Friday, March 24, 2006

2312 Gay adoption

The "experts" have spoken again. It was reported in today's paper that some experts on child welfare have blessed gay adoption.

So how have the experts done in the past on this problem of extra or inconveniently conceived children? Well, in the 17th and 18th century in this country, when the parents died during the crossing from Europe, the children were indentured to strangers to pay off their parents' debt and their own for the passage. Even if they had co-religionists, like the Mennonites, to meet them at the ship, they still became unpaid workers in someone else's household. The experts agreed, it was best all around.

Then in the 19th century some early day social workers for the poor decided that orphan trains would be the best chance for some children to get out of the bad influence of the city. And, maybe they were right. City kids on the wind swept prairies of Kansas or Nebraska, torn away from siblings on the train platform, working behind the horses or cutting sod probably did stand a better chance of reaching adulthood. But my gracious, they must have been terrified and lonely.

In the 20s and 30s of the twentieth century, adoption became a little bit more formal, but if you lived in a small town, many people knew who your mother was and that she "got in trouble" so then you were adopted by that middle-aged couple who "couldn't have any of their own" or a relative. The experts thought that was the best way to handle it. With the Depression, you couldn't be too choosy about who raised the children--everyone had too many mouths to feed.*

Lots of babies of unknown origin appeared during and after WWII and our Asian wars. Movie star adoption was popular, like Michael Reagan, son of President Reagan. Even fake adoptions took place for out of wedlock babies like the daughter of Clark Gable and Loretta Young, Judy Lewis, who actually was "adopted" by her own mother. Experts of that era believed that the stigma of adoption was better than the stigma of legitimacy. Amer-Asian children, some biracial, were sent away from their Korean and Vietnamese mothers and villages to grow up the only Asian person in some small mid-western town.

In the late 50s and early 60s the experts, by this time with Master's in Social Work, decided absolute secrecy was best, so laws were passed in most states to falsify the birth certificates of adopted babies. Even when they became adults they couldn't get their real birth certificate--forever being legally a "baby." Unless they could prove they were Native Americans. Oh yes, the heritage of Indians was more important than Irish or German or English descendant children. You can't deprive an American Indian of his or her tribal rights even if he's only 1/16 or 1/32. But you can deny any Caucasian child of all birth family knowledge about their first degree blood relatives. How's that for turn around is fair play? I'm not sure which expert thought that one up. But they probably were members of whatever "rights" group had the ear of the legislators.

Then when the feminist movement joined hands with the abortionists, we got "open adoption." Supposedly, it should hurt a child less to know that his birth mother knew the past 25 years where he was and who adopted him, but chose never to contact him. Go figure. I don't know about you, but I wouldn't feel really terrific knowing my birth parents knew where I was and decided not to even meet me or thought the occasional photo would do! Open adoption was supposed to cut down on abortions with the logic (probably of a lawyer) that it hurts a woman more to carry a child 9 months and place her for adoption than to abort her and never let her live and just wonder about it the rest of her life. I have no idea really who thought up open adoption (which is sort of a throw back to the early 20th century), but that's what the experts believe. The experts will also tell you it is better to kill a child in utero than to let her face life with a family that can help her with a disability like Downs or club foot. The disability rights people who lead perfectly satisfying lives will tell you that "expert opinion" has absolutely nothing to do with the child's welfare.

When the local supply of infants was dried up by abortions (with the help of experts helping the mommies), other experts turned first to Latin America, then after the collapse of Communism to Russia and the Balkans. Girl babies are not much valued in China and India, so now the experts think raising the only dark skinned or Asian child within a hundred miles won't be noticed or will work out with enough love and support. This form of adoption puts lots of money in the hands of the experts, because only rich Americans can afford to create families this way.

And while I'm on experts, let's not forget all the doctors, lawyers and social workers (notice how these days it takes more and more education to become an expert, but the solutions get more bizarro?) who decided that a child couldn't care less if daddy's sperm came from a sperm bank which paid college students who had good grades, blond hair and blue eyes. Or if mommy was an egg donor or the local rent-a-womb lady. Didn't Woody Allen marry the adopted sister of his own children whom he'd helped raise? I'll bet there was an expert in there saying it was OK. I guess that example should go into the Asian group; nah, works better with bizarro.

Now the experts are even by-passing adoption and/or abortion and going directly to just using up the cells of the embryos of the inconveniently conceived for research. Isn't it just so sweet for the pre-child that he can be useful to society without all that messy living and growing up routine? Some of us can live our whole lives without ever making a contribution to medical science!

Excuse me, I'm gagging at this point. So, the end of the story is I don't trust the "experts" who tell us that gay adoption will help children, or that children don't really need a woman (gay men adopting) or a man (lesbians adopting) in their lives--gender identification and modeling being just more outdated artifacts of another time and different experts.

*I'm leaving out orphanages and children's homes, which considering what followed their closings in the 1960s and 1970s (recommended by the experts), may have been one of the better ideas for stability and care of children without parents.


Anonymous said...

Wishing to maintain healthy respect for differences of opinion, no matter how judgemental they may come across as being, or how based on matters of faith or prejudice rather than material, quantifiable fact, I came across your article on this subject and wanted to make the following points:

1. Well-written. Doesn't need to be said, but always nice to acknowledge and the world needs more people capable of using the English language effectively and robustly, no matter what they use it for. So kudos to you on that score.

2. The adoption processes which exist in the US are very different to those in the UK and EU. In Britain, we don't operate open adoption but recent changes in legislation allow for birth parents not to have contact with a child but to receive annual letters from adoptive parents telling them how their child is doing. These are sent not directly, but via social services. And of course, when a child reaches 18 he or she can seek out their birth parents if they so wish.

I think this is humane. It is compassionate. Stereotypes abound, as do prejudices, but ultimately most parents who give up their children for adoption or have their children taken into care and placed for adoption have complex feelings not easily categorised into 'bad mummy' or 'uncaring mummy', nor can we say with conviction or knowledge that they lack the desire to know, as the years go by, that their child is doing okay. I see no problem with birth parents having that knowledge. They are not allowed to see the child, or to know where the child lives, because that would be disruptive and detrimental all round - but it's good to keep them informed, if they choose to pick up the letters - and many do - as to how their child is progressing through life.

Abandonment is rare; involuntary or for whatever reason necessary giving up of a child is far more common. I cna't speak with any authority on US statistics, but that's the case here in the UK. And I certainly can't be priggish and high-handed, judging parents who give their children up for adoption when I don't know WHY each individual does it.

3. Again, I don't know if any 'expert' in the US has said, as you relate, that children don't really need a woman (gay men adopting) or a man (lesbians adopting) in their lives'. But it seems very unlikely to me.

You completely choose to disregard or refuse to acknowledge that gay people come from families, too - real, decent, wonderfully varied families ranging from conventional to eccentric and back again, from Christian to Muslim to agnostic and back again.

And while it might be desirable from a prejudicial perspective to see gay people as coming from, say, broken or otherwise dysfunctional families, this notion has no basis in statistical fact nor can it be backed up by looking at lesbian and gay real lives.

Oh, I am sure there's a lesbian somewhere from a single parent background involving crack cocaine and an abusive stepfather; I am also sure there are more straights in that bracket, simply because there are more straights than gays! Statistically, anything 'we' can experience in our lives as gay people, or do, has been experienced or done by more heterosexuals. Ah, the myth of the well-balanced happy heterosexual... Presumably those who rape, murder, abuse, fight and worse are in some way not QUITE heterosexual, not QUITE the real thing? Yet they are. Heterosexuals, homosexuals, bisexuals. All are equally likely to range from 'normality' - whatever that is - to 'perversity' (and definitions on that vary, too).

Of course, single parents have been around since the dawn of time and are a favourite target alongside gays, lesbians, and anyone else who doesn't fit a very narrow definition of what makes for an acceptable human being; ironically, it is those who are most rigid and narrow in their harsh judgements and prejudices who, I feel, should be the least likely candidates for having children, adoptive or biological.

It's one thing to choose your own prejudice; quite unforgiveable to pass it on and thus hinder a child's development of his or her own views, which should be based on love and tolerance and respect - three key values a healthy home of any kind should seek to impart. I would have thought it logical to assume Christian homes would provide that kind of foundation; sadly, not all and many go out of their way to do quite the opposite. I think they've read a different Bible. Or maybe the man they think is Jesus is really the man running their local Hell's Angel bike club and they got mistaken somewhere along the line. Then, most Americans see Christ as a white man and not a Jew who looked like his Arab neighbours, so the grip on reality does kind of get more than a little tenuous and skewed in every area of life...

And society - indeed, history - shows us that nobody is immune from any social disharmony, problem or negative situation on grounds of their sexuality or indeed, colour, creed and so on. We all face advantages and disadvantages, we can all argue over what constitute those exactly, but we can all surely agree that the human spirit enables everyone to dream, succeed in life, overcome any obstacles and savour delights and joys while addressing our hurts. When nurtured well and without bias, we are also able, as adults, to make sensible and healthy, loving and respectful, compassionate and emotionally open choices in work and in our personal lives.

Gay people have mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, uncles, aunts, female and male friends, colleagues. Nobody in their right mind could suggest that so-called 'gay adoption' entails seperating out a child from the influences and experiences of not only different genders to the adoptive parents but also from the experiences of and interaction with the young, the old, the black, the white, the physically able and the disabled.

The poisonous and contrived myth of a same-sex couple wanting their child to be of the same gender as they, and then keeping that child away from the opposite gender is a toxic lie which even the most cursory examination of proves quite easily.

We live in the real world. Such an attempt to limit a child's experience would be doomed to failure - as much as if a person jumped from a tall building insistent on being able to fly by flapping his or her arms. It is fantasy, and not fantasy on the part of same-sex couples but fantasy put out as agit-prop by those who seek to shore up faith-based agendas of intolerance with lies.

I'm tolerant and accepting of all non-coercive, love-centred expressions of personal faith. And I've never read anywhere that lies and distortions are acceptable. Of course, I've never gone near the Satanists - perhaps they DO think that, but I wouldn't know and wouldn't want to.

A child's life experience to adulthood is defined by the parents. If parents choose to be blinkered, or homophobic, or racist, those 'values' are often transferred. 'Sins of the fathers' indeed. And the mothers, too. These things are as damaging not only to a child, but to society, as incest and other forms of violence, or drug abuse of any kind.

My partner and I have a wide range of friends - gay, lesbian, straight, old, young, different classes and careers, educated and non-educated. We have strong, positive relationships with all members of our respective families and so our child - when our adoption is finalised - will have the benefit of input, experience, understanding from people of different genders, classes, walks of life, careers, and so on. It will be a busy childhood wherein s/he will see everything done to ensure love is known, diversity encouraged as something not to be scared of, imagination and dreams cultivated. In short, we will be the best parents anyone can be because parenting, when all is said and done, is part-instinctive, part-guesswork but, above all else, about doing the very best one can and putting the child's needs first.

It is absolutely vital any child, adoptive or biological, gets to interact with other children and adults of all ages, genders, walks of life, in order to learn the value of diversity and tolerance and love and respect. And yet I so often find those who set themselves against love, and against gay people adopting, are against these values which I see as essential in upbringing children. Without love, tolerance, and respect a child learns to hate, to judge, to conceptualise others based on their own beliefs as being the only ones that matter, the only ones that are to be respected.

Prejudice of any kind cripples people and lends to the ruination of our world.

I believe, in short, that a healthy lifestyle of ANY kind involves the ability not to make assumptions, not to prejudge, not to blanket condemn whole swathes of people. It never fails to be grossly insulting to anybody to be judged by a deliberately malicious and ill-informed label.

That said, I long ago came to the painful realisation that for some people there's a kind of self-surety and confidence to be found in condemning others using a very wide-reaching beam of judgement. It's sad but hey, what can you do? People have been roped together and judged since the Romans started killing pagans, then the Christians, then the Christians and the Jews started killing each other, then the Muslims got in on the act, then the Nazis came along and started bundling people of all kinds who didn't 'fit' into the gas chambers.

I choose not to go with that madness. The best you can do is to limit the deleterious effects of toxic souls and to focus on learning from their bad examples how not to behave if you want to avoid getting increasingly more bitter as you get older and see the world changing in ways you don't like.

You don't know the facts because you aren't living them. You have the language and the grammar and the writing style. Where you're letting yourself down is in making judgements against strangers based on your own suppositions and bigotry. You say you 'don't trust the experts' - but be honest. What you're really saying is 'I don't like this and that's good enough for me, so woe betide anyone who presents me with any facts which shatter my own bigotry'.
It's fine to openly admit to this unsavoury bias; telling that you disguise it, or try to.

I wish you peace, health and happiness and hope you might seek to address the gaps in your knowledge and experience by talking to the very people you condemn with an open heart and mind before writing about them in the way you do. From one poet to another, you do yourself deep damage by maintaining and cherishing this woeful 'blind spot. The poet's job is to observe and translate, to use language creatively and inspiringly. We should cut away at lies, not reinforce them with our words.

Norma said...

“You completely choose to disregard or refuse to acknowledge that gay people come from families, too - real, decent, wonderfully varied families ranging from conventional to eccentric and back again, from Christian to Muslim to agnostic and back again.”

When did I disregard or refuse this? Do you expect me to write on every conceivable topic dealing with families rather than just adoption? I’m good; but not that good.

Most of the gay people I know grew up in very nice families, wonderful families; and some of them have abandoned their wives and the mothers of their children to partner with another sweetie, just like the straight guys. Some adoptive couples I know have been not so great and they weren’t gay--just bad parents. One couple I know divorced after 4 adoptions. Lots of families are dysfunctional, but let’s not deliberately put a child in a home that has no mother, or no father, just because it sometimes happens to other families due to divorce or death or poor planning. It is supposed to be about what is best for the child, not what is best for the birth mother, or the adopting couple or movie star.

And that’s all I’ll say to you, except, you need to put all this on your blog, not mine. Comments I love; but essays, theses, dissertations and long-windedness are imposing on my hospitality.

And my eyeballs fall out when non-Christians start giving Bible lectures. Doesn’t fly at this blog. Besides, I didn’t bring up the Bible thumpers, only the social and legal experts. That's your can of worms, not mine.

ljmcinnis said...

Whew Norma! You wanted dialogue and you got a diatribe.
Whatever happened to artful debate? It seems too often, that reasonable discourse turns into personal attacks.
I was compelled to comment...over at my blog if you are interested.

Jami said...

I'm just curious to know if you are adopted or if you have adopted any children yourself. If not, I'm curious to know where you obtained your expertise on the subject. And BTW, just to establish MY bona fides, I'm the proud parent of two kids who just happen to be adopted.

I'm not sure where you got your information that "the local supply of infants was dried up by abortions", but all the adoption agencies I know of are still looking for parents, especially those willing to adopt "special needs" children. Would you like to parent a Downs baby or a FAS baby or an AIDS baby? Do you know anyone who would?

Finally, if you don't trust the "experts" who tell us that gay adoption is OK, which "experts" do you trust? Ones whose "expertise" matches your beliefs?

Norma said...

Jami--In the 1960s, the wait for a healthy, white infant was about 3 months after approval and home study. This changed after abortion became legal. Although there were international adoptions 40 years ago, it was because of reasons other than few adoptable infants in the USA creating long waits.

I have great admiration for people who adopt special needs children, and even more for those who don't abort them. I'm 66--not wishing to start another family, thank you, no matter how glorious, adoptable and wonderful the children might be.

My point isn't about just today's experts blessing gay adoptions, but the people--doctors, lawyers, social workers, ministers--who in the name of knowing what's best based on whatever was trendy, have played with children's lives in the past.

Based on history, all human cultures and common sense, if all else were equal, I'd place an adoptable infant in the home of a married woman and man preferably under age 40. I do believe mothers are important and offer significant benefits to children that fathers don't supply; same with fathers being important, particularly for daughters. Don't site "I know a wonderful family of 10 raised by only great Aunt Tilly." We all know exceptions. Particularly among divorced families.

I'm speaking of what's best in the long run. I believe traditional marriage offers emotional and financial stability not found in a single parent home. All the "expert studies" confirm this, but they are ignored when "rights" of the adopters come into play instead of what is best for the child, so they turn to other experts to prop up their cause.