Friday, February 9, 2007

The Marketing of Adoption

Adoption is 90% marketing and 10% substance

As a marketing professional, I look at life a lot differently than most. An example might be the "American Dream" and how it influences our society. I consider "The American Dream" nothing but a great way for commodity brokers, who control all of the distribution and products to the masses, to get richer. Whether or not anyone planned it out as one great big conspiracy isn't relevant. Think what you want on that one.

In short, The American Dream is a joke for almost everyone that buys into it. It's simply marketing. It's a way to get you to commit the rest of your life's earnings to building something that most likely will end up in the tax accounts of the state and federal governments or insurance companies to pay for your long term health care. It starts with buying and owning a home. It continues with a pretty little picket fence and a dog and cat and 2.2 kids. And then there's the insurance, the upkeep and the improvements. The cleaners, the homecare products, the baby products, the lawncare products, the carcare products and so on and so on. Then there's the property taxes to pay for the (mostly subpar public) school systems, the overpriced police and fire services. Add to this the high cost of utilities. And I haven't even mentioned the big push for sending your kids to the "best" colleges. If one has any fiscal responsibility whatsoever, they step back and gasp at how much it costs to maintain this lifestyle. If you have any accounting aptitude, you know that the only way to get there is dual incomes and lots of credit! Now let's say your parents are fairly wealthy and did a good job and they have a fair amount of wealth and own their home. Do you think you'll ever see anything - NOT! The tax laws (capital gains) keep us from liquidating any of the investments we make in the home until we're 65+. If you're a kid, you'll be 50 years old when your parents move on when and if you ever see anything. You've already raised your family and kids and looking to retire. With the high cost of care once one reaches 65, the chances of any of this going to an inheritance are slim to none as most of it will go to care for your parents in their old age, especially if they have no pension or retirement (of which the majority today do not).

Adoption is much the same way. It's a big one-time sale and then everyone disappears. They don't tell you about the fallout. The social worker moves on (the average life of a social worker in a state system is 6 months). The lawyer retires, there is little to no support from the agency as they have no reason to talk to you any more because they've already got all your money. One home visit after all is consummated and you're on your own as an adoptive parent and the children are on their own. The whole system is about placing children and that's it! Yes there are some service providers such as counselors and therapists who do their best to serve the adoption community, but that's only of recent. No one warns parents of the extra time and effort above and beyond your investment in living the American Dream that adoption requires.

The public is ignorant and the marketers take advantage of it. Adoption is marketed and the naiive are burned. The marketing is all about money but is disguised as "humanitarianism, charity, last chance parenting (infertility usually first), pity, sympathy, etc. Some of the targets are the barren couple, the humanitarian or the wealthy do-gooder that's going to make the life of a "needy" child a dream. The public knows almost nothing about the cause and effect of adoption to our society. One of those is the fact that there are over 500,000 kids in the foster care system all locked up in foster homes and group homes. There are millions of kids who are touched by adoption either by private, state or international means. The number of children adopted who live a "normal" life in my estimation is 0. That's right - ZERO!

Some of the fallout goes like this. Let's say you're an adoptive parent and someone notices that your kids must be adopted. Most people just smile or stare and turn away. But for those who attempt to be friendly, the naivete comes out ugly. The inquiries that come from the public range from the naiive to utterly stupid. The responses of the ignorant with a humanitarian view of adoption go something like this:

"Your kids are so lucky to have you"
"You're so lucky you have such great parents"

The responses of the naiive go something like this:

"What it must be like to be chosen"
"Are those your kids?"

As an adoptive parent, I hear all of the responses. (But don't forget, I was an adoptee.) My twin 4 year olds are not the same ethnicity as my wife and I, and therefore adoption is conspicuous and obvious.

When I took my boys to see my Afather for the first time - he was nearly 80 years old and not in the greatest of shape. But he had his wits. His wife, (not my Amom as my Adad left when I was 10, only 5 years after the adoption) on the other hand is one of the dumbest blondes I have ever known. The first words out of her mouth were "They're darker than I expected". If you have a response to that, please comment, I'd love to hear! I was speechless. This is clearly the case of someone wanting to try and say something applicable and making an absolute ass of themselves.

The "lucky" response is the ignorant thinking that adoption is all about privilege being granted to the "needy".

The "chosen" word is simply a marketing ploy used in the 50s and 60s and sets people up to be ridiculed and separated and isolated by their peers, parents and adoptees. The agencies and the social services proliferate the words without having to pay for the backlash themselves. My parents told me how I was "chosen" and that other parents were simply "stuck" with what they had. Think about the backdraft when a 4 year old repeats these words amongst their peers in kindergarten. Even if they don't know how to respond, the peers take this home and tell their parents and separation sweeps through the Aparents peer groups.

In the Boston area, there's a program referred to as "Wednesday's Child" sponsored by a TV station and an anchor named Jack Williams. I appreciate his intent but his method is abominable. For 25 years, he has paraded "hard-to-place" children on the evening news in an effort to find someone who will adopt them. Parading children, adoption parties and the like simply drives kids to perform to be accepted. The damage is irreparable. The hurt can be irreversible. One never hears about the "placements gone bad" from a program such as Wednesday's Child. But trust me, there are more bad situations than there are good ones in adoption.

Adoption cannot be treated with money as the motive. Adoption needs attention after the placement, far more than the placement itself. You cannot market people. It's a form of slavery. As an adoptee, you know that you're a person and not a commodity. As adoptees, we need to continue to speak up to make known what needs to change. Parents need to be screened by competent counselors and not by social workers who are quitting their jobs tomorrow. Agencies need to be regulated and held at bay as they simply love the unregulated manner in which they can take advantage of rich barren couples who want a family to put on their mantle. As Bill Cosby says "If you know a young woman who wants a baby to love her back - duct tape her to the door and buy her a puppy!". We need to do this with some of the people who are adopting. As for the agencies, especially those who deal in domestic infant adoptions and international infant adoptions, they need a governing body with some teeth. There isn't anything in place and the slimiest of people hide inside these agencies. They are no better than con men. Adoptees need to rally together and teach adoptive parents what it's like to be rejected and then thrown into a completely foreign culture and expected to adapt overnight without any fallout. Adoptees need to become the counselors. When you're the recipient of the abuse, you know the cure. When you're looking in from the outside, you haven't a clue. Adoptees need to band together and go to the legislatures in force and tell their stories. The representatives and senators are there to serve us. I know that seems ludicrous, but trust me, you walk into their face, they have to listen. Walk into their face with a band of adoptees and they'll make change happen. Every state's records should be open. As an adoptee and an adoptive parent having experienced reunion and been adopted by an adoptee who experienced reunion, I don't believe in protecting the birth parent in anonymity. We deserve the right to seek them out and have our piece of the puzzle filled in! If they want to be left alone after that, then that's totally understandable and should be honored.

As adoptees, we have all the harnessed power of a nuclear revolution to bring adoption out of a place of shame and naiivete and into the light where people can see it for the positive thing we can make of it. We harness the power, so let's make things better for those who will follow. Adoption has touched us, now let's touch it back!

There is a charity committed to educating people on the many issues around adoption - the Evan B. Donaldson Institute on Adoption. I am well acquainted with the executive director, Adam Pertman. Adam has devoted his life to simply educating the community on adoption. He's an adoptive parent and a sweet individual. He is a Pulitzer Prize nominee on his writings on adoption. Adam comes from the adoptive parent side and sees the many injustices close up and personal as a father of two adopted children. Adam is an example of people standing up an doing something about adoption!

AMoms - Fractured Systems Corrupt

I'm amazed at how common it is that Amoms are so often dysfunctional and abusive. And the time frame where it seems to be so prevalent was post WWII in the baby boomer years. As an adoptee of older parents who had to have felt the peer pressure of the boomers around them, I'm sure this has a part to play. Did they simply adopt just to keep up with the Jones's? Little did anyone realize that adoption programs were not about the kids, but about the parents. Kids are an afterthought, parents are the ones with the money.

The history of one's Amom usually tells quite a story. My Amom's life went like this:

Youngest of 14 children born, 12 of whom lived to be at least 45 years of age.

Raised by older siblings most of her life on the farm.

Father was frugal and made his fortune by purchasing land of those ruined by the depression.

Father died very young - 60 - and willed all of his land and holdings to the first born son. The land and property was valued and close to 100 million dollars in the 1970s.

Her mother (birthed 14) lived to be 96 years old - 36 years past the death of her husband.

My Amother was the spoiled one and manipulated her mother into willing everything to her in her old age. She did this by inviting her mother to live with her during he later years. (She was resented by all of her brothers and sisters with the exception of a couple who were closest in age to her.)

She and her family put my grandmother in a nursing home right down the road from the multi-million dollar farms they owned and operated. She wasted away from 90 - 96 not knowing anyone once she was put "out to pasture". Yes I have a lot of resentment for putting people in nursing homes because it's yet again another form of fiscal convenience that equates to rejection.

My Amother was always self-righteous and spent enormous amounts of time justifying her position and proving that others were at fault. She claimed she was very well liked, but because all of her friends were politicians, you do the math.

My Amother was a perfectionist and took pride in tearing things down no matter the intent, the effort or the thought. Her greatest strength was in tearing down.

Though my Amother never ever told me, her marriage with my Afather was her 3rd. This was revealed to me at my father's military burial by one of my first cousins who was in her younger years when all this took place. Yes, she had been married early, only to end in divorce. Her second marriage was to a drug dealer in Kansas City, Mo in the 1940s and her family had to rescue her from this second husband when word got out that he was going to be arrested. A whole posse of family members went in and took her home. My Afather was a Marine and she and he married after only two weeks acquaintance for her third marriage. I cannot express how many times my Amom condemned divorce whenever it happened, especially in the famly. Talk about hypocracy! She was married 3 times by the time she was 24! Tell me there aren't issues with this woman!

My Amom had cancer in the 1950s which included a complete hystorectomy. For obvious reasons, they could not have kids. But get this, they didn't even have sex as the consequences of the major operation prevented this! They slept in twin beds and never had an intimate moment again! Now what social worker in their right mind would approve adoption for a couple that didn't have relations, were in their third marriage and were in the military being transferred every 3 or 4 years from military base to military base and then off to war (my afather was in three wars)! And they had been married for 19 years at the time of the adoption. No kids for 19 years. The good life for 19 years at the ripe age of 43, how are they going to settle down and have kids? A 4 year old and an infant? The "chosen" family only lasted about 5 years (including a stint in Nam by my Afather) and it blew apart. My amother was too much for my afather to handle and he found someone who he could love and spend time with that didn't bitch and nag and find fault with him at every juncture.

When an older child (older than one year) suffers loss via rejection or abandonment, they need time and attention. They carry the weight of the world on their shoulders because they don't have the vocabulary to articulate what's going on inside them. It's like being an animal that is sick and cannot talk. All they can do is lay their head on your lap and hope you'll spend time with them until they get better. My Aparents didn't even come within a foot of each other. There was no affection, no love, not sentiment, no nothing. Their idea of love was putting food on the table and a roof over your head and clothes on your back. Any responsible agency or social worker will use this very fact to separate the "wannabes" from the serious prospective adoptive parent(s).

So in summary, adoption is all about the influence of money and has very little to do with the children. It's a fault of our entire system. The agencies are out to make money, the parents are out to keep up with the Jones' and the state wants to get more kids placed so it can brag about the success of the "chosen" adoption programs. When it's about these types of motives, it's no mystery why the adoptees are the losers and take the abuse. This isn't true with all states. In the state of Massachusetts, they use the foster system to build budgets. Budgets are allocated by the services needed for the children. The administrators figured out a long time ago that the more needs a kid has, the more budget they can get to play with. This is why nearly 90% of all foster kids in the American system are classified with some form of ADD or ADHD! The therapist gets more counseling time, the directors get bigger budgets and the pensions and salaries grow and grow and grow. The kids are put on drugs and it's so much easier to run the group homes and the foster homes when the kids are drugged. Once again, we're back to money being the motive and not the kids.

Thursday, February 8, 2007

Adoptee Secrets = "Unwanted"

This post is in response to Gwen's recent chat about "secrets". Secrets are simply the triggers to the term "Unwanted"

There is nothing more powerful than the want for acceptance in the life of an adoptee. The fallout from rejection and loss varies, but the reality is clear - it all stems from rejection (whether spoken or unspoken). Self-esteem becomes bipolar in nature as one goes from acceptance of temporary praise to condemnation of one's entire life. Every adoptee I've ever known suffers from PO or performance orientation and then they go into this funk when they start to compare their lives to others. If you claim you don't, then you're simply lying to yourself.

After rejection, one desires friendship via performance (humor, sports, academia) and then performs unordinary acts of behavior to prove to one's self that rejection is imminent once someone shows interest. It took me 15 years to get over the performance oriented method of doing things and to look at life as it is and not how it is wished. When I came to the realization that life is playing the hand you're dealt and not wishing it were different or better, things looked up. You just have to find a table where a pair of 2's might win or you're a damn good bluffer. I learned that if people liked me for what I did, stay the hell away! I found a whole new type of friend who simply liked me for who I was and not what I could do for them.

In my early 20's, I learned the power of forgiveness and let everyone off the hook including myself. I began to look at life from a fresh point of view and gave up pointing the finger at anyone. My relationship with my amom never came back, though I made a special trip from Massachusetts to Missouri for a 15 minute conversation with her to aske her forgiveness for all the things I did as a child to cause her grief. Though she did not forgive me, I walked away clean. This may sound cruel, but one cannot demand forgiveness and I had learned years before that she was never one to forgive. But I had to forgive to get the weight off my back and after being away from home for nearly a decade, I had learned that I wasn't the "bad" abnormal person my amom had portrayed me as for my entire upbringing. I no longer considered myself "unwanted".