The “adoption-friendly” workplace.

I’ve argued that adoption is a “leap-frogging” of other assimilation processes, notably immigration. What does it mean when adoption is given precedence over and favored above such other processes?

I read today that the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption publishes a yearly list of “Adoption-friendly workplaces”, such as Cornell University [link], whose web site proudly exclaims:

Cornell provides up to $5,000 adoption assistance per child ($6,000 for adoption of a child whom the IRS has defined as having special needs). Cornell parents can also apply for grants to assist with child care expenses of up to $5,000 per year and receive up to 16 weeks of parental leave—some as paid leave—to aid with their transition to a larger family. An on-site child care center, back-up care services and a dependent care consultant also help Cornell parents meet their career/life responsibilities.

“This year, we launched several new programs to meet the needs of diverse adoptive families, including sponsoring a support group for transracial adoptive and foster families that was begun by a Cornell parent; offering an LGBT adoption workshop; and providing workshops on mindfulness-based parenting of teens and tweens,” said Lynette Chappell-Williams, associate director for inclusion and diversity. “Cornell also helps internationally adopted children transition into their new environment by matching college students, as mentors, with adoptee children,” she said.

First question: What does “mindfulness-based parenting” mean?

Second question: What does it mean when a society goes out of its way to reward those who already have? What if this “aid” were also destined to original families? What does it mean when programs such as affirmative action are scrubbed, but “international adoptees” get special treatment?

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4 thoughts on “The “adoption-friendly” workplace.

  1. Your first question seems to be the stepping-stone to answering the others — a quick search of the term suggests a set of family-centric practices engaged in by those of relative wealth, power and privilege…

  2. Interesting that Brent could find a definition so easily for “mindfulness-based parenting”! I was going to say that it means: parenting without blinders. Transracial adoption in a race-conscious United States can be challenging for the adoptee, especially during the tween, teen and young adult years. If the parent comes from places of privilege (race, religion, socioeconomic, etc.), it’s best for the parent to educate themselves quickly!

    As a transracial adoptee myself, I use my identity formation as a platform to educate and dialogue among adoptive families and adult adoptees so that we can be mindful – in our parenting and other aspects of our life.

    Answer to the second question: our society and system has its flaws. How could Cornell give funds to the original families? What would that look like? Should there be no families formed by adoption? No doubt: adoption is complex and never as simple as the marketing makes it appear to be. But I would much rather work for a place that supports non-traditional families than have to hide who I am or feel forced to conform the societal norms of “family.”

    • In principle, I understand what you mean by “I would much rather work for a place that supports non-traditional families” (the rest of the phrase “than have to hide … &c” is not logically or necessarily connected as the contrast with the first part, I think), but this begs two questions:

      (1) why must such a family be categorized as distinct from “traditional” families, and

      (2) in some ways, adoption represents a more exaggerated attempt at a “traditional” family than traditional families, somewhat like drag queens often seem more hyperfeminine than 99% of women.

      More broadly, we could also ask what we should understand as a “traditional family” in the first place, but I’ll leave that aside.

      It’s unclear to me if the Cornell program provides incentives to adopt, provides support for those who have already adopted, both, or something else. If “adoption-friendly” means “adoption-enabling” then I’m not sure if I consider that really, actually “friendly”–at least for the circumstances that underlay transracial adoption.

      How could Cornell give funds? Besides cutting a check to the family? Well then, by funding infrastructure in originating families’ environments that make the need to relinquish children for adoption less necessary or unnecessary.

      Should there be no families formed by adoption? Again, this begs the question if adoption forms families. But as a basic starting point, the answer must be “no, as things currently stand”. The various rhetorics about “saving children” and whatnot are given the lie by the fact that (1) the circumstances generated geopolitically by (usually!) the receiving country’s adventurism creates the need for “saving children” in the first place so that more of the disease appears offered as the supposed cure, but also (2) even without this irony-increasing factor, the market demand for trafficking in human babies (and youths) lies more at the heart of the whole operation than any actuality of “saving”. So, no: “families” should not be formed by (transracial) adoption as currently the case.

      Similarly, the argument that children might die if we do not intervene falls apart in the face of sanctioned missile-strikes (both directly and indirectly supported by US policy) and countless other acts of international aggression that lead to hundreds and thousands of deaths of children each year (e.g., the world’s highest infant mortality rate in Afghanistan), never mind those from starvation, privation, and malnutrition due (for example) to sanctions (e.g., against Iran). In the narrowly conceived desire or rhetoric to “save a child” (who has been “viciously” or “cruelly” or “heartlessly” abandoned by some native-born foreign national), we make a mockery of the thousands of children we directly and indirectly cause to be murdered (or born with profound birth defects due to our use of chemical warfare) without causing even a vaguely proportionate concern.

      So, again, no: “families” should not be formed on this basis.

  3. So let’s say I work at Cornell, which has this policy in place. And let’s say either my own personal experience, or my particular research in a field, or a mix of both leads me to a rather “pro-justice” positioning regarding adoption. And let’s say that it is known that I write on the subject, and am vocal about it, and I ask the university to fund trips to conferences at which I am scheduled to speak. Now let’s imagine someone higher-ranking than me in my department, or in the path of those who a) approves funding for my research; b) reviews my application for promotion within the university; c) gives me a yearly salary review. Now imagine this person is an adopter, and/or holds pro-adoption views, or abides by the dominant discourse on the subject. Given the prevailing dominance of a pro-adoption mindset in the general culture, is it not a bit much to claim an “adoption-positive environment” as some kind of “right”, or “progressiveness” when it is, on the other hand, quite likely that the one working at “Cornell” who holds a differing view on the subject is likely to a) not be funded for research; b) not be positively reviewed; c) not get promotion?

Adoptees, what do you think? We welcome your replies!

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