Monday, July 15, 2013

Round Table: A Successful Adoption?

In today's Round Table we tackle a question that was recently put to some of us on twitter: "How would define a successful adoption?" 

Julie J: Some thoughts on that:
* "Success" should only be defined by the adoptee. It's not for anyone else to determine or speculate on that, not the adoption workers, not the government, not the adoptive parents, the neighbors, or anyone else.
* No lies or secrecy!! All questions always answered honestly and completely.
* No forged documents!
* And as always, my favorite response to what is an adoption success story -- it's the one that never had to happen in the first place.

Oh, and I think it takes the perspective of time to fully evaluate the totality of their experience. More adoptees have a clearer picture of this as adults than they did as children, as it does evolve over time.

This is an evaluation of adoption, not an evaluation of adoptive parents. Many can't separate those ideas, and so they take it personally. You can love your adoptive parents and not love adoption itself.

Karen PickellJulie J., your thoughts are very similar to mine. For me, criteria of a successful adoption include: 1) The child needed a family situation because there were very concrete reasons why her biological family could not raise her. I do not consider the biological parents' ages or economic status as concrete reasons. 2) No secrets or lies by any party. 3) The child's relationship with her biological family is maintained as much as possible. 4) The adoptive parents act as additional family to the child rather than replacement of her biological family. 5) No party is made to feel guilty or ashamed for the honest expression of feelings. 6) The child keeps her original birth certificate; no amended birth certificate is issued.

Michelle: I appreciate what Julie J said here: "...I think it takes the perspective of time to fully evaluate the totality of their experience. More adoptees have a clearer picture of this as adults than they did as children, as it does evolve over time."

I agree completely. So often I see adoption agencies and orphan care organizations exploiting young adoptees by using their comments promote organizations agendas. It infuriates me.

Julie J: If one were to ask prospective adoptive parents or adoptive parents what makes a successful adoption, they might consider in their answer aspects such as how short of a wait they had before the child was placed in their home, how much travel was required of them, total expenses, the age of the child at placement, availability of a child of a particular race, closed versus open, relationships with the child's natural family, whether or not the child adoptee has ever expressed to them any dissatisfaction concerning their adoption, and how the adoptee conforms to their new family and to their personal expectations of how the child should be bonding to them.

Ask a representative from the adoption industry about their successful adoption rates, to them it might look like total numbers of children placed into any home; or high numbers of expectant mothers following through with relinquishing; or low numbers of adoption disruptions, dissolutions; or fewer requests for follow up services from adoptive parents, natural mothers, and adoptees; or income generated for their business.

It almost goes without saying that casual acquaintances or distant relatives are not qualified to speak on behalf of adoptees and their adoption experience.

The adoptee, being the true client of adoption, is the only voice that should be focused on when looking for ways to measure and/or improve adoption. All of the other parties will express distorted views of what adoption success really means.

Julie Stromberg: I am
going to get a bit provocative here. As long as the adoption process involves the falsifying and sealing of birth certificates, it is my feeling that there will never be truly successful adoptions. In order for me to even consider an adoption to be remotely successful, it would have be one that legally respects the adoptee as an individual human being and party to his or her own adoption. As it stands right now, we are forced to legally pretend that we are the biological offspring of our adoptive parents. And we do not even have a legal right to know that we are adopted. There is no indication on our falsified birth certificates that an adoption even took place.

As an adopted person, I would say that both the adoption industry and state government of Connecticut have failed me as my adoption is based on loss and lies. Is my adoption successful? As long as I am forced to live a legal lie, the answer is no. Putting an end to the falsifying and sealing of birth certificates and making sure that adoptees have the basic legal right to know they were adopted would be two smart steps toward making the system more successful.

Julie J: Totally agree w/every word of that, Julie!

Karen Pickell: Amen, Julie.

Amanda: Adoption needs to move forward in acknowledging the need and right of adopted and fostered youth and adults to access as much of their origins as possible. Adoption will always need to evolve and change to meet ethical standards and the needs of families and children. In that context, I think of a successful adoption as being one that provides permanency, nurture, love, and family to a child that needed those things.

Julie Stromberg: I totally agree Amanda. What I struggle with, however, is the fact that society-at-large seems to believe that adoption, as an industry, already does provide those things to adoptees. The actual rights and needs of adopted and fostered youth and adults do not seem to be factored in to the current definition of a successful adoption. Which is why I opt to question if any adoption is successful under the current system.

An adoptee can have the greatest adoptive parents on the planet. And society would take this to mean that the adoption was successful and that would be that. It is entirely possible for an adoptee to 1) have great adoptive parents; 2) a legally-recognized unaltered birth certificate; and 3) the legal right to know he or she was adopted without having to rely solely on the adoptive parents. This would be a much more respectful and successful way of achieving the goal of ensuring that children receive permanency, nurturing and love in a respectful way.

Julie J: Discussing how "successful adoptions" should be defined has me pondering a related question of what is means to "educate others about adoption." We hear and read so much about how educating others is needed. To us adoptees, it's more along the lines of what Amanda, Julie, and Karen are saying. To agencies and to adoptive parents, "educating" means something else, and at times the opposite, of what we mean. (For example -- positive adoption language (PAL) versus honest adoption language (HAL ), or deciding whether more or less adoptions would be ideal, the lists go on and on.) Each side believing others are ignorant and need to be "educated" on adoption. That's why we don't make much progress as a society to solving these problems for children, because different groups define the problems and the "successful" solutions to them differently, according to their own wants/needs.

Von: A successful adoption is one which is ethical, no money changes hands and it is done for a child who cannot be safely raised by his/her biological parents and needs a family. It provides skilled adoptive parenting which takes account of loss, ambiguous loss, grieving, trauma and is built on truth and honesty, giving the adoptee all information about his/her birth, etc.

Deanna Shrodes: I agree with all that has been said here. Adoption only when there is absolutely no option of a child staying with their original family. The option of kinship adoption should be fully explored first before the child can be adopted by others outside the original family. Absolutely no secrets or falsifying of documents. No changing of the Original Birth Certificates. Access to history and maintaining ties to original family as much as possible. Money is not a factor either way (in deciding whether a child should be placed, or for adoptive parents to have to pay). Mandatory counseling for the adoptee (whether adoptive parents think they are adjusted or not). Parents are fully educated prior to adoption about significant loss, grief and trauma. If parents are adopting due to infertility they will have already gone through counseling to resolve their grief before adopting. There is no expectation on the child to provide anything for them. There is an understanding that adoption is about meeting the needs of the child -- period.

Julie Stromberg: Julie J., you bring up such an important point. The definition of "success" in adoption has long been defined by an industry that benefits financially from the current system. To the adoption industry, a successful adoption is one in which the adoptive parents pay the fees and receive a child. Once the deal is done, the industry moves on to the next one with no concern for the parties involved. This is made quite clear by the fact that there is little to no post-adoption support offered.

As adult adoptees who have actually lived adoption all, or most, of our lives, we are in the best position to offer recommendations on how adoption practices could offer more successful results. And yet, society still opts to take the word of an industry that benefits financially from each "successful" placement. It is my hope that by presenting discussions such as this one, we can create an opportunity for society to consider the thoughts of those who actually know what it is like to have been adopted through the current system.

Lynn Grubb: A successful adoption can occur only in a home that values transparency, honesty, healthy boundaries and respect for the adopted child's genealogical history and feelings about birth family. The parents must be mature in the sense that they understand that they are responsible to do whatever they need to do for their child. They are responsible to meet the child's needs, not the other way around. If the child is acting out, get the child help. If you are disappointed the child is not a carbon copy of you, get help for yourself. If the adoptive parents can put themselves in the shoes of the adoptee and be supportive of them in all ways (I love when adoptive parents show up at the Adoptee Rights Demonstration), that is a successful adoption. Supportive can include being open to information, contact and stories about birth family. If you feel threatened by your child's birth family, differences, strengths and/or weaknesses, that is a problem within yourself (not the child) so seek help from a therapist. As a kinship adoptive parent, I still have my work cut out for me; however, having already lived adoption, I can give to my daughter that which was not given to me -- a safe place to express sad feelings about being abandoned by a mother and a father, and a safe place to be ecstatically happy in other moments. I will make mistakes and I will do something different than my own parents: I will actually admit to them and try and do better.