Did someone say
Quite a loaded word, and concept, that. I heard it for the first time when I was five or six, walking down Avenue X (I'm not trying to be secretive -- that's the actual street name in Brooklyn where I grew up in the '40s and '50s). A woman approached my mother and me and asked "Oh, is this the little boy you adopted?" My life was never the same after that moment. But I digress.
Adoption laws and social policies are usually geared towards enabling prospective parents to have kids, and placing kids who otherwise, the theory goes, would remain without the benefits of a nuclear family. Unfortunately, through a system of closed records, they also conspire to keep adoptees from the truth and facts concerning their heritage, medical histories, and other genetic tendencies.
The drama, sadness, and loss that many birth parents, especially the mothers, feel is often not dealt with. Neither is the sense of loss, lack of connection, shame and heartache felt by adoptees who are denied access to their roots, or knowledge of them. Of course, there's lots of shame and heartache associated with infertility, but that's another story (see Resolve, below). I'm talking about adoption here, although it's worth mentioning that those infertile couples who hope adoption will be a cure for the woes of their infertility may find, even after "The Perfect Adoption" (tm), the pain still exists.
Open adoptions, also called independent adoptions, in which birth families and those hoping to adopt meet and select each other, can mitigate most of the problems associated with an adoptee's sense of alienation, including those mentioned above. Since the mid-1980s, owing to an increased demand for adoptable children and more awareness of the existence of open adoptions, birth parents have had more say in choosing where their children would be placed. In many open adoptions, there's ongoing contact among all parties and birth parents are considered part of the child's family.
Soon after the cover of my adoption was blown on Avenue X, my mother began reading to me from a book called "The Chosen Child." It and she tried to glorify the process of prospective adoptive parents choosing, and therefore saving their child from a terrible fate. But no mention was made of the fact that another mother "chose" to give her kid away, mostly to an intermediary agency or attorney. That loss is glossed over.
It's that darker side of adoption that fills the lives of many adult adoptees who have been kept from their records and birth families. For that reason, many of us have joined what's been called the "Adoption Reform" or "Open Records" movement, and support organizations which do that as well.
One such group whose sole purpose is to open all adoption records for adult adoptees is Bastard Nation. BN was formed in 1996 on the Internet as an outgrowth of the Adoptee's Internet Mailing List. Its Birth of a Bastard Nation Conference was held in July '97 in Chicago. Next year's will be in San Francisco in July. This is a high-energy, exciting, fun group that does great work. I'm proud to be a Lifetime Proud Bastard (sm).
Another group which supports these goals, but also provides support and information for all members of the adoption triad is PACER, with which I've been associated since 1984. PACER is a San Francisco Bay Area regional group. It was from PACER that I got the support and courage I needed to search for and find my birth families.
The American Adoption Congress, founded in 1978 to bring together the hundreds of local and regional search, support, and advocacy groups. They, too, support all members of the adoption triad and community. Their regional and national conferences are rich sources for information, encouragement, and camaraderie.
Originally formed to support birthparents, CUB (Concerned United Birthparents) has broadened its membership and focus to include all members of the adoption community. Many CUB members also work to reform adoption laws and social policy to make the adoption experience more humane.
Adoption can and does bring joy to folks; those not able to conceive their own children, and kids for whom a warm, loving home which otherwise, for many reasons, may not have been possible. adopting.com is a web site aimed towards prospective adoptive parents.
RESOLVE is a national non-profit organization that, for more than 20 years, has assisted people in resolving their infertility by providing information, support, and advocacy. They view adoption as one of several alternatives.
Other general adoption-related sites can be found on Shea Grimm's links page. Shea is a founding foundling of Bastard Nation, and a key member of its Executive Committee. In her fine Voices of Adoption pages, Denise Castellucci, another Lifetime Proud Bastard (sm), offers a well-selected links section. Luanne's Adoption Search Page contains lots of links with (mostly) search-related resources. And Damsel Plum, one of my personal heroes and another major energy force of BN, is Ringmistress of The ADOPTION RING, over 400 linked webpages devoted to adoption issues, has her own page of links.