I’ve been struggling with something over the past couple of weeks. I’ve been wanting to share this for some time, but I wasn’t sure quite how without sounding both bitter and very selfish. I may not be able to. I apologize in advance if this comes of that way.
I get probably 20 emails a month asking me questions about adoption from people who think they may want to add to their family. I used to answer each one of these emails with a very loud “YAY! Let’s get you a home study!!!” I don’t anymore. I’m so sorry if you’re one of those people who emailed me and what I’m about to say is an example of a conversation we had. I’m not dissing you. I promise. I’m just having an honest moment here, a heartbreakingly honest moment.
I learned VERY quickly that some people don’t approach things the way I do when it comes to children. They don’t jump in. They like to dibble their toes for awhile. I get that now, and I don’t fault anyone for it. My perspective in this world is SO different for so many reasons. I’ve never given birth to a biological child. I’ve traveled the world and seen poverty. I’m a pediatric nurse who has held dying children and seen what complete lack of health care does. All of these things cause me to LEAP when it comes to children who wait for families. I understand why others might not. I truly do.
Of those 20 emails I might get per month about adoption, I probably weed out about five families by telling them I know NOTHING about white domestic infant adoption. I now add that disclaimer to every single email or Facebook message I receive. I do it before the conversation even begins. I don’t fault people for not feeling capable of parenting a child of a race that isn’t their own, I just don’t know anything about “getting a white baby.” Yes, I’m quoting there. And, my lack of knowledge on that subject is evidenced by my children, who look like this…
I had to learn REAL quickly not to take it personally. But, as the mama of seven African/African-American children and two Asian children, it smacks a little to be told that. I add that disclaimer for my own heart, because even though you might be saying that YOU are deficient in your ability to parent a child outside of the Caucasian race, it feels like you’re saying my children are lacking something. Again, just my moment of heartbreaking honesty. If you email me about white domestic infant adoption, I will point you elsewhere. But please don’t do it in the first place because…1. Now it will be awkward and 2. It breaks my heart a little every time.
I weed out another ten emails when I disclose what kind of fees are involved in adopting. Yep. They’re a lot. But, let me disclose a little fun fact for you. FullPlateDad and I have paid our adoption fees, in full, every single time. No loans. Well, that’s not quite true, one time our tax return was a few weeks late and my dad and mom loaned us the money to bridge the gap. We paid them back before that child was home. But, I digress. You CAN do it if you want to. It may take driving a van with the door bungee corded shut, or a really ugly ten- year-old Ford truck. But, those are the choices you sometimes have to make. I likely won’t ever drive a “nice” car again. I sigh about that when I accidentally pull the door closed by the handle and it comes off in my hand because I forgot that one broke two weeks ago and I have yet to Super Glue it back together. But, when that happens, I look at Dolly who is staring at me in the rearview mirror, likely belting out some song from Frozen as she waits for me to start up said ugly van, and the sadness is gone in a nanosecond. She’s worth the sacrifice. Plenty of people fundraise, downsize, and garage sale the heck out of their stuff to make it work. Anyone can. I promise. It may take years, but you can do it if you want to.
So, after all those conversations, that leaves me with about five people who are ready to maybe, possibly move forward. I scare off three of them when I’m honest about the reasons children are placed for adoption. It’s like finding a unicorn to find a college educated, healthy couple with GREAT prenatal care who are committed to placing their newborn for adoption. People, this is the good old U.S. of A. Those families are procreating because they want to be parents. Adoption comes from a place of loss. The children who are placed come from LOSS, sometimes simply because you adopted them. I don’t know how else to say it. Educate yourselves. If you don’t, I will try to help you, because I DO NOT WANT TO SEE CHILDREN RE-HOMED BY FAMILIES WHO ARE UNPREPARED. Our family makes this look easy, but if you read back to a time when we went from four children to SEVEN in the span of 12 months, you will see the struggle. We still struggle, but I respect my children’s privacy enough not to post too many of the details here. There is trauma. There is pain. Some of it is theirs. Some of it is mine.
So, I’m left with two people who, at this point, are scared witless and wonder why they emailed me in the first place. This week, one of those people turned around and asked me, I kid you not, why we decided to adopt internationally. Okay. I don’t mind that question. But then this person, supposedly jokingly, asked me if I had “adopted all the children here already” and if that was the reason FPD and I adopted our last five children internationally. No. That’s not why. While, I don’t mind the ‘why there and not HERE’ question, let’s not be dumb. The children who wait in foster care aren’t a laughing matter.
Here’s my watered down answer to the question. We don’t adopt out of foster care because reunification is not MY ultimate goal. I’ve never said that my want to adopt came out of anything other then selfishness. I wanted THAT child to be MY son or daughter. Yes, we have children in our home who moved out of a less than desirable situation, but overall, our adoptions always have been, and always will be, motivated by a desire to be a parent again. Someday, we may foster again, but that day isn’t today. My kids can’t take the loss that comes with reunification, and neither can FPD and I. Sorry. We also no longer have any desire to parent a newborn. So, the U.S. adoption programs available to us no longer hold any appeal. If I answer that question, and I am still pressed with remarks about the children in need HERE in our OWN country, I will likely no longer give a watered down answer. I’ll hit that question with both barrels, because that question feels like a whole world of judgment.
No child is less than another. A child in Ghana or China isn’t less deserving of a family unit because they weren’t born here. I promise you. And, as much “in need” as the children in foster care in the U.S. are, so is the child in Bulgaria who has Downs Syndrome and has been institutionalized at the age of three. I’m also not burdening ‘the system’ (whatever that is?) with my non-U.S. born children, so let’s please, for the love of God, not go there. I promise to do my best to make them productive members of society. But, this is a big beautiful world, and I’m sorry, I’m never going to subscribe to the ‘take care of your own first’ point of view.
Just in case you aren’t convinced. There are several other people who agree with me, who also don’t subscribe to the isolationist adoption perspective. Here are some of them…
–FullPlateMom, who knows that neither blood, race, wealth, health, nor geography, make a family.