I think most adoptive families (choosing to adopt internationally especially) enter into the process thinking they will be helping a child that desperately needs a family. Over and over adoption is marketed as- "Giving a child what they deserve: A family." My struggle is, most of these kids have that family before we arrive. We've not done enough to help their families have other options. We've not invested enough time in educating the birth families; first families frequently don't fully understand what they signed up for, nor do they understand what they can expect in the future.
After reading it, I felt incredibly convicted and also inspired to keep on speaking out about my role in adoptions. Since I started talking about my role in adoptions I have received a lot of opposition. I started sharing my story regarding my involvement in adoptions here and here. As a brief recap (but please read my posts first), I helped facilitate adoptions for Our Family in Africa about 3 1/2 years ago, which I did until about 3 years ago. After that point, I gave guidance to families who were independently adopting children from the orphanage we work with, as well (though I didn't facilitate the adoptions). Most of these families have brought their children home. Starting about a year to nine months ago I also started questioning my role in any future adoptions from the orphanage because I began to feel very convicted about whether it was "right" to offer international adoption as the only solution to the extreme poverty that prevented the family from caring for their children. I began to feel more and more conflicted about the reasons why the children were being adopted in the first place. I began to worry that I had been a part of children being adopted that had families that wanted them but couldn't care for them.
And my heart broke and still feels very broken.
Finally, I came to the conclusion that it is wrong to offer international adoption to extremely poor families without first working to reunify those children with their families through family support and then alternative care (see an example of an alternative care model here)*. That offering only international adoption as an answer to the extreme poverty of the family (which prevents them from caring for a child they want), without also offering family support, leaves the family with no choices, and is therefore no choice at all.
I started facilitating adoptions with the best of intentions and a lot of trust in God. Children were lingering in an orphanage and their families were not coming to get them. I was assured that the children I was helping adopt to the U.S. were from families that could not care for them. I did my own research and was reassured when I learned all the adoptions I helped with were legal as well. I loved working with adoptive families (and many are now good friends) and found so much joy in seeing children taken from orphanages and put into families where they flourished with the love and care they were given. All the families and I (since I was adopting at the time) trusted everyone involved in our process that the children we were adopting needed another family. We all knew they had families (all mothers had died as this is the only way children are cared for in this orphanage) and trusted that our involvement was necessary and essential if they were ever to live in a family again. And given we had nothing else to offer at the time, IA did provide a loving committed family to children lingering in an orphanage.
Now, however, I am more and more convicted that the role I played then is not the role I should have today. And what's so amazing, is that so many of the adoptive parents that adopted from the orphanage also believe in working towards a different model. Many of them are encouraging our work, working alongside of us, helping to make change happen and being a part of doing everything we can to keep families together. So that the small percentage of children that are adopted are the ones that couldn't be reunited with their families and were the ones that truly needed a family through adoption. This is grace to me. Moving forward in a redemptive and transforming way that supports families, that works to keep families together. And thank God for this gift! Because trying to change how things have been done is hard, requires tenacity, bravery, and a commitment that doesn't waver.
Do you want to join our work?
|One of the new little ones at the orphanage we support. What will we do for her? How will we help her family?|
I will say again, I believe international adoption has a role to play in providing families and homes for children that desperately need them. I believe it is a smaller role than what most of us are told. And I believe we must offer reunification and alternative care models before we offer international adoption.
And I'll end with words for the Livesay's post that are very powerful and compelling (and there are links to learn more over at the blog)--
I imagine a world where a prospective adoptive parent would be every bit as willingto advocate (financially, spiritually, emotionally, and otherwise) for the rights and justice of the poor first/birth-mother to keep and parent her child, as they are willing to push for their own completed adoption. I don't think anyone starts out wanting to trample on the marginalized but sadly it seems to be happening by default in many countries around the world.
Justice is not only about seeking fairness and equality for those without a voice; at times it is also risking our own personal happiness or gain in order to bring it.
Those of us in the position to consider an international adoption are the ones with the most power. Let us use our voice for good. Let us stand with the poor in support of their ability to raise children. Let us demand real and measured transparency.Let us not blindly trust what we're being fed by agencies and those that stand to gain most from the entire process. Let us be about exposing the dark parts of this system (truth telling) and educating ourselves and new adoptive families so we can all avoid hurting and oppressing the poor.
*I spent a long time reading this very important paper (written my David Smolin) on whether or not there are human rights violations that occur when we offer international adoption to extremely poor families without first offering family support and reunification. It is an excellent paper and I will review in more detail on my blog in the future. Part of the abstract is quoted below:
This Article explores the question of whether intercountry adoption is an effective, appropriate, or ethical response to poverty in developing nations. As a matter of methodology, this fundamental question of adoption ethics is explored through the lens of international human rights law. This Article specifically argues that, where the birth parents live under or near the international poverty standard of $1 per day, family preservation assistance must be provided or offered as a condition precedent for accepting a relinquishment that would make the child eligible for intercountry adoption.