Saturday, October 20, 2012


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Imagine a world in which when a baby was born he or she was immediately switched with another baby who had been born to another woman. Biological parents were forbidden by law to raise their own children, but most people were fine with this because of firmly entrenched cultural beliefs. Baby-switching was commonly believed to be in the child's best interest because it was thought that being raised in a non-genetic family provided a counterbalance to genetic "flaws," rather than reinforcing them. Baby-switching was said to lead to a healthier, more psychologically well-balanced child. It was also considered to contribute to a more harmonious society because it prevented people from identifying too strongly with their own "kind," thus discouraging discord between groups. The identities of the original parents were legally sealed. The baby-switching was handled by agencies, many of them for-profit, but most people considered the practice to be beautiful thing. Many even believed it was part of God's plan. Baby-switching had been practiced for many years. Not only were most people unable to imagine a world without it but the majority didn't want to imagine it. There were a few dissenters who dared to speak up and criticize the institution of baby-switching, but they were generally considered to be extremist nut jobs. Something had gone wrong with their baby-switching, making them irrational and angry, but they were exceptions. They were not to be taken seriously.

Now, I'm not saying that this imagined situation parallels our current adoption practices in every way (though surely, you will notice some similarities). The point I am making is simply this: adoption is a cultural institution. It exists within the context of a particular society and set of societal beliefs. To someone who held a radically different set of cultural beliefs, the practice of adoption might seem completely bizarre. The concept of adoption is not itself holy and untouchable. We can and should look at it critically. We can and should ask what it says about our society that we embrace it. What are the beliefs on which the institution stands? Are they valid?


  1. Profound thinking...

  2. Something that is lost in the marketing rhetoric and discourse in adoption. Of course people would not agree to this - but flip that switch and suddenly it is different.

  3. Nice plot line. Something to develop, I think.

    I remember being quite stunned when I lived in rural Arizona, where the teen pregnancy rate was quite high -- but adoption was pretty much unheard of. I'm not talking about happy, accepting families really, but it seemed that there was always and auntie or grandmother who said, "You and your baby should come live with me. After all, you're both family."

  4. Ashley and Mackenzie's DadOctober 20, 2012 at 12:47 PM

    Nice way to present this issue. A thought provoking post, Rebecca.

  5. An interesting way to look at the institution of adoption. I need to ponder for a while.....