Sunday, July 30, 2006

Part of a Social Experiment

In my quest to place myself on the history of adoption timeline, I came across the following alarming statement: "Adoption was a social experiment in which babies born to unmarried mothers were taken at birth and given to total strangers for adoption." This was written by Wendy Jacobs, B.Sc as the opening salvo of her keynote address entitled, "Known Consequences of Separating Mother and Child at Birth and Implications for Further Study."

Now this was a novel concept. New to me. Certainly not new to others. But a concept so earthshaking to this adoptee finally waking from the long slumber of ignorance that I'm still feeling wobbly one week after reading it.

A SOCIAL EXPERIMENT? I - we - those of us placed for adoption after WWII and up until the 1970's or so were...part of a social experiment? The kind where experts look back and shake their heads and talk about the lack of scientific evidence and misguided theories. In which adoption was once called "a selective operation that included promises of predictability."

As I make my way through books on adoption history, there are numerous references to
important past practices such as "matching" and ways to build a family through adoption...with much discussion of David Kirk's adoption study "Shared Fate" in which he reported that the most significant single variable was whether the adoptive family could accept the difference. That book was written in 1964. Four years after my adoptive parents had come to the firm conclusion -- with the help of the social worker -- that there was absolutely no difference between our family and a biologically formed one. No discussion was necessary or tolerated. Ever. Because there was no difference. Any suggestion there was would be an admission of failure. That the adoption was not successful. This is just one example of how a past point-of-view could impact an adoptee's daily life. Silence and denial was my reality. The price...heavy. To think this was based on a practice that was later criticized as unnatural and unwise.


Blogger LCT said...

It is shocking to hear we adoptess were part of a social experiment. Our pregnant, unwed mothers lost their social status during the baby scoop era as a result of this event. It is not the first time in the US when the socially marginalized people were used for experimentation without their knowledge or consent. Other groups include prisoners, orphans, the poor, and POW. One of the most famous and controversial experiments was one where prisoners were unknowingly injected with syphilis to see what would happen to them.

Being part the social experiment known as infant adoption, a lot of social scientists were interested in us. My adoptive family participated in a study exploring the environmental and genetic aspects to f personality. I remember being shocked to learn that research scientists were a group of people who had access to my closed adoption records without needing a court order as I did to open them. Adoption sucks.

3:11 PM  

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