Friday, June 27, 2008

Adoption Crap

I don't mean crap in the traditional sense.  In my family we refer to any family time as "family crap" as in "Are you coming over Saturday for some family crap?"  Just a useless, random fact about my crazy, fun-loving family.

I haven't posted much about adoption stuff lately, it is not because I have stuck my head in the sand and forgotten.  I just haven't had the time to blog as I normally do, nor have I had the time to cruise the news for adoption related things.  I haven't been checking out your blogs as much (I'm sorry!) because I've been rather pre-occupied.  I'll give you a mom update at the end of the post.

Anyway, today I was checking out someone's blog which took me to an adoption related website which linked to this article.  Honestly, there are a lot of idiots out there and I don't have the time or emotional energy to correct every one that I come across (I saw a blog yesterday that listed all the dumb*ss things people say to adoptive parents and kids and then AF magazine also had a really interesting article about the same thing). 

Anyway, I felt the need to respond to this particular article for a number of reasons.  A few months back I had a post about why I was not able to adopt domestically.  I'm not looking to revisit that discussion again, but I will say that I a number of people e-mailed me to tell me, married or single, they were unable to do a domestic adoption and I had one married couple tell me they were also limited (for domestic and international) due to a physical condition one of them had and another married couple were limited in adopting due to the fact they both had a divorce in their past.  It still bothers me that people think that adopting is the easy way.  Or that they think the US is the cheap way.  I can't say this loud enough ADOPTION IS NEVER CHEAP OR EASY.  Honestly, it has been cheaper for me to adopt abroad than here.  And of the two single friends that I mentioned in that previous post that were hoping to adopt domestically, the one has already decided not to because she couldn't get any domestic agencies to call her back.  NOT. ONE.  How sad.  The other gave up (although not officially because she is still trying to work with an agency), but she has so far only been offered kids with drug and alcohol exposure or those with significant physical needs (CP, cleft palate, mental retardation).  One of these friends indicated that it would be easier and less time consuming to get a hook-up at a bar.  I really hope she was kidding, but I'm not entirely sure. 

Anyway, this is the e-mailed response I sent to the author of that article:

Actually, Mike, it does cost thousands and thousands of dollars to adopt black, Latino or mixed race children.  Two years ago I decided I was ready to start a family, but when I contacted domestic adoption agencies, one of two things happened: either they wouldn’t call me back or they suggested that I adopt babies that had been exposed to drugs or alcohol in utero.  I did have the option of becoming a foster parent, but that opens up a series of other issues.  One, how do I return a child to their abusive biological family when I have loved and cared for the child for years?  Just because the child is in foster care does not mean they are adoptable.  In my state, the majority of children return to their biological families despite abuse and maltreatment.  Two, as a single parent am I equipped to handle the physical and emotional needs of that child?  Children that are permanently removed from their homes are children that have been seriously damaged from an early age and need extensive counseling and access to attachment specialists.  Growing up my family often cared for foster kids and the degree of disability as a result of the abuses they suffered was astounding. 

Recently I found an agency in Texas that had a break-down of costs according to race, from $40,000 to $26,000 (talk about ick).  So, even though there are only a few countries that allow singles to adopt I decided to begin an international adoption, and yes, it is far more affordable than adopting here.  In addition, the chances of completing an international adoption on the first attempt are much higher than attempting to adopt domestically.  Why would I spend $26-40,000 on something that I wasn’t sure was going to happen?  That money is not refunded to the adoptive parent when the adoption is not completed.   

I can only assume you were trying to be funny when you said an Asian child be much better off on a rice paddy 7,000 miles away.  Yeah, maybe if they had parents they would be on a rice paddy, but if they have been abandoned they are sent to an orphanage.  In China, when a child turns 14 years-old he/she is put on the streets.  Would you like to guess what happens to them at that point?  Some are taken against their will and forced into the sex trade.  Once there, they are trafficked across the borders of China, Vietnam, Philippines and beyond.  Since they have no parents and no one cares for these children, there is no one to speak on their behalf and prevent this from happening.   

I wish I could have adopted from the US, I really do, but when I was forced to look beyond our borders I found a lot of other children that also needed families.  Are Asian children any less deserving than American children?  At least American children do not live in orphanages, have free education and healthcare, and most live with good foster parents.   I think there are a lot of abandoned children in Asia that would wish for at least that much.  As far as Asian children being more “desirable” I really can’t speak for that.  Most children adopted from Asian orphanages suffer from scabies, upper respiratory infections, and other conditions related to malnutrition and decreased access to caregivers and medical care.

I did edit some out just because it is already a long e-mail.  Unfortunately, I think he does have some truth in his article, but it was not really something that came across to the reader and is probably something that I may be projecting.  I don't know when adoptions and Hollywood first became entangled.  Perhaps it was with Joan Crawford (Mommy Dearest) that introduced Hollywood adoptions to the US.  Joan's adoptions had a touch of ick attached to them because she would change her adopted children's birth dates so that the birth families couldn't later claim the child (which happened to her second child).  And perhaps Angelina Jolie introduced adoptions Hollywood style to the Gen X crowd.  Prior to her first adoption I always viewed Angelina as kind of a skank, but my opinion of her has changed drastically over the years.  Like so many women, having a child changed her life for the better.  She has become an ambassador to the UN in Cambodia and works on a lot of causes worldwide to improve the welfare for children.  I don't think she has set out to say "look, I'm adopting!" just as she has not set out to say "look, I'm pregnant!"  I like that she respects her children's birth cultures and tries to incorporate those traditions into American traditions.  More importantly she followed the rules and did not use her celebrity status to "get" a child (there was an article about this in either AF or another adoption magazine last year). She is not the only celebrity to adopt and do it quietly--Meg Ryan adopted a daughter from China a few years.  Ewan McGregor and his wife adopted a child from Mongolia in 2001 and have refused to discuss the adoption with reporters. 

Unfortunately, Madonna ruined whatever positive credibility other celebrities adopters had earned when she adopted her son David by breaking all the Malawi adoption rules in 2006.  There was outrage in the adoption community--how come she got to go to an orphanage and pick out her child and take him home right away?  Those that are not in our adoption circles are lead to believe that this is the status quo.  When I was paperchasing for my China girl, I only shared my plans with the 4 women in my prayer circle at church.  I swore them to secrecy because I still consider it to be a private matter.  Two months after I told them I went to Hong Kong to attend a family wedding.  In my absence these do-gooders told the members of my church that I was going to pick out my child.  What the heck?  I don't know how they ever got that impression, but in their minds going to HK=China adoption.  When I returned I was inundated with questions from the church asking where my child was. Hadn't I picked her out? Why didn't I bring her back?  When was I going back to get her?

I wish we could hold our stars accountable for their actions, even if it relates only to adoptions just as I wish we could have honest politicians, but I don't see that happening.  Which leads me full circle back to my initial statement/question--is it my responsibility to educate those that profess a profound ignorance of adoption and insult our children in the process?  Perhaps this is the time to do it for as many people as I can before my children arrive.  I admit to being quick tempered and nothing makes my blood boil faster than someone insulting someone in my family (unless it's true.  In that case it is just funny).  I'm not sure how well I am going to respond to people making obnoxious comments like that, but I don't want my kids to grow up feeling ashamed of their heritage or the fact they are adopted. 

Speaking of family--my mom rocks.  I mean really, she's crazy.  She left the hospital yesterday morning a mere 48 hours from the time the surgery started.  Not only that, she walked a mile today.  How many of you walked a mile today?  At this point I think she is in better shape than I am!  The whole time she was in the hospital we were telling funny stories.  The poor woman has already given her incision a work out from all the belly laughing she has been doing.  Tonight we were talking and I was telling her about something funny I did at work (I'll try to post that story on my daughter's blog this weekend).  We were both laughing so hard that she was squeaking and I was wheezing.  We are believing that the pathology report will show that her lymph nodes are clear and that she is only Stage I.  That would be awesome news. 

3 comments:

Jennifer's Family June 27, 2008 at 11:35 PM  

Hi,

I switched from a (failing) Vietnam adoption attempt to domestic adoption. I was in the VN adoption process for about 15-plus months. Once I switched to a domestic adoption, a birthmom chose me within weeks, and I had my baby Emmerson within a couple months, as a newborn.

It's no secret that I am a cancer survivor. So stating that you can't adopt domestically if you have a serious health history is untrue. Also, my domestic adoption fees were lower than those of what my Vietnam adoption would have been.

And the agency I used welcomed singles, divorcees, those with alternative lifestyles, those with health histories and basically anyone else who would be a good parent. I'm just stating the facts of my own domestic adoption experience. And mine wasn't a fluke, because multiple friends of mine had a similar domestic adoption experience.

To be honest, I'm glad I left the Vietnam program when I did. I took charge of my adoption journey, and I'm so glad that I did. The writing was on the wall a long time ago for US adoptions in Vietnam, and I got out right away.

People who rule out domestic adoption based on myths are doing both themselves and domestic adoption a disservice. I think it can be painful to have to be chosen by a birthparent, vs. being "assigned" a baby in international adoption. Domestic adoption often puts the birthmom first by giving her some choice, and I think that makes potential adoptive parents uncomfortable because they face rejection. Many don't want to admit that their fear of rejection is so overpowering that they can't face it at all. And the other truth is -- and I know this from people who have emailed me about my experience -- that many people are comfortable adopting an Asian child but NOT an African-American child. These same people, rather than owning up to it, start bashing domestic adoption as an attempt to divert the scrutiny away from themselves. (I'm not saying YOU are doing any of this!)

I can tell you that based on my experience, sadly, there are many shady domestic adoption agencies --many moreso than international adoption agencies. In international adoption circles, everyone knows who the good agencies are. In domestic, you really have to work to find a good agency because there are so darn many -- and hopefully you have several friends who successfully used the same one. I think that's another reason people have bad domestic adoption experiences. It's not domestic adoption that's the problem, it's the domestic adoption agency.

I think you simply didn't find a reputable agency, as I was fortunate to do. That's too bad, because now you believe domestic adoption isn't feasible for you, and you appear to be faulting the entire domestic adoption experience, when really it was just your own bad individual and agency experience.

I wish the people who are still waiting for a child match from Vietnam would realize that many of them are unlikely to get a referral. God gave me the power to make choices and decisions, not to stand passively by, and my choice was to switch out of Vietnam. That's why I'm a parent now, and I couldn't be happier about it! People who are doing nothing to move their parenthood forward can't blame anyone but themselves. I had *a lot* of fear to overcome to switch to domestic. But my fear of not ever being a parent outweighed my egotistical fear of rejection, and I took charge of my adoption and stopped blaming others.

(By the way, I hope you don't delete this comment. I will probably repost a similar version of this on my own blog because I'm so tired of domestic adoption bashing anyway.)

Erica June 28, 2008 at 12:15 AM  

Hey Jennifer, I tried clicking on your name to link back to your blog, but it wouldn't let me. I'm not going to delete your comment...just as I discuss my experience with the process, you should feel free to talk about yours. And just as you get tired of domestic adoption bashing (that was not my intent and I'm sorry if it came across as that. I was just talking about my experience) those of us that made the choice to adopt internationally get tired of the bashing as well. As soon as anyway learns I am adoption internationally I get two questions 1.) Why don't you just have your own? and 2.) Why don't you adopt here? It's really unfortunate that we can not work together to educate the public. I think so many people feel they have to defend their choices to adopt where they chose. Honestly, it has never mattered to me. What matters is that children that need a family have a family and those that want to parent are able to parent.
While I had initially explored domestic adoption it ultimately was not for me, and that's fine because I have moved on. Maybe someday I will look into it again, but with two dossiers in two countries I'm not really equipped as a single parent to try to go for 3!
I certainly did not mean to imply that because someone has cancer they can not adopt. As I mentioned, I was emailed by some other readers (I guess they were afraid of being flamed)stating that they were unable to adopt due current medical issues and that was in both the domestic and international programs. I didn't bother to ask which agencies they contacted.
International adoption was ultimately a better fit for me the same way domestic is for you. I have family from China and Japan so I was already familiar with the culture and language (at least for my China girl).
I know this is the path I am supposed to be on. It was a step of faith when I started both adoptions, but sometimes you have to trust that God will be the safety net. Honestly, because I hit so many road blocks with the domestic option it really did seem to be a sign that I was lead to international.

I do hope you will either leave a comment with the name of your agency or email me privately so that I can pass the information on when it is requested of me. Because I am adopting, people that are interested in adoption always assume I know everything about it in every country. Duh, I don't. I usually pass on the name of a couple of lawyers that only do adoption. Of course, their fees are very high (I'm assuming because they are lawyers). I'd love to be able to pass on the name of a good agency when asked.

Thanks for commenting, Jennifer. I think input from people with a variety of adoption experience is priceless. I truly hope you don't think I was attacking just because I decided on a different route.

Heather & David June 28, 2008 at 7:09 AM  

What a well stated response to a completely ignorant article. I don't mind when people question me on why I adopted internationally instead of domestic. I would rather have that anyday than people forming an opinion based on articles like that guy's. Unfortunately, I wish our government would ask us these questions and allow more families to bring children into their homes. Glad to here mom is up and at it!!! Good for her... someone listened to all our prayers.

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About This Blog

This started as my story, but has evolved to OUR story. This is the story of life as a single parent to a wonderful little boy while we wait for baby sister. China LID 2.12.07.


But these things I plan won't happen right away. Slowly, steadily, surely, the time approaches when the vision will be fulfilled. If it seems slow, be patient! For it will surely take place. It will not be late by a single day.
Habakkuk 2:3

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