Archive for December 18th, 2007

How many times have you heard it said, seen it written, written yourself perhaps, that adoption is as much about loss as it is about gain? In admonitions to potential adoptive parents, it’s a litany I’ve used, even putting the words in bold type in the introduction to the book I wrote on US infant adoption. (Don’t bother buying the book, as the money goes to Adoption.com, the company that has already screwed me badly. Just about the whole thing is available online, so you can read it for free if you’re interested.)

It is vital that people coming to adoption understand this simple truth and acknowledge the loss even while their focus may be on what they, themselves are gaining.

It’s that “and” that seems to be a sticking point in discussions on any stage in the adoption community, and while LOSS is so often shouted loud and clear and repeatedly to assure its being heard in all corners and way up into the third balcony, “gain” often barely rates a stage whisper.

Does this mean, then, that the ratio of loss to gain is so much higher than the other way around? Some, most certainly, would insist that is exactly the case; that adoption is founded in loss and that loss overrides any gains that may drift along in its wake.

For many, this is true … for birth mothers, for example. Lifelong suffering from adoption loss is rarely even remotely compensated by gains in many cases, and those who relinquished in the days of secrecy and lies are some of the most vociferous voices on loss as the most important aspect.

Some adoptees, but most certainly not all, focus almost exclusively on what adoption cost them, as well, going as far in a few cases to insist that anyone would be better off dead than adopted.

Adoptive parents are often set out as the big gainers, the reapers of the little that can be right about adoption, the most likely to put the positive spin on the story, and in some circumstances, that’s accurate.

That assessment, however, ignores a big part of the picture.

Adoption does not only happen in middle-class America where expectant women are making choices between parenting and going off to college and infertile couples are praying for a newborn they can catch on its way into the world. Even in that scenario, however, there can be gain all the way around. The gains may not outweigh the losses for everyone involved, but that does not negate those gains.

Contrary to much of what is conveyed in blogs and forums, there are birth mothers who are glad they are not parenting, who feel comfortable with their decisions and who go on to lead rich, full lives with no more regrets than the usual adult human carries around on a daily basis. They’re not found lingering on adoption-related websites, but they do exist, and in some numbers.

Adoptees by the thousands … by the hundreds of thousands … not only accept the circumstances of their upbringing, but rejoice in their families, and revel in the lives that found them.

Somewhere between 50 – 200 million children in the world have been orphaned by AIDS alone. Very few of these kids are available for adoption due to politics, geography, religion, custom and other reasons not always having anything at all to do with the welfare of children, and some cite that as a good thing, but those that do find safe and loving families experience gain.

As I said in a reply on a recent post:

When a child who needs a family gets one, that’s a gain. Yes, the loss of family in the first place is a factor, but that being the reality for millions puts it in the “way things are” category, not filed under adoption. Adoption is a correction, a remedy. (Not the only one possible, certainly, but a darned good one, nonetheless.)

There are more than half a million children in foster care in the US, and for many of them adoption is a hopeful dream. Kids coming out of abusive families and in serial placements long for family … real, permanent family … and for them adoption is a solution — it is gain.

Loss and gain may not equal out in every case or for every person involved, but in the big picture … the one that believes that every child is entitled to a family and the more that find one, the better … adoption is as much about loss as it is about gain, and vise versa.

Anticipating some of the fallout that is sure to come, I’ll add that by family in the above paragraph I don’t mean a desperately poor grandmother trying to raise 18 orphaned grandchildren on less than a dollar a day. Yes, I understand that many feel those sorts of blood ties trump everything and that only elitist thinking would suggest a child is better off in a rich, Western country, but when the reality is that the grandmother will often have to make ends meet by selling her grandchildren into slavery and prostitution I do see the gain side of adoption quite clearly.

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