Recently, my sister told me that she and a group of friends had a conversation in which one of the friends mentioned an interest in adoption. My sister shared that I had adopted two children internationally.
The friend’s response to this was quite disparaging of this journey to parenthood, stating, “I don’t know why ANYBODY would internationally adopt when there are so many kids here in foster care that need families.
With some 400,000 children in the US foster care system, she speaks truth. Yet, a part of me couldn’t help but feel angered by her seeming disapproval of those who travel across the globe for their forever families.
I am not knocking domestic adoption at all. There are many beautiful and inspiring stories of successful domestic and foster care placements of children in need. Yet, how couples (and singles) become families is often an arduous process that is dependent upon so many factors unique to each. When people voice comments such as, “Why go all the way over there for a kid when there are plenty here that need families?” in a disapproving manner, they should take a few things into consideration.
When my husband and I began our adoption journey it was of the domestic kind. We visited a social services agency that handed us the “Blue Book,” pointing out pictures of seventeen year-old children needing families. While my heart went out to them, I knew that I did not want to venture into motherhood with a near adult. The agency further went on to explain that we had virtually “no chance” of fostering or adopting a baby because infants were labeled as “premiums” in high demand. We were left completely discouraged with the concept that we would bring a teen home that would require a steak and ask for the car keys.
And while there are a great number of children in the foster care system, not all of them are available to adopt. The ultimate goal for many children in foster care is reunification with biological parents. So, other factors to consider were that of bonding with and growing to love a foster child who would then be taken from us, or traveling to and from a child’s biological parent for scheduled visitations. In my mind, this would cause a child (and me) conflict and grief.
We didn’t fare much better at an adoption agency. With five sisters and my dream being that of having a daughter, I hinted that I would love a girl. With that preference I was barked out of the office for placing a value on one gender over another. That simply was not the case. I was open to the idea of a boy but always pictured myself with a daughter. Aren’t even biological parents allowed” to hope for one sex over another during pregnancy?
A call to Catholic Charities informed us we were too “old” in our late thirties to adopt and that no young woman or teen would want us to have her baby.
So, we hired the best adoption attorney in our area. He explained that we would have to set up an “800” number in our home and field calls from prospective birth mothers. Could some be crank calls? Yes. Could some of these women string us along and change their minds? Yes. After a painful, heart-wrenching roller coaster ride through fertility interventions I knew that I could not bear handling any more dashed hopes.
In fact, while recently at a doctor’s appointment, I told the nurse about my recent book, “How much did you pay for her? Forgiving the Words that Hurt Adoptive Families.” She immediately told me I needed to meet an employee at the medical group who was trying to adopt. In came the woman about three minutes later, with the doctor on her heels. It turns out she had hired the very same attorney and was taking those rare “birthmother” calls for two years with no success.
With over 150 million orphans worldwide, is not a child in need of parents a child to be considered? In some countries, children will languish in orphanages. Scores don’t receive proper nutrition or medical care. In fact, our son was the only surviving baby of five that came down with a bronchial infection while in a Vietnamese orphanage. While he was taken to a major city and given special care because we had already been matched with him and were undergoing plans to travel to get him, the other four were not in the process of being adopted. They were taken to a rural hospital without proper medical treatment available, and all died.
Many of these children in third world countries don’t have access to clean drinking water, a chance at an education, adequate interaction with adults or stimulation.
And while we hear of some horror stories of children abused or neglected in foster care situations, the vast majority are fed, clothed, immunized against deadly diseases and are given access to many types of services and programs to help them with their struggles. Parents are paid and work with social workers to ensure the child’s needs are met.
Foster care is not for the faint of heart. I belong to an online community of parents where there are hundreds of these parents. What they share are unimaginable difficulties in caring for children who struggle. Many have been removed from terrible situations at all ages. A lot of these parents wrestle with everything from attachment issues to acting out behaviors to violence to a plethora of psychological, social, mental and emotional disorders. While any child is an unknown in terms of how they will react to removal from biological parents to either being fostered or adopted, there seems to me to be a high level of stress and challenge with fostering children. God does not give to us more than we can bear. For me, living out this kind of family dynamic would be just that.
The fact is that there is a global need for orphan care. All my husband and me wished for was a child to love and raise. Our international journey to get our son was not easy. It bordered on a virtual nightmare at times. Yet the one thing I know is that when I took that step of faith and moved toward Vietnam to become mother to an infant son, I saw God’s leading, provision and blessing throughout, despite the struggles. I knew that I knew God was making a way for me to get to the son he had chosen for me to parent. Through it all this test of faith increased my faith. My fear of flying was eliminated through God’s grace and the knowledge that I had a God-ordained purpose to sit on a plane for fourteen hours. All the delays in receiving our son in Vietnam gave me a long while to explore the country and appreciate its wonderful, courageous people who have overcome much and still do to this day. And the son I’ve raised up to now is an amazing, loving, sociable, kind, smart and funny kid.
For some, our journeys to parenthood will not take us far. For others we will travel across the globe. In the end I still say a child in need is a child to be considered, and God will lead us to the one(s) He has in mind for us.
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