Friday, July 13, 2012

For Those Considering Adoption

We're four months into having our family complete, nine months into knowing what our family would look like, and about 15 months past the day we decided to adopt from Uganda.  We're regularly humbled and amazed at our weakness, but also at the grace and might of the God who whispered the idea of family into our hearts so long ago.

Adopting kids and finding adoptive parents is kind of like getting a new car.  Once you get a new car, you start spotting everyone else with the same car as you on the road.  We've all got a radar for families that look like they may have adopted, and try and initiate as many conversations as we can.  Adoptive parents are few and far between, so it's so sweet to connect with people who have the same heart and understanding of family as you.  Ahhh, and it's so nice to use adoption jargon with individuals you don't have to explain things to.  They just nod and their eyes tell you they've been there too.

Lots of the people we know have a lifelong calling of adoption that doesn't end when they get off the plane back in America.  They miss their child's home-country like crazy, start to creatively support the land, and do every single thing they can to keep another child out of the orphanages.  They are researched through and through on every aspect of ethical and non-ethical adoptions, adoption agencies, lawyers, orphanages, etc.  It's amazing, really.

We aren't so much that way, though we do have strong feelings about adoption.  So, we're going to share some of our thoughts about adoption, but please keep in mind that this is based on our experience and the experiences of those we know, but we are in no way the most knowledgeable in this area.  We do know some of the pros though, and are happy to put you in touch with them should you have questions we don't know the answers to.

For many individuals and families, the reason for adopting is to give a child a family who wouldn't otherwise have one.  This is awesome.  We especially dig it because it was our reason for adopting.  Here's the thing though: this vision and dream isn't as nicely packaged as most people (including us) want it to be.  All of those statistics about hundreds of millions of orphans don't come back with pictures of sweet, healthy infants swaddled up waiting to happily receive their new mommy and daddy.  Who are these hundreds of millions of orphans?  Older children, special needs children, and sibling sets of kids.  Who are the children who are kidnapped, bought from their families, and trafficked because international adoption is so lucrative for the wrong type of person?  The sweet, cooing, infants and toddlers who we all imagine in our adoptive family picture.

Our beautiful girls years before they were even a dream in our hearts.
The corruption through kidnapping, forcing parents to abandon their children, or purchasing of children for international adoption is sickening.  This is the primary reason most countries slow or shut down their international adoption program after a few years (think Rwanda, Guatemala, Ethiopia, etc.).  There are so many people working on adoptions from inside the country and if just one of those individuals gets tired of working so hard, or chooses to accept a fee to expedite something, or listens to an answer at face value rather than finding the answer themselves, there is a massive risk that the child who fits so perfectly into your family actually belongs to a devastated and heartbroken mother and father on the other side of the world.

So, what is the solution?  I don't know the complete solution by any means, but I do have some thoughts as to what we can do.  Here is what they are:
  • Ensure your agency is ethical through and through. Make sure you get references for the agency you choose to work with.  Find reviews and go on adoption boards (or Facebook groups) and hear what others have to say about this agency.  Your agency will make or break your adoption experience.  All agencies will tell you the right thing, but it doesn't necessarily mean they follow up with what is actually happening on the ground.  If you're choosing to adopt independently, you have even more work to do along these lines.
  • Many families are now choosing to spend their own money and time to hire a 3rd party investigator.  This is someone who doesn't work with or for your agency, your lawyer, or anyone else.  You spend your own money to ensure that every single thing possible was done to attempt to locate or reunite the child you want to adopt with his/her biological family.  And if you find a link to a family, you have to walk away from the child you dreamed and prayed would be yours.  Adoption is not for the faint of heart.
  • This is the one that's going to be the hardest for most people to hear.  Adopt an older child, sibling set, and/or child with special needs.  Please don't adopt a healthy child under the age of 2 if your motivation for adopting is to provide a family for a child who wouldn't otherwise have one or because the Bible tells us to adopt.  That is NOT where the need is. [For further explanation below, see addendum.]  There are 2-3 (or even up to 7 and 8) year wait lists for young, healthy children.  That is not meeting a need, that is creating a need and increasing the number of older kids who no one seems to want.  The need is where there are waiting children (children who have had their background investigations done and are waiting...and waiting...and waiting...and waiting to be adopted).  It's often not as easy to adopt these children, but if you truly want to meet a need and be a family to a child who wouldn't otherwise have one, this is how you need to do it.  When Jonathan and I first joined an agency, we wanted to adopt a young child because we didn't know that there weren't millions of young kids waiting for families.  But praise God, His plan was grander than ours and He led us to waiting children.  Our adoption ended up being a sibling set, older kids, and one of our girls has some special needs.  Our girls were orphaned at 5 months and became Pascuals at the age of 4.  It has NOT been easy for us by any means, but I say again, adoption is not for the faint of heart.
I hope this post doesn't discourage or offend anyone and I know that adoption is a very sensitive, tender, and vulnerable subject, but these things need to be said.  They need to be said over and over and over again, until there are no waiting children left.
Ahhh, and how grateful we are that God had mercy on us and changed our plans to His, giving us Faith and Favor.
ADDENDUM:  There are plenty of reasons to adopt and I don't mean to say that people should stop adopting infants altogether or that all infant/toddler adoptions are unethical.  I am so grateful for all the work that is done in helping provide homes to children who wouldn't otherwise have one (whether this be through being a blessing of a family to a child, becoming first time parents through adoption, or both).  My goal here is to encourage individuals to spend some real time considering their reason for adopting and then make sure their pursuit of adoption is fulfilling that goal.
And I finally close with this beautiful story from an amazing family who does amazing things in Uganda.  For some reason they're controversial, but I guess it's because they say the hard things much more often (and much better) than I do.  We are so thankful for the work they do and pray that every adoptive family would have the same passion and drive for justice as the Rileys.


mary said...

fabulously written! yes, i wish we had hired a 3rd party investigator - we're working on it now - but wish we had back then!

Anonymous said...

I appreciate the concerns that you raise in this post and believe we need to have our eyes open as adoptive parents, but issuing blanket statements - even though I know your intent was not to offend - can be inaccurate. In particular, this statement: Please don't adopt a healthy child under the age of 2 if your motivation for adopting is to provide a family for a child who wouldn't otherwise have one or because the Bible tells us to adopt. That is NOT where the need is.

This is simply not true. We have adopted - twice - from a waiting child program and each time brought home a child under the age of 2. We had the opportunity to meet the birth families of each of our girls and we had a third party investigation done as well. They were both very much in need of a family and, in fact, both birth families told us that the girls would have died if they had not placed them for adoption. An infant in a third world country without a nursing mother does not have much chance for survival.

Amber said...

You have a beautiful family.

Elizabeth said...

THANK YOU!!! Your story sounds familiar....only because of our awesome God having a plan bigger and better than ours did we just bring home 3 beautifully handsome brothers (9,6,and 4)'s been an amazing journey!

Sarah said...

To anonymous: Your point is well taken and I've added an addendum to the blog. Thanks for being an advocate. :)

tiffani said...

I want to add a bit to the discussion raised by anonymous, and anonymous, know that I'm not questioning your particular case(s) just adding to the discussion.... just because a family had to place their child in an orphanage as an infant because it would have otherwise died doesn't meant that they might not want to continue raising the child when the child is old enough to eat regular food, to help with chores, etc... It sounds like that was not the case with your two young adopted children, anonymous, but once an international family is lined up for a poor family's child, they are very unlikely to deny their child a chance to live in america, no matter what they themselves want. This is where it gets so complicated, when families relinquish their children primarily or strictly due to poverty... there really are no clear answers, but we have to be so, so careful that we aren't creating demand for young children, and to thoroughly investigate the child's background and be willing to walk away if the family does want to raise them with assistance... these are not just orphans waiting for families, they are vulnerable FAMILIES with children in orphanages because they can't provide for their basic needs. We need to do better for these families than to just take advantage of their vulnerability in the name of "doing god's work" or "saving a child" or "building our family" -- there are lots of children who can't be with their family of origin for a variety of reasons, who ARE in need of adoption, but if you fall in love with a child who HAS FAMILY WHO WANTS THEM, it gets incredibly difficult to do the right thing -- help that family find sustainable income, help them re-build with their child intact in their family... I have never been faced with this myself, and I can only imagine how difficult it would be to find yourself in this position, but it's too easy to rationalize, to take things at face value, and to steal away with a sweet little toddler who melts your heart and leave devastation behind.

ERHildy said...

My long response to this and other posts very similar to this.

I feel called to share my opinion on this matter.. simply because I remember the start of our adoption process, and being challenged specifically by one woman in particular in the adoption community who was trying to basically tell me that our decision to want to adopt a child under 12 months was a wrong thing to do.. and that it was un ethical. I tried telling her that we felt called by Christ to do this - and she also claimed Christ.. but, for some reason that was not enough. I totally understand her passion.. and the passion behind this post. But, I also want to look out for those few people who may be easly discouraged.. when they feel they are being called in a direction that does not seem like the right direction to go based off of what everyone is saying.

I am 100% against unethical adoptions. I agree that not everyone should adopt babies. But, I also know and recognize that we need to be very careful of the fact that there are some families out there that are being called to adopt healthy babies under 2 years old from Uganda!

Much love :)

Anonymous said...

Tiffani - when we began our adoption process, our goal - first and foremost - was to be family for a child WHO NEEDED ONE. Period. As such, we aligned ourselves with an adoption program whose mission is to find families for the children who come their way and not children for the families who want them. There is a difference. They only take as many families as they have children waiting. I can also tell you that in speaking with the birth father of one of our daughters, we learned that what he wanted most for his daughter was for her to have a mother AND a father and that was why he made an adoption plan for her after the death of his wife. He knew he could not take care of her (and he tried for a while) and it was more than just an issue of food. And, for what it is worth, our adoption program also has an amazing family preservation program in place for families who are on the brink of collapse. Our sponsored family was able to stay intact through the monthly support they receive. I am thrilled that the children from this family will be able to stay with their mom. Sometimes, though, that just isn't an option and that is where adoption comes in. It is a complicated issue, to be sure, but I think it is important to look at the whole picture. So many people come down on one side or the other and yet there has to be a middle ground. That is what I strive for. I want children to be able to stay with their families, but if that isn't possible, there have to be other options and adoption is certainly one option. Also, I'm not sure how any adoptive parent would find it easy to "steal away with a sweet little toddler." I agonize over the losses that my children have experienced in their short lives. I wish my girls could have stayed in their country of origin and been raised by their birth families, but it was not an option for them. We have a big responsibility on our shoulders and it is not something we have or ever will take lightly. You have raised some great points, Tiffani, and I appreciate the dialogue.

Cindy said...

Great Post.
The children who have lost everything due to IA appreciate people who care. I know they do.

Anonymous said...

I appreciate the addendum you added at the end of your blog, for without it, it's a very different message. Simply by telling us your girls were orphaned at age 5 months, you've contradicted your point that there is not a need for people to adopt babies. Better for them to be adopted younger than older if they are already orphaned.

That being said, I agree with the sentiment that MOST of the time, the need is not for people to wait in long wait lists for healthy infants. If people's heart is to give a child a home, I would also encourage them to consider older children, sibling groups, and special needs children...the need is so great, and these children are often passed up. We've done all of it - infant, older/siblings, and are now waiting on special needs. Thank you for speaking out for those children who are so often overlooked!