And if another family member/friend decides to adopt?

This is the fifth question in the series: “Anti-adoption month: 30 answers to 30 questions on adoption” [link].

The following question originally appeared on Yahoo!Answers:

What do you anticipate your response will be if your child or another close family member/friend decides to adopt?

Answer: This is an interesting question because it makes the assumption that a) a family member or a friend deciding to adopt might not ask my opinion first before starting such a process, and b) that they share the same presumption that this fact might change my mind, if somehow it is made “real” to me. By this I mean to say that the question is skewed to assume that I am making statements against adoption as if I have no experience with the subject, and also that I am only speaking about the “personal” level. It is thus a dismissal of my own adoption, or else it is an attempt to describe my adoption as having “failed”, as the current parlance would have it.

Whatever the intent, the fact is that I have had many friends who have come to me concerning the topic of adoption in order to hear my thoughts on the subject, and unlike the one posing this question, they are respectful enough to hear me out and consider the big picture as I try to describe it, as well as their role in it. One of the historical facts we have to deal with is that the nuclear family–based culture that predominates in the U.S. has tended to prevent any other kind of “nurturing” or active engagement with children not one’s own.

If this more communal aspect existed, I imagine that the incentive to adopt would be much less, as would the general pressure to have one’s own children. This is what needs much more examination and discussion. What are the economic and political incentives to have a child? It is interesting to note that in all of those wretched “Dear Birth Mother” letters that litter the Internet, the main focus of what makes for a valid adoptive family is their economic stature and means. The large house and yard; the endless vacations; the empty nursery; the correct school district; etc.

The pressure to fulfill one’s economic “role” in society thus can be seen to weigh much more heavily than the purported “personal” reasons that are listed. Adoption is usually a “second-best” option after other efforts of having children have failed. There are entire branches of medicine and law now devoted to easing the hoops that are jumped through in order to produce or procure children. This is a function of economy, since such roads are not open to all. This, in turn, has produced a seeming “right to have children” for those of a particular luxury and privilege. We need to state this loud and clear: There is no such right.

This brings us to a disturbing fact. In other areas of law we find similar concepts of “forced transfer of property”, or “transfer of property due to negligence of the owner”. For just a few examples: eminent domain, forfeiture, repossession, foreclosure, “finders keepers”, etc. Here we see the basis of much of Anglo-Saxon law in concepts of property and ownership, as well as the transfer thereof, the given notion of which is equally summed up by concepts found in phrases such as “private property”, “Don’t Tread On Me”, “I’m entitled to my own opinion”, etc. Much of the horrors of the past centuries such as indigenous genocide, colonialism, and war, come from these ideas of entitlement (the etymology here is quite telling) and of “putting to use” that which lies fallow. Adoption thus becomes a rather horrific “logical conclusion” of this thought process within one particular culture, now applied to human beings the world over whether of this mindset or not, and requiring a huge and shared mythology in order to make it “sit” correctly morally and ethically. The same thing, it need be noted, was done for slavery, for the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the war on Iraq, etc.

But moving from the theoretical to the personal. One friend and I had some very intense discussions about adoption, and racism, and nuclear family, and the like. Very intense. She and her husband eventually decided not to adopt, and have become more active in their church concerning social activities that involve children of the community. One relative adopted a child due to very particular circumstances concerning a mother she was friends with and whom she wanted to help get back on her feet. To understand in this context is that there is no safety net for sustaining family in this way; adoption becomes an “only option”, and the fact that its roots are found in the destruction of family (poorhouses, Orphan Trains, indentured servitude) cannot be overlooked. This also answers the other assumption of this question, that it is somehow “easy” to go after people one doesn’t know personally, as if that were the main reason for speaking in this particular way about adoption. This is an ignoble projection.

This brings us to another Great Unsaid of the question. A woman whose child was kidnapped would get our sympathy; a mother convinced to give up her child who later has regrets is told to “get over it”. The question that might be better to ask is: Why is society so negligent in taking care of those it claims as belonging to it? Why don’t we imagine those of means as contributing back to society, instead of taking from it? Along these lines, I also have friends and family members who never asked my opinion, and just assumed that I would be “on board” because I am an adoptee. This reveals the extent to which adoption is just accepted as part of the status quo, with no critique or criticism allowed. I think the mentality that can accept such a positioning is much “worse” than anything that might be seen otherwise as worthy of such disdain within the anti-adoption and reform of adoption movements.

If I understand this question correctly, it is attempting to state that those of us with an anti-adoption or reformist stance (on any level) are somehow not “close” to adoption in any way. I’m not sure how much closer we can be other than by being adoptees or mothers ourselves. I also sense that there is a shared concern for children, but no acknowledgment is made that there might be anything other than adoption that would be considered to be a valid way to care for children not of one’s own. Truth be told, there are outlets for this desire to take care of children if we seek them out; they just happen to not involve ownership thereof; they require a shift of focus from that of the self to instead that of others. I would argue that most in the adoptive class have achieved their position in society based on the former mindset, and until they are willing to examine their own belief systems then honestly there is no discussion to be had.

Adoption is the Lie that tries to take a focus on self and individualism and redefines it as being selfless and communal. This doesn’t stand as a premise much less an argument on any level whatsoever.


Orphan Care: An Introduction, published by the Social Work and Society Journal.

Adoption in America, edited by E. Wayne Carp.

Debate Tactic: The historical, economic, and political need be stressed over the personal. This removes the subjective and “claimable” opinion: “Well, that’s just your opinion”. The idea of individual agency (without connection to the will and goals of a society or country) is a myth, unless one is working toward revolutionary changes in that society or country. We might wish that adoptive parents, given their class status and political clout, would be in fact working toward such a goal. But this is rarely the case. And so their actions can be seen as working in tandem with prevailing ideologies, and this whether they consider themselves “conservative” or “liberal”; “Republican” or “Democrat”. The power structure, and the maintaining of that structure, are expressed inherently in the actions of those who see validity in this power structure, and this covers the full political spectrum as it currently stands in most “First World” countries.


About Daniel Drennan ElAwar

Adoptee, rematriated.
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1 Response to And if another family member/friend decides to adopt?

  1. Nat says:

    Your ability to conceptualise what many of us think, particularly at the macro level, astounds me. What a gift of intellect you have. Thank you for sharing it and continuing to challenge the common dominant belief systems that continue to perpetuate adoption as an option in our world.

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