Friday, November 2, 2012

My (probably surprising) Opinions on Adoption

November is Adoption Awareness Month.  As an adoptive parent I have experienced AND thought a lot about adoption in abstract and practical terms.  Here is some of what I've hashed out (with open ends to allow for more growth)...

Ah, family photos.... Christmas 2007

Although I am a firm advocate for adoption, I don't actually believe it is the bottom line when it comes to the world's children.  Hear me out.  My friend and fellow adoptive parent Jolie says, "There are so many children in the world who need homes.  If only the Christians of this world would rise up and adopt, we could do so much that is good."  I agree so much.  And not just about Christians; PEOPLE of this world, rise up.  It is hard for me to understand how people can read the Biblical admonishment to care for the orphans of the world and immediately translate that into a non literal, abstract concept.  No, this is not symbolic for caring for the emotionally wounded, those abandoned by others, or "the unreached" (ie, non Christians).  This is one of those literal directives.  Go, care for orphans.  Period.  Give money, give time, give your self, but GO.

A word on orphans: children without living parents are considered orphans, but I expand this to include all children who are not able to be cared for by their parents.

We adopted because there are children in the world who need families, and we have a family.  But what if there were no children who needed families?  What if there was no poverty?  No AIDS?  What if there were adequate mental health infrastructure?  High quality intervention for at risk teens?  Stigma free support for single moms or young parents?  Better support for families in crisis?  More families willing to adopt their own kin?

See, there is a lot of loss involved for adopted children, particularly those adopted outside of their culture, language, religion, and extended family.  This is not an acceptable loss.  It is not minor.  It cannot be brushed aside, and it is not without consequence.
The first best solution for families in crisis is to remain intact.  With education, access to protection, clean water, legal rights, health care, and peace, MANY MORE of the world's parents would be able to care for their children.  With mental health support, effective substance abuse treatment, and financial help, MANY of Canadian parents would be able to care for their children who are not currently able to.
Matthew's mother relinquished him because of poverty, lack of access to education and employment, lack of  effective social welfare, and lack of access to rights to child support from her ex spouse.  If poverty were eradicated in the world, she would not have needed to relinquish him at all.

However, sometimes the first best solution is not possible.  That is when your second best solution becomes your first best: and that is adoption.  Kinship adoption can be an excellent way to keep extended families intact when nuclear families cannot stay together in a healthy and functional way.  Sometimes this is not possible, or healthy.  Enter 'regular' adoption.
Adoption is a beautiful solution, it saves lives, it saves the hearts and souls of thousands of little people every year.  It heals so much.  But it does not magically fix all that was lost or broken.  Those of us who advocate for adoption as part of the solution must also advocate for the eradication of poverty and the creation of better, healthier societies who raise the healthiest children possible (who will then raise healthy children).  The world's response to children in need must include encouraging adoption: for without a family, a child has bottomless loneliness, little protection, and no foundation from which to grow healthy and whole.  But it must also include ways to keep families in crisis intact.  Adoption is NOT THE ENEMY.  The Hague Convention on the Rights of the Child has, in the past 10 years, effectively eliminated adoption as an option for tens of thousands of the world's children by attempting to preserve culture and keep families together.  This is ethically wrong.  It removes adoption (particularly international adoption) before there are other solutions in place, and then children who could have had families remain in orphanages or foster care indefinitely.  Adoption is not the enemy, but neither is it the ENTIRE SOLUTION.

BC has over 1000 children waiting for adoption in the ministry waitlist.  That means, of all the foster children in our system, more than one thousand of them are available for adoption.  Many of them are part of sibling groups, have aged out of 'desirable' adoptable age, have physiological or behavioral issues, and over half of them are aboriginal.  Aboriginal foster children are only able to be adopted by parents of aboriginal ancestry (or rare cases of kinship adoption by non aboriginal extended family).  I understand the cultural drive behind this rule, but I firmly believe it is unethical, because children who might otherwise be adopted stay in foster care because there is a shortage of adoptive parents with aboriginal ancestry.  Same as above: removal of adoption by healthy parents outside of one's culture without first establishing infrastructure and solutions within that culture results in children with no families.

Children need families before they need culture.  This is politically incorrect but absolutely true.

Cultures need their children.  This is also absolutely true.

So, I advocate that people of the world need to rise up and adopt in masses.  And we need to simultaneously work for the eradication of poverty and the development of societal supports that keep families together, whole, and healthy.  Go, rise up, care for the orphans of the world.


Tamie said...


I wonder what I have to do to adopt as a single woman.

nancy said...

Great post covering both sides of the debate!

Jen said...

Yes! I totally agree! Great post.