The Adoption Blogosphere: Not Always Thinking Happy Thoughts

So I stopped procrastinating and added a bunch of links to the adoption section of our blogroll to your left. Click away. Especially if you are an adoptive parent, you may well have your views of adoption (and especially international and transracial adoption) challenged, possibly in a hurtful way. Sorry! (Well, kind of.)

Discussion of adoption on the internet is balkanized.

On the one hand you've got forums dominated by adoptive parents and parents-to-be. I've participated in some. In the ones I've encountered, the inhabitants confront some difficult issues (attachment issues, dealing with rude comments, dealing with tough questions from trans-racially adopted kids) but are generally cool at best and hostile at worst towards more fundamental and unpleasant issues like the role of racism in American society and ethical and socioeconomic issues surrounding transracial and international adoption. There's a current of happy-happy-joy-joy — not unreasonably, because the forums are primarily about mutual support during the process and sharing the joy of parenthood. When the tough questions come up — the questions that ask the members to confront the question of whether international and transracial adoption is an unqualified good thing — people will often react angrily.

(As an example, on one of the most prominent such forums, this week I saw a member react to a thoughtful discussion by saying that two of its participants should "shut up with the race-baiting" — and was defended for that outburst by like-minded people. That sort of reaction was not unusual. I've taken a vacation from that forum, because people say things that make me want to throw down, yet forum culture prohibits it. That makes me stabby.)

Then you've got the blogs by people in the process of adoption, like my own. These are, as a rule, much further into the happy-happy-joy-joy category and much less likely to discuss difficult issues. And why not? Adding a child to the family is a joyful thing no matter how it happens. Plus, all family life has its strife and Tennesee Williams elements, but no one feels obligated to depict them in their album. Creative Memories doesn't carry "angst" themed sticker packs.

Then you've got the adult adoptee blogs and blogs about adoption issues. In my unscientific assessment, these predominate towards moderate to serious misgivings about transracial and international adoption. There are blogs that confront serious issues but are still clearly positive about international adoption — such as Noble Seoul, written by someone who comments here and whom I am happy to count as an online friend. There are blogs I would describe, without judgment, as angry. And there are blogs I would describe as skeptical, cautious, and questioning. I don't believe I've found the flip side — a blog that seriously confronts questions about international and transracial adoption but refutes them with logic in favor of unqualified support of such adoption. (I'd like to see one — not to confirm opinions but to expose myself to and link to a diversity of thought on the issues.)

I've blogged previously about the social pressure in the adoption community and society at large for people — and especially adoptees — to portray international and transracial adoption only in a positive light, and about why that pressure should be refuted. Paula at Heart, Mind, and Seoul has an exceptionally good piece this week about the parental obligation to confront adoptee sorrow and loss. These sentiments are viewed as "race baiting" by one end of the spectrum and as wholly inadequate and self-deceptive by the other end. Somewhere in the middle, in my opinion, is reason and good faith.

I have some thoughts about confronting strong opinions about adoption on the internet and elsehwere:

  • Aristotle says that it is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it. I believe that more people in the dialogue should adopt that view. Through some of the links I have added, and elsewhere, I can encounter some strong views about the morality of international adoption and the motives (actual or ascribed) of adoptive parents. I don't agree with all of them. But reading and confronting them is not endorsing them or accepting them.
  • Some adoptees and birth mothers are going to be pissed off about international adoption and say terrible things about it and about the motives they ascribe to parents who participate. Don't take it personally or freak out about it. Expose yourself to it and you'll be more prepared for things you might hear from your kids at 15 or 25 or 35. Plus, being compassionate requires consideration of their circumstances, if not agreement. Remember, other people's feelings in general and adoptees' feelings in particular are not about you.
  • On the other hand, adult adoptees, cut the adoptive parents some slack if your attacks on adoption freak them out a little. Lots of adoptive parents reach adoption through pain and loss. Contrary to media depictions and some anti-adoption views, most international adoptive parents don't get into it out of white-man's-burden ego. (If ego is involved, it's the same ego that leads biological parents to have kids.) When you attack something central to their identity and self-worth — their parenthood — some may react badly. Take it the way you would want them to take your criticisms of adoption and your stories of loss — with an open mind, and compassionately, if not in agreement.
  • Despite what I've said about exposing oneself to opposing views, I haven't linked every site that engages tough issues of race and transracial adoption. Why? The tone of some of them pisses me off and I don't find them to be in the spirit of good faith consideration of issues. Just as I don't find a dialogue consisting of "shut up, race baiters" to be one in good faith that is worth my time, nor will I spend much time considering "Shut up, apologize, and shut up again." I was not made, as this blog suggests, to shut up. I will entertain and engage opposing views but I will not live my life as a penitent to either side.

By the way, I selected the particular blogs in the adoption section because (1) I know the writers from online or (2) I stumbled across them, and (3) I found them thought-provoking and/or well-written. Give me a shout if you'd like to see more there.

Edit: Welcome to recent visitors. Find more postings about adoption issues here.

Last 5 posts by Ken White


  1. says

    I think it takes alot on the part of adoptive parents to admit to the 'downside' of adoption. If they admit adoption isn't always love and roses (or for that matter, legal and ethical) then they have to admit their own culpability. So, who can blame them? I accept my culpability by saying, "I'm the 3rd best thing to happen to my son". Some people can't do the same. Regardless, adoption is driven by adoptive parents. I truly believe it.

    I don't think Harry and Bertha Holt set out to create an industry, but adoption has evolved into one. Much liked racism, if those in power (whites/ adoptive parents) don't set forth to enact change- change will continue to elude us.

    In the end, as always, it is our children who have no say in the equation, yet adoption affects them more than anyone else in the triad. I don't really think adoptees need to cut us much slack. (Especially if we act like idiots on par with the current case 'en pointe'.)

    Let's 'throw down' together. I've got a case of the stabbies myself!

  2. N says

    I'm marginally in your target demographic on this one, but can't muster the energy to go get myself angry off-site.

  3. Rosalea says

    I just wish that skepticism was not such a "dirty" word in our society….to have the ability to analyze data…or to take a good look at information that is contradictory to our personal beliefs (or what we WANT to believe)…takes determination and insight …and requires the ability to put aside the natural human tendency to just "be right"….the majority of folks that check out the anti-adoption blogs will most likely be leaning in that direction anyway…same thing with the happy-happy-joy-joy folks…and will only be seeking to confirm what they believed in the first place…therefore, any opinion that differs will be met with resistance….and the "like-minded" will jump on board to squelch the opposition so everyone can skip back to their self-created fantasy lands….

    It applies to nearly every way of thinking…not just adoption…although that subject is so near and dear to my heart….

    although it makes me CRAZY with frustration, frequenting other boards that regularly assert opinions that are toxic and vicious has helped me stay in tune with some of the thought processes that my beautiful children (both adopted and bio) will have to contend with someday…After all, knowledge is power and teaching/learning critical thinking skills is high on my priority list…can't get a much better lesson than butting heads with an opposing point of view!!

    Great post, Ken!! and BTW…I am ALWAYS ready for a "throw-down"….wink…


  4. Rosalea says

    hey..also wanted to mention….by the number of PM's I get, there are PLENTY of folks on that "other" board that are craving a different point of view..but are terrified of posting…(which sort of cracks me up…but is again a psychological mind set…the "fear" of being the "only" one that thinks a certain way…or to be called out as the opposing point of view…there are some fascinating studies about "pressure to conform" )

    anyway….just thought I would mention that your posts are missed on the other forum and your opinion is always highly regarded…


  5. Astonied says

    Is it snarky to say that I have always wondered what people on BB's who tell others to whom they are not related to "shut up" do in their own household when their own wife won't "shut up".

    Do I have to report myself for this comment?