Shared Fate: A Theory of Adoption and Mental Health, 1964 was a ground breaking book. David Kirk helped society to shift away from viewing adoption as a secretive and slightly shameful way of growing a family into seeing it as a social construct created out of a shared need for family. Kirk acknowledged that adoptive families had differences from genetic families and that it was to everyone's benefit to acknowledge and embrace the differences. And, that book has pretty much been how adoption has been presented ever since.
Well, times....and adoption..have marched on and now, the adoptive parents and the adoptees have more of a parallel fate than a shared fate. Today, most children are adopted at a much older age, and might well have lived with their genetic parents for years, or at least long enough to have substantial memories - both good and fearsome. They may have had access visits with the genetic parents up to the adoption placement or long after through Facebook or more formal arrangements. They may have had many moms and dads while they lived with one set of foster parents after another....with some of whom they established bonds and others whose names they never even knew. They may have ongoing contact with genetic family members who continuously remind them who the *real* parents are and basically teach the children to believe they are living in exile ( I got that magnificent phrase from an adoption expert in Toronto).
Yet, somehow, there remains an expectation that the adoptive parents will step in and (as long as they take the right attachment training) will be fully accepted as the forever parents.
Not quite that easy, eh.
True enough, most adoptive parents do love their children as fully and completely as if they were born to them. Humans have DNA programming to protect and care for the young (well, most of us do) so it's not that difficult for us to see ourselves as the parents of a child who was born to another. However, that doesn't always work the same way for the children, and it has nothing to do with attachment or bonding. It has to do with a complex combination of factors including brain differences from early neglect and abuse, from fasd, from too many caregivers, and from many conditions that don't get diagnosed before adulthood, as well as from ongoing or intervening contact with genetic family.
Before you get too mad at me, I want to be clear that I'm not suggesting we go back to secrecy in adoption, even if that was possible. I'm not evaluating the rightness or wrongness of how things are, I'm only trying to bring them up for discussion and validation of the current adoptive family reality.
I also want to be clear that I love my 14 children. Currently, I have good, or at least reasonably positive, relationships with 12 of them. It's a bit dicey with 1, and 1 hates me. I'm not going to talk about my family more than that because I need to respect their privacy as most are now adults, but I felt I needed to be transparent. I am not writing this blog out of bitterness or regret in my own life - I am writing it because I am both a parent and an adoption professional and I know its long past time for the adoption industry to undergo change. I'm also writing it because I know how hurt so many adoptive parents have been because we aren't talking truth about our lives - so, here is your place to do so. You may not agree with me - that's fine - just be polite and say the things you need to have witnessed.
Yes indeed, you are entitled to a better day.