( By Nilima Mehta )

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Parenting Through Adoption

To me you are special.
Special because you belong
to me and you are mine.
The fact that I didn’t give birth
to you doesn’t make me less
of a mother
Or you my daughter.
For mothering is far more
than birth.

by Claire Short

PARENTHOOD IS PARENTHOOD, no matter by what mode it is achieved. Yet deniably, parenthood by pro- creation and parenthood by adoption are each unique experiences, and the institution of adoption is based on the premise that an adoptive family is the best environment for the orphan and destitute child.

Adoption meets reciprocal needs: the child’s need for a permanent nurturing home and your need to have a child to bring up as your own. By adopting a child, you are building a family in a beautiful way and the experience is intensely emotional for all involved - the adopted child, the birth parents, and you, as the adoptive parents.

While legally, adoption involves a transfer of the birth parents’ rights and responsibilities to the adoptive parents, its consequences are far-reaching emotionally, psychologically and socially. It can be seen as a triad -formed by the child, the adoptive parents, and the birth parents - whose three corners are connected by organisations such as adoption agencies and children’s homes, to form a complete circle so that the outcome is a rewarding and satisfying experience.

The process of adoption might take you through a gamut of emotions ranging from intense hurt and grief to inexpressible joy. Coping with these feelings is a difficult task and a challenge that must be met. A successful adoption needs open communication, acceptance and a supporting environment in which you can discuss adopting a child as a viable alternative means of achieving parenthood.

In a sense, adoption is both a beginning and an ending: it is the begining of a life-long relationship for the couple who have chosen to be adoptive parents; at the same time, for the birth parents, it is an ending - a relinquishment of their parental rights and responsibilities. Both these sets of individuals are facing crisis and going through deeply emotional experiences. Yet, the most important individual is the vulnerable child ... the focus of all our attention and concern.

You might think of adoption as you think of grafting. When you graft, you unite parts from two plants to form a single plant. You cut a part from the original plant, bind this to the second one and, eventually, a completely new and enriched plant grows out of the process. Similarly, adoption involves a wound, a separation from the original relationship of birth, and the subsequent bonding, assimilation and integration in a new relationship. Through a process of healing, a permanent bond is created.

Ours by choice is written for Indian adoptive parents with reference to the Indian socio-cultural context, but it addresses issues relevant to adoptive parents all over the world. Perhaps the book will also serve social workers and other professionals concerned with adoption, who might use it as a source of practical information based on personal experience.

The philosophy and approaches referred to in this book represent my views and convictions.

Through writing Ours by Choice I hope to assist couples who might be considering a decision to adopt, and to explain the process of adoption to those who have made the decision. The book is also for parents who have already adopted and who will be dealing with post-adoption issues.

There are terms and stylistic rules followed in this book that I would like to explain with reference to the context of this book, so that they will be interpreted in the same manner by every reader.

When referring to the adoptive child, I have used the feminine gender - she, her and so on. This is because the girl child in India has traditionally been underprivileged, and accorded reduced important in the family; I hope to work to modify this attitude in a small way through my choice of terminology. Please remember that I am actually referring to both boys and girls, though I write ‘she’ or ‘her’.

  1. Parents who are considering adoption or have already adopted a child are referred to as adoptive parents.

  2. The mother who has given up her child for adoption is interchangeably referred to as the natural mother, the biological mother or the birth mother.

  3. When an adopted child grows up, she is referred to as an adoptee.

  4. The ‘choice’ referred to in the book’s title is the conscious decision that a couple makes to achieve parenthood through adoption.

  5. When the book speaks of ‘choosing’ a child, this refers to the collab- orative process by which the social worker brings the adoptive parents together with a child. It does not involve choosing one child and rejecting many others. Rather, it is a process in which the social worker plays an important role in matching what she interprets as your expectations with the children available for adoption. The final choice, however, is yours, as adoptive parents.
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