April 13, 2010

The Formality of Forms

So, did everyone fill out their census form? Did you notice the question about how this person is related to you: adopted son or daughter, biological son or daughter, stepson or daughter, etc.?

In the adoption blog world, this has been a hot topic. Most of what I’ve been reading seems to divide the “issue” into two categories: postings and comments from adoptees who are excited and proud of having a box to check and adoptive parents who are confused and/or worried (or offended) about “labeling” their kids.

Please forgive my ignorance about the census form, but I’m not “getting it.” As a transracial adoptive mom, I seem to be missing the point of asking whether a child was adopted or is biological.

What I mean is, what is the census trying to derive from that question? Is the government trying to determine how many people currently live in the US? If so, why is it relevant if they were adopted or not? Is the government trying to find out who was born in the US, in the last 10 years? If so, shouldn’t the question then ask whether or not a child was adopted internationally or domestically? Is it to understand how many people out there have adopted a child or who were adopted (in order to provide more funding, services, resources, etc.)? I get that, but couldn’t there be a separate question(s) asking: Were any of your children adopted? If so, how many? If so, domestically or internationally?

I hate categorizing anything, it’s just how I am. So, yes, I was stopped by this question. (Let’s be honest, I’m the one who checks “other” for my race and then writes in “human;” yes, I’m that person, so of course this box stopped me.) I see people and their stories, places, history, everything as not black and white/cut and dry, but rather multi-faceted.

That said, knowing why someone needs/wants to know something that specific usually helps me determine whether or not I find the question offensive, labeling, or something to be excited about. Being hesitant about the question does not mean I’m not proud of how my family was formed, or that I’m trying to lump all kids together and that I don’t celebrate the differences between biological children and children who were adopted (because yes, there is a difference). I have no problem sharing with people that our family was formed through adoption (as if that’s not obvious by looking at us! Though these days, you can never be too sure.)

I love my family, I love how it was formed, I love how we all have our own individual stories and that together we are creating “our” story, and I’m proud of our differences. That said, I still don’t “get” the question—why it’s being asked and why I as an adoptive mom should be proud or excited, or offended by it. I just want to better understand the point of the question. I’ll take my answers off the air.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I know this a rather late comment, but I stumbled across your blog because I hope to adopt in the future and felt I could shed some light on the reasons for the census questions. My education is in geography and in my classes we often conducted research using census data. The statistics calculated are used to track social trends in order to better inform agencies on policies. However, I understand your reluctance to answer those questions. It's personal and intrusive. Yet it's necessary when someone studies human behavior. At the very least, the information might be used to make changes.