Friday, August 22, 2008

A "Solution" without a Problem?

I've been wondering for awhile now... what problem does adoption solve?

I ask this because of the sheer number of people who seem to think adoption is necessary. If it's necessary, that would mean there is a problem that would go unaddressed if it weren't for adoption. So what's the problem?

I expect the initial answer to be that children without people to care for them would be stuck in orphanages (or perhaps a more sophisticated version of that response).

But adoption isn't necessary to make sure children are cared for and loved. I mean, are adults only willing to care for children that they get to call "theirs"? Certainly there are other arrangements whereby the children would be loved and cared for, without the need to create a fictional "parent-offspring" relationship.

While I think reducing the need for children who need to be cared for (through support for single mothers, education, etc.) is and important step, I am not so naive as to think there will never be children in need.

But adoption isn't necessary to solve that problem. And the legal fiction that adoption creates obscures the problems inherent in children being separated from their parents. It allows couples to adopt to pretend that they have a child of their own. It diminishes the importance of motherhood and the very real biological connection that that creates. And most importantly, it covers over the loss of the child.

Children are given a new identity, a new family. But how do they benefit from that arrangement? Would the family that took them in not love them if their identity wasn't replaced? Would the family not care about them, unless the legal fiction were established and defended so vehemently? Would they not love a child if they were only legal guardians?

Adoption is not the only problem, the only issue. But it adds to the loss already suffered by the child. It strips them of the last ties to their original family and replaces them, thus obscuring the tragedy they have already suffered.

Without an explanation for how that benefits the child, I don't see how adoption, as a legal practice, is defensible.


maybe said...

You might be psychic...I was just thinking about posting a question on yahoo asking what people think are the root causes of adoption. (domestic infant adoption only).

I'm endlessly amazed at some of the responses on that board.

phil said...

I don't know if I'm psychic... we've probably just been hanging out on Yahoo! too much. I was thinking of asking a question about this over there. But then I decided I just wanted to think it through without all the grief. :)

Lori A said...

I've tried to answer this 3 times now and couldn't find the right words. Maybe I still haven't found them but I wanted to comment anyway.

You know that I am one of those who say that adoption will always be necessary. I say that because it is what is in place right now in order to get care for the children. I would love nothing more than to see something else take it's place. the only things I can see that make adoption a necessary evil is things that pertain to legalities, like insurance. I couldn't even get insurance on my kids through my husband when I got married because our policy didn't cover step children. Pffft. I don't think it has anything to do with caring for and loving a child. It's paperwork and legalities, which is such a shame.

In the last week I have been visited by 3 young men whom I had befriended when they needed someone to. It was a real treat seeing them all. I made enough of an impression on them that they felt a desire to visit, hug me and one of them called me mom before he left. That was a big step for that young man. I didn't have any paperwork stating I had any connection to them at all. I had food, a place to sleep, laundry detergent, (well not really but that's another story, I haven't used detergent in 3 years)and lots of conversation on lots of topics. I wish it could be that simple for everyone.

phil said...


I have been struggling with this question for years. I still don't feel like I have the answer.

While I feel the force of your point, that the legal consequences relate to getting care and such, I remain unconvinced.

Adoption still isn't necessary. The rules governing health care coverage are screwed up, and should be changed in any event. (Your example of step-children is a perfect example of a needed change.) Certainly we can imagine a legal arrangement that would allow health care to be extended to children in care.

The real question, for me, is what problem does adoption solve that couldn't be solved some other way?

Let me use an example. War may be necessary. (I don't really think so, but many people do.) But we should still not WANT war. We should still not CELEBRATE war. War is only necessary because of other factors. Because human beings have not imagined a world where problems are solved in other ways. We still don't like war, even if we think it is sometimes necessary.

If adoption really is a necessary evil, if it's a failure of imagination in coming up with an alternative, that still doesn't mean it's something to celebrate, something to support.

I still struggle. And I'm not sure war is a perfect example. (Maybe war is a better analogy for removing children from abusive homes.) But there is this serious doubt about the need for adoption in my mind. And even if I'm wrong, it certainly points to a rejection of painting adoption as a GOOD thing.

At best (and again, I remain unconvinced of this)... at best, it's a necessary EVIL.

Lori A said...

I have been thinking about this ever since you wrote it, and with those young men stopping in to say hello the other day it has been weighing even heavier on me.

I had no legal connection to any of those kids and still managed to help them through a hard spot in their lives. It is possible to care for and love someone and want to see them excell in their life without owning them. I am slowly becoming an anti adoption advocate.

Wow that's huge for me. I will have to ponder that one now.

Thanks for all your insight. I needed it.