Friday, November 03, 2006

National Adoption Month: Yuck's that time of the year again: National Adoption Month.

The time those in the industry go crazy promoting adoption, courthouses across the country rush to finalize adoptions and those who've adopted are invited to celebrate.

There are calendars of events and tips like, "contact your local newspaper and encourage them to run a positive story of adoption" and, for those who've gone the international route, "post a map of his or her own country in a prominent place in your home" (to remind them how far away it is?). And, as we are in a more open era, "write a letter to his/her birth parents (who) will cherish this gift!" Some public agencies include testimonials from pre-teen and teen adoptees expressing their gratitude for a loving, permanent home.

Of course, there's no mention of the now infamous closed era of adoption which many social scientists today call a "failed experiment."

Of course, it wouldn't be official without....

A Proclamation by the President of the United States of America

During National Adoption Month, we encourage the adoption of young people in need, and we honor the adoptive and foster families who have offered children a loving and supportive home.
The best of America is reflected in the many citizens who have adopted children as their own.

And there it is folks...AS THEIR OWN.

One interpretation, as stated in my Decree of Adoption: "and each respectively shall have all the rights and be subject to all the duties of natural parent and child..." In which case "as their own" if the child was their natural child.

But there's another interpretation. A more disturbing one. Nine lines up and tucked between a sudden outburst of "thereby's" and "wherein's" and whereby's"...."said child shall be adopted and treated in all respects as their own lawful child."

Meaning...original owner of child (birth mother) transferred title and ownership of child to said petitioners.

Which explains why reading my Decree of Adoption, which was locked away in a steel box for more than thirty years, is such a creepy experience. This official document...filed with the Superior Court of the State of California in and for the County of Los just a longer, fancier version of a DMV Vehicle Reassignment/Transfer Form, except for humans. The basic underlying concept is that children are property that can be...henceforth!...conveyed from one person to another or, as defined by Merriam-Webster: to make over the possession or control of _______.

Just in case you think I'm overreacting to or misreading the decree, some words of support authored by Ann Hartman & Joan Laird in an article entitled, "Family Treatment After Adoption: Common Themes" (Chap. 12, The Psychology of Adoption by Brodzinsky & Schecter):

"In our society, the legal foundations and ancestral definitions of adoption rest in English common law. Children 'belong' to their parents. Children's rights have been sharply limited by the conception of the parent-child relationship. For example, translated into adoption, 'this not only means that parents may give their child away,' but may also deprive children of the right to know their families of origin."

The very wording in such a Decrees of Adoption, the repeated references to "Baby Girl _____" and "the child" and "said minor," seems to forever relegate us as Forever Children, as the property of others, as if our majority would never be achieved. A contract was entered into, on our behalf, by others...without our approval and consent. Should that be legal? No wonder everyone seems to talk about adoption except the adoptee and only and occasionally the adoptee with certain stipulations: that they are happy and grateful and positive about the benefits they've received in this $1 billion dollar-plus- a year social institution...or hmmm....industry.

To borrow George Orwell, language shapes thought. Those of us adoptees who have unlocked the steel box to read our decrees with ambivalence or dismay or horror can't help but be affected. The very language of adoption as practiced in the U.S. shapes our sense of reality making some of us....Forever Children.

But it's my birthday, dammit which, ironically, falls at the beginning of National Adoption Month.

So, in honor of my special day, I'm making my own special contribution to National Adoption Month by protesting the language of adoption!

(This post does not apply to the millions of children in foster care in need of permanent homes and is intended to target infant adoptions, especially those placed during the closed era and those adopted by families intent on maintaining the fantasy that an adoptive family is no different than a biological one)


Blogger elizabeth said...

Excellent post.

My abandonment day is also this month.

6:06 PM  
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