Online publishing

Part 2. Adoptees changing the world

Photograph of Young Pioneer doll by Nell Butler

Blogging as a means to achieve political change: Adoptees and mothers forming groups, changing laws, writing books

The critical consciousness that adoptees have raised in themselves and each other has contributed to concrete outcomes, in further publishing, such as books and articles, and in the formation of activist groups which have changed laws.

I have compiled a small sample of sites where adoptees and mothers have spoken out and organised for change. Please note: I will have left out many important sites, simply because there are so many.

Creating change in Australia

Blogging and social media has been important to developing adoptees voices and activism in Australia. The Australian Adoptee Rights Action Group connects on Facebook and campaigns for a wide range of legislative changes for adoptees. Adoptee members organised an Adoptee Round Table Think Tank in June 2017, and produced this fantastic video. They also established an adoptee-only advocacy group called Change Adoption Australia, National Advocacy Association of Adopted People.

Adoptee Thomas Graham publishes Ipsify, a blog with interviews with both Catherine Lynch, who established AARAG, and adoptee activist Angela Barra. Angela publishes her own blog, and is also one of a number of Australian adoptees who is gaining a voice in the mainstream media, for example in the Huffington Post.

William Hammersley’s blog Identity has published a range of opinions. Hammersley argues for a model of stewardship to replace adoption, so that the child’s identity isn’t changed and welfare checks are able to be provided. Hammersley also published a guest post from Pascal Huynh arguing that gay men who want to adopt should question whether adopting is an ethical act.

Chelsea Bond provides an acute summary of recent discussions about Aboriginal adoption on IndigenousX, a news service with a substantial blog and a popular twitter account. Grandmothers Against Removals are one of many activist groups against all removals of Aboriginal children, whether they are being removed into adoption or state care.

The mainstream media is still not paying attention: Despite the many gains made by adoptees, the mainstream media is still resistant to adoptees voices. Special features about adoption often exclude adoptees voices entirely. This article, Adoption In Australia: Everything You Need To Know, is typical: no adoptee or mothers voices are included, only adoptive parents, pro-adoption lobbyists and professionals.

Creating change in the United States

Writing together, publishing books: Lost Daughters is a US site which was established in 2011, and describes itself as an ‘independent collaborative writing project.’ The writers of this site developed a book, The Adoptee Survival Guide, published in 2015. The editor of the book, Lynne Grubb, first started writing about adoption on My Space, and it includes chapters by Lost Daughters founder Amanda Transue-Woolton. Transue-Woolton also compiled the book Dear Wonderful You: letters to adopted and fostered youth.

By Dory Martin, used under Creative Commons license 3.0

Activist groups: Bastard Nation is a US group which campaigns on adoptees rights to identity records. Many states in the US still have closed records: this means adoptees can’t access information about their birth or their biological family. They have reclaimed the word ‘bastard’ because ‘there’s nothing shameful about having been born out of wedlock, or about being adopted.’ Bastard Nation have successfully changed laws that prevented adoptees from accessing records about their identity in the US states of Oregon, Alabama, New Hampshire and Rhode island.

Reshma McClintock started a blog called Dear Adoption, a site which publishes adoptees writing in the form of letters to adoption, and this led to the establishment of Family Preservation 365, an organisation which campaigns for mothers around the world to be able to keep and raise their children.

The US even has an adoptee merchandise site, with part of the proceeds going to provide DNA kits to adoptees.

We live in a world where adults’ wants and needs are prioritised, and this has led to catastrophic outcomes for children, mothers, fathers, communities and whole cultures. Adoptee blogs provide valuable knowledge that can assist us to change the world for the better.

Drawing by Nell Butler
Online publishing

Part 1. Adoption: a violence based in inequality

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.

Painting of Paulo Freire by Luiz Carlos Cappellano, public domain image.

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.