Monday, October 31, 2011

links that make me ponder and think

The below are three links about orphanage tourism.  They are mostly about Cambodia.  But some of the discussion can be applied to most countries (especially ones that are open to adoption and ones that have growing programs in countries with corruption-like Congo).  Though I don't agree with everything in all these links, there is a lot that I do agree with and there is a lot that should be discussed and talked about.  I agree that children should not live in orphanages.  They should be only there for a short time during which time a long term family setting would be found.  There are some great guiding questions on these links about what qualifies as a "good orphanage".  The second link is very hands on.  The third links has some nice thoughts about traveling internationally.   I think it's important to remember ways to protect children's rights and respect their dignity in all situations, especially ones where we are showing them love and care.   There are lots of answers to these questions and these links bring up some important things to consider.


http://rileysinuganda.blogspot.com/2011/10/children-are-not-tourist-attractions.html

http://www.thinkchildsafe.org/thinkbeforevisiting/

http://www.thinkchildsafe.org/index.html

Saturday, October 22, 2011

six little babies and a sponsor update

I'm so excited that we have almost all of the children fully sponsored!  So many people have come together to partner with us at the Save the Children orphanage.

As part of the sponsorship packets, I send photos of the sponsored child from the past year and a half until present.  That has been very fun for me to go revisit all the photos starting in Feb. 2010.  And every single time I am completely humbled by the changes I see in the children.  Extra staff (10 in total), fortified powdered milk for the older children, and full strength formula for any child under age 1 or any that are malnourished under age 2.  It is significant.   One of the big parts of this is that because we are filling this need, it gives the main donor to the orphanage (the Norwegian church) the ability to give all their money tagged for the orphanage to food, electric and the other staff needs.  Instead of spreading the money they have each month across all areas (hence, why the babies were only given watered down formula for the first six months of their lives and then none) and not being able to hire more women (which were desperately needed), they now can focus on providing food for three meals and pay the monthly bills associated with running the orphanage.  

There are six babies that are left that need sponsorship at this point.  (New babies are always arriving.)  Four of the babies need full sponsors ($50/month) or two partial sponsors ($25/month) and two babies need one partial sponsor each.  Please check out our blog that lists the children if you are interested in sponsoring.  Then check out our website and follow the donate link.  Make sure to send me an email to let me know you are sponsoring and who you are sponsoring.  My email is hmulford at gmail.com.

(And by the way, one of the future changes that is happening with Tumaini will be that all of the different sites we have will all be in one place!)

And feel free to link to this post to get the word out.

Thank you!

Sometimes pictures tell the stories best of all.


Jackson, 13 months old, Feb. 2010, able to sit with support, not alone.


Chito Wambili in my lap, with smiling Jackson next to me who loved to be tickled.  April 2010, both kiddos are 15 months old.  To read about Chito's amazing story begin here.  



Jackson, 17 months old


Jackson, 21 months



Jackson, 22 months



Jackson, over 2 years old



Friday, October 21, 2011

shutting down corrupt orphanages

I wrote this post to talk about corruption in orphanages.  In Haiti a group lobbeyed the government to shut down this orphanage.  It can happen.  Do you know of an orphanage that is run by a corrupt director?  Do you wonder what happened to your donations?  Do donations disappear?  The money that was given as a donation to the orphanage?  Are the children not treated when they are sick?  Are they starving despite monetary and food donations being given repeatedly by concerned adoptive parents and other concerned people?  Are they neglected?  Is it difficult to get an accurate picture of what is going on behind closed doors?  Do you think to yourself that at least the kids are better off than being on the streets?  Do you think DRC is too corrupt to make change, that no one cares?

Fight for change!  If you know of a corrupt orphanage or director in DRC, talk about it!  Gather others around you!  Make your voice heard for the children that are being abuse, starved and neglected.  Don't remain silent.  The congolese people care about their children!  Talk about what you know, what you have seen.  Fight for the children left behind.  That their lives may be different.


http://abcnews.go.com/International/wireStory/haiti-closes-orphanage-child-neglect-14788210

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

a bit of plain old life

I'm officially tired.  Miss E. is still wheezing and coughing every day.  The nights are the worst.  My latest (and probably not the smartest) plan has been to stay up until midnight and give her her medicine so that I can sleep 5 hours straight without waking up to give her the albuterol treatment.  The alternative would be to fall to sleep (hard asleep) exhausted at 10ish and wake up at 12 midnight.  And the idea of waking out of a dead sleep sounds harder than staying awake until midnight and sleeping for five straight hours.  Except when I do this day after day after day, I become cumulatively very tired.  Especially when there are break-through attacks and when you fall asleep before 12, forgetting to set the alarm and are awoken to your little girl coughing and gasping frantically for air.  Then I run around in a half awake sluggish state in the dark trying to find the nebulizer treatment (as quiet as I can as her twin sister, M. is asleep in the same little room), grab the child and find her face and start the machine.  Even asleep she knows the drill and helps me put it on.  She starts breathing so much better and we both fall asleep to the hum of the machine in the rocking chair by her bed, her heavy weight fully on mine.  Then I put her back in bed.  I stumble back to my bed but I am scared to go back to sleep.  I'm so tired, but what if she struggles again and I am so tired I don't wake up.  I consider sleeping on her floor so that I will hear her, but give in to my big comfortable bed.

All of this means that I am one tired mama who is shuffling through each day in a bit of a fog right now. There is much I need to do and little of it seems to get done.  I'm not a coffee drinker so I consume large amounts of Kenyan black tea (with sugar).

Life is good though.  But even as I write all of this, a familiar feeling of discomfort and angst comes.  It's because right now, children are dying of asthma around the world.  Right now, many more children are dying of malaria.  Right now there are mothers who eat so much less than me, who are in generally worse health than me, who work much harder than me, who take care of more children than me, who sleep in one small bed with their entire family, who stay up with their sick children at night, and know there is little they can do.  This feeling, it rarely leaves me.  I can't seem to rid the reality of life elsewhere (nor do I want to get rid of this conviction, this accounting, this stark memory).

And life goes on.  I have three "two year olds" in essence.  And an almost five year old.  Technically, I will have three two year olds on Nov. 9 (the twins birthday) and will have three two year olds until Dec. 15th (Isla's birthday).  It means my life is challenging.  I pray constantly for patience and love.  I change a lot of cloth diapers.  I beg my almost 3 year old to please please use the potty.  She laughs at me and dances away.  I do more "it's not okay to....." than I do anything else.   I break up lots of fierce battles (usually ending in lots of crying and hurt feelings, I do have four girls).   My oldest daughter asked me the other day, "mom, do you still like having four kids?".  My heart broke and I did more praying.  Since then she has been saying, "mom, it's hard having four kids that are so little, but we love it too, right?".  I think my prayers are being answered.  She also said, "mom, we fell in love with Ellie and Mia right when they came home didn't we?  And we still are in love with them!".  The three two year olds love, love each other.  They kiss, hug, hold hands.  Fierce in battle they are also fierce in love for each other.  Often the oldest of the bunch will say "Mia, play with me?!  or Ellie, play with me?!".   I think she truly thinks she is a triplet.  I didn't expect that she would so fully become their sister in such a deep way.  That she sees herself as a part of them and them of her.

Ellie, Isla, and Mia


The hard, harsh parts of life in Congo for so many, has left me struggling to find beauty and joy.  My faith in a good and loving God is constant, yet it is wounded.  I am still recovering.  And it is very hard for me to explain- that it is less about the external and more about my heart deep, deep where only God sees.  I somehow sense there is a waiting.  A patience with me, grace to let me heal.  Mercy when I don't deserve it.  Covering our family, our children.  There is another me I see, that I want to be, but there is so long of a journey to be there.  Yet.  It is okay.

It rains a lot here.  A rainy season to help ease the ache of my lonely heart.

I still very much feel like a fish out of the water living here.

The kids love our lives here.  Natalie will talk about Congo.  She jumps into the hard parts.  War, suffering, poverty on a child's level.  Real and true, close to the heart of God, I treasure these talks.  She often talks of the day when we will all be with God and how very happy He will be to have us all there. How He will hold His arms out and reach for us all and be so truly glad.  And then she laughs a happy laugh.  I stay close by her.  Her faith begins to help mine to heal.  Her faith in a loving, good God who welcomed little children.  Children who sometimes understand better than we do.

They were in heaven!

It's hard to give attention to so many little ones.  I sometimes feel guilty that I don't give enough attention to them all.  I try to let that go and do my best.

I go back and forth about how much I am okay with sharing on the blog (in terms of my kids pictures and names), today I am feeling okay about it all.  Tomorrow I may change my mind.

I could write an entire post (and maybe I will) about choice and the amount of choices we have all day long, every day living here.  And how it still practically paralyzes me.  (The only way I can cope with the grocery store is I shop late at night and I buy the same thing every week only once a week.)  I really think wealth equals more choices.  Or more choices equals greater wealth.

I'm really excited about my guest blog series which will start soon.  I'm going to call it "Walking in Congo" and it will feature stories from people who have walked or are walking in Congo.  

We are almost fully sponsored!!  There are only six babies left who need sponsors (and two of those only need partial sponsors).

I'm excited to start writing about Tumaini again and the future....hopes and dreams.

Well, it's about time to wrap us and get ready for tomorrow.  Then give another breathing treatment and off to bed.

I'm having a hard time convincing Isla that "corn on the cob" season is really done.  
And obviously, one must always use safety gear when eating it!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

favorite photo of last year



Bringing home our girls, July 30, 2010.  This was the first time Natalie and Isla met them.  We (most of the time it was me alone) had been visiting them every two weeks for the previous 5 months.  

beautiful

http://blessedby10.blogspot.com/2011/10/id-choose-you-all-over-again.html

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

orphanages, ethics and international adoption

Fourth in a series on international adoption from Congo.  The four posts are linked at the top right of the blog.  


After my first post about international adoption from Congo where I addressed many of my concerns regarding fears of ethics violations and the potential for child trafficking, one reader asked me about donations to orphanages where there are adoptions taking place.  I want to look into this issue a little in this post.

I know that we all don't want to do anything that exploits vulnerable children.  That we would all agree that we want to protect children from being trafficked, sold, or kidnapped from their families for adoption (or the sex slavery trade).  We want children that have no chance to live in a loving family to have this chance. We don't want to take a child away from a situation where they have a family or the potential to go back to their family.  We don't want there to be lies or coercion anywhere in the process.

So, back to the topic at hand.  Is it okay to give a donation to the orphanage from where you are adopting your child?  This is a really important question.  Why is this question so important?

Let's take a hypothetical situation (that could very easily be a situation in Congo), and it is not the situation of the orphanage we are supporting currently with Tumaini.  Let's say there is a large orphanage housing 200 children in various ages in a large province in eastern DRC.  It has been insecure in eastern DRC.  War, rape, movement of populations, extreme poverty.  There are abandoned babies, toddlers, children, sibling groups because of all the unrest and upheaval, and the extreme level of poverty that has resulted from the insecurity over many years.  For the most part the family members are unknown, though in some situations they are known.  Congolese churches, local families and individuals support the orphanage in small ways.

Adoption is new in this area of Congo and soon there is interest in trying to find families for these children.  Folks from the U.S. visit the orphanage.  The children are in horrible conditions.  Little to no food, no caregivers, no medicine, no schooling, a dangerous living environment.  The director has tight control over the orphanage.  He allows some food donations, not others.  He accepts some medical help, not others.  It becomes apparent that some children are starving and dying of illness.  He accepts help for some of them not others.  More and more families want to adopt the children from these destitute conditions.  More and more donations come in.  One can't walk away without wanting to help.  Especially the little ones who lay on the cement unattended and sick.  Soon, he says he won't allow a child to leave the orphanage for adoption unless a donation is made to the orphanage to support the other children.  Give the donation, then the child can be removed for adoption.  It is a hopeless place surrounded by the beauty which is eastern DRC.  A year later and adoptions are still happening, yet there is something that makes a visitor feel uneasy.  Nothing has changed in the children's lives.  In fact, it is surprising to note that the children continue to live in abject poverty.  It becomes clearer and clearer that the director is pocketing the donations and not using the money to help the children.  A (hypothetical) situation of a large orphanage with lots of children needing homes that has a corrupt director.

What do you do?  Do you stop giving a donation when a child is being adopted?  What if he refuses to let the child be adopted?  Then what?  Do you then condemn that child to potential death in the prison of an orphanage?  Do you demand to see accounts of the funds?  What if he refuses?  Do you only give donations of goods, not money?  What if you never see those goods used?  What if they are sold?

And what if the director is perpetuating the cycle of suffering in order to keep funds coming in?  What if he knows that if the situations improve for the children less funds/goods will come to the orphanage?  What if he is manipulating the visitors and the children for his own gain?  What if it is all exploitation of children?

What would motivate him to keep the children healthy or fed, if what keeps his pockets full is their near starvation state and constant illness/death?

What if he is coercing or lying about the situations of the children?  What if he is a part of trafficking children for adoption?  Clearly there is the motivation.  He receives thousands of dollars in donations when a child is removed from his orphanage.

What if you demand oversight from an independent observer?  What if he refuses and says then you can't adopt from here anymore?  What if that means more children die and suffer?  What then?

Situations like this exist.  There are parts of this hypothetical experience that I have experienced, and there are parts others have.  Most people don't want to talk about it publicly.  It could threaten the adoption of a vulnerable child.

I strongly feel that adoptions should not be conducted from orphanages with unethical and corrupt directors where there is little to no oversight.   I strongly believe that monetary and good donations should not be given to an orphanage director that is corrupt and unethical.  I believe doing so (doing adoptions and giving donations in a situation of a corrupt director and/or leadership) puts adoptions at risk of being unethical and involving trafficking and exploitation, and it threatens the health and well-being of the children who are not adopted.  It leaves "those left behind" with the potential to be abused for monetary gain.

Ask your agency/organization about the orphanage that your child is coming from.  Ask other adopting families about the orphanage.  Ask about how your donation is being used.  Follow your money.  Ask about follow up of the funds.  Ask about receipts from the director.  Ask about independent oversight.  Ask about the investigations on the abandonment of the child you are adopting.  Ask about the conditions of the other children.  Ask about the transparency of the leadership of the orphanage.  Ask to visit the orphanage without an appointment.  Ask about what other partnerships the orphanage is currently involved with and how your agency collaborates and works with those other agencies/organizations.  Consider asking this question to your agency/organization, "If I went and gave $1000 to the director of the orphanage, are you confident that that money would be used for the children in the orphanage and do you have a way to verify it was used for the children in the orphanage?"

We should be about protecting children from undue harm not causing more harm to those who are innocent of wrongdoing.  We should fight for these children, that they be treated ethically and fairly.  We should fight for safe, good, healthy, loving homes for all children (those not adopted most of all).

There are ways to investigate orphanages in Congo.  You can contact the U.S. embassy in Kinshasa and tell them your concerns.  The U.N. has a child protection unit, you can contact them and they can investigate orphanages.  You can contact UNICEF.  You can ask your agency/organization to use their contacts to do an investigation on the ground.  You can demand that your agency/organization not conduct adoptions from orphanages that have corrupt directors.  You can demand that your agency/organization not give monetary donations to corrupt directors.  And until the agency/organizations has a system in place for independent assessment of the orphanage, the director, it's management that includes accountability and transparency, adoptions should wait.

So, if you are thinking the orphanage you are adopting from isn't anything like what I described, that's great.  But in my mind, it is not innocent until proven otherwise.  There is too much room for exploitation.  Investigations, questioning, setting up good systems with accountability and transparency must be in place before adoptions should proceed.  Go back to the paragraph starting with "ask".  Read it again.  Fight for change for children in orphanages in Congo, in a way that enables positive changes to happen.

And if you are wondering about Tumaini, we have asked all those questions (and we did during our adoption as well) and we have worked hard to put a system in place that ensures accountability, transparency and oversight.  We have an independent manager that is on a salary that is not a part of the orphanage or it's leadership who follows up with the work we are doing.  We have checks and balances in our accounting here in the states.  We are communicating with the other collaborating partners to prevent over-lap in giving.

I will end with these beautiful faces.    

Monday, October 10, 2011

answers not found, but yet I believe

It is late.  I'm up with a coughing wheezing little girl again.  As a parent, I wish I could just make her better, make it go away.  Tonight, I was thinking about all the little ones around the world that suffer.  I feel burdened by the unfairness of it all.  As I rock her in her room with albuterol swirling around us in the dark, it feels overwhelming.  That this little one, my little one, has medicine and a chance, while others don't.  I have held babies and known they would die.  And I knew that if they were in another country where there was better health care, they would have lived, or at least been given a fighting chance.  Or maybe, in a situation with better health care, the circumstances that led up to their sickness in the first place would never have existed.  I don't know how to do this.  I don't know how to accept the gratitude that swells within me living here tonight, while at the same time desiring to shake my fist at the cruelty and injustice that exists everywhere.  How do I do this?

I have to admit that living in Congo challenged my faith in a loving and good God more than anything else in my life.  I have wrestled with questions of sovereignty and the will of God and I don't come up with any answers that satisfy and put to rest the doubt that has risen in the face of the depth of suffering I have seen.  And I know there is so much that I haven't seen.  It's not that I went to Congo not knowing pain or loss.  I have, and I have known it in a deep and personal way.  But I don't think I every clearly connected suffering so personally with injustice and poverty.  I knew it in my head, but not felt it in my heart.   It is harder to really understand this if you aren't removed from the relative riches of our lives here.  There is suffering here, there is deep suffering.  I know this.  Yet, for me, I struggled with how less I suffered in comparison to the people I was surrounded by because of my wealth.  Don't get me wrong, our family is not rich as compared to the poverty line in the U.S.  But, in Congo, we were rich.  And here we are rich compared to the developing world.  We have access to health care, education, security, schooling, a functioning justice system, police and military.  Democracy.  Equal rights.  (And I know too that there are many here in this country that are homeless, desperately poor, without the many rights I mentioned above.  I do not want to discount any groups struggles, I am speaking in broad strokes tonight.)  It was so hard to accept a loving God when faced with the truth of my relative ease of life because of my wealth and resources compared to those around me (living in Congo) who had nothing, and suffered, died, struggled to basically live in abject poverty.  They don't work any less hard than we do, yet receive and live in so much less.

Yet God loved us both.

I know this--that my heart has been broken and crushed.  And I know that God's heart has also been broken and crushed.  And that perhaps that is all I am supposed to know right now, to know a little of the broken and crushed heart of God.  Maybe, I seek answers that I will not find.  Maybe, I am to act justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with our God.  maybe.  maybe.  I don't know.

Friday, October 7, 2011

late night vigils

It is very late here.  Little miss E. has been struggling with wheezing and coughing for a few weeks now, and the last week and a half has been on nebulizers (day and night).  It's scary holding your child who is struggling to breath.  Fear follows close behind worry.  Yet, deep gratitude exists at the same time.

One year ago, we lived in eastern DRC.  Our adoption was not final and we couldn't cross the border with the girls (where there was better health care).  Bigger than my concern about insecurity, were my concerns about my children's health.  I knew that there were little options for them where we were living.  And the stress of being the sole provider for my children's health was wearing on me.  There were nights like this, where fear and terror hounded my worry.  Where I prayed over sick bodies, prayed for mercy.  One night I remember being up with E., all the kids had what I presumed was rotavirus and she was the sickest.  I remember feeling so worried about her.   At one point, I went to a nearby clinic and begged them to come to my house and put an IV in her.  I knew if I took her to the hospital the situation would only worsen.  I had a horrible moment where my mind ran through the list of terrifying possibilities of what could happen to her, of her dying.  And my heart shattered and I felt so very vulnerable and afraid.   Mercifully, she recovered.

Tonight, I am worried about E. again, but there isn't a deep terror.  Because I now live in a country that has a good health care system.  I am no longer the health care provider for my children.  If I get worried enough about E., I can simply take her to the ER (even in the middle of the night).  There is fear, but it is different.  It isn't as palpable.  Or so near to the surface.  Instead of running through a million scenarios in my head about what could be wrong and what I can do, I rest in the fact that I can take her to the doctor in the am, or if I have to, to the ER.  And I know that everything that could be done for her would be done.  What a gift.

Sometimes, when something is taken away, your gratitude deepens.  It becomes something alive and real.  Life is fragile and I don't want to take it for granted for a single second.  Nor do I want to take the lives of my children for granted.  I don't want to hold all that I have been given so tightly in my hands that I can't even see what I am holding.

There are little ones fighting for their lives all over the world and I am grateful today for the gift of life we have been given and enjoy every minute of it.  For the grace and mercy which follows us, and the strength we are given to greet each day.  I want to greet life with hope with a grateful heart to God.  And I want to lift up in prayer to God those little ones and their parents; I want to trust in a loving and good God.


Monday, October 3, 2011

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Open (international) adoption, anyone?

I have had this post simmering for a long time now.  I still don't know if my thoughts are coherent enough on this topic to post.  But here I go, jumping into the quagmire that is international adoption (again).

This post is about international adoption where there is a known family member.

We have what might be called an "open" international adoption.  As anyone who reads this blog knows, the orphanage that my girls were adopted from is only for infants after their mothers have died in birth.  Family members of the newborn bring the infant to the orphanage.  Given the above, you know enough about my girls to know that we know some of their family.  We were fortunate to be living in the country while we were adopting our girls.  We not only met their family, we met them many times.  To say I was completely humbled by the experience of knowing their family would be a huge understatement.

I have had many conversations about open international adoption, and continue to be surprised by the overall fear or anxiety regarding open adoptions (internationally).  Here are the biggest concerns (I will use the term birth family for the rest of the discussion)--

The biggest concern I have heard is related to the future relationship between a richer adoptive family and the poorer birth family.  
The birth family will ask us for money or things.
The birth family will ask our child/ren for money or things in the years to come.
My child/ren will become a "dollar sign" or a "way to get to the states" to their birth family.
My child/ren will get hurt by their relationship (or lack thereof) with their birth family.
It will be awkward and uncomfortable.
It will be hard to explain why there were adopted.
It is messier, motives are harder to figure out.
What if they change their mind at the last minute?
What other reasons would you like to add?

I think one reason people are drawn to international adoption is because there often isn't a birth family involved (publicly) anymore.  The baby or child has been abandoned on the street or in a neighborhood, or at an orphanage.  The abandonment becomes testimony to the fact that the birth family couldn't take care of them (or perhaps a perception that the birth family didn't want them).   It is easier.  (I do want to say that in some countries it is illegal to abandon your child, so it is only done anonymously.)  There is an orphan that needs a family.  There are families that would love to welcome that child into their home as a part of their family, forever.

I had a conversation last year that has stuck with me.  We were talking about international adoption in situations where the mother is alive and decides to sign relinquishment papers to give the child up for adoption (for whatever reason).  The person I was talking with said it's not that different than in the U.S., when women do the same (for whatever reason).  A woman in the U.S. decides to give her child to another person to raise (for whatever reason), through adoption.   Very similar.

And also not very similar.

In the U.S., in private domestic adoptions, a woman has a list of adoptive families from which to choose.  She will have photos, videos, essays, and on and on.  She has time to change her mind.  She has choices.

In the international setting, a woman (or family member) signs relinquishment papers and doesn't choose who she gives her child to at all.

Why not?  Why doesn't the (international) birth family have the right to choose who gets to raise their child?  (In the U.S. you lose the right to chose when you do harm to your child, like in the case of abuse).

Is it because the birth families are categorically abusive or dangerously abusing drugs?  No, I don't think so.  (Of course, there are some birth families that are abusive, and lose this right internationally as well.)

Is it because of neglect?  Now this is very tricky and perhaps at the core of the issue.  Here is a definition of neglect from the Child Welfare website.


" Neglect is the failure of a parent, guardian, or other caregiver to provide for a child's basic needs. Neglect may be:
  • Physical (e.g., failure to provide necessary food or shelter, or lack of appropriate supervision)
  • Medical (e.g., failure to provide necessary medical or mental health treatment)3
  • Educational (e.g., failure to educate a child or attend to special education needs)
  • Emotional (e.g., inattention to a child's emotional needs, failure to provide psychological care, or permitting the child to use alcohol or other drugs)
These situations do not always mean a child is neglected. Sometimes cultural values, the standards of care in the community, and poverty may be contributing factors, indicating the family is in need of information or assistance.  "



Our definition of neglect could easily be applied to most poor children/families in a country like DRC.  Not the emotional aspect, but the physical, medical, and educational aspects.  How can we even begin to apply the same standard in a developing country?

Are we saying, "because you "neglected" your child you don't have the right to choose"?  Pretty awful sounding, eh?  Or are we saying that because we are rich and have access to all of the above are we therefore in a superior position to choose what is right for that child.

This is what it comes to--we have the right to choose.  If you are in extreme poverty, the right to choose (on most levels) is taken away from you.  And probably this is at the root of the practical implications of the disparity of income b/w a family in the west and a family in DRC that has "abandoned" their child.

What does this do?  Lack of choice robs a person of dignity.  It takes away the privilege of being a parent, the right to make the best decision you can for your child.  To choose who will raise your child to the best of your ability.  And in the long run, it probably contributes to a lack of a desire to stay in touch with the child's new family.  If you have no choice, you feel powerless.

What happens if we start advocating for open adoptions internationally?  What if we let the known birth families choose who they want to raise their children?    

Why do we take away the rights of the adult in the poor country, but keep it in the rich country (and I do realize that when it comes to domestic adoption, birth mothers are given less rights than we would assume)?  What if, before a birth family signs a consent they are given a letter written by the adoptive family and a picture of that family?  What if they are given the wonderful privilege of choosing a piece of their future child's life?  What if they are given the permission to say no?  To choose whether or not they want that child to be raised by that family?  What if they want to have a say in the kind of family their child gets raised in?  (I am specifically talking about children that have already been abandoned for adoption, not about children that have been abandoned that have families that do not want their children to be adopted.)  And what if they want to stay in touch?  In direct contact?

Maybe I am over simplifying this, I don't know.  Last year, I asked about the idea of letting a birth family see a photo of an adoptive family before the family signed away consent.  I was told absolutely that that wasn't a good idea.  A birth family should sign consent before knowing anything about the adoptive family.

You know what gets me?  Most international adoptions would not be happening (in DRC anyway, and I'm sure for other "poor" countries) if we took the effects of poverty out of the picture.  So, we take a desperate poor situation (where a family member abandons a child), and add even greater tragedy to it.  Take away their choice in that child's future, any role in that child's life, take away their dignity.

What I do know, is that every person deserves to have connection to their family.  To their genetic roots. If they want it.  I believe that every person has the right to their genetic heritage, to their birth family.

Read adult adoptee literature, hear the heart cries that will pierce your soul.  Cries to connect.  Cries to be heard.  Cries to belong.  To have rights to their pasts, to their heritage, to themselves, to their first families.  The good, the bad, the beautiful, the ugly, all of it.

Economic disparities and cultural misunderstandings are, I believe, at the heart of the issues as to why we are uncomfortable with open international adoption.  There is much to fear and much to control.  There is much to lose and much to gain.  And ultimately, I believe it is not our choice to make.  It is our children's choice (because ultimately, in all of this, they are the ones with NO choices).

And I think that my little girls will be glad I (and they) know their family, that I will do everything I can to keep that connection.

Yes, it will be probably be awkward at times.  Yes, I or they will be probably be asked for something at times.  Yes, it will probably be hard and hurtful at times.   And yes, it will be absolutely worth it because it is about so much more.   And these girls are not just mine, they are theirs too.   Ultimately, it's not a choice that is mine to make.



(I am speaking from my experience with international adoption in DRC.)

photo of the day -- village children