Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Why the debates regarding the ethics of adoption scare me?

During the adoption process (and before), I came face to face with the a hot debate that is quite controversial and rather charged on social media. 
Dom dom dom:

THE ETHICS OF ADOPTION.


I am an exceptional devil's advocate on practically any subject. I grew up not really questioning what was taught to me or what I was told to believe and as I came into adulthood I found myself, in rebellion, questioning everything. I argue everything back and forth in my head.  You start talking to me about a side, for some reason, my first reaction is to start spouting out defenses of the other. You switch it up on me, confusingly, I start reasoning the other way.  I want to know both sides. This is a double edge sword. I stabbed myself on multiple occasions playing with this sword in this particular debate. 

In the early 2000's there seemed to be what some would call a huge "christian movement" to adopt internationally and "save orphans". But the result of this surge created space for some questionable ethics and practices. ERK. Adoption is so not the way to "grow the church".  We heard about the little girl in Guatemala kidnapped, sold to an orphanage, and then adopted internationally. That must have been devastating on both families.  Then we get updates regarding  horrible stories of mothers in Ethiopia paid to give over their babies due to the demand of sweet little African baby girls by caucasian American families. And the stories of abuse, they definitely make the headlines. I cannot tell you how many people told me about the mother who sent her newly adopted child back to Russia. Alone. On the plane. Heartbreaking.
I think it is great that critique from these stories brought up some much needed concerns for reform. They made us step back and check our motives.  Hearing the word industry in the same sentence as adoption  just sounds weird right? I am right there with you. Something smells fishy. I do believe there is cause to pause…… But pause my friends……... NOT STOP.
Sometimes yucky people adopt and sometimes good people adopt and the process was yucky. YUCK! 
Such stories also stirred up a new movement. A "preserve the family" movement as I call it.
Well of course hearing nauseating stories as these make us apprehensive or angry - THOSE STORIES SUCK!
I hate them too.

But here is what I also hate:

That when we started adopting, I had to change the comments sections of my blog to be moderated because of the hateful responses I kept receiving. Not comments wanting to discuss concerns or raise awareness. But comments such as: "I give it a year before your baby is dead" or "Counting down the days till I read about how you abuse your child in the news".
OUCH! Really? How does that help advocate either side?

I fear, that to often, this social media draw to pounce on the movement of adoption, accidentally results in a new generation now afraid to be involved in orphan care at all. I myself spent several nights crying, reading about this debate and questioning our calling. (OMG- looking at Little Man CRAWLING across the floor right now as I type reminds me how glad I am that those doubts did not win.)
I am scared that we now have at our hands the perfect excuse: 
"I believe in the preservation of families."
We are not necessarily aware that we are hanging on to this phrase as a cop out  but we quickly judge those who have/do adopt and yet we do very little in regards to that statement we shout  adamantly towards them. 
Adoption is not saving children, but it is simply parenting the best you can someone, whom without you, would not be in a family. And here is where I will get kick back for sure:

Sometimes adopting is better than preserving the family.

Or maybe we can say it like this:

God can use adoption to redeem the disruption of family.

Yes, there is grief and loss. I am not down playing it. To a scared/angry kid confused about their past, he might say he does not believe in adoption. He might say he would have wanted to stay with his birth mother.  These feelings are valid. It is hard. There are gray areas. Your child will have a missing link to their history. I cannot imagine the damage to identity this might do.  It is our role to raise them to know and believe this DOES NOT DEFINE THEM. I will not try to act like I can pretend to understand what this feels like, I am not adopted. Can we start a discussion on how to help our children write their story rather than simply posting on Facebook that adoption isn't ethical because there is loss and confusion involved? Help them find their identity, to know their WORTH. Not as children we saved, but as children we unconditionally love.



AND let's just be frank. My child was one of 65000 disabled children living in an institution (this does not mean those are all orphans though).  He weighed 11 lbs, could not hold up his head and was in and out of the hospital with aspiration pneumonia. Now his life expectancy is 60 and he spends all day (expect if I can get him to take a 2 hour nap) experiencing life outside a crib. His parents were wrongly and unfairly told he would do better in an orphanage by their doctor. THAT SUCKS.  But I also know parents in the United States who were heard these same lies from their physicians 30 years ago and CHOSE to preserve their family ANYWAY.  Little Man's biological parents made the choice not to and in some ways, I have to respect that decision. Maybe they made it for reasons beyond the DS. Maybe it was a prayed over decision. I will never know. They terminated their rights and signed their 3 lb baby over to police custody while he was intubated in the NICU.  I believe there needs to be great reform and education in his previous country to counteract stigma and lack of education to help ensure these decisions are made not based on those fallacies.  If education and resources are available to them maybe we, in good faith, can respect the decision made to place a child for adoption the same way would respect the educated decision to place a child in adoption by a pregnant woman in the United Staes.  I want to support amazing people like those at WIDE-AWAKE or Mission to Ukraine who are trying to educate and advocate for resources and system changes in hopes of preserving the family there. BUT MEANWHILE….. there was Little Man…..alone in a crib all day with NO family. MEANWHILE…. two precious 5 year olds sat alone in strollers all day until an incredible young couple said yes to adoption. I am not saying this as a kudos to us.  Just a little perspective. By God's grace we have started a journey that does indeed make his life better. Is that wrong, egotistical, prideful to say that his life is better? Maybe. Does it help if I mention he makes my life WAY better too?

The adoption movement is not the same movement as before.
In 2004, there were 22991 international adoptions in the US. In 2013 there were 7092.  So I would say the word is out: We need to check our motives. We need to check our practices. We need to educate ourselves. But we also need to quite scaring everyone away. 

I say these things to myself as much as to anyone else plus I am not an expert on the subject. These are simply rantings of an adoptive mama. 

I believe we can allow these concerns to give pause………. for a moment. We can reflect, grow, maybe reform where necessary……. 

Don't run away!

We are truly called to care for WIDOWS and ORPHANS. 

Don't stop because a flawed human world got involved in the system. The same way I have to remind myself not to completely run away from the church because is full of imperfect humans, and we are really good at messing things up. Abuse found in adopted families does not equate that adoption is unethical. There are so many holes in that argument. We can absolutely step up as a church to reach out to victims of this abuse. Let them tell their stories. Give them respite. Give them a voice.  Educate pre-adoptive families on stresses in adoption. There are bad people who adopt and do bad things; this does not lead to the reasoning that adoption is bad. 

Don't stop because you believe in preserving families. But instead of belittling a friend at church in the middle of an Ethiopian adoption -which you just read on Facebook is super unethical and now you are an expert about - investigate how you can put action to your words. You want to preserve families? Let's do it. I am totally on board and love that you have a passion for this. What an amazing calling?!?  You don't necessarily have to go reform the system (although that would be neat). Get involved with pregnancy crisis centers. (Heads up- some mother's still come to the difficult but well thought about and intensely prayed about decision of adoption. And it might be the RIGHT decision for them. Don't make them feel otherwise because of your need to preserve a family.) Enroll to learn more about Foster Care with an agency focused on reconciliation if possible. Help throw a baby shower for prego local women who might not have all the resources for a new baby. OHHH I would love that instead of hateful comments to moderate once I post this blog, I got comments/responses sharing other great ways to be involved in widow and orphan care BESIDES adoption. Let's spit ball some ideas to help get people involved; not scare away those interested in orphan care with this heavy debate.

And for those of us who are adopting/adopted. Can you share some grace? We are trying to preserve families in our own way. An orphanage is NOT A FAMILY. I am preserving a family for Little Man, we are his family. 




4 comments:

  1. Carly! I love this post. I have been thinking about this so much. I have been reading and hearing about those same articles- and it has freaked me out. I have very mixed feeling about this. What does preserving a family mean? What is the true definition of a family? What, then, is the right answer for couples that struggle with infertility but want children? Sometimes it seems like no matter what choice I make, it's wrong (for someone). Then I have to remind myself what is right for US, what is right for other people, how I feel about adoption morality in general, and with my particular agency, and the country we are going through.
    I read something last week about adoption fundraising that made me want to return every penny to our friends and family. Ugh. This process of creating/growing a family is challenging enough without all the backlash and judgement! We didn't make people support us! We were blessed with generosity and love by people in our life that felt the urge to help!
    Thank you for putting into words the struggle that this is. I really don't think it is fair or wise to make blanket statements about adoptions--- such as "Children should always stay with their birth families." Each child and each family has it's own individual story and path and future! And oftentimes the best path is through adoption. Not that it is EASY, but worth it.

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    1. Thanks Kathleen. Adoption fundraising also has this cloud around it. The best advice I got in that department was when someone told me, "You are giving me the opportunity to be apart of something they believe in." Nobody has to give if they don't feel led.
      I appreciate the feedback. I was nervous about this post. But felt like others in the process might be able to relate. Stay encouraged in your journey. It is YOUR story!!
      I agree… so WORTH IT!

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  2. Very well said Carly. I could not be any happier for you and the family you have created for your son. You all are very blessed indeed!

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    1. Thanks for you encouragement Melinda!!

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