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October 5, 2007

Blast from the Past

"Across the Universe" was quite a trip, on a number of levels. Of course, the Beatles songs were excellent and brought back so many memories. The scenes of the 60s demonstrations and riots catapulted me back to all the unrest about the (other) war. "When will they ever learn? When will they ever learn?"

With characters named Jude, Lucy, and Max, there are bound to be schlocky moments. But on the whole, it was a great nostalgia interlude in a serious week. Some of the psychedelic camera work was excellent. And I could feel the pain and exhilaration and ambivalence in all the leads. Go with an open mind, and let it take you where it will.

Posted by hgroteva at 9:03 PM

October 16, 2007

The Power of Language and Quandaries of Perspective

I’ve just finished two intense days at the Adoption Ethics and Accountability Conference in Washington, sponsored by the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute and Ethica, among others. Around 300 people connected with adoption in varying ways came together to discuss ethical issues facing adoption today – and there was plenty to discuss. In this post, I’d like to reflect on the use (and power) of language and how disagreements about language often reflect quandaries of perspective.

Language has always been an important topic in the discussion of adoption. Marietta Spencer, one of the pioneers of post-adoption services, wrote years ago about the importance of respectful adoption language and the power of words to hurt those involved in adoption. Several points relating to adoption language were emphasized at the conference.

Thankfully, people have stopped referring to an adopted child’s biological parents as natural parents (as opposed to unnatural?) or real parents (as opposed to unreal?) Given the tension in the adoption community about the process of placing a child for adoption, many are now advocating that the term “birth parent� be reserved for biological parents who have already placed a child for adoption. Some prefer that “birth parent� not be used at all, arguing that “first parent� or “original parent� would be more appropriate. Prior to the child’s birth, the biological parent is an “expectant parent,� because it is not legally possible to relinquish one's parental rights until after the child is born.

This discussion reflects quandaries of perspective. Consider a case in which prospective adoptive parents have met the expectant parents of the child they hope to adopt, and the adoption appears on its way to becoming a reality. In the adopters' minds, the child is on the way to being a member of their family, and the expectant parents are that child’s birth parents. But the birth parents don’t become birth parents until they have legally placed the child for adoption. The distinction expresses respect for the adoption process to take its course and for the right of expectant parents to make their own decisions about placement in a deliberate and considered manner, without coercion, including the coercion of language.

Robin Heller, an adult adoptee with a social work background, drew the audience’s attention to the passive language by which adoptive persons are referred. Adopted persons “were placed,� they “were given up,� they “were relinquished,� and if they are searching for birth relatives, it was because they “were lost.� She advocated for consideration of the adopted person as an autonomous moral agent, not a passive object of “the system.� Some adopted adults at the conference echoed discontent with constantly referring to adoptees as children, because they do grow up, and those at the conference were adults.

Several issues of language emerged at the workshop on assisted reproductive technology (ART). It was noted that “donor conception� (conception by means of the egg or sperm of a person who will not be the social parent of the child) is really not about “donation,� which implies a free contribution. Women and men contributing donor gametes (at least in the United States) typically receive money for their service. The panel pointed out several ways in which ART shares issues with adoption, and several ways in which it does not. One panelist suggested that donor insemination be referred to as “medically assisted adoption,� since the child who will be born is not the biological child of both rearing parents.

His story provided an interesting example of a quandary of perspective. He grew up in a two-parent family with four boys. One of his brothers was adopted, and he knew that his father was not able to have biological children. Because he knew he himself was not adopted, he jumped to the conclusion that he must have been the product of an affair of his mother; it was not until he was 37 that his mother disclosed that he was conceived through donor insemination. This panel also raised the concept of “fertility tourism,� the phenomenon of people from wealthier countries traveling to poorer countries in search of less expensive fertility treatments and/or donor gametes.

Ethical practice in adoption is a moving target and always will be – adoption is inherently embedded in culture and history. Barb Holton, director of the AdoptUSKids project, said to the audience: Today we are sitting here, asking “How could they have done it that way 30 years ago?� She cautioned that 30 years from now, our successors will be asking the same thing about what we did in 2007. Remembering that will keep us humble, but also moving forward and never allowing ourselves to rest on our laurels, thinking the work is complete.

Posted by hgroteva at 4:49 PM

October 26, 2007

Memorial Service for Wayne Caron - TODAY Oct 26

The Department of Family Social Science, University of Minnesota, invites you to attend a memorial service in celebration of the life and service of Dr. Wayne Caron from 3:00 - 4:30 on Friday, October 26, 2007 in room 274 McNeal Hall, St. Paul campus.

We welcome you to attend this remembrance of our colleague who was such a great teacher and an inspiration, mentor, friend, and caring professional to those who experience Alzheimer's Disease within their families.

We continue to collect your reflections, stories, photos, and comments about Wayne. If you wish to post anything on his Memorial Page, please e-mail your contribution to caron@umn.edu

Posted by hgroteva at 9:16 AM

October 27, 2007

One Last Farewell to Wayne

Wayne's vast, diverse social network said farewell, corporately, yesterday afternoon. About 150 people jammed the Fireplace Room in McNeal Hall and the crowd overflowed into the hallway, but no one seemed to mind the cramped quarters. Now two months after his untimely and surprising death, his memory still evokes incredible affection and admiration. The stories shared were moving - lots of laughter and lots of tears. But the highlight was Dean Bayley's announcement that the university values the Family Caregiving Center so much, that it is naming it after Wayne. So henceforth it will be the Wayne Caron Family Caregiving Center. The enterprise he struggled so hard in life to sustain has new life, following his death. One of life's bittersweet paradoxes.

Posted by hgroteva at 10:34 AM