May 21, 2014

The Internet is my Best Friend and my Worst Enemy

No problem is unsolvable. No question cannot be answered. You are never the only person in the history of the world to come upon a certain issue. As my favorite fictional FBI agent, Dana Scully, would say "The answers are there, you just have to know where to look."

So of course I am researching adoption *to death*. And the internet makes researching any topic so easy because more information than you could find in a whole library is right at your fingertips - just a quick Google search away.

However, the internet contains a lot of...noise, for lack of a better word. I had no idea how many different communities and schools of thought there are on the topic of adoption. And in some of those groups, emotions run high. Particularly adult adoptees and birth mothers. Now, I am desperate for the knowledge I can gain by reading adoptee narratives. Adoptees are the ones in the "adoption triad" (am I using that right?) most impacted by the adoption process - the early loss, a life of feeling different or "other". I get that, which is why I want to see the process from their eyes.

You might be surprised how hard it is to find adoptee narratives. Way harder than finding the chronicles of adoptive parents. There are many, complicated reasons for why this might be, but regardless, it is a reality that is making my search more difficult. And there is only so much help I can glean from an adoptive parent explaining how they deal with questions about adoption and race. I'm more interested in how the adopted person deals with those questions on their own and how their parents provided the tools to do that in a healthy way. That's something that only an adoptee can explain. But here's another road block: the internet often serves as a safe space for nothing but negative, unproductive talk.

In my desperate search, I reach out and immediately cling to *any* adoptee writing. And there is a lot of negative writing coming from adult adoptees on the internet. Some of what they say resonates with me - validating the lack of the adoptee perspective from the mainstream adoption rhetoric, the suffering related to old, closed adoption practices, the importance of confronting racism and prejudice with transracial adoptees. But there is so much more to these adoptees' writings that scares me. Pointing out every word and action prescribed by other adoption communities and basically ranting "wrong wrong wrong!" "as an adoptee, that offends me!" It is terror inducing because the words and actions they are picking apart are things that sounded perfectly acceptable and appropriately sensitive to me. For example, one of the websites I found tore apart a popular "What not to say to an adoptive family" video. According to a collective of adoptees, everything in the video was wrong and the adoptive father who made it is a terrible, ignorant person. I was shocked!

But who am I to question the adoptees' perspective and opinions? What the hell do I know? I pride myself on my critical thinking and reading skills - always questioning information that is presented as "fact" but doesn't back itself up with objective evidence. You can't really do that when it comes to something as personal as the adoptee perspective. And my initial reaction to the negative views by adoptees is pretty much "Well, that is a valid opinion and I am recoiling from it because it challenges my pre-conceived notions. I cannot reject this information outright or I won't learn anything."

But honestly, what is there to learn? In the whole of the article about the video, no one made useful suggestions for what could have made the video better. At best there were vague, general ideas offered, such as "This video is focused solely on the adoptive parent when really the questions are all about the adoptee. The adoptee should always be considered and involved in dealing with these situations!" Ummm....okay, but how do you meaningfully involve a *3 year old* in the situations that the video discussed?? No help there, the comment did not elaborate. That is beyond frustrating for me. You can't just tear apart something that is done with every good intention, call it ignorant, and then not supply guidance for how it can be corrected or done better. That's just not helpful!

I am so frustrated to know that I am asking the right questions (for example, how do I know that the trans-racial adoption process does not damage the adoptee?), seeking knowledge and information from the appropriate sources (namely, seeking out adoptee narratives rather than adoptive parent reports of how children adapt), and yet still not finding the guidance that I need. There are so many opposing views about adoption and I can't believe how difficult it is to wade through the muck and discover the truth!

I have gotten so fed up with the wild west of the internet that I turned to my university's library for academic, objective resources. I have ten or so peer-reviewed articles to read about various aspects of transracial adoption. At least if there is any negativity in them, they will point back to specific data that provides a "why" or a "how" for the claim. The only other resource I have found that hasn't made me want to scream is the book Twenty Things Adopted Kids Wish Their Adoptive Parents Knew by Sherrie Eldridge.

If all this frustration and questioning leads me to be a better adoptive parent, I hope I will consider this madness worthwhile.


  1. Let me guess... was the website that tore that video apart Lost Daughters? I read one paragraph of that article and immediately exited the site. Like I said, you are going to encounter A LOT of negativity from adult adoptees online. I look at it this way: The angry always have the loudest voice and the need to say why they are upset. The happy tend to not be as forward about sharing their story because they are too busy being happy.

    Also again, most adult adoptees at this time were raised in closed adoption situations, which is not as common these days. One book that is great to read is 'Children of Open Adoption and their Families' by Silber & Dorner. Before I read this I was very hesitant about an open adoption because it was not something I was familiar with. But this book does an excellent job on explaining why an open adoption is found to be healthier for the child and how it can effect their perception of adoption as they grow up. I have the book you mentioned but honestly I haven't read it yet. That is probably a huge bad on my part.

    All this is going to make you a better adoptive parent, I just know it. One day you will look back at all this and be grateful for your knowledge.

  2. You know what is scarier than you being absolutely correct about the un-named website in my post? The fact that there is an even SCARIER website out there about adoption! Mus.ings of the, I think it's called. Do not *ever* go to that site if you haven't already. The women there apparently think every adoption is wrong, babies are stolen from their mothers, and people who want to adopt infants are selfish and horrible. That site literally gave me nightmares.