Why Not Adoption?
Two eight-month-old baby boys went missing in San Antonio around the holidays, ten years apart.
The first, in 2009, was known as Baby Gabriel and he was never found. His mother, Elizabeth Johnson, traveled here from Arizona with her child and stayed at a local hotel, from which Gabriel disappeared. She told Gabriel’s father he could find his baby’s body in a dumpster, and she told authorities she placed her child in a private adoption arrangement at a local park. His mother served time in prison for custodial interference, but Gabriel has never been found, much to his father’s family’s heartache.
The second, in 2019, was a child named King Jay, and his disappearance launched a citywide search here. His father, Christopher Davila, initially claimed his car (with the baby in it) was stolen from a local gas station. Police immediately suspected Christopher knew more than he was telling, despite video footage of a woman in a hoodie taking off with said vehicle. Today, the child’s body was found buried in a blanket and a backpack, and the father has been charged with his murder after admitting the child died as a result of a fall in the father’s bedroom. His mother and cousin have also been implicated in the cover-up.
These two tragedies, like so many others, have a variety of intersecting themes; young unmarried parents, criminal records, drug allegations, suspected neglect… and yet, the one thing they also have in common is the all-too-predictable knee jerk public response: why not adoption?
Why Not Just Choose Adoption?
The public, struggling to make sense of yet another tragedy involving an innocent child, is quick to resort to questioning why parent(s) didn’t “just” opt for adoption, if they seem ill-prepared to care for their child.
If the parents were not going to give up their addiction (or their life of crime) in order to parent, why not just choose adoption?
If the parent was going to be abusive or neglectful towards their child, why not just choose adoption?
If the parent couldn’t protect their child from their partner, why not just choose adoption?
If the parent didn’t have the means to feed their child, why not just choose adoption?
If two parents were going to load all their kids in the car and drive off a cliff to kill themselves, why not just choose adoption?
If a parent was going to shoot their self and take their child with them into the afterlife, why not just choose adoption?
Here’s the answer, folks: NOBODY EVER “just chooses adoption” as an easy solution to a complex problem. Baby Gabriel and Baby King both had parents and grandparents who loved them and were able to care for them, despite the accidents or mistakes that led to their disappearances; both had ready homes available without the intervention of any adoption agency.
Adoption Isn’t Always the Answer
It’s an apples-to-oranges argument, frankly. Adoption is not an alternative to abortion. Abuse is not an alternative to adoption. Someone who isn’t thinking clearly doesn’t always have the capacity to make a rational review of their options– nor even to put their child’s interests before their own.
The tragedies involving parents and children that typically make the news are not about “denied adoption opportunities.” They’re about maladaptive parenting, typically, and about the adult mistakes that victimize children (mistakes from which neither biological nor adoptive families are automatically immune.)
Said more simply: anybody can lose it. And children can never always be protected from parental mistakes; an adoption decree doesn’t change this sad fact. Parents who abuse their child/ren do love their kids, too; most of these parents, however, didn’t have the upbringing they themselves needed, and their children end up paying the price, unfortunately.
It’s human nature to seek easy solutions to problems, and society will always be quick to judge those who are responsible for any harm that comes to children. But can we please agree that we do the Baby Gabriels and Baby Kings of the world no justice by leaping to conclusions, or oversimplifying the circumstances that led to the tragedies with which their names become associated?
And can we please quit assuming that adoption (or the absence of it) is an end-all solution for any child? The words “just” and “adoption” simply do not belong together. Neither the promotion or abolition of adoption will end all child trauma. No parent should ever “just choose adoption” rather than exploring all the alternatives available to them. Nobody ever “just adopts” in order to cure infertility or heal the world’s ills. No adoptee makes sense of their life by writing all their needs off as being due to “just adoption.”
Adoption can be a positive last-alternative for children in need when it’s done the right way and for the right reasons, but it cannot save every child any more than it can fix every heartache.
People who wish to parent must be encouraged to make use of available resources to learn how to do it well, and they need to be supported in their efforts over time. Very few persons in history have ever only become parents in optimal circumstances (and yes, this goes for people that adopt as well as those that become parents without adopting.) Children need to be well-nurtured, as well, if they are to become the best-possible parents themselves, one day. And those who choose not to parent should likewise be supported in their decisions.
None of this will bring Gabriel or King back, sadly. Our hearts go out to both of their families, and to others like them.
Yet when you hear folks discussing these sorts of tragedies and raising the question “why not adoption?” we hope you’ll honor these children’s memory by making the point that there can never be one simple fix to all of life’s dilemmas… not even adoption.