This week, writer Joyce Maynard publicly announced the disruption of her adoption of two girls from Ethiopia in a letter posted on her website. No doubt many people have an opinion on disrupted adoption in general, and this one in particular. As a person who knows Joyce as a teacher, mentor, and friend, I urge you to read her letter.
I also urge you to read KJ Dell’Antonia’s thoughtful analysis of Joyce’s announcement in the New York Times Motherlode essay, Joyce Maynard Announces Failure of Her Adoptive Family. Here’s an excerpt:
Adopting a child — a small, confused person with an identity and a sense of herself as a part of a family or a community that isn’t yours — isn’t simple. No matter how good the intentions are on all sides to become a family, it doesn’t always work — and “doesn’t always” is more often than you think.
Some experts estimate that as many as one in five adoptions of children over the age of 6 end in disruption, for complex reasons. A newly adopted child is apart from everything she’s ever known. She’s without any firm touchstone from her past, and her future is nothing but a promise — a promise of “forever” and “family” from someone who’s taken her from a life she never truly realized was anything but forever itself.
This is a truly difficult dynamic to surf… I know that I couldn’t really apprehend what had been taken from our daughter until she became our daughter. As convinced as I was that I understood what we were both getting into, I really had no understanding of how hard it would be for us to come from our different places and fall in love. There were moments when I thought it would never happen.
[Joyce] is sure to be the subject of … criticism… But I suspect very little of it will come from those who have a bone-deep understanding of the complexities of adoption, or how difficult it can be to blend a family from the mixture of emotions and motivations and intentions and actions that we all bring to our little tables. When adoption is successful, it is at best a phoenix: it rises from the ashes of a tragedy. It is never the life we hope for when a baby is born. When it works, it’s wonderful.
In February 2011, after the highly publicized case involving adoptive mother Torrey Hansen and the 7-year-old boy she sent home to Russia, I posted about the difficulties faced by some adoptive families, stressing the importance of finding a community and asking for help. I reiterate that here. As an adoptive parent, I have faced, and continue to face, challenges I never imagined, never could have imagined. From my conversations with other adoptive parents, I know I’m not alone.
I’ll end here with a line from Joyce’s letter: “Until I walk in someone else’s shoes, I try not to suppose I know her story.”
Wishing peace to all. ~