by Luanne

The more I’ve learned about the world of adoption, the more I feel myself (an adoptive mother) an advocate for adoptee rights. I’ve become more aware of the situation of birth parents and, I hope, more sensitive to them, as well. Much of my time reading blogs and articles and sharing this information is related to adoptee issues.

But today I want to write about something else.

With the wonderful new movements pressing for adoptee rights, it does sometimes feel that with the shifting viewpoints, I am seeing a growing wave which demonizes adoptive parents in general. The articles about “re-homing” have reinforced this trend.

While there are bad people in every group, all adoptive parents are not bad people or bad parents. Many of our adoption laws and institutions are fraught with injustices and callous disregard for the children and for birth parents. Too many are interested in the money that can be made from a trio (child, BP, AP) in need.

But that’s not the individual APs. I am here to speak up for the thousands of good people who parent children by adoption. This is for them. (I in no way mean to diminish what the adoptive child goes through when I say the following).

When the adoption process and/or prior life events harm a child, the people who are there to help the child through their troubles are the adoptive parents.

When a child has behavior problems at home and school, it’s the APs who are there to deal with the fallout and get the child help. When a child has anger issues, the APs are the main recipients of the anger and sometimes abuse. When a teen has addictions, the APs go through emotional suffering and get help for the child. When the child is an adult and issues relating to adoption flare up, the APs are still there for the adult child.

We APs give our hearts to our children; our hearts bleed for them. We also give a huge percentage of the time we have on earth to them. We sweat and cry for them. Our minds and lives are transformed to fit the new family that has been created. We don’t turn our backs on our children, no matter how bad things can get. We never give up. We are there for them until we die.

Thanks for listening . . . .

A Reader Response to DWLA Post “What About the Rights of Adoptees”

In yesterday’s post by Luanne, “What About the Rights of Adoptees,” we posted a poll which is still open for voting on the issue of adoptee rights. We had more private responses than we did comments. One of the emails we received contained a lengthy response–an essay really–and we wanted to share it with you because of the effort the writer put into it. The writer asked us not to use his/her name and we are honoring that request.

Dear DWLA:

I actually wanted to vote twice — I do think all adoptees should automatically have the right to access medical information for all the reasons you mention in your article. I also believe the privacy rights of birth parents and adoptive parents should be respected — that the rights of all three sides of the “triad” need to be balanced. I realize that this is controversial, but the consequences you stated with regard to genetic testing (people not wanting to be contacted) apply equally to the unsealing of medical records. If those who are advocating for the unsealing of records put as much time and effort into establishing a nation-wide registry and medical records database, their time would (in my opinion) be better spent.

In all the talk of “rights” we can never forget that rights always have a corresponding responsibility. When the “rights” of parents (whether to give life to a child, or raise him to adulthood) supersede his or her responsibilities as parents, society must bear the burden of that abdication of responsibility. This is happening all across the country today — women who are ill-prepared to parent are pressured either to abort their children, or raise the child themselves. And it is the children who are suffering — a suffering that is far greater and with far more long-reaching effects. Until adoption is given the respect and support of society it deserves, carefully balancing the rights and responsibilities of all three parties in the adoption triad, we are setting ourselves up to fail not only our own children, but THEIR children as well.

While adults do have the right to their medical records, they do NOT have the right to disrupt the lives of those with whom they share a biological connection if those individuals have relinquished those connections legally and (in their minds) permanently. In connection with my graduate studies, I talked with a dozen adoptees who went out searching at the age of 18 for members of their birth families — and almost without exception, each of them (in retrospect) realized they were not prepared for what they found, that they wished that they had waited until they were more mature and able to handle what followed (if they had searched at all). Others may have different experiences, but the fact remains: At a time when many young adults are already straining to form a separate identity from their parents, this quest for “real” mom and dad has the potential to cause a great deal of pain and anguish on all sides. Adoptees may one day have the “right” to this information — but will they also accept the responsibility of using this information in a way that respects the wishes and intentions of their parents — ALL their parents? Will they, in the end, assume an adult role and take responsibility not only for their own emotional well-being, but tend to the needs of their family members as well?

I’m not saying that adult adoptees are wrong to be angry about losing their first families, or wanting to bond with them in adulthood. There are all kinds of childhood traumas that we must deal with as adults — abusive parents, death and loss, alcoholism, violence, a wide spectrum of hurts that must be reconciled and given appropriate context if we are to grow into strong, healthy, self-reliant adults who are capable of raising the next generation. The fact is, not every adult adoptee seeks his or her birth family. Not every adult adoptee who FINDS that family is less traumatized by the experience. Not all adoptive parents are stellar examples of parenting (I count myself among them. Every day I ask myself if my children might have been better off today if I had done x or y for them when they were younger. Every parent does this — not just the adoptive ones.) Not all single parents are unfit (I have a niece who is a good example of this — with the strong support of her family, she has raised a beautiful son, co-parenting with the child’s biological father.) But those who do the parenting, who take on that responsibility, have corresponding rights == and not just until the child is 18.

Since you did ask for opinions, I wanted to share mine. I hope you find it helpful.

Best wishes,

DWLA reader

What about the Rights of Adoptees?

by Luanne

When the kids were little, my husband and I were very engaged in adoption events and issues, but as the kids got older and we followed them in wrestling and roller hockey and dance and voice lessons, adoption lost its place in the day-to-day shuffle of work and school and after school activities.

This changed when Marisha and I began this blog.  I revisited the world of adoption via the internet, reading about the experiences of others, including blog posts and articles by adult adoptees.  One of the issues I see mentioned often is one which I believe looms large in the lives of adoptees–the lack of medical (family) history.  The majority of adoptees grow up without access to their birth records or the ability to track down birth parents or, in fact, any biological relatives.

by Adopted the Comic

While this is changing in the case of domestic open adoptions, children are still being adopted without adoptive parents having access to those records and adult adoptees are still being kept from their records.  The law is different in each state.  Many states have a mutual consent policy, which also varies state by state.  The bottom line is that it is still impossible for the majority of adoptees to get identifying information about their own births.  Many groups and individuals are fighting to get these laws changed and open up records to the adoptees.

In the case of international adoptions, changing the laws in the United States to allow adoptees access to their birthright knowledge will not help them.  In some cases, such as in the case of adoptions from China, it might not be possible to provide this information.

STILL . . .

It’s a tragedy when the information is sitting in a file and the person to whom it rightfully belongs cannot access it.

Some adoptees are resorting to DNA testing today to try to find biological connections.  This sounds like a good idea, but it can be a less than helpful and possibly upsetting tangent as sometimes the relatives contacted can be uninterested in meeting new “family” members.  They are often so loosely connected by biology that they can barely be seen as “relatives.”  As a New York Times article points out, “Elizabeth Bartholet, an expert on adoption at Harvard Law School, said the proliferation of testing highlights the need for broader access to adoption records. In the meantime, she says, adoptees would be better served by nurturing the relationships they already have.”

She makes a good point, but I understand the desperation that can lead to this search.  I’ve seen what happens when adoptees don’t know their familial medical history and how utterly inadequate the medical profession is at dealing with adoptee medical concerns.  The attitude of many doctors on this subject isn’t much better than their system.

I’d take one of my kids to a new doctor and when they asked about family medical history, I would say he/she is adopted and they would write it down.  That was the extent of their professional interest.

Both my kids had unique medical issues when they were growing up, and I can’t remember doctors thinking outside the box, looking to see if there were conditions or illnesses which are generally only diagnosed with the help of family history which Marc or Marisha might have.

The truth is that family medical history is on those medical forms we fill out for a reason.  Knowing the family history helps to make diagnoses.  Without that crucial component of a diagnosis, illnesses go undiscovered and untreated.

Since these histories might not be available, even in Korea, what could be used?  How about something that is being done all the time now?  Genetic testing!  I asked a geneticist at Mayo Clinic why they don’t give adoptees genetics tests and she had a stock answer that there are too many possible diseases.  The truth is that if a doctor is looking at a set of puzzling symptoms in an adoptee, then wouldn’t it make sense to do genetic testing for rare genetic disorders or illnesses?


The other answer is that it’s too expensive.  Why don’t adoptees have the right to the same quality of medical care as non-adoptees?

This is 2012 and not 1950 any longer.  Adoption records should be unsealed and the secrecies of adoption promulgated in the dark ages of the mid-twentieth century should be abolished.   Then, as a society, we need to go a step further for those adoptees without records and promote genetic testing for adoptees (and adoptive parents on behalf of their children) who wish to be tested.

What do you think?  Do you agree with me or disagree?  Take the poll and let DWLA know what you think about this topic.

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