Blogging is a means to achieve critical consciousness: Adoptees and mothers are understanding their historical and social situation by publishing online
The idea that adoption may not be a good thing is still a surprising position to much mainstream media. Adoptee blogs offer a counterpoint to popular books and articles about adoption, which tend to be broadly pro-adoption, and dominated by the voices of adoptive parents.
Our view of adoption has been formed by professionals and by the adults who adopted the children, not by the children, or by the mothers who lost their children to the practice.
Educator Paulo Freire called this situation, where the narrative of the powerful dominates the public sphere, a culture of silence. The culture of silence describes how when marginalised voices aren’t heard at all, it becomes harder for the problems of the marginalised to be understood and discussed.
This is because our language around the problem, and our belief in what the problem is, prevents understanding. Adoption is framed as a problem of a child needing a caring family. A critical adoptee perspective may frame the problem as a mother or a father lacking the social support to raise their child.
Critical adoptees speak outside of a consensus reality formed by the dominance of adoptive parents and adoption professional’s voices. Some online adoptee writers simply want the losses experienced by adoptees recognised, others advocate for the abolition of adoption.
Adoptee blogs began to appear in the early 2000s, with adoptees telling their personal stories, often to speak about the personal pain that adoption had caused them. Adoptees are more likely to suffer high levels of emotional distress, loneliness and despair, and have a higher risk of suicide than non-adoptees. Relinquishing mothers ‘suffer chronic bereavement for the rest of their lives.’
As discussion between adoptees developed online, more adoptees and relinquishing mothers realised that others had experienced the same problems, and the narrative began to shift into communal stories. Over the past 18 years, as adoptee blogging grew, the personal became political as online writers realised how many adoptees and mothers shared the same difficulties.
A drive for political change and political action started to form part of blogs, and in some cases became the whole purpose of blogging. A complex and intersecting analysis of adoption was developed by bloggers from different backgrounds.
Transnational adoptees contributed an analysis of adoption as racist institution, where brown and black people’s babies are made into commodities and sold to rich white people. The adopters are often citizens of the same countries which originally colonised the babies’ homeland, and created the poverty which produces the conditions for adoption. The colonizer effectively continues to loot the country, taking the babies of those they formerly enslaved.
Slavery has been used not only as an analogy by adoptees, but claimed as a possible label for adoption. Some adoptees state that inter-country adoption is a form of slavery: a human being is taken, and money is exchanged for them. Profit is made by adoption agencies: adoption is big business: with babies being bought by orphanages for as little as $236 and sold for tens of thousands of dollars. Adoptees argue that slavery is an appropriate term because the baby has been put up for sale and bought and that the purchasers expect the child to perform the work of being ‘their’ child.
Many countries have put a stop to inter-country adoptions of their children due to corruption. Most children in orphanages are not orphans, and many have been kidnapped for sale and profit.
From a critical adoptee viewpoint this obvious corruption is only the visible problem, and in fact the whole system of inter-country adoption is corrupt. It’s corrupt because human beings are being sold, it is a continuation of colonisation, and because selling children to fulfill a role for adults is slavery. As well as this, once the children are adopted there are no checks on their welfare, and in the United States this has resulted in a huge, unregulated secondary market for adopted children.
Daniel Drennan ElAwar, an inter-country adoptee raised in the United States who has reclaimed his identity as Lebanese, has argued that from a class conscious point of view, there is no difference between domestic and international adoption. Domestically adopted children can be described as being adopted from a domestic ‘third world’, a poor underclass seen as inferior and unable to even raise its own children. ElAwar writes that ‘Adoption is, in and of itself, a violence based in inequality.’
In Australia, domestic adoption of Aboriginal children by white people could be argued to enact the harms of both inter-country and domestic adoption: being an act of ongoing racial colonisation as well as child theft from an oppressed domestic class of people. The history of Aboriginal adoption includes the Stolen Generations, where many children were stolen for slave labour. When adoption happened under these circumstances adoption really was slavery, not a metaphor, or a way of thinking about it, but a horrific reality.
The extraordinary depth and breadth of adoptees challenges to narratives about themselves couldn’t have happened without the internet, specifically without the mostly self-publishing phenomenon of blogging. Online publishing by adoptees includes articles in online magazines and adoptee-run writing collectives, but blogging in particular has enabled the adoptee community to develop ideas, perspectives and political positions.
The mainstream media has begun, very occasionally, publishing adoptee perspectives, but for the most part adoptee voices are still ignored by the media. The reason for this is that to hear adoptees means challenging the culture of silence about what adoption is, and facing some unpleasant truths. When adoptees challenge the belief that adoption is a good thing, they are also challenging the reader to see the colonialism, racism and classism driving it.
It can be argued that adoptive parent’s actions damage communities, families, and children’s lives. They perpetrate this damage because their desire for a child matters more to them than the health and wellbeing of communities, or even the wellbeing of the children they take. The mother of the adopted child is left bereft, and even if reunion is possible it doesn’t undo the harm to mother and child. Some mothers reject reunion with their children, and this creates another layer of loss for the adoptee.
Most adoptee bloggers emphasise that individual adopters can still be good people, and wonderful parents, but they are good people who were enrolled into a widespread program of social engineering.
The premise of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child is that adults should meet the needs of children, not the other way around. Blogging allows adoptees to speak, to ask important questions, such as: if we really want to help children, why aren’t we supporting the child’s mother, or her community, to raise her child?
In the next post I present a small sample of the thousands of adoptee blogs on the internet.