This November we’ve intentionally spent time listening to what adult adoptees have to say about adoption because we believe that when we listen, we learn. We asked adult adoptee and adoptive mom, Nomzamo Botha, a few questions about her views on adoption from her experience.
What are your views on adoption in general, do you advocate for adoption? What do you think about Adoption Awareness Month?
My feelings about adoption in general are definitely influenced by my past. I was adopted when I was 5 years old and most of my adoptive siblings were also adopted as older children. Because of this I believe my adoption was more gain than loss given that I spent close to 5 years of my childhood lost in the system and that in itself is already a loss.
We seem to have reached a point where we can openly acknowledge adoption comes with loss (progress) but I’ve yet to be apart of a space where adoptees from “hard places” can feel safe enough to discuss the loss and trauma that comes with going from foster home to foster home or being passed from one childcare arrangement to the next, especially when that care is neglectful and abusive and you don’t have a family to go back to. We used to joke at how we arrived at our forever family as ‘mini adults’ because we were mature for our ages but that’s what trauma does, we lost our innocence before we needed to.
I’m going to be honest: I don’t know how to put into words how much adoption means to me without making it sound like white saviourism nonsense. I’m healed and whole for the first time in my life and looking at adoption from a place of having found my peace is very different to looking at it when everything hurts. But more than anything I wish every child knew what it’s like to have a loving family and a place to call home. Back when I started looking into my past I met up with someone who’d once gone to the same orphanage I did. One of us ended up adopted into a permanent family and one of us ended up spending their whole childhood in different forms of temporary child care. I remember she said I was lucky. While I didn’t like the word there was a mutual understanding that yes, in comparison, I’m in a position of privilege. It doesn’t mean my life hasn’t had hard parts but I could acknowledge I got out of the system and my adoption gave me the family she didn’t have.
Adoption Awareness Month means something different to me every year but at its core is the reminder that children belong in families. We don’t necessarily ‘honour’ it but we acknowledge its existence and role in our lives and how it does or doesn’t affect us. If anything, Adoption Awareness Month forces us to have conversations we wouldn’t otherwise be having.
What does it look like for adoptive parents to indicate that they are listening to adoptees?
Adoptive parents (I can no longer point to APs without also pointing to myself) can show they’re listening to adoptees by asking about our experiences. By including us. One thing that happened a lot growing up was that people would speak directly to my parents about me or ask my parents questions about my adoption as if I wasn’t standing right there living this life they’re asking about. Ask us, we’re not invisible.
The conversation on family preservation is often neglected in adoption conversations. What would you like to see included in this and for adoptive parents to be aware of?
I’d like to see a general awareness that adoption isn’t always the best and only option (reminder to self). There’s this saying that it doesn’t help to care about the child without also caring about the parents and I believe this to be true.