When [do] you feel adoption is appropriate and/or it is always going to fail?

We currently live in Portugal (we are US citizens) and have been researching adopting in Portugal. There are orphanages here and the children receive placement with Nationals first if there is availability. I came across your website and found it very different from the majority of the blogs/websites and the view point very interesting. We want one more child (we have two boys) and since we are unable to have them we have turned to adoption. My husband is concerned the adopted child would never feel part of our family, but I think it is the family who sets the tone and they would be our family. As a network of adoptees I am asking you to consider the options and your view on when you feel adoption is appropriate and/or it is always going to fail?

5 thoughts on “When [do] you feel adoption is appropriate and/or it is always going to fail?

  1. Suggest that the first stop is a rather large reading list which includes Betty Jean Lifton’s “Lost & Found”, “The Primal Wound” and Brodzinsky’s work of the stages of the adopted life.All adoption is based on loss and trauma, sometimes it’s necessary if a child can’t be raised by parents. Changing a child’s name, identity is rarely appropriate. Removing a child from the motherland, culture and language never is.Adoption is complex, you need to do homework!

  2. This question is difficult to answer mainly because it is as if someone had just read Frederick Douglass’s speech, “The Meaning of July Fourth for the Negro*”, called it “a different viewpoint”, and then asked him nonetheless for advice about where to get the best deals on slaves.

    “We want one more child….”

    I notice that there’s no discussion here, as if this is a foregone conclusion. This marks the sense of entitlement that separates the First World from the Third. What is the poverty rate in Portugal? The unemployment rate? Where has the social safety net gone, now that Portugal has had to apply “austerity measures” in order to be part of the so-called European Union? Would this perhaps explain the fact that children go to nationals first and foremost? What propels you to ignore all of this evidence that, to me, says you probably shouldn’t adopt?

    “My husband is concerned the adopted child would never feel part of our family, but I think it is the family who sets the tone and they would be our family.”

    I think your husband has decided that the child would not be part of the family, and you are not listening to him (like you aren’t listening to us). It sounds like a familiar problem in adoptive households, one parent more “for” the adoption than the other. But I’m not sure what you mean by “tone”. Are we referring to the mythologies of adoption? The feel-good happy-happy aspects of the pro-adoption stance of the dominant class in society? As commented throughout this site, this same society also has a “tone”, and it rings loud and clear for transracially adopted children, and in spite of whatever “tone” the household environment might provide.

    I am asking you to consider the options and your view on when you feel adoption is appropriate and/or is it always going to fail?

    How do you mean, “fail”? What does a failed adoption mean to you? What a horrifying turn of phrase. Would you ever state this out loud concerning your biological children? “His was a failed upbringing”. Is that like a failed investment?

    To understand is that (not unlike slavery) the “failure” is not determined post-adoption, nor is it a function of this or that adoption, or of this or that child. The failure—of community, of culture, of class—is adoption itself.

    *God speed the hour, the glorious hour,
    When none on earth
    Shall exercise a lordly power,
    Nor in a tyrant’s presence cower;
    But to all manhood’s stature tower,
    By equal birth!
    That hour will come, to each, to all,
    And from his Prison-house, to thrall
    Go forth.

  3. I believe adoption is not okay whenever there is money being exchanged for the child. It reminds me of slaves being placed up on stage and bought by the highest bidder. I am shocked that people think it is okay to buy a child. How do you put a price on a child? I will never understand. It goes against all of my values and morals as a human being. I think the person who is buying the child is just as guilty. Most people assume that these children are ‘poor little orphans’ when in most cases they are not. The agencies have little success rate with documents of death certificates to show actual proof. If adopters keep adopting, agencies will still be stealing children. It’s a rather sad and corrupt business. Continue to buy the product then the agency will continue to do whatever it takes to ‘find’ the product, hence ‘child finders’. Whenever there is money being exchange there will be corruption.

  4. Last night I had dinner with a Korean volunteer translator for the adoptee reunion stories I am editing for a soon-to-be book to be released in Korea, in Korean. The translator was particularly struck by the emotions of one story, which had some underlying anger to it, and she didn’t know how to feel about that. She asked me if most adoptees were angry like that. I explained to her that we can’t characterize adoptees that way. The story (and all adoptees) had many emotions, and anger was just one of them; being adopted is complicated. The translator also volunteers interpreting for adoptees as they visit the country of their birth, and it was her observation that, no matter what their opinion/position was on adoption, and no matter how “well-adjusted” (or not) they may be, they all seemed sad to her. But we both agreed that sad was not the right word, so I tried to help her. Then her eyes widened and she had a moment of recognition where she asked me if I knew what han was. I did. Han, for those of you who don’t know, is “sorrow caused by heavy suffering, injustice or persecution, a dull lingering ache in the soul. It is a blend of lifelong sorrow and resentment, neither more powerful than the other. Han is imbued with resignation, bitter acceptance and a grim determination to wait until vengeance can at last be achieved” (Bannon, D [2008-01-03]. “Unique Korean Cultural Concepts in Interpersonal Relations.” Translation Journal) There is no English equivalent to this concept. It is a terrible equilibrium struck out of necessity; born out of helplessness.

    It is my opinion that all transracial/transnational adoptees carry this state of being with them. When you adopt a child, even if they are grateful, they will carry han with them in their souls. When you add the burden of having to accommodate a difference in race, their han becomes stronger by default. When you add the burden of living a culture that does not reflect them, their han becomes stronger by default. We become rich in han, even as we thrive and (supposedly) live ‘better’ lives.

    Your opinion, “I think it is the family who sets the tone and they would be our family” is true. There is no other option but for it to be so, once the child is adopted, since you write all the rules. This is why unapologetic angry adoptees call adoption abduction or captivity. All adoptees call their adoptive families their families by default, because it is all we have. My personal problem with adoption is not the act of adopting. My personal problem with adoption is the way in which it is practiced today; that WE HAVE NO CHOICE. There is a natural order to the universe that is violated by infant adoption. And for the older child, the child is given no choice. For me, relationship comes first, then love, and THEN adoption. But the adoption industry forces sight unseen relationships which are born of violence to the child’s world. I am all for adoption when people and communities the child trusts wants to make a commitment to the child, and they to them.

    “My husband is concerned the adopted child would never feel part of our family” I think your husband is right. When there are biological children in a family that adopts, the difference is keenly felt by the adoptee, especially the adoptee of color. The differences may be celebrated, and yet everyone is aware that it is an issue that is being addressed, though it may forever remain the elephant in the room. It is very difficult to balance.

    “and/or it is always going to fail”
    I totally concur with Daniel on the unfortunate choice of words here. We adoptees are not failures. True commitment never has such judgment. But many adoptions/adoptees are under such scrutiny and expectations.

    When is adoption appropriate? I think it’s appropriate in families. And I mean an expanded notion of the word ‘family.’ By family, I mean people within the child’s world who can and have touched the child’s life. I believe in strengthening communities so they can be family for children in need. Obviously, this is a local solution. Anything less feels like exploitation of others’ misfortune to me, and in the big picture is the opposite of a humanitarian act because it undermines society and leaves society’s needs unaddressed.

    I would ask those who already have biological children to explore your desires for more. You know, I was adopted in a similar scenario: post biological children, as a second phase. Maybe my mother found early childhood mothering to be particularly rewarding and wanted to re-live that stage. She told me she wanted to do something charitable…But an adopted child is not put on the planet to fulfill the needs of others. The adopted child has their own needs; sometimes extraordinary needs. Nor does the transracial/transnational adoptee want to be an act of charity. You ask for options, and I would suggest turning your desires for fulfillment to less drastic measures in ways that strengthen Portugal’s communities.

  5. I don’t have anything new to add; I just wanted to express that I completely concur with girl4708. Please consider sincerely what she has communicated. Consider what each adult adoptee has offered in response to your inquiry. And I appeal to you to specifically consider what girl4708 suggested: “You ask for options, and I would suggest turning your desires for fulfillment to less drastic measures in ways that strengthen Portugal’s communities.” Too many people want to adopt. We need more people who are willing to advocate and help keep families and communities together, not tear them apart.

Adoptees, what do you think? We welcome your replies!

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