Being “Woke” in Adoption
Being woke in adoption is a new concept, but it’s definitely worth the time it takes to get there.
The Urban Dictionary describes being woke as having a new awareness, leading to an evolved understanding of a current condition previously understood in a different way.
But ask the average American on the street about adoption, and you’re bound to get an overwhelming sense of how many folks are not woke when it comes to adoption.
After all, myths and misunderstandings abound, when it comes to adoption in America. Here are just a few: “mothers who give up babies for adoption are all teenagers who cannot possibly raise a child, or crack whores who shouldn’t be allowed to parent. Every adoption costs $30k or more. Open adoption means the birthparents can come take the baby back whenever if they want. All adoptees secretly long to be with their birthfamilies. Healthy adoptees don’t have any interest in meeting their birthfamilies. Giving a baby up for adoption is something every birthmother deeply regrets. People with infertility were never meant to become parents. Once you adopt a child, you’ll get pregnant with one of your own.”
We’re guessing you’ve heard a few of those yourself, and we sincerely hope you know better.
Being Woke: Hard Truths
Still: being woke in adoption means much more than being able to identify fallacies. It means having a deeper understanding of the issues involved, and being genuinely concerned about making those issues better-known in the world around you.
Here are five facts that are commonly known to those who are truly woke in adoption:
* Adoption doesn’t ensure a better future, just a different one.
Nobody can guarantee that adoption will make the adoptee a better person. Nobody can promise that the adoptive parents will stay together, or that the home will be better for the child than remaining in the family of origin. The only certainty is that the adoptee’s life will turn out differently than it would had they remained with the birthfamily, and only they can decide if that was good or bad.
* All adoptions are borne of loss, and all losses must be grieved in order for healing to occur.
Many birthparents ultimately come to the adoption decision as a result of loss of reproductive control, and ironically, so do many adoptive parents. Yet whatever their origination point, to have to forfeit parental rights constitutes an inherent loss for the birthfamily and for the adoptee, and adoptive parents can also feel that loss acutely, when their lack of biological connection alters their ability to fully meet their adopted child’s needs.
* The kids most desperately in need of adoption rarely come wrapped in baby blankets.
For every adopting couple who longs to adopt a newborn, there are countless older children (bonafide orphans as well as foster kids freed for adoption) who have an even more urgent need to be adopted. If you want to see who the children are who are in most desperate need of adoptive homes right now, and whose adoption costs are nominal and/or covered primarily through state-funding, click here.
* Adoption can cause trauma, the results of which can affect adoptees and parents across the lifespan.
Adoption should always be a last resort, because separating a child from his/her mother causes trauma, which is why adoption should be an option reserved for those instances when it is impossible for a child’s needs to be safely, fully and permanently met by their birthparent/s. Trauma does not just impact kids who are “old enough to know what’s going on,” but also (and perhaps especially) newborns; each child may respond to adoption trauma in different ways, which is why it is so essential that adopting parents be prepared to recognize and respond to the effects of adoption trauma.
* It is a human right to know where and to whom you were born, and all laws should honor that right.
Every adoptee should be raised to know the truth of their origins, and whenever possible, they should be allowed age-appropriate access to information about their birthrelatives. At Abrazo, we strongly believe that state laws should grant adult adoptees access to their original birth certificates, and that adoptive parents must join in the fight for adoptee rights and adoption reform.
The Impact of Being Woke
Being woke in adoption can be downright painful. (Just ask the Abrazo staff, who could use about a month of therapy to recover from all the pain we witness every time we attend an annual conference sponsored by the American Adoption Congress.) It hurts to bear witness to the damages of adoptions that began well but ended badly; or to acknowledge the harm that the adoption industry sometimes wreaks through carelessness, negligence or greed; or to understand that even the best-laid plans don’t always render the most hoped-for results, and that the most loving of parents cannot always meet the deepest needs of the most wounded of adoptees.
Yet only by honestly recognizing adoption’s flaws can we hope to work towards the institution’s redemption, and that’s going to take all of us, working together. Being woke in adoption can also be healing for birthparents, for adoptive parents, for adoptees, and for adoption professionals, and when you know better, you do better. So why not begin here and now? After all: the whole world stands to gain from it, one person at a time.
There’s no time like November (National Adoption Month) to be woke in adoption. Listen for adoptees’ voices and consider their perspectives, even (especially?) when it hurts to do so. Honor your adoption promises, even when it seems hardest to do so. Teach the world around you how to treat parents who place and parents who adopt with respect. Take up for adoption professionals who do adoptions right, and challenge those that don’t. And never, ever assume that you don’t need to keep learning all you can about adoption and its effects, because there’s always more to be learned and somebody who will benefit.
Being woke in adoption is well-worth your effort, so please: make it your goal, and begin today.