One of the reasons Veronica and Dusten Brown’s story has affected me so profoundly is because it epitomizes the change in mindset that adoption has undergone in the last 60 plus years. It strikes at the core set of beliefs about adoption that have been evolving since at least World War II. Before WWII, children born out of wedlock were undesirable, they were considered tainted by their ‘lowly’ origins and were often stereotyped as sickly and feebleminded. But somehow, someone must have figured out that a) so-called ‘illegitimate’ children were just as smart and healthy as those born to married parents– surprise, surprise– or b) that there was money to be made from moving children from one family to another. Sadly, I suspect option b is what really happened. And as this new mindset continued to take hold, plenty of nice middle-class couples became willing and eager to adopt, and children born to unmarried parents went from undesirable to in demand.
Not surprisingly, this change in mindset led to abuses, of which the infamous Baby Scoop era is probably the most well known. This era, between approximately 1945 and 1973, saw an unprecedented number of children given up for adoption, and led to the highest number of infant adoptions the United States has ever seen. As a baby scoopee myself, it is quite unsettling to realize that my whole life was part of a social experiment. A social experiment, I might add, which was based on a number of premises for which there was never any proof that these premises were either true or correct. Although perhaps I should mention that there was one positive outcome to this change in mindset that affected me personally. Since my natural mother was not able to get over her shame and try to keep me, I am glad there were couples who wanted to take me in and raise me as their daughter.
As time has gone on, however, there has also been a push to make adoption considered “just as good as”–or even more problematic– “exactly the same as” biological parenthood. This change in philosophy, combined with the mindset that children deserve the ‘better’ parents, paved the way for the devastating outcome that happened to Veronica Brown. Now, of course, if we extend this logic to its ultimate conclusion, there is most likely a ‘better’ family out there for nearly every one of us. Maybe we all should be adopted by Donald and Ivana Trump, or if you are a bit younger, by Donald Trump and Marla Maples, and if you are really young, you could be adopted by Donald and Melania Trump.
I still remember being astounded when I read a comment following one of the myriad stories about the Brown case that said something along the lines of, “Dusten Brown needs to realize that Veronica is not his child. He and his wife, Robin, need to start their own family.” Amazingly, this comment was written by a man! I mean, what on earth is this commenter talking about? Dusten Brown fathered this child. At the risk of overstating the obvious, men cannot carry and deliver the child. Dusten created Veronica in the usual way and she carries his genes and is his daughter. Has our mindset became so deranged that a man who fathers a child in the old-fashioned way is now no longer automatically considered that child’s father? Even when he desperately wants to raise his own child? The mindset exemplified by this outrageous comment is, in my opinion, the reason why the Capobiancos were able to adopt Veronica. The Capobiancos were able to drum up support, not only because the mindset in this country is so flawed that one’s biological parents are no longer automatically assumed to be their mother and father, but because being adopted is now considered exactly the same as being raised in one’s biological family. But it isn’t! Being raised in an adoptive family is very different than being raised in one’s biological family, and being adopted comes with its own set of issues that should be avoided whenever possible. Now, of course, anyone familiar with my writings knows that I am not advocating for any child to be left in an abusive or neglectful environment just so they can be raised by their blood kin. But in Veronica Brown’s case, as we all know, there was no need for adoption.
So what I want to say is this: Things have gone way too far when a prospective adoptive parent’s claim on a child is equal to a natural parent’s claim–especially when the natural parent is perfectly fit! And when simply wanting a child is tantamount to deserving to raise that child, even if you aren’t the child’s natural parent. It is very scary that a perfectly fine parent like Dusten Brown, who obviously was not giving his child up for adoption, was forced to give her up against his will. I cannot imagine that in any other western country this travesty of justice would have been allowed to happen. But this is where our mind-boggling early 21st century mindset about adoption has led us.
From once thought of as feebleminded to later desirable and in demand, to “exactly the same as”, to natural parents not even having the first claim on their own children, attitudes about adoption in America have undergone a major shift. And as we saw in the horrific outcome in the Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl case, when it comes to adoption our country has completely lost its moral compass. As an adoptive parent friend of mine said, “The travesty of adoptions such as Veronica Brown’s should never have been allowed to occur. It is shocking to me that in a supposedly advanced country like America, children can be treated like movable chattel.” Yes, this is the mindset that must be combated, because we know whose child she is. Of that we have no doubt.
Update: Oh, how ironic that I chose Donald Trump and his three wives for this post before his presidential campaign and his seeming win (with what appears to be some help from a foreign government) of the 2016 election. But these subsequent events, and the great amount of new information we have gleaned about the Trump family, just prove my point that reputation is not always reality; that adoptive parents, no matter how spectacular they may appear on the outside, are not always what they seem. They may not be a ‘better’ family at all, and may very well not be the type of people you would want to have raising your child.
Remember, all that glitters is not gold.