Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Why is Adult Adoptee insight & experience often ignored or disregarded?

I just have to say that all the coverage and attention regarding the current Russian-American adoptee fiasco is revealing the ongoing and persisting ignorance that surrounds adoption.

Harlow's Monkey posted a very insightful entry that I hope you'll read.

To somewhat tagalong with a few of the issues she raises in her blog post, I would like to express my own frustration with the situation.

Overall, the insensitivity and crudeness with which this unfortunate turn of events is being handled indicates that not only does the general public still misunderstand adoption but that adoptive parents also remain rather ignorant regarding the issues that accompany being an adoptee.

The media is either sensationalizing and/or sanitizing the situation as though it doesn't involve the very real past, present, and future life and feelings of a very real seven-year old human being.

I also find it incredibly annoying and implicating that the media and public seem to consider adoptive parents and social workers the "experts." As Harlow's Monkey addresses, why is it that no one in the media or otherwise has bothered to consult an actual adoptee regarding the situation? And if it's credentials (in our overly litigious and legalistic society) the media is concerned about, there are plenty of adult adoptees who are professionals in the field of social work and adoption.

Even still, you don't need a Ph.D in adoption to be an "expert." In fact, all the books and studies a person reads will NEVER be able to make someone an expert on the adoptee experience. A White man could, say, get a Ph.D in African-American Women's studies, but despite all his credentials and so-called expertise, he would never truly know what is to be an African-American woman.

Look, I'm not saying that adoptive parents and social workers can't be advocates for adoptees or even helpful resources, but they are NOT the experts. No matter how many books they read, they will never truly know what it is to be an adoptee. They cannot live the life of an adoptee.

Adult adoptees are the experts. And I wish that our voices and experiences, our knowledge and insight, our wisdom and counsel were sought after and considered.

Instead, we're pushed to the side or worse yet, simply completely forgotten.

My husband and I were discussing the lack of presence of adult adoptee perspective and feedback in the media as it covers the story of the seven-year old Russian adoptee. My husband said something along the lines of "My guess is that it probably hasn't even dawned on anyone to include adult adoptees. It's probably not even something that would ever come to mind...They just don't think of it. They just don't know."

And that's just the thing--like I said when I began this post: Ongoing and persisting ignorance.

Claiming ignorance in this case is not a "get out jail free" pass--it's only more of an implication of the gross oversights that continue to characterize how people view adoption, and even more so how people view the adult adoptee. I think adoptive parents and people in general do not naturally turn to adult adoptees for several reasons. (They often prefer to consult other adoptive parents or a social worker).

For instance, I think adult adoptees are often still viewed in the minds of others as the children who were brought to this country as infants or toddlers, despite the fact that we are mature adults now. This imposition of eternal child-likeness on us keeps us from being viewed as the mature and insightful adults that we are, and hence often overlooked when others are seeking out counsel and feedback regarding adoption.

Also, I think it is assumed that we don't or shouldn't have anything to say, either because we're assumed to be so well-adjusted that we wouldn't have any insightful or helpful advice to offer other than to say, "I'm so grateful. Thanks for adopting me."--or we're viewed as being "that negative, ungrateful adoptee" who has "issues" and can't be trusted or taken seriously as a valid representative of the adoptee experience.

That's like saying the perspective and experience of a Black American who lived through the Civil Rights movement isn't a valid representative of Black American life back then, because she has some not so flattering things to say about America.

I remember being asked to share several years ago at an event for adoptive parents and their adopted children and prospective adoptive parents. When I presented what I had outlined to share, I was asked to omit the parts in which I had planned to discuss the difficulties I had experienced as an adoptee. The organization hosting the event wanted me to depict adoption in a particular way.

I have also encountered adoptive parents who disregard me as an anomaly or an exception. They patronizingly give me the proverbial pat on the head, as if to say, "I'm so sorry you have issues. I'm so grateful that my child won't have the same problems that you have."

We've all heard it said, "Ignorance is bliss." Well, ignorance is certainly not bliss when it comes to adoption.

Ignorance is exactly what leads to a seven-year old Russian boy being sent back as though he was a doll that had been purchased in a toy store.

[for those of you who are feeling a little adventurous or up to a challenge, or perhaps have an artistic side, check out this poem entitled, Protocol, that I wrote years ago, but I believe is very relevant to the situation surrounding the seven-year old Russian adoptee]


Mia_h_n said...

I love her suggested warning label :) It couldn't be truer and simpler, yet more surprising apparently.

I think Jan-rae (the name's an uneducated guess!) lists the reasons for why adult adoptees aren't consulted, at least in parts. The focus of the story gets twisted so an adult adoptee's not necessary. It becomes about everything other than the boy and his tragedy. Not that the mother/family haven't shown staggering/newsworthy behaviour, but it shouldn't be the sole focal point.

I haven't really heard anything besides what you posted, so perhaps I can get a brief update as to how the story's developing? What became of the boy?

Anonymous said...

disregarded...why....because agencies would no longer make $....and the adoptive parent savior complex runs too deep.....what i find ironic is the adoptive parents who rant and rave when their child of color confronts racism...yet they dismiss the voices of the TRA......going to read your poem now....


Mei Ling said...

"For instance, I think adult adoptees are often still viewed in the minds of others as the children who were brought to this country as infants or toddlers, despite the fact that we are mature adults now."

We are the perpetual child only when it suits the convenience of others.

Dana said...

As an adoptive parent to a Chinese daughter I am sad that the adult adoptee experience is often overlooked or ignored. I seek out the advice and insight of adult adoptees whenever I can. I want to do better for my 2 year old daughter and I want her to understand any/all of her feelings and experiences are valid. As hard as it is to hear the painful stuff, it is important. Like you said, I can read everything in the world(and believe me-I try!) but I can never know how it feels for my child. Thank you for this blog.

Ida Davis said...

Excellent post!

I have become known as "an angry adoptee who always sheds a negative light on adoption" in my local mom's group. The main resistance is from an adoptive mom (Russia) and a mom who has not adopted (and doesn't have any family who has; she just has to have a word in every single topic).

My point is - I think our point of views should be taken more seriously, and it's unfortunate that sometimes they are not. So much could be learned from our experiences..... That being said; I love the fact that some adoptive parents are VERY receptive to what we have to say, and I just wish more people were like them.