November is Adoption Awareness Month and I sometimes wonder if mainstream America really wants to know the truth, the whole truth or the facts surrounding adoption. Or can we even handle the truth? It is truly hard to believe that the ones who have been speaking out for the Adoption Awareness Campaign over the last few decades have been adoptive parents and non-adoptive colleagues (counselors, educators or adoption officials), leaving out two very important voices; adoptees and birth parents. Without the latter two, there would be no such thing as adoption.
We should ask ourselves, how can we truly bring awareness to the topic and authentic nature surrounding adoption when we leave out two of the three voices in adoption?
What does adoption awareness mean to us?
First, we must understand the word awareness.
AWARENESS; knowledge or perception of a situation or fact
If we look at most other awareness campaigns (example: Suicide Awareness, Cancer Awareness, and Disability Awareness) we are provided with an array of scenarios. We are given real life accounts of those experiencing such afflictions. We are provided with the positive and negative effects, the miraculous recovery cases and the ones whose life ended because of the disease. We learn about treatments and survival rates, determination and discrimination. We learn about prevention and even about failures and misdiagnoses. We hear from doctors, nurses, parents, siblings and extended family members each sharing their experiences. But most often, most often…we hear from the person who experienced the condition first hand. That is awareness.
Adoption is multi-dimensional. Many people not directly impacted by adoption view adoption from one side.
Example: While at work recently, my supervisor was standing in between my cube and my co-worker’s cube. I heard him talking about someone who was hoping to adopt. He said that she (I don’t remember how he referred to “her”- the woman/mother giving birth) was at the hospital about to give birth. Then he made some off handed comment about her signing papers. He spoke about this event as if he was talking about his kids’ sport games or school activities. He had no concern or care for the mother who conceived and was about to give birth to her baby. It didn’t matter to him. His focus was on the couple who wanted that baby.
My supervisor does not know my personal experience with adoption. And I have no intention of telling him. But I was surprised at how this conversation immobilized me. I was unable to focus on my work. I was emotionally transported back to that very moment in my life when I was faced with the most demoralizing time in my life. I felt deep compassion for the woman in the hospital and wondered if she had any idea what her future will be like if she chose to relinquish her parental rights. I wondered if anyone had explained to her the possible side effects associated with relinquishment?
For me, since that time, I have become more distrustful of people. I have a much harder time making friends and maintaining healthy relationships. I have become claustrophobic and I have panic attacks. I am not the same person I was before I chose relinquishment. A part of me died on that day. I not only mourn the ability to parent my child, but also for that part of me that was lost. I lost a piece of my innocence that day. A piece that was pure and good.
My social status changed in that one instance. I lost credibility and a level of respect as a woman and a mother. And in return, I lost faith in humanity. It’s a catch 22.
This is why we need adoption awareness and why we need to look at all sides of adoption to get a clear picture of the true nature surrounding adoption. It’s like surgery or drugs. By law, doctors, surgeons and pharmacist have to give all the different scenarios, the negative or worse case outcomes or side effects (it could cause this or that) even if the percentage is less than one percent.
It seems somewhere in our past, some believed Adoption Awareness was about highlighting and promoting adoption. Adoption Awareness was used to parade orphans in need of a home. The supporters and promoters believed that once the adoption was complete, the problem was solved. Child needs home. Child finds home. End of story. All is good.
I am not entirely against using media outlets to find homes for orphans. If we have children that need homes than we need to use all means possible to find them secure homes; but when we use all our focus on this one facet surrounding adoption that is a problem because we fail to recognize all the other factors (loss, grief and trauma) surrounding adoption, the causes that create this epidemic, and the long term effects.
Without the voices of the adoptee and the birthparent(s) we continue to have assumptions and negative stereotypes. We continue to enable the pattern of the cycle which causes mothers and children to be separated. We continue to ignore the impact on our children, our families and to a greater extent, our society. Without these voices, we ignore the least and vulnerable and enable others to extort and manipulate them in the name of love.