Why Shouldn’t I Adopt?
by JS LEE
A few times a month, I’m approached by a stranger seeking my approval to adopt. They’ve seen me online talking about adoption and they want my blessing. Mind you, I don’t know anything about them or the situation of the theoretical child. Nonetheless, they implore they’d be one of the good ones and hope my approval will remove their guilt.
Having been adopted to covert narcissists, I’m a recovering People Pleaser. My heart wants to rush to comfort you before I’ve fully heard your request. And I understand the real emotional anguish of wanting a child and not being able. It’s tough for me to crush someone with my beliefs. Life is complicated and people tend to justify their actions and do what they want anyway. But since they’re asking for my opinion, I give them a version of what’s spelled out below.
They often say:
I want to save the children.
Despite what you might think, there aren’t many children who need to be saved and adoption’s not the best answer. Children need their mothers to receive financial and community support. Many will shell out tens of thousands to take in a child, but few want to help keep them with their mother. People will donate to adoption fundraisers because they believe you shouldn’t have to be rich to adopt, yet disconnect from the fact that if it were a viable option, most mothers would keep their children. We shame the poor and empathize with the middle class, while the child becomes severed from their roots.
Many pro-adoption sites declare in an effort to coax mothers to relinquish: There are up to 36 families waiting to adopt for every 1 child in the system. Adoption is rarely about saving the children. More often than not, adoption is an attempt to fulfill people’s desire to parent. Therefore, the children are set up to save the adults—which is an unhealthy dynamic. An uglier truth: this demand toppling the supply feeds into global child trafficking.
What if I adopt through the foster system?
As many former foster youth will tell you, the foster system isn’t meant to be a cheap and easy pathway to adoption. It’s meant to be a temporary reprieve while the family works to better their situation. Much like adoption, the foster system is classist, racist, and broken. It often removes children due to poverty and neglect, while paying strangers to provide for the kids. Imagine if their families received that money instead, without creating unnecessary displacement? They might afford to hire childcare while they work, put more food on the table, and keep the utilities running.
If you foster a child, it should be with the hope they’ll be reunited with their family sooner than later.
What about cases of neglect and abuse?
A sad truth: Not everyone able to procreate is capable of being a good parent. (And it should be said that not everyone able to adopt is capable of being a good parent, either.) The first best option would be to keep them with safe extended family. If that’s ruled out, same race legal guardianship would be the next best step.
Why is guardianship better than open adoption?
This enables them to retain their identity, culture, and keep their records in tact. There’s no revised name, birth certificate, or role to play.
What about sperm donors or surrogacy?
As of now, I’m not 100% against it, but have big caveats. Adults conceived this way have shared similar losses as adoptees. From what I understand, they want to know their roots, and the info they’re seeking is either locked or unknown. The only way that I believe it’s ethical is if the sperm or egg +/or womb donor is already close to the family and plans to stay in the child’s life. And of course, they should grow up aware of their situation because Late Discovery Adoptees have expressed how awful it is to have that rug pulled out from beneath you.
What if none of these options are good enough for me?
As I said above, most people will do what they want and find a way to justify their decision. But I strongly encourage you to take time to fully grieve your loss. Whether you’ve had miscarriages or illness or whatever your situation may be, I understand that it’s rough. I still struggle with my own loss. But the truth is, if you’re not willing to do what’s best for a child, maybe you’re not ready to parent. I know—it’s unfair. There are plenty of people who may seem less parentally fit than you sharing ultrasounds and baby pictures on the daily. It can sting. Reminders are everywhere. But your pain shouldn’t be the catalyst for a child’s displacement.
But I know adoptees who are glad they were adopted.
At this point, I’m doing all I can to refrain from grabbing the nearest object and stabbing myself in the eye. Adoptees who don’t tell non-adoptees what they want to hear always get this line.
Yes, it’s true. There are adoptees who are utterly thankful they were adopted. Some of them say they’ve never felt loss or pain. Some of them might even be telling the truth. Some might be so conditioned into parroting what they know they’re supposed to say because it’s easiest or they’re brainwashed or the truth is still too hard to bear. More often, it’s complicated. We can be grateful for our adoption and still suffer loss. We might know the truth about our relinquishment and feel adoption spared us—while still feeling like imposters, incomplete, or disconnected from our race. We probably aren’t going to tell you unless we already feel you’re completely safe. And the more we know and love you, the less safe you may feel.
Sometimes adoptions work out for the best but most times it’s impossible to know. It’s truly a gamble. People fail at parenting all the time but adoptees require more than your typical parenting. We’re already working with a baseline of trauma from family separation. Good adoptive parents have to go much farther towards understanding the psychological and sometimes cultural needs. They need to be open to discuss more difficult things than your average biological parent. They need to be less fragile with less ego—which tends to flare up when they read things like this.
After all I’ve written, are you thinking you’d make a great adoptive parent? Then why not decide to be a great temporary fosterer? Or why not mentor a local child, which works towards family preservation? Why not nurture someone in your community or extended family? The genuine answer to these questions might reveal important therapeutic considerations.
Parenting is a gift that many of us will never experience. Being deprived of it is a loss. Maybe you can empathize with adoptees through that loss, and find another avenue to pour the love you have to give. I know that my life isn’t over without kids but it’s different, and I’m working on making the most of what I have.
You must hate all adopters.
I don’t have blanket hatred for any group, including adopters. I know plenty who’ve adopted before they understood the system they were contributing to, or the ramifications it would have on their child. The worst thing to do is back out and rehome, causing additional trauma. However, in cases where the child was trafficked or taken by unethical means and their family wants them back, I do believe there’s a duty to make things right.
The best adopters admit to their failings and take steps to rectify. This can include getting more involved with people and events that normalizes the child’s people and culture. Sometimes this includes moving. As someone raised in racial isolation, I strongly believe it’s abusive to raise a child removed from others of their race. Having an in-law or two, or a few kids of color in their class, isn’t enough because they’re still the outsider and therefore subject to developing racial trauma and preference. Some adoptees of color have expressed they shouldn’t be the only person of their race in the family. I think that is fair.
I want to leave you with this: Oftentimes people spend more time and careful consideration purchasing cars and computers than they do before adopting. They pad their learnings with one-dimensional pro-adoption propaganda that reaffirms their decision. When making a big commitment, it’s wise to look at the full spectrum of experiences. Yet most adopters want to silence the voices of adoptees who don’t echo their preferred narrative. You may be surprised by the language they use, the labels and insults hurled. It’s obscene and honestly telling of who the system approves to adopt.
Committing to a non-biological child is a lifelong, multiple life impacting journey. We aren’t cars or computers to sell or trade in when we cease to perform to your expectations. We are humans with our own biological, cultural, and individual markings. We deserve to blossom and thrive organically. Your job as a caregiver isn’t to shape us but guide us towards authenticity. Therefore, adoption is not the best model, as it begins by changing our names, records, and disconnecting us from our roots. It forces us into a role we weren’t meant to play.
I’ll reiterate that this is my opinion. I encourage you to seek out as many adoptee perspectives as possible. Hear the voices of former foster youth and those with guardianship. Refrain from badgering those you personally know because it puts them in an awkward position. Go beyond your network. Social media is a great tool for this.
Search the hashtags: #NAAM #NAAM19 #NationalADOPTEEawarenessMonth #BeingAdoptedMeans #AdoptionTaughtMe.
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