Adoption—How Do I Fit In?
IT GOES without saying that problems can arise if adoptive parents divorce or if one partner dies. But it is the adopted child who may feel the greater strain. Why?
The majority of us know who our biological parents are. Even if we lost them early in life, we have memories, or probably some photographs, to complete the link. What, though, of a baby put up for adoption soon after birth? The adoption society retains details of the mother, but that information is often not made available until the child comes of age. In other cases, the mother registers her own name on the birth certificate but omits that of the father. Some babies are foundlings—discovered after their unknown parents have abandoned them. Children in all of these situations lack roots—they may feel cut off from their background or origin.
Trees need a good root system to stand firm. A new shoot grafted on to a mature stock may flourish well, but it might also wither and fail to produce fruit. Similarly, although adoptive parents may give all the care and loving devotion possible, some children never recover from the shock of being cut off from their original roots.
Consider the case of Kate.* Born of West Indian parents, as a baby Kate was adopted by a loving, caring white couple, but she could not come to grips with her new environment. At the age of 16, she left home, never to return. Bitterness had by that time turned to unreasoning hatred. “Why did my mother give me away to you?” she demanded. Sadly, this family was unable to bridge the gap.
Mervyn was placed in the care of the local authority at birth and then with foster parents. When nine months old, he was adopted. His initial insecure background, along with a burning resentment at being of mixed race, developed into a rebellious attitude bringing much trouble upon him and deep sorrow to his adoptive parents, who did so much for him. “If anyone were to ask my advice about adoption,” his mother said, “I would now say, ‘Think twice about it.’”
In contrast, consider the experience of Robert and Sylvia. They had one son and were unable to have any more children. “Have you thought of a child of another nationality?” they were asked. Soon they were adopting Mak-Chai, a nine-month-old baby girl from Hong Kong. “I often wonder why I was abandoned,” says Mak-Chai, “and whether I have any brothers or sisters. But I think I am closer to my adoptive mum and dad than a lot of natural children are to their parents. If I knew who my biological parents were, it would not make a lot of difference, except that I would understand a few of my characteristics a bit better, maybe.” Do her adoptive parents recommend adoption? “Yes,” they say, “because for us it has been a marvelous experience!”
Reasons for Caution
Graham and Ruth adopted two children as babies, a boy and a girl, to integrate with their own son and daughter. All four children were brought up as one united family in a happy environment. “All our children left home years ago and went their own way. We maintain regular contact and love them all,” says Ruth. But sadly, both adopted children had serious problems. Why?
“Our doctor told us that the environment for a child is all-important,” says Graham, who now feels that inherited traits are a major factor. He adds: “Also, what about the mother’s health when she was carrying her baby? Drugs, drink, and tobacco, we now know, can affect an unborn child. I recommend a thorough check be made of both parents, and even grandparents if at all possible, before undertaking adoption.”
Peter’s mother remarried, and Peter suffered physical and mental abuse from his stepfather. At the age of three, he was put up for adoption. “I rejected my adoptive parents the moment I stepped out of the court,” Peter said. He added: “I destroyed everything I could lay my hands on. When I did sleep, I experienced horrific nightmares. Looking back now, I can see how highly disturbed I was. After my adoptive parents also divorced, things went from bad to worse for me—drugs, stealing, vandalism, daily orgies.
“At the age of 27, I could see no reason to continue living and contemplated suicide. Then one day a stranger handed me a Bible-based tract that stated that soon this earth will become a paradise. The message appealed to me. It had the ring of truth. I started to read and study the Bible and began to make changes in my life and character, but time and again I fell back into my old ways. After much encouragement and helpful Christian association, I now feel happier and more secure in serving God than I could have dreamed of a few years ago. I have also been able to rekindle an affectionate relationship with my mother, which is delightful.”
When it comes to adoptions, emotions run high. Extremes of love and gratitude are seen alongside bitterness and ingratitude. Edgar Wallace, for example, never forgave his mother for abandoning him, which is how he assessed her actions. She went to see him in the last year of her life, reluctantly seeking some financial assistance, but Edgar, affluent as he was by that time, brusquely turned her away. Soon after, when he learned that his mother would have been buried in a pauper’s grave but for the kindness of friends who paid for her funeral, he deeply regretted his insensitivity.
People considering adoption must be prepared to face realistically the problems and challenges that may arise. Children are not always grateful for what their parents—adoptive or biological—do for them, even in the best of circumstances. The Bible, in fact, speaks of individuals in our day as “having no natural affection” and being “unthankful” and “disloyal.”—2 Timothy 3:1-5.
On the other hand, opening your home—and your heart—to a child that needs parents can be a positive, enriching experience. Cathy, for instance, is deeply grateful to her adoptive parents for providing her with a Christian home and caring for her physical and spiritual needs.—See the box “It Worked for Us,” page 8.
When describing how they feel about their adopted sons and daughters, the parents of such children may well call to mind the words of the psalmist: “Children are a gift from the Lord; they are a real blessing.”—Psalm 127:3, Today’s English Version.
Some names have been changed to safeguard anonymity.