Tuesday, August 4, 2009

A family means love, good food and adoption

Full disclosure: adoption runs rampant in our family. Really amok.

No one remembers who’s adopted and who is not.

That’s a tragedy. But only in Wisconsin, 1998.

I first heard of this tragedy shortly after it happened. I watched a television program about a Milwaukee, Wisconsin uncle attempting to adopt his orphaned niece. The judge denied the uncle's petition because he had also been adopted, and therefore—using strict interpretation of the law—not a blood relative, and that is what Children's Court Judge Daniel L. Konkol based his decision on. The case was reviewed in the book Adoption Nation, and an excerpt can be read here.

Globally, adoption laws require would-be parents to jump through hoops no birth parent will ever be forced to consider, and that’s okay. But why would a state law require adoptive parents to accept their adopted children, as if they were delivered by birth in all matters legal, and then turn around and negate the child’s rights once they had grown into adulthood? It was a staggering decision that angered adoption advocates.

The TV program, the concept, and the ‘meddlers’ in the Milwaukee case left me incensed. After all, aren’t there at least two people in the picture perfect, two parent, 2.5 child, American dream family who are NOT blood relatives? Yes, usually. The mother and the father. Okay, my logic sucks, but still.

I was reminded of this program while re-reading Jacquelyn Mitchard’s book A Theory of Relativity. If her name sounds familiar it is because she also wrote The Deep End of the Ocean. In A Theory of Relativity, Mitchard creates a masterful piece that does not allow us to view any one person as bad, nor does any character have unsound motives. Actions stem from good intentions and how we value families based on the family we know and the duty we feel. Mitchard serves up the story with Sturm and Drang, and although I would have preferred more forward direction in the time line during the first part of the story, the book is knuckle biting.

In real life, Uncle Scott Albrecht lost the case to adopt his niece. Mitchard’s development of his saga into fiction and her own personal parallel is reported on the Harper Collins web-site in Mitchard's Author Essay.

And I can speak from experience, it is not blood that creates a family. It is love, good food, and the ability to tolerate each other on vacation.

What is family to you?



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