Sunday, April 22, 2007

The Matching Game

"During much of the twentieth century, matching was the philosophy that governed non-relative adoption. It's goal was to make families socially that would "match" families made naturally.... What this meant in practice was that physical resemblance, intellectual similarity, and racial and religious continuity between parents and children were preferred goals in adoptive families. Matching was the technique that could inject naturalness and realness into a family form stigmatized as artificial and less real than the "real thing." Matching stood for safety and security. Difference spelled trouble." (source: The Adoption History Project: www.darkwing.uoregon.edu)

The irony? Measured by the standards of matching, called "optimistic, arrogant and historically novel" by the Adoption History Project, the social worker who matched me to my adoptive parents did a damn good job.

Amazing, really.

Not that matching is a good thing from the adoptee's perspective.

It all depends.

There's often this notion that adoptive couples have more education, more money, better parenting skills and, because they're usually older, will have more time and attention to give the child.

Not always. At least, not back in the heydey of Closed Adoption when there were as many or slightly more babies than couples wanting to adopt.

Also, if you were born to an undereducated, slightly troubled, low income Mexican-American woman, your chances of trading up to a better life was nixed from the beginning. You got as good as you were destined to get.

In other words, the social worker employed by the L.A. County Bureau of Adoptions who had my entire future in her hands picked at least one adoptive parent almost exactly like my first mother. Really, the similarities are shocking.

The more I learn about my still poor mother, the more I realize that in many ways, she's just a female version of my self-absorbed adoptive father, just not as bad. Both were abused and neglected as children. Both have narcissistic wounds big enough to swallow their children whole. Both have exactly the same level of education: half of tenth grade, and that's stretching it. Both like to talk. Nonstop. Indiscriminately. "Loquacious," is the term the social worker used to describe my mother in my non-identifying packet. Both a-father and mother have entered old age not much wiser than they were at thirty seven...the age of both at the time of my birth.

Well, there's nothing I can do about THAT.

But are there lessons to be learned from that nasty little experiment called Matching that we can apply to today's adoptions?

Money - and lots of it - seems to play such a big part of current practices, especially as it requires trips around the world looking for babies, that the concern of a highly desirable commodity such as a healthy infant being placed in a low income home with limited opportunities is pretty much eliminated. Hopefully.

With today's low supply and high demand, we can hope that any baby available for parental substitution can expect far, far better adoptive parent material. God, I hope so. I mean, the kind of parents you get is a really big deal. (Recently, I read about a Japanese-American adoptee from my old neighborhood and she adored her a-parents, still does, and still enjoys a loving relationship with them. Her questions about her background were always treated openly and with respect.)

But with so much money and, presumably, the education to go along with it, does it mean that these more highly qualified adoptive parent candidates are adequately screened? Will money and education mean they will be more empathetic, more psychologically healthy? Are they better able to understand the loss and issues the baby-child-teenager-young adult-adult will face over time? It seems that the information they want and receive is limited to the "positive" stories of happy adoptees who express their gratitude, not their ambivalence or misgivings.

Without little regulation, without controls, who's watching out for the best interests of today's adopted child, mostly likely flown in from another country?

What's changed - it strikes me - is that many adopted babies are no longer "placed," they are "got" and the babies being obtained are just as subject to the Ultimate Crapshoot except, this time, the all-powerful social worker is played by a lawyer, a "facilitator" and sometimes, those involved with charity/church maternity homes. The adoption "middleman" may be a different sort of beast, but he/she still exists and their power over the lives of the current batch of adoptees is still as huge and powerful as it ever was.

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13 Comments:

Anonymous Mom2One/Judy said...

adequately screened?

I think that depends on the social worker who's doing the home study. We had a pretty intense home study. Others may not be so intense. I don't really know, but obviously some people who shouldn't adopt still fall through the cracks.

As far as it being a crapshoot -- well, yeah, it is. It's worked out extremely well for us and for many people I know. I think the key here is to not expect your child to be any one way or try to mold him/her any way. Of course, that should have been the case before too, when children were placed. But yes, in all honesty, it is a crapshoot, particularly international adoption.

6:44 PM  
Blogger Nina said...

Judy....The home study depends on the agency...perhaps the more reputable, the more selective and careful the social worker? Do you know if there is governmental oversight of these private agencies? This is an area I've been meaning to look into because I'm curious. Also, if you're willing, did your social worker recommend books on adoption related issues or did you begin to do the research on your own?

10:14 AM  
Anonymous Mom2One/Judy said...

Oh gosh, I don't know if there's governmental oversight, but I've never heard of any. I think that's one of the main problems with adoption in this country as a whole, if I'm not mistaken -- no oversight, unethical practices can run amok. And to my recollection, our social worker didn't recommend any books on adoption related issues. It's an occupational hazard for me, as a librarian. ;) Which is a good thing.

12:03 PM  
Blogger LeRoy Dissing said...

Nina...yes any reputatable adoption agency will be a licensed child welfare agency for placing children. They are licensed by the state department of health & family services. They are subject to annual review of their practice as well as needing to have a complaint procedure in place and fuctional. Most complaints can be appealed to the state if not resolved at the agency level. If a licensed child welfare agency does not practice up to code, their license to practice can be revoked or suspended. This means they could not license foster homes for placement of children as well then.

I agree that the oversight could be more proactive than reactive. Usually it is complaints that generate an investigation into an agency. I would not use an agency that was not licensed and even then, I would check with the state to find out if there were any complaints filed against it. They must disclose the number and nature of the complaints as it is public record.

International adoptions are probably the worse kind - hate to say it! When it comes to regulation and followup, its all on the adoptive parents. All they need is for a licensed child welfare adotpion agency to do a study recommending them. The adoption is done in the other country so no foster home license is needed nor supervision once they get back to the states because the child has already been legally adopted. I feel for the adoptive parents and the adoptees when it comes to international adoptions. Their plates are very loaded...

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