How has adoption changed your life?
Adoption took away my first born child...forever. I was 18 years old and terrified in 1968 when I turned to the only support available, a maternity home/adoption agency. Along with the other, mostly pleasant, quite capable pregnant mothers, i was treated like a wayward girl who was lucky to have one of the dormitory cots allotted in the prison like envitronment.
In counseling sessions, the social worker took down the facts of my life as if she was gathering data to create a real estate advertisement. The remainder of the time was spent searching for a "psychiatric diagnosis" that could explain how I could have ended up in this pregnant state.....ignoring any possibility that my exemplary fertility and a broken condom could have been factors. Then the counselor used the sessions to shape my thinking about "what was best for my baby." And to be clear, in 1968, there were no alternatives to surrender for mothers in my circumstances. The few women who kept their babies were from working class families whose parents valued family over status. One or two young women took their babies and fled alone into a very cruel world, where survival as a young unmarried parent was almost impossible. I was allowed only a few very brief opportunities to hold my precious infant. The pain of separation is indescribable and, after 48 years and decades of therapy, it continues to dwell deep inside me, to permeate every cell of my body, and to color every experience of my life..
What is a lesson from your adoption experience that could be life-changing for all families?
Infant adoption, as it is practiced in this country, is about meeting the needs of the adults who want babies while disrespecting and erasing the mother and families of origin. Like most of the industrialized world, we need to stop closed adoptions and open adoptions that have no legal standing and move toward family preservation with fostering famines available to nurture parents and children and guardianship arrangements only when absolutely necessary. We need to protect the bond between mother and child. We need to change rhetoric narrative which attributes privilege to people of means or to people who simply "want" someone else's baby, a narrative that entitled others to the babies of the vulnerable, easily coerced young women, some of whom say that they want adoption for their babies only because they have bought into the cultural messages that make this a grand solution for everone...we know, now, from decades of hearing the voices of the adoption community and from numerous research outcomes, that this is simply not the case. Most of all, we need to listen to adopted persons who are the last minority group to be denied their civil rights.
What changes would you like to see made in adoption?
Full disclosure of birth information to all adoptees. Fully open records with regard to past adoptions. The abolishment of the current adoption and foster care industry and the creation of a new paradigm, one that mandates the preservation of families with genuinely supportive programs available to all parents and their children. Years ago, a seemingly idealistic plan of this nature was well on it's way to development in NY State when the forces of opposition who were threatened by the very idea of the reduction in the number of babies and children to feed the adoption and foster care programs this new model would offer, shut it down.