Friday, November 20, 2009

Feeding the Beast

It's all over the 'net. The Evan B. Donaldson Institute (for the further glorification of adoption) has released a new study here.  It has even inspired ABC to go on the hunt for adopted people who feel they have experienced discrimination in order to craft more TV news. Here's the summary.

Authors: Hollee McGinnis, Susan Livingston Smith, Dr. Scott D. Ryan, and Dr. Jeanne A. Howard
Published: 2009 November. New York NY: Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute
Document Type: Research (112 pages)

This study, released in November, is the broadest, most extensive examination of adult adoptive identity to date, based on input from the primary experts on the subject: adults who were adopted as children.

The principal recommendations of the 112 page study include:

Expand parental preparation and post-placement support for those adopting across race and culture. Such preparation should include educating parents about the salience of race across the developmental course, instruction about racial identity development and the tasks inherent in such development, and assistance in understanding racial discrimination and how best to arm their children to combat the prejudice and stereotypes they will face. Preparation also should include the understanding that seeking services and supports is a positive part of parenting - i.e., it is a sign of strength, not failure.

Develop empirically based practices and resources to prepare transracially and transculturally adopted youth to cope with racial bias. This study, as well as previous research, indicates that perceived discrimination is linked with greater psychological distress, lower self-esteem, and more discomfort with one's race/ethnicity. Hence, it is essential to arm transracially adopted youth with ways to cope with discrimination in a manner that does not negatively impact their identity.

Promote laws, policies and practices that facilitate access to information for adopted individuals. For adopted individuals, gaining information about their origins is not just a matter of curiosity, but a matter of gaining the raw materials needed to fill in the missing pieces in their lives and derive an integrated sense of self. Both adoption professionals and the larger society need to recognize this basic human need and right, and to facilitate access to needed information for adopted individuals.

Educate parents, teacher, practitioners, the media and others about the realities of adoption to erase stigmas and stereotypes, minimize adoption-related discrimination, and provide children with more opportunities for positive development. Generations of secrecy, shame and stereotypes about adoption (and those it affects) have taken a toll, as the respondents in this research make clear. Just as discrimination based on color, gender, sexual orientation and religion - all components of people's identity - are broadly considered to be socially unacceptable, adoption-related discrimination also should be unacceptable. Professionals and parents also need to be better informed about the importance of providing diversity and appropriate role models.

Increase research on the risk and protective factors that shape the adjustment of adoptees, especially those adopted transracially/culturally in the U.S. or abroad. More longitudinal research that combines quantitative and qualitative methods is needed to better understand the process through which children, teens and young adults progress in confronting transracial adoption identity issues. Additional research is also needed on the identity journey experienced by in-race adoptees - and, pointedly, more of the studies of every kind need to include the perspective of adopted individuals themselves.
We must remember the last study, purportedly for the benefit of mothers, that came from that organization. Here and in the Barfmuggle study, EBDI admits that adoption is badly broken, causes trauma to both the mother and the adopted person and then goes on, blithely, to tell adopters, social workers and agencies how to "fix" things so that they can carry on with business as usual. It reminds me of Nancy Verrier's "The Primal Wound." Verrier, an adopter, rightly points out the pain that separation of infant from mother causes, yet still endorses adoption, thinks that adopter knowledge will fix the problems and then goes on to lay all the blame at the feet of the mothers. I see red every time I think about her urging mothers, especially those of us who were coerced through the system during the Era of Mass Surrender, to "apologize" to our adult children.
I have told my children that I am very sorry their family of origin did not give me the support I needed to make an unpressured decision to keep them, that I am sorry I was young and kept ignorant of the resources available to me and that I am sorry my constant prayers for their well being weren't enough to deter the damage done. But I WILL NOT apologize for something that was forced on me, against my will and desires and needs as a mother. "Nuff said about THAT one.
I have some advice for the EBDI and the industry who persist in thinking they can fix a totally wrecked train. Why not put your efforts and resources towards making sure that pertinent records, past and present, are made available to adoptees AND mothers and do what can be done to keep mother and child together? What a concept, huh?
Nah....I didn't think you would go for it. Ka-ching, ka-ching.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Questions, Mysteries, Quandries and Enigmas

We fight for recognition of the coerced surrenders of the BSE. We fight for opening the records from this time of secret closed adoptions. And while we all fight, wrangle, debate and seek our goals, reunions keep happening, searches continue and mothers and adult adoptees meet. While SMAAC is not about reunion or even adoption, but surrender, reunion has been a catalyst for the need to know, correct and resolve.

A mother in Canada asked, "But what are we supposed to mean to each other? In so many cases, parties meet and that's it. How can that be? How can healing take place? Has too much damage been done? How do we fit into each other's lives?" What many think will be the end of the quest and the answers to the questions is often just the beginning of a deeper search. My daughter once said that she thought everything would come about in the right way once the circle was closed. Instead, we were greeted with a different set of problematical queries.

The phenomenon of reunion has become a springboard for a lot of different activist groups, but reunion, in and of itself, is still scary, new, uncharted territory. I have been in reunion with both of my adult, surrendered children for 16 years and we are still feeling our way. We do a strange dance, we mothers and our grown offspring and, often, it is a jitterbug and the dance floor is a minefield.

What should be as natural as breathing, the primal relationship between mother and child, is an awkward, painful attempt to put together a puzzle with broken pieces. The very abnormal nature of separation of the mother/child dyad and the attempt to craft the "as if born to" relationship has usually done so much damage to both ends that only years of work and communication can bring even a bit of peace to this scene. And, it seems more and more evident that the ones in power that could help us don't want to hear us.

It is obvious that agencies, social workers, adopters, fosterers and social engineers want to steer the ship of resolution and reform out of the sight of society. These people are content with the pretty myth that is adoption, American style. It suits their needs and purposes. To recognize the pain of the mothers and adoptees would be to admit to mistaken notions about the importance of the blood bond and the rights of small families to exist and be accepted by society. No one wants to admit that they were wrong and no one who adopts wants to think that they might be causing pain to another mother and the child they adopt.

But, we have, now, thousands of reunions and the stories of those reunions should be collected and read by everyone in the adoption industry and everyone contemplating adopting. The evidence is there. It is irrefutable that a social experiment has failed yet it is pushed by politicians, media and celebrities as the best thing since sliced bread.

Meanwhile, we live the experience, ask the hard questions and dance through the reunion mine field. I wonder if we will ever have the answers?

Monday, November 09, 2009

Sometimes, Life Gets In The Way

My DH and I are planning a Christmas getaway to this lovely cabin (with hot tub and working fireplace) in the mountains of West Virginia. We have placed a deposit, paid the pet fee and reserved a motel for the road trip up there. Then life got in the way.

My hubby has developed a serious condition with his spine...serious enough for his GP to send him to a neurosurgeon after viewing his MRI films. We see the neuro tomorrow AM. Meanwhile, hubby is on two Tylox (oxycodone) every 6 to 8 hours and is still in extreme pain. A chiropractor won't touch him. To say I am worried sick is an understatement. My oldest daughter is also unwell and needing attention.

My friend, Bastardette, has had a lot of health problems, lately, but has managed to keep her blog going. I feel guilty. I visited with another mother of adoption loss this past Friday out at the coast. In addition to reunion quandries, her health is not the best so her focus is diverted. Another friend, Musing Mother, has a hubby and  adult children with ongoing health issues. As we Moms and our adult children age, these problems become more frequent and sap our time and energies.

For all the nay-sayers who think that all we do is gripe about adoption loss, surrender, open records, laws, etc., 24/7, this should remind them that we do have other things going on in our lives. As senior citizens, and I think that at age 64 (me) and 70 (hubby), we qualify, these life issues tend to take center stage. We are doing the best we can, before we die, to get some kind of recognition of the massive crime against single mothers in the EMS (era of mass surrenders) and, hopefully, cause people to look at the way adoption surrender is affected in the here and now. But life is what it is, and arthritis, hypertension, and all the other garbage that comes with getting older seems to take over more and more of our lives.

Also with age comes loss. In this past year, I have lost my mother-in-law, my last remaining uncle and two friends. Another friend has just been diagnosed with end-stage colon cancer. Saying goodbye is hard work and emotionally draining.

We want to speak loudly enough to be heard, even if we are called strident. We want to keep the impetus going and the debate raging (not here on this blog because this is for US, not the other side), we want people to ask us about our Strange and Mournful ribbons, we want people to begin questioning the entire institution/industry that has caused us so much pain.

We want to do all that, but, sometimes, life gets in the way.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Motherhood Deleted: Time to Honor and Remember

Motherhood Deleted: Time to Honor and Remember

Time to Honor and Remember

Today is  National Strange and Mournful Day, an observance that began in response to the designation of November as National Adoption Awareness Month. We mothers wear our ribbons all month and tell anyone who asks what they mean.

I came up with the name because certain lyrics from Paul Simon's "Mother and Child Reunion" resonated, so deeply, with me. Today and all through the coming month, Mothers of adoption loss will be wearing our ribbon badges of black for mourning, red for anger and passion for our cause and white for hope and healing. Some of us will adorn our ribbons with the birthstones of our children that were taken for adoption. I have a diamond and a pearl for my ribbon....April and June are the months in which I gave birth to, and was forced to surrender, my two oldest children. I find it appropriate that it falls on a Sunday, this year.

While we refer to the lyrics of Simon's wonderful tune, this observance is not about reunion, but about the devastating effects of loss to adoption on the mother. I have high-lighted the pertinent lyrics in red and boldface.


music and lyrics by Paul Simon

No I would not give you false hope, On this strange and mournful day,

But the mother and child reu-nion, Is only a motion away,

Oh, little darling of mine, I can't for the life of me,

Remember a sadder day. I know they say let it be,

But it just don't work out that way. And the course of a lifetime runs,

Over and over again.

No I would not give you false hope,On this strange and mournful day,

But the mother and child reu-nion, Is only a motion away,

Oh, little darling of mine. I just cant believe it's so,

And though it seems strange to say, I've never been laid so low,

In such a mysterious way, And the course of a lifetime runs,

Over and over again.

But I would not give you false hope, On this strange and mournful day,

When the mother and child reu-nion,

Is only a motion away.

While most of the support groups online for Mothers of adoption loss tend to deal with the ups and downs of reunion (and God/dess knows, it is a rough ride), SMAAC is focused on the pain and injustice of our ordeal leading up to and including the "Strange and Mournful Day" when we realized our babies were lost to us.

So today and through the coming week, as we approach the last day of what we now call "Adoption BEwareness Month," we honor ourselves and remember the injustice of the EMS/BSE and renew our determination to be an active and vocal part of bringing justice to the mothers.

And to my daughter and my son that were lost to me in those dark days, always know that I loved you and losing you was not my choice or my wish. Some day, some how, some one is going to have to make restitution for what was lost to us. Not in dollars, but in acknowledgement, atonement and public awareness of the pain, the dark underbelly of the adoption myth.

Happy Strange and Mournful Day, Sisters. I'll be wearing my ribbon every time I leave the house until this heinous month is behind us.