Friday, June 17, 2011

Senator Amy Klobuchar

It arrived in my email this morning:

For the past four years I've had the privilege of serving Minnesota in the United States Senate. It's been an extraordinary journey filled with extraordinary moments. But above all, my service in the Senate has been defined by a simple value - putting Minnesotans first.

It's something I've worked hard to do on issue after issue, case after case. We cut through red tape so that our Minnesota National Guard members would receive the full educational benefits they deserved. I helped Minnesota families bring home dozens of adopted children who were stuck in Haiti in the aftermath of the earthquake there. We opened markets overseas for our farmers and opened up credit at home for our small businesses. And I pushed through tough reforms to protect consumers from unsafe products and contaminated food outbreaks. All of this has been about putting Minnesotans first.

But in order to carry on this fight, I first need to win a fight of my own: my battle for reelection next year. And this is a fight in which I need your help, because the stakes are high.

In case you missed it, I put the sentence that hit me in bold. After emailing Senator Klobuchar my concerns last year about her attempts to facilitate Haitian adoptions (with little to no regard for the ethics of the situation), she's still touting it. I know this is a form letter that is sent to all of her "supporters." But I am no longer a supporter, and this email isn't helping.

So I sat down to compose a response. I will print it out and mail it, a physical letter, later today.

Dear Senator Klobuchar,

First of all, I want to thank you for your service. I have long been a supporter and was thrilled when you were elected to the Senate almost five years ago. I know you are a hard-worker and care about the state of Minnesota.

Having said that, however, I am writing to you because of your continued support of Haitian adoptions. Though I had sent you an e-mail over a year ago expressing my concerns about what was happening in Haiti - children who still had parents alive being taken out of the country by unscrupulous "missionaries" - your response indicated nothing to suggest you shared that concern. More recently, I have begun receiving e-mails requesting donations for your upcoming campaign, emails which tout the Haitian adoptions as one of your accomplishments.

Senator Klobuchar, I would request that you do some research on adoption. Most adoptees across the country have no access to their history, their origins. Adoptees born here (except in a few states) do not have access to their original birth certificates. International adoptees have even less hope of connecting with biological family members. Indeed, many prospective adoptive parents (though not all) indicate they would rather adopt oversees so that the child will never be able to reunite with his or her biological family.

Knowledge of our histories, our traditions, our cultures of origin... all of this is essential to the development of a fully realized human being. And it is knowledge too often denied to adoptees. Your glib support of the Haitian adoption practice demonstrates a lack of appreciation of the issues really involved here. It is a form of cultural imperialism: rather than helping Haiti care for its children, you are facilitating the removal of those children to a foreign land where they have no relatives.

It saddens me to say that I will not be donating to your campaign this time around. And I will not be voting for you. I think you do good work and that you mean well. But unless you are willing to better educate yourself on the adoption issues, I cannot, in good conscience, support you as long as you push forward in this way.

I believe that you want to work for all Minnesotans. But you need to consider your actions and how they will affect the children, who are the ones most affected by adoption.

I expect it will have little to no impact. I don't like being a one-issue voter. And I don't expect the other party to put up anyone better. It's just maddening to me that, after all this time, there is so little awareness of the complexities of adoption, and the difficulties it can bring to the children affected.

Perhaps, if you know people from Minnesota, you could get them to write to Senator Klobuchar as well. Just a thought.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Parents Have Little Effect?

I wrote about this on Over A Candle, but there was more I wanted to point out that was specifically adoption related.

The story below aired on NPR's "Morning Edition" today. It is an interview of an author who makes the argument that parents don't have much impact on their kids in the long run, so parents should just relax. Once they relax, they can have more kids. I'm being brief, but that was the gist of the argument as he presented it during the interview.

The opening paragraph of the story (below) summarizes the argument. By itself, the argument would have caught my attention, but later on he explains his reasoning. He looked at adoption studies to determine that nurture had very little to do with the sorts of interests and capacities children develop, that so much of who we are is determined by genetics.

I can't help but wonder how different people would react to that? Would most adoptees say "duh"? Would adoptive parents balk or agree? Would adoption advocates be outraged? Or would everyone look at it as a entertaining, but otherwise meaningless, claim and just shrug?

I don't know. This early in the morning, I don't even know what to do with this silliness. But it struck me even in my rather tired state. And I thought I would share. You can listen to the interview at the link below.

'Selfish Reasons' For Parents To Enjoy Having Kids:

An economics professor has a plan for raising children: have lots of them, and don't stress about nurturing their potential. Bryan Caplan, author of the book Selfish Reasons to Have More Kids, says that a child is helped the most if they are in a positive atmosphere.

. . .

There is a cheekily subversive tone in Caplan's book, but he makes a serious argument about nature versus nurture. He cites studies of identical twins who were adopted by different families — but then went on to live very similar lives — as proof that the influence a parent can have on their child is overstated.

Sunday, April 3, 2011


In college, whenever there was a break in the conversation (which science told us happens every seven minutes), someone would yell out "Lull!" to acknowledge it. What can I say, college was weird.

My own reunion is chugging along at a steady pace. Not much happening. My mom's side is good, still glowing from Christmas, I imagine. My dad's side recedes further and further away. I haven't heard from him since I met him last summer. And his sons and I seem to have drifted a bit.

None of that is troubling to me, and I've been focusing on other things in my life. Stuff that is mostly not adoption related, and so I have felt little impulse to post here.

On a lark a couple of months ago, I clicked on Shelly's link in the sidebar to see what she has been up to. I found out she has started another blog, about her own reunion. She decided to do that because she felt as though she hadn't been active enough here to start posting, and while I would have loved to see her here, I'm glad she's got something of her very own. Because, as I snuck in there, she has embarked on her own reunion!

Indeed, she is set to meet her biological mom tomorrow! I wish her well, and I hope it is a wonderful experience for her. If you can be supportive and encouraging, please go check out her new blog: Hi, Mom. So, what's your name?

And hopefully I will get back to posting somewhat more regularly here.


Tuesday, February 8, 2011

The Narrative

This morning I got up early to move my car out of the driveway so my wife could get her car out to go to work. After switching the cars around, I turned on the television. It came on to NBC and the Today show. They were discussing the case of Carlina White, a woman who had been stolen from the hospital when she was born. She had reunited with her biological family after 23 years (she had discovered the truth only when she asked her "mother" for her birth certificate).

After the initial happy reunion, Carlina has become distant from her biological family and has apparently inquired about money that her parents received in a settlement with the hospital. She has even gone back to the name she was raised with.

The Today show interviewed her biological mother. It was rather brief and perhaps superficial, though it didn't have the "gotcha" qualities you might expect on a daytime talk show. It was a difficult story to watch, sad and perhaps a bit too familiar.

As I watched, I began thinking about what others would think. How many people would connect this with adoption? Would they see the emotional ups and downs that Carlina is clearly going through as resonating with many adoptees?

I doubted it. After all, it wasn't an adoption but a kidnapping. And there are allegations that she was abused. Thus we have an easy explanation for why she is now behaving the way she is. She was raised in a bad situation, by people who didn't really love her. The popular view of adoption would suggest that if she had been raised in a loving home, things would be fine now. Thus there is no take-away for adoption in this story.

That's the narrative. That's what our society believes. We have made a concerted attempt to de-stigmatize adoption. It's not just that families formed by adoption are just as good as families formed by biology; we seem to need to believe that there are no differences between the two.

Adoptees who are troubled by aspects of their history are thus no different than other children who grew up in troubled homes. Such adoptees must have something wrong with them. Either their adoptive parents did not do right by them somehow, or something happened in utero to screw them up. Most adoptees are perfectly well-adjusted with no issues at all surrounding their adoption.

Again, that's the narrative.

That's what needs to be changed. It is not my intent to re-stigmatize adoption. It is not my intent to speak for all adoptees. Everyone's experiences are going to be unique. But there are a lot of commonalities among many adoptees. And it speaks to the complexity of adoption and the feelings it may provoke from those who experience it firsthand.

We would like adoption to be a simple good. It solves a problem of providing children with a home, and we want to believe we have done right by those children. Understanding the complexities of adoption requires challenging that simplistic view of the situation.

For the sake of all adoptees, we need to change the narrative. Not to pathologize adoptees. Not to stigmatize adoptees. Not to treat adoptive parents as somehow less worthy. But to recognize that there are issues and complexities that many (though perhaps not all) adoptees (and parents, both biological and adoptive, as well as other family members) will have to deal with.

We are arranging families. We can sugar-coat that however we like. We aren't stealing babies the way that Carlina was stolen. But we are taking a child from one family and grafting it into another. If we aren't willing to face up to the possible repercussions of that, we ought not do it at all.

It's time to change the narrative. It is well-entrenched, however, and it will take time. Still, we owe it to every child we claim to do this for.