Stop Blaming the Birthmom!
Recent reports that the fate of the Parkland shooter may ultimately rest on a defense citing genetics has got us shouting at our televisions “stop blaming the birthmom!” She is no paragon of virtue, by most reports, yet she surrendered at birth, so how can she be responsible for his actions two decades later?
Why is it, one might wonder, that when adoptees excel, society is quick to credit the adoptive parents, yet when the odd adoptee fails spectacularly, everyone’s first impulse seems to be to blame the birthmother?
And yes, any blame is all too often disproportionately assigned to the mother who birthed the adoptee, not the man who fathered that child. It’s not a recent phenomenon, either: mothers who got pregnant out of wedlock were historically considered to be loose, wanton women who would inevitably produce intellectually inferior children who (unless rescued by “better families”) were bound to become a burden upon society.
Birthmother-blaming doesn’t just happen in well-publicized capitol punishment cases, of course. It’s also common on the message boards of groups of adoptive parents frustrated with their kids’ behavior, it’s a frequent excuse used to justify rehoming practices (also known as “second chance adoptions,”) and it’s a subject of discussion even at various adoptee conferences and gatherings.
The latest example has to do with Nicholas Cruz, the teen charged in the Parkland High School massacre who was adopted as a baby yet did not learn of his adoption until later in childhood. Now that Cruz is facing the death penalty, his attorneys are seeking to argue that his life should be spared due to his genetic makeup, since his birthmother and his birthsister have also led lives of crime or used during pregnancy.
The Eugenics Argument
This can make for a convincing debate, of course. It hails back to the age-old eugenics argument that claims that a disproportionate number of adoptees come from “bad stock” that predisposes them to poor choices and dysfunctional lives due to their gene pool. Margaret Sanger used eugenics as a justification for birth control, arguing “by all means there should be no children when either mother or father suffers from such diseases as tuberculosis, gonorrhea, syphilis, cancer, epilepsy, insanity, drunkenness, and mental disorders.” The Nazis promoted the psuedoscience of eugenics to justify their selective eliminations, and countless poor Americans were likewise sterilized involuntarily by officials who subscribed to such discriminatory theories under eugenics laws in thirty states. Some of America’s best-known (and most expensive) adoption agencies boasted that they somehow procure/d a strain of “better babies” by weeding out the babies being born to and placed by less desirable birthparents– but given the secrecy of closed adoption practices, who could really be the wiser?
Nowadays, with full-disclosure open adoptions becoming the norm, adopting parents have the oportunity to get to know their child/ren’s birthparents personally (and vice versa), giving both families a more clear sense of how nature and nurture may help shape the person each adoptee may one day become. Still, there’s no clear consensus as to what plays the biggest part in shaping an adoptee’s potential: nature, or nurture?
As Julian Vigo ended her essay in 2017 Counterpunch piece entitled The Social Eugenics Framing Adoption: “The racialisms inherent within western societies make being an adoptee uncomfortable as a child, especially confronted with the rigidity and purity assumed by the assumed “legitimate” family. All the rest is other. The best perspective on this subject was given to me by my Uncle Hemendra who said to me one day when we discussed this very subject: “There is a proverb in Sanskrit that says, ‘Anyone can stir curd into milk.’”
The Real Verdict
Nothing Cruz’ birthmom, Brenda Woodard, did before or during pregnancy “made” him into a killer.
Nothing the Cruz’ boys adoptive parents, Roger & Lynda Cruz, did in order to adopt or parent them predestined either of them to become a mass murderer.
Did the Cruz kids suffer from adoption trauma? Did autism, hyperactivity, depression, oppositional defiance disorder complicate their lives? Were they exposed to prenatal substance abuse, or adoptive parent alcoholism? Did the financial comfort of the adoptive parents’ life afford them too much privilege? Did their compounded grief over repeated life losses unhinge one brother? Any of these factors may have created the perfect storm that resulted in the 2/14/18 tragedy in Florida.
Regardless, Nicholas Cruz is neither a monster nor a madman, and neither his birthparents nor his adoptive parents should be blamed for what he did that fateful day when he shot up that school in Parkland. As his bio-brother, adopted as a baby by the same family, acknowledged after his arrest, Nicholas had mental health issues, yes– but he was also a product of his environment. He legally procured the guns he used by following the laws of the land, and he alone made the tragically-misguided choices he did following the deaths of his adopters.
It’s all too easy to blame the parents when adoptees fall short of expectations for them, and defense attorneys are paid big money to create such arguments. In the big picture, though, doing so merely enables the blamer, since fault lies in the eye of the beholder, and it does nothing to effect real change.
Please stop blaming the birthmom, stop accusing the adopters, and start empowering all adoptee to learn from mistakes and to use the best lessons all their parents can offer in order to to better their future.