Wednesday, October 12, 2011

A Note To the Nay-Sayers

A couple of months ago, I read a horror story.
It was a news article about two-year-old little Guatemalan girl who was kidnapped and then ended up in an orphanage.  Her birth mother searched for her for 4 years and finally tracked her down.  She had been adopted by an American family who is ignorant of the fact that their daughter was actually kidnapped.  And now the birth mother wants her back. 

Horrific for the birth mother.  Horrific for the adoptive mother.   Tragic for the little girl. 

It sent shudders up my spine. 

But what was more disturbing to me was the comment section below the article.  The criticism against international adoption was intense.  I know not to take such comments too seriously, considering they are often full of grammatical errors and written by people who have way too much time on their hands, but it's not the first time I've read that kind of criticism.  Recently it seems I've come across it quite a few times. 

So since I am passionate about international adoption, here's my soapbox on the main arguments I have heard. 

1.  International Adoption is full of corruption. 

I would agree with a revised statement:  International Adoption can be full of corruption.  Just like anything else in life.  The program in Guatemala has been suspended for years now because of corruption.  Prospective adoptive parents need to do their homework, both on the agency they use and the country they are interested in adopting from.  They need to ask the hard questions and not be naive.  But just because a few cases of corruption exist, there's no reason to assume corruption is everywhere.  Is that a reason to shun the millions of children who will never know what it's like to have a full tummy, a hug from a mama, and the chance to learn to read?

One of the main advantages to Tanzanian adoptions is that we work directly with the government and not with any agency.  No one gets paid, ever, except the lawyer that we use at the very end to finalize the procedure.  Only residents of Tanzania can adopt from here, so I can't encourage just anyone to apply, but I can encourage a prospective international adoptive parent to find out exactly where their money is going. 

2.  International adoption steals children away from poor families who would love to care for their children but can't afford it. 

Ooohhh...this is a sensitive issue!  And it's complicated.  And it's not fair for people to say, "Wouldn't it be better to support the birth family instead?" 

Can't it be a yes/and instead of an either/or? 

I think of Forever Angels (Lily's orphanage), which definitely does both.  Take a moment to read up on their website if you are not convinced.  Their first choice, always, for their babies, is to get them back with their birth families.  They help mamas gain an income.  They help them find jobs.  They research every possible lead on relatives.  (Their search for Lily's relatives was very extensive). They give out food, clothing, resources to the families of their children.

But what about the children who have a mother in the psychiatric ward?  What about the newborns who are found in a pit latrine?  What about the ones who come to the orphanage covered with scars? What about a country where 10% have HIV and is decimating a whole segment of the population? 

When you hear stories about Haitian women begging foreigners to take their babies, it is heartbreaking.  So of course community development is vitally important....children are meant to stay with their birth families!  But we live in a broken world where that is not always possible...or even the best thing for that child. 

3.  Americans should adopt only from America before they start worrying about the children in the rest of the world. 

Wow.  Really? 

But I've actually read that statement. 

The truth is, that with abortion so accessible, healthy adoptable infants can be hard to come by in America.  And even when they are, it can be painfully risky for adoptive parents since the birthmother has a certain number of days to change her mind (depending on the state). 

I would love to see more children adopted out of the foster care system, and if we were in the States, we would have probably gone down that route.  But as far as I understand, even that can take years to make happen.  And parenting foster children, even if they are adoptable, is a calling in itself. 

As a Christian though, I really hope that no one would use this argument even if there were just as many adoptable children in the States.  Do we wait until poverty is eliminated in the States before we go elsewhere?  Do we only evangelize in the States before we go elsewhere?  And the truth is, an unwanted child in the States is unlikely to starve to death in an orphanage....as is true in many, many countries.

Of course, I'm all for American adoption as well.   But if people feel passionately called to international adoption, don't make them feel guilty for their calling. 

4.  An adopted child can never really be a part of an adoptive family.  He/she will always feel a connection to his/her birth mother/family/country and it's doing them a disservice to take them away. 

Ugh.  It turns my stomach to know that people think this. 

I am not adopted, so I cannot speak to this personally.  I can only speak of this biblically.  If we can be a part of God's family, then these children can be a part of ours.  Period. 

What makes me sad is that this is the main argument used even in Tanzanian culture, on why they don't adopt children from their own orphanages.  Blood ties run deep.  Your tribe, your clan, your family name....that is everything here.  It's why distant relatives would rather have a child spend her whole life in an orphanage rather than releasing her for adoption.  It's why adoption is simply not an option for infertile couples, let alone anyone else (with very, very few exceptions). 

I've been reading up again on attachment and adoption issues, getting new ideas to help Lily's adjustment (which is really going well, by the way).  But do you realize what happens to children who never make a significant attachment to a permanent caregiver?  They are thus unable to have any significant relationships in their lifetime.  What happens to these orphans when they become teenagers and still have no family, and no emotional ability to really create their own?  Such is the fertile soil for prostitution, crime, and other heartbreaks.  What's more important--that a child knows his native culture, or that he knows unconditional love?  


I know I'm probably preaching to the choir to my readers.  But just in case...just in case someone out there is considering international adoption and is being swayed by these nay-sayers.....think again.
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