Why I Can’t Pick a Side in the Adoption Debate (Right Now)

AKA Please Don’t Attack Me Yet

Photo by Nadine Shaabana on Unsplash

Anyone entering the adoption discourse minefield will probably be welcomed by fierce pro- or anti- debaters. People type as hard as they can at each other, slinging putdowns and generalizations in forums and comment boxes.

As an aspiring adoption writer, I’m terrified and amused (Terrimused? Amusified?) by these attacks. My own website states that I’m not anti-adoption; rather, I’m “adopt transracially with extreme prejudice.” Key word: I’m supposed to focus on transracial adoption, rather than adoption as a whole.

As someone who naturally avoids extremes — I like my coffee lukewarm, thankyouverymuch — and someone who’s also very new to the field, I’m hesitant to take a strong position.

Here’s why:

Fear

I don’t want to alienate all readers by drawing inpenetrably thick lines. Is that the coward’s approach? Maybe. In my book-in-progress, I (perhaps naively) declare wanting to use research to unite these camps and promote informed discussions. Taking a firm position would disallow that.

Ignorance

Here’s where I admit my own shortcomings: I’m not confident enough to declare dead a centuries-old practice. As an adoptee, I feel this negates my life story, regardless of its shaky beginning. It also prohibits contributions from those adoptees who turned out a-okay. Their insights might reveal what went wrong for us.

And, like I said earlier, I’m new here. Sure, I do the required reading and dig up old books and primary sources, but the real gems are the tales told by those with lived experience. I haven’t talked to enough people yet to substantiate my claims and I want to be informed.

Naïveté

In a perfect world we’ll come together and have neutral peace talks, sitting around a campfire fueled by the rainbows and unicorn droppings that I spoke of here. I can’t help but compassionately embrace all perspectives, even if others consider them absolutely batshit insane. (This happens. Regularly.) It’s why I don’t moderate comments on my blog and don’t plan to in the future.

However…

People with “positive” adoption stories have the right to share their experiences. I’m genuinely happy for them.

People with “negative” adoptions have that same right BUT their views are frequently:

  • ignored,
  • demonized, or
  • gaslighted.

The “happy outcome” saturation needs to stop. Denying the bad adoption stories while ignoring legitimate research on the practice’s unfortunate history silences real victims. It’s also misleading. Prospective adoptive parents must know these stories or else they’ll potentially enter parenthood unprepared, leaving their child to suffer the consequences.


In the end, adoption’s plagued by heartbreak, happiness, trauma, and joy — but appreciating adoption’s complexities means embracing all opinions, even if they challenge our deepest-held values.

Children deserve love and nurturing. We can all agree on that. It’s how they get there that’s questioned, but working together will strengthen their futures.

And I think I need to remind myself that my focus is on transracial adoption. Which is a topic with its own bombshells, so I’m already treading on thin ice. Lucky me!


Sunny writes about transracial adoption, race, and the American family. She also contributes to Intercountry Adoptee Voices, an adoptee-led site supporting research by intercountry adoptees. Connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.