Saturday, March 16, 2013

why nothing may mean everything

I was talking with a friend over the last couple days about independent 3rd investigations (to make sure that your child you are adopting is one that needs a family and to learn more about their family and story).  We were talking about the reasons why it is so important.  The conversation made me remember why I started down this path of advocating for ethical adoptions in DRC in the first place.  I think one of the most important reasons was because of my girls.

I had started reading a lot of writings by adult adoptees at the time we were adopting (living in DRC).  I was a bit blown away by what I read.  I was struck by the pain in a lot of the posts (the loss and trauma that comes with international adoption and especially when there is nothing known about the stories, lack of investigations or effort at reunifications, hidden stories, falsified documents, false information, no way to find first families, coercion of first families, or extreme poverty that contributed to breaking a family apart that would have otherwise stayed together, among many other things)  and by the lack of understanding in general by the broader world of adoptive parents of the need for adoptees to know their entire story (not just from the start of when they were adopted).   I think I had ignorantly and naively sort of accepted a lot of what I heard about adoption.  I didn't think much further beyond the fact that adoption was good and helped children have families.

Then I started to see and experience the problems with adoption in DRC because of the lack of infrastructure, levels of corruption, lack of enforcement of laws to protect children from exploitation, and the power of money.  All of this combined to form a compelling argument that we needed to do everything we could to make sure the children we were adopting really did need a home (and weren't being taken from families that wanted them) and that we weren't participating in corruption in any way.

And then I very strongly felt that just as important as the adoption being ethical was getting as much information as I could about their lives and their family while we lived in DRC.  I kept thinking of them as adults and wondering what they would want to know.  I kept reading adult adoptee writing and learning (and feeling very humbled).   I kept learning how very important it would be for them to know their whole story, especially the beginnings, the roots, their first family, the reasons why they were being adopted.

Now, I sort of wonder how I ever questioned how important that would be to them.  Even now, when they are so young, it comes up all the time.  About how they have two mommies, they bring me to the photo of their mom often, to make sure I know that she is their mommy too.  I think of how it means something deep and important to them now, and how much it will mean through the years.

Back to my conversation with my friend.   We started talking about the question of what if they do all the work for an investigation and learn nothing more than they already know (given they have very little information at all).  We started talking more about what that "nothing" might mean to their child one day.  Now, from all my reading I have learned that some adoptees never search.  So, my girls and her child might be one of those adults.  But, what if they aren't?  What if they want to know about their past, about their first family, about why they were abandoned, about who their family was before they were adopted?  What if it is a deep need to find answers, to find their first families, and there is deep pain that we as their adoptive parents didn't search out the information for them while the information might have been found?

We talked about what we might find on investigation.  Maybe we would find family that we can stay connected with through the years.  Maybe we would find that the child didn't need a family through adoption because they already had a family that wanted them and didn't know about the adoption.  Maybe we would learn more about their family health history that might make all the difference to them one day in the future?  Maybe would find out that they have older siblings.  Maybe we would find out that were very good reasons adoption was necessary.  Maybe we would find the evidence that showed that indeed our children did need a family.   Maybe we would be able to find out the answer to "why did they give me up for adoption"?

And maybe they have the right to know.  That it is the right thing to do.  That we all have the right to know about our past, our story, our family.  

But, maybe we would go through the process of investigation and feel like it was pointless.  Maybe the search would bring no more answers than we already had at time of referral.  Maybe we would learn nothing.  Would it still be worth it?  We started talking more, that even then, what if it IS still worth it?  What if that "nothing" we found on that investigation meant "everything" to our kids one day, because it meant that we tried our hardest for them because we knew it was so important for them to know their story and their past, because it would help them know themselves more and help them grapple with part of the pain that comes with families created from the pain of losing your first family, that perhaps in the knowing there can be the beginning of healing.  


Interested in reading more from the experts on adoption (certainly not me!)?   The experts are those that have been adopted.  Start here.  Amanda has so many excellent posts and resources on her blog.  This post is a very good place to start (please read this post, it is SO good and important).  And here is another great blog.  The Rileys in Uganda have had a wonderful guest series of posts on their blog from adult international adoptees.  Find one of them here.  There are so many more.  Rather than list them all, I thought that you could add those voices you have learned from in the comments so I could benefit too.

Interested in 3rd party independent investigations?  Please contact me (email top right of blog).


Katie said...

My biggest concern with the investigations is that it significantly prolongs the wait for the child to be picked up. With my daughter, she was SO sick when I got to her, I don't know what condition she would have been in 3 to 6 months later. I also feel like the investigations could be falsified as easily as any other part in the procedure. If abandonment reports from the police cannot be trusted, how can the results from an independent investigator be trusted? I wish more than anything that I had a story to tell my kids. I wish we had pictures for them to look at and stories to tell. I am not against investigations being done, it just seems like the risks could outweigh the benefits.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Holly for the shout out!

ERHildy said...

Very interesting perspective Holly! I totally agree. As a reply to Katie, I would feel adopting from a 3rd world country in a whole is a risky thing in the sense of trust. But, why not do our own investigation for our children? Look for those involved, photo or video their story? You may have not been able to do that on your last trip, but its not to late to plan a future trip and go on a journey to document your child's past via video/photos. I'm sure they would appreciate it!

Kyra said...

Thanks for the thoughtful post. I can think of three families off the top of my head whose 3rd party investigations brought life-changing information. It's very important to try to connect with our children's first families outside of the adoption agency. Great post.