Parentage, DNA, and assumptions in adoption

Where do adopted children come from?

They come from unhappy, untenable, dysfunctional, coercive, abusive, or neglectful situations. They come from parents too young or too poor to support them without help — and they are without that help.

Adopted children do not come from happy families where everyone supports everyone and all is well. Adoption comes from loss. In order to be adopted, a child must lose his or her first family.

What do adopted parents think of their adopted children’s first families? Given a lot of the discussions I’ve read or been part of, there are two likely threads — which can exist simultaneously. First families are either seen as fucked up dissolute losers or as gracious angels who have given a magical gift of a child to “deserving” parents. Either way, the commonality is that first families are not “deserving” of this child and the adoptee will have a “better” life in his or her new home.

I am not completely opposed to adoption. The foster care system is full of children whose families were unable to take care of them, and they show a need.  Some of their parents were abusive. Some are losing battles with addiction. These children need homes, and I’m glad there are people who are willing to open their homes and hearts. Their prospective parents need help — they are not getting fake “blank slate” babies; these children have endured loss and know it. But I think one thing that seems to be missing in that training (I’m sure there are more, but this is one) is that adoptive parents should be aware that their child has another family. And that this family is in the blood, bones, and genes of the child you are choosing to raise as your own.

What do you think of your child’s first family? Because I guarantee you, you are telling your kids what you think of their other families their whole lives. Do you have compassion for the problems that lead your child’s first family to give up their child, willingly or non? Yes, even if that first family’s issues included abuse.

As others have written more eloquently than I have, adoptees deal with torn loyalties even in the best of adoptive families. We need to learn, as a society, to embrace more of an “AND” model of adoption.  I have an adoptive family that was nowhere near perfect but was loving and dedicated to their children. AND I have a loving extended genetic family from my birth mother who was young and unsupported when I was born. My mother-who-raised-me loves me, knows my life path, and wants the best for me. AND my mother-who-gave-me-life loves me and shares a brain pattern with me and can tell me where my traits come from.

People want to know their own histories. This is why genealogical research is so popular (and lucrative). Why is it hard to understand that this is true for adoptees?

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