Do kids do bad things only because of adoption? The news that the latest school shooter in Florida is an orphaned adoptee has got the media abuzz. But allow us to set the record straight: this troubled teen didn’t do this because of adoption.
Adoptees are disproportionately represented in mental health treatment statistics, true. (It’s debatable whether this is due to their parents being more hypervigilant about getting them needed services or because their early-life losses predispose them to depression.)
Still, adoptees are no more prone to commit acts of violence than any other human beings.
As expert Dr. Scott Bon said in an interview with A&E: “I believe psychopaths are born, not made. Something is wrong with the wiring in the brain. Neuroscientists have mapped the activity of the psychopathic brain versus the normal brain and they process information and respond to stimulus differently… The fact that (some murderers) were adopted did not cause them to become serial killers. There are millions of people who are adopted every year who don’t go on to become violent criminals or serial killers.”
It’s normal for the public to search desperately for any clues as to why perpetrators of such violence were driven to do what they did. However, such quests mistakenly infer that there can be logical explanations to illogical behavior.
Don’t blame adoption
News reports have revealed that the Florida shooter had been adopted as a baby, along with his biological brother. The adoptive parents (an older couple) had both passed away, a compounded loss in the lives of both boys. The shooter had been expelled from school last year, and his mother reportedly had sought out the help of law enforcement on prior occasions. She tried in vain to redirect her son, who had reportedly gotten mental health treatment for depression and/or autism.
He had been in ROTC. He won academic achievement awards for his good grades and “outstanding conduct.” He was in a GED program and working at the Dollar Store at the time of the school murders. He had expressed interest in going into the military.
None of that made him take the lives of seventeen innocents at the Parkland high school, nor was he predestined to do this because of adoption. The majority of school shootings have been committed by those who are/were white and male. Yet this shooter did not become either of those adjectives solely because of adoption.
So let’s stop blaming adoption for such acts of senseless violence.
More good than bad
Because of adoption, tens of thousands of mothers have made choices other than abortion.
Because of adoption, countless infertile couples have been able to become parents.
Because of adoption, millions of otherwise homeless or parentless children have found loving families.
Some of those children were placed as infants, going straight from the loving arms of birthparents to the nurturing embrace of adoptive families. Some were toddlers or older children who had spent time in state foster care before finding a permanent home. Some were the beneficiaries of open adoption, meaning they were able to maintain vital connections with their families of origin even after placement. Some were the victims of closed adoptions, in which they were denied any access to the truth of their origins. Some of those adoptees have struggled with the realities of their adoption, and long to have never been separated from their birthfamilies. Some of those adoptees have never experienced any sense of loss because of adoption and feel no need for that primal connection. Some feel they have been scarred by virtue of having been “given up” while others feel it was to their advantage.
The vast majority of people who have been adopted make remarkable contributions to society. They are people of promise, who typically have extraordinary abilities, opportunities and resources. They may bear some unwanted baggage resulting from past losses, but most are gifted with amazing resilience, a desire to succeed, and unlimited potential.
Because of adoption, adopted persons may have differing understandings of the world and varying concepts of their place in it. But no adoptee was ever genetically-predisposed to commit any violent act because of adoption. (Never. Ever.)
So to the global news media, we say this: this tragedy didn’t happen because of adoption. It happened in spite of it, and perhaps that is the saddest truth of all.