Comments from Marley Greiner
A few days ago, the results of the National Adoption Attitudes Survey, conducted by the Dave Thomas Foundation in cooperation with the Evan B.Donaldson Adoption Institute were released. According to the accompanying press release, the "groundbreaking" information from the survey "has established important new benchmarks about society's perception of adoption." After reading the report, I am honestly confused. What was the point? That USians are adoption friendly in extremis
? That's as newsworthy as dog bites man.
While one may argue many points of the survey and the methodology used to collect the data (and they already are), I'll let the wonks duke it out on obscure Internet sites and stick to a couple personally bothersome parts.
The survey incredulously claims that about 40% of the adult US population pool has "considered" adoption for their own families. This means according to the DTF's own statistics that about 81.5 million US adults have considered adoption at one time or another. On the Internet newsgroup alt.adoption, Dr. William Pierce, retired president of the National Council for Adoption - himself critical of the survey and a man with whom I seldom, if ever, agree - decided to have some fun with numbers. Extrapolating US population figures taken from the CIA World Factbook
, Dr. Pierce came up a whopping 216.4 million. I don't know about you, but I find both sets of figures as out of whack as the proposition that Jim Morrison is sitting out his life in some bohemian booze house in Paris. If I weren't in the adoption reform racket, I could count on one hand - well, maybe two - the number of people I know personally who have adopted or have considered adopting.
But more important, nowhere in the report, as far as I can see, is the phrase "considered adoption" defined. A passing thought or discussion at the food court at the mall? Library or Internet research? Networking with potential adopters or adoptive parents? Talking to adoption agencies or lawyers? Applying to adopt and taking adoption preparation classes? Back when I lived in Russia, one of my expat friends and I decided one afternoon on the way to the Cherneskaya metro that it might be "fun" to adopt a little Russian girl with a big bow in her hair. That thought lasted about 20 seconds - tops. Would we be included in that 81.5 (or 216.4) million? I would hope not!
Sometimes what's missing from a report is more interesting than what's included. When I downloaded the survey, the first thing I looked for was some mention of open records - not that I expected to find anything. I wasn't disappointed. The closest the survey came to addressing this hot-button political issue were three bar charts (p. 39-40) gauging the public's view not only of the desirability of search and reunion but what the public thinks is the impact of search and reunion on birth and adoptive parents. In other words, second guessing. And adoptees? Sorry! You lose! You're not even important enough to be second guessed on how you
feel about search and reunion - much less secret adoption, sealed records, and the abrogation of your right to your own public records. What do
those 81.5 (or 216.4) million think about the idea that those millions of state secrets... er... children they've considered adopting are thought by the legislatures of 46 states to be too infantile, incompetent, or dangerous when the grow up to own their own personal information? I guess we'll never know - at least not from this "benchmark" survey.
While I'm at it, can somebody please tell me why asking people what they think other people think is a legitimate way to gauge public opinion? I can't speak for the DTF, but Harris Interactive should know better.
I have a great deal of respect for the Dave Thomas Foundation and the Evan B. Donaldson Institute. No doubt, the Adoption Attitudes Survey is well-intentioned, and some of the information reported is useful. Overall, however, the survey is superficial. Feel-good questions beget feel-good answers that beget little more than cotton candy for the press. The adoption community deserves more.
Marley Elizabeth Greiner
Executive Chair, Bastard Nation: The Adoptee Rights Organization
Disclaimer: The views in this essay are the personal views of the author, not the views of Bastard Nation.
Marley Greiner is co-founder and Executive Chair of Bastard Nation: The Adoptee Rights Organization, and editor and publisher of Baby Dump News
, a weekly report on Safe Haven (legal baby abandonment) laws. She is currently involved in major research on adoption and the religious right.