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“So, I tell people that it sucks that my son’s first mother doesn’t get to be a part of his life. I hate what happened to him. It’s no blessing and no higher power’s will that he had to come halfway across the world to find stability, consistency, and love.  It’s heartbreaking.”: My Conversation With Dan and Lindsay Engel, Adoptive Parents

I HEART Dan and Lindsay, two very dear friends whom I’ve known since we were wee little kids at Gustavus Adolphus College.  They are featured here today because Dan and Lindsay represent the best type of adoptive parents – parents who are willing to engage “the tough stuff” said by adoptees.  We could all learn a thing or two from them.

Enjoy.

Owen, Dan, Carson, Lindsay, and Beckett

Land of Gazillion Adoptees: Would you mind sharing why you decided to go through the adoption process?

Lindsay:  I see things like this.  The world is incredibly over-populated.  Thousands of kids around the world need safe, loving homes.  I want a big, crazy family.  I can’t, in good human and earthly steward conscience, make a bunch of brand new babies with all those kids waiting.  Dan and I  have created two boys, adopted one, and hope to adopt at least one more child in the future.

Dan: No, not at all.  I was raised in a family with very conservative values, but I learned a very liberal definition of the word “family.”  Even at a young age, I came to see that a definition of “family” as “those linked by marriage vows and shared genetic code” was socially exclusive and incongruent with reality.  As I grew older, I recognized that there were (and are) a significant number of children that need families.  While dating in college, Lindsay and I discussed adoption, discovering that we had each given serious consideration to it.  A few years later, after Owen was born, we started the adoption process.  We felt that we could offer a healthy and supportive family, and we wanted to share what we had.

Land of Gazillion Adoptees: You’ve been a part of the adoption community for some time now as an adoptive family.  What has surprised you the most?

Lindsay: People’s attitudes and reactions to our story, as well as the assumptions people make before they know us, continue to surprise me.  We’re not a typical, cookie cutter family and it seems to draw attention.  I actually like it when people ask questions; I prefer the open, honest inquiries to the stares and whispers.  That way, when someone says, “Are all your kids from the same dad?” I can (once I manage the pick my jaw up off the floor from such a blatant, personal question) take that opportunity to set that person straight.  And if someone says, “Isn’t it expensive to adopt?” I can have an interesting discussion about the adoption industry.

Now, I want to clarify that I’m not one of those AP’s who, in said discussions, tells everyone that adoption is “such a blessing” and “God’s will” and all that (which is one attitude toward adoption that continues to surprise me!).  I openly tell people that I think it sucks that such an industry has to exist.  Babies should stay with their natural mothers.  If those natural mothers are not capable, for whatever reason, of caring for those children, extended family members should step up and help that momma out.  But that’s not the world we live in.  We live in a messed up world where thousands of kids are growing up without stability, consistency, or love.  And that’s not okay.  So, I tell people that it sucks that my son’s first mother doesn’t get to be a part of his life.  I hate what happened to him.  It’s no blessing and no higher power’s will that he had to come halfway across the world to find stability, consistency, and love.  It’s heartbreaking.

Dan: I was surprised at how hard it is to be a part of the adoption community while living up north.  I knew that we’d be at a disadvantage with respect to Korean cultural experiences, but I think I overestimated the power of the internet.  (And I thought for SURE that even Duluth would have a Korean restaurant…)

I’m also surprised at how many people say, “I didn’t know Carson was adopted.  I thought you were Korean!”  Really?

Land of Gazillion Adoptees: (You’re not Korean, Dan..?  What?!)  As parents of a son adopted from Korea, what did you think about the country’s recent adoption legislation?

Lindsay: I love that people in power in South Korea are finally listening to adoptees and birthmothers instead of just those who stand to profit financially from the process.  I am hoping the days of the frustrating, fruitless searches for birthparents are over and that by the time my son seeks answers to his heritage, his history will be an open book to him.  I am also glad to see some victories for women’s rights.  The first option in every country should be to keep families together who want to be together.  Adoption is, unfortunately, a necessary process for some kids, but a woman should never be pressured to relinquish a child she wants to raise.  It needs to be a woman’s choice (cases of child endangerment and abuse are, of course, another whole story).  It truly makes me sick to think of the birthmothers who didn’t have that choice, who probably weren’t granted the decency to weigh their options and circumstances and make educated, independent decisions.  They were most likely told what to do and obeyed.  Having gone through both childbirth and the adoption process, it tears me up inside to think of a woman having a child taken from her (legally!) against her will.  I will always support the rights of a woman over the adoption industry.

Dan: I haven’t kept up with all the details and ramifications of the legislation.  So, about the only thing I would feel comfortable commenting on is the purpose of the legislation.  As I perceive it, this legislation is meant to:

  1. Grant specific rights to adoptees performing birth record searches;
  2. Mandate more comprehensive counseling/education for birthmothers who are considering adoption plans;
  3. Preserve Korean identity/family/culture by prioritizing domestic adoptions ahead of international adoptions.

Objective #1:  I support it.  I think that adoptees should be able to access consistent and accurate public records about their family history and location, especially for medical searches where close genetic matches are necessary.  I admit that I’m a biased advocate for my son, but I can’t think of a reason that he should be denied information regarding his family.  As far as adoptees using the database to meet birth families, I think that’s a good thing as well.  Family searches do not always result in welcoming reunions or fantastic new relationships (I’ve seen this first-hand), but I think that the bureaucratic obstruction of truth would be harder to endure.

Objective #2:  I absolutely support it.  I can’t think of any reason not to empower an expectant mother.

Objective #3:  International adoptees suffer the traumatic loss of both family and culture.  All else being equal, I think that giving priority to domestic adoptions (for the purpose of preserving the cultural identity of adoptees) is a good thing.  And if extended families are able to care for adoptees, then family identity may be preserved as well.  I hope that the evolving Korean culture will go for a broader definition of family, and embrace domestic adoption and adoptees.

Land of Gazillion Adoptees: Thanks for the conversation, Dan and Lindsay, and thanks for being willing to engage in conversations like this here at LGA and beyond.

3 Comments on “So, I tell people that it sucks that my son’s first mother doesn’t get to be a part of his life. I hate what happened to him. It’s no blessing and no higher power’s will that he had to come halfway across the world to find stability, consistency, and love.  It’s heartbreaking.”: My Conversation With Dan and Lindsay Engel, Adoptive Parents

  1. I gave a good deal of thought to whether or not to respond to this interview as my adoptive parents were, similar to Don and Lindsay, well intentioned and socially minded individuals. Still, a piece of the puzzle that seems to be left out of most of the ‘adoption discourse’ may a core issue that, because it is so large and glaringly apparent, remains entirely ignored – that piece would be the structural nature of the problems underlying the perceived need for the adoption ‘industry’.

    To avoid littering up this blog, I present a few bullet-points that I believe embody concepts lying at the root of the ‘problem’.

    First. Any ‘problem’ that exists would best be corrected by social equity – this is a Huge undertaking that does Not encompass the typical American view of “equality” which is a metonym that helps to “keep the peace” while covering up clearly disparate lives and lifestyles having historic roots in decidedly unequal socio-economic-political status.

    Second. Adoption is not, notwithstanding any stated intent, “for the children”. The motivation to adopt is internal to the adults involved, and very likely prompts action to assuage their psycho-emotive angst.

    Third. The Americanized version of Judeo-Christian concept of family as embodied in a ‘nuclear family’ without much extension and an unstated, yet deeply held conviction that ‘children’ are the ‘property’ of parents limits ‘parenting activity’ to the children-as-property that belong to a man-and-wife dyad.

    Fourth. The top-down authority structure of ‘the law’ as regulating familial affairs (including the use of ‘money’ through gift, devolution, transfer and use during one’s lifetime) is coupled with a mistaken belief that an issue the law created by can effectively be corrected or remediated by it.

    Fifth. Importation into the U.S.A. of ‘others’ as adoptees due to an apparent hegemonic belief that Americans have ‘the answer’.

    “Save” one or more if you are able. The ‘problem’, however, will continue to live on barring efforts at the “equitization” of all peoples.

    • Brent, you are on fire! Thanks for responding to this post; your points are definitely worth a further exploration. Good thing you’re interview is going up tomorrow! I’m looking forward to sharing it.

  2. It is premature, and I say this as a liberal, to speak of “expanding the definition of family” to include genetic strangers not married into your family when we have not yet re-expanded our definition of family to include the extended family and when people feel free to dismiss their children or their grandchildren from being considered “family” merely because of an accident of birth/parentage/genetics.

    We do not need to make people “family” who are not already family and who we cannot or do not wish to marry. There is nothing wrong with just seeing these people as friends. Everything in its place. If words don’t have specific meanings, language is pointless.

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