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Open Adoption Is Not Slavery

Today I quit two online adoption groups. The quitting of one has been a long time coming. Microaggression after microagression after macroaggression. It was only a matter of time before I left. The other was a surprise. It was a birth mom support group. I loved having other moms like me to talk to. Obviously no one’s story is exactly the same, but it was nice knowing there was this group of women who “get it” and I don’t have to explain or educate them about what it’s like to be a mom like me.

Last night someone in that group said something that bothered me and I decided to let it go. To not debate or question to just pretend it hadn’t happened.

This morning I saw it again and it still bothered me. In fact the more I thought about it the more it bothered me. I wasn’t offended, I wasn’t hurt, but I couldn’t just let it go.

That something was comparing open adoption to slavery.

Open adoption = slavery for the mother.

if you say or do anything that causes you to fall out of graces, or you disagree, or open your mouth with any kind of opinion, you run the risk of the adoption closing.

Slavery.

Can’t be authentic.

The AP’s hold your most valuable asset, your offspring.

As both a Black woman and a mother who relinquished and is living open adoption I object to this metaphor. I consider it unnecessarily hyperbolic and in the same sphere as those who refer to abortion as genocide or anyone they disagree with as Hitler. It diminishes any chance for productive conversation about the very real flaws present in adoption.

However, responses to this criticism were of two varieties:

  1. She’s too sensitive so lets not discuss this
  2. yes it is it’s exactly like slavery

Well, thats not entirely true there was one person who reframed it as emotional slavery, but she was shouted down.

I was asked “How is it not like slavery” however as I was about to respond I was met by the ultimate one two punch in whitesplaining:

  1. My black friends says
  2. But not all slaves are/were black

Nope. I’m done. I’m not going to get into a “discussion”, where an acceptable response is “but my Black friend” not going to do it. I identified it as a racist tactic and I left the group.

However, I never did get to answer the question so I’m doing so here.

How is Open Adoption not Slavery?

Coercion happens. State initiated TPR happens unfairly. Both these things happen, they happen more often than most want to admit. But that is not the same as slavery.

Yes there is a power differential. Adoptive parents are the gatekeepers to the children we love until they grow able to have independent relationships. Some adoptive parents use that power in controlling and unfair ways. Some adoptive parents go back on their agreements. But that is not the same as slavery.

If a first parent feels they must walk on eggshells, put up a facade, or pretend to be someone they aren’t to maintain their open adoption that is wrong. It is a bad match. It is bad communication. It might be lack of education and commitment on the part of the adoptive parents. But that is not the same a slavery.

Slavery reduces people to property (which ironically enough this person did by referring to our children as assets) and removes their humanity. Slavery is never ok. There is no good way to practice slavery.

Open adoption describes the relationship of people. Open adoption can be ok. While it is not perfect it can be practiced in good ways.

There are no reforms that could make slavery good. There are reforms that could make open adoption good.

Open Adoption is not slavery.

Let’s let go of the hyperbole and focus on reform.


 

Had the person asserted that some adoptees feel there are parallels or referred to the child trafficking that occurs in some types of adoption or even accepted the reframe of emotional slavery we’d’ve been having a very different conversation.

Also I don’t care what your Black friend has to say as far as I know we haven’t elected a spokesnegro we all are still entitled to our own points of view.

 

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(Less Than Informed) Consent

I’ve been slow putting the blog back together, not knowing what to write about, what to republish, what to leave gone.

The topic of relinquishment and choice has come up in fairly heated conversations in more than one adoption group recently. And when I say recently I mean the last few days. It’s as if somewhere an alarm went off alerting people that this is the week for debating relinquishment.

There have been those who call it selfless, heroic, and courageous. There are those who call it abandonment, irresponsible. In both camps there are those who insist on reminding everyone we chose this.  We either chose it by signing relinquishment forms or we chose it by being incapable of parenting and having the state intervene. No room for nuance, no room for context. Simple. Dismissive. Choice.

It’s not that simple. Nothing ever is. Sure somewhere there is probably at least one mom who made a clear cut choice to relinquish. And sure somewhere there is probably at least one mom who made a clear cut choice not to work her plan and thus lost her parental rights. But for a majority of people there is no clear cut binary of choice and non-choice. There’s a continuum of coercion and we fall somewhere along it.

I was 17, in high school, and unemployed when I got pregnant. I was lucky in that I found out I was pregnant fairly early in the pregnancy, however I had less than 9 months to figure out how to parent my son.  I found a job, but minimum wage after school and on weekends wasn’t (and still isn’t) a lot even though I was in a state with one of the highest minimum wages.

My self worth was beat down on all fronts.

My boyfriend became distant. I no longer blame him, he was dealing with the same crisis I was, but since the fetus wasn’t in his body he had the option to check out. My best friend dropped me without a second thought. My boyfriend’s family called me names.I treated poorly at my prenatal appointments and reminded repeatedly that my insurance, my father’s insurance, would not cover the baby. I was made to feel like the doctors were doing me a favor in seeing me rather than doing their job.

My parents didn’t really talk to me about parenting or about adoption, come to think of it they didn’t talk to me much those nine months. I remember My father talking to me about the possibility that I’d be kicked out of school. (Which I now know would be in violation of title IX, but he was basing it on how things were done when he was in school). About how I needed to be careful around my male friends so people at school didn’t associate them with “my condition”. And that my parents and sisters would not be providing child care should I keep my baby. I don’t remember my mom saying anything. But really, what do you say when your 17 year old tells you she’s pregnant?

I called several places for help. One called back. An adoption facilitation services which advertised “pregnancy counseling”. I know now that it should have been called adoption counseling, but at the time I was grateful they returned my call. I answered their questions, gave them access to my medical records, they sent me profiles to pick parents for my child. Adoption was a forgone conclusion. At one point during the process I said I wanted to parent and I was threatened with foster care.

I now know they can’t take my child because I refuse to relinquish. I now know my parents would’ve helped me. I now know I could’ve done it. I now know there are programs to help. I now know I could’ve parented. I now know there were other options.

I now know so many things that would’ve been helpful to know then. But no one was there to tell me. No one was there to help.

So yes, I made a choice. But it wasn’t a fully informed choice. It wasn’t free of coercion. It doesn’t negate my pain and grief. It doesn’t make Kidlet any less my son regardless of legalities.

Open Adoption Roundtable #11: It’s Beginning to FEEL a Lot Like Christmas

Heather, over at PNR has posted the next OAR writing prompt.

An open-ended prompt this round, because it’s always interesting to see where each of us takes it:

Write about open adoption and the holiday season.

Yes, I know the lyric is “It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas” but for me Christmas is about the feelings.  So far the Christmasy feel boils down to:

COLD: as in it’s been 8 degrees this week when I arrive at my internship in the mornings. So cold that it half my commute just for the car to warm up enough for the heat to be of any use.  So cold that I wear thigh high socks plus wool socks plus boots and my toes are still cold.

FESTIVE: DirtyRed went out and bought a tree and she and GeishaGirl decorated it. THey’ve been burning holiday candles for weeks and their stockings are hung above the fireplace.  For my part I had a peppermint martini at my favorite resaurant this week YUM!

MERRY: The only music being played in my car since the day after Thanksgiving has been Christmas music (well except for the ONE day I allowed Mohawk to pick the music)

So what does any of this have to do with adoption? The last feeling that lets me know the holidays are here is:

LONELY: as in I can try to imagine what Kidlet is up to this time of year.  But I won’t be there.  I wont experience it with him.

I have a video his parents sent me a few years back, him playing with his dreidel and counting in Hebrew (TOO CUTE!)

I’ve been to the house so can imagine quite clearly the spot where their Christmas tree will sit.

I’ve seen him open birthday presents so I can change the wrapping in my minds eye and have a good idea of what his face will be like on Christmas morning…

But he will never walk hand in hand with me and experience the magic of Zoo Lights.

I won’t be able to teach him the simple joy of St. Nikolaus Tag.

He won’t gather with my family  and neighbors Christmas eve eating taquitos and laughing.

He won’t pile in my parents van and drive from neighborhood to neighborhood searching for extravegant light displays.

He won’t return to my parents house to open gifts.

He won’t sleep over and wake early to find that Santa has arrived.

He won’t be able to steal bits of food and sweets while I help momma cook Christmas dinner.

I’ve missed all these things since Christmas 2001, but its worse now watching my sister share all these things with my nieces.

Yesterday I hit the holiday wall. I should have written this post sooner so as not to be a downer.  I’m going to bed now, wake me in January.