Friday, January 25, 2013

Why "I'm Sorry You Had a Bad Experience" Doesn't Fly

When adult adoptees speak out against adoption practices, we are sometimes countered with something along the lines of the following: "I'm sorry you had a bad experience, but that doesn't mean all adoption is evil."


Yes, it is certainly true that some adoptees describe their experience of adoption in positive ways, whereas other do so negatively, and still others fall into the murky territory of ambiguous emotion. I myself fall into the latter category, and I tell my personal story because it is a part of my history and it is mine to tell. I tell my personal story because I belong to a group of people whose voices were long silenced. I tell my story as a means of personal healing and also to help today's adoptive parents have a fuller understanding of some of the things that their adopted children might be feeling.

But in terms of adoption reform, I acknowledge that my personal story is actually irrelevant.

Adoption as an institution is flawed (let's agree to avoid the inflammatory label "evil," shall we?) because it acts on a person when they are in a powerless state (as stated so eloquently earlier today by Lynn Grubb of No Apologies for Being Me, "I was an infant when my adoption occurred.  I had no attorney of my own protecting my due process rights."), strips that person of basic rights (including the right to an accurate, truthful record of one's own birth) without his or her consent, and includes no mechanism to restore those rights even when legal adulthood is reached.

Whether or not I liked my adoptive family or not, or was happy to have been raised by them or not, is not the point.

I am not the first person to have articulated this distinction, but it's part of what's on my mind today. Thanks to Lynn and others for being my personal muses. 


  1. Wow. I'd never thought about this before, but it makes so much sense. It drives me nuts, as a birth mom, when people give me similar ambiguous words of "comfort". I feel like it detracts from the difficult parts of my story, and while I don't want to dwell in them, I also don't want to ignore them. I need to feel every aspect of these experiences, as I'm sure every adoptee and adoptive parent does too. Thank you for pointing this out to me. I don't think I've ever made that statement to anyone before, but I'll definitely be sure to ban it from my vocabulary from now on.

  2. Unfortunately I've heard this from my bio family quite a few times. Along with the old chestnut, "Not all adoptees feel the way you do". Believe it or not, my therapist told me that! Why does it matter to me if not all adoptees feel the way I do? I feel the way I do! I had a bad experience because I was separated from my mother and entire family. I don't know why some people are fine with that, but I myself didn't care for it. Now my bio family wants nothing to do with me, because my father gave me away, and they support his decision. What a world.

  3. I am sorry but if a child was taken from a shopping mall or parking lot, the parents would be traumatized and have the support of the entire community. Since the child is taken from a hospital and the parents are told this is for the best (the best of their pocket book) people think the trauma is not as great. I will always think of this theft as pure evil. I know i will never recover from the trauma that lss agency caused.

  4. Thanks, Rebecca:) I love the title of this blog because so TRUE! I wish people understood that there is a difference between our adoptive families and the injustices that occurred to us by the State, social workers, attorneys and everybody involved in the legalities of our adoptions.

  5. Why do you want to have something with you bio family if they don't? please help me understand.

  6. Excellent post. You took the words right out of our hearts, and put them so eloquently. Thank you.


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