Second Class Citizens? (with a PSA for PAPs)

by Luanne

As an adoptive mom of almost thirty years and an adoptive sister of . . . well, never mind how long, I am used to the occasional patronizing tone when someone finds out how my family was created. It’s recognizable when someone  sees my kids and says too brightly, “Oh, I’ve always wanted to adopt!” as if we were talking about adopting puppies at the shelter. Or when someone uses childbirth or breastfeeding as the end-all-be-all example of being a mother. It was especially noticeable when the kids were babies and somebody would say, “You’ll probably get pregnant now. That’s what happened to my sister-in-law. Their new baby looks just like my brother did when he was a baby!”

Underneath all their reactions is their belief that adoption is somehow not the real thing, not the best way to create a family.

Is adoption the second best way to create a family? That’s what John Eastman, Chairman of the National Organization for Marriage, thinks. Read this article by Adam Pertman.

If adoption is second best does that make adoptees second best kids?  How can people who think like John Eastman be willing to relegate 1.5 million children in the United States to second class status?

One of the most insidious places, though, for this type of thinking can be found in the minds of some prospective adoptive parents out there who feel (because after all it’s a feeling problem more than a thinking problem) somewhere in their hearts that adopting will be somehow “lesser” than giving birth to their children.

To all PAPs: I’m not saying adoption won’t be different from having bio children or that there won’t be some very different issues, but if you are honest with yourself and recognize even a whiff of this “lesser than” feeling, PLEASE DON’T ADOPT.

After all, adoption is a huge undertaking and, as with all parenting, lasts for the rest of your life. I know it’s National Adoption Month, but this event shouldn’t be about persuading people to adopt children. If you can’t go into it knowing your family will be a first-rate family, then go to the shelter and find a cat or dog. They have a way of being grateful to you–and that’s probably what you most want.

Adam Pertman

Adam Pertman

Adam Pertman is Executive Director of the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute, a national nonprofit that is the pre-eminent research, policy and education organization in its field. Pertman – a former Pulitzer-nominated journalist – is also Associate Editor of Adoption Quarterly, the premier research journal dealing with adoption and foster care. He is the author/editor of two newly published books, Adoption Nation: How the Adoption Revolution is Transforming Our Families — and America (which has been reviewed as “the most important book ever written on the subject”) and “Gay and Lesbian Adoption: A New Dimension in Family Diversity”, and has written many other chapters and articles on adoption- and family-related issues in books, scholarly journals and mass-market publications.


  1. Luanne – good post. I agree that you shouldn’t adopt with the attitude of “settling” because you can’t have your own – although hopefully that attitude does change if they do adopt (fingers crossed). I do “hear” that “lesser” coming through in a lot of posts.

    I disagree with Eastman’s statement on LGBT families or even that marriage is about procreation because I married because I loved my husband and wanted to spend the rest of my life with him – but the adoption part – I think he was referring to “adoption for the child is a second best option” to remaining their family of birth (i.e. when a child can’t stay for whatever reason). That’s the way I read it, but I think I am in the minority with what I heard and have been known to be wrong many times.

    • Tao, I could be wrong, but my instincts tell me that if people start out that way they are already in a “less than” position of parenting. Their attitudes may very well change, but it still seems that it’s a risk (for the child especially) for them to adopt a child unless the idea of a first rate family is their feeling up front.
      I’m thinking about what you say about Eastman meaning second best option for the child. Not sure that’s what he meant. If he did mean that, is it a good wording? I don’t know. While it’s best for a child to remain with his or her birth family unless it’s a terrible situation (severe neglect, abuse, etc–even this has a caveat–see below.), should an adoptee grow up thinking “I am living my second best life”? That kind of puts a different twist on the very real fact of the trauma that is adoption.
      The caveat I have is that many people grow up in their birth families which are filled with addictions and abuse, but would they have rather been adopted? That’s a whole ‘nother question . . . .
      Now that I meandered completely away from the topic of the post!!

      • I don’t know Luanne – I never felt my family was second best, but, understood why growing up in your family of birth (when possible and all things are equal) is better. I think you can understand something without automatically putting that over onto your situation and family – hard to explain. Perhaps this analogy – It would be better if I hadn’t been born with a serious rare disease that would strike without warning, but, I don’t think I would have been off not born, or, that I am less because I have it. Saying that, I do have moments when I am REALLY angry that I have this disease, REALLY scared that I have this disease, and, the lack of knowledge within the medical profession regarding it – because it is rare…

        I like talking to you…you remove the personal and that is in itself a rare quality…

        • I feel that way about you, too, Tao. You’re very thoughtful and measured in how you analyze things, even when they are close to your emotions. I think you are right about knowing those two things at the same time, though they seem mutually exclusive. I guess I don’t like the word choice of “second best” because it sounds very unfortunate in all its connotations.

  2. Thank you for pointing this out Luanne! It saddens me that we still live in a society and culture that thinks it’s ok to marginalize others for a variety of reasons… adoption included.

    It’s commends such as this… “Certainly adoption in families headed, like Chief Roberts’ family is, by a heterosexual couple, is by far the second-best option,” said John Eastman, chairman of the National Organization for Marriage.”… that perpetuate and continue the marginalization.

    Thanks for being a voice and calling this out!

    • Tara, me too. And I feel like adoption is one of the last groups of people which society feels it’s ok to marginalize. I think it’s a matter of people beginning to open their mouths and form groups and push for legislation, and that things will start to get better.

  3. Lisa Ercolano says:


  4. This is the whole quote, according to the Huffington Post:
    “You’re looking at what is the best course societywide to get you the optimal result in the widest variety of cases. That often is not open to people in individual cases. Certainly adoption in families headed, like Chief Roberts’ family is, by a heterosexual couple, is by far the second-best option,” said John Eastman, chairman of the National Organization for Marriage.

    Based on this, I believe it’s pretty clear that Eastman is saying that adoption is a second-best option to heterosexuals procreating.


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