As an adoptee, I'm living proof of the psychological complexities of adoption, though my story sounds utterly idyllic when compared with many others' (especially foster kids' and products of international adoption). From the get-go, I had two powerful running starts: being born white, and being born American.
It was the late '70s, and my birth mother was 20 and confused. My biological father was a man she'd met in a nightclub and dated only briefly (he bailed soon after learning she was pregnant). Though she later told me she'd wanted to keep me -- she and a girl friend talked about getting their own place and raising their kids together -- instead she caved to family pressure. She put me up for adoption so she could complete her schooling, complete her life.
I was adopted into a stable, happy, upper-middle-class home as the only child to parents who loved me immensely and gave me more than everything. Still, no matter how much love, attention, or Stuff I was showered with, I felt … wrong. I had no sense of who I was, where I came from or why I was here. I battled bouts of crippling depression and alcohol issues, plus general anxiety and a crushing, constant sense that no matter what I said, accomplished, or looked like, I wasn't -- would never be -- good enough. Why? Because if I were, I felt, my b-mom would have kept me. At my darkest core, I was convinced I was doomed to trudge through every moment of every day feeling inexorably alone.
After years of therapy, I still fight daily for self-worth and serenity. But, after reading this sickening story about adoptive parents who use online ads to "re-home" (read: get rid of) their children, all I want to do is give myself a cozy little self-hug and remind myself how good I've had it compared to some of my fellow adoptees.
Reuters' investigation describes the horrific struggle of kids like Quita, a troubled teenager from Liberia whom a Wisconsin couple adopted and then decided to give up -- via Internet ad -- when she didn't meet their expectations. Nicole Eason and her husband Calvin, of Illinois, saw the ad and assured Quita's "parents" they could handle the girl, writing, "People that are around me think I am awesome with kids" by way of proof.
And that was that -- no attorneys, no child welfare hoops. Apparently U.S. law permits parents to transfer custody of their kids to other adults using nothing more than a signed power of attorney; this provision is meant for temporary situations only, but some deeply evil people are using it to quietly trade in their children.
Quita was handed over to her new guardians with a simple notarized statement. If any officials had been involved, it would have been immediately transparent that the Easons were pretty much the living opposite of fit parents. Child welfare officials had taken away both of Nicole Eason's biological kids; the couple was accused of sexual abuse by kids they'd previously babysat for, and an officer had reported they had "severe psychiatric problems as well, with violent tendencies."
Plus, the couple were repeat offenders, taking in more than six children -- many from failed international adoptions -- over 10 years. They're not alone out there; Reuters discovered that, through Yahoo and Facebook groups, plenty of other parents are advertising their unwanted kids in the hopes of "privately re-homing" them to strangers. One woman from Nebraska offered up a 10-year-old boy she'd adopted from Guatemala, writing in July 2012, "I am totally ashamed to say it but we do truly hate this boy!"
I'm sorry, but ... what? Who talks about a 10-year-old that way? And who reduces something as huge and horrible as child abandonment to a banality like getting rid of an old TV on Craigslist? As an adoptee, it makes me sick to my stomach. It's brazenly preying on troubled, disadvantaged kids who are often considered disposable; children forced to endure the trauma of bouncing from home to home due to sheer adult selfishness and ineptitude. Add all that to the foundational scar of being given up by one's closest, most integral blood tie, and I truly can't imagine the psychological sh*t-show many of these kids must be going through.
And the parents! These parents' willingness to jump ship and dump their children is a clear indicator of the way so many in America currently view adoption: like it's "second best" to having biological kids; like the commitment and the connection involved is somehow less real or less legit; like it's ... Parenting Lite.
As a culture, we need to start having more honest, hard conversations about adoption -- what it means, and what types of feelings, fears, and expectations it can trigger for ALL the family members involved. Otherwise, adoption will continue to be seen as more a shameful secret than what it actually can be: an often complicated, often beautiful way to become a family.
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