Monday, November 7, 2011

National Adoption Month: Processing What I've Come to Believe

November is National Adoption Month.  I love adoption, and I love my precious son who came into our family through adoption.  And yet, some parts of the adoption culture in America make me cringe. As we've navigated through the adoption process, I've learned the importance of thinking with both my head and my heart, and along the way, I've developed some pretty strong beliefs about adoption.

National Adoption month seems to be a good time to try and voice my thoughts.

Adoption should be about finding families for kids; not finding kids for families.
If you google adoption, you will find agencies promising to find you a healthy baby in a short amount of time.   Personally, I would run from those agencies.  Why?  Because it sounds to me like they are in the baby business.  They are promising to provide a product - a child.  And children are not products.

I hold to this so strongly because of something else I've come to believe through our adoption process:  If at all possible, parents should raise the children born to them.  Put another way, I believe the best place for any child is with their birth family - provided it is safe and loving.  In a perfect world, that's what would happen.  Every time.

Of course, our world is far from perfect, and every child isn't born to parents ready to give him or her a safe and loving home.  Sometimes babies and kids of all ages need to be placed for adoption.  In those cases, adoption becomes a redemptive response to the tragic loss of a child's first family.

Personally, I would never "pray" that a birth mother would give up her child.  Why would I pray for a woman to find herself in a situation so desperate that she couldn't keep the child she carried for nine months and then labored to bring into the world?  Why would I wish upon a child the loss of his first mom?

But I would pray my heart out for the child whose mother felt she had to give him up.  I would pray for that child to be placed in a loving home with wise godly parents who would help him process his unique history.  I would pray for healing in the first mom's heart.

Do you see the difference?  A family for the child.  Not a child for the family. 

A few years ago, contemplating adoption, we found ourselves at an adoption fair at a local church.  I'll never forget a conversation I had at one of the booths.  The staff person for this private adoption agency introduced me to one of their adoptive moms and asked this mom to share her story.

Glowing, she shared how her sweet son came into her family through adoption, but the longer she talked, the more uncomfortable I became.  She was particularly critical of her child's birth mom.  Apparantly, after introducing them to the birth father, a few months later the birth mom showed up at the hospital in labor -- on the arm of a new boyfriend.  "Oh, that's really common," the agency worker chimed in.  "They do that all the time." 

I couldn't figure out for the life of me why it was necessary to deride this child's birth mother to me, a total stranger.  Was she trying to let me see how better off her adopted child was with her?  I wanted to scream, "That young girl you're so smugly belittling gave you HER CHILD!"

This agency seemed very confident in their ability to talk young girls out of their babies and deliver their product to us, the adoptive parents.  I sensed a superior attitude, a sense of entitlement.  As we walked away I told Mike, "There's absolutely no way in the world I'd ever work with those people."

In our first interview with the agency we eventually used, we were told, "We find parents for children, not children for parents."  That's what I wanted to hear.

Even with that confidence, during the adoption process, our agency came under scrutiny as they were accused of unethical "recruiting" methods in Ethiopia.  We didn't know what to do.  We'd already been matched with Wenxin and were in the process of bringing him home.  And yet, the accusations were just too serious to ignore.

To be fair, we listened to our agency's side of the story.  I talked with our social worker.  By this time I had formed some online connections through message boards and adoption blogs, so I was even able to contact some of the families involved in accusations against our agency.  The internet can be an amazing tool!

We did more research and found no complaints about our agency's China program.  And by that time, Wenxin was our son in our hearts.  He'd spent a long time in the orphanage and we wanted to bring him into our family as soon as possible. 

So finally, shaken, we proceeded.  And Wenxin came home.  For good. 

We live in a fallen world and often the adoption process is flawed.  It's not a reason to "not adopt." But please, please, please think with both your head and your heart as you enter the process.

National Adoption Month is a time to highlight children who need families.  It's also a great time to open the discussion about adoption.  It's a great time to break the silence and voice honest questions, honest concerns.  Using our heads and hearts, we can make a difference.