Thursday, April 15, 2010

Have You Heard the News?

Perhaps you heard about this on the news recently. Or saw this news report a while back. Or perhaps you remember this infamous court case.

Each of these news stories is unique. But, of course, they all have one thing in common. Each highlights an adoption case gone bad.

I can't deny any of these stories.

However, I can throw my two cents into the mix. I find the media's propensity to accentuate negative portrayals of adoption to be indicative of ignorance and sensationalism, rather than insight and realism. By focusing on aberrational stories, rather than the actual experiences of the vast majority of those affected by adoption, the media skews public perception of adoption and contributes to the stigmatization of adoptive parents, adoptees, and birth parents. In this way, adoption involvement makes one less "normal," pitiable, undesirable, or somehow unable to truly measure up. In other words, there is an asterisk beside this kind of family formation.

I wish it wasn't that way.

In meeting new people, I wish I didn't have to try to figure out how to respond to the recurrent questioning centering around which of my children "are adopted" and which are "really mine." (By the way, I prefer to speak of our boys who were adopted. In the past. It's done. In differentiating the manner in which our children joined the Tapper family, I speak of our children "by adoption" and our child "by birth." I understand that most questions are motivated by a somewhat benign curiosity, and I often try to share openly. However, the apparent need for differentiation is somewhat awkward. I mean, when was the last time you spontaneously asked a mother, as her children played nearby, whether her deliveries were natural, medicated, or cesarean?)

I wish that the first question people ask about the adoption process would not involve the issue of finances. (Yes, adoption processes can be expensive. Yes, the large sums of money within the "adoption industry" do raise compelling ethical issues. However, I believe that, too often, people are scared off by these controversies or total dollar figures, when they really should be exploring how adoption or orphan care might be something that they might be involved in. I talk dollars, and people make excuses.)

I wish I could speak about potential challenges my boys face without people automatically attributing concerns to their adopted status, or, alternatively, that I could explore, with others, issues related to potential harms in their early life without conversational partners dismissing such ideas as unnecessary concerns for our loving family. (The idea of adopted children being second-class, "damaged goods" is repulsive to me. The idea that adopted children may have special needs, necessitating that those around them speak hope and healing into their lives, is foundational to our family's child-rearing approach.)

I could probably go on, but I'll just try to summarize.

Ultimately, what I want to say is this: There is probably some portion of your understanding of adoption or adoptees or adoptive families that has been based on misinformation or a skewed social construction based on limited information. It's this way for me, too. I'm still learning.

I just ask that you don't take everything you hear as the be-all-and-end-all of how things work. That you stop and think before you speak in ways that might devalue another. That you actively seek, beyond the sensationalized stories, to understand the rich realities of so many.

These are my boys by adoption. Here's the news from our family: We wouldn't have it any other way.

1 comment:

Paul and Sydney said...

I love this post! Thank you for sharing your heart. Blessings to your family, Sydney