Thursday, June 11, 2015

Believe it or not, there really are still orphans in Africa.

If you follow international adoption news, you've heard it:  Birthparents are manipulated into sending a child to an orphanage.  A mother is promised money to give her sweet one up for adoption.  Paperwork falsified.  People who know better making way too much money off of a child's plight.

Adoption mends.  Adoption redeems.  Adoption brings hope.   Except when the brokenness breeds more brokenness.

What kind of a world do we live in, where men exploit a child who has already lost everything?  Where people prey on other's poverty, ignorance, hopelessness?

I read articles this week on Uganda's adoption program, which seems to be the next African adoption program that will bite the dust.  Like a long line of dominoes they have fallen:  Rwanda, Liberia, Congo and Ethiopia are only hanging on by a thread....and next, Uganda joins the list.  The headlines announce fraud, corruption, deceit.  And meanwhile the children languish, on streets, in orphanages, two or three to a bed.

What I don't understand is why there is a need to traffic children for adoptions.  Greedy lawyers shouldn't need to connive their way into stealing children.  For goodness sake, there's enough orphans to go around.

How do we define an orphan?  That is the big question.  UNICEF defines an orphan as any child who has lost at least one parent.  'Tis true--an orphan of this definition does not necessarily need a new family. Maybe her Dad just needs a job or her Mom needs a place to live.  By all means, let's keep these families intact.

But I don't define an orphan that way.  In my definition, an orphan is any child who has no family, for any reason.  Most of the time, that child's parents are still alive.  They are just not able to parent their child.  Think about it:  Are not all American foster children in this category?  Every American baby put up for adoption?  Death is not the only way to create an orphan.  Yet all are the product of brokenness; all need the redemption of adoption.

Such is the same on this continent.  For every horror story, for every "orphan" child who is manipulated away from her parents, there are a hundred more who are left in hospital beds, in church buildings or bars, or dumped down toilet holes.   A hundred more who are the carnage left behind from war, famine, HIV.  Many times, brokenness wins, and no poverty-fighting program is going to save that family.  But maybe, just maybe, the child can be saved.

Yet instead of salvation, in comes the dollar signs and the prestigious positions, and the rescue operation turns into lucrative business.  Meanwhile, a child still cries herself to sleep.  And no mother ever comes.

I feel ripped in two.  I see my children, my beautiful children, asleep in their beds--fed, kissed, content, hopeful.  I want to tell you their stories, because it would help you to love adoption more, and give you the confidence that yes! adoption is a wondrous thing--but those stories are for them alone to tell.  So instead you must trust me when I tell you that adoption was the only hope for my children....and that there are millions more out there just like them.  I look at my children and I want to say to you, YES!  Please give the chance of a family to one more orphan!  

But instead, I find myself afraid.  I feel privileged, with all my adoptions, that I have had the absolute confidence that I know everything there is to know about my children's stories. Though each process cost me much blood, sweat, and tears, I am positive no one received any unjust compensation.  But can I give you my assurance that you would have the same confidence if you embark on this journey?  I just don't know.

It shouldn't be this way!  I must trust in God's justice for those who seek to exploit the least of these, because otherwise the anger will consume me.

In the midst of the stories of adoption fraud and corruption, remember this:  The orphans are still there, millions of them.  Ethical international adoptions are still possible if you are very, very careful.  Do not allow cynicism and fear to keep you from considering this incredible journey.  

There are beautiful bright spots, in places such as Forever Angels, where Lily came from.  Forever Angels is not only the best-run orphanage I have seen, but it seeks, first and foremost, to reunite families.  They do everything they can--donate formula, provide jobs, help with housing--whatever it takes--to keep families together.

If that doesn't happen, then--and only then--do they look for adoptive families.  Yet even with these protective measures, they have dozens of children available for adoption.  Only a very few will ever get families.  If you are a resident of Tanzania--especially a citizen--will you consider adoption in a new way today?

If you need a little encouragement, you need to watch this video from Forever Angels.  And even if you don't live here (and thus don't qualify to adopt in Tanzania), watch it anyway....because I promise, it will make your day.  Which is something you might need after reading this post.

Note added July 2016:  Shortly after writing this post, my whole view of international adoption was turned upside down.  Please read the series I wrote after months of research.  

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