It's so interesting for me to hear the things that people consider controversial. Jude is soon wrapping up kindergarten at a play-based-learning school, thus graduating from the school itself. As we considered our different schooling options and where to go next, I quickly learned how strongly people feel about schooling choices. Be it public school, private school, parochial school or homeschool, everyone seems to have an opinion and often times those opinions are both passionately held and laced with judgements.
Likewise, when I was breastfeeding, even though I breastfed my bio kids for what seemed like forever (and tandem nursed for a year!) - weird by American standards - I didn't always feel like I fit in with groups that may be more dogmatic about their parenting approach. While I didn't appreciate people judging me for my decision to extended breastfeed, I didn't need to counter that feeling by judging others for not breastfeeding. Additionally, when I attempted to adoptive breastfeed, putting a lot of effort into it and ultimately realizing it was not going to work out, I understood firsthand what some women experience in their struggle to make breastfeeding work.
Adoption is no different. Domestic vs International. Special needs vs. Healthy Infant. Boy vs Girl. Adoption vs Orphan Care. Adoption vs Keeping First Families Intact. Like school choice and breastfeeding, I generally try to stay quiet on these controversial issues both in this space and in real life, unless it feels like someone really wants to dialogue about it - not just listen to refute or prove that their way is the only right way. I don't feel that there is only one way when it comes to adoption (or school choice or breastfeeding!).
Yet I am going to bend my own policy temporarily to share a blog post that I read by Kristen at Rage Against the Minivan. I found it so thought-provoking and was still mulling over it days later. It's called Why Does Adoption Cost So Much? (and why we didn't just send that money to Haiti). She raised some good points, namely that many people make big financial decisions and are not asked or expected to send that money to a third world country instead. Should those of us in the adoption community be held to a different standard, especially by those who are not themselves adopting? Also, how can one put a price tag on the value of having a family? Having a family is priceless. On the other hand, I feel like, for those of us within the adoption community, it is fair to question why adoption costs so much and where our money is going. And for those who are interested in advocating for orphans, I feel that it's also fair to ask whether adoption is the best (or at least, the only) way to do that.
When we first started our adoption journey we wanted to grow our family and provide a family for orphan who would not be adopted. We read about the 4.5 million orphans in Ethiopia and thought adopting our daughter would fulfill both desires. After completing our adoption process we learned of the long waiting lists for healthy infants and the corruption that can arise out of that demand. We learned that only 0.001% of the orphans in Ethiopia will ever be eligible for adoption. We learned about the children ages five and older who are much less likely to be adopted because they are considered "too old". We were told that these kids say things like, "We pray every night for parents, but parents only want the babies."
Dan and I have come to feel that one needs to extremely mindful when pursuing adoption, especially as it pertains to corruption in adoption. We now realize that adoption is not an option for most of the world's orphans. (For more on this, please see my comments in the comments section below.) We strongly believe that adoption is not charity and that first and foremost the decision to adopt must stem from the desire to grow one's family. (This, by the way, is a fantastic reason to adopt! There is no reason to feel guilty about that desire or to wrap it up in martyrdom.) The fact that we were able to compile the money to grow our family through adoption did compel us to examine how we could give more every year to the 99.999% of orphans who will never have families. As un-sexy as giving is, the fact is that many organizations need money - to provide clean water, to repair fistulas, to improve oftentimes abysmal orphanage conditions. Orphan care and preventing children from becoming orphaned in the first place have become two causes close to our hearts.
We are thankful that our adoption journey led us to our daughter. We feel incredibly blessed to have a child from the amazing country of Ethiopia and specifically, Evangeline. Now more than ever, we are overjoyed and relieved that Dan investigated Evie's origins, traveled to her birth city, and that we used an orphanage that hasn't been implicated in any ethical wrong doing.
Is adoption anywhere near as simple as we thought when first going into it? Not even close! Would Evie have been adopted if we hadn't come along? Without a doubt! Did we 'save' her? No way. Are we anti-adoption? Not at all. We feel that adoption is a wonderful way to grow a family. In fact, it's on our radar to adopt an older child someday when our kids are all older, depending on where life and God(!) lead us. (For the time being, though, I expect my hands will be quite full with four, thankyouverymuch.) Is it good for those of us in the adoption community to dialogue about these issues, and especially to insist upon the highest ethical standards in adoption? Absolutely!
So, this is where we find ourselves at this point of our adoption journey. How about you? How have your opinions on adoption evolved or changed as you've progressed in your own adoption journey?