When my book was published a Beverly Hills based writer-friend, who also happens to be an adoptee with famous adoptive parents, offered to do a favor for me. Namely allow her publicist to stir up Hollywood celebrity adoptive parent publicity to pair with my memoir Pushing up the Sky. But I declined her offer.
What was the promotion that I decided not to embark on which promised to land my book a mention, which I was assured would result in an Amazon.com sales rank number lower than Jack Nicklaus golf score?
The plan was simple. All I would need to do was autograph a book for a famous adoptive mother. But there was a catch. We wouldn’t wait until she read my book, and got back to me.
Towards the end of her article, Terra points out, “We [adoptive mothers] accept the need to put extra effort into adoption mothering.” I do not doubt that Terra has recognized and accepted this need for extra effort in adoptive parenting, but I am skeptical (cynical?) that this statement can be applied to a majority of adoptive parents. Over and over, I meet adoptive parents who look like deer in the headlights when you talk about grief, loss, race, birth family, language, etc. Similarly, I often meet adoptees who react the same. It is as if no one has ever introduced these concepts as a part of their adoption experience. Clearly, there is something lacking in the adoption process if one of its notable effects is creating abnormally judgmental mothers and a concept like loss seems foreign.
Adoption agencies, I say the responsibility rests on your shoulders to create truly informed and critically thinking parents. If adoptive parents of an Ethiopian boy look truly surprised when the significance of race is mentioned to them, I consider this deplorable situation the fault of your agency’s values, policies, training, and staff. I also consider it reckless and unjust to the children who’s best interests you are supposed to be accounting for.
Parents, I say commit to putting the “extra effort” into your adoptive family. It is not your child’s responsibility to figure out what it means to be abandoned, what it means to be unclear about fundamental truths in your life (birth date, age, etc), what it means to be sad for something you barely remember or to figure out race in America. Yes, these are all things your child may experience because they are adopted, but it is up to you to help your child understand and process these powerful emotions because you are the parent.
Adult adoptees, if your agency failed you and your parents couldn’t it figure out (however good their intentions), I say find your people. And, find your voice. We are led to believe that what agencies, our parents and other people who are not even adopted say about our experience is “right” or “true” because of their privilege (as adults, as white people, as parents, as professionals). If agencies can’t help our parents become educated and critical thinkers about the adoption experience and our parent can’t help us, then I guess that job falls to adoptees to learn about the system, industry and experiences in adoption. It’s a tough job, sure. But, until agencies can step-up on their end, we’ll have to put in a little “extra effort”.