Friday, April 8, 2011

Adoption Ignorance Persists (but we're not surprised, of course)

So, I receive a newsletter from a certain adoption agency that I'll simply refer to as AA.

This newsletter is the epitome of the "Gratitude Gospel of Adoption." It makes my stomach churn and my face burn every time I read it. But I read it because it helps me to stay in touch with what's going on in the adoption agency world.

And for those who believe that adoption isn't what it used to be and soooo much progress has been made, I beg to differ. I know it's just one newsletter, but its a newsletter sent out by a very large agency that's in 6 states and facilitates adoptions all around the world from Korea and China to Russia and India, Ghana, Haiti, Ethiopia, Honduras, even Japan and Hong Kong. So, it may be one agency, but it's reach is vast.

In particular, what makes me gag is the way the newsletter perpetuates the "ideal [or model] adoptee" stereotype. Every issue always does a feature article entailing the successes of an adult adoptee that has been adopted through AA. And of course, this adoptee is presented as a paragon for all other adoptees to follow--he or she is presented as the perfect poster child for the Gratitude Gospel of Adoption. I'm not naive--this agency is pushing adoption using these "model adoptees" to exemplify and uphold the expectation of "See, adoptive parents, your child WILL grow up to be a respectful, overachieving citizen of America teeming with gratitude and success to make you proud and glad that you adopted! So, tell your friends and send 'em our way!" Furthermore, the newsletter also always features adoptees who have graduated from college or high school accompanied by, of course, photos of beaming, smiling faces and their credentials.

These features are as if to say, "See, look, international adoption is great! Look at all these model adoptees making us proud and showing us how awesome and wonderful adoption is!"

Barf.

Poster Children for Adoption Unite. That's what it feels like.

Obviously, I have nothing against success and happiness, but this newsletter is clearly presenting only ONE very lop-sided side of the story. And it's the side that's all roses and picnics. It's like watching Fox News--for adoption. (I'm actually neither a liberal nor conservative, however, so don't assume too much from that statement. I simply mean that the bias is so thick and blatant it's equally laughable and deplorable.)

Additionally, this issue has an article giving "waiting parents" advice on what to do while they wait for the call. It is of course written by an adoptive parent. First of all, in the opening, the author refers to the "Waiting Phase" as "the hardest part of the entire adoption process." I couldn't help but balk at this statement. There are so many ways in which this statement demonstrates a LACK of understanding.

Secondly, in the author's list of seven "to-do's" during the waiting phase, she mentions things like spending time with your spouse, finishing education requirements (this one made me scoff), doing that one thing you've always wanted to do, and learning about your child's culture and country.

The author also advises waiting parents to talk with other adoptive parents so "You can learn valuable insights from parents who are already home with their children." Not a bad thing to do. I just wish that I could say that the author also advises waiting parents to talk with adult adoptees because they too offer valuable insights. But, obviously, no such mention.

It's that broken record again.

But hey, I'm just playing it like it is. I keep trying to get a new record in there, but most don't seem to care to listen much less do anything to change it.

14 comments:

Linda said...

I would sell my soul (what little is left) to be a spokesperson for an honest baby broker. "Honest baby broker"- oxymoron much, Linda????

They could have 2, to be "fair and balanced"-the token happy adoptee, and me.

Oh, the horror!!

Model Adoptee? said...

Melissa, you talk so frequently about wanting adoptees to be heard, and for people to listen to adoptees. You even mention it in your post. But then, when this agency is intentional in featuring adoptees, you completely dismiss them because they are not fitting your narrative or agenda?

There is some irony in your accusations about confirmation bias.

Because what I hear you saying is, talk to adoptees . . . but it only counts if they agree with me.

"Model Adoptees". "Token Happy Adoptees". So dismissive of another person's life. How does it feel when someone uses terms like "Angry Adoptee" to undermine you? And yet, you will do it to others because they view the their adoption in a different way or don't fit your criteria.

Fox News, indeed.

Mia_h_n said...

I'm a little less about content this time and a little more about confusion.

Why exactly is it you get that newsletter? I mean, was it just this edition that made you gag or is it in general because why don't you just rid yourself of it?

You shouldn't be gagging these days unless it's a diaper-gag! :)

The adopted ones said...

Model Adoptee?...

How many "not" happy adoptees are feature stories on adoption agency newsletters...that is the point I took away from Melissa's post that just like "Fox News" or as I call them "Faux News" there is nothing fair and balanced in it. If you know of one newsletter that shows adoption is not all puppy dog tails and smiley faces then I would love to see it.

Melissa...

Great post although I wish you had included some quotes just because it would tickle my funny bone...

Cassi said...

***You even mention it in your post. But then, when this agency is intentional in featuring adoptees, you completely dismiss them because they are not fitting your narrative or agenda?***

I don't know Melissa's response so I won't try to answer for her, but, to me, I would be bothered about the lack of balance. If you are going to include the sunshine and roses stories than you should also include stories from those who don't carry the same opinions. It's a false representation if only one side is featured as the "know-all, tell-all" experience.

Anyone who wants to give a true, accurate portrait of what adoption is, from any side, must have both sides represented. That's just plain simple common sense.

Anonymous said...

Melissa,
I don't think you sound like a broken record- I think that you are saying something that often does not want to be heard... unfortunately, that takes repetition.

I am sure that I am not alone in saying that I take your words seriously, and do appreciate your sharing.
Best,
Kirsten

Melissa said...

@ Model Adoptee? I can see where you're coming from, BUT (there's almost always a but), as you've done before, you entirely missed the point of this post...once again, you read what you wanted to hear. (And although you concealed your identity, your style and tone of writing give you away.)

In short, to untwist your inaccurate interpretation of what I wrote: I did not and do not invalidate or question those adoptees who love adoption. And no, Kristen, I was not saying, "it only counts if they agree with me." Rather I question the ADOPTION AGENCIES that USE such adoptees--and more specifically, that actively exclude other adoptees with more complex, or "unorthodox" perspectives--to paint a one-sided view of adoption.

Also, my reference to the "model adoptee" was not dismissive, but to emphasize that only one kind of adoptee is presented as the "ideal adoptee" to serve the adoption agencies' oversimplified depiction of adoption.

Uh, duh, of course adoption agencies have bias--they want people to adopt, so they paint a certain picture...I just hope that by adult adoptees like myself addressing those biases that one day agencies like this one will adopt (pun intended) a more truthful and accurate presentation of adoption that includes a RANGE of adult adoptee experiences and perspectives rather than only the ones that praise adoption.

Surely, you can acknowledge that adoption agencies currently DO NOT do this, as exemplified in the newsletter I referenced.

When will people finally understand that there is an IMBALANCE that has existed ever since adoption began?

And until that imbalance is rectified, yes, I will continue to present the various complexities, sides that are so often neglected and discounted--as you just did with your twisting & perversion of what I wrote.

Best to you & please, next time, just use your real name.

Melissa said...

Exactly, Cassi. You stated it much more succinctly than did I. Thank you.

Melissa said...

@ Kirsten...thank you for taking the time to read & to use your actual name. ;)

Melissa said...

@ Adopted Ones-- "How many "not" happy adoptees are feature stories on adoption agency newsletters...that is the point I took away from Melissa's post that just like "Fox News" or as I call them "Faux News" there is nothing fair and balanced in it."

Yes, you got the point. Thank goodness. Sometimes I feel like I'm taking crazy pills when people so artfully misconstrue my words...

Melissa said...

@ Mia--LOL.

Campbell said...

Obviously the intent of this post is to say the image portrayed isn't balanced. The only example shown is positive and thats not right. Let's get real though. Model adoptee? is also right in saying the language used by adoptees in describing those adoptees who adoption worked out for is dismissive.

Melissa said...

@ Campbell--you have a point to a certain degree.

However, as Model Adoptee? did, I think more often it's that people misinterpret or assign their own meanings when adoptees address the imbalance that exists.

The context usually involves discussing the discrepancy and bias that identifies only a certain type of adoptee--only those adoptees who sing praises of adoption--as a "good adoptee."

I don't have a problem with adoptees who have had a positive experience--I have a problem with the bias and favor that AP's and agencies show them to the neglect and dismissal of other adoptees with experiences just as valid.

At least for me the issue I have is when adoptees who favor or love adoption are used to justify ignoring and neglecting adoptees who have complex views and experiences.

And for that matter, I'm actually an adoptee who by all other measures should be a "model adoptee." Adoption "worked out" for me in the sense that I have an overall great family and life. And in the past, I was actually a "spokesperson" for adoption, literally. I was asked to speak at adoption functions to share "my story."

Unfortunately, though, I was also asked to edit my "speeches" to exclude the parts in which I described the difficulties I experienced (talk about being dismissive). Initially I complied, but over time I began to question why and the whole adoption experience...

I do not discount those for whom adoption has "worked out"--rather I question adoption agencies, AP's, and others that use certain adoptees' stories to paint a picture of adoption that is oversimplified.

In questioning the adoption agencies folks mistakenly conclude that I am dismissing the adoptees whose stories are being used.
Not so. The language I used in this post is a reflection of how the AGENCY presented adoption to the readers. I said nothing directly about the adoptees themselves, but rather stated how the agency presented them:

"...what makes me gag is the way the newsletter perpetuates..."

"...this adoptee is presented as..."

"...this agency is pushing adoption using these "model adoptees" ..."

"...I have nothing against success and happiness, but this newsletter is clearly presenting..."

and so forth...

Again, I am questioning the status quo that acknowledges only one side as a valid and worthy experience of a very complex experience consisting of a spectrum of attitudes, emotions, and stories. They're all valid and all worthy of being heard. Unfortunately, however, agencies present only one kind of story. I, and other adoptees, simply want the not so rosy stories and experiences to receive equal attention...

But as of now, because the attention is so lopsided, it often appears that all we do is focus on the negative, which is again criticized as being dismissive.

Hence, I am constantly having to explain such facts, which seem obvious to me, over and over along with every kind of disclaimer such as I love my parents, I'm not anti-adoption, etc. I guess I need to add to that list, "I don't hate adoptees who love adoption"...

Sona said...

An AP once told me that I only read blogs of the "50-60 angry adoptees, and that most adoptees are happy with adoption." Hahahahaha. Only 50-60 adoptees are critical of adoption?! How do they know that all the rest of adoptees in the world love adoption? Nice way to dismiss. That is the problem with only presenting one type of adoptee: 'the model adoptee' to the public. It is untruthful and misleading.

They also must not know that the suicide rate for adoptees is staggeringly higher than the non adopted population. They can't be that happy...