Ethical Adoptive Parenting

Originally published at at Third Mom.

Non-Adopted Privilege

The world uses adoption to describe, qualify, dismiss and even discriminate against adopted people. Yet many adoptive parents, and even adoptees, do not believe that this is the case. In an effort to understand this better, I am creating a list of what I call non-adopted privileges. Think of them as the ways in which I, as a person born into her family, am not affected by mainstream society’s attitudes toward adoption.

There are a couple of things to bear in mind as you read through the list:

  • Some of these privileges are also unavailable to people whose family situations may have been affected by death of a family member, divorce, etc.
  • This is not an indictment of adoption. Jumping to the “losing these privileges is better than growing up in an orphanage” argument means you are thinking in the wrong direction.
  • Instead, think about how we might conduct adoption in ways that preserve as many of these as possible for the adopted individual. That includes thinking about why we are using adoption in situations in which it is in fact unnecessary.
  • Adoption is not the only way these privileges are lost.

What is absent from my list is any discussion of the relative or concrete importance of these privileges. All I can say to that is, as a person who was born into her family and enjoys all of these privileges, I would be hard pressed to give up a single one.

  • I am not prevented by law from knowing my parents, siblings and extended family members.
  • I am not prevented by social custom from knowing my parents, siblings and extended family members.
  • In the majority of U.S. states, I can obtain my original birth certificate without interference or restriction.
  • I know the identities of my parents, siblings and extended family members.
  • When asked how many siblings I have, I can respond correctly, without further clarification.
  • When asked who my extended family members are, I can respond correctly, without clarification.
  • I am not expected by the mainstream to withdraw my love and loyalty from my family of origin.
  • I share my family’s race.
  • Because I share my family’s race, I understand how to live in my racial community.
  • I share my family’s ethnicity.
  • I share my family’s genetic inheritance.
  • I own my family history, genetic history and ethnicity.
  • I am not expected to forget my family history, genetic history and ethnicity.
  • I am not expected to accept someone else’s race, ethnicity or genetic history as my own.
  • Even if I do not physically resemble my parents, siblings and extended family members, I know and can prove my birth status and membership in my family.
  • I speak my family’s language.
  • I do not need to hide my longing for my identity from the people closest to me.
  • I do not need to protect my parents from my longing for my genetic history or ethnicity.
  • My world is not dominated by an experience over which I had no control.
  • My existence is not hidden by my mother, father, siblings or extended family.
  • My mother is not afraid of my appearance in her life.
  • I know exactly where I was born.
  • I know the exact date and time of my birth.
  • I am not the only genetic relative known to my child(ren).
  • I am not the only genetically unrelated person in my family.
  • When I date, I do not have to consider that my partner may be a sibling or a close genetic relative.
  • My challenges will not immediately be presumed to be a result of my status in my family.
  • I am not pre-judged on the basis of my status in my family.
  • I do not need to repeatedly confirm my positive relationship with my parents, siblings and extended family members.
  • Disagreements with my family are not immediately attributed to ingratitude by my parents or the mainstream.
  • I do not have to explain family photos.
  • My citizenship is not at risk.
  • I can complete school assignments about my family without challenge.
  • When I visit a physician, I know at least some genetic medical history.
  • My family status is generally not used as a punchline in the media.