Whole and Half Adoption: My Thoughts

I read all of your comments on my last post with great interest. Thank you, very much, for your insight and compassion into a contentious topic.

I wanted to first clear up what I consider to be poor writing on my part, for which I apologize. I was trying to be all vague and mysterious about where we live and it ended up coming across as just…muddled. Tammy will be listed on our child’s birth certificate as her other parent, and we will be given a temporary custody order until the adoption is processed, some six months after the birth. If we were never planning to go anywhere for the rest of our child’s life, this would be enough, legally, to ensure that both of us would be treated as our daughter’s legal parents. However, because there are many places in the United States that would not automatically assign Tammy parental rights (if not outright ban them), we have to go through with the adoption to protect our family in those states.

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Please note that everything that follows is a collection of my personal opinions, colored by interactions and discussions with friends and family members. I am not adopted myself, so I do not have first hand experience. If I offend anyone with what I say, please know that it is not my intent to do so, and be kind to me in explaining why you feel as you do.

Adoption is not a black and white issue for me. I, personally, do not like it when people (many Catholic and Evangelical groups, for instance) paint it as The Solution to an unwanted pregnancy (as opposed to abortion). I also do not think it is fair to say it’s always a Bad Thing, like my friend, and some in the adoption rights community say it is. It’s like life: complicated, and with trade offs (life is complicated you say? How shocking).

Encouraging biological family members to stay together is much more complicated than just providing free prenatal care, as some “crisis pregnancy centers” imply. (Gentle hint STRONG SUGGESTION: do not EVER go to a crisis pregnancy center. They are con artists.) You cannot have a discussion about adoption without discussing sex education for children and teens, education in general, access to contraception and abortion, the roles of religion and culture, social services to support lower socio-economic status women and children, social stigmas of welfare queens and teen moms, “anchor babies”, the role of biological fathers, cycles of poverty, the foster care industry, the for profit adoption industry, international adoption, parental rights, pregnant women’s rights, the “personhood” movement, and on and on. All of these things are, in my opinion, intrinsically linked. But phew! Who has time to discuss all that? And what legislation could possibly address all these things in a meaningful way?

In a perfect world, there would be no unwanted babies, and there would be no families who wanted babies but couldn’t have them. Obviously, this is not a perfect world (again, it’s truly shocking). I think we should do what we can to reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies, and assist in achieving pregnancy for those that desire it, but we have to acknowledge that there will never be a perfect balance.

So what to do about those babies that, for whatever reason, are being placed for adoption? If a family member is willing to take them, I think they should be given first dibs. If a family member is not readily available, I do not believe they should be coerced into taking in a child they cannot adequately care for.

If no family member is available or appropriate, then I think a child should be placed for adoption to the greater community, in whatever form the birth mother (and father, if applicable) are comfortable with: open, semi-open, closed, etc.

Ideally, a child will have access to a basic medical history of both sides of his or her family (obviously, this is not always possible or practical). I do not think that adoption records should be destroyed, unless the birth mother specifically requests, after a certain period of time, that they be. If an adopted child wants to have contact upon reaching adulthood with their biological family, a court appointed independent third party should be assigned as a liaison to coordinate that contact, i.e. contacting the birth parents and asking their consent to provide the offspring with their name(s) and contact information. If the birth parent(s) do not want to provide contact, then the process stops there.

That may seem harsh to children desperately searching for information about their genetic history. I do not, however, believe that we are entitled, as a human right, to extensive genetic information. I also do not believe that once a child is born, their right to know trump the right to privacy of the person who gestated them.

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As far as my own child goes, we did a lot of thinking, obviously, about the role of biology, nature/nurture, the role of fathers, gambling with genetics, and fate before we settled on our donors. All three of our donors were chosen from a pool of willing to be known (WTBK) men, rather than the totally anonymous men.

We do have basic medical information about the donor, as well as some family medical history. We have a short recording of his voice, and pictures of him as a baby, a child, and an adult. We have the option of signing up with the donor sibling registry (DSR) to find other children created in part by the same donor.

We chose not to go with an anonymous donor because we do feel that genetics and biology are important, but to what degree we do not know. And we don’t know how important our child will view them. As the lovely blogger over at Bionic Mamas says:

“The biggest reason we chose a willing-to-be-known donor is that we wanted to be able to say to the Bean that even before he was a bean, we were thinking of him as his own person, whose thoughts and desires might well be different from our own.”

Isn’t that fabulous? You should go read the whole post. Also follow the blog.

Do I resent the fact that Tammy and I cannot combine our genes to create a child? Yes. Selfishly, deep down in my reptilian heart, I’m damn angry that we cannot have a child that is created out of our deep love for each other. I’m angry that our child will not look like both of us. I’m angry that all of the little quirks that combine to make Tammy the lovable, exasperating, funny, and gloriously wonderful human being she is will not be reflected in our child.

I also resent the fact that some people (again, like my friend in the adoption rights community) will consider the donor our daughter’s father. Parenting is so much more than providing DNA. It’s more than giving birth. And I resent the hell out of the idea that there are some people who will always consider a one time DNA donation a permanent admittance card to the parenting club.

But I cannot afford to go too far down that road my friends, because that way bitterness lies.

And a child is more than the sum of their genetic parts. Genes do absolutely play an important role, but how can that role be quantified against all the daily mundane slog and earth shattering crisis that make up a life lived?

In the end, our child will be her own person. She may turn out different from how she would have if she were raised by a biological mother and a father. But we make millions of conscious and unconscious choices in our lifetime that change who we are and who we could become. There are also things that we have no control over that influence the sum of our parts.

Ultimately, Tammy and I are just one of them, for better or for worse.

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9 thoughts on “Whole and Half Adoption: My Thoughts

  1. I agree with your opinions for the most part. 🙂 That being said, it has crossed my mind to troll CPCs for free stuff (diapers, etc) when the time comes. 😀 But that’s just me being evil. (Also I probably won’t, one of my crazy aunts works at one.)

  2. As far as our family is concerned–I see inter-family adoption as a way to secure us as a “legal” family–where both of us are recognized as our future baby’s parents. It will ensure my partner gets to take parental leave from work. And it IS important that we’re both recognized as the baby’s legal parents. And that’s the reason we chose an anonymous donor–when the child is 18 they’ll have the right to ask for the information about the donor, but with the adoption, it’s straight forward. We can start the adoption process 3 months before the baby is born, and it should be a quick thing once the birth.

    I’m not going to take a stance on the other kind of adoption here now because I’m so exhausted. Maybe I’ll come back to it tomorrow 🙂

  3. I wholeheartedly agree with almost everything you’ve written here. Very well articulated. Adoption is such a complex issue. I’m glad at least your state will recognize both you and Tammy as this little pirate’s parents, but I’m sorry the rest of the country hasn’t caught up.

  4. Aw, I’m blushing over here.

    I share your reptilian frustrations. For the record, lots of people think our Bean looks more like Sugar than like me, and he certainly has many of her characteristics. And here we thought we were compromising and choosing a donor that looked less like her (but had other characteristics we valued).

  5. Oh, and can you believe Google’s groupon-esque service sent me a fucking COUPON last week to use a CPC? Um, I’m pretty sure I don’t need to PAY to contribute a child to the adoption market, thanks.

  6. You said some interesting things about adoption. On the surface it seems fair to say that parents should have the right not to be contacted or identified if they’d prefer not to be, but that is not really what’s going on in this situation. Reality is that people with offspring have a legal obligation to be named on their offspring’s birth records as a matter of public health and record keeping – it’s a federal mandate by the center for disease control that states collect the identity of citizens who have offspring and document them as parents on their offspring’s birth records….it’s not optional for anyone except sperm and egg donors which undermines the nations birth stats as if sperm and egg donors were not human and neither were their children – their children’s health can be attributed to people who are too old or are not healthy enough for reproduction. The law exempting sperm and egg donors from being recorded as their own offspring’s parents is one of the most foolish things this country has ever done in terms of public health because now the citizens who are the healthiest among the child bearing population appear to have no children or at least very few children when in fact, they often have 50 or more kids is absurd. Worse than that all of their children appear on the record as if they are only children or are one of only two or three children when in reality they have an enormous family of siblings and cousins, aunt’s, uncles and ultimately they will have hoards of nieces and nephews yet they all appear to be totally unrelated and their health is being attributed to at least one person who is too old or too unhealthy to have children (or who is the wrong gender to have conceived them with the one parent who is named and factually recorded on their birth certificate). Obviously there is a massive problem in this country with infertility for people of child bearing age (real infertility not lack of an opposite sex partner), but you’d never know it to look at the birth stats for people of child bearing age and older it looks like people are more fertile and healthy than ever before – but they are not….it’s still only the young healthy people reproducing, they just are not being recorded as their children’s parents because they are not raising them and that is a public health nightmare for everyone. Medical research on heritable disease and on birth defects is conducted with our tax money for the purpose of solving health problems using data collected about the parents at the time of their offspring’s birth the data they are using has become so mired in inaccuracy as to render the conclusions of tax funded medical research as worthless since we have actually changed the law to exempt people from having to tell the truth when at least in the past lying about biological parentage was against the law even for married couples and the margin of error was at least limited to instances of paternity fraud and at least there could be some legal recourse against people who falsified parentage even if it was rarely exercised. The government officially has a right to rely upon the medical accuracy of the birth data collected by states because the government invests so much in medical research done on the assumption that people are the offspring of the parents named on their birth certificates. The revised certificates issued at adoption are medically worthless despite stating at the top that the record is a vital record for health purposes and besides the fact that the records are available from the department of vital records at the department of public health. Revised records at adoption are so false and so worthless to anyone other than the adoptive party that the federal government does not collect those falsified ones, they don’t want them. They allow states to issue revised ones but the federal government does not necessarily recognize them as identifying documents because they are not a true record of who the person is actually the offspring of – there is a back story and there is not supposed to be anything more accurate than your birth record because it won’t change if you change your name 20 times in your life, you are still you offspring of your parents. It’s insulting to everyone that some citizens are forced to live life with false and incomplete medical records when really the issue is a matter of child custody that does not need to be handled in a way that undermines the rights of an individual or their relatives to accessing vital records that are truthful and accurate about themselves and their relatives. We all have that legal right to our own vital records and those of our relatives and citizens have a right to rely upon the government to do its best to prevent false and misleading information from being recorded because those records are vital information for every member of the family and for public health generally. Nobody has a special right to hide from being named parents of their own children except gamete donors and it results in their offspring not having equal rights to people whose parents are not gamete donors and puts every member of their family at a disadvantage including people they are related to via marriage who are often misled into believing they are related for health purposes. The false and incomplete record makes family legal strangers. People are actually not legally considered kin with kinship rights without that piece of paper all to make a step parent have parental rights when they would have had legal access to their step kid’s vital records and the legal right to add their step child to their medical insurance and claim them on their taxes and if they died their step kid could even get social security death benefits all without the step kid loosing their identity or their kinship within their own family had their own parent simply been made to be accountable on record even if their own parent was non custodial.
    Adoption is bad because it severs legal kinship where fostering leaves legal kinship intact regardless how long the child is in their care – the name is not changed they remain whole and a member of their own family. The other good thing about the foster care system (for all its flaws) is that Foster Parents are not paying anyone, not even lawyers or agencies, for custody and authority over fostered children. Nobody can accuse them of baby buying and they are supposed to be screened for the safety of the kid (though that does not happen as well as it should). Also unless there is a restraining order against their parents there will be attempts at visitation and the kid can still inherit, receive child support and get SS death benefits and military death benefits if their parent dies while they are being fostered. Their non custodial parent if working can provide them with medical and dental care through work. The only reason Adoption exists is because states want to offload tax payer financial burden for kids whose parents can’t take care of them and to make those kids more attractive the state sells their little soles and identities out from under them – not just until they are 18 but for the rest of their lives because that makes kids who are state wards more attractive to people who don’t want to babysit they want to be “parents”. Adoption as a legal thing – sucks for adopted people, from a legal rights standpoint. It’s kind of like selling people as property. Money is involved generally as well….why?

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