Unisolated incidents. Views on Adoption

@iquitos46 and @jsroberts are parts of adopted families, and so am I.
We seem to all have had experiences where people act like they think our families have a defect, or deficit, or are somehow lesser because of adoption. That is, having not-directly-genetically-related children.
I’d like to discuss this… And ask why? Why does society misjudge us?


I think some of the reason for the examples I gave was that many Chinese people feel uncomfortable about foreigners visibly working to address their country’s problems. There are many Chinese people who foster and adopt, but a white couple with Chinese children is much more visible and it makes them lose face. I think some of these comments were awkward ways of dealing with that, and that’s how we responded to them.

The foster situation over there was very ad-hoc - we had no official recognition as foster parents and officially we weren’t even looking after our son (Jeremy) until he was adopted. After three years and a lot of work trying to arrange the adoption (it didn’t have to take that long, we couldn’t adopt until I’d turned 30), we were told that his papers were released, but he might go to another couple. It didn’t matter though, once our papers were released we would get a child too. There seemed to be an idea that we were doing a nice thing and any child would be as good as any other (I mean, we would have accepted another child if we couldn’t have adopted Jeremy, but it would have taken time to get over losing him). Other foster parents lost children they had been looking after for longer, and they only had a few days to prepare.

As to your main question, I don’t know. People get pregnant completely by accident, while adoption is often an expensive and thought-out process. I can’t understand why some people would think that adopted children were ‘less than’, although clearly some do. Maybe they see a connection in the appearance and mannerisms between parents and children, but Jeremy and I have never had an issue identifying with each other despite our different backgrounds and I don’t sense any difference between the relationship I have with him and with my birth daughter beyond the level of individual variation.


I’d be about the worst person to ask RE: “Why is having your genetically authentic Own Child superior to all other methods and worth yammering on about as though you’ve just invented mammalian reproduction?”; because that confuses me; but I imagine that some of the trouble arises because of the (relatively unrepresentative; but highly visible; and the public doesn’t work on the basis of statistics) steady stream of “$CELEBRITY decides that $IMPOVERISHED_HELLHOLE is trendy; adopts suitably ethnic child, proceeds to deliver a grotesque parody of ‘raising them with their culture’ despite the fact that neither they nor the kid know much of anything about said culture” stories; along with the occasional “Foster parent receives kiddo from Russia, decides he is totally defective, RMAs him the way you’d return a bad hard drive.” incident.

Why people would disapprove of non-fucked-up adoption scenarios, though, I have no idea: It’s not like anyone’s failure to procreate is helping doom our dwindling species; and it’s fairly settled news that any adoptive environment that isn’t grounds for criminal charges is probably better for kiddo than all but the finest institutional placements, so adoptive parents are certainly doing the kid, and society in general, a good turn.


I think this is just a small part of the crazy bullshit that goes on around the subject of childrearing.

Having children is such a major life decision, that a large number of people stumble into. There’s then a huge amount of post-hoc justification of their decision, which is threatened by anyone making a different choice.

You seem to be catching a whole load of nonsense, because according to the propaganda, you shouldn’t exist, and the fact that you do challenges a bunch of lazy assumptions.

Having children (and even childbirth) is supposed to be wonderful, and to change your life for the better. There’s supposed to be pride in “carrying on the family name”. You are supposed to give a gift of grandchildren to the previous generation, and so on and so on with other such crazy nonsense.

You are challenging every part of this with your decision to adopt, so you’ll be the subject of a whole load of crazy assumptions and misdirected rage from people who are having to question their own choices, or still view you through this lens.

It is completely stupid, but it’s just one aspect of life that a lot of people are not ready to have a rational conversation about.


No, actually, it’s not. Unfortunately, virtually everything that is “known” about adoption (in the U.S., which is an outlier in the world on this topic) is not only not true, but researchers have known it to be not true for 100 years. This would be why other countries don’t do it the same way. Even the concept of “orphanage” means something entirely different elsewhere. In fact, almost all of the children available for adoption are not orphans. The actual orphans are on the street. Children available for adoption are there because their families can’t take care of them at that time, usually for financial reasons, but they do in fact have families that would keep them if they could. That’s true in the U.S. too, BTW.

There are a lot of individual and cultural prejudices that feed into the topic, and as a result I’ve learned to never go into the topic in depth in any sort of public setting, so I’m not going to do so here.

I will agree wholeheartedly that the emphasis on having children in our culture is a big problem for everyone. One size fits all doesn’t fit anyone properly, and that’s particularly true when it comes to being a parent (or not).


Go back a few decades and you’ll find many children available for adoption for morality reasons. Single mothers were unacceptable, so the baby would be left on the church doorstep.

Today those attending the churches point to all the single mothers taking responsibility for their children rather than sweeping them under the rug, and declare it a sign of our generation’s immorality.


As G-d is my witness, my judgements upon thee are not related to adoption.

I have at least* three cousins, and a niece who are adopted. One of my cousins is a little more obvious than the others, since he’s the only African-American in a pretty Germanic mid-western family (except for the cousins who are half India-Indians, and… well. Nothing’s simple any more. Which is a good thing, I think.).

* I’ve got more than 30 cousins. I don’t rightly know for sure.


I wonder if it could be coming from some kind of privilege, and/or ignorance. Privilege in the sense of not having the need to adopt because of biological children? Ignorance from not having any close or even extended family or friends who’ve adopted or were adopted themselves?


Honestly, I sometimes think that people have verbal diarrhea. I have a teacher acquaintance (okay, friend) who adopted a 17-year-old and I said, “Are you ready for the college costs?” I assumed college was part of the deal since the young lady is family. She thanked me and then told me that some of her friends were were saying the opposite–that she and her husband were “off the hook” and didn’t they “have it easy” only being financially responsible for a year. She was flabbergasted.


Hey, I know someone who did that too! Not a teacher though, or I’d wonder where you live.


Sorry to be late joining in but work owns me on Monday/Tuesday. Adopting my sons was a no-brainer for me. Here were these beautiful healthy kids who had survived abusive parents…6, 7 and 8 years old (early1970’s). As hard as their life had been they still were kids who could laugh, act goofy and play. When given attention and love and rough-house play they responded as all kids would…they gave it back. Why would I not sign some papers to make legal what we already had? We knew in our hearts we belonged to each other after only a few months of being a volunteer in their foster home. I make that sound simple…the process was not simple. I was young (24), still in university with some other complicating factors as well. Regardless Me and the guys knew who we were and the DCFS could see it too. As those guys grew and only my youngest was still at home (mid 80’s) DCFS came knocking and said "there are these two brothers, 12 and 13, want to do some volunteer work "? These two were great! A pair of little feral mutts that would make Huck Finn look saintly… But they had this sparkle in their eyes, they were still boys and not jaded despite a couple of years in a Texas boys home and many more years of near total neglect. My then youngest son was then in his early 20’s and wanted to help and so after a few month I had 5 sons.
After they were in their late teens and early 20’s I took a break from raising wild men, took a sabbatical from work and headed for the Amazon River City of Iquitos Peru for a years rest. After raising 5 wild men the jungle was quiet and peaceful. And damned if this little wild man from the jungle tell me one day that I needed to adopt him. It was complex but we got off the plane in St. Louis looking like any other father and son…6 foot tall gringo with my 4’ 8’’ inch richly copper-complexion son fresh out of the rainforest. To hasten the story along we had a great time being dad and son so I headed back to the jungle a few years later and brought back his blood related baby brother. What a ball being a dad to a fine group of men. I’ve got a small herd of grandkids and most recently a silly little granddaughter who laughs at me cause I laugh at her. And there’s about 4 great grandkids running around too. I’m legally too old to adopt at 70 and really thats probably for the best. For those who don’t get it I don’t know what to tell you…you don’t know what you missed.


You have me in tears man.

If I weren’t an atheist, I’d say you were doing the lord’s work. Please accept the best I can do: You’re doing humanity’s work.

Seriously, thank you for your service to the world. Making people’s lives so much better.


I’m adopted, and glad I am. I’m also very pro-choice for all the standard reasons, probably the strongest of them being physical autonomy, but the others too.

This seems to confuse people.

I get people saying stuff like “but you were adopted in 1989, with today’s easy access to abortions [this is where I start laughing in their face, then cut them off to explain TRAP laws] you would have been aborted, and wouldn’t even be here! How could you possibly be pro-choice?”

I usually retort by saying, if I were aborted, I wouldn’t have been inconvenienced by it.

When I was much younger I used to believe that I had to be anti-choice because I was adopted. But that’s not really a reason, is it?

I’ve had my share of people making awkward assumptions. Lots of times having to say “no known family history” on medical forms, and stuff like that. But I truly count myself fortunate to not have had to gone through the kind of shit that @iquitos46 and @jsroberts families have had to deal with.

To me raising a child is the most important responsibility one could put on themselves. You’re in charge of another person’s life for years. They’ll likely die without you. So I don’t know if I could ever do it myself. I’m still badly fucked up from my dog dying in January. And while he was a great person, and I loved him to the greatest extent a man can love a dog (turns out barely at all, compared with the love you get back) it’s just nothing in comparison to raising a kid.

There’s also the genetic lottery bit. I don’t think I have any genes worth passing on, and have some genetic problems I’d never want to pass along. Like depression, and ADHD (yeah yeah, ADHD isn’t a debilitating disability, nor is it a defect, but it’s made my life hard in a way I couldn’t stand dooming my own kid to.)


Honestly, I think you’re way too hard on yourself. I’m not trying to convince you to adopt by any means, but we’re all kind of messed up in our own ways. I have ADHD and depression (among other things - you’ve read my comments on Fuck Today) and my wife has been told a few times that she would probably never work again because of her depression and more than one physical illness. My son has been given up on more than once (when we first took him into our home he was 13 months old and 3.6 kg, and we were told not to feel too bad if he died). He’s clearly autistic and has serious lung problems and also some heart issues.

This is what being pro-life means to me, although abortion is a complex topic(1). We all have to support each other at times, but we all value each other very highly. Jeremy is so much more than any of his disabilities - he’s really smart and engaged, he wants to know about how Germany is helping refugees and how other adopted kids or the orphans we knew in China are doing, or what Americans are doing to stop Trump and become more inclusive. He was recently explaining to a friend about why it’s important that we pay taxes. He often writes letters to his friends to show that he cares about them. He’s very thoughtful and we don’t push our views on him, but he asks lots of very insightful questions. He loves art and has a blog.

(1) I understand that pro-life is actually a dog whistle in US politics and elsewhere, but I have met far too many people whose opposition to abortion came from their clearly demonstrated value for all life to write the whole idea off. I’ve also met far too many pro-choice people who had great respect for human life to make any generalisations the other way either. What I will say is that being anti-abortion without seeing what it entails and fighting for everyone in society to have a good life is less than worthless. My position is personally pro-life, socially pro-choice. My wife is basically looking for a Bernie Sanders who is against abortion, but she has finally been convinced to vote for him anyway - partly by me, partly by the rest of the options out there.


Sounds to me like you’ve been doing a bang-up job raising your kid to be a thoughtful and empathetic person.

My little rant had nothing to do with other people’s choices, as you probably already know, but my own personal hangups. Of course kids with disabilities very often grow up to be fine members of society. It’s not a life-defining thing for a lot of people. Just another aspect.

What I’m saying is, given the option, I wouldn’t choose to pass down my shitty genes for depression, and ADHD, because I wouldn’t want my kid to have to deal with that, given my own experience. Also, I have other shitty genes. Like high cholesterol, high blood pressure, heart disease, hearing loss, and the inability to find a single good thing about cilantro. Those go back in my family history a long time (found out when I met my genetic mom), so I don’t think I’m a particularly good candidate for breeding. Not until we get CRISPR online and I can snip those out of my genome or the kid’s genome.


With you on that.

I have a friend at the moment who is looking for a sperm donor.

She asked me; I told her that I didn’t have any personal objection to the idea, but she should seriously consider finding someone with less fucked-up genetics. It ain’t right to throw another person with my sort of brain into the world unless we’ve fixed things to the point that people like me have a chance of a decent life.


Possibly playing Hopscotch on a minefield here…

  1. Being a dick to current adoptees or adoptive parents? Totally unjustified, totally inexcusable.

  2. Being uncomfortable with the idea of adoption in general? Defensible.

AFAIAA, there is pretty solid research showing that non-biological parents have significantly higher rates of child abuse and neglect. A lot of the brain chemistry that gets rolling in biological parenthood (oxytocin/vasopressin systems, primarily) appears to be targeted at “stopping parents from harming their offspring”. These systems activate a bit in non-biological parenting, but to nowhere near the same degree; this likely provides a partial explanation for the abuse stats.

There’s also the post-colonial/economic/race/religion aspect. Seeing wealthy westerners arguably purchase children from the developing world is problematic at best, and even within the west there is an unpleasant history of children being stolen for adoption. In regards to Indigenous Australia, we have the Stolen Generation to consider; there is also the history of church-based forced adoption with teenage single mothers.

But, to reinforce: see point #1. And bear in mind that careless discussion of point #2 is highly likely to violate point #1.


That’s an area of research I haven’t delved into even slightly. Looks like I’ll have to raid my local library’s ProQuest database.

Completely valid concern as far as I can tell. There’s numerous reasons for adoption, and it’s important to keep them distinct.

I personally was adopted, because my birth mom was single, already had two children (preteens at the time I was born), and in poverty. She knew she couldn’t afford to raise me and give me a decent life, so she put me up for adoption, and she says she still doesn’t regret it.

The other half of the equation (I’ll call them my parents, because they raised me, and that’s how I refer to them internally anyway) was that my parents spent about ten years together trying to conceive and failing. Turns out my mom has blocked fallopians. And rather than deciding to harvest eggs and do IVF (it was an option for them) instead chose to sign up with an adoption agency and raise a kid who needed a family, rather than make a kid for themselves.

I am basically the best case scenario for adoption. Planned long in advance, all the parents meeting each other. Working together, making sure that philosophies on childrearing were aligned.

I’m an outlier. Probably an extreme one.

My brother was adopted on short notice. The call came asking my parents if they wanted to adopt him the day he was born. And they said yes. His genetic mom had worse problems. He has no genetic family history at all. His genetic parents’ identities were lost to bureaucracy. But that really doesn’t bother him.

Note, I can only really speak for myself and my family. So I’m trying to just give my experience here. I know it sounds very self-centered, and that’s bugging me, but I desperately don’t want to put words in other people’s mouths on this topic.


I am particularly uncomfortable about the idea of international adoption, and hope that China will soon be able to deal with the many serious problems that it currently has. I do see a big difference between the future that I want to see and work towards and the actions that are necessary right now to deal with the imperfect world we have now. When we were in China, a lot of our focus was on supporting Chinese organisations or medical organisations working with poorer groups to ensure that they were able to look after their families, but we were asked to consider fostering a number of children - Jeremy’s fostering period was more open-ended than the others and he was available for adoption, so we went ahead with the process. I’d like to see this kind of thing phased out, but I want to see something solid in its place first.

I know two cases of kidnapping/trafficking of Chinese children by westerners which highlights the kind of grey area that we’re dealing with. One was a colleague who had been fostering a girl - her father was abusive and I think her mother had died. She wasn’t going to get help from the police. The colleague ended up paying the father to release his daughter and taking her to a western country. The man took the money and said to his daughter that the cash meant more to him than she did. She forged travel documents and drugged the girl before she got on the plane - you know, really illegal stuff that we couldn’t believe she would do, let alone be open about to us. This colleague had contacts high up in the city police, and one time they took her to see the area outside of the city where people would bring unwanted babies. They’d be put in bags and left for the police to pick up. By the time the police came each week, some of the children would have died and the rest would be brought to the city orphanage.

In the second example, a man who had been living in another Chinese city saw some hydrocephalic toddlers that some people were basically using as a sideshow - rolling them around on the ground for crowds to watch. The man went to the police and told them that if they didn’t do something about it, he would kidnap them. They said that if he did that, they would help him with their papers; he was eventually able to adopt them with his wife. The older boy was badly brain damaged by the abuse, but the girl was rescued early enough to have a more normal development. The family is now living in another western country.

It shocked me to see how little human life can matter in many places; we’ve seen kids die, been asked for advice when there was abuse inside foster homes (the teenager in question was sent out to another centre without young kids) and seen a lot of desperate situations. It’s a mess, but there is some slow improvement. There are illegal foster homes that technically should be closed and the kids sent to the main city orphanage, but these kids are basically all disabled and were dying in the orphanages - which is often why the foster homes are running in the first place. We worked with one where the ‘mother’ had quit her job as an architect (and probably a very comfortable life - this was 20 years ago) in order to work as a helper in the main orphanage. She saw how the children with cerebral palsy or other conditions weren’t getting proper care, so she took them in and poor orphanages would send some of their kids to her. Other kids would be left at her door. Every year the police came to say that she was running an illegal foster home and they would shut it down, but she asked them to tell her how the children were going to be looked after without her. They didn’t have an answer, and she’s still running the home. She happened to be very good at finding homes for the children both in China and abroad, but it was much more difficult to find financial support or people who were willing to adopt in China. I don’t have a good answer, but the way she took them in, showed them love, gathered the money for operations that they wouldn’t otherwise have had, taught them (disabled children don’t automatically get schooling) and often found homes for them seemed like the best of the set of bad options, so we helped her as much as we could.


To me, however you have a child is beautiful. I hate the bullshit around adoption that makes people feel that their families are somehow less. To me, their families are a little more, because the parents have worked so hard to be parents and have selected the child that they know in their hearts to be theirs.

I have many friends who are adopted, and I’m always surprised at what a struggle that is for them. To me, when I have heard my friends who cannot have biological children, the stories of their children’s adoptions are as beautiful and touching as a birthing story. It is clear to me that some people are meant to be parents this way and that they and their children were simply joined together in a different way. Why anyone would judge or question how real the connection is - I don’t get it.

My hats off to anyone who is on the path of becoming an adopted parent. You are in for a journey that will test your love and I have huge respect for anyone who takes in a child that needs a home.