Where our sympathy lies

Over at the New York Times, Motherlode writer Lisa Belkin is in full defense mode of blogger Anita Tedaldi.  But the numbers don’t add up.

From Lisa Belkin: Anita adopted D. when he was a little less than a year old. He was with her for about 18 months and was about two and a half when he left with Samantha.

According to other blog posts by Tedaldi, the kid was four months old when he was adopted. His adoption was probably around April 2006. The disruption was some time after June 2008. During the period between April 2006 and June 2008, Tedaldi gave birth twice. So while this child was in her home, she was either pregnant or with a newborn. Or both.

Belkin also removed links to a post Tedaldi wrote about the Jade Poeteray case:

When Anita wrote these she didnt know she would relinquish this child and she certainly wasn’t writing for a NY Times sized audience. But it is Times policy to protect the privacy of children, which I imagine you support. Anita has asked the original website to remove his name and country of birth, too.

The Times audience is largely sympathetic. They praise Anita for her “bravery.” They reassure her that she was “meant to be” because otherwise her son would not have found the right family. They tell her that she was his “guardian angel.”

Pardon me, but I can’t believe that a black mother with four children who got pregnant twice again in two years would be so roundly praised for giving up a child because she couldn’t handle him. Where’s all the talk about personal responsibility in this case?

It’s really clear to me that only white middle- and upper-class women are allowed to have many children, allowed to have accidental children and maybe even are allowed to relinquish children.

It’s also really clear that middle-class status is able to remove doubt in the minds of social workers: Panic attacks. Partner gone for long stretches of time. Problems with other kids. Being about to give birth when receiving an adopted child. Six moves in five years.

What kind of “thorough screening process” was this? And what kind of “research” did Tedaldi do on attachment? Because attachment isn’t about six months or eighteen months or two years. It’s a lifetime process. A process that is aided by a stable homelife and with caregivers who aren’t stretched to their limits.

I actually don’t blame Tedaldi as much as I blame the agency. And I can’t say that this is an isolated incident. A recent statistic for GB showed that more than 10 percent of international adoptions disrupt. We’re talking about babies here, not older children. Estimates in the U.S. have ranged as high as 15 25 percent.  (Edited to correct typo.) But nobody keeps numbers.

Of adoptive parents I have met, there have been many whom I felt should have been rejected. Parents who were too old (sorry, old people). A couple in their fifties who adopted (and then disrupted) a five-year-old girl. They never learned to speak a word of her language but were enraged that she “didn’t listen.” A father who flew to China to pick up an adopted daughter while the wife stayed at home with their other kids because she was due to give birth any day. And most tragically, a family in which the mother was dying. The father flew to pick up the adopted child, brought the child home, and the mother died a few months later. They knew the mom was terminal. And multiple parents who go through the process concurrently in different countries and adopt kids a few months apart. (And don’t get me started on prospective parents who have no conception of whiteness and privilege and race!)

We like to think that our sympathy lies with those poor orphaned children. “Just think about the children!” “Would you rather the child be in an orphanage!” “Did you want the kid to rot in a rat-infested hellhole?”

But the reality is that it’s about the parents. I want a child. Being 57 is of no consequence. I want a child. People are allowed to have biological children without undergoing homestudies. (I actually have heard several adoptive parents express extreme outrage about having to undergo background checks. Hell, we should just give out orphans to anybody who wants one.) I want a child. Actually, I want two children. Let’s get them both at once. I want a huge family. I love the chaos and liveliness of big families. I want a child before I die.

I believe that many people like the idea of children more than they like actual children. And this is when children become objects that are sought out for acquisition.

In the midst of all these wants, the child is ignored. Because nobody actually thought about the children.

His name was Matteo, and the agency failed him. And then his parents failed him. And although he wasn’t at fault, he is the one who will suffer the most.

Edited to add: The original blog post I quoted has also disappeared, as has a similar post on military.com. Here’s the post for posterity:

Couple returns 7 year old adopted girl after 8 years!
January 2, 2008 – 5:23 pm

I read this shocking story and couldn’t believe it was accurate. You can read at http://aolsvc.timeforkids.kol.aol.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1695735,00.html

The gist is that, apparently this dutch couple returned their adopted daughter after 7 years. They mentioned that the girl didn’t adapt to dutch culture and the parents decided to give her back in one of the few places that allows it – Hong Kong. I was shocked – really – that someone could do that.

As an adoptive parent I empathize with the difficulties that can accompany adoption. Our son Matteo has physical and developmental problems and at times it’s tough to connect with him. There are differences and things to understand about adoption that aren’t part of a fairy tale. It’s not all easy and “live happily ever after”. But it’s also rewarding and more importantly we are talking about a human being here not a broken toy!

A child is a child whether biological or adopted – there is no option to return them! There can be difficult situations but this couple adopted an infant and raised her for seven years before deciding that she wasn’t a good match! Biological or adopted children should be treated the same!

I feel bad for this couple and the little girl, it’s terrible for everyone involved but especially for this innocent orphan. Sometimes I think it goes back to the issue of taking responsibility for our actions and decision even if it’s tough.

Whenever I complain about something, one of my uncles in Italy tells me “You wanted a bicycle, now you have to pedal”

Sometimes as a military spouse I feel I have been pedaling for quite a while – but I do wish that this couple would have kept their “daughter” instead of giving up

17 thoughts on “Where our sympathy lies

  1. The story on the NYTimes is disgusting, and the comments are worse. But then, the NYTimes articles on adoption have always taken the side of the ap’s and their ‘struggle’… like I said, white ap’s will never get it.
    But I agree adoption agencies are equally if not more to blame. Countries, like South Korea have made a business out of sending their children overseas. Supply and demand. In instances where adoption should be the last option, its become the first. There are other solutions to keep these children in their own families.

  2. well, you are absolutely right, the comments praising this ap are astounding.

    i think this woman must be suffering from some sort of cold inner spirit, my kids would cry if their favorite neighborhood kid moved away, her kids are just sitting there watching spongebob while the kid and his kit bag walk out of the house, i mean, wtf, this is so bad.

    And yeah, five kids, two while in the midst of the adoption process? The social worker just wanted to make some money, they probably got paid for his first adoption and then the second one two, they are like wall street, they make money on the buys and sells, this is so disgusting.

    the NYT are not a reliable source for credible information on adoption, i remember well when they refused to publish comments on that adoption emporium they had, they censor comments there!

  3. I hate this story, just hate it. But – I must admit, it’s not as rare as adoptive parents think. At this very moment on message board of the agency we used there are is one family considering disruption of a 7yo after 4 years and another who seems has already disrupted. They are both white with relatively large families, lots of changes in their lives, and are held up as martyrs for the cause.

    That said – I highly doubt 15 percent of adoptions disrupt, so I’d like to see that source. I would guess it’s more like 5 or less, but I would be willing to admit I’m wrong there.

    Some agencies are allowing concurrent adoptions particularly if one of the two are the China program since the wait is so long. Other agencies require you to wait 6 months after placement or birth to start up a new process and 1 year total before a second placement. Alas – many agencies just don’t give a hoot – they are running a business.

  4. I think it is highly inappropriate that she was even allowed to adopt this child. With his needs she should not have had any more children for a few years in order to allow him to bond with her appropriately. I think any mental health professional would tell you that. What she was doing was putting her needs/wants to have more children over what he needed. And when he became her child, then automatically, his needs should have come first. If she was planning to do what she did, then she couldn’t have given him what he needed, and was wrong to adopt him in the first place. I think all of this was not focused on in all the people telling her she was brave. And yes, I do blame the adoption agency most of all because she is not a trained mental health professional and they are supposed to be.

  5. The article sickened me as well. I am an adoptive mother and I’ve seen first hand that this industry is based on money (supply and demand) just like any other. The most disgusting part of it is that these agencies claim that they’re looking out for the best interest of the children, but they aren’t. And, frankly, everybody should have to have a background check to have children-adopted or biological. How do we implement that?! Hm…

  6. More than enough blame to go round here, but the Cool Whip on top is Anita Tedaldi’s confessional exhibitionism.

  7. “I believe that many people like the idea of children more than they like actual children. And this is when children become objects that are sought out for acquisition.”

    That is so freaking true. This whole case sickens me.

  8. Wow, I’m shocked that you know about the woman who died after adopting her “virtual twins”. We adopted from the same orphanage a few months apart and the whole story was extremely upsetting (down to the father saying that he knew they did a good thing “saving” the kids, which was their goal; funny how he gave away the Asian kids and not his white son).

    I do believe that there are some justifiable reasons to disrupt. I do not believe that what we’re seeing with D is that, in any way, shape or form. And why do we call it “disruption” when we say that women who give their kids up for adoption generally “abandon” or “relinquish” them? Why do adoptive parents who throw their kids away get away with causing a simple “disruption” in the child’s life? I’m betting it’s a lot more than that to D. My attachment journey with my child was not easy. Sometimes still is not, and I certainly thought many times about “disrupting,” but I didn’t do it. Know why? Because I’m her mother. I’m in this for life.

    And where are the agencies in all of this? When Karin adopted her “twins” not only did the agency know she was terminal, they knew she had to update her home study that expired, which required updated medicals. They knew she engaged in visa fraud. All for what? Just the money? And what kind of agency allows adopting an infant with other young infants in the home? These are not people focused on the best interest of a child. I hope D is able to get through this and learn to trust.

  9. O.M.G., unbelievable. I thought it shocking to know it happened once. Twice? And now I have to believe that it’s happened even more. When will people stop thinking that children have no memories and don’t experience emotional loss?

  10. Resistance, about the number of disruptions, is there any kind of breakdown re domestic v international, country by country, transracial v not, foster care / removed from abusive home v “voluntarily placed” , age at adoption, age of parents, number & timing of other kids, stated reason for adopting ?

  11. As far as I know, no. Disruption statistics aren’t collected although they should be. The anecdotal data I’ve received from social workers indicates that the problem is far bigger than most people would think. And one social worker I know (MTALF) who has lengthy experience working with international adoptions said that she was stunned by the number of disruptions involving children adopted as babies.

  12. Our agency actually brought up to us, as part of the standard pre-adoption stuff, that some adoptions end in disruption. And that if we chose that at any time in the future, we were responsible for paying for everything involved in finding that child a new home.

    I wonder now if that policy was started because of actual cases of disruptions in infant adoptions – not just theoretical situations, as I’d supposed at the time.

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