2007


So while I can forgive you your sentimentality, I must object to quantifying people based on their genetic make up. Even when it’s the person themselves doing the quantifying.

Very generous of you to forgive me. Thanks so much.

I'd like to see someone with my nose. I'd like to know if someone in my family is bipolar. I'd like to be able to look at someone and recognize something in their face. I don't give a fuck if I'm Cherokee, Scandinavian, Aborigine, Irish, or Italian. It would be nice to know that someone in my family sings, or acts, or likes crosswords and zombie movies. That's all.
posted by Evangeline at 8:29 PM on December 12, 2007 [1 favorite]


Late to the party, as always, and I haven't had time to read all the comments, so this might be a repeat upthread. But I've worked in the child mental health field for a while now, and I've had many cases of catastrophic overseas adoptions. Of disrupted adoptions I've seen, many involved overseas adoptions by those who thought they were doing a good thing. The problem is that they are adopting children who already have active memories and come preinstalled with attachment traumas. I worked with a Russian girl who, at age 3, watched as her drunk mother drowned in a puddle. Enter enterprising and do-gooder American couple with no training in foster or adoptive parenting, no knowledge of Russian language or customs, but plenty o' cash. Add a name change, solving crying sessions with lots of gifts and adoptive mother desperate for approval, and after several years we have a child with severe Reactive Attachment Disorder and a family too disillusioned by their unwilling-to-attach little girl. She enters the foster care system and remains too ill to be adopted again.

Sadly, many US states to not require exhaustive foster or adoptive training (disclosure: I'm a trainer) and there isn't an efficient enough buffer between eager and rightly-compelled parents and the frequently shady and difficult to navigate overseas adoption system (or lack thereof). That's not to say that they can't work, and I know a few parents who seem to be doing fairly well at it, so far. But sadly a vast majority go into it without enough training and foresight in the complicated mental health implications of children who've lost their attachments and cannot articulate the losses in any other way than "acting out." Which, over time and left untreated, adds more critically unstable kids to the roster of the needlessly orphaned.
posted by moonbird at 8:38 PM on December 12, 2007


Poorer, does not have to mean lesser.

Whoaali: There should have been quotes around 'lesser': clearly, 'poorer = lesser' isn't my opinion.

When you adopt a child from abroad you aren't saving them from their country, you are saving them from a life of poverty in an orphanage... But pity and charity don't necessarily have to be demeaning and I think adoption is anything but that.

whoaali: The problem is that pity and charity so often is demeaning, unless it's been thought through carefully and understood. This is what I'm talking about; the idea of saving, rescuing. Centuries back, missionaries went to 'less-developed' countries to bring 'salvation' to those who hadn't found it yet; now, this is frequently seen as a sort of colonization/Orientalism in action.

The point is that the idea of salvation, and enacting the process of 'saving' somebody is in many ways an (unconscious) reinforcement of the power differential that exists between both parties. I can save you because I am above your situation. Coupled with the idea of saving a child from a foreign country (and many times an 'exotic' country), exoticism comes into play.

Despite this all, I really believe that there are sincere, genuine cases of adoption in 'transracial'/foreign adoptions, like many of the cases seen in this thread. That doesn't mean that there's going to be some sort of extra-personal, political dynamic between the adoptee and the adopter, though; but that's no different than seeing a political dynamic in a mixed-race marriage, or a 1st-generation immigrant/2nd-gen father-son clash, or white collar/blue collar interactions between spouses/generations. What I'm saying is that relationships are hard enough as it is; without thorough thought and heartfelt discussion, having exoticism and semi-altruism as a motivation for adoption is going to make things harder on top of things.
posted by suedehead at 8:58 PM on December 12, 2007


Pity? Charity? We adopted because we wanted a baby. No other reason at all.
posted by Wolof at 9:06 PM on December 12, 2007


Same here. Also, if we had expressed any sentiment that we were 'saving' our daughter from a bad life in the PRC, we would probably have been sent home childless.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 4:38 AM on December 13, 2007


Wolof and Kirth Gerson -- when I'm talking about 'saving' or what not, I don't think I'm talking about any of the cases seen in this thread. It's just that foreign adoption (like any cross-national interaction), seems to carry a lot of baggage, and I think it's important that people recognize this in general. This is a tricky thread, so I'm going to stop talking, but I'm just going to say that I really thought that all the responses here have been pretty great, spaceviking's included.
posted by suedehead at 7:41 AM on December 13, 2007


I think the baggage you refer to is in the hand of the beholder.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 8:25 AM on December 13, 2007


Adoption is not perfect, and adoptive parents are no more (or less) noble and unselfish than biological parents. That has gotten lost in some of the replies to this post.

People who adopt are not doing it for wholly altruistic reasons any more than people who choose to become parents by birth. Thanks to all the honest and sensible adoptive parents who made that point clear. Adoptive parents are not saints or rescuers, nor are they villains. Neither are surrendering parents or searching adoptees. There is room for many feelings and opinions, not just the narrow, strident, and extreme on either side. To those not adopted or involved in adoption....it IS different than not liking the family you were born into, and has unique challenges that those of us not adopted do not face, although the impact of this varies greatly from one adopted person to another.

Most adoptive parents are normal, loving, good people. Most adoptions work out pretty well. What is upsetting about this thread and many of the replies is that outrage that any aspect of adoption, or the adoption industry, be questioned at all.

Take a deep breath, folks, and try to separate criticism of an industry in sore need of reform and oversight from criticism of any adoptive family or of the concept of adoption.

To those adoptees who wrote about how much you love your adoptive parents, and the few who hate their birthparents, this is your personal life and viewpoint, and nobody is criticizing how you feel or telling you to feel otherwise. How about extending the same favor to others who feel differently? There is such a thing as genetic heritage, like it or not. Those adopted adults who want to look into theirs should have that option, those who do not can leave it alone.

Adoption is a human, flawed institution. It is not above reproach, questioning, or improvement. It will not go away or be diminished if people see it less as sentimental Hallmark movie, all gooey and sweet and perfect, and more as the complex and ambiguous web of relationship, blessing, and pain it really is for those who live it.

Hexatron's wife
posted by hexatron at 9:42 AM on December 13, 2007 [1 favorite]


That those might be useful biologically, but they are otherwise social constructs and have nothing to do with the identity you’ve made for yourself (good or bad) through your environment.
You can’t derive real meaning from them, other than perhaps a sentimentalized sense of the word meaning.


I'm massively confused by this statement.

There are facts about the real world. And there are political spins that people put on those facts. The spins are important (and often horrible and deadly), but they don't change the facts.

One fact is that our genes affect our personalities. They don't define our personalities; they affect our personalities. Same with environmental forces. Neither type of force by itself makes us who we are. Both forces contribute, and they do so by interacting with each other in complex ways.

That's a fact. By "fact," I mean that it's accepted by most of the scientific community. I certainly accept it, and I doubt I'm alone here. And this fact is not political. There is no such thing as a political fact.

People USE the fact for political ends (usually misinterpreting the fact to mean "genes are 100% of our destiny"), but that doesn't change the fact itself. It's hugely problematic and confusing to make posts that treat the fact and the politics as the same thing. We can -- perhaps -- eliminate or change the politics. The fact will still remain.

It also doesn't matter if you have a black friend who is just like you. For every example you give of people who don't seem affected by their genes, I can give you a counter example of twins that were raised apart and yet are remarkably alike.

But I'd be scared that you'd interpret my counter-example me arguing that "genes are destiny." I don't believe that and I'm sure there are separated twins who are wildly different from each other. The complicated truth is that (a) genes and environment both have effects; (b) those effects interact with each other in very complicated, unpredictable ways; (c) some people are more strongly affected by one of those forces than the others.

In short, BOTH of these statements are bullshit.

1. Our personalities are programmed by our genes.
2. Our personalities are programmed by our environment.

Taking either of these statements as truth means you're living in a tinker-toy world rather than the real world.
posted by grumblebee at 9:53 AM on December 13, 2007


“I find it interesting that someone who doesn't like group identity is saying things like "your personal identity should be the same [as mine]. If identity is what you make it, why shouldn't individuals be free to base their identity on their family, or their national or ethnic group?”
They are. But it’s less a ‘personal’ identity then, isn’t it? And, IMHO, it’s easier to exploit such a thing. But I’ll cede that people have gotten along fine before and after Hitler with their whole ethnic/nationalism deal. That part of it I was joking about.
I still maintain it’s outmoded as a conceptual framework. But some people still maintain traditions thousands of years old, so long as it’s not hurting anyone, no, I’m not criticizing that. Perhaps I should have made that more clear.

“I think this everyone's-identity-must-be-Americanish ideal comes down to "everyone should have the same source for their identity (i.e. themselves)", and I don't see much difference between that and Nazism, with "themselves" in place of "Germany".”

For clarification - I’m saying essentially the same thing you said in the next paragraph. Your identity should stem from yourself, but if the choices you make lead to tribal/racial/etc identification, then that’s your personal choice. I don’t want to get into Rush lyrics here. But that’s the gist. It doesn’t preclude it as a choice.
Still - notice how everyone seems to feel their tribe/ethnicity/etc. is the “best”?
If you haven’t tried anything else, how do you know the thing you were born with is the best thing to be.
That’s based on my own experiance. I served my country in the military not because I was an American, or felt being and American was the best thing to be. But because I agreed with the principles of the constitution and so forth. As it so happens, as with many things, there is some dissonance between the ideal and the execution.
Which would be the point I’m trying to make. Ergo, no, there’s nothing intrinsically bad about living for generations with people who look like you. But unless you contrast it, explore it, etc. you’re accepting what is familiar, not what might be best, or best for you.
I, for example, love greens and black eyed peas and a lot of African-American cuisine. Had I accepted dogmatically that my family’s food is the best, I might not have tried it.
I think we agree for the most part but differ on the degree of exploration one should engage it.
We fundimentally agree on coercion of course. But while there is nothing wrong with homogeneity, I think more diversity is extremely useful in determining a wide variety of things.
Indeed, even considering the biology - exegenetic lines tend to be healthier.

“It would be nice to know that someone in my family sings, or acts, or likes crosswords and zombie movies.”

What possible biological trait could lead to liking zombie movies? The essential difference I’m talking about here is between the science - the biology - and culture, and a romanticized view of culture at that.
I’ve explained that seeing “someone with your nose” is, biologically, notational at best. Certainly those traits carry on, but again, the assumptions made in the term “family” are vast.
There’s a difference in geographically based gene clusters and the social conception of family. It’s that simple.
People who are biologically close to you might have very different ideas, feelings, etc, about the world, art, etc. Any similarities you see are going to be affirmation of the consequent (it’s a kind of magical thinking). This is not to say biology can’t or doesn’t influence generally and lead to certain biological traits (a quick temper perhaps) but it certainly won’t lead to narrowly specific traits such as a predilection for zombie movies or crossword puzzles.
And, as I’ve pointed out, where someone got their nose is an increasingly long odds proposition depending on how far one goes back.

“Taking either of these statements as truth means you're living in a tinker-toy world rather than the real world.”

Essentially my point. But genes affect your personality based on genetic traits - your hormonal levels, how much adrenaline you produce, etc, etc, etc. Not how they are socially expressed.
So you might be a hot-tempered deeply emotional red head who is genetically predisposed to drink alcohol (a very stereotypical Irish guy).
That doesn’t mean you drink, fight, compose poetry or any other such thing. Your environment would determine such things as what language you speak. Maybe you speak Gaelic, doesn’t mean you’re a poet.

So I’m arguing not for either, merely that identity is not subject to arbitrary forces within us or in our environment, but subject to the choices we make.
Therefore the more you expose yourself to things - the broader you make your environment - the wider variety of choices you will have and the more you can fine tune what suits you best.
I choose to be close to my black friend. That we’re alike is nice. But we’re apart in some things. I don’t blame those things on him being black, or where he grew up, but on the choices he’s made. It suits him to be very religious. Not me. Yet we were raised pretty much the same way when it comes to church. I have stepbrothers - all biologically and environmentally identical - all followed completely different life paths.

So I agree they’re very complex factors that interact - but given the vast complexity of the respective systems and their interaction the single largest determining factor is personal choice.

In this case the opposition argument seems to be that “I feel like I’m not a - ‘Smith’ or whatever adopted family - because my genetic heritage is something else.”
The term - genetic heritage conflates culture and biology - not me. I’m merely trying to untangle them. If folks mean ‘geneology’ or are referencing certain biological traits they have (e.g. the red hair, the big nose) then solid. It’s a long shot but ok, they want to look into where they got their red hair, fine.
But having red hair doesn’t make you “Irish.” Epicanthic folds and broader sinuses might be adaptations suited to a certain environment, but it doesn’t mean you are “tied to the land” or make you “Chinese” anymore than it determines specific likes or dislikes.
Oh, you might lean a certain way (you get angry easily) but that doesn’t determine how that anger expresses itself nor does it determine your identity or who you “really” belong to. I’m arguing only you can determine that. If you wish to make that determination based upon similar genetic traits, or nationalism, whatever - fine. But recognize that as a choice, not some genetic bond or biologically rooted cultural predilection.
If you feel closer to your natural mother than your adoptive mother, it’s because you choose to be. Maybe there was something unsatisfying in someone’s family relationship that led to that choice, I can’t say, but I can say it’s not caused by some mystical bond.
posted by Smedleyman at 11:59 AM on December 13, 2007


And, I’d add, vice versa. I mean if the Dutch parents couldn’t connect with their adoptive child - that’s their choice.
Which I think is all the more reprehensible and places the responsibilty squarely where it should be - on the personal choice of the parents to abandon their child, not on some cultural or biological dissonance or the lack of some kind of idealized bond that is supposed to be there.
posted by Smedleyman at 12:09 PM on December 13, 2007


If you feel closer to your natural mother than your adoptive mother, it’s because you choose to be. Maybe there was something unsatisfying in someone’s family relationship that led to that choice, I can’t say, but I can say it’s not caused by some mystical bond.

How do "choose" to feel something? You can choose how you act on those feelings, but you can't choose having them.

I don't feel at all close to my natural mother. I've never even met her, and I don't believe in "mystical bonds".

This is not to say biology can’t or doesn’t influence generally and lead to certain biological traits (a quick temper perhaps) but it certainly won’t lead to narrowly specific traits such as a predilection for zombie movies or crossword puzzles.

Let me try to explain this in another way. First of all, I'm not concerned with geneaology. I don't think I've said anything that would cause you to believe that, so maybe you're addressing other comments in this thread. I don't care about "pure" blood lines. My interest in my natural mother, father, siblings, etc., has very little to do with an interest in my ancestry, if by ancestry you mean where did "my people" hail from. I DON'T CARE.

How do people form relationships? WHY do people form relationships? I don't put much stock in the belief that "opposites attract". I think you form relationships around commonalities. If no one in your family shares your tastes, your desires, your talents, your interest, and less importantly, your looks, what do you base a relationship on? Maybe if I met any of my five half-siblings I'd be disappointed. I'll probably never know. But you continue to downplay the role genetics play in personality.

I used a few examples that you may find ridiculous, but if you'd dig a little deeper you might see a genetic connection. For example, left-brained people tend to be more logical. They might, for instance, enjoy crossword puzzles. There could very well be a genetic component. Talent can have a genetic component as well, and when you're talented at something, you tend to enjoy doing it. So there - you inherited your talent for tap dancing from your mom, and that's something you can share. Who knows why people like zombie movies? Who knows why some people like fantasy novels or opera? You may not be able to pin it down to a specific gene, but that doesn't mean genetics didn't play a part. You reject the idea off-hand simply because the connection isn't immediately apparent.

It sounds to me that the idea of "free will" is so important to you that you're scared of examining the role of genetics too closely.
posted by Evangeline at 12:56 PM on December 13, 2007 [1 favorite]


I still maintain it’s outmoded as a conceptual framework.

I'm confused about two things:

1. WHAT is the framework that's outmoded? That genes defined personality? If so, fine. I don't think anyone here is saying that they do. Sure, there are idiots who believe they do and some of them have power (and that's scary), but I don't think anyone is THIS thread is making that claim.

Is it that genes CONTRIBUTE to personality (in complex ways)? If so, that's simply true.

2. What do you mean by "outmoded"? Wrong, non useful or unfashionable?

What possible biological trait could lead to liking zombie movies? [emphasis added.]

Biological traits do not LEAD to personality quirks. Nor do cultural traits. You're subtly biasing the argument by claiming someone here is saying that genes LEAD to personality trait X, Y and Z.

My genes MIGHT lead me to enjoy adrenaline rushes (whereas yours might lead you to enjoy being calm). My love of quickening my heartbeat is not sufficient to make me like Zombie movies, not neither -- necessarily -- are cultural forces. You and I might both be raised in the same family, by a dad who played Zombie DVDs all the time. Without those DVDs, I never would have developed my liking for such movies; because you are calm by nature, the cultural force didn't have the same effect on you.

That last paragraph, I'm sure, is a GROSS oversimplification. I'm even suspect of statements like, "My genes might lead me to enjoy adrenaline rushes." I suspect that even "simple" personality traits, such as a quick temper, a warm nature, or a love of risk are brought about through a bewilderingly complex interaction of nature and nurture. And what leads you to be warm natured might be a different set of interactions that what leads me to be warm natured.

By which I mean that, if discover that by removing gene X, we stop the individual from being warm natured, it does NOT follow that gene X is THE mechanism for warmth. It just means that it's A mechanism for warmth. And it would be just as true if we discovered that a child who never got hugs turned out to be mean. That doesn't imply that the only cause of meanness is no hugs. It just implies that ONE cause of meanness is no hugs. MAYBE that cause is the only cause, but not necessarily.

This is not to say biology can’t or doesn’t influence generally and lead to certain biological traits (a quick temper perhaps)

Maybe you're biased towards nurture/culture because there are some traits you consider more important (or meaningful when discussing personality) than others. It's a matter of opinion of course, but to me, a quick temper is a much deeper and more meaningful personality trait than a love of Zombie movies.

So I’m arguing not for either, merely that identity is not subject to arbitrary forces within us or in our environment, but subject to the choices we make.

You're assuming 100% free will. Why? It's fine if you believe in it, but you can't expect everyone else to do so.

I agree with you that our personality is affected (greatly affected) by the choices we make. But I think the choices we make are greatly affected by our genes and upbringing. Choices aren't these free-floating entities that are un-affected by other forces.
posted by grumblebee at 12:59 PM on December 13, 2007



Way up there someone was saying that there are "good" Chinese orphanages and that I shouldn't have lumped all orphanages in together. The problem with that is that orphanages simply are not developmentally healthy for young children. For optimal brain development, young children need at least one person who spends most of the day and night with them consistently, ideally two who have support from those around them. You can't replicate that with staff who are on shifts who care for many babies. Unless you have two staff for each baby (ie, essentially foster care, not an orphanage).

The longer a child spends in an orphanage, the more prone he is to psychological and behavioral problems. Thankfully, there's an enormous tendency towards health and even kids who have spent 3-4 years in an orphanage are often OK. But if you look at the data on adoptions from orphanages, length of stay in orphanage is essentially linearly related with emotional and behavioral problems.

The other issue is that the longer a child stays in an orphanage, the more attached he becomes to the people who are there-- and the more wrenching it is for him to be taken away. Each shift in caregivers is equivalent to the experience of the death of one's parents-- as I said above, it's like taking away someone's spouse of 25 years and expecting them to accept a new partner instantly, with love and gratitude.

So, no matter how well intentioned, whatever keeps kids out of permanent placement longer-- whether it be to try to find local parents or whatever-- is potentially harmful and the fewer shifts in placement a child has, the better off that child tends to be.

And what people really tend not to get is that a toddler can look really loving and affectionate and cute and be completely incapable of attachment without serious intervention. And that that intervention has to be done without force or coercion or it will make things worse.
posted by Maias at 4:45 PM on December 13, 2007


You can choose how you act on those feelings, but you can't choose having them.

Actually, in many cases, you can. Ask any divorced person who learned to not let their ex push their buttons, or any parent who taught themselves patience. Feelings are not immutable forces acting from outside; they are responses generated within us, and are largely under or control.


Each shift in caregivers is equivalent to the experience of the death of one's parents ...

This is a gross overstatement. Have you never experienced the death of a loved one?
posted by Kirth Gerson at 3:54 AM on December 14, 2007


Actually, in many cases, you can.

I think this varies greatly from person-to-person. And you have to be very careful to distinguish feelings from outward-shows-of-feelings. I can train myself not to shout at people, but that doesn't stop me from feeling angry. Still, I agree that there are people who can actually shape their internal feelings (to a greater or lesser extent).

I don't think this is a "choice" in the sense of "I'm choosing not to feel anger now ... okay, anger is gone." Maybe sometimes it works that way, but I bet that's rare. More often, it's something someone works on over a long period of time. And often that work involves avoiding certain situations ("Fred makes me angry, so I'm going to stop spending time with him") or engaging in ritual ("I'm going to count to ten"). Choosing to do those things are the real choices. Not-feeling-anger (or whatever) is the happy byproduct.

For most of us -- certainly for me -- there are many feelings that are totally uncontrollable (the feelings, not the expression of them, though some people have trouble controlling that, too.)
posted by grumblebee at 5:36 AM on December 14, 2007


I'm not talking about the expression of feelings; I'm saying you can learn not to have the feelings in the first place. I used the word learn again there, and on purpose. Just saying, "I choose not to have that feeling" and expecting it to work is silly, but there are techniques for uncoupling stimuli from emotional responses. If you have feelings that are "uncontrollable," and that bothers you, I suggest finding someone who can teach you those techniques. They work.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 8:49 AM on December 14, 2007


A psychiatrist I went to for a while told me that my feelings of anger and depression were absolutely legitimate, but my thought patterns were out of whack. In other words, I wasn't thinking rationally, but if everything I was worried about were actually TRUE, then I'd have a good reason for being depressed. I needed to change my way of thinking, not my feelings. Once I could see my situation clearly, my feelings would naturally change. He taught me techniques for standing back from a situation and seeing it in a more rational light. It helped.

What he did NOT tell me was that my feelings were wrong, or bad. Indeed, he felt that my feelings were not in my control, but my behavior and my thinking were two things I could change. This may be semantics, but I don't think that's the same thing.
posted by Evangeline at 9:09 AM on December 14, 2007


there are techniques for uncoupling stimuli from emotional responses.

Yes.

If I'm constantly having anxiety attacks when there's nothing terribly wrong, or if the slightest irritation makes me yell, scream or cry, then I need help.

If I get sad when someone close to me dies, then it seems pretty perverse to uncouple the stimuli from the emotional response.

And if it's really possible to do that well, why aren't lots of people (who have been trough good forms of therapy) in constant states of bliss? It should be possible to control your feelings so that you're never sad or angry. That sounds pretty scary to me. Pretty robotic. But I'm not really scared of it, because I don't think it's possible. Not for all of us.

I do think it's possible for many people to AFFECT their feelings. I'm NOT saying, "hey, if you're sad, you're sad and there's nothing you can do about it." I'm saying, "you're sad, so why not try these techniques. They MAY mitigate your sadness. They have done so for other people. If you're constituted like them, and if you apply the techniques well, you'll see results. But there are no guarantees."
posted by grumblebee at 9:42 AM on December 14, 2007


Huh, so it the Dutch parents are claiming the kid actually was having attachment problems. The Hong Kong MP's comments about the girl could be him not understanding appearing happy and playful to everyone is not the same as being able to form attachments with parental figures. Another viewpoint, I guess.
posted by schroedinger at 11:10 AM on December 14, 2007


“You reject the idea off-hand simply because the connection isn't immediately apparent.”

No, I reject the idea as a refutation of my argument because it isn’t related to my point.
The idea I don’t have any particular opinion on excepting where it’s taken up by some of the folks in the links (see below)

“I don't feel at all close to my natural mother. I've never even met her, and I don't believe in "mystical bonds".”

Then we agree. Case closed. I downplay the role genetics has in personality only where it is relevent to that point. The rest of that I’ll cede (or indeed, I’ve championed).


“Sure, there are idiots who believe they do and some of them have power (and that's scary), but I don't think anyone is THIS thread is making that claim.”

Again - I’m not refuting arguments rooted in anything in the thread has said. I’m refuting propositions put forth by - in one example - Diane Turski.
To reiterate the quote: “Diane Turski is a mother who lost her newborn son to a sealed-record adoption in 1968. Thirty years later they happily reunited when he found her, proving that the mother/child bond can never be broken.”

Where your, and others’, arguments are alloyed to that, I disagree and I’ve tried to point out how and why. Where your, and others’, arguments don’t align with that, I don’t particularly care. At this point we’re trying to mete out details in examples I’ve used in refuting that Turski point - e.g. liking zombie movies. The whole zombie movie thing itself - taken in isolation from that point - no, I don’t have an opinion on, as you’ve pointed out the factors are too complex. Opposing that point underlies my entire argument.

Sure, the choices we make are influenced by our genes and upbringing - but there is no unbreakable genetic factor that eliminates the possiblity of choosing whether or not to have a bond with someone.
Everything else is illustrative detail non-essential to my point.
Perhaps it wasn’t clear because it is so obvious (and I went on several tangents with the details unsure that people were championing that position).
posted by Smedleyman at 11:52 AM on December 14, 2007


...there is no unbreakable genetic factor that eliminates the possiblity of choosing whether or not to have a bond with someone.
Everything else is illustrative detail non-essential to my point.


Nobody's saying that you WON'T be able to form a relationship with someone who is not genetically related. That's just ridiculous. My only point was that sharing some DNA MIGHT make you more likely to have something in common with your natural mother and siblings, and whether you form a bond with an army buddy or your brother, it's generally based on shared interests.
posted by Evangeline at 12:39 PM on December 14, 2007


“Nobody's saying that you WON'T be able to form a relationship with someone who is not genetically related.”

People (in the links) said they felt as though they didn’t belong, that they’re
struggling to learn who they really are, that they’re playing roles and what not and “Who wouldn't be dpressed lacking the very identity that people define themselves with?” - because they’re adopted their identity is some sort of lie. I disagree.

“Might” is an ambiguity. Indeed, my premise is opposed to the absolute espoused by the folks I pointed out, so I’ve not only ceded your point, I’ve augmented it. And you agree that it is ridiculous. And I think I made it fairly clear I wasn’t arguing against your point so did you have a beef with me or you just want to break balls?
I don’t know how many times in how many ways I have to say the same thing.
To be as clear as I possibly can - YOU’RE not saying you can’t form a relationship with someone who is not genetically related - THEY are. YOU’RE not saying there is a mystical bond with your natural mother that you can’t have with your adoptive mother THEY are. I disagree with THEM when THEY say (or insinuate) THAT.

Whatever DNA (or free will, or God, or whatever tangential detail here) does or doesn’t make you do or not do or what shared interests lead to or don’t doesn’t factor into it.
Those are just details that either support or refute THEIR claim. Where they intersect with YOUR point, I’M not even really trying to address.
Either you support their position or you support mine. Whatever point your trying to make - and I understand your point, it’s clear to me, I’m saying “whatever” in the context that it doesn’t matter what your point is because I’m not taking issue with it.
It seems merely as though our details are getting mixed up which leads to this conflation. And those ‘asplode into such complex variables that I can’t legitamately address them. Maybe I’m wrong on the ones I did address, but again, insofar as this genetic bond and identity deal is concerned, what those folks are saying about it is way off base.
posted by Smedleyman at 5:27 PM on December 14, 2007


Smedleyman, I don't know about Evengeline, but I got confused by your posts, because I thought you were arguing with people in this thread, not people in the links. I'm sorry if my confusion lead to me misrepresenting you. I just couldn't understand why you were taking such a strong stance against something no one here was saying. You came across -- to me -- as so dismissive of anyone HERE who took their genetic heritage serious. I guess you weren't being dismissive of people here, just people in the links who took the extreme opposite view (that genes are totally responsible for personality). I still don't get why you argued your point so strongly against people who aren't here. It seems a bit like preaching to the choir, but maybe I'm still not getting what you're talking about.
posted by grumblebee at 5:33 PM on December 14, 2007


And I think I made it fairly clear I wasn’t arguing against your point so did you have a beef with me or you just want to break balls?

Not at all. If I were trying to break your balls, you wouldn't have to ask.

I'm sorry you feel this way, but I haven't made any personal attacks against you. You, on the other hand, seem pretty dismissive and at times condescending.

You state opinions, and then when someone disagrees, you backpedal and say either that you were misinterpreted or that the other person's point is irrelevant to your argument. Like grumblebee, I have no idea who you're arguing with anymore, so I'll bow out.
posted by Evangeline at 7:23 AM on December 15, 2007


Each shift in caregivers is equivalent to the experience of the death of one's parents ...

This is a gross overstatement. Have you never experienced the death of a loved one?
p


How is it an overstatement? If a child is living with one set of parents and then is permanently removed to another set and then to another-- and will never see those people again, how is that different from losing those parents to death?

Are you claiming that losing a parent in early childhood is *easier* than later in life? Obviously, taking a newborn from a mom he never sees in the first place doesn't count, but taking a baby at nine months from one set of caregivers, then giving him another new set at three years and another new set at five years-- those experiences *are* like deaths to that child. And research shows that this absolutely can disrupt their ability to connect to others and can cause behavioral and emotional problems. Just because it doesn't always do so doesn't mean its a trivial thing.

People aren't interchangeable, even to babies. A one year old can very, very clearly distinguish between mom and babysitter-- as anyone who has ever babysat can tell you. Now imagine mommy's gone permanently... it doesn't matter to that child whether the permanence is from death or a "new placement." The emotion is the same.
posted by Maias at 2:25 PM on December 15, 2007


How is it an overstatement? If a child is living with one set of parents and then is permanently removed to another set and then to another-- and will never see those people again ...

*permanently*
Shift changes at an orphanage do not result in the child permanently losing a caregiver. That's what you claimed was like the death of a parent. Of course the children form bonds to the people who are nice to them. They also learn that those people reappear, to be nice to them again, after going away. Much as a child with parents learns that those parents reappear when the child wakes up after sleeping.

Orphanages are not ideal places for children to grow up. You seem to have decided that means they are the worst possible case. They aren't. More specifically, my very limited experience with Chinese orphanages and the children adopted from them tells me that they are not all the hellholes some people would like to think they are. Example.


Are you claiming that losing a parent in early childhood is *easier* than later in life?

I have no idea where you pulled that one out of. Nothing I wrote should lead you to assign that opinion to me.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 5:28 PM on December 15, 2007


A lot of people don't feel like we belong. I spent my teenage years completely confused about who I was, why I didn't fit in. Many teenagers go through this.

The difference was that I could never blame my feelings on an adoption, as I'm not adopted. I just had to live with the fact that no one understood me despite the obvious genetic connections. Had I been adopted, I think I could have very easily seized on that as a "reason" for my problems.

As for white families adopting non-white children - the advocates against them are so fixated on race they see everyone else as racist. I have members of my family who were non-white and adopted into a white family - and it was because their parents were NOT racist, and did not say "I will only adopt a white child". They were willing to adopt any child who needed them, regardless of race.

It is just plain out and out racist to say that white people can only raise white people. If we believe that people are basically the same under the skin, then how can we say that someone's race should matter in adoption? Sure, you don't look like your parents. But neither does my red-headed, incrediably pale friend look at all like her black haired, easily tanned sister - both are white, and both are adopted.
posted by jb at 4:29 AM on December 16, 2007


“I just couldn't understand why you were taking such a strong stance against something no one here was saying.”

Because I wasn’t arguing against something someone here had laid out. Only the central issue I mentioned. Where it seemed to support that, is where I opposed it. Perhaps folks weren’t supporting that, so that would be my mistake.
“You came across -- to me -- as so dismissive of anyone HERE who took their genetic heritage serious.”

Because it seemed to support that mystical bond thing. I suspect it was in some ways preaching to the choir. Which is what lead to the dismissive tone. bugbread, for example - argued that the folks in those links were irrational and cited them. I agreed.
So, I apologise if I got off track and was unclear, but it seems obvious what my line of country was.
Perhaps so obvious that other folks took that as a given and argued something else.
Which, as I said, might have been where the misunderstanding was.

---

“You, on the other hand, seem pretty dismissive and at times condescending.”

My apologies.

“You state opinions, and then when someone disagrees, you backpedal and say either that you were misinterpreted or that the other person's point is irrelevant to your argument.”

Ah, so if I see where I’m in error and cede to you, that’s backpedaling. If I attempt to clarify, that’s being dismissive or condescending?

“Like grumblebee, I have no idea who you're arguing with anymore, so I'll bow out.”

I think I stated my argument - several times - perfectly clearly. I also believe I stated again several times and perfectly clearly that I took no issue with certain points you (and others) raised and mistook your position and illustrative details as supportive of the overall point I was opposing. I’ve stated - again, very clearly, there was a misunderstanding and took my share of blame for that.
But fuck me for trying to be agreeable and reach a mutual understanding.
posted by Smedleyman at 1:58 PM on December 17, 2007


But again - to be perfectly clear and as explicit as I can possibly be- my mistake - I apologize.
posted by Smedleyman at 2:02 PM on December 17, 2007


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