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Thursday, January 28, 2010

Holes in Adoption

When Marcie reminded me earlier this week that Thursday was Reform Day at Grown In My Heart, my mind instantly flashed to the movie Holes. It took a couple of seconds before I realized Marcie was talking about a different type of reform. And nope, I refuse to explain why I automatically thought "reform school" instead of reform, as in change.

Not that I ever attended a reform school or anything. Because I totally didn't.


But surely there are some lessons there. From Holes. About adoption. Okay, so I know it's a stretch, y'all, but go with it. Because I'm stubborn like that. And you don't even need to have seen the movie, much less read the book by Louis Sachar, to get my points. I promise.

The powerless often receive inhumane treatment. Just like Stanley and dozens of other teens at Holes' Camp Green Lake, adoptees and first parents often receive inhumane treatment. Why? Because adoption agencies and adoptive parents tend to hold all of the power. As just ONE example: at this moment, only 19 states have passed laws that allow first parents and adoptive parents to enter into an enforceable agreement about their open adoptions. Of those 19 states, several only apply to older child or kinship adoption, and several more are non-binding. Which means that first parents who sought an open adoption have no recourse if the adoptive parents decide to cut off all contact a few months or years down the road. Which basically stinks.

So that should change.

For some, it's all about the money. Just as the Warden in Holes abuses her power to obtain money that does not rightfully belong to her, many adoption agencies make money off the backs of vulnerable children and hopeful prospective adoptive parents. This includes most for-profit agencies, non-profit agencies that abuse their status and many adoption attorneys. There should be more oversight of this entire industry... because several decades ago it became less about finding homes for children and more about making money.

So that should change.

Family history is important in everyday life. Just as a lack of family history effected Zero greatly in Holes, so, too, does the lack of genetic family knowledge effect adoptees. Did y'all know that only five states provide adult adoptees unrestricted access to their original birth certificates? That is ridiculous, y'all! These are documents about THEM. Can you imagine not being allowed access to see your own marriage certificate? Or your high school diploma? Adult adoptees should be able to receive their own original birth certificates, no questions asked. Right now most of them can't.

So that should change.

Dangers lurk in holes. Just as the boys in Holes must always remain cautious of the lethal yellow-spotted lizards, we, too, must be cautious when entering into the world of adoption, especially international adoption. Corruption exists. Child-trafficking, coercion, bribery and all sorts of ugly things few want to talk about lurk in the shadows. As a parent who adopted internationally, it saddens me especially to know that adoptions still occur from and to countries that are not Hague compliant.

So that should change.

Being nice because you are getting what you want isn't really being nice. Just as the Holes characters of Warden and X-Ray are nice to others only when people do what they tell them to do, many social workers and adoptive parents are nice to expectant moms only while they believe the expectant mom will choose adoption for her child. If an expectant mom chooses to parent, the help offered by the adoption agency rapidly disappears. And if a new mom changes her mind and decides to parent her child before she signs the TPR (termination of parental rights), it can get very nasty, very quickly. Which is just plain icky.

So that should change.

We should sympathize with people who have been deemed unacceptable by society. With the exception of Holes' main character Stanley, the boys are all criminals, yet they are the heroes of the story. Just as the novel teaches us to avoid judging juvenile delinquents, we, too, should avoid judging first parents. We often have no idea what their personal stories are and - even when we do know their stories - we have no idea if we would or could have chosen to do things differently. The stigma still expressed against first parents causes my heart to hurt, y'all. And we should also stop using the label "angry adult adoptee" in an attempt to silence voices that make us feel uncomfortable. Because neither of those are right.

So that should change.

I could seriously go on and on all day about adoption reform, but instead I'll stop before I dig myself into a hole. What I'd like to know, though, is what do YOU think needs to change about adoption? Join in with your thoughts at this week's Grown In My Heart blog carnival (you can find links to the other participants right here) or in the comments below.


happygeek said...

You rock.

marcie said...

OMG, such an awesome analogy. It is one of my favorite books, ever. I can't wait to read it with AJ. I used to teach it, even.

autumnesf said...

I think you pretty much covered the issue!
But I'd like to add to all that training the Hague has adoptive parents complete. I'd like to see the subject of fraud, trafficking, baby buying rings and other abuses covered, along with a good dose of those "angry" adoptee opinions and views. Most of us are not looking for the "bad" side of things when we go in to adoption...and get blindsided with it after the fact. Sure, you could say its the adults fault...but shouldn't the adoption agencies have a duty to tell the WHOLE story?

Logical Libby said...

I have an evaluation form from our adoption agency sitting on my table right now. I haven't been able to fill it out because I am thankful for my child, but troubled by some of the things I saw happening in that agency when we adopted.

I think I may just attach your post.

The Gang's Momma! said...

Great list. I agree with autumnesf, that the pre-adoptive training (Hague or not) should include those topics. Hard to talk about, hard to process, but essential! I never knew ANY of that existed until we were ready to sign the application. By the time we were in process, there were just.too.many. things to research and study on my own. Some direction would have helped.

I'd also like to see more preparation for the adoptive parents led by the agencies. Discussion groups, attachment seminars, book clubs, classes, whatever it takes for helping us learn more about the most common issues adoptive families face.

Our agency did a "pairing up" thing with a BTDT family for those of us who wanted it, but my own partnering was not a great fit for more than prayer support - too many differences btw. distance, experiences, families, personal styles, etc. The prayer and encouragement was vital for my spirit, but it didn't benefit my whole family. It didn't educate us.

The Gang's Momma! said...

Logical Libby, I'd love to hear what comes of your evaluation back to your agency. How it's received, acted upon, etc. That just reminded me of another thing I think that more agencies should offer - an opportunity for honest feedback about any and all parts of the process.

Addie Pray said...

I love your analogy. Very cool way of looking at reform.

Sharon said...

Just brilliant. And true and honest and well thought out and especially expressed!! Really. haha. You are just amazing. It is a priviledge to get to read your blog and we are all lucky you keep one. Maybe you should run for office!! Keep it up ..whats next!

Vivian M said...

Thank you for visiting my blog, Life with Kerri. I came over to read yours and was blown away - what an awesome post.
I think I will be stopping by more often!

Myrnie said...

So many good points. We need to be nice, to everyone. That's just it.

Ernie and I have been talking about adoption lately, since she met some adopted friends. My friend is a (single) caucasian, her daughters are Ethiopian, and I wanted Ernie to know they were adopted before they showed up to play and Ernie announced that C wasn't their mom, because they didn't look alike, and where was their dad? That's totally something E would do. I'm wondering if I should have said anything- she drew pictures of the little girls, their crying mommy, and their happy new mommy. Oh, the girls are crying too in the pictures. Some days I'm just not sure I'm up to the task of teaching my kids about the world around them.

Janet said...

I definitely think adopted children should have more access to their OWN information.

Canada has different adoption laws, some of them quite silly. So I would change the ways governments formulate laws, as well as change the way that gov'ts view adoption. As just another business transaction. It's not. It's lives.

bbmomof2boys said...

Hmm....ok, I wrote a nice little comment for this but then decided to stick my head in the sand.

There is a ton of changes that need to be made - adoption laws, attitudes in the adoptive communities, agencies need to be better monitored...and the list can go on.


Debz said...

"Hole"y......now there is speech! I think you should get into politics........(the only way things will change is if someone like youself gets the ball rolling) You can advocate for the rest of us.
And "Speak for those who cannot speak for themselves......."

Becky said...

I can't believe so many adoptees can't even access their own records! That makes no sense whatsoever.

P.S. I love Holes.

Michelle@Gotchababy said...

Nicely done--so many good points!

JBH said...

The parallels are astounding! As an adult adoptee, I love your points. Thanks for your insights.


P.S. I've read the book many times, and my kids have read it/watched the movie - and it's one of our favorites.

Upstatemomof3 said...

I've never seen that movie but I feel very strongly about all of the points that you brought up. I would also say that the attitude our government has about other governments really needs to change. They need to work together. Not start useless fights. And sometimes they are useless. We are not the only nation in the world and everyone does not have to do it our way for it to be accurate.